4.29.2014

The Will of the Spouses

*Disclaimer: While it isn't necessarily a TMI post, I do speak honestly about how infertility has impacted our physical intimacy. I prayed long and hard before making this public and what ultimately led me to do so is that as much as I blog for myself, I also hope that someone will read here and feel less alone and find support. I'm sharing in hopes that if you find yourself in this same situation, you will know you are not alone. This is shared with The Man's permission. (Also, I'm avoiding using the word s*x to try to keep spam to a minimum, for the purposes of this post, intimate refers specifically to s*x, though I very much realize there are other ways to be intimate.)

In NFP-lingo TTA means "trying to avoid pregnancy", and is the opposite of TTC, which means "trying to conceive." Logic, common sense, and every day thinking would tell you that a couple who is trying to have a baby would be TTC. (Both The Man and I prefer "postpone pregnancy" to "avoid pregnancy", but these are the common abbreviations, so we'll go with them to avoid confusion.)

For this cycle, at least, The Man and I will be actively using NFP to TTA. Yes, we are still TTC. Huh? Let me explain...

On Palm Sunday, The Man and I had a 3 hour drive home from a friend's house and we did what we do best on long car rides: had a long, intense conversation that helped us work out a lot of "stuff". During that conversation The Man said to me: I feel like you do not desire me. I feel like all you want is a baby. As my heart broke into pieces, the tears streamed from my eyes, and, while I knew his words were wrong, I also knew that from the past 6 - 8 months or so, he had every reason to feel that way. We talked through it and agreed things needed to change, but both of us agreed we weren't sure how.

He's tired of being rejected. He's tired of feeling used. He's tired of his wife crying after being intimate. He's tired of bearing the load of so much more than just our physical relationship and not having the connection of the physical relationship that he so desires and needs. (All rightfully so.)

I'm tired of crying after being intimate. I'm tired of feeling extreme pressure every time I see a hint of mucus and being so emotionally exhausted when my temp is finally up that I can't handle anymore. I'm tired of the line of dancing babies mocking me and of the tears that flow every time I write an "I" on my chart - which I'm awful at recording because it's just one more reminder of how my body fails month after month.

We are both tired of so many failed cycles.

So how did we get to this conversation?

We've had a rough road with this part of our marriage. I've written about it before, with our conversion from contraception to NFP. Contraception caused immense damage in our marriage because it separated the unitive and procreative aspects of intimacy. When we learned NFP, we found a new experience in our intimacy. Things were easy. Things were right. When we were TTA, we didn't experience the struggle with the fertile window that many couples experience, we just looked forward to the post-ovulation infertile phase and things were good. Then we started TTC. Suddenly we had no required abstinence. There was so much hope. So much anticipation. So many dreams. And things were good; really good.

After about 6 months of TTC, all that started to change. It didn't show up in my charts right away because I was good at hiding it. And until about 8 months ago or so, anytime I noticed that the "I"s were all in the fertile window (or would be if I charted them, I've never been good about charting "I"s since those early months TTC, those tears started early and have stayed with me), I would make a point to be intimate outside of that window. A couple of times The Man expressed some concern about this and we'd make a point to have a more balanced chart.

But, what was happening in my heart and head was anything but balanced. It escalated to the point where even intimacy during "reliably-infertile" days (aren't they all?) was followed up with tears. Add in grad school, marathon training, crap-hormones, and work, and let's just say the fact that there was any need for an "I" at all is a testament to how baby-focused I'd become, as they were all always during the "fertile" time. My charting of "I"s got worse, and in fact my charting at all became pretty bad. I'd take my temperature every few days only to be sure I did in fact peak and to avoid crazy roller coasters like last May. My mucus observations were bare minimum and only recorded so I could send my charts to Dr. D or my FCP. Things were far from good.

And so we found ourselves having the above conversation, both crying, both trying to figure out a solution. Both scared to death we'd never get back to those days of things being good, but willing to try, wanting more than anything to go back to those days of good.

Then, on Monday (of Holy Week), I met with Fr. D for our regular session and confession. I had most of my 40 Lenten letters to The Man ready to go and asked him to bless them, explaining why I had written them, seeing that they were all part of this long before I realized it. Then, I took a deep breath and through sobs and tears explained the conversation The Man and I had had the day before. I literally begged him to tell me what we could do. I shared some thoughts I'd had (hang the prayer of Tobias and Sarah in our bedroom and pray it daily; read Heaven's Song, by Christopher West together; and another couple of thoughts) but none of them were going to be "it," I just had that feeling. I was at a loss, my heart was (and is) broken for how I'd hurt The Man, and I didn't know how to do this. How would I take this pressure, this feeling of brokenness and failure and be able to fix our intimacy? Fr. D. looked at me and said "you have somehow managed to separate the unitive and procreative ends of intimacy, it's nearly impossible using NFP, but you have managed to do it." (Yes, we both chuckled a little bit and shrugged our shoulders because if it was going to be possible at all, it would be me that figured it out. I'm difficult like that.) And then he said, "I think you and The Man need to practice using NFP to avoid pregnancy for this next cycle. At least." My first thought was of my surgery and my now-open tubes and the timeline associated with that, but it wasn't a long lived thought. In my heart, I knew he was right, and I knew as soon as I told The Man, he would also agree. I could almost feel The Man's relief, and I was sitting in an office 75 miles away from him.

