How Did You Know?

How did you know when it was time to stop actively TTC? (Meaning meds, appointments, super careful charting, etc?)

I've started to write this many times, but usually it is when I'm reeling from another failed cycle and I know most of it is hormones. But, I could use some guidance or feedback. I don't want to say advice because I know that this is an intensely personal decision that no one can really advise us about.

I'm also not saying we are there yet, but I won't lie and say I'm not weary. I truly do not know how those of you who have been doing this for years and years and years do it. You are my heroes. We have definitely decided I will see Dr. D. in late August and consider her recommendations. We have been careful to not say we will "never do" or will "definitely do" this or that beyond our commitment to honor and respect God as author of Life. We are trying hard to listen to the the Still Small Voice in all of this.

As much as I do not want to look back and realize I missed this life while striving for the another, I also do not want to look back with regret. Sometimes it feels like the two lanes of this road are right alongside one another and going in the exact same direction and sometimes it feels like there is an enormouse wood between them and the only reason I know there is another path is because I've seen it before.

So, if you will allow me to ask the very personal question of  how did you know it was time? What is your personal story? How did you decide when to stop actively TTC?

I understand this is intensely personal, and I will be extremely grateful for anything you wish to share - please use the anonymous commenting option if you prefer or if you'd prefer a private email (RebeccaWVU02@ gmail dot com), I will treasure your experience.



And frankly, a little bit angry.

Remember back in February when I got all bold and cocky about no more BB? 

That would be called counting my chickens before the hatched. Or putting the cart before the horse. Or getting my hopes up. Or. or. or.

And now, it's getting, if possible, worse. Or at the very least weirder.

The rest of this post crosses right on over the TMI line. Consider yourself warned (and feel free to leave).

Today is CD1, I knew it was coming because yesterday, on P+13 there was some very light brown spotting. Lovely. I take prometrium until P+12 and the last two cycles I barely make it through P+13 (if at all).

And today. It's not just brown, but black bleeding. Seriously, if there wasn't an option on my charts for that I'd have freaked out. Now, I've had some pretty dark brown before, maybe a touch of black. But all black? With a clump? Yuck. And annoying. And gross.

Henceforth, if a distinction is needed brown bleeding will be BrB and black will be BlB. I just love that I have to make this distinctions.

As if that's not enough, I've also had some lovely BrB on peak and the first couple of days before and after.

I did see my regular doctor, asked for a urinalysis and urine culture - because I'm very prone to UTIs and thought maybe we should check things out when there were no symptoms. The culture was negative. The urinalysis indicated some white blood cells. She thinks maybe a yea.st infection - prescribed diflucan (sp?). Seriously? A yea.st infection in my urinary tract? Gross. Oh and symptoms? I've got none.

I decided to wait on taking the meds until I started this cycle. You know, just in case. Because there's always hope. I'll take it (just one dose) with my breakfast tomorrow...or maybe with my wine tonight. (I'm kidding. Well, about taking the meds with the wine - not about the wine.)

So, it's CD1. I'm beyond frustrated that the BB (all of it) has returned.  (Yes, even the TEBB came back last cycle. I'm sure it will be making an appearance this time next week too.)

I'm angry. Partly at myself for getting my hopes up that the BB was really gone. Partly that I have to deal with this. And partly that I'm not handling it better. As I type this, I can feel my heart pounding, and the adrenaline pumping, I just want to scream.

I scheduled my appointment with Dr. D. (Dr. S.'s partner that he recommended I see.) When I scheduled it, I really hoped I'd get to cancel it. That hope is entirely gone - even though the appointment isn't for 2 more months.)

If our "first try" had been successful, we'd be celebrating a 1st birthday this month. Oh, how silly and stupid I was.

Thank goodness it's cooler than 90 degrees outside, because if I don't get to run outside for a long time tonight, I will crack up.

