3.26.2015

Mercy and Grace



The story of the last few months is what I want to tell you all. Wait, let me start again.

The story of the last few months is one I don't want to tell anyone. No, that's not it either.

The story of the last few months is one I will tell, to bring glory to God and to hopefully remind one other person that she (or he) is not alone.

It is a story of sin. A story of brokenness. A story of failure. A story of pain. A story of pride.

It is also a story of mercy. A story of love. A story of the beginnings of healing. A story of strength. A story of humility. A story of grace.

Before I begin, I want to say a few things and to ask, if I may, a few things of you, who is reading this:

1 - For some of you, many of you, to read here will be painful over the next few posts, possibly forever. I understand. You owe me nothing. If you have ever read a word here, you are a gift to me and my prayers are with you forever. If you continue to read, to walk with me, you are giving me a gift that I know, beyond telling, that I do not deserve.

2 - Some of you will be hurt that you are reading such a story here, on the internet instead of in a personal email or a phone call. For that, I am sorry. If an explanation helps, the weight of what I will be writing is heavy. Each writing or speaking of it, I feel the weight and this is, in some sense, an easier way out. That said, I'm more than happy to email, text, or talk to anyone who would like to know more, please feel welcome to reach out.

3 - While most of the story will be put here, there are parts that won't be. This is not an attempt to lie or mislead, rather is an attempt to be respectful of the privacy of those involved. To not cause more damage than has already been caused.

4 - I will turn anonymous comments back on, so long as comments remain, as they have always been in this space, respectful. You don't have to agree with me. You don't have to like what you read. You are welcome to comment honestly. All I ask is that you remember that these words on this screen are the real experiences of real people, with real feelings, real faces, and all else that makes us human. (Just FYI: The anonymous comments were only off because of spam.)

5 - Some of this will seem very 'matter-of-fact' and cold. I do not intend it that way. The 'what' needs to be said so that the 'hows' and 'whys' and all the other processing can make sense.

6 - Fr. D., who has walked with me over the past 2 1/2 years, continues to walk with me. It is largely because of him that I have come to understand mercy and grace in such a new way. He has never once condoned sin and has without fail shown me unconditional love. He has shown me unconditional love and has stood in persona Christi before me in a way I know I do not deserve.

And so, with shaking hands and tears on my cheeks, I will begin. I have no idea how many parts this catching up will be or if it will be one really long dump of information. I guess we'll see what happens.

mercy - compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one's power to punish or harm

grace - the free and unmerited favor of God

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love He had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ (by grace you have been saved), raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavens in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God. ~Ephesians 2:4-8 
Chronicled in this space has been my entire reversion experience to the Catholic faith, the faith in which I was raised and the faith on which I depend entirely. Also, here, is the story of the infertility of myself and The Man, C. Part of that story has included the struggles and trials that infertility placed on our marriage. There has also been much else that has gone on behind the scenes. Our marriage has struggled in ways not written here, and the details are not necessarily important, at least not to put publicly on a blog.

What is important is where things are now: In November, after a couple of intense months, C and I separated and earlier this month civilly divorced. I will be seeking a decree of nullity.

To even be writing those words, publicly admitting failure at marriage, when I have worked in marriage ministry for the better part of the last 4 years. A part of me wants to just delete all that I've written and let you all think I just skipped off into life without a blog. Oh pride. How prideful a human being I have been.

Prideful that because I decided I wouldn't get divorced, that meant I wouldn't need to work hard daily to prevent it. That because I preached marriage daily, I was immune to divorce. Pride that I ignored warning signs and those who tried to tell us differently and didn't question things over the years when my gut said to question them, allowing for hurt to both of us. Pride that I could walk a tightrope and not fall. So. much. pride.

I have never viewed the internet as the proper place in which to air the dirty laundry of a marriage. As above, we are real people with real feelings. I will not use this place to bash C, to air the dirty laundry of our marriage. I will say that it takes two people to make or break a marriage and that I claim my responsibility in this. I am not innocent. I am not a victim. There is no joy over the ending of our marriage, nor over the pain that I have caused.