My penance from my confession was to pray for the grace to put the unitive and procreative ends of intimacy back together. Fr. D. readily admitting that it was going to take grace and grace alone to do it. I was to pray about that and see where it took me for the first 15 minutes of the hour drive home. About 10 minutes in, the clarity came. This, TTA, wouldn't have worked 3 months ago. In my heart, I knew my tubes were blocked. While I had miracle type of hope, I had no practical hope. It was too much to bear. It led to me making our intimacy all about procreation and that wasn't happening, because I am broken, and that led to me losing sight of what intimacy is really about. Yes, it is about babies, but it is about the life that it gives to our marriage equally. One is not more important than the other, they must always be connected. When they are separated, damage is caused. And so, now, when there is practical hope for both the procreative and unitive ends of our intimacy to be realized, The Man and I will remain open to life, we will use NFP and no contraceptive means, but we will TTA pregnancy for at least one cycle.

In the order of goods for decision making regarding family size, God's will is always first and the will of the spouses is next. It is clear that for the good of both of us, we must focus on replacing the unitive end of our intimacy as the priority it deserves, equal to the procreative end. Our intimacy has not been physically life-giving and it has not been unitive, in fact it has been a source of division. There are no words to describe how devastating that is.

Infertility has taken so much from me that learning NFP gave back to me. My body image. My desire for intimacy. A sense of empowerment and awe in my creation as a woman. A healthy, joyful intimate relationship with The Man. It's time to get all of those back.

I've often written about how I am trying to live the life before me while planning for the life I want. In this case, the life before me is a man I love more than anything and who I miss having this connection with. Whether or not we ever become parents, this is true and will remain true. I can no longer place the life I want as priority over the life before me.

We still very much desire parenthood. We will continue with cycle reviews and trying to stabilize my hormones and make sure things are as good as they can be physically so that we do not take steps backward in that regard. But for now, for this cycle at least, TTC will include TTA.

Mary, Undoer of Knots, pray for us. (It is clear to me that she is interceding on our behalf. This is a knot that has only been getting tighter and tighter and for the first time in a long time, we feel it being loosed.)

4.26.2014

Infertility Awareness Week 2014 - #7


I wasn't quite sure how to end this week's series. Thanks to A. for giving me the push I needed to finish up this post that I've been working on for a few weeks. I think it is a fitting way to end the week. And, like so often when I write here, where I thought it was going, isn't where He led me at all. This post is for you my beautiful "infertile sisters," it is to you that I hope to bring awareness today. I love you and I thank-you for walking this walk with me.

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So has the Lord done for me at a time when he has seen fit to take away my disgrace before others.
~Luke 1:25

These words, spoken by Elizabeth just before going into seclusion for 5 months upon finding out that she who was called barren (and was advanced in age) had conceived, they touch on an aspect of infertility that isn't often talked about. Not even on the "IF blogs." It is the shame associated with infertility.

I've tiptoed around it this week, touching on how our openness to life is different from that of a couple with many children or in talking about the feeling of brokenness.

For me, this shame most appears when I am meeting new people and I am asked "Do you have children?" or worse, "How many children do you have?" The answers, "no," and "none," are small words, but some of the hardest words I ever have to say. Yes, they are just casual conversation starters and getting-to-know-you questions, but there is always an awkward silence after the answer. A pause in which the other person waits to see if I offer more and I pray that the sidewalk will swallow me up.

It's hard to explain where this shame comes from. There is not objective need for it, and yet it is still there. For me, I think, it comes from the fact that it is my body that is broken and that I am so deeply saddened by the fact that The Man is not yet a Daddy. My shame is for me, but also for him. This is the shame and guilt that accompanies CD1, that once again, my body has failed to do that for which it was created. That first sight of blood, no matter how many signs led up to it, is confirmation that I have failed once again.

There is also the shame in all the ways I react and respond wrongly. When I am short or cranky or selfish or any number of other ways that I allow infertility to affect my interactions with those around me. The shame associated with all that The Man puts up with, from mood swings to a messy house and more, all because I'm letting infertility get the best of me. I know I should get up off the couch and clean, but on CD1, it's too much and I just stay put. So many ways every day that I fail, so many failures that can be traced back to infertility.

The first time I heard the scripture above, I was devastated. It was clear that it was telling me that the only way this shame would be removed would be with motherhood. And then, I either read or heard (and if you wrote about this, please give yourself credit in a comment, because what follows is not from me) that the importance of this scripture is not the disgrace that Elizabeth felt, but rather that it was before others. She was not disgraced before God. She does not say anything about God being ashamed of her, or a need to feel shame before God. It was a reminder, that this shame that accompanies infertility is not from Him, but rather from the father of lies. God only sees His perfect children, and He is sad right along with us.

