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, a friend 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 friend who went to the beach came to visit us and brought a thank you gift for me for the vacation. 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 shared 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.

9.12.2014

How did we know it was time to stop pursuing medical treatment?

In talking about The New Tension of mourning and peace now that we are done pursuing medical treatments for our infertility, I mentioned the post I wrote more than two years ago asking "How Did You Know?" in regards to when to stop aggressively TTC. I promised that I would share our process, and so I will begin to do that here. Much of it I am still processing so I may look back in a week, a month or a year and see something very differently under the lens of hindsight than I do right now. I share it for myself, as a necessary documentation of this road, but also for anyone who is reading this and wondering or asking themselves how do I know when to stop trying to conceive? (I do want to be clear, while we are no longer pursuing medical treatments, we do still plan to make use of "fertile" days and so are not trying to postpone pregnancy. We acknowledge God's sovereignty in bestowing the gift of life and would welcome that gift with great joy.)

This could get very long, and I may break it into parts. I honestly don't know at this point, but we'll see where it goes.

I agree with Donna's comment that there is no easy answer, that it is time that gets you there. I have also asked myself many times, if I had made different choices would we have arrived at this decision at this time? I am also very aware that this was simply our road, our process, and that everyone's will be different. I don't think I did anything right or better than anyone else, this was our process, our road and yours will be different.

I think the process to this day started right at the same time our IF journey started. When it became clear we were not going to get pregnant easily, I immediately started looking to the future - to 10 years from now and wanting to reach that unknown point and be able to look back having walked the tightrope between the life I wanted and the life I had very carefully. I didn't, still don't, want to look back with regrets - one way or the other, wishing that we had stopped sooner or kept going longer.

Also, the couples that I have found the most hope in are those who never had children - birthed or adopted. It is couples like Donna and Himself and others who remind me that life is beautiful - with or without children. I think this hope in these situations has been whispering to me for the last 4 years.

35, the age I turned in April, was also always a sort of unspoken deadline. I never really thought I'd see it and still not be a mother, so I didn't think too much about it, but a couple of times I did and so it was there.

More recently, specifically last fall and early winter when I had my ultrasound series done. I was convinced I didn't ovulate, that I had luteinized unruptured follicle syndrome (LUFS). I mean, what else could it be? The Man and I had talked and agreed, that if it was LUFS, we were done with medical treatment. We would not force ovulation that was not occurring. I was so surprised when the ultrasound showed I ovulated I couldn't even be happy. I was stunned. And I knew in an instant I would be having surgery again - which a few weeks later The Man confirmed with his OK to go forward. As I drove to work after, I cried and cried as I realized we were now really into the unknown.

In February, the anger I felt before my surgery surprised me. I was, and if I'm honest still am to some degree, so angry I had to have a second surgery; that my body was so broken; and that this had been so hard. But, I knew I needed to know. I needed to know if my tubes were open or closed. I knew that it would be the lingering question. They were blocked, and then opened.

As the Spring unfolded and the toll that infertility had taken on our marriage and intimacy became clear and the cycle of 4 pregnancy tests ushered in summer and I started to wonder how much longer I could do this. I had completely shut down and wasn't even returning a phone call from my doctors office, nor was I concerned about filling a prescription for post-peak estrodial. Looking back, I realize I was really slipping into a depression.

That is the 'technical' side of things.

The spiritual side of things is different. The details are chronicled over the past 4 years of this blog. But when I look at them now, I see a pattern, a trend, if you will.

I see God continually calling me to Himself, as He calls us all. And I see me moving closer and further away, as a child would run from his mother, testing the limits, trying to get her to follow him, instead of following her.

There have been moments of surrender and moments of anger. But what started happening in the last few months was a desperation. A desperate prayer in which I willed myself to believe that He is the same; that He is trustworthy. Each time I typed those words; each time I prayed them - more than I could ever count - it was to try to convince myself of their truth. To try to silence the doubt and the fear I felt when I looked at a future that wasn't one of my planning.

In the aftermath of the 4 pregnancy tests, I felt so betrayed by God. I kept asking Him why He made me experience that. Why it was necessary, telling him that not being pregnant was really bad enough thankyouverymuch. Only to realize it was my error, my mistake in reading my own chart that was the cause of the agony. That didn't change what I'd experienced, but now my question was different, one of why did you allow this God rather than why did you do this God.

And it led Fr. D to ask those questions of me. Had I asked God what His will for us regarding parenthood was? Had I listened for His answer? And I realized that in my desperation to convince myself that He was trustworthy, I had arrived in a position where I had to put up or shut up. If I believed He is trustworthy, then I had to ask Him what He willed for us.

As my knees hit the floor that Wednesday afternoon in Adoration, I knew I was arriving at a place where I had been called for at least a year. Perhaps where this road had been leading all along. To a place where I had to decide my will or God's will? A place where I had to acknowledge that yes, this desire for motherhood comes from Him, but that He might not will that it be fulfilled. As I quit fighting, and I quit running away, and I finally allowed myself to rest in Him and to truly trust Him and not just will myself to believe that He is Trustworthy.

