Thursday, December 18, 2014

The 2015 Infertility Celebrity Representative IS...

Well the votes are in! You have spoken as to which celebrity from 2014 that you would like to represent our cause of infertility in 2015. It was a close race with every celebrity getting at least one vote. But the winner is ...


So expect many surprise visits from them in 2015 speaking about our cause to raise awareness EXCLUSIVELY on this BLOG! Yes, that's right they have agreed to do several interviews with us throughout the year. They are also very intent on working hard for us. They have already started brainstorming about our plot to start shrinking those Christmas trees in order to raise awareness about the suffering of infertility for next year's Christmas because we can't have the minions as our celebrity advocate without a diabolical plot! (click here and scroll to their nomination entry to see what I'm talking about). . .

Mwahahaha. The Minions are now on our side. NO MORE INVISIBILITY! Stay tuned. Stay joyful.
Stay Merry like a Minion this Christmas.

Monday, December 15, 2014

on feeling invisible

It's 4:30 a.m., and I can't sleep. I'm not surprised. Tonight (yesterday?) we had our monthly married couples' group, and per usual I was the only non-mother. Three babies plus one pregnant woman = emotional challenges. Strong emotions = physiological reaction (heart racing, sweating, shortness of breath, etc.) Physiological reaction = not good news for sleeping through the night. Sigh.

One thing that I've struggled with a lot while experiencing infertility is feeling invisible. Here are some examples of what I mean:

1. The assumption that all married people are also mothers and fathers. I come across this a LOT, in day to day conversation, in homilies, in online stuff. It's the idea that having children is a "when" not an "if." Yes, that's true for most people (eventually) - but not all! Where does that leave us, who are married but not parents? In some sort of formless limbo.

2. The lack of sustained treatment of infertility in Church documents and discourse. I'm very familiar with Church documents on marriage. I did my master's in marriage and family studies, and I work for the Church in the field of marriage and family. And lately I've been feeling a good amount of anger of how infrequently infertility is mentioned, and even when it is, how it's treated bizarrely. For example, in the preparatory catechesis for the World Meeting of Families 2015, the only mention of infertile couples is in a chapter called "All Love Bears Fruit." Sounds promising, right? Except not once is it stated that children aren't the only fruit of marriage, or that infertile couples are still fruitful - the focus instead is on celibates (single and consecrated, although the distinction is not clearly made - but that's another story), and the only direct mention of infertility is how childless couples are analogous to celibates because both have extra time and resources to give to others. Okay....not an awful point, but seriously? That's the only thing you could think of? You couldn't give one measly sentence to acknowledge the pain of infertility and childlessness? (Not to mention miscarriage...!) It's really hurtful to me to read documents like this that are supposed to be for all married couples, and not to see myself there.

And that's not an isolated incident.

3. Literally being overlooked. This has happened more than once: after mass, I'm either standing with friends who have kids, or holding one of their kids, and our priest (or someone else) makes eye contact with me for less than a second before giving the kids a big smile and talking with them. Or another couple with kids will give me a cursory "hi" before talking to the real people they want to see, the other parents.

I even had one time where I was holding a friend's daughter (Black) and someone I don't know remarked how cute she was (true) before saying, "She's not yours, right?" in a tone that said obviously not, and while yes, it was true, couldn't she have been adopted? Then she moved on to talk to the girl's mom ("How are you?" etc.) without giving me the time of day.

Garrrrr. Even writing this, I sound like bitter old barren woman!! And it's true - I do feel bitter! I feel a sour sensation in my very bones thinking of times I've been overlooked, ignored, looked through, not mentioned, and so on.

It's extra, extra hard when I feel like the Church my Mother doesn't see me. I know - or at least I want to believe - deep down that that's not true. But wow, it's hard to do with so much evidence to the contrary! Only rarely hearing prayers for infertile couples. Homilies directed at parents. Church documents that don't even think to list infertility as a challenge that married couples face.

In my more charitable moments, I realize that infertility is present to me every single waking moment in a way that it is not to others, not at all. I get that. But it still hurts! Where do I fit in? What is my value, not being a mother? How do I not let the bitterness I feel poison my heart? I don't want to shrivel up into a narrow-eyed judgmental person, always looking for people's missteps. Don't curse the darkness; light a candle, as the saying goes. And I do try to do that in hopefully appropriate ways, "raise awareness" etc.

But wow, so many days I just want to be - and feel - SEEN.

+Ecce Fiat+

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Which Celebrity Would You Choose to Represent the Cause of Infertility?

As the holiday season rolls on in preparation for Christmas, we hear more often about different celebrities advocating for different charitable causes because it is the giving season. Seeing how medicine that seeks to treat the underlying causes of infertility, unlike in-vitro fertilization, is badly underfunded and we are one of the cases of unexplained infertility, which could very much benefit from increased money toward research, we would very much like to see this badly needed cause get a donation boost. This made us think that what we need on our side, other than Jesus, is . . . a celebrity! Nothing brings in donations like a celebrity using all of their media savvy and attention to draw awareness to a cause and to bring in money for research. So this got us thinking - which celebrity would you choose to represent our cause of infertility medical research?

This will be our first ever "Infertility Bloggers and Friends Poll." ***After voting here, feel free to link up to this poll on your own blog so we can get as many votes as possible.*** That way, many people can have a little fun here!

Here are the 2014 nominees. Please vote in the comments, but feel free to write your own nominee in the comments section below too. The voting ends next Wednesday the 10th and the winner will be announced next Thursday.

A.) Martin Freeman. As Bilbo Baggins, he never experienced the joy of Samwise Gamgee's blessing to have a family so he must know something about infertility. He is also pals with Gandalf, which couldn't hurt our cause.

B.) Stephen Colbert. He is a man that is willing to take on causes that are not that popular, like advertising for pistachios during the superbowl.

C.) Jennifer Lawrence. As Katniss in the Hunger Games, she knows adversity and suffering. Given that we face a lot of suffering, it makes her a natural choice. She also has mad bow skills, which I am sure is relevant to our cause somehow.

D.) Amy Adams. Not just a great actress, but she can also sing. It is always nice to have a singer and actress on your side. To date there are no songs about infertility that I know of so it may be nice to have her do one for us. Perhaps, she could get her friends the Muppets to help out too?

E.) The Minions from Despicable Me. Having a thousand minions is always helpful to any project. Plus they are just so cute and adorable. Who wouldn't give to a minion asking for money? Plus, if people didn't give money, then the minions could get Dr. Gru to form some diabolical plot to find money, like threatening to shrink all of America's Christmas trees to the size of peas until the tree of life is given a chance in couples with infertility!

So readers who would you choose from this worthy bunch of celebrities to represent our cause?

Saturday, November 22, 2014

"When are you going to have children?"

Mr. M's Musings again-

Preparing for the Thanksgiving/Advent/Christmas season is mostly a joyful process for Ecce and Mr. M. Time to get the old dust off of the decorations. Time to start signing hymns and carols. Time to put together a magical, culinary shopping list for a glorious gastrointestinal pleasing feast. And, above all, time to pray a little more deeply into the mysteries of the seasons of Advent and Christmas. Above all, it is primarily about Christ at our house. (Etymology lesson: holiday is a short hand way for saying holy - days!!! Put that into the secular mainstream and they wouldn't be able to greet you with anything at department stores without offending people!)

Yet, the holidays bring an extra challenge of preparation for those struggling with infertility. It is a time to prepare our hearts for the inevitable obstacles of the holidays. Yes, you probably know what I am talking about - dealing with all the little children running around, the pregnant relatives, the surprise pregnancy announcements over a cup of egg nog, and the questions. Our least favorite question - "When are you going to start to have children?" 

I wish we could say it was rare to get this question, but it is not. We got this question last year from a well-wishing cousin who we see once a year. To make matters worse, it came on the heels of his own completely unexpected pregnancy announcement. Ecce immediately headed for the bathroom in emotional upheaval and I was left face to face with the perpetrator of privacy. So my mind thought in a split second - do I brake out in anger here? Do I play the privacy card? Do I pretend I didn't hear him? What do I say? The holiday cheer was quickly slipping into holiday gloom.

I think I mumbled at first and then I was honest since he asked. "Well actually we are struggling with infertility." I didn't want to say it. I mean we have an anonymous blog for a reason. But I said it. So I left those words hang in the air for what seemed like an eternity. I didn't intend to be mean or to steal his joy, but I was just shocked by the question - so I gave him an honest answer. 

That was the most gracious response I could come up with at the time. But it's that time again and I need to get ready spiritually for the questions. So I am putting together an action plan ready with the right response this time. Here is what I have come up. 

To that soul-piercing question "When are you going to have children?" We could answer them with an equally invasive question "Did you have sex last night?" If that makes them uncomfortable because it is private, then perhaps they would realize that the result of that sex act is also private! But given that this blog post is not about "how to alienate your family this holiday," I am seriously contemplating giving this answer this year: "we have been blessed with none so far." 

Ecce in a moving piece has talked about "being blessed by one" here, but I think if we truly reflect upon our infertility that it has had blessings in it too. Despite the pain, I think we could truly mean it and say that "we have been blessed with none." Of course, infertility has been major heartbreak after major heartbreak. Most days, we would probably like to respond in scrooge like fashion that "we have been cursed with none!" Can you imagine the family's expression after that one?!

