12.31.2013

2013, In Review

As I did last year, I thought I'd create a summary of posts from this year by picking a favorite from each month and linking to it here. Also, if you are really bored, you can click on the month name and it will take you to all of the posts from that month.

Happy New Year!

January - I wrote about the children we don't have and how I was Missing Them.

February - I only had one post, as I wrote about Entering the Desert and began a blogging and social media fast for Lent.

March - I also only had one post in March, as I reflected on Emerging from my fast.

April - As "April Fools' Day" jokes caused hurt, I reflected on My Pain.

May - After a crazy cycle I reflected on hope, and how sometimes It Just Hurts.

June - As I pondered how infertility could be a good thing, Ecce Fiat's question of "A ripple effect, maybe?" led me to realize that it is in many ways and, as I wrote, my eyes were opened as I responded, A Ripple Effect? Definitely!

July - Oh, July was tough to pick just one, and since this is my blog, I can change the rules :) and pick two :). I reflected in a 4 part series, beginning with The Barren Visitation on a retreat experience I had and I paid tribute to our sweet godson, Gregory.

August - I was Celebrating Hope, as I was determined to share the full picture of infertility, not just the hard days.

September - I realized that I had to learn to align my wants with What He Wants.

October - Of course, it is the Marine Corps Marathon Recap!

November - I got to meet Donna! And it was Just What I Needed.

December - I asked What if God Says No? and reflected on other "big" things.

12.26.2013

"For a Child is Born to Us" (Isaiah 9:6)

A house-full of people. Laughter. Conversation. Drinks. Food. Lots of food. Gift wrap and bows.

A table so long it extended out of the dining room. Out the back door and in the front door to let the pups in. 14 grown-ups. 2 small ones.

That was our house on Christmas Eve.

Just the way I like it. Full. Loud. Overflowing with people, food, and love.

Somehow though, amidst all the busyness, there were moments of sadness, when our infertility snuck up on me and I felt the heaviness. Like when opening gifts and my Nan, again, offers her thoughts on my running. I couldn't just "take it", I clearly told her my doctor knows I run and it's not a problem. Rather than apologize, she just says "oh, you heard me?" Fortunately my common sense kicked in before my anger bubbled over. She is 85. She has a different perspective from a different time. She means well. And before I could dwell, there was another gift being opened to draw my attention and pull me out of myself.

Then there was during dinner, I looked up and saw everyone around our table, The Man at the head, leading our prayer. The joy in my heart was bittersweet. I loved the full table, I loved listening to The Man pray for God's blessings, but I wanted it to be full of our children. Full of our grandchildren some day. I fought those tears hard and I won, mostly because it was time to explain what everything was and I could slip back into "hostess" mode and could not be in "infertile wife" mode.

A few times over the day I found myself alone in the kitchen and I felt the loneliness. I felt the emptiness of my body; the brokenness. Each time, something ready to be stirred or someone needing something rescued me from my tears before they spilled over.

And so the afternoon and evening went.

Around 10:00, everyone headed home and The Man and I did a little bit of cleaning up. I sat down to practice my reading for Mass. I read it three or four times and then headed up to get ready for Midnight Mass.

We arrived for the 11:30 Christmas Eve Carol Service and it was a perfect way to transition from the business of a house full of people and doing for others into the prayer of the Mass. As the proclamation of the birth of Jesus was chanted, chills came over me and a sense of calm that I'd not felt in a while.

It wasn't until I was standing at the ambo, proclaiming the First Reading (Isaiah 9:1 - 6) that the words of the reading finally sunk in (this isn't unusual for me), specifically these words:

For a child is born to us, a son is given us.

And in that split second, all of those hopes for our own miracle washed over me. The irony that I was reading those words as I was feeling the cramps that were reminding me of another failed cycle was not lost on me. The anger that once again, I, an infertile woman, am proclaiming scripture about a miraculous birth. And then, the whisper of words from my retreat this summer: mystical fertility is more important than physical fertility, echoed somewhere deep in my soul. It all happened within a split second, noticeable only to me (there are many times when my choleric temperament is truly a gift). 