I'm trying hard to offer this all up, for all of you who are still waiting, especially those who have been waiting for so much longer than me. There has to be, absolutely MUST be, something good that comes of all of this for someone. For one of you. Somehow.


Another Step Forward

On Friday, The Man found out he did not get accepted into PTA (Physical Therapy Assistant) School. Again. This makes 2 rejections in 6 months. While we know that the reasons are mostly related to some less-than-stellar grades from undergrad, that he earned over 10 years ago, it is still disappointing.

And then today as I was doing dishes (which I never do, because it's The Man's job in our house, but maybe I should start), it occurred to me that for the first time in our married life, 8 years, we are facing career stability, and financial stability, for both of us even without the PTA program.

Hm, maybe I should explain a bit. Two summers ago The Man approached his current employer because he needed to make more money. Now, he wasn't just asking for a raise, his rate of pay is actually quite good, it was a problem with hours (he is a massage therapist and gets paid on commission). He basically told them he would do whatever they needed, wash toilets, clean, anything, if he could get paid an hourly rate during the hours he was not doing massage therapy. His bosses responded in a way that has worked out beautifully for both The Man and the rehab/fitness clinic at which he works. He started to work with the person who does all of the brace fitting and orthodics fitting in the Durable Medical Equipment (DME) part of the clinic with the plan of attending PTA school in the future. Well, he gained so much experience with the DME that he was able to become a certified orthodics fitter and is plenty busy between that and massage therapy.

While attending PTA school would indeed lead to an increase in salary overall, and that is always nice, it is not something we need. It would also mean a crazy, stressful schedule for the next year to end with 6 weeks of no paid-work due to rotations. We were planning to take a student loan to help us through those 6 weeks. As we talked last night, we pointed out these positives and others and agreed that it wasn't God's will and that was OK.

But today was really when it sunk in. Now, lest you think I am a callous uncaring wife, I hate that The Man had to be rejected twice. He works so hard and is such a good person, I would love to call the department chair and really let her have a piece of my mind. Yet, today, a new sense of freedom, of peace settled in, a new sense of normal.

For the first time in our married life, not only are we financially OK, but we are not waiting for something to be finished; we are not trying to figure out what is next. No, I'm not trying to say we've "arrived" or anything like that, and we certainly still have hopes and dreams...The Man has a big one that will be amazing, and of course we are still praying and trying to become parents. Yet, this is a new feeling. Rather than dreading 8 months from now when the financial floor becomes very unsteady, we can plan. We can really start to save and know that there isn't something there that is going to drain that savings.

Now, I realize financial issues are just as big a part of our cross as IF is, so I'm not forgetting all of that.  I know we can return to the uncertainty just as quickly as we got here. What I am doing is facing the future in a new way - a way that we have dreamed of for 8 years. With 2 steady paychecks from 2 steady jobs we can truly start to save and work towards owning a home again (we jumped into that way too fast the first time). We can think about vacations, and paying off cars. We can realistically think about what we want life to look like if a child joins us. (We've of course thought about this, but it was always with the understanding that it would vary greatly depending on when the child arrived and where The Man was at in his schooling.)

While I know this can all change quickly, I am going to relish and enjoy this new normal. We are going to take a fresh look at our finances and begin moving forward. When we moved back to Morgantown, in a lot of ways it felt like we were moving backwards - selling our 3 bedroom house to move to a 1 bedroom apartment; a huge career change for me; a leap of faith regarding The Man's career. Yes, moving into our rental house almost 2 years ago felt great. But now, almost 4 years since our move back to Morgantown, it feels like we are moving forward again. Truly moving forward. It is a new normal for us. I haven't felt this much anticipation since we were married.


Quick Takes

Wow. It's been about forever since I did a Quick Takes. It has also been forever since I posted pictures. Don't get your hopes up too far, there still won't be pictures today :(. I figure if I work on some editing this weekend maybe for next week. Maybe.