But really, do I wish I wouldn't have to say "we have been blessed with none so far?" Yes, I like privacy. Do I want the person's compassion? Yes, I need it for healing. And do I want them to know that we have been trying to have children and we are suffering! Absolutely. But I also want them to know that we remain blessed despite the broken biology. Even more importantly, I want them to know that family size is neither indicative of the absence of God's blessings nor proof of a holy life. And I want others to know how blessedness can come through brokenness. Isn't that the whole Christmas message after all? A light is revealed to the world in the darkness.  I think this phrase "we have been blessed with none so far" captures all of those sentiments and is a statement of our faith in a hope that goes beyond whether or not we receive children. It is statement of faith in what matters this holiday season - our love and fruitfulness in Christ. 

What do you think of my response? Too cheeky? Too awkward? Too unreal and other-worldly? 

What do you do with the holiday questions? 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Mr. M's Retreat Recap

Well, Ecce and I had a wonderful retreat as she shared in her excellent post. We will definitely be pondering the many things learned at the retreat for the next several weeks or months. Here are some of the things that struck me during the weekend. I hope they provide nuggets for reflection in your own life and in that way we can extend the retreat's experience to you. I suggest you take some of these nuggets to meditation. That's what I'm doing the next few weeks after I collected them together!

1.) We are not alone; and community is so important. We all know this truth, but it makes a big difference once you meet other couples struggling on this road of infertility. It was so great to have a community to share this struggle with on this weekend retreat. Perhaps what I enjoyed best was just talking to other couples about their situations and learning from them on how they handled it.

2.) We are called to grieve and to hope simultaneously. It sounds paradoxical, but it is true. St. Paul tells us that we are "saved in hope" and Christ tells us "blessed are those who mourn." We need both and both are ok! Problems happen when you do only one or the other. If you just grieve, then the joy will be sucked out of your relationship. If you just hope, then you will just end up stifling all of that grief and it will manifest itself in very unhealthy ways, like rage or severe depression. Depending on who you are, we tend to either fall in the category of people that try to do away with either grief or hope. I have definitely been on the side of hope too long and try to stuff the grief in either myself or my spouse. This, I learned, is not good! I have found that it is okay to grieve. The key to joy is not suppressing grief, but finding a balance of both grief and hope. This is really freeing when you think about it. We tend to think that our marriages or relationships are in bad shape if there is grief. But grief alone doesn't signal doom. It is grief without hope or too much grief and not enough hope that is a problem. Likewise, our relationships are in bad shape if there is only talk of hope, happiness, and all those fluffy good cliche sayings we tell each other when we are down, like "God will provide" or "God will take care of it." These things aren't completely wrong, but if you don't let the grief bubble up then that is treating life in light of the Resurrection and not the Cross as well. No, we need to let raw emotions just be in balance with hope in God or our relationship will lose joy. It is always okay to feel the hurt.

3.) We find the proper balance of grief and hope by examining our own behaviors. These questions, printed as a really helpful self-examination for infertile couples, really hit home on the retreat and helped me to sort out that my balance was off: "Do I feel that if only I had a child, then my life would begin, then I'd be happy?" "If I were to weigh the number of times I daily think about my future child versus the number of times I think about glorifying God, would my concern for a child outweigh my desire to glorify God?" "Do I feel incomplete, unfulfilled, less-than because I am not a parent? Am I therefore seeking in parenthood what can only be found in God?" Yeah, these questions are soul-wrenching and tough, but so helpful to purify our hearts so we have authentic motherly and fatherly hearts! Lord make us have fatherly and motherly hearts.

4.) Just as it is unfair to us to be judged or perceived as less-than because of our family size, we should be careful to not judge others as unfit parents for their family size too. A temptation of infertile couples is to say that "she or he shouldn't be a parent; life is so unfair."

5.) Nowhere in the Bible does it say "life is fair." Just ask Job. In fact, it says "trust in God and He will help us through the pain of many unfair situations." This side of heaven things are not going to be worked out for us completely.

6.) It's not just "the Lord won't give you too much to handle," but also "we are walking with the Lord." Sometimes things are too much for us to handle. It is at this point that we need to turn them over to the Lord who is walking with us. The key is to see the Lord walking with us, suffering with us, and loving us. We can't do this alone. We need his strength. Only once we recognize this, then will we be able to recognize Mother Teresa's words.

7.) Rachel sums up infertile couple's feelings pretty well, "Give me children or I will die." How many of us have felt the same thing? It is a clear statement of the wound, but at the same time we don't want to fall into Rachel's wound here. The problem here with her statement is that our identity is deeper than our desire for children or whether or not we receive children. There is something always worth living for even when children do not come. If God is love, then who are we? We are loved. Regardless of the situation we are in, we are loved. Our deepest call is to be loved and to love. Ultimately, it is to be loved and to love God. God is what we yearn for - Rachel needs a radical transformation here. She needs to see we embody love. Dwell on that.

8.) "If Jesus can turn water into wine, imagine what he can do with a single tear?" - Deacon Tony on the retreat quoting someone else

9.) Men: be present, don't fix it. As guys we want to "fix" the problem of infertility, but there isn't anything to be done about it. It is out of our control. So we need to not "fix" but be present.

10.) One of the presenters courageously presented her rage about the situation of infertility and how she was essentially saying with her anger that "I am suffering because of your infertility [to the man]." She was giving her "infertility over to Satan" by allowing herself to rage. She forgot about the blessing of her husband and her loving home. She allowed anger to poison her heart and marriage. She then realized that she was desiring a "child in her image and not God's image." That's what she wanted that was driving all of this - she was not desiring a child as a gift who is in the mind of God, but mourning imaginary children she wanted on her own terms. Do we mourn imaginary children? Certainly there is a place for grieving the loss of our dream to have children together, but we shouldn't fantasize about a life other than our own with imaginary children from imaginary lovers who are not who God gave us. Otherwise, it will poison our life.

11.) Cry out that you are forsaken and that you are thirsty, but also allow God to answer. 

12.) "Are you fruitful?" The answer is already set to that question: yes you are fruitful because of your love for one another. But the real question is "Is there something more God would like to give us as a couple?" "What is the more God wants to give us?"

13.) Children are ________. After you fill in the blank, go seek that out. Let God fill it. Pray about it.

14.) Adoption is primarily about loving the child (and helping the birthmom), but there is no reason why it can't also be about your personal healing too. True, adoption doesn't take away the pain of infertility completely, but it can contribute to your healing of you wanting to be a mother and a father. And that is okay! God planned it that way to be healing not just for the child but also for the parent. Of course, we shouldn't seek a child out for our personal healing, but it is okay if it comes as a byproduct of trying to love a child who is coming from a hard place.

15.) For the men who struggle with infertility: are you strong enough to be weak?

16.) "Hearing is letting the conversation happen; listening is the work of the will." - Deacon Tony

17.) Say everyday to your spouse: "Have a good day with the Lord." 

18.) Fatherhood and motherhood is also everyone's deepest identity and it is rooted in the loving self-gift you give and not just children you have. Pray about it.

19.) Your greatest weakness can become your greatest strength.

Monday, November 17, 2014

retreat recap

I feel beyond blessed that me and Mr. M were able to attend the infertility retreat organized by Rebecca this past weekend. The six hour drive each way was totally worth it! While the experience is still fresh in my mind, I thought I'd share what impacted me the most.

1. Dropping the mask. I wear a mask a lot of days that hides my true feelings of sadness, anger, or discomfort in the presence of reminders of my childlessness. This is okay, because otherwise I wouldn't be able to function, go to work, etc. But this weekend was so refreshing because I could leave my mask at the door. Not that I was bawling the whole time :) But it was so good - albeit tremendously sad - to be with other people that get this pain, and we could share each other's sorrows in a real, genuine way.

2. The kindness and attentiveness of the priests. It always means so much to me when priests, our spiritual fathers, reach out with love and care and help us carry this burden of infertility. The priests on the retreat were a wonderful combination of fun, fatherly presence (including challenging us to carry our crosses well!) and prayerful presence. Just having them there, and seeing their commitment to the retreat, was a huge blessing.

3. Some powerful images. All the talks were great, but these images struck me the most: a desert, seemingly devoid of life, and yet with beautiful, fruitful cacti blooming in the midst of it; friends who are our rafts and keep us afloat when we think we're going to sink.

4. Affirmation + call to greatness. I was soothed to hear it echoed, "It's okay to be sad. It's okay to not have it all together. It's okay if it feels like life is more than you can handle." I need that affirmation because guilt wants to creep in and make me feel bad about feeling sad. It was a balm to my ears, heart, and soul to be reminded that yes, IF is awful and painful and it's okay to feel like crumpling at the prospect of facing another negative test, another week without a child, another pregnancy announcement, etc. At the same time, I was encouraged to hear a call to greatness and holiness, that with the grace of God my life can still be beautiful! Our marriage can be (is) fruitful, and with the help of God I can carry my cross nobly and persevere in hope.

