I Am Thankful For Infertility

No, this is not more of my spiritual direction homework and I've not lost my mind (that I know of :)). This is, however, something I have been reflecting on since my 3 for 3 post and E's comment about feeling bad for those who need charting to realize the Lord is in charge. It caused me to really pause and think about why it was I needed IF to realize the Lord is in charge. This led me to really consider what IF has taught me, both good and bad, and it led me to the realization that while IF has brought more pain than I ever imagined possible, it has also brought beauty, and in a way I don't fully understand, healing. It is the story of the cross and resurrection, the beauty and pain of life all mixed up together. So much of what gets recorded in this space is the cross and the tomb, but today, when we pause to give thanks, I am sharing some of the good. For each of these resurrections, there is a nail of pain that led to it. I have never been more aware of this than I am today, and I can only hope to continue to grow in this awareness.

So, without further ado, I am thankful for infertility because (in no particular order)...
  • If given the chance, I will be a better parent. I understand children are a gift more than I think I ever could have without infertility. I will be more patient, more calm, and more willing to forgive. I will not be the perfect parent, I am not delusional, but I will be better than I would have been.
  • I am kinder, more forgiving, and less quick to judge. I understand in a way I never could have otherwise that no matter how big the smile on someone's face they may be hurting more deeply than I can imagine. I see others and I wonder what their stories are, especially when they are less than kind to me.
  • I understand in a way I couldn't have without infertility that any children we may have are only ours temporarily. Ultimately they belong to God and it will be our job to raise them making sure they know to Whom they belong.
  • I've learned to live life rather than plan life. I spent so much time planning and getting ready for the next thing before infertility. It has forced me to slow down and realize that life isn't about planning, it's about living.
  • I have a faith deeper than I ever could've dreamt possible. For whatever reason, the Lord chose infertility to draw me close to Him. I'm still reflecting on what that means, but I've come to the conclusion that this was what I needed to truly learn to die to myself and to say "Thy will be done" and mean it.
  • I've learned that answered prayers come with great responsibility, and unanswered ones even greater. The grace that He has poured out on me humbles me beyond words, but it's not the grace that people are watching to see how I respond to, it is the unanswered prayer they are watching. How I react and live my life childless says more than how I live my life in His grace, at least to others. I think anyway.
  • I've learned just how much my family and friends mean to me. I've forgiven myself and those I love for things I swore I'd never forgive. I've let go of grudges, hard feelings, and negativity that I clung to like a life boat. I've embraced "forgive {me my} trespasses as {I} forgive those who trespass against {me}", like never before. When I first really considered how I forgave, I didn't like what I saw, so I changed it.
  • I've learned how a marriage without children is life-giving and I've embraced it. The Man and I have embraced true hospitality to others and no longer expect anything in return. We do our best to infuse life into the world around us. We fail daily at doing this as well as we should, but we are learning and growing.
  • I have learned that anything can change in a matter of seconds. I read this list and I think "wow, whoever wrote this sure seems all put together and 'with it'", and I realize that in a couple of weeks I may or may not relate to even one item on this list as I face yet another CD1. Time is fleeting, life is precious.
  • I am healthier. I eat better. I exercise. While this is still a work in progress, it is a huge improvement.
Last year, I dreaded today. And this year the holidays loom large and dark and my empty womb feels heavy in my body. Yet, in a way only possible through Christ, I hope and look forward. I still cannot believe that, somehow, we are still childless. But when I see this list, I see the gifts that I have been given wrapped up in infertility and I realize that I must be thankful for it and for them. The Lord knows me, and He knew that I could only learn these things (and more) if they were wrapped in infertility. Which leaves me with only one option, and that is to be thankful for infertility.

If the only prayer you ever said in your life was, "thank-you," that would suffice.
~Meister Eckhart


Spiritual Direction

One of the fruits of my retreat back in August was the suggestion/encouragement of the chaplain to seek out a spiritual director. This had been something I'd been considering for a while, but working for the diocese has presented a bit of a challenge for me. I wasn't sure at all how to approach a priest (I wanted a priest because I wanted to be able to incorporate confession) that I work with OR how I would feel about talking about struggles in my prayer life, marriage, etc with someone who is also a co-worker, even if somewhat removed. Well, turns out that Fr. Jon (from the retreat) is best friends with a priest here in WV. A priest who I already knew and who I knew I could trust to be faithful to the magisterium. While the importance of this is, I hope, somewhat obvious, it will make even more sense in a little bit.