While it doesn't remove the shame completely, and I fail to remember it regularly, infertility is not something to be ashamed of. It makes me (and you!) no less a woman and no less a wife. It doesn't change who we are before God one bit. We are his beautiful, cherished daughters and sons.

So, this final post is for all of you, my dear infertile-sisters. To bring awareness to you, to remind you that you are a beautiful, cherished daughter of God. With you, He is well pleased and you are very good. I pass on to you one of the most difficult penances I was ever given, after a Confession full of sobs of guilt and shame and doubt: place yourself in the presence of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament of the Tabernacle and ask Him to show you how much He loves you; how beautiful and perfect you are. I promise you, it won't be easy, but if you let Him, He will show you. Take your tissues, and allow Him to take away your disgrace before others by reminding you that you have no disgrace before Him

Infertility Awareness Week 2014 - Today!

4.25.2014

Infertility Awareness Week 2014 - #6




This will be like a bonus quick takes, because I have 14! In continuing with the theme of Infertility Awareness Week, I've got 7 of the hardest things about infertility and 7 of the blessings of infertility. The 'awareness' I hope these bring to the experience of infertility is just how difficult it is to walk around feeling all of the below all at once. Certainly, it depends on the hormones and timing, but for the most part, all of these emotions are going on inside me all at once. It's a constant battle between despair and hope.

So that we end on a positive note for a Friday, we'll start with 7 of the hardest things (in no particular order, and by no means a complete list):

1. The realization that I'm not just missing out on a BFP (big fat positive = a positive pregnancy test) and giving birth, but also first birthdays, taking the training wheels off a bicycle, first crushes, drivers' tests, pee-wee football, band concerts, proms, graduations, wedding days, and grandchildren. In the beginning, it's of course all of the pregnancy and baby things, but somewhere along the line events I went to for my teenage brother became very hard, as I realized I may never do those things with my own children. I hide in my house, with the lights off, on Halloween. It's the realization that infertility isn't just about BFN's (big fat negatives = negative pregnancy test) and not taking weekly baby bump pictures, but rather about a life that will not be lived.

2. The toll infertility has taken on our physical intimacy. I have a post scheduled for next week about this. All that learning NFP gave back to us, infertility has taken. There is nothing easy or light about this aspect of our marriage anymore. It has become a source of great sorrow instead of great joy.

3. The almost paralyzing fear of groups of children, even ones born to formerly IF ladies. One or two, I'm good. More than that, and I almost have a panic attack. I've run out of the Church picnic and I avoid family events because of all the kids that will be there. I used to be a teacher, a preschool teacher. Large groups of children were "my thing," where I felt most comfortable. Now, they are where I feel least comfortable.

4. The realization that all of the cute, fun ways I've planned to tell The Man and our parents of a baby on the way may never happen. For every month of the year, I have a plan. I know exactly how I'd tell them. I picture the joy and celebration. I know it seems like nothing, but to know I may never say to my mom or my dad that they will be a grandparent is nearly as crushing as never telling The Man he is going to be a Daddy.

5. The complete and utter failure that I feel like I am as a wife and as a woman. In my head, I know that I am not. My heart doesn't know this. My heart is broken over this failure. When I see my body in the mirror all I see are scars and brokenness. Realizing how sinful this is and that this is not how God sees me, nor how The Man sees me, only makes it worse. Objectively, my body is broken, it does not work right. Subjectively, I feel broken and useless. 

6. The lack of time to grieve and the amount of time spent sobbing in the evenings and at night, knowing that I have to get as much out as possible because the morning will come and I will have to go to work and get through another day. To get out of bed some mornings takes every ounce of energy and hope that I can possibly muster, how I make it through the day sometimes is shocking to me. I don't think I will ever understand how the lack of something is so heavy.

7. The ways that I have failed to accept the grace of God. The times I've resorted to venting and bitterness and cruelty to those around me. The times that I've not rejoiced over a new life or that I've hidden in my office when a coworker's new baby was brought to work to be introduced. The times I've lashed out at someone for no reason and never gone back and apologized because I felt I owed them an explanation I wasn't prepared to give. All of this and more. I've prayed for grace and He has answered that prayer, I have not always accepted it.

And now, for 7 blessings of infertility (again, in no particular order and an incomplete list):

1. Friendships. True friendships with people IRL and on the internet. Shared tears and people willing to suffer with us. Friends who've asked how I am and meant it. Who have listened to me go on and on and on about our infertility and never once made me feel like I've needed to just stop.

2. Faith. A much deeper faith than I thought possible. A relationship with God that is so secure even as I push Him away, I feel Him holding me tight like a parent holds a distraught child.

3. I ran a marathon. Truly, without infertility, I would never have kept running. I needed to lose weight, that was what started it initially, but what kept me going was the sanity I feel when I've exercised. The pounding of my feet on the pavement and the successes. Running reminds me that I am not totally broken. That my body is amazing and capable of awesome things.

