4.18.2014

Good Friday and CD1


I didn't get out of bed this morning until 11:30 (almost not morning - and did I really just admit that on the internet?!). The cramping indicating today would be CD1, weighed on me both physically and emotionally. I had plans to take advantage of this beautiful day and go for a run this morning. Plans to start reclaiming my house from the fur that has taken it over. Plans to finish my final paper for this semester. And then the Good Friday Liturgy. Instead I stayed in bed, drifting between unsettled sleep, sorrow, and beating myself up for being selfish, I mean it is Good Friday and certainly Jesus hanging on a cross was way worse than CD1. I didn't even get up to make Kali be quiet when she barked at the mail lady (sorry mail lady!).

Then, I read Ecce Fiat's post (yay for Feedly's app!): Good Friday: yes, it really is that bad.

It was just what I needed to get myself up and moving, a little validation. Don't be too impressed. Upon getting out of bed and going to the bathroom, I was greeted by AF. In the hour or so since, I've only made it to the couch where I'm blogging and watching TV under my favorite blanket.

I have to get moving soon because our Good Friday Liturgy is at 3:00. The Hour of Mercy. During the proclamation of The Passion of the Lord, I will be the voices and the crowd and will proclaim the words of Peter and deny Jesus; the shouts of the crowds to crucify Him. This Lent, I have focused a lot of my prayer on how my sins today contributed to the death of Jesus. It's not just an event of the past, not merely a story we retell once a year. When Jesus willingly accepted the nails in His hands and the crown of thorns upon His head, He accepted all sins from all men, from all time. He accepted my sins. He accepted the times I've denied Him, the times that, through my sin, I shouted out for His crucifixion. It seems fitting that this is how I will end Lent, saying the words out loud, in a sense claiming my role. Lord, may I have the grace to ask for and accept your mercy as Peter did, for without out it, I am Judas. Judas, whose greatest sin was not betraying the Lord, we all do that, but rather the inability to humble himself and ask for and accept forgiveness.

I've prayed this week, knowing that AF would likely arrive sometime during the Triduum, for the grace to accept His will and to be able to repeat the words of Christ in the garden, 'Thy will be done," and to mean it, when I more often am asking Him to take this cross of infertility away, to let it "pass from me." As a new cycle begins, with bleeding and pain, I am trying to realize that it is bad and it is a part of my sanctification, the cross I've been asked to carry. I am also trying to realize that it is an opportunity to unite this suffering with Christ's on the cross, the most life-giving event in human history. CD1 is always the end of one dream, a death of sorts. But it is also the start of something new. Just as the bleeding of Christ on the cross made all things new, so too does this bleeding indicate something new, a new cycle, new hope will follow it, maybe not today, but it will come.

4.10.2014

35

I wasn't sure I had it in me to write today, about today.

My 35th birthday.

Honestly, I'm not sure I do have it in me.

The Man just made an amazing dinner of homemade, gluten-free crab cakes, candied sweet potatoes, and asparagus. (I really should have taken a photo.)

The card he gave me brought tears to my eyes. Mostly good. I know he means every word that is in it. I also know it stood out to him and he picked it in an effort to reassure me. To remind me that I am enough. That whether or not we have children, he loves me and our life is good.

I am resisting anger again. I don't want that kind of card to stand out to The Man. I don't want him to be trying so hard to show me how much he loves me and how I am not alone and how I am enough. I hate the doubts that infertility has caused to surface within me.

I'm sure it doesn't help that my first gray hair appeared a couple of weeks ago and the eye doctor telling me I have the start of cataracts. Oh, I've already written about this haven't I? Obviously I'm not handling any of this very well.

I have often written about being stuck between two lives: the one I want and am planning/hoping/dreaming for and the one I am living. This birthday has found me stuck between being truly grateful and just sad. On the grateful side, when I see the way God intervened in our lives, with NFP and other things, I am overwhelmed by His mercy and grace. When I think about the road we were on exactly 5 years ago today, I shudder and can only feel grateful and realize the trueness and depth of the phrase but for the Grace of God go I. And then, when I think about what we still do not have, when I think of waking up this morning in a hotel room to the sound of someone else's child laughing and giggling in the room beside me, I am almost overcome by sadness. I suppose it is just one more thing that is both/and, ah, how life is so very Catholic :).

For tonight, I'm choosing to focus on the good and to be grateful. I'm also allowing the tears to come when they do and trust that they truly are prayers, just as they were when Jesus wept. The Man is finishing the dishes and we will drink wine, have dessert, and catch up on our DVR. Then, this weekend, we are off to DC for the Cherry Blossom Parade. We will stay with Ecce Fiat and Mr. M., have a cupcake meet-up on Saturday (if you are in the DC area and want to join us - comment or send me an email and I'll give you details) and we will just be away, together and I know the gratitude will outshine the tears. If only for a couple days.