Father's Day weekend is upon us. I dread this weekend more than Mother's Day. As I was selecting a card for my Dad, I picked up 2 that made some reference to what a great grandfather he is also. Between that and the "new dad," "expecting dad," and "first Father's Day," cards, I shed tears in Hal.lmark for the first time in a long time. Not being a mother is hard enough, considering a life where The Man is not a father brings me to my knees. He is the reason I keep moving forward; keep trying; keep scheduling more appointments. It isn't 2 lines I dream about, it is telling The Man he is going to be a daddy.

Abigail (a fellow Catholic West Virginian!) wrote a beautiful post earlier this week about the Dad's who don't get to be Father's. She also went above and beyone and is sending The Man a card from her and her husband - both Carmelites. I think I'll just have the box of tissues ready for when I see it arrive in the mail.

In regards to my own Dad, for Christmas I bought him tickets to watch his Alma Mater, Duquesne, play basketball. We had such a great day that I've decided I'm not buying him any more "stuff" for holidays or birthdays. Instead, it will only be things that give us time together. It's Pirate Tickets for Father's Day. We did this with our moms for Mother's Day also - had them over for brunch instead of gifts. I guess I'm getting old, as I appreciate time much more than things these days. Or maybe it is another blessing of IF that I didn't anticipate. 

I finally got new running shoes. They were badly needed. I'd been wearing the same ones since I started running 2 1/2 years ago. Seeing as how it's recommended to get new ones about every 300 miles, I was way overdue! I broke them in last night and aside from a small blister on my toe (that could be sock-related) I am pleased with my choice.

However, when I ordered my shoes I was a little offended to be called a "Clydesdale or Athena" runner. While I wasn't sure exactly what that meant, I certainly know what a Clydesdale is in regards to a regular horse - bigger. And while I know I have a few more pounds to lose, I'm certainly not THAT gigantic. When consulting swami-google, I did indeed learn my instinct was correct. I'm just glad to be a woman, because Athena sounds way better than Clydesdale! (At least that's what Sara tells me.)

Well, I did get a few picturse thrown in here, though none of them are mine. All pictures do link back to their source. Be sure to visit Jen for more Quick Takes. Have a great weekend!


Healing Grace

Today is our wedding anniversary. Eight years ago The Man and I exchanged our vows and spent the day with our friends and family celebrating life and love.  We've been through so much in our 8 years...really in our 14 years together (4 dating, 2 engaged, 8 married for those of you doing the math).

Yet, in the last year or so something had been eating away at me. You know, in that place where the question sneaks in when you're not looking and you quickly try to forget that you had the question in the first place. You can't really forget it, but you put it away until the next time.

Having learned more about sacraments, specifically matrimony, my question was becoming: Is our marriage valid? Or do we need to have it convalidated?

Now, most people would look at me like I was crazy for even thinking this. I mean we wanted so much for the sacramental part of our wedding day to be a focus that we renewed our baptismal promises at the start of our wedding liturgy as a symbol of our understanding of the sacramental nature of our union. On the surface, of course our marriage is valid.

But here was what I'd learned: the sexual act of a married couple must be open to life; contraception is an intrinsic evil; what we say in our vows on the altar must be matched in our behavior - free, faithful, forever, and fruitful love. Every time we'd teach NFP and get to Class #3 and go over this, the question would sneak in...is our marriage valid since we were contracepting for the first 5 years?

I was scared to death of the answer. I was so afraid it would be "no." Which then meant on top of our sins of contraception we were now adding to that by having sex outside of a valid marriage. And I'm sure you can see how healthy this was added in with all that goes with IF.

There was also the sense that deep down, while the question was there, I didn't feel that our marriage was invalid. I genuinely was sickened that someone could say it was not valid and that end just did not resonate as true for me. While I certainly know what we feel can be wrong in regards to objective truth, in this case I felt strongly that in the past 3 years our marriage had healed and we were certainly validly, sacramentally, and indissolubly married.