4. An understanding of what it means to say "Life is a gift." I know in a way I would never have understood without infertility, that life is a gift. Nothing I do, not any medicine I take, method of NFP I use or don't use, prayer service I go to, nothing at all can make me "earn" motherhood or "deserve" it. Life is a gratuitous gift bestowed by God and God alone. Each living person is nothing short of a miracle. Infertility taught me this.

5. Patience. (Did you laugh a little? Or a lot?) I laugh a little at this one, but where the patience comes in is really in dealing with others. I am much more likely to assume that someone is having a hard day or to realize that they are carrying a cross that I know nothing about when someone is less than kind to me. I've learned that, despite my insistence to the contrary, not everything is about me.

6. Embracing spiritual motherhood and being able to use my personal experience and my job to reach out to others. Planning the retreat last June (and again for this November) was an act of spiritual motherhood that healed my heart in so many ways. It was truly a privilege to be able to help so many others, and I'm so grateful to be able to do it again. As I said to Fr. D during the retreat, when the entire room of hands went up and people saw, visibly saw, they were not alone, "all the work and everything that went into this retreat was all worth it for that moment right there, and that includes our infertility."

7. Last, but most importantly, a marriage that gets stronger each day. It's not been easy. We each carry this cross so differently and yet we have to do it together. We have very different personalities (extrovert choleric whose love language is words of affirmation (me) married to an introvert melancholic whose love language is physical touch (The Man)) and very different approaches to problems, so it's not been easy. But we are working through it, leaning on grace and practicing forgiveness. (With so much sensitivity to my friends who still wait for husbands. I am sorry if reading this one brought you pain and I love you!)

Yep, all that really goes on all at once most of the time.

Infertility Awareness Week 2014 - Today!

4.24.2014

Infertility Awareness Week 2014 - #5


Infertility and the Liturgical Year

(Random thought: Isn't it kind of Infertility Awareness Week 'round here every week?....)

What I'm sharing today is just one more aspect of infertility that I didn't expect: how difficult the normal, predictable rhythms of my faith could become. I'm sharing this post this week in hopes that if you too find the Liturgical Year to be a challenge, that you know that you are not alone, and that if you know or love someone who is infertile, that you keep this in mind, especially when that person, who is normally a faithful person just doesn't seem "into" it.

One of my favorite things about being Catholic is the rhythm of the Liturgical Year, and the seasons that come along with it. (Practically speaking because I do not always plan ahead well and I love having a whole season of Christmas and Easter :).)

Currently, it is Thursday in the Octave of Easter. That means it is one of the two most joyful weeks of the year (the Octave of Christmas being the other), the celebration of the Risen Lord will continue on for 50 days through Pentecost. Death has not won. The cross defeated.

So, what does this have to do with infertility and awareness about infertility? For an infertile couple, it can feel like Lent 24/7/365.  Easter has come, but the cross has not yet been lifted. Unless there was that dreamed of BFP, birth, or phone call, the Lent of infertility continues. The waiting, the unknown, all of it. While the world around us celebrates, and while we in our heads celebrate, for the Lord is risen, Alleluia. We know this, we hope in it, and we rejoice in it, but we are still stuck. Imagine Easter Sunday with the Alleluia and the bells back, but the statues still veiled, the tone of the music still somber, the priest still in violet vestments. That is what Easter can feel like to an infertile couple.

Lent, on the other hand, fits. The time of self-denial, penance, and waiting. The somber music, the dark colors, the quiet entrances and exits of Mass. While the joy of the risen Lord is there, for He is alive, always, what we are marking, the time of Christ's 40 days in the desert, the temptations, the hunger, the barrenness, all of it. It fits with infertility.

After Easter, comes Ordinary Time (named not because it is ordinary, but because the weeks are counted, they are ordered). It is a time to reflect upon the deep mysteries of our faith and to allow our relationship with Christ to not be one of extreme highs (Easter/Christmas) and lows (Lent, and Advent to an extent), but one that remains throughout the days of our life and grows as the time goes on. For me, the return to Ordinary Time at the end of Easter is somewhat of a relief. The overjoy that [rightfully] accompanies the Easter season comes to an end, and I no longer have to try to make my heart match what my head knows. There are weeks that will come that will be harder than others, but it is the normal rhythm of the year, and so too is what happens with infertility. As the years go by, the highs and lows come with each cycle, but overall, the rhythm of infertility sets in - the sorrow of a new cycle, the hope of trying again, the anxiety of the waiting, and so it continues. Ordinary Time provides the steady companion to the cyclical unsteadiness that is infertility.