5. The witnesses. WOW I was blown away by the stories of the presenting couples: some were childless, some had conceived eventually, some had adopted. But wow, to hear their stories of struggle and eventual peace was incredibly inspiring. And to see that the pain of IF never really goes away! Even 40+ years of carrying that cross, it still stings at times. That was both relieving in a way (a validation of just how hard it is) but at the same time, so, SO good to see the peace and deeper place of acceptance and joy that God took these couples who had suffered so much. Seriously, wow.

6. Paradoxes of IF. Rebecca gave a beautiful talk about all the tensions inherent in IF: grief and hope, living the life you have and yearning for the life you want, unity and procreation even when the latter does not come, and so on. No wonder IF feels so exhausting - it's such a tightrope of emotion, and as she said, it can change by the minute! I would add "unanswered prayers and trust in God" - that's a hard tension for me.

7. The beautiful people on the retreat. I was inspired by everyone. Our stories were each unique, each tear-jerking, each a sign of the cross that the Lord has given us. I felt like I saw my own pain reflected on others' faces, which was both beautiful and also heart-breaking, because I wouldn't wish this on anyone. We are the little ones, the forgotten ones, the ones following the Lord in silence and pain, and it is a powerful thing!

8. The right question. It's not "Why is this happening?" but "What do you want from me?" What are you asking me to do right now, Lord? I have such a hard time not jumping the gun and trying to look ahead to what's coming next. What does God want from me and Mr. M now, in this moment of pain but also closeness to Him? That's what I need to pray about.

9. Spiritual director. Get one!! :) I have a spiritual director, but he lives in my husband's hometown and I only see him a few times a year. I reached out to a priest I work with to see if he could meet with me because I am very aware now of how much I need this on a regular basis. We'll see what he says.

10. On loving Mr. M better. This is something that hits really close to home for me, thinking that I am causing my husband pain by all my grief. (Of course he grieves too, but differently.) Daily affirmations of why I love him, plus thinking "What if this is my last day with him on earth?"

11. Fruits of adoration. From my journal: "Lord, make my heart a mother's heart." "My life may end up looking different than many other people's, but that doesn't mean it will be any less beautiful!" "God's love > my pain." "We must step forward in HOPE, trusting God to illuminate our path."

So much more...all in all, it was fantastic. Difficult at times, intense, powerful, healing, all around wonderful. I'm so grateful.


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

near occasions of sin

I went to confession the other day. I am trying very hard to make that more of a habit. One step in the right direction has been scheduling "go to confession!" into my work calendar every other Friday, and then just walking out the door and trying not to think about it until I'm there. (I am very blessed to work near a church that has confession hours every day.)

Not that I don't like confession! I really like having confessed, having that squeaky-clean-feeling soul and knowing that I'm as pure as a newly baptized baby. But actually confessing is hard! It's hard to face up to my sins and to say them out loud. Although it has been getting easier with more frequent reception of the Sacrament. (Imagine that :))

Anyway - when I went to confession the other day, I had a thought. You know how in the Act of Contrition you promise "to sin no more and to avoid the near occasion of sin"? Well, I was thinking about how one sin I am really struggling with is the sin of jealousy. (That should come as no surprise!) I think confession has been playing a big part in reducing jealousy's grip on me.

However - how exactly am I to avoid the "near occasion of sin" when it comes to jealousy? Because I am tempted to jealousy:
-- when I wake up in the morning and think about how so-and-so is pregnant and I'm not
-- when I go to mass at work and see the pregnant woman from a different office (who got married less than a year ago, not that I keep tabs on that kind of thing...)
-- when I go to the mall and pass a group of moms
-- when I get another pregnancy announcement from another friend
-- when I spend time with a pregnant friend or mom friend

And so on. The list is veritably endless: anywhere I could possibly encounter a pregnant woman or mom, or anytime I might think of such things, I'm tempted to jealousy. No wonder I felt like I needed confession more often! There is literally no way to avoid all these "occasions of sin" - of course I'm not going to quit my job, stay at home 24/7, cut off all contact with anyone who is a mother or who could become a mother, etc. It's very different than an occasion of sin that you can reasonably avoid, like not going to the bar, not spending time with people who gossip, etc.

Just another example of why infertility can be so very difficult! And so very daily.

However - to end on a positive note - I also think that the daily-ness of infertility, and its attendant temptations, gives me an opportunity every. single. day. (hour?) to take up my cross and follow Jesus. That's how I'm trying to look at it anyway, because that infuses meaning into what otherwise would feel like constant drudgery (honestly, it still feels like that on some days). I am stockpiling treasure in heaven each and every time I'm faced with an opportunity to harbor jealousy and choose instead to pray for the person and move on in hope.

Occasions of sin can become occasions of grace.


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Prayer Intentions Anyone?

Mr. M again -

Gracefully, we are blessed to go on an retreat this upcoming weekend just for those suffering infertility. I can not express how excited I am for this retreat. It comes at the perfect time for us (i.e. a very low time in our lives), a time filled with great suffering and heaviness. But I believe retreats are not just about me or us. It is also a time to carry with us, in a special way, the prayers of our dear brothers and sisters who travel this road of suffering with us. So, if you have any prayer intentions that you would like us to pray about this weekend, then please leave us a comment or email us by Friday morning (we leave around that time).

I will write each intention down on a piece of paper, wedge it between the pages of my bible, and pray for you every time I open the Bible (which is frequent on a retreat). I will also remember you in my daily prayers, rosaries, and masses. I am sure Mrs. M will do something similar. So please send us your intentions and we will "prayer bomb" you this weekend as one of my friends likes to call it :-)

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Fear of Suffering Infertility and a True Story

Another Mr. M post...
                  Do you have a fear of suffering? Hmm... that is an interesting question isn't it? I have never thought about my own fears vis-a-vis suffering until recently. I was reading a book and it proposed that one of the greatest obstacles in our relationship with Christ is not suffering, but the fear of suffering. We know suffering is inevitable in life and yet how many of us are really ready to accept suffering for Christ? I know I am sure not. Why? Because upon reflection, I realize that it is because I am afraid of suffering. I don't want to face the suffering Christ might be giving me to become a saint. I often think that "suffering is too much" and I just try to escape it. But the fear lurks because I haven't really confronted my unnamed fears. 
                  So what are the unnamed fears in regard to infertility? There are many but I realized that one of the greatest fears of infertility is not right now but in the future. I fear the future possible suffering of having an entire life of barrenness, the loneliness that ensues, and aging into our old years without the friendship and companionship of children. What's worse is the thought of leaving my wife all alone should I die before her, like most men do. Who is going to take care of her? Who is going to take her to medical appointments? Who is going to cry with her? Who is going to help her pay bills? Who is going to hold her hand when everything around her crumbles into uncertainty? Who is going to pray with her? Who is going to die with her? Sigh.
                 Recently, this fear struck me forcibly by an event that is nothing short of a miracle. We take care of a dear old, elderly widow by bringing her groceries every week. She has no family to take care of her. So I asked her after about a year and a half of friendship what the story was about her lack of a family and she said "we just couldn't conceive." "I was pregnant only once over fifty years ago and I miscarried. Everyday of our early marriage just seemed so unfair. I once knew a woman who had 19 children and I couldn't even get pregnant once." Gulp. Cue emotional tears here. I asked her how she got by. "Well I don't think I got by. I just took it day by day and prayed a lot of rosaries." That's it. Those were her simple words of wisdom to us. As I looked upon her, I then thought of her as potentially being my future wife in several decades and all of those above questions hit me like a ton of bricks.
                "Well what if?" I said to God later that night. "Where will you be then Lord?" Then, in response to my frustrated challenge, I heard as clear as day the Lord say to me in prayer, "I have provided for your dear elderly friend by sending you and others to be her children in old age, do you not trust that I would do the same for you and your wife? I am gentle and loving and I have always gotten you through suffering. I will provide and I will be with you always." At this moment, I realized the incredible blessings the Lord had provided us also in our own infertility - this elderly lady's friendship and the opportunity to serve her.
                When we first started helping her we had no idea her back story and she didn't know anything about us. We just knew she needed groceries because she was a shut-in due to her age. So my wife went first and then me and then it became a weekly thing, which again we didn't know it would be in the beginning. Eventually, we became friends, we had her over for dinner, we took her to the race track once (she loves horses), and we took her to some parish events etc. Only much later and very recently did we discover what I told you above. Wow, what a mystery. Unbeknownst to us, the Lord brought us together to help alleviate not just her suffering but undoubtedly her suffering of loneliness due to her infertility and, in turn, the Lord gave us a beautiful friendship and comfort to my fear of later suffering in infertility. God brought us together to help both of us in our infertility. None of this was expected when we said "yes" long ago to the Lord's plan to take an elderly lady groceries. Isn't it amazing how the Lord provides in the most unlikely of places? And what is crazier is that I am not sure any of this would have happened had it not been for our infertility. That is, if we were running around with children because we were blessed with a child early on in our marriage, then would we have really said yes to this weekly commitment or rather more likely find someone else to do it, perhaps our single friends?
                I don't know. But this event gave me dramatic pause in how I consider suffering. We often say that a greater good comes out of every suffering. And for once, I feel I got to experience that greater good with certainty. Yes, I still struggle with infertility, but now I know a little bit more clearly that truly God has us in the palm of his hand. I learned that I just have to trust God a little more, be a little less afraid of suffering, and "take it day by day." After all, what is to be feared when you have God bringing good out of all things? Indeed, "perfect love drives out all fear" (1 John 4:18). 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Confession: Money has Emptied My life but God is Slowly Restoring It

Mr. M here again. The following thoughts have been percolating in my prayer over the last month or so. So I share with you my struggle and God-given inspirations:

I have never cared that much for money and I have generally been pretty detached from money in my life. Proof: I never chose a career or college major based upon the potential future money it could bring me.  I never have been really stressed about money or finances although I lived below the poverty line ($11,670) for three to four years while I was a graduate student. I qualified for medicaid and government assistance at that time but I never took it. Instead, I lived in a house with six other guys and shared my room with another guy. I just wasn't that interested in money and I found ways to live within my meager means. Further, after I married, I am proud to say that I have never had a fight with my wife about money other than little, inevitable bickerings about small purchases. "Do you really need that?" She is really good with her financial decisions, by the way. I really appreciate that.