And as The Man and I talked, and He expressed "maybe God has something else in mind for us", and we both unsuccessfully fought back tears, and then I asked the question about scheduling another appointment - a question I knew the answer to in my heart. We just each needed to say it out loud. To make it real.

And suddenly, but not so suddenly at all, everything is different. There is a peace that I cannot explain. There is also more pain than I have felt before this point. The mourning that has only just begun, is almost more than I can bear. It takes my breath away. And yet, the peace is there. I've wondered what this would feel like for years. We've made plenty of decisions that we have been at peace with, it's not that I've wondered about. I've wondered what it would feel like to sit in this tension of mourning and peace. And now I know. There is no way to describe it other than to say et et. No way to describe how I can be in overwhelming sorrow and tears during Mass while feeling completely at peace. I am also so aware that in a moment, that peace can leave. That it is, in and of itself a gratuitous gift. I have done nothing to earn it and all I can do is be open to it and try not to grasp and force it.

It is clear to me that I had to truly let go of my own will. I had to acknowledge the desires of my heart without apology - which I think was why it was so important that I pay God a compliment and ask big things of him. I had to recognize that with or without motherhood, I had cause to rejoice. I had to not only will myself to believe that He is enough, but to actually believe it. And while I had to respond and be active in all of these things, I am acutely aware that it is all grace; that it is by grace alone that I sit in this tension. This is not a recipe for how to know when to stop. This is not a recipe for finding peace. Ultimately, whatever our cross, whatever road we are on, it is about aligning our will to His. And it is only by grace that we are able to do this.

I do not want to give the impression that any of this has been easy. Least of all sitting in this tension. I am tempted to make just "one last" appointment. I am tempted to keep charting in detail. I am tempted to stop sitting in the quiet and listening to God. But each time I let myself be led down a side path of temptation, I feel the peace start to slip away. And as I head back to the main road, that is full of mourning and sorrow, I feel the peace return. It is that peace, the peace that truly surpasses all understanding, that draws me back.

I am going to write a medical update post on where we are leaving things. I also have a very special post on spiritual motherhood that I need to finish editing and then will share that - especially now, it has become a crucial part of this journey. One that I probably should have mentioned a bit more above, one in which my heart has been stretched and pierced.

I have written about the peace here. I will also write about the mourning, the sorrow, and the pain.

I think this is enough for now. I'm happy to answer questions if you have them. If I have given the impression that there is a "right" way to do this and a "wrong" way to do this, I do not intend it. This is where God called us to. He may not be calling you to this place of tension, He may be calling you to keep pursuing treatment or to actively pursue adoption.

He call us all to Himself, but He speaks to each of us in our own language, personally guiding us along the path that will ultimately lead us to Him.

Universal and specific.

Both/and.

Et et.

9.09.2014

A New Tension

A year ago tonight I had a spiritual direction session with Fr. D. in which he asked me to spend 30 minutes in silent, listening prayer per day.

We've been over how much of a one-step forward, ten-steps back process that has been.

Until recently.

The time in prayer has remained consistent these past couple of weeks, with what used to seem like an impossible task becoming a necessary part of my days. I seek out time to spend in chapel with the Blessed Sacrament and I find myself sitting quietly in the living room in the evenings before going to bed. I wish I could say it was because I finally decided Fr. D. was right or that I quit being lazy or anything else. The only explanation is that He has quite literally drawn me to Him and to my knees before Him. Infertility has been the cross that He has allowed in my life that has made me realize I cannot rely on my own power, that I am nothing without His Grace.

And now, more than ever, it is His grace and His peace that we will rely upon, as The Man's time in prayer and thought has led us to this conversation (after some preliminary lead-in):

Me: So, I have a phone message from Dr. D's office. Should I call back and schedule another appointment.
The Man: I see no reason to do that.
Me: Neither do I.

And so, as the cycle that ends year 3 of TTC is beginning, we are stopping medical treatment.

I'm an extrovert, so to help process this:
I've said it out loud to a friend.
I've texted it to another.
I've PM'd a few others.

And now it is written here.

The Road Becomes Real, again.

The best way I can describe how I feel is that there is much mourning and there is much peace. It is very much a real experience of et et, of both/and. I am keenly aware that I will survive this by grace alone.

I have so much to say and process, and I'm sure it will come. We will still be TTC, with months of TTA as needed mixed in to keep our intimacy on track, but there will be no more NaPro appointments. (I will keep taking my armour and I'm looking for a local endocrinologist and/or naturopath to manage my other adrenal symptoms.) A couple of years ago, I remember being desperate for someone to explain how they got to this point, and so I will do that too, in time.

For now though, I just need to rest in this new tension of mourning and peace.

I am always grateful for your prayers, and I am relying on them now more than ever.

Mary, Undoer of Knots, pray for us.

8.27.2014

Answers and Permission

What does God want you to do in regards to pursuing parenthood? Have you asked Him? Have you listened for His answer?

Three questions asked by Fr. D. during spiritual direction almost two weeks ago that stopped me in my tracks. The honest answers were: I don't know. Not for a long time. No. And we both knew what I was supposed to do - and so after our session, I went to Adoration and Mass charged to be still and quiet and ask only that first question and to listen for His answer. To clear my mind and heart and fight distraction.

