What is My Responsibility?

Updated to add: Hebrews posted a companion piece to this "from the other side" so to speak. Please go read it too :).

Ever since I started reading blogs about infertility (long before I knew I would someday join in), I noticed that often when a once-infertile gal becomes a mommy she disappears for a bit. There are some very practical reasons for this, while I can't speak from experience, I'm thinking being sleep deprived and having a new person rely on you for all of their needs while not always able to communicate those needs might just be part of the reason. Yes, I do think so.

However, so many of you have written how, in addition to sleep-deprivation and a whole new way of living, it is also hard for you to blog post-IF or childlessness (because we all know adoption cures the latter, not the former.) Often, (and I'm generalizing and simplifying I realize this), the reason for this difficulty is out of a concern to not want to hurt others with your posts and pictures of life with a child(ren).

I've written before about Why I Need Your Stories. And Thelma's words here echoed that sentiment.

In light of Alison's started series (and a few emails we exchanged coupled with other conversations I've had), I've been doing a lot of reflecting on this whole relationship between all of us infertile gals. Those who still wait, those who will never have children, those who adopt, those who give birth. While our roads are all different - from our treatment choices to outcomes to impact on marriages to more - they feel most different when we are trying to bridge that gap between being a mother and not.

What I've noticed, from both those who still wait and those who are now mothers, is that the pressure all seems to fall on the shoulders of those with children. That it is up to those who were once infertile/childless to be sensitive to those of us who still are. That, somehow, we who still wait have nothing in this. Yet, I ask is it really reasonable to expect someone whose life changed drastically in the blink of an eye when that second pink line appeared or the phone rang to not share about said change?

Will what a new mom shares sometimes stir feelings of pain for those of us who want nothing more to be a new mom? Yes. Will what is shared sometimes be hard to read? Yes.

But isn't it the same for those of us who still share about infertility? Don't our posts still stir feelings of pain in others? Are our posts never hard to read? The feelings are not exactly the same, but the answer, for me anyway, is still "yes."

This leads me, finally, to the title of this post. To the question I've asked myself and I am encouraging you to ask yourself.

What is my responsibility?

I've written before about how I realized that so often what I was blaming someone else for was really about my pain. I still have to remind myself daily that this is the case. That what I'm reading, or hearing, or seeing is usually not what is actually causing the pain, but rather it is reminding me of the pain. Whether a pregnant woman walks into Subway or not (to use Alison's example :)), I'm still sad and hurt that I'm not pregnant. Sure, I might have forgotten for a nano-second that I'm sad and hurt and her presence reminds me, but that is a very different thing than to say it causes the sadness or the hurt.

With blogging, about a year and a half ago I could barely log in to my blog or visit anyone else's. It seemed I was assaulted with BFPs and bumps and babies from every direction. But I knew that I needed to blog for my own sanity, so I had to figure out a way to do it. What I found out was that by separating my blogs into two groups (I need simple), one group of blogs by women who are not yet mothers and one group of everyone else. I changed my side bar to include titles only from those who are not yet mothers, and just blog titles of everyone else. I also carried these same groups into my reader (I now use Feedly) and I set my default "landing page" for my reader to the group of not yet mothers. When I'm not up for reading about pregnancy, or seeing adorable pictures of kiddos, I just don't check in on the other group. I know the feeling will pass and I'll wonder how my friends are doing, but by making it my choice to check in rather than just scrolling through and being caught off-guard by a ton of photos or "cutest sayings ever" (and they are - I mean that sincerely :)), I am choosing to check in for them.

With Facebook, well, it's a little more challenging, and I frequently have to remind myself that "it's about my pain." And, if I'm honest with myself, the only reason I keep my FB account is because I want "my turn." I'm waiting for the day I get to post my ultrasound picture. It seems as much a rite of passage these days as anything. If I know I'm having a bad day or rough time, I just don't log in to FB, or if I do, I quickly click in the IF group without acknowledging anything in my newsfeed.

Also, on days I'm feeling good, I make a point to catch up on "everyone else." To seek out the pictures, to post comments of love and support, to check in on my friends. I may not read posts as quickly or comment as often, but I do read them all and I pray for you every day.