As Mass continued, I continued to hear whispers, first from the second reading (The grace of Goad has appeared, saving all...to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age, as we await the blessed hope, the appearance of the glory of our great God and savior Jesus Christ) and then from the Gospel (Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy...a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.) Finally, Father's homily, challenging and beautiful. And a reminder of this mystical fertility to which we are all called. Focusing on bringing forth Christ into our lives and world, that it is our responsibility to make sure Jesus is born for every generation.

I wish I'd spent this morning hiding that stick with two pink lines in The Man's stocking instead of seeing the drastic temperature drop that confirms the cramping and BB of the past two days are indeed the opening act for AF (I wasn't surprised, it was just one more reminder, just as when AF fully arrived, that I am still infertile). I wish, as I'd read those lines at Mass, I'd had the best kind of secret to be sharing soon, that a child was going to be born to us, a son or daughter. For whatever reason, those wishes are not being granted. These prayers for a child continue to be answered with a "no."

I am hearing Him very clearly, but I am resisting it. Like a child being told what she doesn't want to hear, I am sticking my fingers in my ears and shouting "I can't hear you; I can't hear you!" Except, His voice comes from that place inside me where I've invited Him in, and it cannot be shouted down or tuned out. He is calling me to mystical fertility rather than physical fertility. I don't know if it is a permanent call, but it is clearly the call for this day. There is joy in this, joy that we all share in our call to bring forth Christ to the world. There is peace in this, peace that we all share in our confidence in our Savior. There is sorrow in this. Sorrow that comes from letting go of what I want and finding a way to want what He wants, for as long as He wants it.

He is the same.

Wonder-Counselor. God-Hero. Father-Forever. Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9)

He is the same.

Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice. Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord. (Psalm 96)

12.23.2013

He is the Same

God is the same today as He was yesterday and will be tomorrow.

I wish I could ignore the headache, the cramping, the spotting.

He is the same.

But I can't.

He is the same.

If AF isn't here when I wake up tomorrow (Christmas Eve), she'll be here on Christmas morning.

He is the same.

I know I could have it worse, but this just sucks.

He is the same.

As if her arrival isn't enough, I'm having back cramps and leg pain - which I haven't had for a while.

He is the same.

Wonder if these are signs that the endometriosis is back?

He is the same.

I had a good cry on my drive home from work. I suspect it is just the start of the tears.

He is the same.

Tomorrow, The Man and I are hosting 15 people and then I am a reader at Midnight Mass.

He is the same.

On Sunday, we'll head to my Dad's for the day.

He is the same.

I just want to close myself in my bedroom with a case of wine.

He is the same.

Somehow, someway I will find hope and joy in Christmas.

He is the same.

12.19.2013

Advent and Infertility: Wait or Prepare?

This Advent has been tough, in lots of ways. There is the usual sadness and dread that has accompanied all major (and minor) holidays for the last 3 years, for sure. Yet, this year there has been the ultrasound series and blood work coupled with a busier work schedule than I anticipated. There is also this: Christmas Day will be P+15 of an unmedicated cycle. I have a very strict "no testing" rule. I've only broken it once and that served as a good reminder why I don't test.

But.

To sneak downstairs to start the water for The Man's coffee and on my way past the mantel slip a test with two lines on it into The Man's stocking that hangs there. That, my friends, would be the best way I could possibly imagine to spend Christmas morning.

But.

To take that test and see only one line? To truly put to test my Advent prayer of "God is the same no matter what" on Christmas morning. Do I even dare risk it?

I will have to make a decision before Christmas morning as there are no tests in our house.

----------

When I was at Mass last weekend, you know, Gaudete Sunday? The one I've had a love/hate relationship with over the last couple of years? Yep, that one. Well, I thought I was safe because it was a small Mass for couples preparing for marriage and I trusted the priest would do a homily on, well, marriage. He did not disappoint, only he also stirred something in me that I have been reflecting on ever since.

So often we talk about Advent as a season of waiting. Those of us who are infertile often feel that this is the only part of the seasons of Advent and Christmas we can relate to, this waiting for a baby (both a physical baby for us and for the Baby Jesus). Father, in speaking to the engaged couples, focused instead on preparing. Of course this made perfect sense as engaged couples are certainly preparing for their wedding days and their marriages. But something stirred within me, a question that was almost like my soul whispering to itself: Have I been waiting or preparing over these past years?