When I got back from the retreat, I emailed Fr. D and asked if he would be open to being my spiritual director. In the email I expressed my nervousness about this process and especially that we work together, though not closely. Fr. D is the pastor at a parish nearby and I have worked with a couple of his couples who were preparing for marriage. One of the things that became clear to me at my retreat was that being accepted/fitting in/being viewed positively is one of my idols and I shared this with Fr. D, explaining that I needed to let go of this idol and by reaching out I was taking a first step.

SO, all of this said, we had our first meeting back in early October and our second meeting last week. The first meeting was, as I expected, a bit of a "get to know you" general meeting. Fr. D already knew my general story of past use of contraception and now IF (he was a nurse and in the Navy (but not a nurse in the Navy) before becoming a priest - cool, huh?). So, it was easy to get right to some of my emotions.

Leading into my second meeting, I was struggling. Really struggling. I don't often post about it here, but I have a really hard time with this question: "Did I do this to myself?" (meaning: did my 12 years of using contraception cause our IF? Did I do this (IF) to myself?) Now, I do not post this here partly because you are all always so kind and loving that I can hear your comments of love but also partly because so many of you did not use contraception and I'm sure it just rubs salt in your wounds when I share my hurts knowing that I might have, in fact, caused our IF. So, quite often I go to a pretty dark place when I start down this spiral. It is usually pretty fast and all-consuming. And because this is the place I came to process it, and I don't process this part here, the spiral is all that much faster and darker.

Just before my visit last week, I was heading down this spiral and happened to say so in an email to a friend (I was apologizing for sounding so whiny here when "I probably did this to myself."). Her response was nothing more than the hands and feet of Jesus reaching out to me. All day, when I would start down the spiral, I'd reread the email. And when I started my session with Fr. D it was the first thing I told him about - about my struggles with this issue and about the email.

Now, Fr. D's faithfulness to the Magisterium is obviously important, but because of this very issue it is extremely important to me. More important than the fact that he has not done a lot of spiritual direction and more important than whether or not we were coworkers. I needed someone I could trust to be straight with me, not let me BS my way out of things, and not sugar coat the truth when I needed to hear it. And he didn't. But I was still surprised by his answer. While I know that I know that I know that God is not punishing me, when I start down this spiral, it's hard to remember. And he walked me through some questions to determine intent and culpability and got me to a place where, at least in my head when I'm feeling very sane and very rational (which isn't often I'm afraid - darn hormones), I realize that I did not, in fact, do this (IF) to myself. That even if medically, my use of contraception contributed to our IF, it is not something I *did* to myself. It's hard to wrap my mind around, I admit it, but I trust Fr. D.

AND, while all this was important, it is my homework that is even more important. The email I received that I kept going back to is the start of it. I am to keep a binder/journal/something with things (emails, quotes, scripture, letters to myself, etc) that pull me out of the spiral. If I start going down it, I'm supposed to pull out my journal and read the things I've put in it. I have the perfect journal, a gift from Alison over a year ago, that says "Keep Calm and Carry On" on the front - see?, I told you it was perfect. I've got a bunch of things bookmarked and ideas for it so far, I just need to take some time and print them out/write them down. I'm looking forward to some time to do so this weekend.

So often, when our hormones, emotions, lack of sleep, and any other number of things that are part of life occur, it causes us, well me, to lose sight of what I know and believe. It's easier to believe that I caused our IF than to face the unknown; it's easier to believe that God is punishing me than to accept there just might not be an answer; it is much easier to slide right on down the spiral into the dark than to stop myself and claw back to the top and the light. It's nice to know that I know have a place to go to remind myself of what I know and believe.