Finally, I am quick to move someone from one group to the next when it's appropriate. As soon as the BFP or phone call is announced, I log in and make the change. If someone I'm reading and is listed under "everyone else" has never mentioned IF and does, I log in and make the change. Sometimes it's sad how short the list in the "still waiting" group gets, but I try to remind myself that is proof of miracles and to be grateful for it. I long for the day that list is completely empty.

I don't mean to sound like I have all the answers. I don't pretend to. This is what has worked for me (and if you aren't sure how to separate things into groups or turn off titles, let me know, I can walk you through it - it's pretty easy :)) and I hope it helps you, if you are still waiting, to figure out what works for you too.

And again, to those of you who are "on the other side" and are trying to figure out how to blog as a mommy after infertility, please keep posting (really, sleep is overrated ;)). Please remind us that motherhood is as wonderful and as hard and as rewarding and as humbling as we dream it is. Without your reminders, we start to wonder if it's all in our heads. Also, we, as you know, have lots to offer up for you.  Finally, be patient with us if it takes us a while to comment, or if we don't comment as often. Please remember it's not that we don't still love you and pray for you, it is about our pain. We'll catch up when we can, and in the meantime, if you'll offer up your struggles as a mom for us, we will feel the prayers and know the love of Christ. If this bloggy community has taught us nothing it is that our prayers are powerful and the Body of Christ is beautiful.

Updated to add: Hebrews posted a companion piece to this "from the other side" so to speak. Please go read it too :).


The Spiritual Plan

In my last post, I mentioned both an e-mail to Dr. D. and a meeting with Fr. D. I figured I'd break up the "plan" from/with each of them into separate posts.

We'll start with the "spiritual" plan.

So, Fr. D. surprised me and said "sure, go ahead and white-knuckle through the next 6 months, I'll be happy to help you pick up the pieces afterwards."

Or not.

Obviously, that is not what he said. But, what he did say resulted in The Man literally laughing out loud when I recounted my session with Fr. D.

You see, I'm a choleric. I like a task to focus on. Give me something to read, I'll read it. Give me specific prayers to pray, I'll pray them. Though, I have been in a bit of a "prayer-slump" lately. I go to daily Mass, I intercede for others, and I say a morning "Our Father" with The Man. But that's been it. Even my commuting rosary has become nearly non-existent. Often Mass leads to some good contemplation and reflection, so that helps, but not always. But generally, give me something to accomplish and I'll accomplish it. (See why this whole infertility thing is so tough for me?)

So, I told Fr. D "my prayer life is in the crapper." (Yes, I really said that. And, for the record, I don't recommend saying that unless you are ready for what is going to come next.) I proceeded to explain that I needed him to guide me through the next months, years maybe because I know I need to pray my way through this whole "treatment without white knuckling" process, but I'm not sure where to start. I rambled ridiculously for about 2 full minutes before finally saying "I'll just shut up now."

And then he said, "well, you have intuited what you need to do. It was the suggestion I was going to give you. You need to pray."

So I asked, "well, yea, but how. Like with spiritual reading or forcing myself to do the Hours, or what?"

"Nope. At least 30 minutes a day of nothing but prayer, following the 90-10 rule of 90% listening, 3% talking/asking. So that's 27 minutes of listening, 3 minutes of asking. So that gives you about one or two questions to ask God, maybe "what do you want from me" or "what is Your Will for my life" or "how should we proceed with regards to infertility." And then you just listen. And journal. Journal what you hear, being careful not to journal what you think"

He saw me fidget and squirm and continued, "you'll probably spend a lot of the time just clearing your mind in the beginning. You'll have to firmly quiet the other thoughts that want to take over."

To which I said, "but my grocery list is SO much less threatening to think about than God's will for my life."

He knows me, smiled gently and said, "I know. That's the point."

And with a few more guidelines (like reminding me no rosary and that my commute time was not the time to do this, this was time for just me and God. period.) and some more info on the journaling part, our time was up.

As I got into the car and started reflecting on our session (as I always do since I have an hour drive home from Fr. D's parish), it occurred to me, The Man was going to find this most funny because this is how he prays. He is a beautiful contemplative soul who was taught, by his dad growing up, to meditate and just be and listen.