I realize this is probably scattered and doesn't make a whole lot of sense. My emotions are scattered and honestly don't make a whole lot of sense to me. Quite honestly, I'm fighting to not just completely lose it. I'm fighting because The Man has worked so hard to make this evening a good one, and I will not do anything to make him feel that he has been anything less than successful.

I don't know that I've really written anything worthwhile here, and I'm trying to conclude this with a final thought, but nothing is really coming to mind. I woke up this morning and turned 35. There is much good and beauty in my life. There is also much sadness. Regardless of whether or not I am feeling joy or sadness, I am alive. My very life itself is gift and proof of Love. God is real. He is the same regardless of how I feel. He is trustworthy. That is all that matters.

4.06.2014

And Jesus Wept

During today's gospel reading, the raising of Lazarus from the dead, I wondered if our tears are not only the lenses through which we see Jesus, but if perhaps they are not prayers in and of themselves. In the gospel, when Jesus arrives at the tomb of Lazarus we are told "And Jesus wept." (John 11:35 - this is the shortest verse in the whole bible, just in case you were wondering.) What follows is then the conversation about the stench and Jesus admonishing Martha for not believing, and while there is good stuff there, that's not what stood out to me today. It was that the next time Jesus spoke he said: "Father, I thank you for hearing me. I know that you always hear me; but because of the crowed here I have said this, that they may believe that you sent me."And then Jesus calls Lazarus out.

So, in a bit of sequence, here is how it went:

And Jesus wept. (John 11:35)
Jesus said: Father, I thank you for hearing me. (John 11:41)

There was nothing in between the weeping of Jesus and the prayer of thanks to the Father for hearing Him. No "please raise Lazarus." or "Bring my friend back to life." or anything of the like. From Jesus' weeping straight to gratitude for being heard.

So often, when the tears are coming it is because I feel abandoned, forgotten, ignored. I wonder if God hears my prayers, sees my pain, even cares at all. In my head I know that He does, but my heart and soul just don't feel it. And I wondered, if our tears can be lenses through which we see Jesus, can they also be words that we are unable to say offered in prayer to God that He is able to hear? It seems from today's gospel that they are. In my search to find an image to include with this post, I came across this, supporting my interpretation of today's gospel (in my humble opinion):
(If you are looking for this in your bible or online, if you are using a Catholic bible it is Psalm 56:9, 56:8 is the reference in a Protestant bible and is what was on this image when I found it.)
In light of this and even though I've come to see my tears as a grace, the lenses through which I see Jesus, at times, as I wrote about last, I've also felt guilty so many times when they have appeared.

E. commented that perhaps my tears were not feeling sorry for myself, but rather sorrow, and I've been trying to think about them differently. I've spent much time in the last few days reflecting on my tears and many of the emotions of infertility in a new light. I've been struggling with where these reflections are leading me, as I'm not arriving at the place of clarity and understanding that I desire. I have resisted this experience of sorrow. Sorrow being different from sadness, a deeper experience than sadness; one that sticks around. Though I have fought the sadness, too.

I've told myself countless times that I have no right to be sorrowful. I have so many blessings in my life, how dare I have sorrow over the one thing that I do not have.

I've compared my suffering to others - even feeling extreme guilt for suffering over this at all. I mean, I am not dying, I do not have a debilitating illness, and I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea. All leading to the conclusion that I have no right to be sad, let alone sorrowful. I realize this is not a healthy approach, for if we should not let comparison steal my joy, I suspect I should also not let comparison steal my sorrow either. Yet the latter is more difficult for me.

I can't explain to others clearly why infertility hurts so badly, I don't understand it myself. I've faced many disappointments in my life, didn't get many things that I wanted, and yet, infertility is different. It is almost impossible to explain.

Then, there is the shame. The shame in answering the question "how many children do you have with?" with zero. The shame in allowing infertility to consume so much of my life. While it doesn't consume it all, not a portion of a day goes by without it entering my mind, without a reminder and having to deal with the emotions of that reminder. Sometimes when I lay down at night the only prayer I can muster is that the next day I will be granted a morning or an afternoon in which I don't think about my inability to have children; about my brokenness. There is so much shame in how much this has consumed my life, and yet no matter how hard I try, it doesn't get better - the consuming or the shame.