It seems He's been trying to get me stop and listen for a while, because the answer(s) came quickly and clearly and have remained consistent.

Come to me. Sit with me. Rest with me.

Let The Man lead.

There is a difference between giving up and knowing when you've had enough.

These three phrases gave me my answers. And I gave myself permission.

I'll explain each, one at a time.

Come to Me. Sit with Me. Rest with Me.

I am an excellent do-er. Give me specific prayer intentions to pray and I'll do them. Daily Mass? My favorite part of the day. The rosary? Yep. Novenas? Well, no one is perfect, right? But last year when Fr. D. asked me to spend 30 minutes a day listening to God, sitting in silence, The Man's reaction of laughter at the thought of me doing that pretty much sums it up. Only here I was, a year later, sitting before God with more than 30 minutes ahead of me, over an hour in fact, and I was doing just that. Looking back, it is like He was saying to me "It's about time. I've been calling out to you for a long time and waiting for you." In considering this in response to the question "What is Your will for us regarding parenthood?", I started to think perhaps He was calling us to quit medical treatment and charting, which proved a distraction I was able to turn off. His answer was clear: Come to me. Sit with me. Rest with me. I was gifted with real examples of how to do this and in a follow-up session Fr. D affirmed them. No longer does 30 minutes seem impossible, instead my soul is begging for it. He also encouraged me to try to do those 30 minutes in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament at least 3 times a week to start.

Let The Man lead.

As the hour continued on, I saw how overwhelmed I've been with school and work and trying to be failing at being a halfway decent wife and our sex life and charting and doctor phone calls and money and all of it. A couple of weeks ago, when seeing my doctor's office's number on my caller ID, I couldn't answer it. I still haven't listened to the message. I am exhausted. I considered asking The Man if he would keep our chart, and call and make appointments for me, and keep up with my prescriptions. A couple of weeks ago, I ultimately decided not to say anything to him. And yet, during this period of adoration, this is what comes to me, to let him lead.

I really had to ask God if this one was from Him or if I was looking for an "out", someone to blame in 10 years if we never conceive. And He reminded me of this feeling from a couple of weeks ago, of being overwhelmed, of needing to let go of some of the things I handle. And so, when I got home and I filled The Man in on our session I asked him to lead. I asked him to pray about where God is calling us in regards to pursuing parenthood, and I let him know that I was overwhelmed with managing all of the medical stuff on my own and so that I also needed him to pray about how he could help with that. He readily agreed to pray about it and when he's ready we will talk about what he arrives at in prayer.

There is a difference between giving up and knowing when you've had enough.

I saw that quote on Pinterest well over a year ago, maybe more than that, and I remember a feeling of longing for that time; for that time when I would know I'd had enough and would not be giving up. When He would be telling me, it's time to stop. This phrase didn't come to me during the time of adoration, but rather at the end of Mass. I questioned whether it was God and at the same time realized the peace I felt in hearing these words could only come from Him.

And so I left Mass, only briefly stopping to ask Fr. D on my way out if he thought I could have an answer that quickly. To which he said "yes".

I gave myself permission.

I've revisited this question of what is God's will for us in regards to parenthood - do we continue to seek medical treatment? do we keep charting? do we look into adoption? Each time getting the same answers to draw close to God and to let The Man lead. It is clear I am being asked to trust like never before. Like I have never trusted in my life. What is helping me do this is that I've finally given myself permission. Permission to grieve, for however long it lasts.

You see, for a long time I've thought that I couldn't stop seeking medical treatment if I was still sad about not being pregnant; if I still strongly desired motherhood. I thought that because the desire was put on my heart by God, that I had to do all that I could to achieve it. The rational part of me realized this was ridiculous, if only because when I've seen others of you who have left {licit} options on the table this never entered my mind, of course you could still be sad. And so, at some point in the last two weeks, I gave myself permission.

Permission to grieve. To be sad. No matter what The Man decides and then we decide together regarding treatment or adoption, CD1 and the arrival of AF is a perfectly reasonable thing to be sad about. I hope and pray that someday this sadness does not permeate every aspect of my life; that I can hear of a pregnancy and feel only joy; that I won't wonder about a life that could have been. I have realized that day may never come. Infertility might just be the outward sign of the cross of sadness I've been asked to carry, and despite that sadness I can find joy. Joy in Christ. Joy in the peace that has washed over me, that can only come from Him and surpasses all understanding.

And so this is where I'm at. Consciously seeking Him, spending more time in silent prayer than I ever have before or thought it was possible for me to do; awaiting a discussion with The Man; realizing that it may be time to let go and that if it is, it is still OK to be sad.

When I met with Fr. D on Monday, I told him two things. 1) I want to stop reacting and I want to respond. For nearly 4 years now, especially the last 2, I have been in a state of reaction; of dealing with each crisis as it comes and trying to get through it with my sanity and faith both still mostly intact. I am exhausted from this state of reaction. I want to respond. 2) I feel like I am sitting on the edge of great change. I have no idea whether it will be spurred by something positive or negative, but I feel it is coming and I want to respond to it, rather than react to it.