This is why we go round and round about trying to pray together. I want to pray the hours, a rosary, read the daily mass readings. The Man wants to contemplate. To sit. To listen.

And now, Fr. D was telling me to do just that.

I know I need to get my "scripted" prayer life back on track with my rosaries and Liturgy of the Hours. I am going to go back to the Magnificat prayer booklets because the full Liturgy of the Hours is just depressing by myself. It speaks so beautifully to me when on retreat and in groups, but daily, by myself, I just don't have the same love for it. While the prayers in the Magnificat are there for Morning, Evening, and Night, they also tie beautifully to the Mass readings for the day and are abbreviated. I have much respect for our clergy and religious who must pray the hours faithfully.

But with this renewing of my scripted prayer life. I will also be setting aside my 30 minutes per day. I'm going to set up a prayer space in one of our spare bedrooms in hopes of limiting my distractions. A favorite candle, my journal, an iPod dock (for classical music or nature sounds only) and comfy slippers are already waiting for me.

It seems so easy to say: 30 minutes of silent prayer time each day. Let go and let God.

Yet, I know this may well be the most challenging thing I've ever done.


What He Wants

I procrastinated an entire month, and I got to go on another roller coaster in the process, but tomorrow morning an e-mail is going to Dr. D. and the FCP who does cycle reviews to begin the process of re-starting medical treatment.

I also have my next appointment with Fr. D. and will be following up on some of our last conversation in which he really challenged me (as usual, so I'm not gonna lie, I'm a little nervous. In a good way, but still.)

It is appropriate that these two things will happen on the same day. When I went in to see him last month, I had our "plan" and laid it out:

We were going to schedule an appointment with Dr. D. and give this all one more try. For 6 months we'd do whatever she suggested and go "all in", so to speak, as it relates to TTC. This seemed reasonable to me, knowing that at the end of the 6 months we'd be celebrating our 10th anniversary, I will turn 35 in the middle of the 6 months, and we'd be closer to 4 years than 3 of TTC. Then, if at the end of those 6 months we had not yet conceived, I felt like I would be able to say enough was enough and move on - either to living life as 2 or considering adoption or foster care.

I was very intense about this plan, both when I presented it to The Man and asked him to pray about it and when I shared it with Fr. D. I could feel myself gearing up for the 6 months.

And then, Fr. D asked "why does it have to be so intense?" "Why does it have to be all or nothing?" "Why 6 months?" I shared my reasons and quickly realized I was missing something. He pointed out that even during this medical break, the emotions have still been there. The roller coaster has still gone on, why did I think it would go away.

From there, he referenced my running and said why does it have to be a sprint? Why can't I approach it as a marathon, trusting my doctor, doing things one step at a time and not being so intense about it? He admitted he wasn't even sure it was possible, but was asking me why I thought it wasn't.

I was silent. I had no answer. I had never thought about it that way. I didn't like it, but I was wiling to consider it.

Could I pursue treatment, take my meds, give myself shots, chart meticulously and not let it become all consuming? Could I do it with balance and a sense of peace?

I said I wasn't sure, but I was willing to think and pray about it. (And I half-jokingly asked if he was willing to meet with me every Monday for the next 15 years.)

When I told The Man of Fr. D's suggestion, he smiled and said "please tell Fr. D. 'thank-you'." Ah, my ever-calm, ever patient husband.

But something just wasn't sitting right. I was feeling it in my gut and I couldn't put my finger on it. I emailed a friend and she put the "it" into words when she said this:

I can see the tremendous emotional death that would have to come in order to {do this}.

Yep. That's "it."

And as I've spent the last few weeks reflecting on this, wondering if it is even possible. Knowing that just saying that sentence won't get me anywhere because isn't taking up our cross about death? So, what is it that makes me want to run from this; that makes me want to just say "I reflected on this, it's impossible, so let's just focus on white knuckling through the next 6 months and then dealing with the outcome." (And believe me, I know that won't go over well at all with Fr. D.)