There is shame in the sorrow. So while I've come to realize my tears were not tears of self-pity, but rather of sorrow, the shame is still there. I am embarrassed that when someone says something that is truly kind and helpful, that I feel sad and sorrowful instead of grateful; I am embarrassed that when someone announces a pregnancy, I am filled with sorrow for my own lack, even amidst my joy for them. Once again, I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea.

I don't have answers to this shame, sorrow, suffering trifecta that seems to be enveloping me these days, I am trying to remind myself of these two things: My tears are lenses through which to Jesus and they are prayers that I am unable to speak, but that God, hears, understands and answers according to His will. These tears that I am ashamed of, these emotions that I don't know what to do with that spill out of my eyes without my permission, perhaps they are an even greater grace than I realize?

4.03.2014

The Grace of Tears

The original title of this was "More on Spiritual Motherhood." Sometimes when I start to write, what I think I'm writing about isn't really what I'm writing about at all. This is one of those times...

Prior to and since my writing about spiritual motherhood, it has been a topic I've spent many hours praying over, thinking about, embracing, and resisting.

Since then, there have been two examples that have stood out to me of how our infertility has led me to spiritual motherhood. Both times with adults, some of similar age and some older. One a more negative, lead me to tears, and a "but I don't want this" experience and the other a positive, "I see how these people are my spiritual children" experience.

The first came on a day when there was lots of heavy stuff being shared in the FB group. I was on my way to Mass and offered my intentions for those in the group. One friend posted thanking me for being the spiritual mother of the group. I wish I could say this was the positive experience, but it wasn't. I had my own heavy stuff that day and while I was so grateful to be able to pray for my friends and to fill that role of spiritual mother, the very human side of me responded with (in my head): but I don't want this. I don't want it (infertility) for any of us, but in that moment I was blinded by my own pain, my own lack. I went to Mass and the tears freely fell. I felt sorry for myself. Then I felt guilty for feeling sorry for myself. And then I finally quit thinking and just let the emotions, and the tears, flow. It wasn't my proudest moment - reacting so badly to a kind, well-meaning comment that was meant to encourage me.

The second came when I was giving a presentation to an RCIA class on the teachings of marriage in the Catholic Church. A question about couples who marry after childbearing years or in the case of a woman who had a hysterectomy. I was sharing how they can choose to not have the question "Will you accept children lovingly from God...." asked. Then, and I had never had this thought before so I think it had to come from the Holy Spirit as even as the words were leaving my mouth I wondered where it was coming from, I said (this is the gist anyway): I would encourage you to consider leaving that question in, for all men are called to fatherhood and all women to motherhood, both physical and spiritual. For some, it will only be spiritual, and a marriage is supposed to be open to life, open to the gift of new life, of children, but for an older couple or a couple who knows they cannot have physical children, what a statement of faith in a twofold sense: 1) that belief in God's ability to perform miracles and, perhaps more importantly 2) that willingness to see how God will create new life from the marriage, what children will come into it and be nurtured by it, with the understanding sometimes a child does not come in the form of an infant, but rather someone who needs mothering or fathering in a spiritual sense, and that person may even be older than you. For example, as I look around the table and we are having this discussion, you all have become spiritual children to me. It is the fruit of my marriage and the journey we have traveled that has led me to this table tonight.

As the words left my mouth, as I said, I wondered where they came from, and I knew where they came from all at the same time. And as I said them, a filmstrip of people and names played in my head, of those to whom I've been called to mother, some for a long time and others briefly. But, each person I was called to mother was a direct result of my vocation as wife, of the road The man and I have traveled as husband and wife. While I know there have been others, like my students when I was teacher that I always referred to as "my kids,"but this filmstrip was specific, it was showing me how my infertile marriage has not been infertile at all.

To say that my tears from the prior experience seemed even more ridiculous and that I was even more ashamed of them would be an understatement.

And yet, as I write this a quote from Pope Francis is coming to mind:

Sometimes in our lives tears are the lenses we need to see Jesus.

Without the tears of infertility, specifically those over spiritual motherhood and my resistance of it, would I have been able to see?

Pope Francis went on to say (emphasis mine):

Let us ask the Lord to give us the grace of tears - it is a beautiful grace. And ask for the grace to be able to say with our lives, "I have seen the Lord," not because He appeared to me, but because I saw Him with my heart.

My constant prayer for the past 3 1/2 years has been for grace. 3 1/2 years ago, I rarely cried. The tears that have been shed have been more numerous than I thought possible and caught me off guard more than I care to recall. There was even a moment recently when two choleric women shed tears together - we laughed as we shared tissues over how "this doesn't happen to us." 