8.17.2014

Et et.

Et et.

Both/and.

It is one of the things about being Catholic that most often pierces and heals me all at the same time. So much of the faith is about seemingly incompatible realities - God is both One and Triune; Christ is both human and divine; and more. So often when I am stuck, and cannot figure something out, it comes back to this truth of both/and. Et et.

So too it has been this week.

I will insert a disclaimer here. This is written with brutal honesty from the perspective of a woman who is on the eve of the 4th anniversary of TTC. Never in a million years did I ever imagine this would be my life. Just this evening, The Man said to me "I wish I could make you happier." No amount of words on a page will ever explain the sadness that has overwhelmed me in recent weeks. No amount of words will ever describe the emotions I am feeling.


As part of this disclaimer, I will say that all of what follows is emotion. Fr. D. has been working with me to get me to separate fact from feeling. I realize this is emotion; I realize there are facts at play. Neither realization changes my subjective experience of this. Not today. Not yet.

Last week, Polkadot was brave enough to write about how sometimes even an IF gal feels feelings that bring forth guilt and sorrow at another IF gal's BFP announcement. I left a comment on the post, but it seems blogger ate it. My comment basically said "you are not alone; I have felt this way too." It was a comment that was hard to write, so when blogger ate it, I just clicked away, too exhausted emotionally to write it again. (Sorry, C :(.)

It's actually been more recent that I've had these feelings and to say that guilt accompanies them would be the biggest understatement of the century. I'm not sure which is worse, the sorrow I feel at the announcement or the guilt. There truly is no way to explain the complex emotions that surround a fellow IFer announcing she is pregnant or adopting. And there seems to be a lot of that happening lately. 

But yesterday, a specific one of our own, one who has been a source of hope and inspiration to so many of us finally got her miracle. Yes, I am referring to Amy at TCIE.

It was Amy's comment on my first IF post that made my heart leap, I'd admired her for years before I even knew I was IF and to see her take a moment to comment meant the world to me.

It was Amy's blog that I spent hours upon hours reading the archives, seeking for a way to survive this.

And when I got her text that she had emailed. I knew. 

And the subject line of her email. I knew.

And I rejoiced. I was working and so I could not shout from the rooftops, but I could rejoice.

Joy. Nothing but joy as I celebrated for and with this beautiful friend of mine.

Both/and.

Et et.

When I read her post was when the rest of it happened. The tears came. The sobs came. The guilt came. When the both/and came to be.

I've spent much of the past 24 hours trying to figure out what it was that caused the tears. The sadness. The guilt. And here is what I've come up with.

Something about seeing it on her blog was what made it touch my infertile heart. Before that, it was a friend who I have prayed for, yelled at God on behalf of, and asked that her prayers be answered before mine. Hence the rejoicing.

But the rejoicing didn't stop my pain. And this time it was different. I was not sad because Amy is pregnant and I am not, no, there is only joy there. I sent this in an email to her, never intending to make it public, but honestly, I think it needs to be here. It is such a part of this road, and reminds me so much of a post Amy herself wrote about why does God give us a support system only to take it away? 

You see, once upon a time, when she still had a public blog, B at Hebrews wrote about Infertile Island. About how we are here, and we all want to get off this island and we rejoice when someone leaves, but it still leaves those of us here, right where we are. We have no way of getting ourselves off this island, it is God and God alone who can do that. And when one of our sisters leaves, we rejoice and at the same time we are sad to see her go. Because the island is a little less now.

And so, here is what I said to Amy:
The island of infertility is a little less fun because you are off it, and I am so glad you are gone, but I already miss you.
I miss you so much it hurts.
And I feel awful for that, because I miss you, but as much as I miss you, I am infinitely more glad you are gone from this island.
Because no matter how much any one of us wants to deny it or explain it. Those of us who do not have children, who have never seen a BFP, who have never had the phone call. For us, there is nothing to soothe our hearts. There is no promise, that even in the worst case scenario that we will be reunited with our children in heaven. As Amy said, she is forever more a mother. (And please, I am not comparing the pain of primary infertility with miscarriage, this is a fact. I am aware it brings no consolation.) We are left on this island, ever aware that it is not up to us if or when we will get to leave.

When we leave this island, it is a cause for joy. For rejoicing. For enjoying every. single. moment. of motherhood that comes. Be it a short time on earth or a lifetime. I do not begrudge any one of you who has experienced motherhood, if even only for a moment, any of your joy. Please - rejoice. Dance. Praise God. Give thanks. Celebrate. All of it. For every moment that you rejoice reminds me that all of this pain is real. That it is not made up in my head. That it is justified. That infertility is awful.

That no matter how this turns out, the joy of children is all that I imagine it to be and more. That no matter how fruitful my marriage is, no matter how much joy I experience without children, the joy of children is just as joyful as I think it to be. No, I do not mean that it is the most joyful thing I could experience, that can only be done in fully living God's will for my life - and if that is a life without children, then that is where I shall find true joy. But, this does not mean that a life with children is any less joyful. Both/and. Et et.