Part of the pain I caused, in these recent months, has been being unfaithful to my marriage vows. At first emotionally and then physically. A man, R, entered my life about two years ago and we became fast friends. We have remained good friends and have supported one another in our ministries and in our vocations. A little more than a year ago, I realized I was starting to care for him much more than as a friend, but just tried to ignore it. Set on being a good friend to him and that was it. Unknown to me at the time was that he was having the same struggle. Add in the struggles in my own marriage (far beyond infertility, but it is included), and it was leading up to perfect storm that I didn't see coming. Looking back, oh hindsight, so beautiful, I see it coming clearly.

In late September of this year, R and I both realized that the feelings we were having for one another were reciprocated. To say that it surprised us both would be an understatement. So much that we both went straight to confession and I told C exactly what was going on. And in doing so, I pulled the string that ultimately unraveled our marriage. The problems of our marriage all came onto the table - not in a dragging up old stuff way, but in a we'd never really dealt with this all way. C and I both were reeling and fighting to hold on and we couldn't hear one another. We each thought we were telling the other exactly what was needed, and perhaps we were, but for one reason or another I was not able to give C what he needed and vice versa. That led to C asking me to move out of our home in late November after I would not give in to a request of his.

As I left that night, aware that I might never go back, my emotions were all over the place. I was relieved to finally have space I needed, scared of what would be coming, sorrowful over the hurt that had led to it and that was to come, and so aware that in no solution to this problem was there any way to spare myself, C, or R, whom I had come to love deeply, pain. We were all headed for immense pain, immense sorrow, and much struggle. No matter what.

That immense pain has come - in the form of broken vows, broken vocations, and physical pain. It has come in realizing that I must abstain from receiving Eucharist, In realizing that I have failed to live up to that which I believe in; that which I continue to believe in. And yet, somehow, in ways I will never fully know, the grace of God has continued. It has remained. The necklace I wear daily reminds me: by grace alone.

Romans 5:20 Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more,

And so, despite the sin. Despite all the bad. I find myself experiencing joy. Joy in loving and being loved in a way I have not experienced before. And in a way that I had just started to accept was never going to happen, in motherhood. Yes, you read that correctly. I am pregnant. Somehow, there is life growing within me. An eternal soul has been placed in my care.

And my dear friends, I realize what reading those words is doing to some of you - the devastation, the anger, the rage, the hurt, the sorrow. I know what they would have been doing to me had I read them just 6 months ago. My thoughts would have been, and honestly in the last 4 years have things like this:

Really God? She has an affair and you let her get pregnant? I'm married, following your laws and I don't get a baby? Really?

How could anyone do such a thing? Don't you respect your own vows? The vows of the other? Your husband?

God, do you not see me? Am I invisible here? Hello?!?!

She is such a hypocrite. Preaching marriage, pretending to believe it all, pretending to support those who are carrying the cross of infertility.

Wow, I trusted her! I thought we were friends. I don't know her at all. I can't believe this.

And more. So much more. Most of which would have been full of expletives and anger. So much anger. I don't blame you for a single one of those thoughts, have them, please. Email them to me if you want, put them in the comments. They are real. They are not things I've not said in my own head and have thought the same or worse about others.

It is in this I am realizing what mercy really looks like. What it really means to forgive and offer compassion, to suffer with. I would have been unmerciful to someone in my situation, and I know there are people in my life who have withheld telling me things like this because of how they knew I would react.

I cannot tell you the sorrow that brings to my heart. The sorrow I have over my pridefulness. The words of Mary's Magnificat, how they sting with truth:
He has shown the strength of his arm, he has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly.
And, at the same time, I find myself clinging to these words:
He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation.
I am being cast down from my throne daily; shown daily how prideful I am and I am resting all of my hope in his mercy. I have realized how undeserving of His grace and His mercy I am, and I have come to realize that His suffering on the cross was directly a result of the sins I have committed. My sorrow goes beyond words. My understanding of my need for a Savior and of the cost has grown in ways I could never have imagined. I am humbled. I am broken. And I am ever aware that only He can fill me.

