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!