And so, tonight I try to wrap my mind around the fact that this island is different. Forever changed. Somewhere there is a new woman shedding her very first tears over a BFN, wondering if anyone else feels like she does, joining us on this island. Changing it in her own way. And one who has encouraged us and supported us and helped to us to embrace this island, to embrace this cross, has finally left.

And so, to you, my dear friend, in addition to all that I said in the email I sent you, I say this:

Congratulations!!! Rejoice and be glad. Thank you for the countless prayers, posts, emails, texts and conversations. Thank you for showing us all how to do this. Thank you for loving us all and embracing each one of us as we got off the boat and slowly, fearfully found our place on this island. Celebrate every moment and feel no guilt, for now you can show us that motherhood is both as wonderful and as hard as we imagine it to be. Both/and. Et et.

I have never been so happy to be so sad in all my life. This island will not be the same without you and I am so so glad you are off of it.

Deo gratias.

8.11.2014

The Will of the Spouses, Part 3

Part 1.
Part 2.

When I wrote about TTA even though we were still TTC that first time, I never thought I'd revisit it once, let alone twice. Upon the second writing, I knew that everything wasn't perfect, but I figured we'd checked "TTA" off of our list and would move on.

Until I met with Fr. D. (the first of 3 sessions, 2 before the roller coaster of last cycle began, 1 in the middle of it), and he suggested that we TTA every other cycle. The look on my face must have given away my displeasure anger at this suggestion, because he immediately reminded me that he wasn't telling us what to do, but rather he was asking me to pray about and talk to The Man about this. I didn't have much to say even to that.

I was not so much angry that he was suggesting it, but rather that it needed to be suggested at all - which ultimately led me to realize that once again he was probably right. And, when I suggested it to The Man, his rather quick agreeable response confirmed this.

And so, here we are nearing the end of another cycle having TTA even though we want to conceive. Is this what everyone says when the say "the trying part is fun"? Because I'm not finding this fun.

While it may not be fun, I do find it necessary and if it can be as fruitful as the first 2 TTA months, then it will be worth it for our marriage in the long run. I also won't lie and say that after last cycle, knowing that AF will for sure be coming and no craziness to deal with won't be a bad thing. I also can see clearly how if we were using these "fertile" days, I would be 1) a nervous, anxious disaster and 2) completely baby focused for the 2ww after.

And yet, I am a woman who has had blocked tubes not once but twice. Time is not my friend. But, for the sake of my marriage, that must come secondary.

One of the benefits we talk about when teaching NFP is the conversation each month regarding goals for trying to space or postpone pregnancy. For us, we only had 1 "gray area" month when we went from TTA to TTC, and that was really only because I didn't think we should let the margaritas we'd had make such an important decision for us. It is only now, nearly 5 years later, with more than 3 1/2 years of infertility behind us that we find ourselves in a situation where each month the decision is somewhat unknown; where each month we are asking ourselves first, what is God's will and second, what is for the good of one another, what is the will of the spouses.

I have no middle ground on this. No ability to shrug it off and say "it is what it is." I vacillate between extreme anger or sadness (they almost always go together) and peace. The anger and sadness come at just how much damage was done to our physical intimacy during the years before NFP, yes I was on The Pill, but that wasn't the only bad decision we made. No decision was made to do harm, but the harm that was done is still impacting our marriage. The wisdom of the Church's teaching on the beauty and holiness of marriage and sexuality only becomes more and more clear as we work to undo all of these knots. The anger and sadness also comes when I consider the lost time, when the thoughts like "what if this was the month" start to enter my mind, only to be followed with cynicism and doubt, because what would make this month any different than the last 45 months? The peace comes when I reflect on the healing that is taking place, when I am gifted with moments where I see clearly that this is the life before me and I want to live it. This man who is patient and forgiving and loves me enough to not let all of this damage our marriage.

To those of you who have commented or messaged privately and are dealing with stuff like this, I wish I could tell you that this was all easy and that it would fix everything. I can't because that wouldn't be the truth. It's hard. I think the hardest part of it all is that there is no guarantee it will "work", there is no guarantee that time of "ease" surrounding our physical intimacy will ever come back. It just seems extra cruel that infertility took that away too.

7.29.2014

Weary. Worn.

weary (adjective): reluctant to see or experience any more of; feeling or showing tiredness, especially as a result of excessive exertion.

I have 3 posts in draft that I've tried to write and publish.

My journal is full of random thoughts strung together that make no sense.

I'm struggling to leave comments and to even read blogs.

I want to articulate so many feelings and thoughts.

I can't.

Vacation was good, but in a "I have no idea how I would have survived last week if I had not been on vacation" kind of way.

Weary is the best way I can describe it.

I am reluctant to experience more of infertility, that is for certain.

My emotions were definitely excessively exerted.