Somehow amid all of this darkness, there is life. If I was ever going to learn that life is a gift bestowed upon us by God, it is perhaps in this way. For years I tried to earn it, tried to make myself spiritual enough for it, tried desperately to find Him in my suffering so that He would make me a mother in reward. I coveted the attention that comes with motherhood, the right to brag and share just how cute a way I announced it, and to proudly proclaim, I followed God's will, the rules of His Church and I was rewarded (I wouldn't have used those words, but certainly that would have been the tone, the underlying message).

I am finally learning that life is a gift. Period. End of story.

We can not earn it. We do not deserve it.

Just as we do not deserve mercy. As I do not deserve mercy. Or compassion. Or grace.

And somehow, someway it is what I have been given, what lies before me.

I am scared to open myself to it.

I find myself having to remind myself I am pregnant, that there is life within me. That before the end of summer, there will hopefully be a child to hold.

I find myself having to remind myself that He loves me, unconditionally and that has never changed, not once in my entire life.

I remind myself daily that Judas' greatest sin wasn't the betrayal of Jesus, but rather His inability to ask for and accept forgiveness; that it was his pride and self-reliance that led him to take his own life, to death. And so, as I sit surrounded by my sinfulness. Surrounded by my failures. Most days in complete disbelief of the gifts He has given me, I am continually reminding myself that His grace is here. His mercy is here. All I can do is open myself up to it and allow the process of healing to happen.

I think that is where I will leave things for now. At the corner of mercy and grace, aware of my dependence upon God. I do not anticipate a long time between posts now, as there is much more to tell, as I continue on this road home.

As I continue to walk this road, I want to be clear that in sharing any of this I do not condone nor hold up as an example any of the sinful choices that I have made. This is my journey as a daughter of God who has sinned and is seeking His mercy and grace. It is my 'road home'.

For those of you who will click away and never return, I understand. I love you and my prayers remain with you.

For those of you who will continue to walk this road with me, I am grateful. I am aware I do not deserve your mercy and I love you. My prayers remain with you.

11.11.2014

Brokenness and Whispers

I certainly didn't intend that string of close together posts to be the last thing I posted for so long.

There is much struggle in life right now. Some infertility related, some not. Your prayers are appreciated, so much.

I have sat down to write a few times over the last couple of months, but knowing that the whole story can't go here has quieted me. I realize I need to keep writing, and somehow reach out despite that it all can't be public. I have to start somewhere, and this seems as good a place as any.

A big part of infertility for me has been reconciling my objective brokenness, my body does not work correctly - that is a fact - from the subjective experience of that. Of feeling like less than a woman, less than a wife. The fact of brokenness and the feeling of brokenness are two very different, but related things. My head knows that I (and you, my dear sisters) am no less a woman, no less a wife. That my femininity is not tied to my ability to conceive and bear a child. That I am created as a woman and that my body, whether all the parts are fully present and working or not, is a sign of a sanctuary of life, of receptivity, of nurturing whether it ever does any of those things or not. The fact that it does not is evidence of the Fall and the brokenness of our world, not of my brokenness.

Recently, God whispered to me these truths in a way that finally reached my heart, if only for a moment. I, of course, missed His whispers, even His clear words spoken by others, and spent some time arguing with Him before I let myself hear Him. Someday I might learn that He is going to win. Clearly I haven't yet.

So, if you'd permit me to return to this place with a story of brokenness and whispers.

It all starts and connects back to another argument I had with God that I lost. That argument was about receiving Eucharist on the tongue rather than in the hand. (Disclaimer: Both are appropriate ways to receive Eucharist, this is not meant to be a post about the theological reasons for one or the other.) He suggested it. I said no. He pushed. I said no. He pushed. I tried. He won. It's that simple and that complicated. But it was the first time I'd heard Him ask me to do something outside of my comfort zone as it relates to Mass and it was a very distinct argument and experience.