On a practical sense, I have been doing both. Preparing for pregnancy and motherhood both prayerfully and physically. Waiting for my prayer to be answered in the way that *I* want. Each cycle my body prepares to ovulate and then I wait to see if conception occurred.

And spiritually, I have done both as well. There are times when I have actively prepared by seeking out spiritual direction or increasing my prayer life. But there have been times when I have waited. When I have sat back and said "I'm here, God. I'm waiting for You." I've been waiting for Him to let me know He does indeed see this pain I'm in; waiting for Him to work His miracle and allow us to conceive; waiting for Him to explain why we must all go through this.

And then, I started to think about that big question of "What if God Says No?" So many of you commented so kindly on my post about how this question is so much bigger than just related to infertility. That there are so many things in our lives that we ask this question about. And I started to wonder if during this time that has felt mostly like waiting, waiting for a child, waiting for motherhood, if maybe He hasn't been preparing me, and all of us, for something more?

I realized of course He has been. We are all created for something more than this life. We are created for God, for heaven. This whole life is preparation for that life. We have a choice to only sit back and wait or to only step forward and prepare, but we also have a choice to do both. To take our time where we sit back, we reflect, we mourn, we wait for Him to move in our lives but to also do our part, to step out in faith and to prepare for Him.

Infertility can teach us how to do this. How to both prepare and wait all at the same time. I've often lamented this piece of the journey, about how difficult it is to plan for one life while trying to live another. It is not for the faint of heart, of that I am sure. And yet, as I've heard the word "prepare" echo in my heart and mind over the past few days, the whisper of "wait" has been there too. Isn't this what we are all doing with this whole existence? Are we not preparing for heaven, preparing to meet God, preparing for that which we are created while waiting for it to happen?

The key, I think, to doing this is being open to this two-fold process of preparation and waiting. Of activity and passivity all rolled into one. I am struck again at how our Catholic faith so beautifully teaches us to embrace both/and over either/or.

----------

So, what will I do on Christmas morning?

Well, if I am to take my own reflection seriously, I must first prepare, so I will make sure there are tests in the house.

I will then wait.

I can't promise I will test, that will be a decision I suspect I can only make when I wake up on Christmas morning.

Yes, this Advent has been tough in a lot of ways, but I am learning to trust and believe that God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Regardless of my Christmas morning, He has come. We are redeemed. We have Hope. He will come again.

Infertility is teaching me how to prepare and to wait in that Hope, despite the sorrows of this life.

12.17.2013

Winners!

I was a little late in closing comments and selecting winners from my blogoversary post, but here is who random (dot) org selected!

So, Stephanie, please email me your color preference and snail mail address and I will send your ornament to you.

And Susan, if you will email me your mailing address, I will send yours as well!

My email is rebeccawvu02 at gmail dot com

Congratulations ladies! And thank-you to everyone for playing :) and most importantly for reading and praying!

12.13.2013

Quick Takes


Happy Friday!!! These are truly "Quick Takes" as they are all over the place, topic wise.

1. Still hard to believe it's been 5 years of blogging for me. Before this blog, I was never a journal-er or diary keeper. Ever. While there is a lot here that is published and public, there is also a lot that isn't. I also have written journals from the past 2 years or so as well. While I sometimes cringe when going back through my archives at things I said and/or the way I said them, I love having the history and can see growth and also see the ebb and flow of life. It helps to remind me that the hard times won't stick around forever. And just in case you missed it yesterday, go here for the give-away post!

2. I survived my first semester of Grad School (again!). I got an "A-" in my Philosophy for Theologians course and an "A" in my Synoptic Gospels course. I really enjoyed both courses and learned a lot. I'm not gonna lie, my brain hurts and I have a lot to work on RE: Time Management for Spring 2013. I am taking two more courses next semester: Fundamentals of Moral Theology I and One and Triune God. I've already printed the syllabus for each course and yikes! Wonder if there is a "Cliff's Notes" version of the Summa Theologica....

3.