I am weary. I am worn.
Worn
~Tenth Avenue North~

I’m tired I’m worn
My heart is heavy
From the work it takes
To keep on breathing
I’ve made mistakes
I’ve let my hope fail
My soul feels crushed
By the weight of this world

And I know that you can give me rest
So I cry out with all that I have left

Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends
That you can mend a heart
That’s frail and torn
I wanna know a song can rise
From the ashes of a broken life
And all that’s dead inside can be reborn
Cause I’m worn

I know I need to lift my eyes up
But I'm too weak
Life just won’t let up
And I know that you can give me rest
So I cry out with all that I have left

Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends
That you can mend a heart
That’s frail and torn
I wanna know a song can rise
From the ashes of a broken life
And all that’s dead inside can be reborn
Cause I’m worn

My prayers are wearing thin
Yeah, I’m worn
Even before the day begins
Yeah, I’m worn
I’ve lost my will to fight
I’m worn
So, heaven come and flood my eyes

Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends
That you can mend a heart
That’s frail and torn
I wanna know a song can rise
From the ashes of a broken life
And all that’s dead inside can be reborn
Cause all that’s dead inside will be reborn

Though I’m worn
Yeah I’m worn


7.17.2014

What Rejoicing Looks Like, Revisited

A little over a week ago, I wrote about What Rejoicing Looks Like, I had seen a negative pregnancy test and was fighting to rejoice in light of it.

Today, my new cycle finally started.

The week between has been just the roller coaster you might imagine. All together, I took four, yes four, pregnancy tests. That is more than I have taken in the previous 3 1/2 years combined. All negative. And yet. No new cycle until just moments after the 4th negative on Monday morning.

Or so I thought. Tuesday morning I awoke to nothing. The spotting of Monday was gone and there was nothing.

Monday I spent the day clinging to the prayers of so many, all of my dear friends in the FB group and a few others I reached out to, and Fr. D. Mass at Noon was a small reprieve from the work day and after I work I went to see Fr. D. for an emergency spiritual direction session. I was unraveling and could feel it. I sobbed in his office for at least 10 minutes before I could have an actual conversation.

A conversation that was intense and has led to a long list of new questions for him. But that's another story for another day.

So Tuesday and Wednesday came and went and all signs of AF were gone. I emailed my doctor's office to ask what they thought and based on my chart agreed that it was possible I might have misidentified peak day and that I wasn't as far post-peak as I thought. I was left with instructions that if no new cycle on Friday to test, and to call with results to get an order for blood work either way.

We are leaving for the beach tomorrow, so I emailed again and was able to get my order for my blood work today, so that I would have it just in case I needed it.

I will not need it. AF is definitely here. (And just in case anyone is wondering or wants to ask, yes the thought: was I pregnant? has entered my mind, and honestly I do think the FCP at my doctor's office is correct in her analysis - the questions she asked me were the exact questions I'd have asked someone if I was looking at a chart objectively. With 4 negatives and exactly what we expected to happen if I wasn't pregnant happening, I do not think this is an early miscarriage.)

I am weary. I am numb. I am finally off the roller coaster, but my head is still spinning, I still feel like I'm trying to get off and I can't. It will all sink in later, I'm sure.

But, as Father helped me see on Monday, rejoicing in the midst of pain doesn't mean I rejoice in what brought me pain, rather it means I rejoice in that which I have cause to rejoice even though I feel pain.

And so, tonight, though I am more numb than anything else. Numb and sad. I rejoice in the many people who quite literally carried me through this week in prayer; I rejoice in the texts and emails and FB messages; I rejoice for not having to see another BFN tomorrow morning and go through blood work; I rejoice for a week at the beach starting Saturday.

The sadness is overwhelming. The numbness almost more so.

But.

He is the same. He is trustworthy. And I continue to rejoice in that.

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

7.08.2014

What Rejoicing Looks Like

One month ago, I paid God a compliment and asked a big thing of Him. I laid it all out. I made the desires of my heart known clearly. Two weeks ago, I said I want to rejoice, no matter what. God is the same today as He was then. He will be the same in two more weeks, and two weeks after that, and two weeks after that.

For today, rejoicing looks like a negative pregnancy test taken yesterday morning, and only being able to respond with: "He is the same."

It looked like walking numbly through a day at work. A day in which I continually repeated to myself "He is the same. He is the same. He is the same." as if to will myself to believe it.

It looked like stopping for a manicure after work and trying to treat myself gently and giving thanks that the lady didn't ask if I had children. And then it looked like unhealthy, comfort food from my favorite take out place in town. All while reminding myself "He is trustworthy."

Then, today, chatting about Theology of the Body for 5 hours as I drove across Pennsylvania with a friend for a conference. Chatting about the beauty of our creation as male and female in the life-giving image of God. Yes, God is good. He is trustworthy.

And finally, tears. Ugly sobbing tears as I collapsed onto the bed in my hotel room. The moment finally came in which I could only see my own pain; my own sorrow; my own disappointment.

I still have much to learn. So. much.

He is the same. He is trustworthy. I will rejoice in that.

For today, rejoicing takes the form of tears and sorrow. Deep down to my core, sorrow.

The only comfort I feel is that somewhere, if only in my head, I know that God is still the same. That He shares my sorrow.

He is the same. He is trustworthy. I rejoice in that.

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

6.25.2014

I Want to Rejoice

So it begins.

