On the Eve of Surgery #2

I'm just about 12 hours away from my second surgery. Not just my second surgery for infertility, but my second surgery ever.

When I think about the path that has led here, I come to one word: obedience. That day in December when the screen of the ultrasound machine clearly showed that I ovulate normally, I knew this is were we were headed. And I dug my heals in, maybe not practically, but spiritually and emotionally, I dug my heals in. I've struggled in ways these past two months that were different than the past years before them. And as I sat down in Fr. D's office on Tuesday, for spiritual direction, confession, and anointing, I knew what the main problem was: anger.

For the first time in 3 years, I've felt anger. Honestly, for the first time in my life I felt real anger. Sure, I get angry at situations or moments, but I get it out and it goes away. I thought I was stunned when I saw that ultrasound screen, but I realize now I was angry. And I stayed angry.

You see, The Man and I had decided. If I didn't ovulate normally, we were done with medical treatment. We didn't know what would come next, but we knew we were done. As much as one can come to peace with that plan before it is put into action, that is where I was at. And as soon as I saw that screen, I knew surgery was next. I hadn't spoken to a doctor or even had a doctor confirm what the ultrasonographer had seen. It came from that place that only can come from God.

And so when Dr. D. made the recommendation, I didn't blink.

When The Man agreed quickly and easily, I didn't blink.

When I scheduled the date, I didn't blink.

And then I saw Fr. D in mid-February, and it was so scattered and so not like our usual sessions,all because of me. I didn't want to hear what he was trying to say to me. It was so bad when I said at the end, I'm so sorry, I don't know what my issue is today, he smiled and said "I think you just needed to get it out." And then, a few days later there was my "Keeping it Real" post. I felt a little better, but not much and not for long.

Then, on Sunday, we went to my Nan's to celebrate my Mom's birthday. It was a near disaster, prevented only because somehow I've learned to just bite my tongue. I won't go into details because they don't matter, but what I realized was how angry I was. At everything and everyone around me. And, quite honestly it scared me because I'm not an angry person. I see the bright side of things, I seek the good in things and people and I don't want to be the person I've been since mid-December.

As I did my examination of conscience to prepare for confession, anger was the theme.

So, as I sat down in Fr. D's office on Tuesday, I was shaking. I had no idea where our session was going to go, but I knew I needed to listen to what he had to say and that I had to figure out this anger. And about 30 minutes in, I finally said it "I am so angry that I have to have surgery again. I just want to go home, have a nice dinner, drink a bottle of wine, make love with The Man, and make a baby. Like a normal person. I do not want to have to do this. I don't want to have to have surgery. I don't want to spend all this money. I don't want to take these days off work. I don't want to have to do this."And relief finally started to come.

I've realized that this surgery is nothing more and nothing less than an act of obedience. He has led me here and whatever comes next, I can say I've done His will to this point. I've not done it well, or gracefully, or even completely willingly, but I have done it and I have to believe that that matters.

Fr. D. and I ended our session, in preparation for my surgery, with the two sacraments of healing: Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick. The details seem too personal, even for me, to share here. I will say I am left with complete awe in the wisdom of our Church to follow the teachings of Christ in the sacraments. There is peace that can only come from God in my heart this evening. A peace that just 3 days ago I wondered if I would ever feel again. It is not a peace absent of anger or hurt or sorrow, but one that is somehow present at the same time.

Thank-you all so much for the prayers you've prayed for us. We are grateful for them and we depend upon them.

Mary, Undoer of Knots, pray for us.


Mary, Undoer of Knots, Pray for Us

A while back, Jelly Belly and I were cycle buddies (we ovulated and got CD1 on the same day). We have also been prayer buddies.  We are in real life buddies.  We are text message and facebook buddies.  And next week we will be "big-things-happening-on-the-IF-front" buddies.

Next week on Tuesday, JB and Mr. JB have their final home study visit and on Thursday I have my second (and most likely final) surgery.  We found out about both of these dates on the same day.

We decided that we would pray a Novena together to support one another in the final days before and throughout all of next week. We are going to be praying the Novena to Mary, Undoer of Knots, found here.  (History on this novena is here.)

We would like to ask you to please join us, beginning today, Friday, February 21 through Saturday, March 1. It's a "big" novena, so if you cannot pray a full rosary each day if you will please pray the meditation and closing prayer. Really, any prayer asking Mary, Undoer of Knots to intercede for us will be appreciated so much.

There is so much more that I could say, specific intentions, thoughts on those intentions, and more, but when I consider Mary under this title, Undoer of Knots, that just seems to say it all.

Please add your own intentions below and we will include them in our prayers as well.