Different conversations have come up on a couple of blogs and on twitter lately that I have responded with "have you considered spiritual direction?" and I thought it might be nice if I shared one of my experiences with it here. I won't be sharing every detail (for example, I had 4 things to do for homework after our session last week, this is just one of them) here, but when it's relevant and something I think might help someone else, I will share. Certainly, what works for me won't work for everyone, but maybe just

I'm happy to answer any questions you have about spiritual direction, as someone once did for me. You can leave them in the comments and I will answer there or you can email me (RebeccaWVU02 at gmail dot com) if you prefer.


On Hope

This is my fourth cycle on my current chart and I have to tell ya, I'm feeling completely nervous about it. The first cycle was a beauty. The 1 cycle out of 6 that my body decides to cooperate. As it was coming to its end, I found myself full of hope. Dreaming and planning combined with a bit of freaking out while trying to stay grounded in reality. The second cycle was anything but a beauty. A return to my usual weird spotting and AF arriving on P+10. The third cycle, my last one, was surprising. It was a beauty as well. And it was the one time I needed it to be it's usual short, ugly self so I could schedule the saline-sonohysterogram (I can type that word without having to look it up now - just keep it to yourself if I'm spelling it wrong :)). With all of its beauty, came all of the hope. The dreaming and planning combined with a bit of freaking out and trying to stay grounded in reality.

This hope. It is a tricky thing. You see, when I'm dreaming and planning I feel alive and full of energy. I feel joy and look forward to the future. I see beyond our current day to day circumstances. But it's always tempered with trying to be realistic, trying to not set myself for a horrible crash. These months, the crashes have come. The tears are less than they used to be and have been replaced, a little bit, with an overwhelming sense of sadness. A mourning of all of the dreams and plans I had. A mourning of the  new life that is once again not here. Only it was here, if only in my head and in my heart.

There are times I get angry at this hope. Times I wish it wouldn't come and for a while it didn't. Three cycles ago was the first time in a long long time I had allowed myself to hope. That I had embraced it rather than stifle it and relished in the dreams and plans, and even in the freaking out. And this past cycle, I feared the hope, but I cautiously let it take over. And I'm coming to understand that this hope is necessary. At least at this point on our road. While the sadness at CD1 is almost palpable, the hope that will come in a few weeks is like a light at the end of a long, dark tunnel. It is the light that will pull me through the anxiety of my fertile days. And it is the light that will shine, if only for a few moments, so brightly it will warm and soften my cold heart.

I often tell people that once you learn NFP you can't "unlearn" it. And regardless of where our road takes us, whether it is to parenthood or not, whether we continue medical interventions for years or for months, I truly pray that this hope continues to pull me forward during the months when we've asked God to help us create new life. No, the hope doesn't lessen the sadness. It stands as a sharp contrast to it. And the sadness certainly tempers the hope. But the ability to still have hope is one gift of infertility I want to never lose. No matter how painful the cost.


Quick Takes

1 - Latest (and honestly hopefully the last because that would mean all continues to be well) update about my Dad: He got to go home on Wednesday! He's doing really well and mostly just dealing with post-surgery tiredness and some pain at the incisions sites. It was melanoma for sure and, thankfully, the treatment for melanoma is generally to remove it. So it does not seem Dad will have to have chemo or radiation, he will just continue with regular blood work and chest x-rays. Thank-you all so much for all of your prayers, they were felt and appreciated.

2 - Dad got to go home on Wednesday and in my excitement and attempt to not run around my office high-fiving people, I sent a tweet that ended up being a bit cryptic and caused a couple people to think I was pregnant. Considering all the tweet said was "Best. News. Ever.", I can see now, looking back, how that might have been confusing. Honestly, my Dad going home and being OK really was the best news I could imagine that morning and I didn't even think how it would be received - oops! I will think before tweeting in the future (except during a football game).

3 - I'm still kind processing the election results. What it means for our country and our future. One thing I know for sure is that I will be upping my prayers for President Obama and those surrounding him. (I have a full post coming on this topic, I think.) We are quite clearly a house divided with such a close vote and that, more than anything else, troubles me.