And by "it" I mean the 2ww.

The "I"s are on the chart - on potentially "fertile" and infertile days both.

My tubes are open. (Please Lord, let my tubes still be open just 4 cycles after surgery.)

Last week marked a huge breakthrough with Mary. I've tried to write about it twice, but it's just too personal. The second attempt was an intentional attempt at something I could publish, and I just can't. Putting words to it just seems to make it seem somehow less than what it was. Or, perhaps I should say putting words to it without eye contact and expression. Someday, maybe, I will tell the story, but for now, the important detail is the breakthrough.

The anxiety surrounding those "I"s was much less.

I'm taking post-peak estrogen.

And we wait.

And I have already been all. over. the. place.

I've counted out the days so I know when we'll know.

I've figured out how I'll tell The Man. When I'll ask Fr. D. for a blessing. When and how we'll tell our parents.

I've calculated the due date and thought about wording for the couple of emails regarding schedule changes that would need to be sent.

And I have wondered if I am completely-out-of-my-mind crazy.

Because really, what on earth makes me think for one single second that this cycle will be different?

And so hope is tempered with reality.

And I try not to think about those plans too much.

I remind myself that He is trustworthy. He is good. His plan is perfect. No matter what.

I want to rejoice in 2 weeks no matter what happens. Rejoice for a marriage that is healing and growing and getting stronger and stronger. Rejoice for a fruitful marriage. Rejoice because God is good. And maybe, just maybe rejoice because of a new life.

I want to hope without reservation.

I want to rejoice no matter what.

In reality, my hopes are covered in fear.

In reality, I question my ability to rejoice amid disappointment.

Only two things are certain: these two weeks will pass, just like all of the other two weeks before them and God will be the same in two weeks that He is today.

6.23.2014

Ten

This post is a bit overdue for many reasons, not the least of which is that my power cord to my laptop died and in an effort to be cheap save money, I ordered one for $7 only to discover it was coming from China and would take 2 weeks to arrive. Though, the disconnectedness that has resulted has not been a bad thing. I had an intense week spiritually last week that I figure I'll be processing for some time.

(To my friends who still wait for a husband, please feel free to skip on over this post. I imagine it is for you what baby pictures and updates are for me. You are in my prayers as I write.)

But, all of that doesn't change that 10 years ago, on June 12, 2004, The Man and I got married.



There are so many things I could say about the last 10 years, but mostly it boils down to the fact that I had my plan and God laughed. In so very many ways I see clearly how His plan was way better than my dreams. Looking back over the past ten years, at the joys and the sorrows and being able to see the examples of beauty and healing out of what I thought were the most painful days of my life. It is especially those instances of where the plan didn't end up like I pictured it at all, but that I am still able to say "His plan was better than mine" that I find hope today. Whether this current season of life ends with us as parents or continues on, His plans are better than my dreams. He is trustworthy. This life is not the end of the story.

On the eve of our anniversary, I had to work (an anniversary Mass, ironically) and so The Man decided to travel with me, and when work was done, we stayed at a cabin at one of our pastoral centers for 2 nights. We both realized AF was going to arrive on our actual anniversary. TTA last cycle turned out to be a huge blessing, as even though AF is never fun, to have no expectations other than that she would arrive certainly made things so much easier than had we TTC. There was something beautiful in it too - no, I have not lost my mind, stay with me here - as we began the next decade of married life together and a new cycle began.

So much has happened over these 10 years, that with this new cycle and anniversary came a new hope. A new understanding of what marriage means. Please do not think for a second we have it all figured out, if I have learned nothing it is that I do not have it figured out at all. It's just hard to put into words. The past 5 years of our marriage have been marked by great change, and if I'm honest a piece of me saw/sees this as a new start. When we married, we were nominally Catholic, though wanting to be more. We also realized our marriage was a sacrament and committed to being together for life, and I can only attest that to a moment of God seeking us and by His grace we responded.

Two big things happened on June 12, 2014 - our 10th anniversary. One was overdue by 10 years, and the other by about 6.

First, about 6 years or so ago, we purchased a new wedding band for me. (Yes, I cringe that I sold my blessed wedding band - I had no idea I wasn't supposed to do that, barely even considered that it was blessed to begin with.) Well, seeing as how we rarely went to Church, having the new ring blessed was the furthest thing from my mind, until about 18 months ago when it dawned on me that this ring I wear every day is not blessed. And at that point, I just decided that having it blessed would be a beautiful way to celebrate our 10th anniversary. So, finally, I now have a blessed wedding ring. One of the priests who helped with the infertility retreat last year, and had a huge impact on The Man did the blessing for us, and unbeknownst to me until after, a parishioner at Daily Mass, took a few photos. I am more grateful than I could say for these pictures.