But this all changed when adoption came on the radar. I now find myself obsessing about money and worry about it more than ever before in my life because I have to some how come up with $25,000 to $35,000 without going into debt and without sacrificing our built up emergency fund that gives us financial stability and keeps finances off "the fight radar." Realistically, given my doctoral studies, I can't do much about our financial situation either because I can't take a job until May 2015. This kills me as a man who wants to provide. So this situation of being a student stresses me more out toward money than anything else.

As a result, I feel depressed about our financial situation even though we have been able to pay off all of our debt. I have always saw paying off my debts as soon as possible as a moral responsibility. And I thought being debt free would always feel good! False. Being debt free can be pretty damn miserable. It is an illusion to think that having a good financial situation (debt free, owning a home, good retirement savings, money to give away to others, or whatever else etc.) will bring you peace. It is a moral imperative to do some of these things, like debt reduction, and to be prudent with money, but in fact, tons of people who are millionaires and have great financial situations are MISERABLE because they are obsessed with managing their money. Peace ultimately doesn't come from doing budgets, paying off debt, etc.

And this is where I am. I am that obsessed millionaire except without the millions. I have allowed the concern for money for an adoption to cause me to be obsessive towards money. Is this more a male problem than female vis-a-vis infertility and adoption? I don't know. But I, unwittingly, have allowed money to become the thing I think about most albeit for a good end. Ugh. What a wretched and pathetic thing - I have allowed the little money I have to control me and to dictate my happiness. I am that greedy, capitalist we see portrayed so often in the movies and what I need isn't more money or more ways to save money. Those money saving strategies aren't enough and have contributed to the hollowness in my life. They have caused me to be hollow because I thought I primarily needed a practical, money strategy for my money problems concerning adoption. But, I don't. I primarily need a spiritual solution to get me through this financial problem because this problem of managing money is a spiritual reality much more than a practical one. 

The primary antidote I am seeking that I realize more and more is not actually more money through fund-raising or figuring out ways to spend less in order to save for the adoption. I need a Savior. Fast. I need the proper spiritual attitude to correct this problem of obsessiveness. What could this be? Do you have any thoughts on this? Here are mine.

First, for me, it is putting down the Dave Ramsey books and fundraising books (however helpful those are) and picking up my relationship to God in prayer. I need to build up my relationship with God through prayer and relearn trust in God and not in mammon. I need to learn to trust that regardless of my financial situation and whether or not I ever get enough money for an adoption that God will take care of me and this situation.

Second, I need to hope. Not primarily hope that external things in my life, i.e. this bad financial situation vis-a-vis adoption, will change, but hope that God will make this terrible situation good even if I remain stuck in this terrible situation. Hope that God will use this situation for my salvation and for the salvation of others. Our hope is in Him not in mammon and its many gifts. How can I practice this hope though when it is so hard? Prayer, especially when things are tough and when you just want to throw your hands up in the air (or smash the wall). I need prayer to be my go-to stress reliever and "financial consultant."

Third, I need the faith to realize that I am beloved by God. We are called to believe the following above everything else: with his love, I have everything. How many martyrs have taught us this? So it doesn't matter the amount of money I have and it doesn't matter what financial situation I am in. These are secondary things, which perhaps God will give me and perhaps he won't. The point is that I always have His love, but oh how little I believe that this is enough on most days. Oh how often I think how "unfair" this situation is - that I have to come up with all of this extra money just to have a child. So I need a greater faith. I need to stop focusing on my self and my woes, and more on Him or I will always just be that little kid in the candy shop without candy. But how do I encounter and re-encounter this great faith in His love? More prayer and friends who will help me to see and to live this reality. I need my friends, the saints too. Honestly, where would we be without the lives of the saints to challenge our narrow world-views toward our bad situations? They have the widest world-views because they were the ones that saw the other world, heaven, in this world and in all of its bad situations.

Fourth, I need to live the love God has given me. We can always love despite whatever bad, external situation we are in. This is the "interior freedom" God gives us as Fr. Phillipe puts it in his masterful book Interior Freedom. My freedom is in loving as God loves, not money. When do I feel the most alive? When I am loving as Christ loved and not when I am managing my money. Sure, these two have to be related. There has to be a way to love as Christ loves while managing money as Christ has come to redeem all things. But it is so difficult because money often usurps, in subtle ways, what should take precedence in your life. Look at the Gospel. Judas was the one in the Gospel who managed the money Christ and His disciples had and look at where he ended up! Yikes! If that is not a warning for me, then I don't know what is. What I know is this: I need to spend more time doing love and less time focusing on money. If I put love as my first priority, then the secondary thing of how to manage money will follow. So I need to practice more love and get the attention off mammon.

These are non-negotiables. If I don't trust God, hope in God, have faith that God is my everything, and love more than I think about and manage money, then I will be hollow as I have become. My focus needs to be on these spiritual things primarily. I have to put these first things first. Only after working on these, will I be able to approach money rightly and think about money with these questions in mind - Lord, we give you all of our money, what is it that you will have us do with it? Do you want us to focus on money or do you want me to spend more time in prayer with you and trusting you? Do you want me to focus on money or do you want me to spend more time hoping? Do you want me to spend more time loving others around me?

For me, at this point in my life, the Lord has made it clear: I need to do a lot more trusting, hoping, believing, and loving. It is these things that I am going to focus on right now in the coming months and only through doing this will I believe I will have peace. I will re-approach money down the road as it is an inevitable part of life and the adoption process. Right now, I am setting the budget and financial matters aside for a long while and spending more time with the Lord everyday. This is my act of trust. Matter of fact, as soon as I finish this post, I am going to go pray a little more and let all thinking about finances go. Lord, help me to trust. Help this poor sinner who values mammon over you. I surrender to you all of our finances and all financial goals until I am in a better place to address them with you. Jesus I trust in thee and I trust that you will provide.

As for all the readers out there, please pray for me and my dear wife. I hope in sharing these "financial" (really: spiritual) struggles with you that it may be something of a witness so that you don't fall into the same trap I have fallen into as I feel that adoption magnifies one's concern for money. God bless you all.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Why I'm using Facebook again

I stopped using Facebook in August 2012. There's a very particular reason why I quit. We were a little more than a year into our marriage, a little more than a year TTC, and already it was hurting. Several of our friends had infants, and I was feeling really left out (although they tried their best to make me feel included). So one Sunday, I made plans with three girlfriends to go out after mass for brunch and shopping, without any kids. I was already feeling on edge to be the only non-mom, and it didn't help that one of them kept commenting how great it was to have a break from kids. It also didn't help that during our shopping stroll after lunch we ended up in Babies R Us. I made some excuse about having to leave the store because I felt like I was having a panic attack being around all that baby stuff.

Anyway, later that day, I was browsing Facebook and noticed that one of the ladies posted something like, "Such a fun moms' outing today!!"


Like really, ouch. That seriously hurt. Moms? Clearly I am not a mom, and I don't forget it for a nanosecond of my life. Her comment made me feel so invisible.

Anyway, maybe it was a hasty reaction, but that was it. No more Facebook. I'd had enough with pregnancy announcements and baby pictures out the wazoo. Enough with feeling less-than and comparing my life to others.

So I quit cold turkey that very day, and honestly didn't regret it at all. I was relieved! I didn't have to be surprised by another announcement or feel a pang in my heart looking at my friends' adorable kids every day. I had real friends that I stayed in touch with and I enjoyed being away from the hubbub of constant information. It really was perfectly fine being off Facebook; I survived handily :)

So when a few weeks ago the thought occurred to me, "maybe I'll go back on Facebook," I was shocked at myself! Who is this crazy person?!

But the more I thought about it, the more I thought it would be okay. I'm in a very different place than I was in August 2012. Yes, infertility still hurts a lot. (Just got another pregnancy announcement today, and cried.) But I also feel a good bit stronger! Yay! I've come to expect that most people will keep having children - that's just a fact. In a lot of ways, I don't feel as tender and vulnerable as I did a few years ago; it's not all so new and shocking any more (depressingly, I suppose).

And I realized two things: 1) I have things I'd like to share with the world! :) No, I don't have cute children to post pictures of. Fact. But I do have a cute husband :) and we do fun things and our life isn't half bad and I would like to share that life pictorally with friends who live scattered around the country. Because my life is worth sharing!

