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.