And I was just starting to feel confident enough to email a wonderful priest I met at the TOB Institute to ask - I was feeling ready to mention my worries to The Man - and I was feeling ready to accept the answer, whatever it was.

But I didn't. I just couldn't.

And then, in April, I went to the Orientation for new Family Life Ministers in Washington, DC and one of our speakers was a Canon Lawyer who serves on the Tribunal in her Diocese in the role of "Defender of the Bond." (Oh and she is a Sister - how awesome is that?!?!) As I listened to her, and the questions were asked, my question was burning inside me, but my arms felt like 50 pound weights and I was physically unable to raise my hand. So I listened.

And the question came up regarding consent and intention and I got my answer:

If a couple approaches the church for marriage and the form is correct (both are able to marry, 2 witnesses, etc.) and the intent is not fully formed the marriage can be considered invalid. BUT, if the couple matures and develops a true intent to live a sacramental marriage, then the marriage is considered valid, sacramental, and, with consummation, indissoluble.  Sister's exact words were "the sacramental grace, while unable to be infused at the moment of the exchange of vows, can be retroactive and heal the bond all the way back to the moment of the exchange of vows."

To say I breathed a HUGE sigh of relief is an understatement. BUT, as I let the reality of what she had said sink in, it was as if my gut feeling had been affirmed AND my experience and sense of our marriage validating. I have described it like this:

On our wedding day, June 12, 2004, we approached the Catholic Church for the Sacrament of Matrimony. While we wanted and intended our marriage to be sacrament, our understanding of the sacrament was limited, thus our intent was limited. So, while the form of our marriage was correct, the grace that was supposed to infuse our marriage wasn't able to penetrate it...almost as if there was an invisible barrier around us blocking the grace from getting in.  In our case, contraception formed that barrier. By the mercy of God the barrier we put up had just enough holes in it to allow just enough grace in to keep us together and determined to work through our struggles together. Then, 5 years later, we removed the barrier, our understanding of sacrament matured, and our intent became what it was meant to be. And the grace that  had just been sitting there, outside the barrier, was allowed to fully penetrate and surround us. And it healed us. God's grace poured over our entire marriage from the moment of our vows until today, healing and sealing our bond.

This was our very real experience, and in the past I've written about it from the point of view of removing intrinsic evil, but I realize now that removing the intrinsic evil - the barrier - wasn't the end of the story. The story continues because of the healing grace of God that we invited into our marriage on June 12, 2004; it continues because God is Love, and He is patient and kind and he knew, long before we could ever imagine it, that we would want that grace; we would need that grace. Like a loving parent, He placed what He knew we needed within our reach. When we chose to accept it, He gave us our wedding gift of His Healing Grace without punishment, without conditions, and without barriers of time.

This year, as we celebrate 8 years and the pain of our IF is more than I can bear most days, I choose to rejoice and celebrate this gift of healing grace; this gift of sacramental marriage. I choose to be grateful for God's mercy and love. I choose to be grateful for The Man - for his love, his patience, and the life he has laid down for me.


You Are Beautiful

I'm guest posting over at Reflections of a Catholic in Formation today on the topic of "You Are Beautiful".

Christina is hosting a month of guest posters all sharing our reflections on this same topic.


Increase my Desire.

Jesus, I desire You. Increase my desire.

Back in October I attended my first Course/Retreat at the Theology of the Body Institute with Christopher West as the instructor for the week. At some point during the week, Christopher suggested a simple, yet dangerous prayer (it may have been a prayer of St. Teresa of Avila, I can't remember):

Jesus, I desire You. Increase my desire.

October was a big month on our IF road. It marked one year TTC, was my first NaPro appointment, and my first Creighton chart. And in October, I started praying that prayer.

Jesus, I desire You. Increase my desire.