And 2) I miss people that I used to connect with through Facebook. Mainly college friends, who have scattered, and family that lives in my home state. I realize that Facebook is not nearly as good a communication method as an in-person chat or even a phone call. But the fact is, I'm finite, I have lots of people I love, not nearly all of them I'll be able to visit or call. Facebook is the next best thing, and I'd like to encourage and love on my friends that way!

Finally, I learned some handy tips and tricks from Rebecca (thank you!) such as not following people whose feeds are way too filled with all things baby, and asking not to be notified with posts about pregnancy and babies after I've liked or commented on them. Whew! That makes a BIG difference! There are some people I love in real life who I really just can't take on Facebook - and they don't need to know that. It's not you, it's me!

Plus there's the Catholic IF group that seems like a great place to be! I'm sorry that this is an anonymous blog so I won't share my name, but I'm in there now!

This probably is one of the more nit-picky, minutiae-filled posts I've written, ha :) But this was a big step for me, wading back into Facebook! Hopefully it doesn't sound weird, but I think it's a good sign for my healing, namely my willingness to be present again in this way, despite the possible heart-pains it might bring.


Monday, September 29, 2014

On the Outside

Hey all fellow strugglers with infertility,

It's Mr. M. I see Mrs. M got to share some of her feelings lately with a post cleverly entitled "Blue and Barren." Yup, that sums up our life at the moment. I thought I would just give an update as to how the other half of the couple is feeling. As might be expected, it is pretty similar to Mrs. M. The big word that describes my feelings right now is "outside."

I feel like I am on the "outside" of a lot of things lately, but the biggest being parenthood. It seems like a lot of people have been very blessed to be able to conceive. Definitely I am excited for them, but then there is the big hole. The realization that I am on the outside of all of these pregnancy announcements, new joys, surprises, etc.

This was hit home recently when our friends were visiting. They have a beautiful son. We have a special relationship with them and their son feels very close to us. Nonetheless, the son had a big breakdown one day where the only person he wanted was "Daddy." I, of course, could not be the "Daddy." This, in turn, sent me into a whirlwind. I am, no matter how close to this little guy, on the "outside." I am not his Father and Mother who are the only ones that can comfort him right now. Sigh.

I also feel on the "outside" with the whole job situation. I am a doctoral candidate at a very demanding doctoral program. I am very close to getting my degree yet it seems very far away. I am writing my dissertation but it is taking a lot longer than expected. Academic writing is sloooooooooooooooooooooooow and not my first gift. I have a great knack for teaching, for learning, but writing is a challenge to me. So a job at this point in my life, even though it may just hopefully be several months away (hopefully May), seems so far away and I am left on the "outside" again.

I feel on the "outside" to the adoption process too. This too seems very far away and very hard to achieve, especially given my job situation and our finances.

I feel on the "outside" to time. That is, it seems that time moves slow for us whereas for our friends who were married, at the same time as us, they already have been blessed with not just one or two, but now three children whereas we have been stuck in the same position it seems from the very beginning of our marriage.

I feel on the "outside" whenever someone brings up the topic of purchasing a home. For my friends with children, this is the next big decision they are now considering. I die on the inside every time they present this as a "real challenge" because I am thinking about how to come up with $30,000 not for a down payment for a house, but just so I can have my first child (through adoption). Honestly, this is one situation I have very little patience for. But I bite my tongue and stuff my feelings in an effort to be kind and genuinely listen to their struggle to save this amount of money on one income.

Finally, I feel on the "outside" to life in general. We watched a movie last night called "The Martian Child." It is a really good movie and very heart wrenching. It is about adopting a child who had been abandoned by his mother and father. Given his abandonment and lack of love, the child felt very much on the outside to human life as a whole and pretended he was given up by his parents because he was really a martian child from Mars. This movie struck a deep chord. I feel a lot on the outside to human life as a whole when I am unable to conceive a child naturally with my wife. I feel like I am from Mars, like this little child. I feel abandoned too. Abandoned by whom? I don't know - nature, God, by my friends who were blessed to conceive? I don't know but I felt this kid's pain and this recognition of common pain made me want to adopt all the more or at the very least to help children who have "no home" in this world because of some kind of family tragedy (divorce, abandonment, bad parenting, absent fathers, etc.).

But this movie got me thinking on a deeper level. Perhaps being on the "outside" isn't all that bad. Perhaps it is actually the Christian life I aspire to live. Doesn't the Gospel usually present Christ on the "outside" to the religious and cultural elite of his day? More to the point, aren't we called to be on the "outside" of this world as a pilgrim church? Aren't we all then on the outside as pilgrims?

Yes, we are on a pilgrimage and this earth is not our final home, our final resting place. The world and all of its goods - even children - are destined for something greater. This fact gives me hope in particular - that there are no children born in heaven. It may seem cruel, but God has promised us that whatever great blessing children are there is a greater fruitfulness yet to come. Something greater than even children in this world - an eternal home with Him. Not just any home, but one of those great homes filled with radiant light, like the ones I was always drawn to in Thomas Kinkade paintings. The eternal home is also on a waterfall representing the beautiful rushing waters of baptism that we all share. It is also a great castle that keeps out all the evil and suffering we experience in the world. And finally, the beauty of the home is that every room in the mansion is filled with God's eternal Triune love that drifts through the house like the smell of your favorite meal.

Thinking of this eternal home, made me realize that "Yes - I am definitely on the outside and this is exactly where the Lord wants me. But, of course, I don't want it. Who wants the cross? Luckily, there is hope here too. I am not just on the outside, but I am on the outside looking in at the eternal home the Lord has prepared for me, a pilgrim, one day. Do I believe it? Oh Lord help my unbelief!"

Please pray for us. It's not easy being pilgrims and if I am being honest then I admit that on most days I am not comforted by these truths of faith. Perhaps only one day in fourteen or even far less. Nonetheless I believe them more than anything in my life, try to live them, and every once in awhile God comforts me. But quickly the comfort is followed up with that "the daily dose of dying" that is the Christian life. Lord help us take this medicine we need- oh how I hate it!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

That's not my life

Okay, quirky thoughts for a Saturday morning =)

Did you ever read those little kids' books in the series "That's not my ____!" For example, one is "That's not my doggy!" and the jist of the book is that every page has a different doggy and says something like "That's not my doggy! He's too shiny." or "That's not my doggy! He's too fluffy" or whatever. Then the final page says, with a tone of relief I think, "that's my doggy! He's black and white" or whatever the real dog looks like.

That's not my penguin...
penguin example

Well, I've found myself saying recently when I'm tempted to jealously by seeing a woman my age with several kids, or hearing from friends who are stay at home moms and have time to do canning, or happening upon a blog of someone with stairstep children, or whatever: "That's not my life." And then I can remind myself of the life that is mine, how I have a great husband and a job I enjoy and a lovely little home, etc. It doesn't mean I still don't feel a pang of jealousy and longing, but using that line at least makes me chuckle a little.

Plus, it's true! That's not my life, as much as I wish it was. On the other hand, my life is also not one of deprivation or war or displacement or other horrible things; it reminds me to pray for those who are experiencing those sufferings and would give anything to have a simple, peaceful, safe life.

Also, something I find both comforting and challenging is that when I get to heaven, God is not going to ask me to account for either someone else's life (that I wished was mine) or a fantasy life that I lived in my head, but rather my actual life: how well did I love Mr. M? How well did I love my parents? How well did I love the children he did place in my life, nieces and nephews and friends' kids? If I died today, I wouldn't be asked to account how good a mother I was, since I'm not one. That's not my life.

Anyway, it's been a quick, helpful reminder to not compare, a way to handle jealousy, and to get back to the business of living my actual life right here at my fingertips.


Sunday, September 21, 2014

feeling rather blue and barren

Seeing how my posts lately have been few and far between, I guess this will be a "grab-bag" of thoughts too.

It's been one of those days/weeks. The kind that my skin feels paper-thin and the pain of our continuing childlessness feels like it's right on the surface and pretty much anything motherhood-related can cause a bruise. An innocent comment from a parent about playing with his kids...a tender look from a mother to baby during mass...seeing ads for baby stuff. So common, so normal, and so painful!

Last weekend some of our favorite people in the world visited: our goddaughter, her parents and big brother. Because we also attended the Empowered to Connect conference (more about that in a later post, hopefully) we only had one night and day with them. So we made the most of it. Sunday morning before church we made pancakes and my little buddy helped me stir the batter. After church we took the metro (big thrill!) to the zoo (even bigger thrill!) and walked around all afternoon looking at the lions and prairie dogs and elephants, etc.

Our goddaughter let me hold her, even though she's very stranger-shy right now (awww). And her big brother was just so much fun. We had all kinds of cute conversations about everything and it was just such a joy to have kids to go to the zoo with!

So now I'm going through major kid withdrawal. I made pancakes again this morning in a kitchen that felt awfully lonely and quiet with no little hands to help me stir. The weekend also reminded us that we'll always be on the outside in some way with kids that aren't ours. I love our friends' kids, so much. But they have to go home with their parents at night, and they run to their mom or dad when they fall and scrape their knee. I know we have a special place in their lives, but I'm ready to have a special role called "mama"!!

Jesus, help me love and not count the cost. To love the little ones in our lives even though they're not "ours."