Football season has also come to a close. From my lack of writing about it, one might wonder if there was a football season. It was a rough year. All the way around. We lost games we should have won. We lost games we should have lost. It was just rough. Many fans are calling for our head coach and athletic director to be fired. I'm not sure that either one of those is a prudent decision. A lot of "new" has happened over the past couple of seasons and to make major changes before we can see where this "new" is taking us could be disastrous. But so could not making major changes. Only time will tell, and I think we have to give the current system one more season. In the meantime, in case you were wondering, The Man and I did faithfully use our season tickets this year - even the last game. In the cold. When even a win wouldn't get us into a bowl game. We stayed to the end. To watch us blow a 21 - point lead and lose in triple over time. See? I told you it was a rough year.

4. I'm mid-way through my FMS. The good news is that I did indeed ovulate. I am glad to say that for the first time in all of this my "gut" instinct was wrong. I usually prefer to be "right", but I'm OK with being wrong in this case. I have a lot more thoughts about this, but there isn't much order to them and the emotions run the gamut of extremes, so I'll have to get a better handle on all of it before I just start rambling. For now, I'm just trying to focus on the positive that for the first time I can cross something off the list rather than put a check mark beside it.

5.  The weekend is Gaudete Sunday. The last two years I've felt anger and overwhelming sadness. While I'd be lying if I said I wasn't hopeful for this cycle, something about *knowing* you ovulated has a way of doing that, I think my overwhelming feeling this weekend is numbness. I feel like there is an onslaught of emotions just under the surface that I'm not letting out. I'm sure they'll come out at some point, I'm just hoping it's in the form of tears and not some stupid spaz out on The Man.

6. Three years ago, I decided I wasn't buying my parents or The Man's parents any more "stuff" for holidays or birthdays. It started with tickets for my Dad for Christmas to go see his college basketball team play and has continued with tickets to ball games, gift certificates to dinners, tickets to musicals, pedicures and more. This Sunday, my Dad and I are heading to Philadelphia to go to a Beach Boys concert. They are his favorite band and I've been hoping to be able to get these tickets since I very first had this idea. The Beach Boys just hadn't been close by over the past years. But they were this year! He was so touched when he opened his birthday card back in October, he could barely say thank-you. I started this plan before we knew my Dad had cancer and it was the best decision I could have made. The extra time we've spent with our parents has truly been priceless. I'm sure I'll have pictures of our trip sometime next week!

7. Running. Hmm, I think I still do that. I'm registered for a half marathon in May (Pittsburgh again), so I'll have to do at least some training - ha! Seriously though, I haven't run since the marathon on 10/26 - that's almost 6 weeks now. I did have to put forth some serious effort to get finished with my graduate classes on time and then, quite honestly, it's just been too cold. If I had stayed in my routine of running, I wouldn't be such a wimp about it. I'm hoping for a short warm spell next week to get me going again. My CD of photos from the marathon arrived, so I expect there will be a photo dump of those on FB sometime soon as well.

Well, I'm out of takes, so have a great weekend! Don't forget to visit Jen for more Quick Takes!


12.12.2013

Blogoversary Thoughts & Giveaway

Happy Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe!

And, Happy Blogoversary to this here corner o' the web!

Five years ago, completely oblivious to the fact that this is a pretty awesome Feast Day, I started blogging. I was really Catholic in name only and headed down a pretty scary path. How things change....

I'm still a little surprised that there is anything here after that first post. I'm even more surprised at *what* is here. I didn't start blogging to document our "reversion" and I didn't start blogging to share intimate details of my life with the world and that's all here. I thought I'd post about football games and other nonsense that goes on in our life with a photo here and there of our furbabies, and well, that's here too. I guess I was half-right :).

I love my little *spot* on the web and I am so grateful to all of you for being a part of it. Whether you comment regularly, occasionally, or never, your presence here is a blessing to me and I am thankful for you! And to show my gratitude, as I did a couple of years ago, I have a fun give-away. Also like a couple of years ago, it's probably not on your Christmas list, but it's very "me" and I think it *should* be on everyone's Christmas list :) and I hope that when putting on a tree each year, the winner knows of the gratitude and love that is behind it for all of the prayers and support that I've received in this space.