So, back in the spring when I started hearing Him suggest that I cover my head during Mass, I recognized it. It felt very much like the request to receive Eucharist on the tongue. I resisted. Strongly this time. So many reasons why not. And nothing but a feeling, rather an invitation, but I didn't see it that way at the time, for why. Well, much like with Eucharist, He is persistent and so I asked a couple of trusted priest-friends what they thought. Specifically about how to prudently do this when my  job requires being in front of people who do not regularly attend Mass and are not going to understand it at all and not wanting to alienate them; needing to be accessible.

Then, when we went to the beach, one of these priest-friends came with us and brought a couple of articles about traditions of women covering their heads in different cultures. I read them, interested and still very much arguing with God about this. The more I read, the more the logical and theological reasons just didn't add up for me. There was a flaw in each one, an argument used out of context or taken to an extreme. All I had was this pull from God and arguments that were not satisfying myself. (Disclaimer: This is also not a post designed to argue the theological reasons for a woman covering her head. It is not required and does not prove holiness or piety one way or the other.)

Then, in late August/early September, I was at Mass and stayed after to pray and a prayer came and went so quickly I barely registered it. I didn't say it or give physical words to it and I forgot about it. The prayer? "Lord, if you want me to cover my head during Mass, I will, but only if a veil is given to me as a gift."

Less than two weeks later, the priest-friend who went to the beach came to visit us and brought with him a thank you gift for me for inviting him. I'm sure I don't have to tell you what that gift was, but in case I do, yes, it was a veil. Not just any veil, but the veil I had decided that if I were going to wear one would be the one I would wear. As I opened it, that unspoken, barely thought, barely prayed prayer echoed in my heart. I told him the prayer and we both just stood in awe.

And so, two days later I started covering my head during Mass. I've learned to listen to His voice and use prudence to know when is the right time to wear my veil and when I need to not (for example, at my home parish where it would stick out and be a distraction to all around me). I have settled into a comfort with covering my head and haven't given it too much thought since then. The theological and logical reasons still falling short, but very much feeling like this is what I was supposed to do.

Then, I found this article: Men, Veils, and the Mystery of Femininity at The Catholic Gentleman. There is a lot there that doesn't resonate with me - the problem of the theological reasons continues, as the argument that Mary is always shown with her head covered is not 100% accurate, nor are the reasons given. But, there was something different in this article. A whisper while I was reading the parts about femininity and the female body. All things I already knew in my head, but now read in light of an argument that He won about covering my head and feeling in my heart that it was the right thing to be doing.

The whisper?

You are not broken.
You are my beautiful daughter.
You are sacred.
You are loved.
You are not broken.

And finally, I heard the whisper behind the request from Him to cover my head.

My body is broken.

I feel broken.

I am not broken.

I don't know why He chose covering my head to whisper this to me. I don't know why this is where I heard His voice. Perhaps it is that I am stubborn and that the feeling of brokenness is nearly always with me and so by covering my head regularly at Mass, He can remind me often.

I have heard many times that it is in our woundedness, our brokenness, that we are closest to Christ. It is our wounds and scars that are our familial resemblance to Him, our wounds that will shine with the most glory in heaven. It is through our wounds that He enters, when we let Him. He will enter our brokenness with whispers of Truth. How I pray for the grace to hear and respond to Him.

9.18.2014

The Medical Plan Ends

As we came to the decision to not make another NaPro appointment, it was with the understanding that we are leaving options 'on the table' so to speak. Here is where things stand:

Reproductive Hormones/Parts (all will be left as is without further treatment):
Progesterone - within normal ranges throughout the cycle
Estradiol - normal for pre-peak, low-normal for post-peak
FSH/LH - ratio of 3:1, should be 1:1
Ovulation - one ultrasound series that shows my body is capable of 'typical' ovulation
Endometrial lining - low-normal thickness for post-peak
Fallopian Tubes - open as of surgery in February, 2014; history of both sides being blocked in both surgeries
Condition of uterus - endo removed, adhesions removed, chronic inflammation observed
Diet - Gluten-free (mostly)
Insulin Resistance - reversed with diet and exercise, will maintain diet/exercise plan
Male hormones (androgens/testosterone/DHEA) - some normal results, other non-normal results, one thing that was to be investigated if we continued with NaPro
Brown bleeding - both pre and post AF. Not as much as it used to be but still more often than not.