This week was also two back-to-back pregnancy announcements (one IRL and one in blog-land, hi Stephanie =)). I am thrilled by both of them and am keeping the brand new babies in my prayers every day. But yes, some tears were shed. Kind of my modus operandi for pg announcements. I know that it's my pain that I cry over (and I'm so grateful to Rebecca for that insight). It hurts to be perpetually on the receiving end of pg announcements. It hurts to feel left behind as our friends' families grow. It hurts to feel barren. It hurts to have a home without little pitter-patter feet or baby clothes.

And pg announcements - no matter who it's from - mean growing pains in a friendship. It's an adjustment to this new very important person in your friend's life. When it's the first pregnancy, it means that friend has now crossed into a new world that you've yet to enter, and you wish you weren't on the outside looking in. It's really tough!

Jesus, bless all the new little babies in the world and keep them safe. And please let me find my joy in you. Comfort my heart.


This is just such a long haul! Weary and grueling are words that often come to mind... Grief is really exhausting, and so is keeping it together when your heart is aching.

Tonight we have our monthly married couples' gathering. Funny, you know how a common IF statistic is that one in six couples struggles with infertility? Well, there are six couples in our group and you guessed it, we're the "one." Over the past two years that we've been part of this group, every other woman has had at least one baby. We're the odd ones out, and everyone is so great and supportive, but man it hurts! I am just so tired of not being a mother; what else is there to say?

All right - enough negativity for one post, ha =) Of course many things are going wonderfully in our lives, but the past few days have been quite blue. This too shall pass.

Jesus, I trust in you. Jesus, I need you.


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

grab-bag: adoption meeting, cycle vent, feelings etc.

From the file swirling-around-in-my-head-lately:

Second adoption meeting
Almost an entire year after the last adoption info meeting I attended - at which I learned that we needed to move before trying to adopt; check! - I attended another meeting at a different local agency. Woo hoo for efficiency and speed, ha! =) At this pace I think we'll adopt in, say, ten years or so...! Anyway, this agency was the other one in our area I wanted to look in to. Mr. M came with me this time, which was great, and two friends came as well! There was a LOT of information because they went over all three programs they do - domestic, older child, and international. They also gave us a LOT of handouts which I want to read carefully. Overall, I was impressed with the executive director's philosophy and knowledge. The two things I liked the most: 1) they offer very comprehensive, ongoing education and services for adoptive families and birthparents; 2) they have a sliding scale for costs and sincerely seem to try to make adoption affordable. It would be possible to work with them exclusively or work with them and an out-of-state agency (for example, if we wanted to work with a Catholic agency or one that does more placements). So that was good to hear. There's SO MUCH to consider!! We're going to schedule a follow-up to get their advice on how our finances are looking vis a vis adopting.

Which brings me to...
When is the best time to fundraise for an adoption?
I feel like this is one of those trick questions that should be really easy but is completely confusing me! Our original plan (okay, mainly my original plan, ha!) was to do a home study and get approved, because we have the money for that, then fundraise as we're waiting to get placed. That makes sense to me because then we could tell people, "we passed! we can adopt!" and basically we would be raising money for the placement fees, travel costs, etc.

However, Mr. M (and I think the adoption agency lady we talked to last night) are of the opinion that you should fundraise before doing the home study, so once the home study is done, you're all ready to go and should a miracle happen and you're selected the very next day you won't miss the opportunity. The part about this plan that I don't like is that you'd be asking people for money without knowing whether you'll be approved to adopt and frankly before you've done much of anything! I don't know why, but that feels weird to me. But maybe it's not.

Or, you could do the home study and then basically put it on hold - not have it shown to birthparents - as you're raising funds for the placement fee. That makes sense to me too, but the adoption lady last night seemed to think that this would be silly because you'd have to renew your home study and other forms, and that would be a waste of money, so why not wait until you're completely ready?

So I don't know - hopefully meeting with an adoption expert at the agency will help us sort out this puzzle, and maybe hearing what other people have done!

The most annoying cycle ever
Part of me wants to let bygones be bygones, but a bigger part of me wants to kvetch about how incredibly annoying the cycle was that is now over. It was my first cycle taking Letrozole (Femara) and the wierdness abounded. I should say that I was lazy about charting because of our move, until on day 21 and 22 I had spotting, which had never happened before in 4 years of charts. (Cue googling "implantation bleeding"....!) Then more spotting day 26, then three days of cramping days 27-29, none of which made any sense at all. The options were: 1) I was pregnant and having implantation bleeding/cramping; 2) I ovulated really, really late, like day 27, which is 6 full days after my latest O ever; 3) I had a double-peak, also unprecedented; and 4) Letrozole was doing strange, strange things to my body.

Five pointless pregnancy tests later, I concluded that the answer was probably a combination of #2 and #4. Arrrrggggghhhh it was so annoying!! All told, the cycle lasted 41 days (compared to my normal 28-31).

I was kinda hoping to not have to chart that faithfully, seeing how we've been doing this for a while and while we're still TTC, we're also moving on to adoption and I'd like to not have to think about TTC every day! But I kicked myself multiple times last cycle for not charting, since it made the tail end (middle?) of the cycle such a tease (5 pregnancy tests?!? how ridiculous) so I guess I'll chart more diligently at least this cycle, and see what Letrozole decides to do this time. Or maybe it was the stress of the move? I don't know. Consider me baffled.

Overall feeling happier than normal!
To end on a happy note: I met with my spiritual director while we were in Mr. M's hometown for a wedding last weekend and was so happy to report that overall I'm feeling happier, more at peace, and more joyful than I have in months, maybe years. No kidding! Yes, IF still hurts, a lot. Yes, I am still wounded and tender. But I noticed little things recently, like I didn't take as long to bounce back from a pg announcement, or like I actually got through the cycle from Hades without bawling even once, or I just felt a lightness and excitement about life that I didn't realize had been absent, etc.

Why? I think there are a couple reasons: 1) grace grace grace grace, grace! in the form of healing masses and prayers and just plain old undeserved gift of peace from God; 2) as hard as it was to hear the words "unexplained infertility" post-surgery, I also feel a huge sense of freedom knowing that we did a LOT this year toward trying to figure out what's cause our IF: SA, ultrasound series, surgery, and blood tests (not to mention the tests we did in 2013). Yes, I'd rather have an answer (I think) but at least I know we tried! Put another way: it is SUCH a relief to have all of these tests behind us. I don't think I even realized how stressed I was about them...because they're so stressful!! I'm just glad they're over. 3) I can't say enough how being in our new place and having the door open to adoption has been so, so, so good for my soul. On the one hand, adopting feels utterly intimidating and overwhelming; on the other hand, I trust that little by little we'll get there, if that's God's plan for us after all! It's so wonderful at least to be able to take a tiny step forward. And 4) I tried to explain to my spiritual director that I just feel stronger somehow, more confident in myself, less swayed by others' opinions or perceptions, more able to handle suffering. The boot camp of infertility has to pay off at some point, right?!? [Of course I say this now, and tomorrow I might be a complete puddle again...!] Even if feeling a renewed sense of joy is but a minor reprieve, I'll take it!


Monday, August 25, 2014

little happies!

It's been a while since I've joined in with Stephanie's Little Happies link-up, but I've enjoyed reading everyone's posts and they truly put a smile on my face!

{happy #1}

Our new home has a dishwasher. That may sound unspectacular, but this is the first home since our wedding three years ago in which we have not had to wash each and every dish by hand. Let's just say I'm thrilled and somewhat in awe of its magic =)

{happy #2}
special masses!

On Sunday we were blessed to have mass in our home as part of a married couples' group we're in. Pretty special! And we had our house blessed - a two-for-one special. Then today we had a private mass with a priest of a nearby parish who has a healing ministry. Also really special. Can't get enough of those sacraments!

{happy #3}
adoption books!

I checked out a bunch of books from the library and also ordered one to read, and it's so exciting to be learning about adoption now that it's a viable option. I read "Secret Thoughts of an Adoptive Mother" (mentioned on the Grace of Adoption blog) and it was eye-opening. I liked her honesty, although I would appreciate a Christian "Secret Thoughts" because there wasn't much about prayer or trust or believing that God has meant this child for you and you for this child. But overall it was worthwhile.

{happy #4}

I had a day off last week and indulged in a baking project in honor of the Assumptions. I made a triple-layer devil's food cake with cream cheese frosting and decorated it with blue sprinkles, twelve stars around the edges, and the message "she will CRUSH his head." Liturgically correct cake if ever I saw one =) And it was yummy too!

{happy #5}

Our housemates have a dog, so I guess he's our housedog...? He is adorable and fun and we love him already! He's a Corgy (short legs, big ears) who likes to play chase, tug of war, fetch (if he's in the mood; otherwise he pretends he doesn't understand you). He likes to eat bacon grease and peanut butter, and he doesn't bark at all but has the cutest little howl. We love having a dog buddy with zero responsibilities!

{happy #6}
the weather!

It's been absolutely gorgeous here, especially for August. No a/c, cool breezes, almost-crisp mornings. Ahhhh.