After Ordinary Time comes Advent (really, Advent is the first season of the Liturgical year, but since we are in Easter, I started there). To put it quite honestly, Advent is brutal. It is all about the anticipation of waiting for a Baby. Of course, not just any baby, but Jesus. But He didn't come as a teenager or an adult, but as a baby, and so Advent prepares us for that coming. We know Jesus is coming, so there is much joy in our waiting, but, like with Easter, the joy is often in our head. I white knuckle through Mass (both Sunday and Daily) during Advent like no other time of year. The promises fulfilled, the stories of Mary and Joseph and Elizabeth and Zechariah, they are almost too much for my infertile heart to take. Advent, while painful, is also challenging. It challenges me to consider how I bring Jesus to others; how my life is fruitful; how our marriage is fruitful. It challenges me to open my eyes and heart to how the Lord is asking me to receive Him and to not reject His way in favor of my own.

Then Christmas, the celebration of a baby. It's clear why this one is tough, right? It's deeper than that though, much like Easter, the celebration exists in my head, but in my heart, it's just not there. I think this is why Midnight Mass has become one of my favorites of the whole year, starting in darkness and quiet, and even as the Mass goes on, it has a quietness to it that is missing from most Solemnities. It is as if there is a hush so as not to wake the sleeping baby Jesus, and for me this quiet joy fits my mood much  more than the busyness of the Vigil (Family) Mass or the overwhelming celebration of the morning Masses.

Finally, sprinkled throughout the year are the Holy Days of Obligation. Has anyone else noticed that they are all Marian Feast Days? (Not to mention the Marian Feast Days that are not Holy Days of Obligation....) Nothing lands me in the Confessional faster than Holy Days of Obligation. Seriously. I dread them. I've resorted to making sure I'm near Fr. D's parish (or driving the hour to get there) to make sure that I won't have to hear a homily all about how Mary was the perfect mother. Yes, she was, she IS, not denying that, I just don't need to hear it over and over again, there is more to be said about Mary than this. ahem.

So, while I love the changes the Liturgical year brings, and the ever renewing of our Faith and what we believe, it can be quite the challenge for my head and my heart to match what is going on in Church, and then, the challenge of making our home, our Domestic Church, match as well is sometimes too much. The Man has really taken over for Christmas. He drags me through Advent (lovingly) and makes sure just enough is done so that when a few days before Christmas the spirit starts to hit me, I can jump in and do the rest and not feel like a total failure. Easter this year was an epic failure, but that is its own post.

This is just one more aspect of infertility that I didn't expect. How difficult the normal, predictable rhythms of my faith could become. I'm sharing this post this week in hopes that if you too find the Liturgical Year to be a challenge, that you know that you are not alone, and that if you know or love someone who is infertile, that you keep this in mind, especially when that person, who is normally a faithful person just doesn't seem "into" it.

Infertility Awareness Week 2014 - Today!

4.23.2014

Infertility Awareness Week 2014 - #4


It seems that this post has become a tradition 'round this here corner of the world wide web. I suppose I've gotten a little braver this year, by co-authoring the post from Monday and asking it to be published to other sites, realizing that it can (and hopefully will be) shared and that people I know in real life and who I work with could end up finding this space. A part of me is worried that might happen, but that is the part of me that worries what others think about me and that isn't comfortable in my own skin. As I'm writing these words ahead of time, so they are ready to be published on Wednesday, I still don't know what I will do about social media, specifically Facebook and Twitter. I already have a public Instagram board labeled "Infertility," though it's not quite as full as my private one; also, once more people I knew IRL started following me, I stopped pinning things to the public board regularly. There is something about putting our infertility "out there" that causes me to stop in my tracks. I can't explain it, though I wish I could. I've tried the past two years, and I still agree with all that I've written, yet there is more, I'm just not sure what it is.

If you've been reading here for a while, you will recognize what follows. If you are new, please read it, at least the original post from 2012. And regardless of how many visits you've made to this corner of the web, please know how much I appreciate your prayers for us. Each one is a gift to us; each one supporting us and giving us strength on this road; each one pointing us toward God and helping us to place our trust in Him.

Updated Post from 2013:

Mostly a rerun from last year. Up until yesterday, the start of IF Awareness Week, I really thought I'd post something this year. And now it's here, and I just can't. I don't know, maybe I think that putting it on FB makes it more real (you know, "Facebook Official" kind of thing). I don't know what about the past 2 1/2 years is not real, but maybe that's it. This way, I can pretend that we are just a happy married couple without children. I can pretend that baby announcements and u/s pictures and first days of school and holidays etc. don't bring pain I didn't really know it was possible to feel.

There is a part of me that still wants to post something. But maybe if I could turn FB comments off? I want to just post it and let it stand. Kind of like "yea, this is me. Period." But that goes against what social media is all about, doesn't it? I don't know, it just seems like sharing this would be the equivalent of posting naked photos of myself. It just seems too personal. And yet, I share it here. In ways that are so intensely personal I sometimes gasp when rereading what I've written. I have no explanation for this.

Which leaves me here. Scared of my own shadow in a sense and at the same time acutely aware of just how personal infertility really is. Even those of us who carry this cross do so differently. No two experiences are exactly the same. I don't know that I will ever say it better than I said it last year, the sentiments are the same now, with the pain a little deeper; the realization of what might never be a little clearer; and my Faith as the life-preserver that will get me through.