The conclusion I've come to is this: first it's the cyclical nature of infertility. It's that there is never really enough time to grieve one cycle before having to start the next. It is that life goes on around me, while I stand in my own little storm that is invisible to everyone around me. There is nothing linear, just "move on" about infertility. Yes, as time passes there is change and hopefully growth, but this most recent failed cycle was as heart breaking as the first, maybe even more. While things get easier in some ways, they just get harder in others, and it can depend on the minute of the day without much indication of how it will go.

Also, with treatment, comes hope. Hope for healing. Hope for getting the "right" combination. And all at the same time, the understanding that it's really all up to God. Which is why stopping treatment doesn't make the roller coaster stop. I learned this very painful lesson just last week.

It is this hope that, in order to do this peacefully and not white knuckled, also leads straight to the cross.

Because it's the hopes for all the dreams I've dreamed for years, years before even TTC, that are crushed each cycle. That are not realized. So it is those hopes I must figure out how to have peacefully and not white knuckled. Because, frankly, I white knuckle those too. The intensity with which I allow myself to feel them during the 2ww each cycle, while it gives life to me in so many ways, it is as all consuming as CD1 and as the "fertile" time.

Today's Gospel really hit this point home for me. In order to fully take up my cross and follow Him, I must hate my own life; I must renounce all of my possessions. My hopes and dreams for a child are certainly possessions, if not in a physical sense, certainly in an emotional, spiritual sense. To truly say Fiat, to say be it done unto me according to Thy Word, and mean it, I have to let go. Let go, and let God.

So, tomorrow, I will ask Fr. D to help me begin this process of letting go of these dreams. These dreams that I cling to. That I white knuckle each cycle. The hopes and dreams I rarely speak of and yet are as prized a possession of anything tangible that I have, truly, more prized. If I am to make it through the next however many cycles and years, with or without treatment I realize I have to let go of everything, of my obsessive need to control treatment, of the intense pressure I place on myself while managing meds, of the extreme hopes I place on treatment cycles, and, perhaps most importantly, of all that I want.

I must only want what He wants.


Not Today

So much is swirling around in my head and in my heart right now.

AF sent me on another roller coaster this month (don't worry, she's definitely here, no BFP announcement to see here). I was convinced she'd arrived on Sunday, even told 2 friends I was texting with she had. But then, she seemingly went away. And Monday, the same.

Today, potential P+17. Again.

Never before, and now 2 out of 4 months?

I did not test this time. I didn't get anyone else's hopes up. I've learned my lesson.

But, oh, why is there always a 'but'? But, I did stop living my life for the week. I've been exhausted for about a week and a half. I had no pre-AF spotting. I convinced myself I might be pregnant. I clung to that hope and rode it.

And I didn't run.

I'm so angry at myself. 2 months away from a marathon and I don't run for an entire week?

What the....?

Yea, I really did convince myself. Sure, in moments of sanity I enjoyed a couple of drinks with Alison and at the game on Saturday, but in the early morning hours when I'd wake up to no sign of AF I didn't run. I let myself believe; I clung to my hope, the hope I wanted to be there.

I had plenty of reasons to be exhausted. Plenty of sane, reasonable reasons. But I let myself do it again - believe I was pregnant.

And, well. It's definitely not P+17 (Let's just pretend it's before midnight on Tuesday that I'm typing this, Ok? Thanks.) It's definitely CD1.

And I've got tears. Sad tears and angry tears all mixed up together.

It was our last cycle before reaching 3 years TTC, and so here we are. Sept. 22 will be the third anniversary of our first NFP "rule breaking." I know, I have the draft blog post saved to prove it.

I've reread the words I wrote and I can barely remember that girl. So innocent. So full of hope. So nervous she'd get pregnant on the first try and hurt all of these wonderful IF bloggers she'd been reading and following. Oh, what she didn't know.

It seems like another life. Like something I watched in a movie long ago and can only vaguely remember.

Today's Responsorial Psalm was: I believe I shall see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living.

Three years ago, I would have found such hope, such beauty in those words. Today, I choked back tears. I fought cynicism and doubt.

I wish I could tell you I had some great revelation or insight. I don't. Not today.

All I feel is my brokenness; my barrenness; my emptiness.