4 - For the first time, voters voted in favor of same-sex "marriage". Personally, I am not surprised and in this instance I feel we have built our house on sand. The argument I find most persuasive for allowing two people of the same sex to marry is the one that goes something like this: Heterosexuals have already ruined marriage with affairs, divorce, cohabitation, etc. While I believe marriage is only possible between one-man and one-woman, to someone who does not share or fully understand this belief the argument mentioned is correct. I ask this question: why are we not fighting equally as hard to reform divorce laws and to create a society in which cohabitation is not an "easier" option? We have acted, as a society, like marriage is all about feeling and "love" and when you're not happy any more you can just leave. As a Church, we have done a terrible job of catechizing on the Sacrament of Matrimony and why it is sacred. All this to say, I am not surprised. Saddened, but not all surprised.

5 - This is the one cycle I needed to follow my "typical" pattern and have P+10 turn into CD1 so that I can have the saline-sonohysterogram next week and of course, it's P+14 today. It will be at least December before I can have the procedure done now b/c CDs 6 - 12 will fall when my doctor will not be at the hospital due to Thanksgiving. (As she should not be, please read zero frustration with my doctor, all with my stupid body.) I'm trying to focus on the fact that it was only 1 cycle between "good" cycles this time and not the usual 5 in hopes that maybe my body is figuring out just how it's supposed to work. But it feels more like my body is laughing at me. Ugh.

6 - I'd be lying if I said I wasn't hopeful in light of #5. These "pretty" cycles really do a number on me. I've spent most of my time in the car the last few days riding the roller coaster of hope and caution in my head. It usually goes like this: I start imagining I really am pregnant and telling people and what life will look like - then I try to reign myself back in to reality - then I panic that I might actually be pregnant - then I try to reign myself back to reality - repeat. It's exhausting.

7 - Have any of you seen the Bud Light commercial with the guys who have pre-football game rituals? The tag-line for the commercial is "It's only weird if it doesn't work." Well, as I was discussing my pre-game rituals the other day, The Man was quick to put out that they haven't been exactly working lately. A 3-game losing streak of 2 blow-out embarrassments and 1 double OT heartbreaker are what lie behind us heading into this week's WVU at Oklahoma State game. I'm not gonna lie, there's a part of me that would like to just skip tomorrow and wake up Sunday morning. (Kinda like I felt about Tuesday of this week.) I've got a few new rituals up my sleeve, including a new bracelet my stepmom bought me with the specific intention of hopefully helping to straighten things out (see? She gets me :)). I've already seen reports that it will be windy tomorrow - that doesn't help my nerves a bit. But, because I'm always optimistic and hopeful about my 'Eers, I'll be tuning it at 3:30 and cheering them on. Those of you who follow me on Twitter know what that means! :)

Have a great weekend and be sure to visit Jen for more Quick Takes!


Quick Takes (Updated)

1. Happy Friday Friends! As the custom has gone, I will include my Dad in these Quick Takes. If he only knew how famous he was :)!  Anyway, he is doing really well and would have been out of the cadiac-thoracic ICU yesterday if they'd had a room available on the regular floor for him. Personally, I don't mind him being in the ICU a little longer, the care he is getting is amazing. I know he'll be one of a few patients assigned to his nurse on a regular floor, so I'll just focus on the positive and appreciate the personal attention he is getting.

2. I started the FB Group. It is called Catholic IF - St. Gerard, pray for us. The link is here if you are interested. I'm not sure this link will work because it is a "secret" group. ETA: I was correct, the link didn't work because it is a secret group. So, if you are interested in joining and we aren't already FB friends, friend me on Facebook. ETA: Click here to go to my page and then you can send a friend request. I will accept your friend request and then add you. I know a lot of you are annonymous bloggers and one of the ground rules I created was to respect that and that "what happens in the group, stays in the group".  Email me if you run into trouble or need help :).

3.  And now I will be very vulnerable with you all. I am a people pleaser and peacemaker, if you ask The Man, it is to a fault sometimes. So much that a part of me dreaded making this group because I hated the idea of leaving people out. Now, I do not wish "membership" into this group on anyone, but I also hate the idea that some of you reading this may be feeling hurt or left out because it doesn't apply to you. I don't know what to say other than I'm so so sorry if you feel this way.