(Oh, and yes, this was one of the posts that just needed that "extra" paragraph talked about in my last post. Wow, did that all just need to come out. Perhaps a small knot has been untied already....)


Keeping it Real

So, I have a bunch of posts in draft form. All on pretty "deep" spiritual topics. All just needing a paragraph or two to finish them. But I've been stuck on them all for a while now. Some longer than others, but I just haven't been able to finish them.

And then Simcha posted a request from one of her readers for someone to write about infertility (secondary infertility specifically) the way that Simcha writes, in a "real way" that isn't all Holy and that says that infertility sucks. (Edited to add: this certainly isn't the way that Simcha writes, she's awesome. But this will say that infertility sucks. Points for meeting 1/2 the criteria?)

I was convicted about what I do here in a way that made my "stuckness" about the draft posts make sense. I realized that if this here blog is giving the impression that I am "holy" and perfect at "offering it up", well then you all have a very different picture of what infertility is like, for me at least. I also realized that what all of those posts in draft form are missing is a paragraph that goes something like this:

"I've just written all of these beautiful (I hope), spiritual thoughts. And I want to believe them. I want to feel them in every fiber of my being and I want them to be true. Occasionally, for fleeting moments, they are true. But honestly? I just want to be a mom and infertility sucks. It sucks big. fat. donkey. balls."

Eloquent, no?

So, in hopes of not negating posts that exist and that are to come regarding the spiritual journey I'm trying to go on - I give you my "keeping it real post."

Infertility sucks.

It attacks everything I am - as a woman, as a wife, in my femininity, in my ability to use my mothering gifts, as a daughter, as a sister. Every. single. thing. is tainted and attacked because my body is broken. It doesn't work.

I am jealous and devastated over pregnancy announcements.

I've avoided baby showers and bridal showers for the past 3 years.

I used to love children, being around them - I was a teacher for goodness sakes, a preschool teacher - and now I avoid them. I sit far away from them in church and I long for daily Mass with the old ladies and me.

I have anger, deep-rooted-want-to-yell anger, lots of times, but especially when there is an intention at Mass for "mothers".

I sob before and after intercourse with my husband because, well, in our world sex does not equal babies. (Not every time, but at least once per month. Once ever is cruel, repeatedly is devastating.)

I see pregnant teenagers and I wonder why God lets them get pregnant and not me.

I am having a second surgery next week - to determine the extent of my brokenness.

I spend hours crying myself to sleep - asking God "why". I walk a very thin line of understanding that I did not, in fact, do this to myself because of being on The Pill for so long.

I have moments of insight, moments of reprieve, moments of clarity and understanding, but they don't last - and they are always replaced with deeper questions, deeper fears. It is the largest onion to be peeled in the world.

I don't want to be a spiritual mother - I want to be a physical mother.

I don't want to "have" to adopt - I want to make a baby with my husband.

I don't want to have to explain why one does not, in fact, "just adopt."

I don't want people to feel sorry for me - or not know what to say to me - or feel like they have to walk on eggshells around me - or talk about me behind my back.

I don't want to snap, hard, at a new priest who was truly just trying to be helpful.

I don't want to plan infertility retreats and start FB groups.

I wish not a single one of us knew each other because of infertility, but rather because we met at "mommy and me" groups and in Catholic moms groups online.

I hate this as badly for you, my infertile sisters, as I hate it for me. In fact, I hate it for you more. If I could fix it for you I would. Which only makes me hate it more, because I cannot fix it for you.

I don't want to ponder how our marriage is fruitful in other ways.

I don't want to dig deep into Church teaching and documents to answer questions about a marriage that is childless being fruitful, and full sacramental.

I dread small talk. I'm an extrovert - I love people. I dread being asked the "getting to know you questions." I avoid meeting new people for this reason.

I have no motivation to run because I am having surgery again and won't be able to run the Pittsburgh half after all.

I feel invisible. Alone. Left behind. Useless.

And I could keep going, but if you've read it this far, to spare you, I shall stop.

I truly do not write all of this to make anyone feel bad, or uncomfortable or even to ask for your prayers (though prayers are always appreciated). I write it because I think I need to get it out. I know it's harsh and rough.

It is real.

If I've hurt you by these words, I am truly sorry. If you've read this and for even a moment thought that you are less alone, then maybe it is worth it.

Or maybe it just contributes to the notion that infertile women are crazy. I don't know.

For those fleeting moments that I believe and feel all of the spiritual stuff that is here, I will continue to write them. To explore them. To try to make sense of all of, this. If I don't, the pit of sorrow, self-pity, and despair that is waiting to swallow me up will win. It will not win. All of this will not win. I'm too stubborn for that. (Hey, maybe I do have a bit of fight in me after all?!?!)