Original Post from 2012:

Today is the first day of Infertility Awareness Week. Last year, when this week rolled around, we had just passed month 6 of TTC using NFP - it was the first milestone to cross that would label us infertile. I remember seeing the posts of friends and family members on Facebook, friends and family members who had crossed over (most of them years ago) and thinking to myself, if we do not have a baby this time next year, I will post for all of us who are still suffering.

Oh, how a year changes things.

There will be no post on my FB page. There will be no Tweeting about IF. There will only be this, in this space.

Much like I chose not to share our story at work, I also chose not to share our story on FB - for lots of reasons. Many are the same as the work reasons, but there are a few others too.

But here's what I would say, what a piece of me is dying to say, if I were to post:

It would start with this picture:
And then I would say:
In honor of Infertility Awareness Week: "This is for all of us who long to see two lines on a stick; who wish for labor pains; who look forward to being woken up every few hours of each night; who imagine first steps and first words; who dream of first birthdays; who hide tears, minimize pain, and straddle the fence of the life we have and the life we want; who suffer in silence; who bite our tongues at bad advice; and who just want to hear "I love you Mom". Those of you with children: Hug them tightly, tell them how blessed you are to have them in your life, say "I love you" just because you do, and praise the Author of Life for the opportunity to do so."

I wish I had the courage to not care about the reactions; to stand up and educate others about infertility; to explain our reasons for our treatment plan; to let everyone see the truth.

I don't. I couldn't even advocate for myself with a local doctor - let alone 300 some FB "friends".

But there is something I want to say to my IRL friends (and MIL - hi Mom!) who read here:
Thank-you. Thank-you for reading these words and hearing the truth - the good and the bad - and still loving me. Thank-you for not pushing me to share when I don't want to and for listening when I do. Thank-you for not ever making me feel embarrassed for tears or for making jokes to hide them. Please know that every. single. time. I thank those in the bloggy world for their support I am including you because you are part of this place as well.

So, while I won't be saying anything on Facebook - to everyone who is reading this thank-you for helping me to carry this cross. Thank-you for loving me, praying for me, and sticking with me. I don't know or how when this road will end, but I do know that you've made it easier and less scary.

Infertility Awareness Week 2014 - Today!

4.22.2014

Infertility Awareness Week 2014 - #3


I originally wrote this in the fall. I never published it and I can't really remember why I didn't.  I came back to it recently and was struck by the words. I honestly don't remember writing them, and yet they are so true. They seem to "fit" for this week, a week dedicated to bringing awareness to infertility. 3 1/2 years ago, this week was right around 6 cycles of TTC with fertility-focused-intercourse, which means the diagnosis of infertility. And if I could pick anyone to bring awareness to, it is the me from 3 1/2 years ago, and anyone else who is starting down this road and wondering how she will survive it.

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3 years of infertility. (Again, written in Oct. 2013, at the 3 year mark of TTC.)

There really are no words to express the pain in that short sentence.

Those first months of trying and hoping so innocently, they seem like another lifetime. Like something I watched in a movie of someone else's life.

There are unpublished blog posts from those early days. Unpublished hopes and fears and prayers.

I reread those posts recently. Trying to find that woman again. Trying to just for a moment forget - to go back to that place of innocence. I've wondered what I would say to her. What would I tell that woman so full of hope and fear and prayer?

I would say this:

You are about to face the deepest heartache of your life. You will hurt more than you thought it was possible to hurt. You will shed more tears than you have shed in your entire life to this point. Even these words cannot fully explain what you are about to feel.

But, and more importantly, you are about to learn just who God is. You will learn He is trustworthy. You will learn how to lean entirely on His Grace. You will realize that this life is not the end in a way you cannot fathom now. Even these words cannot fully explain what you will learn.

You are about to find out what true friendship is. How beautiful and how hard it is. You will learn that sometimes there is truly nothing that can be said, only a hug and a promise of prayer is all that will do. And even that is somehow enough and not enough all at the same time.


And I read those words, and they are just not enough. There truly are not words for these years. And yet, they are comforting. They give me a glimpse into a prayer answered in the affirmative.

I've prayed for 2 things for the past 3 years: for a baby and for the Grace to handle whatever comes, when it comes.

The baby has not come. The Grace has. I have not always allowed myself to receive it, nor to be open to it, but it has been there, faithfully.

There is no way I could ever explain the pain. For how can I? How can I explain pain over something that does not exist? How can I explain sorrow that seeps from my soul into my body? How can I explain pain that I feel in my bones? In my skin? In my hair? Over someone that does not exist?

There is also no way I can ever explain the grace. For how can I? How can I explain something that I physically lean on but cannot see? How can I explain that which pulls me out of bed in the morning? How can I explain where the smiles and joy come from in the face of pregnancy announcement after pregnancy announcement while my heart breaks into pieces?