Other hormones/issues/symptoms (will continue to assess and determine how to manage these):
Thyroid - treated with Armour
Adrenals - some normal, other non-normal results
Chronic urinary tract infections

We are in the process of finding a local endocrinologist (not a reproductive endocrinologist, just a regular one) and/or a naturopath to manage my thyroid/adrenal issues. We are mostly concerned about long term effects of leaving these hormones unmanaged. The same for the chronic urinary tract infections, we are seeking both holistic approach and a local ob/gyn to investigate a way to prevent these. I am also considering food intolerance testing because chronic inflammation cannot be good for long term health either. Though the thought of removing ice cream from my life is terrifying.

We will chart CD1, the first day of externally observed CM, and peak day. That will let The Man know where we are in my cycle, and will let me know if there would/could ever be a reason to suspect pregnancy. Unless there becomes a problem with our intimacy, we will not directly TTC or TTA as far as timing intercourse. In some ways I wish I could forget everything I've learned about NFP.

My thoughts on this:

Four years ago I had no idea I had any health problems. My charts looked mostly good with some occasional brown bleeding. I've always been tired and cold, but nothing I couldn't manage or ever thought much about. I was more concerned that my joking about having adult ADD wasn't really a joke, but was rather real and was getting ready to see about being evaluated for that, but ultimately didn't because I knew I couldn't take those meds if TTC, nor was I really excited about daily meds. I've mostly managed and provide entertainment when I do something less than intelligent that is out of character for me, so there wasn't really much to worry about.

Four years ago, I'd never been under anesthesia. I've never broken a bone. I was a once-a-year ob/gyn patient and that was it. I don't even get seasonal allergies or colds. The worst thing I experienced were the occasional UTIs that were annoying, but I could usually predict them because I chose to not go to the bathroom immediately after intercourse.

I honestly thought my prayer for grace was needed because I would be *that* person who started TTC and was successful right away. How would I have gracefully handled that in the face of all the beautiful ladies' whose blogs I was reading who were infertile. Oh, how God has a sense of humor.

And here I sit, 4 years later, infertile and looking back over the last years asking myself "Who am I and how is this my life?"

I am also so aware that for many of you reading this, this timeline and list are very short if compared to your own. You have done and/or will do so much more for so much longer. I am in awe of your strength and your ability to persevere. No matter how much we have in common with our faith and our infertility, we each must walk our own path. We must follow the road He is laying before us and while these roads intersect and are similar, they are also very different. One is not better or worse than another. One does not indicate a greater desire or faith than the other.

For us, this part of our road is over.

The medical plan ends.

His plans are better than my dreams.

9.15.2014

Broken, Empty, Lonely - Answered Prayers?

Back in July, when I reflected upon what rejoicing looks like and revisited it, I shared lyrics and the song "Keep Making Me" by Sidewalk Prophets.

Here are those lyrics again:
Keep Making Me
~The Sidewalk Prophets~

Make me broken
So I can be healed
'Cause I'm so calloused
And now I can't feel
I want to run to You
With heart wide open
Make me broken

Make me empty
So I can be filled
'Cause I'm still holding
Onto my will
And I'm completed
When You are with me
Make me empty

'Til You are my one desire
'Til You are my one true love
'Til You are my breath, my everything
Lord, please keep making me

Make me lonely
So I can be Yours
'Til I want no one
More than you, Lord
'Cause in the darkness
I know You will hold me
Make me lonely

'Til You are my one desire
'Til You are my one true love
'Til You are my breath, my everything
Lord, please keep making me

'Til You are my one desire
'Til You are my one true love
'Til You are my breath, my everything
Lord, please keep making,
I know you'll keep making
Lord, please keep making me

Two months later, life is so very different. And not in the way I wanted it to be. And yet, today, on the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, I can't help but wonder if I'm not staring right at the answer to my prayer. A prayer prayed of desperation. Thinking that if He emptied me enough He'd have no choice but to fill me back up. And how did I see that happening, but with life. With a child. Of course if I emptied myself enough, He'd give me what I wanted.