After Mass, it was time to correct the other missing piece. When we married, I had zero devotion to Mary. She was barely a blip on my radar and Ave Maria was mostly an annoyance to me (I know, I know). When my mother tried to force me to have it mid-ceremony, I only avoided major conflict by agreeing to have it sung as a prelude. There were no flowers given to Mary on our wedding day, no asking for her intercession or her protection. As these last years have gone by, specifically the last 12 - 18 months, I have been more and more troubled by this. So, on June 12, 2014, we made our offering to Mary in the form of roses (yellow roses because that was our main wedding color) that can be planted at an outdoor garden at the parish where our rings were blessed (a parish that for lots of reasons we never attended when we live nearby. Perhaps another missing piece? Attending Mass there together.)


The rest of the day was spent having a leisurely lunch with Father to thank him for the blessing and his friendship; taking a nap while it rained; and having a dinner at a local restaurant. We relaxed, remembered, and looked forward with an understanding that God's presence in our lives is more important than anything else. The peace that surrounded our few days away, a calm amidst the storm that has been swirling is the best gift we could have received.

6.09.2014

Paying God a Compliment

You pay God a compliment by asking great things of Him.
~St. Teresa of Avila

I've written numerous times about how since my very first prayer for a baby, I have also prayed for grace to handle whatever comes. It was for two specific reasons that I prayed for grace:
  1. By looking at my charts I had very normal fertility, there was some brown bleeding, but it had not really become a major problem. I had a good peak day and temperature shift each month. On paper, it looked like pregnancy would come easily. In addition to that, I had been reading and commenting on the blogs of so many women who were infertile, and praying for them and learning of this struggle. I was so very afraid I would become the person that caused them pain and I looked up to them all so much (still do!) and was in awe of the deepness of their faith. I prayed for grace to still be gentle and not say insensitive things and to continue to look up to them.
  2. Because I had been reading these blogs, I knew that pregnancy was no guarantee. I prayed that should I become one of "the IF bloggers" that I would do so with grace and faith as so many others have.
I've prayed for grace so often that it has become my first prayer and I have only one time ever simply just prayed for a baby (the words were very eloquent: "Please Lord, let this work" during the "fertile" window of my ultrasound series cycle, more a prayer of desperation than trust).

A few times, I have wondered if this prayer for grace, while genuine, wasn't also a sign of a lack of trust. Like, "I know You aren't going to give me what I want, so can You at least give me grace to deal with it." While I have never used those exact words, more than once it has entered my mind that perhaps there is fear in just putting it out there. Fear that He will say no, and I will have no "back-up"; no example of an answered prayer, as I do with the grace. It is always there, sometimes I choose to ignore it, but it is always there. And tonight, I was thinking about a time, when I was barely Catholic but really feeling a tug to put faith back into my life, when I made it very clear to God what I wanted. There was no fear, no expectation, just a very clear statement of what I wanted. In fact, it is why the scripture at the top of my blog has been Ecclesiastes from the very beginning. The Man and I were in a season of life that had us living married life in towns 2 1/2 hours apart. My prayer was simple "God, just in case you weren't aware, I'm done with this season." and the next day the one and only offer on the house we were trying to sell was made.

Yet, in these years of infertility, I have never once just laid it out and asked Him for what I want. There has always been a yielding to His will; a secondary request for grace (that has become a primary request); a holding back. While the first two things are good, the third is not, and if the third is motivation for the first two, then they are also not good.

And so, entering into a new cycle after our two TTA cycles and knowing that we will TTC once again, 3 months after my second surgery with the clock on my tubes ticking, I am feeling like it is now or never. Like if I do not put it out there, I will look back in 10 years and wonder what if I had just made my desires known...

It is clear that for The Man and I to conceive, God must will it. He must will all new life, but we are much more aware of that and realize we are truly at His mercy than we ever were prior to infertility. I have said it many times, because I need constant reminding, but He is trustworthy. Whether he answers my prayer in the way I want or in the opposite, He is trustworthy. His plan is better than mine.

And so, I am taking St. Teresa of Avila's advice and asking great things of God. My prayer, my request of God, with no qualifiers and no apologies is this:
Lord, we've had a talk like this before. It was summer time about 6 years ago and The Man and I had been in a season of life that I was ready to see end. We have once again been in a season of life that I am ready to see end. The end to this season of life is making us parents. I trust in You and know You are able to make this happen. I want to be a mommy, I want The Man to be a daddy. I want to see 2 pink lines, and a peanut on a screen. I want to make decisions about childbirth and ask two dear friends to be godparents. I want to see water poured over my child's head as s/he is claimed for You; I want to see First Communion and Confirmation. I want to see first steps and first days of school; loose teeth and skinned knees; artwork on my refrigerator and muddy footprints on my floors. I want to hear "I love you mommy" and "you are the worst mother ever"; hungry cries and break-up cries; laughter and sorrow. I want to sign up for swim lessons and sports lessons and music lessons. I want to see preschool programs, middle school concerts, and high school graduations. I want to go on college visits and a pack a car much too full. I want to meet a fiance and watch a new family begin or see a life given entirely to You. The good, the great, the bad, and the awful - all that comes with being a mommy, I am ready for that. I'm ready for this season of my life to end, and for the next to start. Lord, I'm asking, please make The Man and I parents. Lord, I trust you. I trust that however you answer this prayer, Your grace will carry me through. I do not ask for it this time because I know it is there. You've promised it would always be there, and you are trustworthy.