{happy #7}

We succeeded in hanging up curtains in every main room except the kitchen, which already had them. The dining room curtains are on a trial period - I like them, but since it's a shared room, our housemates have to like them too, so we're trying them out. I spent about $80 total on curtains and hardware, which I think is reasonable especially because curtains and curtain rods are reusable. I just love how they make our home so homey.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

"we were blessed with one"

I recently read this article (thanks to finding it on Catholic Mutt's blog) and not surprisingly, it struck a chord. I've never read anything like it, and it felt both like a breath of fresh air and a painful poke on some tender insecurities (since I've been there, worrying about what others will think when they find out that no, we don't have any children yet).

It also reminded me of an encounter that happened years ago but that I'll never forget.

It was the year after college, and I was a few months into a service year, living with other recent graduates and serving the poor. One blessing among many of this year was that we got four retreats during our time together. It was Fall, and we were on the second retreat, in the beautiful mountains of Colorado. I can't even remember what exercise we were doing, but we were in small groups talking about something or other. I ended up with another volunteer and a middle-aged woman who had come along just on the retreat to help the leaders out.

At some point, I asked her that innocent question that I now dread: "Do you have any kids?"

It's her response that will always stick with me.

She smiled and said, "We were blessed with one."

It wasn't so much the words - although they've stuck with me too - it was the way she said it. It was the complete opposite of objectification (see the article I linked to) or apologizing for having "only" one child. She said, "We were blessed with one" as if that one child was the most precious treasure and most wonderful gift she could have possibly received. And there was something else too in her voice - I heard it even then, and I can definitely relate now - that said without saying that she would have loved to have more, but she was blessed with one. 

"One" being infinitely more than zero!

I remember not knowing how to respond. It felt almost like a reverent silence, the way she said it. I have no idea if she struggled with infertility or miscarriage or both, or whether she married late or her husband died young or whatever. No idea. But wow, what a message of love-beyond-suffering came through in that short little sentence.

Since then, I've been at many Catholic events where a speaker or leader is introduced and we're told that they have a larger-than-average number of children (6, 10, 12, etc.) and everyone kind of gasps and even applauds. That always makes me feel so uncomfortable. It's not like I don't want to celebrate children! But 1) children are not someone's "accomplishment" and 2) would people ever clap for the parents "blessed with one"? My guess is no. And how horrible is that? Is that child worth less because he or she wasn't blessed with a half-dozen siblings? Anyway, I know that's probably my infertile angst coming out.

I would love love LOVE to be "blessed with one." Of course I'd love to be blessed with many! But I pray to God that if we are ever given the completely immeasurable gift of another human person to nurture, raise, and teach how much they're loved, when people ask me how many children I have, I won't say "oh, only one..." as if that one isn't one infinitely loved child of God! but I'll respond like that nameless woman who probably doesn't even remember me: "We were blessed with one."


Sunday, August 10, 2014

long overdue update: moving, masses, etc.

Wow, it's been a while! I finally found (made) some time to write while my husband is still sleeping and before I make blueberry pancakes for our big Sunday breakfast (haven't made them in weeks and am having major pancake withdrawal!) We went to mass last night and so have all day to relax, explore a few places around town, and be together.

Lots has happened since my last post:

New home
We're moved in, praise God! As I anticipated, all the stress and work and setbacks of getting ready for the move - which was a LOT; the house needed some last-minute work that we weren't aware of until just before our move - is already but a bad memory. We love our new place - it's plenty big, has lots and LoTs and LOT of windows =) plus hardwood floors and closet space and a nice homey feel already. Our new housemates are great and their dog greets me at the door after work! This whole week I've been hit with a wave of gratitude at our new home and how it positions us to pursue adoption, among other good qualities. Thank you God!

Mass for hope & healing
The weekend before our move, we attended the Archdiocese of DC's second annual mass for hope and healing. It was well attended - more people than last year, even though we personally know of three local couples who wanted to come and couldn't. Similar to last year, I felt so loved just by the mass happening, by priests taking time out of their busy schedules to minister to us in a very focused way. It was definitely an emotional experience. I cried during most of the mass and a lot of other people did too! That was the hardest part for me - seeing others suffer with a cross that I know pretty well, wishing that they didn't have to go through IF too, and grieving with them. It was both the saddest mass I've ever been too but also very healing. And the talk afterwards was fantastic - a personal testimony by a couple who struggled for 6 years. They were blessed with a daughter last year but didn't make their story one of a perfect tidy happy ending. They were honest and open and real and acknowledged that every person's journey is different. Looking around the room, it seemed like everyone was soaking it up, the chance to talk about such a hidden topic so openly.

Another mass for healing
The day before the mass - looks like I'm updating in reverse chronological order! - Mr. M and I were immensely blessed to receive a private healing mass from a local priest. This priest is known for his gift of healing and his willingness to fit everyone and anyone in his schedule, and it's true! Mr. M contacted him requesting spiritual direction. The priest replied immediately, they met that week (while I was out of town) and he offered to have a mass for both of us the following week. I was so touched and felt so loved! The mass itself was intense. I cried through this one too, naturally. Father annointed us both with blessed oil and prayed for healing. He also gave us some beautiful words to ponder about suffering: that the Church "needs" our suffering (in the sense St. Paul talks about "filling up" what is lacking in the suffering of Christ) - that we are offering a beautiful gift to God in our suffering, etc. It was very consoling to hear words of comfort and encouragement from a spiritual Father. Afterwards, he asked whether we'd like to have another mass. Um, letmethink...YES!! So that's in the works.

Current adoption "plan"
...and yes, I hear God laughing! =) Before our move, we had a wonderful long talk about where we envision the adoption process going and when. The tentative plan is: spend all of August settling in to our new home and getting it the way we want it (pictures, curtains, etc.). September-October-November, research different agencies and kinds of adoption: go to information meetings, make phone calls, and pray. By my birthday (Thanksgiving this year!): apply to an agency. Hopefully get accepted, then begin the home study process in January 2015. And go from there.

It may not seem like a lot, but to us even having those very simple steps decided on feels huge! I in no way feel like we're right around the corner from being parents, and I've even tried looking around our new home and imagining a crib in the corner, or little footsteps on the floor, and it just feels too surreal. My hunch is that moving forward with adoption will also mean peeling layers upon layers off my heart of barriers against all things motherhood related. A good but scary prospect!

For now, I am just so happy and relieved to be here, finally, after almost a year of knowing that our other apartment was not adoption-friendly, and after a few months of actual planning and preparation. *huge sigh of relief*

Now onto those pancakes and a big ol' overdue DATE day!


Saturday, July 19, 2014

What Song(s) Helps you Get Through Infertility?

Mr. M here.

Songs. We all love them. They move us to joy. They console us. They speak directly to our heart. They can even move us to prayer and a deeper contemplation on many things. Many a night I have sat up listening to music to help me through various situations in life. Last night was one of those nights. Just praying and thinking about the cross of infertility. So I turned on a few songs that helped ease the pain and gave me some reflection. I will share them below along with my very subjective commentary. No effort was made to look up the real meaning behind the song. But this made me think to ask you - what songs help you cope with infertility? Please share them in the comments below.

Here is my current list and why:

Mumford and Sons, After the Storm

The lyrics are so powerful and definitely applies to any struggle: Night has always pushed up day / You must know life to see decay / But I won't rot, I won't rot / Not this mind and not this heart / I won't rot   . . . then the chorus: And there will come a time, you'll see, with no more tears / And love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears / Get over your hill and see what you find there / With grace in your heart and flowers in your hair

Mumford and Sons, Awake My Soul

Love the lyrics to this song. These lines seem like my prayer on many nights struggling with infertility: Awake My Soul/ For You Were Made to Meet your Maker

Mumford and Sons, The Cave

Do you see a pattern here? What can I say, I really like this band. It is hard to limit it to three songs. Another great song with good lyrics. These lines resonate with me: But I will hold on hope / And I won't let you choke / On the noose around your neck / And I'll find strength in pain / And I will change my ways / I'll know my name as it's called again

I think of the noose as infertility. Clearly the song is not discussing infertility but this is what I think of when I hear this line, which I think is vague enough to cover all sorts of struggles. Also, I love the line "I'll find strength in pain". Amen. Further, this line resonated for religious reasons "I'll know my name as it's called again." I think of this as referring to Christ calling our name at Baptism. Here is our hope to get the noose off our necks. Of course, I have no idea what the songwriter was going for in these lines, but this is what I think when I hear it.

Eli Young Band, Keep on Dreamin' Even if It Breaks Your Heart

I love the Tom Petty sound and explicit tribute in this song. While the lyrics refer to a kid dreaming to be a big rockstar, the chorus applies to any dream. Here I think of our dream of having a child. No, I won't give that dream up even if it does break my heart.

Nickle Creek, House of Tom Bombadil

Great feel good song. Of course, the fact it recalls Lord of the Rings helps too. Probably could have put here Nickle Creek's song Ode to Butterfly or The Smoothie Song. In my opinion, their best songs are instrumentals.

Don Ross, Klimbim

Peaceful. Mellow. Joyful. I love listening to this instrumental song.