 But, for those nights when the tears come, those moments when I want to run and hide, if I am to be honest about this road on which I am, then I must write this as well. Otherwise, I deny that girl who feels all of this, and I make myself truly invisible.


Shared Tears

This post is late in coming, for lots of reasons, but it is important. Last weekend, The Man and I had the opportunity to speak to a group of NFP Teachers about infertility. We are also teachers, and we are working on being trained to teach teachers, but this was the first time this presentation had been given.

Oh, we also got to go to Texas and missed the latest round of snow - 13" was waiting for us when we arrived home.

This part (well, the Texas part, not so much the snow part) is important because as we got ready to go the day before, I could feel the tension starting. I was nervous and I could tell The Man was nervous. I tried my best to not snap at him and start a fight (as I'm soooooo good at doing), and we made it to Houston fight-free. Nothing short of miraculous there.

Just before our presentation we did very Rebecca and The Man type things - I rearranged my stuff and made sure that everything I might need was perfectly organized (like tissues and my notes) and The Man went out for a quiet walk alone. (Later I found out he found a statue of Mary and spent some time with her. I love this man.)

As we started, The Man read this quote from Pope Benedict XVI, that has come to mean so very much to me:
The Church pays much attention to the suffering of infertile couples, it cares for them and, because of this, encourages medical research. The science, nevertheless, is not always able to respond to the  desires of many couples. I would like again to remind the spouses who experience infertility that their vocation to marriage is not frustrated because of this. The husband and wife, because of their baptismal and matrimonial vocations themselves, are always called to work together with God in creating a new humanity. The vocation to love, in fact, is a vocation to the gift of self and this is a possibility that cannot be impeded by any organic condition. Therefore, where science cannot find an answer, the answer that brings light comes from Christ.

And then we just started to share about what infertility is like, really like. I honestly barely remember the words I said, they just came out, along with a lot of tears. Way more tears than I ever shed in public. I promised myself that I would honor Joe and Cinda's request to share authentically and not allow myself to be all "business".

But what I do remember is this: looking around a room and seeing a room full of others who will hopefully never a day in their life know the pain of infertility, 2 of them holding babies, sharing my tears. There were a couple of others present who have experienced infertility and I had to steer clear of their eye contact, I knew the tears that were streaming down my face would only give way to the "really ugly" cry if I locked eyes with someone who "gets it."

It wasn't only the tears though. It was that not a single person leaned away from us. Or acted visibly uncomfortable. No, they leaned in. They sought my eyes. They were willing to see the pain, willing to sit in it. Willing to love through it.

Infertility is so isolating. The invisibility of it only makes it worse in so many ways.

But so often, whether it's infertility or something else, what causes us pain causes others to be uncomfortable. We want to "fix" and to "cheer up" and to "make better", when what we most need is just someone to sit with us and be comfortable doing so. For just over an hour last Saturday, many people sat with us and were comfortable doing so, and in that we were comforted.

We were given positive feedback, and I'm hopeful that what we did say will somehow help another infertile couple.

But. I am quite confident that we received much more than we gave.

Joe and Cinda, I know you read here and to anyone else who was there last weekend who might be reading here, from the bottom of our hearts we say thank-you for all that you gave us, and for loving us. We are grateful.


My Pain or His Pain?

Recently, after another baby announcement, followed by yet another reminder to myself that this is about my pain, I had a realization - all the times I've pushed on His bruises (the analogy I use: the bruise is always there, can be almost forgotten about until pushed on, and then it hurts) - all the times I've twisted the nails - by denying Him, by turning away from Him, by questioning Him, by not trusting in Him or believing He is enough.

Suddenly, aligning my suffering with His started to make sense. In all those moments when my pain is pushed, I am experiencing what He experienced, He experiences every time we sin; every time we doubt; every time we turn away. I am reminded that in Christ's walk to Calvary and in the hours he hung on the cross He took on all sins from the beginning of time to the end of time, and that includes MY sins.

This gave me a totally new understanding of redemptive suffering. Of offering it up. Of uniting my pain with Christ's and allowing myself to be sanctified, just as He was.

I'm going to a baby shower today. The first one since we've been TTC. I've avoided all others in the past 3 years until now - either by deliberate choice or by an actual schedule conflict. There is a pit in my stomach and every single fiber of my being has kicked in to major "flight" response.

My prayer is that I do this with grace. That I find joy in this sweet baby and mama and that I am able to efficaciously unite my suffering to Christ's. I will be specifically offering this afternoon up for all those mamas who are facing an unplanned or difficult pregnancy, that they may also find joy in the life within them.

It is about my pain, but only in so far as it is about His pain.