If nothing else has happened since October, I can say without a doubt my desire for Jesus has increased and I now understand what Christopher meant when he said it was a "dangerous prayer." Desire for Jesus doesn't just mean desire for Easter and the Resurrection. It means desire for death to self, for ridicule, for pain, for suffering all with the hope of the Resurrection to get you through.

Jesus, I desire You. Increase my desire.

In addition to our IF, I have spent many of these past months (more recently especially) explaining why the HHS mandate is such a bad thing, and in extension what and why the Church teaches what she does about contraception. My brother even texted me "why are 43 diocese suing the federal government?" Needless to say I replied that 160 characters wasn't enough space and to expect an email. It was a 5 page, 13 bullet-point email that started with "First of all, 43 diocese aren't suing the federal government, 43 Catholic Institutions are..." and went from there.

Jesus, I desire You. Increase my desire.
Then, one day I'm reading an online article from CBS News (I know, I know) that states "The Catholic Church only approves of the rhythm method to prevent pregnancy." Seriously. Right there on the screen in black and white. It's 2012 and MSM can't even get that correct? Ugh! I was seriously tempted to just jump out my office window...til I remembered suicide is immoral. If Jesus had come back right that moment, I'd have been exstatic. I mean really, is there no sense of decency or honesty left? Nevermind.

Jesus, I desire You. Increase my desire.

Yes, this is a very dangerous prayer. And it is clear to me that God has answered this prayer. By not answering my prayer for children and instead answering my prayer for grace, God has also increased my desire for heaven. In ways I never "got" before, I "get" that we are not created for this world and my very being desires that for which it was created.

Jesus, I desire You. Increase my desire.


Missing Out

A few years ago I would have been in heaven. Sitting at our church picnic, holding my goddaughter on my lap while she ate, watching her 2 sisters play, and then watching other mom's with young children bring their children over to play too.  It was what I dreamed of - building a church community, meeting other young couples, and making new friends. And loving on their children with the thought in the back of my head that some day that might be us. It just never happened that way. We have a couple of friends from our church, but not a group/community.

Today, it happened. And it wasn't heaven. It was one of the hardest moments on this road to-date. It started out awesome. My goddaughter on my lap eating, her sisters off with The Man watching the magician and her mom and I chatting. And then another mom came to join us, with her sweet baby. And then another. And then the magician was done and the older siblings all came back. And sitting there, outside in the sunshine, it felt like the air wouldn't fill my lungs. And the tears sat just under the surface.

So, instead of sitting and chatting and building new relationships, I told The Man I was ready to go. And we left. I just couldn't face the possibility of being asked "Do you have children?" I just couldn't do it today.

And it is one more thing I am missing out on because of IF. Missing out on first smiles, and steps, and pregnancy, and childbirth, and all that comes with a son or daughter. On top of all that I am missing out on potential friendships and community as well.

The blessing in all of this is that I had an outlet. After the ice cream I'd eaten settled in my stomach, I grabbed my running shoes and headed out for my first-ever 7 mile run. As my feet hit the pavement, my mind was racing at first, but after about a mile the best thing happens and my brain shuts off. It goes on autopilot and I stop obsessing and I feel free. The music is loud in my ears and my focus is on a steady pace and meeting my goal. While I wish with everything in me that my baby-making parts would work right, I am determined to see the gift that running (and swimming and biking) has become for me. I am determined to be grateful that my body seems to be working right in this area and that it is an outlet where my brain turns off.

As I find myself craving this "turning off", this freedom, I realize the only other time I find this is during Adoration. It's a different sort of "turning off", but the feeling of freedom is the same. I even cry while I run sometimes...and of course during Adoration sometimes. I need to do a better job of making time with Jesus as much of a priority as I've made running. I need to give myself this gift of letting go more often and in more ways - meaning I can't replace exercise with Adoration or vice versa. I have found a way to add the exercise into my days, now I need to find a way to add the Adoration. It is the only way I'm ever going to be able to sit and stay and face "the" question, it is the only way to limit the missing out to that which is out of my control.