That's all for now! I could have added many more but these are my current favorites.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Mass for infertile couples

For those in the DC/MD/VA area, this is coming up:
mass for hope and healing

Mr. M and I are attending. If you're local and can come, it would be so nice to meet others from blog-land! I will pray for each and every one of you. From reading your blogs, I think I have a good sense of what to pray for, but if you have something specific you'd like me to pray for at the mass, please feel free to let me know in a comment or at I'm excited this is on St. Joachim & St. Anne's feast day - powerful intercessors!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

post-op appt & next steps

We went to my post-op appointment on Tuesday. I dreaded it, dreaded hearing what I knew was coming, that there's nothing left for us to do, nothing medically certain, anyway.

I'm so glad Mr. M went with me. Being an ob-gyn's office, of course there were several pregnant women also waiting for their appointments. Two of them must have known each other, because they were chatting (loudly) about the one's pregnancy (her fourth - all boys) and the other's baby (her third), in for its six-week check-up. It was impossible not to listen to them talk about how the pregnant lady's baby would be 13 months younger than her last child ("I'll pray for you that you get a break after this one!"), and how the other lady has friends who get pregnant within 3 months of giving birth, etc. etc. I couldn't take it anymore and told Mr. M to come get me when they called my name and walked out into the hallway to pace and try to calm down and not get upset even before my appointment. I looked out into the parking lot and prayed the Salve Regina and tried to pray for the two women and be understanding (with minimal success, since I think it's a basic point of courtesy to realize that other people in the ob-gyn's office might be infertile, or have a recent miscarriage, or whatever, and you could save your happy conversation for a private moment).

Anyway. Deep breath. The exam itself went fine; I'm healing well and my incisions have scarred over nicely. Then the part I dreaded: Dr. S says to us gently, "I'm sorry, but you truly have unexplained infertility. There's nothing I could find that explains why you haven't conceived."

Pause in which I am trying not to cry. She asks: "What would you like to ask me?"

What is there to ask? Just to say something, I say, "Is there anything at all you recommend?"

She suggested a drug - honestly I forget it now, but I'll pick up the prescription today - that is generally prescribed to help with ovulation. But we've watched me ovulate in "real time"...but who knows, maybe it has another mechanism that can help. Maybe. (What is it about the human psyche - mine at least - that feels better when given an option, anything, even though there's no reason at all it's a helpful option, rather than no option at all?)

We asked a few other questions, and she also suggested consulting with the next nearest napro doctor if we wanted (about 2 hours away, conveniently near my parents).

"How are you doing with all this?" she asked. I couldn't answer, or I would have cried. Thankfully Mr. M is not as much of a crier and said we're disappointed and sad. "Are you talking with anyone?" Dr. S asked. I said we've seen a very good therapist and have others to support us.

Then there was nothing else to say, and she had other patients to see. We thanked her for all she did for us, and she wished us well. Honestly, and maybe strangely, I wish she would have been more visibly saddened by our situation. She was very compassionate, and I'm sure doctors need to keep emotional distance. But at that moment, I wanted someone to cry with me.


So, next steps. Trying the drug Dr. S prescribed for a few months (up to 6), starting next cycle. Maybe going for a consult at the napro office near my hometown. Maybe another thing here or there. I have some ideas floating around, and some suggestions offered by knowledgable friends, but need some time just to sit and be with our new scenario. Not to mention moving! And discerning next steps for adoption.

Mr. M has another next step in mind: Lourdes. He joked that a Lourdes pilgrimage should be part of the napro treatment, right after all medical options are exhausted. We're exploring possibilities and seeing if this is a realistic idea. Of course how fantastic would that be to find physical healing in the waters of Lourdes! But we all know that's not the most fundamental healing, and I am certain that there are dark corners of my heart, perhaps even hidden from me, that are in need of God's healing and mercy.


The image I keep coming back to is that of falling. Like a nightmare where it's all dark and you are plummeting through space with nothing to grab on to. It's disorienting and takes your breath away. Sorry, over-dramatic I guess. But it's scary to feel cut loose, like you're beyond even the reach of medicine to help you or explain your situation.

I think this is going to take some radical trust in God, even more than we've been asked to give before. After getting the non-news of non-endometriosis, I realized that somewhere deep inside I was consoling myself with the idea that soon we would find an answer, like an oasis in the desert, the sight of land after being adrift for months. Something to grab and hold onto for dear life.

(Did I - do I - make an idol of an "answer," or of a medical/technical solution to our infertility? Is that what I've put my hope in? That's what I mean by more radical trust - needing to dig deeper and trust that none of this is pointless, that even without a "solution" God has not abandoned us; more: our marriage is meaningful and fruitful even if we feel completely adrift.)

Because it seems that answers are not forthcoming. Maybe something will become more clear later. But maybe not. Maybe we'll never conceive. And maybe we will. But even then, it seems like there wouldn't be anything to point to as the "ah-ha, that's why!" answer, like a simple cause-and-effect, fix-and-succeed thing. If we do ever conceive, how could I think of it as anything other than a sheer gratuitous miracle, an incomprehensible gift with no explanation other than the boundless generosity of God?

Jesus, I trust in you. Help me fall into your arms. Help me trust you in the midst of not-knowing. You are the Answer. You are the Way. Though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death, of confusion, of sorrow and grayness and grief, you are by my side. Strengthen my trust in you. Free me from my desire to grasp and clutch and control. Let me be a child in your arms


Thursday, June 26, 2014

unexplained infertility

Thanks to taking time off from work to recover from my surgery, I've had more than usual time to think about and process the surgery. And the phrase I keep coming back to is this one: "unexplained infertility."

More specifically, what I'm thinking about is this: after the surgery, Dr. S told my dh that we're basically at the end of napro options, given what we've done so far and given that no test has shown anything abnormal. We're going to meet with her on Tuesday, so maybe she'll elaborate more, but I get what she's saying. From reading other people's blogs, I'm aware that napro has more to offer than what we've done, but that "more" seems to be drugs that help conditions I don't have or tests to explore abnormalities detectable by symptoms I don't have. (Of course, I'm all ears if someone has a suggestion based on our medical history.)

Dr. S summed it up like this: either we're perfectly healthy and just quite unlucky (quite!), or there's something wrong with us that can't yet be detected by the current state of reproductive science. Neither of those premises is very comforting.

In other words, unexplained infertility.

I think Timothy O'Malley put it best in his beautiful essay "Waiting for Gabriel: Learning to Pray Through Infertility":

"Month one passed.   Month two passed.  Month three passed.  Six months later, our home became the anti-Nazareth, as we awaited an annunciation that never came.  The hope-filled decision to conceive a child became a bitter task of disheartened waiting.  After a year, we began to see a barrage of infertility specialists, who based upon test results, concluded that we should be able to have a child.  No low sperm counts.  No problem with reproductive systems.  All in working order.  The verdict:  inexplicable infertility.
"Unexplained infertility is a surprisingly miserable diagnosis.   Something about my psyche was prepared for a scientific explanation.  One in which the very fine doctors with advanced degrees from Ivy League institutions acknowledged that unless an act of God intervened, no human life would emerge from intercourse between Kara and me.   Indeed, a fair number of tears would have been shed on both of our parts.  But with the diagnosis of unexplained infertility, conception is scientifically possible.  With every slight change in Kara’s monthly cycle, a glimmer of hope rises in our hearts, only to be dashed with the arrival of menstruation.  Kind-hearted family, friends, and colleagues, who learn about our infertility, share stories about a mother or sister, who finally became pregnant.  They recommend “doctors”, who have a proven track record of curing infertility.  But unfortunate for us, we have no way of knowing if we will one day join the ranks of the middle-aged first-time parent.  And every trip to a doctor is a risk, because once again, we start to hope.  Aware now, of course, that hope alone does not fill one’s home with children."
"A surprisingly miserable diagnosis" pretty much hits in on the head. Surprising, because nothing is wrong with you. Miserable, because of course something is. It is not normal to make love to your husband for three years - on the "right" days, I might add - and never even need to take a pregnancy test because AF always arrives right on time. It is not normal to go even 6 months of "fertility-focused intercourse" and still be un-pregnant. "Not normal" usually means in the health context a disease. But no disease has been found. "All in working order."
I would add to O'Malley's description that unexplained infertility is enough to drive you batty.
Something must be wrong. But it's undetectable, like a parasite or something horribly icky that steals your life without you even being aware of its presence. 
If nothing is wrong with our bodies, then what? Is it diet? Is our timing just less-than-perfect enough to "miss" every month? Do we not exercise enough? (I know the answer to that one!) Are we "doing it" wrong? The huge non-answer of unexplained infertility opens up like a black hole of a million other non-answers, unanswerable questions that are enough to keep me up at night (literally).
At the end of the day, it comes down to control. (Doesn't everything?) I want to have a problem with my body that can be fixed. Not an unfixable problem, mind you. That's a whole 'nother kettle of fish and I can't claim one second to know what that would feel like. Just a nice manageable textbook problem that doctors can fix right up so we're good as gold. Living in what feels like a perpetual state of uncertainty and the unknown makes me anxious, makes me feel somewhat ashamed (I can't get pregnant and I don't even know why? double whammy), and most of all makes me feel completely out of control. I can't find or even start to guess what the perfect pill, potion, food, diet, fad, activity, would even be. I feel stuck in the dark.
That's enough for now. Sorry for the wet blanket. I'm going to go rejoin my husband and watch the World Cup and try for the millionth trillionth time to give it to God.
St. Anne, pray for us. St. Jude, pray for us.