I try to explain here in this space. I try to explain it for myself and for anyone else who is feeling the same. And I know I fail. How could I succeed? It is unexplainable.

And at 3 years. Oh, how that number hurts to write. How heavy it seems. How much it signifies.

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I read these words today, 6 months after they were written. So much has happened, so much has changed, and so much has stayed the same, not only in these 6 months, but in the last 3 1/2 years. I suppose this would be the same if we had conceived, with much happening, much changing and much staying the same - only different things.

For today, I put them here. To mark the road that has been traveled. To remind myself I have and will survive. To encourage anyone else who is wondering, that you too will survive.

Infertility Awareness Week 2014 - Today!

4.21.2014

Infertility Awareness Week 2014 - #2


This is being published to many other sites this week in an effort to bring awareness to the experience of infertility.
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Infertility Awareness Week, 2014: A Catholic Perspective 

One in six couples will experience infertility at some point in their marriage. Infertility is medically defined as the inability to conceive after 12 cycles of “unprotected” intercourse or 6 cycles using “fertility-focused” intercourse. A couple who has never conceived has “primary infertility” and a couple who has conceived in the past but is unable to again has “secondary infertility”. Many couples who experience infertility have also experienced miscarriage or pregnancy loss.

This week, April 20 – 26, 2014 is National Infertility Awareness Week.

We, a group of Catholic women who have experienced infertility, would like to take a moment to share with you what the experience of infertility is like, share ways that you can be of support to a family member or friend, and share resources that are helpful.

If you are experiencing infertility, please know you are not alone. You are loved and prayed for and there are resources to help you with the spiritual, emotional, and medical aspects of this journey.

The Experience of Infertility

In the beginning of trying to conceive a child, there is much hope and anticipation; for some, even a small fear of “what if we get pregnant right away?” There is planning of how to tell your husband and when you’d announce to the rest of the family. It is a joyful time that for most couples results in a positive pregnancy test within the first few months. However, for one in six couples, the months go by without a positive test and the fears and doubts begin to creep in. At the 6th month of trying using fertility-focused intercourse (using Natural Family Planning), the couple knows something is wrong and is considered “infertile” by doctors who understand the charting of a woman’s pattern of fertility.  At the 9th month of trying, the month that, had they conceived that first month, a baby would have been arriving, is often the most painful of the early milestones. At the 12th month mark the couple “earns” the label from the mainstream medical community as “infertile”.

As the months go by, the hopes and dreams are replaced with fears, doubts, and the most invasive doctors’ appointments possible. As a Catholic couple faithful to the teachings of the Church, we are presented by secular doctors with options that are not options for us and are told things like “you’ll never have children” and “you have unexplained infertility”; by our Catholic doctors we are told to keep praying and to have hope as they roll up their sleeves and work hard to figure out the cause of our infertility, with each visit asking, “How are you and your husband doing with all of this?”

We find it hard to fit in. We have faith and values that are different than our secular culture, but our childlessness (primary infertility) or small family (secondary infertility) makes us blend in with the norm. We have faith and values that are in line with the teachings of our Church, but our daily life looks so much different than the others who share those values and that makes us stand out in a way that we would rather not. We are Catholic husbands and wives living out our vocation fully. Our openness to life does not come in the form of children; it takes on the form of a quiet “no” or “not yet” or “maybe never” from God each month as we slowly trod along. Our openness to and respect for life courageously resists the temptations presented to us by the secular artificial reproductive technology industry.

Often times our friends and family do not know what to say to us, and so they choose to not say anything. Our infertility stands like a great big elephant in the room that separates us from others. Most of the time, we don’t want to talk about it, especially not in public or in group settings because it is painful and we will often shed tears. We realize it is difficult and ask that you realize this difficulty as well. We will do our best to be patient and to explain our situation to those who genuinely would like to know, but please respect our privacy and the boundaries we establish, as not only is infertility painful, it is also very personal.

One of the hardest experiences of infertility is that it is cyclical. Each month we get our hopes up as we try; we know what our due date would be as soon as we ovulate; we know how we would share the news with our husband and when and how we would tell our parents. We spend two weeks walking a fine line between hope and realism, between dreaming and despairing. When our next cycle begins – with cramps and bleeding and tears – we often only have a day or two before we must begin taking the medications that are meant to help us conceive. There is little to no time to mourn the dream that is once again not achievable; no time to truly allow ourselves to heal from one disappointment before we must begin hoping and trying again. We do not get to pick what days our hormones will plummet or how the medications we are often taking will affect us. We do not get to pick the day that would be “best” for us for our next cycle to start. We are at the mercy of hope, and while that hope keeps us going it is also what leaves us in tears when it is not realized.

Our faith is tested. We ask God “why?”, we yell at Him; we draw closer to God and we push Him away. Mass brings us to tears more often than not and the season of Advent brings us to our knees. The chorus of “Happy Mother’s Day” that surrounds us at Mass on the second Sunday in May will be almost more devastating than the blessing of mothers itself. We know that the Lord is trustworthy and that we can trust in Him; sometimes it is just a bigger task than we can achieve on our own.