To think that these tears, these lenses through which I have come to see Jesus in a way that goes beyond words, are part of the answer to my prayers for grace? To think that maybe that pain that I was so frustrated by led me to see Him better? I fight the pain and the tears so fiercely. I am so often ashamed by them, but what if they are what is leading me to Him?

We are His portion and He is our prize,
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes,
If His grace is an ocean, we're all sinking.
( from How He Loves Us, David Crowder Band)

3.27.2014

Once Again, I Surrender (Post-Surgery Follow-Up)

Very early on the road of infertility I learned that emotions are not experienced in a mutually exclusive manner. Everything is a jumbled up mess all at once and can change in the blink of an eye without any warning or real explanation. When I say "I learned" please understand that what I'm really saying is: I fought it with everything in me, tried to force linear emotions that occurred one at a time, and I threw a lot of temper tantrums. I don't fight it much anymore, nor try to force the linear emotions. I do still throw temper tantrums occasionally.

Ahem.

So it is I find myself stuck between two emotions once again after my post-surgery follow-up with Dr. D.

There is the hope that comes from finding out my tubes are once again open (she did have to use the catheter wire to open both sides), the endometriosis that had returned was not as severe as the last time and overall things looked good. There are the good hormones from my latest hormone panel, the improved thyroid numbers (TSH is down to 1.14 - and I feel so much better!), the negative cultures (internal and external) and the ultrasound series that showed ovulation.

Numbers:
TSH 1.14 (was 4.02)
Free T4 - .94 (was .95)
Free T3 - 2.75 (wasn't checked before)
The frees still aren't great, but I figure with the testing that is most likely in my future (keep reading) this won't be the last check of these numbers. For now, I'm just glad to be feeling better!

There is hope that hasn't been there in a long time.

But.

If hope has been gone for a long time, a positive emotion without a "but" after it has been gone even longer.

There is the low post-peak estrogen and thin endometrial lining and the too-high DHEA (386.9 - but it was early in my cycle and she said they like to do it later in cycle. I didn't know that. DHEA was 148 when tested 2 years ago)) We are still waiting on 17-hydroxyprogesterone and testosterone levels to come back and then she may move forward with more advanced adrenal testing. There is a post-coital test that will be scheduled to make sure my body isn't killing or attacking The Man's "little men." I also asked to have my FSH tested to check my ovarian reserve as I turn 35 in less than 2 weeks, found my first gray hair last week, and was told by my eye doctor that I have early-stage cataracts. Any one of those on its own would have been stressful, the 3 combined has caused the ticking of my biological clock to become deafening and so I asked to have the FSH and pre-peak estrodial tested. Conveniently it was CD 5, so it was a good day to do so. There was also the phrase "chronic inflammation" which has me clinging to my ice cream like it's the last half-gallon on the planet. Finally, for now, there is the ticking clock of having to have my tubes opened for a second time and knowing they will most likely not stay that way.

Don't get me wrong, I am so grateful for all that has been fixed, ruled out, managed, etc. I am so grateful to have open tubes again and not be facing enough medications to require a full-time assistant to make sure I take them all on time. (At least not yet.)

It's just so hard.

Every fiber of my being wants to hope and be hopeful. To start thinking that it might actually be possible that we could conceive. But that is a scary thought.

I'm getting used to "Infertile Rebecca." I have my routine for each cycle and I know what to expect. I have hope, grounded in reality. For the last year, that reality was that my tubes were most likely blocked. There was little chance, save a miracle. I believed in that miracle. I rode a few crazy roller coasters because of that miracle. But, in 2013 alone, I also endured CD 1 on Mother's Day, on my goddaughter's baptism day (during Mass!), on Thanksgiving, and on Christmas. It's been hard to not take it personally.

I'm scared to go back to "Fully-Hopes-and-Thinks-Dreams-Come-True Rebecca." Petrified might be a better word. It took so much work to hold myself together through a year in which half of it I wasn't even on medications nor had any practical hope. It's easier to know it's not likely. It's easier to face the sorrow when it is what is expected.

I realize that I must place my trust in God.

To trust that He is capable of miracles.

To trust that He can lift this cross at any time.

To trust that He is enough. No matter what.

To trust that He is trustworthy.

And I realize that for all the "progress" I think I've made this year, it all comes right back to the same thing. Over and over again, always the same thing.

I am a stubborn woman.

Once again, I must surrender.

And as I write that, I realize that it was no coincidence that this follow-up appointment was on the Feast of the Annunciation.

Do I trust Him as Mary trusted?

I want to.

And so I shall.

I place myself in His hands and at His mercy.

I will embrace these new possibilities and pray that I am able to truly understand, in both my head and my heart, that He is enough.

Once again, I say:

Be it done unto me according to Thy word.