So, if you'd like to win, all you have to do to enter is comment :). And since there are 2, I'll pick 2 winners. The first winner can pick whether they want gold or blue. I'll leave the comments open until Monday afternoon some time and then pick Monday evening.

Good luck and thank-you!!!

12.10.2013

An Advent of Waiting

So full of hope and anxiety. Wanting a miracle and wondering how I will handle another disappointment?
Trying to remind myself that my ultimate hope must lie in Him, only in Him and that is how I will handle the disappointment should it come.

It is CD 13. I had my most recent FMS this morning

(For those who are wondering: FMS = follicular maturation scans- a series of ultrasounds where they watch and measure the growth of the dominant follicle up to and through ovulation. Practically speaking it means a trans.va.ginal ultrasound on CD 5, again on CD 10 and then either every other or every day depending on growth. For me it's meant on CD 6 and CD 9 (scheduling challenges with lab) and then CD 11 and 13 and now every day until ovulation has occurred, most likely 3 - 4 more days. It could also be until a lutenized-unrupture follicle is diagnosed (LUF).)

So far, the actual process itself has been going very well. The lady who has done 3 of my 4 (and will do the rest) of my scans is a gift from God. Truly. I'm already trying to figure out what to get her for Christmas. The first day, while admitting she had never seen orders like these before, she said "but I want to get this just right for you and your doctor, since so much of your future depends on it." Um, yea. I almost burst into tears and hugged her right then. I did smile and try to express how genuinely grateful I was with my facial expression.

When she saw the follicle on CD 9, she smiled from ear to ear. I think she was more excited than I was! And then today, equal excitement as she saw the growth and gave me the measurements: 1.9 x 2.0. (millimeters, I think)

It was last Tuesday, CD 5, in the afternoon that I found myself overwhelmed with anxiety and almost burst into tears sitting at my desk. I had been thinking how well everything had gone for the initial scan, how grateful I was for Rita (oh yea, her name is Rita. There is a small statue of St. Rita on my mantel, given to me by our friend Cody almost 2 years ago. Yes, I'm asking for St. Rita's intercession.) and how this might not all be so bad after all (this is another post, why I was so resistant to the FMS for so long). But then, it came out of nowhere, the anxiety and the tears that I had to fight back. (Thank-you again to those of you in the FB group who prayed, truly, you were life savers that day.)

And so it has come and gone. This anxiety.

I can't figure out which is worse: finding out that I ovulate normally or finding out that I do not ovulate normally. I'm honestly trying hard not to "figure" at all. I'm trying hard to remind myself that God is God, regardless of the outcome of the tests or this cycle. That whether this results in our first BFP or in finding out I do not ovulate normally, that God is the same. I find myself repeating that almost subconsciously throughout the day "He is the same; He is the same; He is the same."

I could "what if" both myself and you to death right about now. I even talked in my sleep last night, for the first time in a long time according to The Man, a sure sign that I am anxious and worrying.

I am trying to not think through the ramifications of every possible outcome, of finding out I ovulate normally and conceiving; and not conceiving; and of finding out I do not ovulate normally. I'm trying to keep things in perspective, I'm on no medications, I'm almost 2 years post-op, including having my tubes opened, and the BB has been consistently present. But, then there is this: God can heal us. Yes, trying to keep it all in perspective.

This Advent has certainly become one of waiting, and it is not lost on me that, one way or the other, my waiting for this cycle will come to an end right after Christmas.

Yes, He is the same yesterday, today, tomorrow, and forever.

It is for Him I wait.

12.02.2013

What if God Says No?

I've been trying to wrap my mind around a lot of "big" thoughts lately. I think it is why I've been so restless in my prayer life, so prone to tears, and feeling so lost and hopeless. Despite my insistences when I was meeting with Fr. D that I was going in circles while he was trying to explain to me that we are moving forward and we are following Jesus, which is what led to him saying I was feeling hopeless which led to tears, lots of tears because I felt he was right, I think I am starting to see that it's a little bit of both - circles and moving forward.