Oh, how I was wrong.

No, instead, He led me to a place where I must remain broken, empty, and lonely.

I know I haven't shared where we left things medically, I will, but for now, what is important is that we are are leaving medical options on the table. I am broken.

My body, my womb is empty. There is no new life growing inside me. It seems there never will be. I am empty.

This mourning process is the most isolating part of infertility thus far. I cannot explain it to others. I cannot share it with anyone else. Yes, The Man is experiencing his own mourning, I realize that. I also realize in a painful acute way that no one but an infertile woman knows what it feels like to come to the realization that her body will likely never bear a child. And each infertile woman must feel this on her own. I am lonely.

Broken. Empty. Lonely. These are objective truths. There is so much of a subjective experience to go with it.  Facts and feelings as Fr. D. is helping me to see and differentiate. I am not sure it is even possible to put words to the feelings. I am not sure there are even words possible for how this feels. If I were to try I would say that it feels like my heart is being ripped in half. That my body feels hollow. That I feel like I'm walking around in a loud, noisy world and no one sees me nor could I interact with it if I tried. That is a start. I will continue to keep seeking the words, but I do not expect them to come.

He does not will suffering but He allows it, and for some reason He has allowed this brokenness, emptiness, and loneliness in my life. I am now wondering if my prayers are answered. Wondering if He is to keep making me, then I must be broken so He can heal me; I must be empty so He can fill me; I must be lonely so that I can be His. That for me, for whatever reason I must be physically broken, physically empty, and physically lonely in order for Him to fill me, to heal me, to be His. That somehow and for some reason, this is necessary for my salvation. 

Laying my desires at His feet. Sitting at the foot of the cross. Begging Our Lady of Sorrows to intercede for me. That I may have an ounce of her faith, her grace, her perseverance. Because no amount of objective truth is helping my heart to hurt less. No amount of knowing that He is calling me to Him, that He is answering my prayers is making this experience any easier. I am clinging to my own will. Fighting the brokenness, the emptiness, the loneliness that I must yield to. Fighting the answer to the prayer because it is not the answer I wanted.

'Til You are my one desire...

9.13.2014

Mourning

I wrote about our New Tension. And I wrote about how we arrived at and what this place of peace feels like.

Now it's time for the other side. For the mourning.

Again, this may be long and I don't really know where it is going. It is all part of this road home that we are on.

The Man and I had our discussion late on a Saturday night. Sitting on the floor of his workplace waiting for WVU Football game traffic to clear. It was just the two of us, for the first time in a while that we had nothing to do but chat with one another. And so, as it often does, our conversation turned to our infertility.

I asked The Man if he'd had enough time to think and pray about where God was calling us and/or if he wanted to talk about what the road would look like moving forward. He had. He started the conversation by reflecting about how he wonders if maybe God isn't calling us to something different. How he just doesn't know why this is happening to us.

As he talked, I had a realization. When I think of 'why?' when we are having these discussions, I'm thinking of things like 'my tubes are blocked; I have PCOS; I have endometriosis; there is inflammation; etc' I hear his question and I go right to the physical answers. More the answer to "how come" than "why". Yet, as he talked, I remembered something he said a while ago one Sunday on the way home from Mass when he was telling me that a co-worker had asked him "why don't you have kids" and his answer was: "I don't know."

And honestly, while we have physical 'reasons', we ultimately don't know. No reason that I can come up with explains why we are infertile. Yes, it is part of God's plan. Yes, good has come from it, but surely good could come from us being parents as well.

And so I realized that in searching for his answer to "why?", The Man had started to wonder what else God might be calling us to. Are we to use our physically infertile marriage to be spiritually fruitful in a profound way? He reflected on the priest and seminarian friends who we have been able to have in our home and travel with us and how it is clear God is calling me to be a spiritual mother to priests.