Please…
  • Pray for us. Truly, it is the best thing that anyone can do.
  • Do not make assumptions about anything - not the size of a family or whether or not a couple knows what is morally acceptable to the Church. Most couples who experience infertility do so in silence and these assumptions only add to the pain. If you are genuinely interested, and not merely curious, begin a genuine friendship and discover the truth over time.
  • Do not offer advice such as “just relax," “you should adopt," “try this medical option or that medical option” – or really give any advice. Infertility is a symptom of an underlying medical problem; a medical problem that often involves complicated and invasive treatment to cure.
  • Do not assume that we will adopt. Adoption is a call and should be discerned by every married couple. Infertility does not automatically mean that a couple is meant to adopt.
  • Ask how we are doing and be willing to hear and be present for the “real” answer. Often times we answer, “OK” because that’s the easy, “safe” answer. Let us know that you are willing to walk through this the tough time with us. Frequently we just need someone who is willing to listen and give us a hug and let us know we are loved.
  •  Offer a Mass for us or give us a prayer card or medal to let us know you are praying for us. Just please refrain from telling us how we must pray this novena or ask for that saint’s intercession. Most likely we’ve prayed it and ask for the intercession daily. Please feel free to pray novenas and ask for intercession on our behalf.
  •  Be tolerant and patient. The medications we take can leave us at less than our best; we may not have the energy or ability to do much. Please also respect us when we say "no, thank you" to food or drinks. We may have restricted diets due to our medical conditions and/or medications.
  • Share the good news of your pregnancy privately (preferably in an email or card or letter and not via text, IM chat, phone call or in person) and as soon as possible. Please understand that we are truly filled with joy for you; any sadness we feel is because we have been reminded of our own pain and we often feel horrible guilt over it as well. Please be patient and kind if we don’t respond immediately, attend your baby shower or don’t “Like” all of your Facebook updates about your children. Again, it is really about us, not you.
  • Help steer group conversations away from pregnancy and parenting topics when we are around. We like to be able to interact in a conversation to which we can contribute meaningfully.
  • Do not ask when we are going to “start a family” (we started one the day we got married).
  • Do not ask which one of us is the “problem” – we are either fertile or infertile as a couple.
  • Do not say things like "I know you'll be parents some day," or "It will happen, I know it will!" Along the same lines, please do not tell us stories of a couple you know who struggled for years and went on to conceive or to "just adopt and then you'll get pregnant" (this one actually only happens a small percentage of the time). Only God knows what our future holds, please pray with us that we are able to graciously accept His will for our lives.
  • Do not pity us. Yes, we have much sorrow. Yes, we struggle. But, we place our faith in God, lean on the grace of our marriage, and trust that someday, whether here on earth or in heaven, we will see and understand God’s plan.

Resources:

Bloggers who contributed to this article (those with an * have children after primary infertility or are experiencing secondary infertility. They are marked as such so that if you aren’t up for possibly seeing baby/child pictures today, you can meet them on a day when you are, but please do take the time to go and visit them.):

Mary Beth @ Grace of Adoption           

There is also a “Secret” Facebook group with over 150 members who contributed to this article as well. For more information or to join the group, email Rebecca at RebeccaWVU02@gmail.com.

Infertility Awareness Week 2014 - Today!

4.20.2014

Infertility Awareness Week 2014 - #1

The Lord is risen, Alleluia! He is risen indeed, Alleluia! Happy and blessed Easter to you!


When I first saw the dates for Infertility Awareness Week this year, I immediately thought how there was something about it starting on Easter. The day we celebrate Jesus triumph over His cross; the day that Love and Good wins and evil loses. The experience of infertility is certainly a cross to carry. The road on which we walk and then end are unknown; there will be people along the way who support us and help us carry our cross and there will be others who will add to the weight of it. The only promise we have is that God has already won and that someday, likely someday not on this side of heaven, it will all make sense.

While that is the only promise we have. It is also the only promise that matters.

I have a post scheduled for each day this week. While infertility is not my whole life, in some way or another it touches every aspect of my life. There is little that I do that is not touched by infertility or reminds me of it. I used to think that would be an awful thing, but now I know it is just a fact. Sometimes it is just as awful as I thought, and other times, in those moments of grace, I see just how much of a gift it is. It doesn't happen often, that I see infertility as a gift, but I am grateful for those moments. 

As I stated above, if you are here for the first time, welcome! It's nice to "meet you" and please know of my prayers for you!
The Lord is risen, Alleluia! He is risen indeed, Alleluia! Happy and blessed Easter to you!

4.18.2014

Good Friday and CD1


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

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

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

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

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

4.10.2014

35

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

My 35th birthday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4.06.2014

And Jesus Wept

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4.03.2014

The Grace of Tears

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pope Francis went on to say (emphasis mine):

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

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

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

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