Some of these thoughts include:

What if God says "no"? (title of post with permission from Donna for hijacking her blog name)
As we crossed year three of TTC (I do realize many of you have been at this much longer than me, for whatever reason this "anniversary" just seemed big. I don't really know how to explain it and I'm very aware you're probably thinking I need to get over myself, I promise, I am trying.), I found myself really feeling the weight of this question, really letting it sink in and allowing it to enter my conscience thoughts and emotions. Each month during the 2WW, the hopes and dreams have become clearer and stronger, and yet I've felt like God is saying "trust me" and "give them to me", literally asking me to lay down this dream at the foot of His cross. I will admit, I'm scared to death of doing this. Scared that if I lay the dreams down somehow I will forget about them and they will never be realized; that by letting go of my white knuckle grip on them, The Man and I will never be parents. I realize this points to a lack of trust in Him and I'm working on it. Those moments of being able to picture a good life without children were disappearing, and I found myself controlled by the emotional roller coaster of my physical cycle. Even writing about Hope and saying all the right words about how hope for earthly things must point to our ultimate Hope, I now realize I was still hyper-focused on the hope for an earthly thing, for a child. If I'm honest, I still am. Which leads me to...

Am I Turning a Child Into an Idol?
Am I taking the desire that is written on my heart, in my soul for God and turning it inward into a desire for a child? I do think the desire for motherhood also comes from Him, but what comes from Him and what is for Him are two different things.  Am I allowing the disappointments that come with not conceiving to affect my relationship with God? Absolutely. This is why I resist the quiet time with God, because in the quiet I must trust Him and I must give up my idols. I cannot wear my mask when it's "just us", no matter how hard I cling to it, He sees and He knows and He's asking me to take it off. When taking our medical "break", it was easier to remind myself to focus on God most days, there weren't constant temptations in the form of a medication or an appointment that drew my attention to my desire for a child rather than my desire for Him. As I start with ultrasounds and blood draws this week, I have already allowed myself to focus intently on the child I desire, comparing my chart to my calendar and seeing that the days that should be most "fertile" are all days I will be home. Good for getting ultrasounds done and getting answers, bad for leading to a calm 2WW that should end just in time for Christmas morning. I'm hearing Him ask me to give this all to Him, I'm just not saying "yes." Which leads me to...

God's Perfect Timing
Will I only open my heart to see His perfect timing if my prayers are answered in the way I want them to be? Will it be upon finally seeing a BFP or answering a phone call that I then say "it all makes sense now?" and "all of the waiting was worth it."? Well, of course it would make sense then; it would all have been worth it, but, again, what if God says no? What if my prayers are not answered in the way I want? Will I still see His perfect timing? Most of the posts and comments along these lines always come from someone who is now holding a smiling child - or two or more. Is it only in the "after" that I will be able to see God at work in my life? And what if there is no "after", if there is no child, will I, with as much joy and peace as I would with a child in my arms, be able to say "God is good and His timing is perfect?" Will I be able to say "God's timing was never and it was all worth it?" In the moments when I'm not idolizing motherhood, this is what I idolize, the moment of peace; the moment of peace; the moment of it all making sense. Which leads me to...

Why?
This small, yet huge, question has remained hidden deep within me for most of the past 3 years. In the past few weeks, I've been realizing that I was comfortable in my circular pattern of hope - disappointment - hope because when I was only focusing on it, I didn't have to really think about where Jesus was leading me; more importantly I didn't, don't have to think about why he is leading me there. I realize that asking the question "why?" in regards to good or bad things happening in our lives generally only leads to a bad place of either pride or despair. Yet, is it not the ultimate surrender to not ask why? Is it not the ultimate sign of trust to just follow without asking where or why or how or when? I thought I was trusting and surrendering, but really, I was shoving this question of "why" away. I was following, but leaving my trail of breadcrumbs behind me, not trusting, not surrendering. Which leads me to...

Well, I'm not entirely sure. This is where I am. I'm coming to realize that there probably aren't answers for these, at least not the kind I want. I see and am grateful that I have made progress from where I was this time last year, but I'm starting to understand that with progress in this spiritual journey requires the need to go ever deeper. That there isn't really a moment of "Ok, I got this", that there are plateaus and times to rest, but we won't ever fully get it until we are in heaven. Those words are so easy to say, and so hard to live.