And so, as we reflected on this and I asked the question about making a doctor's appointment and we both agreed that there was no need to do that, we realized that our road was changing.

Soon after that, we headed home. Sunday was spent with Mass, brunch, napping, and football. Monday and Tuesday, I was working out of town - ironically presenting the Catholic perspective on the Sanctity of Life to an ecumenical council of churches in WV - and so there was not much time to process. I was able to talk a bit with a friend, but not at length.

Wednesday, I was able to go to Adoration and Mass at Fr. D's parish after work. And it was sometime during evening prayer that it started to sink in. The dreams of the past 4 years started playing in my mind and the tears started to fall. In the reading, St. Paul declared that he would spare those who had not married the afflictions of such a state in life, and I longed to be spared this affliction of infertility. Before Mass, I had been writing in my journal, and I'd written the question "May I mourn?" It was the one thing I wanted to know from God. Was it/is it OK to mourn? May I finally acknowledge that my dreams will not come true? (As I said before, I realize that God is sovereign and life is a gratuitous gift that He can choose to bestow at any time. Should He choose to do so, we would welcome it joyfully and with gratitude.) There was silence. But through Mass, I felt my heart change, I felt the mourning start. And after Mass, Fr. D stopped to see if I was OK and I was able to barely choke out the words "we're done." And it was his words that gave me my answer, among other things, he said "these first few weeks are going to be especially difficult." And I was given permission to mourn.

Here is what that has felt like.

It feels like someone has died. Like someone who never existed has died. More than anything I want to take a week off of work and have a funeral and say goodbye to these dreams. I do realize that there was no actual life. Only these dreams have had a life of their own. The hope I've felt over the years that has given me life; that has reminded me that there is something to hope for. It is gone. A new dream must be dreamed, but not before the first is mourned.

It is mourning the loss of the opportunity to...
see a BFP
tell The Man
have a blessing of a baby in the womb
hear a heartbeat
throw up all morning
tell our parents they will be grandparents
have a 4 generations photo taken with my mom, my Nan, me, and my child
hear "it's a boy" or "it's a girl"
pace the floor begging for sleep for us both
watch tiny fingers reach out for The Man's nose or beard - and see his eyes glisten with wonder at his own child
baptize our child

That is only as far as I made it today. To infancy. The awareness that in the coming weeks I must mourn the entire life. I must allow myself to let go of it. To say goodbye without ever having the opportunity to say hello. Not even for a second. I am under no illusion this will be easy or a linear process. Nothing about grief is. I just know that I must do it.

And the isolation of it all...if infertility is isolating - this is more so.

The reason for the sadness makes no sense to one who has not longed for a child. For how can it? How can I be so sad over the loss of someone who never existed? I went to work today because I had work to do. I could have taken the day off, but then I wouldn't have been prepared for this weekend's retreat for engaged couples, and I don't know how I possibly would have explained I needed the weekend off - which is quite honestly what I need. How does one say I am mourning when no one has died? And so the isolation grows; the fear of bursting into tears at any moment is immense.

Somehow, amidst all of this there is peace. I've learned to recognize it, I think. Because I do believe that it is always there, even when I don't feel it. But please, do not misunderstand - the peace has done nothing to lessen the mourning, the sorrow. If anything, it has made it more acute - more real. The peace has allowed me to feel these emotions fully, while resting in Him. When I resisted the emotions, when I sought the peace so desperately, there was a buffer of sorts. The buffer is gone. All that is left is grace. By grace alone, I will let go of this dream and learn to want only what He wants.

As with last time, I think this is enough for now. I will still write about where we are/left things medically. I will still share about spiritual motherhood. But for now, I must rest in this tension. I must cling to grace, the always-answered prayer of the last four years. He has led me here, kicking and screaming most of the way, but He has been patient. So now, without any choice but to kneel before Him and beg for His peace and His mercy, I lay the desires of my heart at His feet and ask Him to show me how to want what He wants.