Sunday, April 26, 2015

Beginnings, and Endings


This week has felt particularly long, and difficult. Two unexpected pregnancy announcements, both from women I don't know that well, but who are younger than me and married less time than me (ouch). A few projects at work that involve thinking about Mother's Day and/or editing texts about research on marriage and families that contained not a few triggers for the unsuspecting infertile woman. By the end of the week, I was just fried, mentally and emotionally.


However - a very exciting thing happened this week! On Monday, April 20th, we put our 12-page application in an unassuming manila envelope and mailed it to our agency. We have officially started the adoption process!

Cue fireworks and cheers here :)

It felt great - it really did. Because we work close to each other, we were able to meet for mass before I mailed the application, so we had a special time of prayer together, entrusting our efforts to God and praying for the path ahead and all the people we'll meet on it - not least our child and his/her biological parents.

It really does feel like a fresh beginning, the start of something so, so good.

But there's an ending, too.

One of the questions on the application asked about how long we've been in treatment for infertility, and what the current status of treatment was. When we started filling out the forms on April 2nd, I was in a wacko cycle where it appears that I didn't ovulate and had a "missed period" - although I did get a real period in mid-April after all (started on a plane, on a 3-day work trip, and me not bringing any "female products" because I thought I wasn't going to have a period...thanks, AF. Well played.)

At the beginning of April, I was on my 5th dose of letrozole, out of 6 that were prescribed. But my cycles have just been so, so weird since taking these meds, and I was sick of it. I had (have) the 6th dose in our bathroom cabinet, but couldn't take it until my period started, which it didn't, and then when it finally did, I was out of town on the 3rd day when I was supposed to take the next dose.


All that is to say - we discussed it, and decided that we could put an end date of infertility treatment on the application (April 2015) and also say something like, "No further treatment is planned at this time." The meds will stay in the cabinet until further notice. Or maybe I'll flush them down the toilet defiantly - not sure yet.

For us, that leaves the door open in case we want to pursue medical treatment in the future, if we both discern that that's a good thing to do. But for now, that particular path is done for us. No more doctor's visits, meds, or charting (other than what I'm conscious of from charting for so long). It felt good to put that down on paper - it felt more real, somehow. (But also somewhat scary, and sad.)


Yesterday was our 3rd annual archdiocesan mass for couples struggling with infertility and miscarriage. As usual (we've gone all 3 years) it was emotional, draining, but also healing and beautiful. The mass was great, the talk was great, the conversations over lunch were great - but I want to talk about one particular moment that I will be reflecting on for a while.

After mass, everyone was invited to come up for healing prayers from a priest. This year, I liked how the priest made it personal. He asked us (quietly) what we would like prayer for. I said, "For the gift of a child, for freedom from jealousy, bitterness, and anger, and for our marriage to stay strong." He prayed for us, and of course I cried (and of course forget tissues at my seat).

Back in the pew, I had a crystal clear sense that I needed to say to God, "Lord, help me fully accept the fact that I may never be pregnant; that I may never feel a child kick inside of me; that I may never give birth; that I may never raise a child that looks like me and Mr. M and is a blend of our personalities; etc."

Cue the waterworks!

I hadn't planned on praying this - it just came to me. At the same time, it made so much sense, given what we had put on our adoption application. And I had a sense that this moment had been long in coming, that at some point I would have needed to pray a prayer like this, to look directly in the face the fact that I may never be a physical mother. (Not crazy about the word "physical" since adoptive mothers have very "physical" roles too! Whatever word is best: biological, natural - they're all limited, but hopefully you know what I mean: I may never conceive and give birth to a child.)

Note that I didn't pray, "Help me accept that I may never be a mother." Maybe someday I'll have to get to that prayer too, but at least now, we are hopefully that we will become parents via adoption, so I am taking a step of faith and saying, "I believe I will be a mother someday."

And note that I said "may," not "will." (I may not be pregnant, etc.) I'm well aware that I am not medically infertile, meaning that I (we) have all the apparatus to conceive, and it is still possible that that will happen.

But I think this prayer came from my need to accept my reality right now, which is that we have been engaging in the marital act for 3.5 years more than what is normal for couples using NFP. We have pursued medical treatment. We have tried...and we have failed. Have we tried "everything"? Probably not. But we've tried enough. And have not succeeded.

That is a hard, hard reality for me to accept. Hence, the prayer. I just felt a strong need in that holy space, during a holy time, to lay at the feet of the altar this dear, dear desire to be a pregnant, birthing mama - to give that to God, what feels like "again" but also feels like a distinct ending.

How will this prayer change me? I don't know yet. Ideally, I would like to arrive at a place of true acceptance - of being at peace at maybe never conceiving and giving birth. I don't feel like I'm there yet. Maybe the adoption process itself will help? Maybe adopting will help? Maybe the pang will never go away? I don't know yet.

But I feel like this "ending" - combined with our "beginning" of starting the adoption process - is a good place to be right now.


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

This Upcoming National Infertility Awareness Week Consider Attending or Promoting...

A Morning for 
 Hope and Healing
 for those struggling with infertility or pregnancy loss
Saturday, April 25, 2015 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m

Saint John Paul II National Shrine 
3900 Harewood Road NE Washington, DC 20017
10 A.M. - Celebration of Mass 
11:30 A.M. - 12:30 P.M. Lunch and Personal Testimony:
“Living as a Family of Two” by Deacon Tony & Donna Maciorowski
1 P.M. - 2:00 P.M. Veneration and Prayers before St. John Paul II Relics for His Intercession of Healing

This event is free of charge but we encourage registration for planning purposes. Nevertheless, walk-ins are welcome. For more information or to register please contact Mary Hamm at 301-853-4499 or
Sponsored by the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. 

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Musings on the Paschal Mystery (re-post)

I'm re-posting one of my favorite posts, which I wrote a few years ago. Blessed Triduum and Happy Easter!

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

Good Friday - yes, it really is that bad

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

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

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

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

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

Easter Sunday - there is no ultimate loss

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

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

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

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

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