4. When I was in the elevator to visit my Dad yesterday, I had on my winter coat, a hat, and gloves. A guy asked me "what are you going to do when it gets cold?". I think my response was good: 1) Don't worry, I have more layers and 2) it was 80 degrees last week! He didn't have any more snarky comments for me. Seriously people, if winter is really here, in October, I think I'm doomed. Yes, I do have more layers, but I am so not ready for cold, drizzly rain and snow. I love the changing of the seasons and I do think the snow is pretty and I enjoy watching Kali play in the snow as she loves to do, however, I am not ready for gray, wet, cold, days. Not. even. close.

5.  Running. Hmm, I think I still do that. I really got out of my routine when taking the days off after the half to recover. I was having some ankle pain that disturbed me a bit, and then I tore my last contact so I had to wear my glasses (and I don't like to run in my glasses) until yesterday, and this just amounts to a bunch of excuses. I am hoping the weather man is right and it's suppossed to be sunny tomorrow - and I can get a run in before we head over for tailgating.

6. This weekend we get to change the clocks and "Fall Back" one hour! Yay for an extra hour of sleep on Friday Saturday (duh!) night - boo for it getting dark in the middle of the afternoon. I really need to be extra good about our meal planning now because nothing results in me on the couch under a blanket faster than getting home in the dark when it's cold out.

7. Well, it's Friday, it's football season, and WVU returns to the field tomorrow. We host TCU at 3:00pm (yay! it's not at noon!) and quite honestly if we don't play better I'm a little concerned at how hostile the stadium will be (towards our own team/coaches). I don't remember ever being as mad as I was 2 weeks ago. Not so much because we lost, but HOW we lost. It was horrible. But, we are {hopefully} moving on and learning from our mistakes. So, tomorrow at 3, I will be full of hope and nerves and sitting in my spot and rooting on my Mountaineers.

Have a great weekend and don't forget to visit Jen for more Quick Takes!


Thankful Thursday

It's been a long time since I've done a "Thankful Thursday", but I have much to be thankful for today, so I thought it was appropriate. This week, I am thankful for...

  • My Dad's surgery went very well. As I write this Wednesday evening, he is resting at the hospital, having kicked me, The Man, my brother, and my stepmom out so we could get some rest as well. (We were all at the hospital at 6:00am.)
  • The pulmonary specialist who was recruited by WVU and is my dad's surgeon. This man is awesome. He specializes in robotic surgery and that was the original plan for my Dad's surgery (to remove the bottom lobe of his left lung). But, after he had loosed the lobe and was preparing to remove it, he noticed that my Dad's veins weren't in the right place/going the right direction (I'm a little fuzzy on these details, the point is: something wasn't right). He didn't want to risk cutting one of the veins or blood vessels when removing the lung robotically, so they decided to do an incision and use traditional surgery methods. This decision most likely saved my dad from losing his entire left lung.
  • That even though it was definitely cancer (of some sort, most likely melanoma from 4 years ago returning), the surgeon said "it's all gone and out of there. end of story." Which means, recovery from surgery is all we are looking at - no chemo and no radiation. So very grateful for this.
  • A good relationship with my stepmom. Yes, we've had our bumps over the years, but we are very close and a big hug and exchanged "I love yous" at the end of the day are good for my soul.
  • Modern technology - I was able to keep my other brother (the one who lives in Texas), up to date on my Dad's progress and allow him to feel as "in the loop" as possible. He will be in town next week and I know a big hug from my dad will do his soul some good.
  • My family's sense of humor.
  • All of your prayers, text messages, comments, emails, everything. To know we were all surrounded in prayer meant so much to me all day.
  • A bit off the topic of my dad's surgery, but for safety for my family during Frankenstorm Sandy. None of us ever lost power and all made it through safely.
  • Finally, for the mountains to the east of us that buffered our town from the damage and blizzards so much of WV experienced.

What are you thankful for this week?