Answers and Permission

What does God want you to do in regards to pursuing parenthood? Have you asked Him? Have you listened for His answer?

Three questions asked by Fr. D. during spiritual direction almost two weeks ago that stopped me in my tracks. The honest answers were: I don't know. Not for a long time. No. And we both knew what I was supposed to do - and so after our session, I went to Adoration and Mass charged to be still and quiet and ask only that first question and to listen for His answer. To clear my mind and heart and fight distraction.

It seems He's been trying to get me stop and listen for a while, because the answer(s) came quickly and clearly and have remained consistent.

Come to me. Sit with me. Rest with me.

Let The Man lead.

There is a difference between giving up and knowing when you've had enough.

These three phrases gave me my answers. And I gave myself permission.

I'll explain each, one at a time.

Come to Me. Sit with Me. Rest with Me.

I am an excellent do-er. Give me specific prayer intentions to pray and I'll do them. Daily Mass? My favorite part of the day. The rosary? Yep. Novenas? Well, no one is perfect, right? But last year when Fr. D. asked me to spend 30 minutes a day listening to God, sitting in silence, The Man's reaction of laughter at the thought of me doing that pretty much sums it up. Only here I was, a year later, sitting before God with more than 30 minutes ahead of me, over an hour in fact, and I was doing just that. Looking back, it is like He was saying to me "It's about time. I've been calling out to you for a long time and waiting for you." In considering this in response to the question "What is Your will for us regarding parenthood?", I started to think perhaps He was calling us to quit medical treatment and charting, which proved a distraction I was able to turn off. His answer was clear: Come to me. Sit with me. Rest with me. I was gifted with real examples of how to do this and in a follow-up session Fr. D affirmed them. No longer does 30 minutes seem impossible, instead my soul is begging for it. He also encouraged me to try to do those 30 minutes in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament at least 3 times a week to start.

Let The Man lead.

As the hour continued on, I saw how overwhelmed I've been with school and work and trying to be failing at being a halfway decent wife and our sex life and charting and doctor phone calls and money and all of it. A couple of weeks ago, when seeing my doctor's office's number on my caller ID, I couldn't answer it. I still haven't listened to the message. I am exhausted. I considered asking The Man if he would keep our chart, and call and make appointments for me, and keep up with my prescriptions. A couple of weeks ago, I ultimately decided not to say anything to him. And yet, during this period of adoration, this is what comes to me, to let him lead.

I really had to ask God if this one was from Him or if I was looking for an "out", someone to blame in 10 years if we never conceive. And He reminded me of this feeling from a couple of weeks ago, of being overwhelmed, of needing to let go of some of the things I handle. And so, when I got home and I filled The Man in on our session I asked him to lead. I asked him to pray about where God is calling us in regards to pursuing parenthood, and I let him know that I was overwhelmed with managing all of the medical stuff on my own and so that I also needed him to pray about how he could help with that. He readily agreed to pray about it and when he's ready we will talk about what he arrives at in prayer.

There is a difference between giving up and knowing when you've had enough.

I saw that quote on Pinterest well over a year ago, maybe more than that, and I remember a feeling of longing for that time; for that time when I would know I'd had enough and would not be giving up. When He would be telling me, it's time to stop. This phrase didn't come to me during the time of adoration, but rather at the end of Mass. I questioned whether it was God and at the same time realized the peace I felt in hearing these words could only come from Him.

And so I left Mass, only briefly stopping to ask Fr. D on my way out if he thought I could have an answer that quickly. To which he said "yes".

I gave myself permission.

I've revisited this question of what is God's will for us in regards to parenthood - do we continue to seek medical treatment? do we keep charting? do we look into adoption? Each time getting the same answers to draw close to God and to let The Man lead. It is clear I am being asked to trust like never before. Like I have never trusted in my life. What is helping me do this is that I've finally given myself permission. Permission to grieve, for however long it lasts.

You see, for a long time I've thought that I couldn't stop seeking medical treatment if I was still sad about not being pregnant; if I still strongly desired motherhood. I thought that because the desire was put on my heart by God, that I had to do all that I could to achieve it. The rational part of me realized this was ridiculous, if only because when I've seen others of you who have left {licit} options on the table this never entered my mind, of course you could still be sad. And so, at some point in the last two weeks, I gave myself permission.

Permission to grieve. To be sad. No matter what The Man decides and then we decide together regarding treatment or adoption, CD1 and the arrival of AF is a perfectly reasonable thing to be sad about. I hope and pray that someday this sadness does not permeate every aspect of my life; that I can hear of a pregnancy and feel only joy; that I won't wonder about a life that could have been. I have realized that day may never come. Infertility might just be the outward sign of the cross of sadness I've been asked to carry, and despite that sadness I can find joy. Joy in Christ. Joy in the peace that has washed over me, that can only come from Him and surpasses all understanding.

And so this is where I'm at. Consciously seeking Him, spending more time in silent prayer than I ever have before or thought it was possible for me to do; awaiting a discussion with The Man; realizing that it may be time to let go and that if it is, it is still OK to be sad.

When I met with Fr. D on Monday, I told him two things. 1) I want to stop reacting and I want to respond. For nearly 4 years now, especially the last 2, I have been in a state of reaction; of dealing with each crisis as it comes and trying to get through it with my sanity and faith both still mostly intact. I am exhausted from this state of reaction. I want to respond. 2) I feel like I am sitting on the edge of great change. I have no idea whether it will be spurred by something positive or negative, but I feel it is coming and I want to respond to it, rather than react to it.


Et et.

Et et.


It is one of the things about being Catholic that most often pierces and heals me all at the same time. So much of the faith is about seemingly incompatible realities - God is both One and Triune; Christ is both human and divine; and more. So often when I am stuck, and cannot figure something out, it comes back to this truth of both/and. Et et.

So too it has been this week.

I will insert a disclaimer here. This is written with brutal honesty from the perspective of a woman who is on the eve of the 4th anniversary of TTC. Never in a million years did I ever imagine this would be my life. Just this evening, The Man said to me "I wish I could make you happier." No amount of words on a page will ever explain the sadness that has overwhelmed me in recent weeks. No amount of words will ever describe the emotions I am feeling.

As part of this disclaimer, I will say that all of what follows is emotion. Fr. D. has been working with me to get me to separate fact from feeling. I realize this is emotion; I realize there are facts at play. Neither realization changes my subjective experience of this. Not today. Not yet.

Last week, Polkadot was brave enough to write about how sometimes even an IF gal feels feelings that bring forth guilt and sorrow at another IF gal's BFP announcement. I left a comment on the post, but it seems blogger ate it. My comment basically said "you are not alone; I have felt this way too." It was a comment that was hard to write, so when blogger ate it, I just clicked away, too exhausted emotionally to write it again. (Sorry, C :(.)

It's actually been more recent that I've had these feelings and to say that guilt accompanies them would be the biggest understatement of the century. I'm not sure which is worse, the sorrow I feel at the announcement or the guilt. There truly is no way to explain the complex emotions that surround a fellow IFer announcing she is pregnant or adopting. And there seems to be a lot of that happening lately. 

But yesterday, a specific one of our own, one who has been a source of hope and inspiration to so many of us finally got her miracle. Yes, I am referring to Amy at TCIE.

It was Amy's comment on my first IF post that made my heart leap, I'd admired her for years before I even knew I was IF and to see her take a moment to comment meant the world to me.

It was Amy's blog that I spent hours upon hours reading the archives, seeking for a way to survive this.

And when I got her text that she had emailed. I knew. 

And the subject line of her email. I knew.

And I rejoiced. I was working and so I could not shout from the rooftops, but I could rejoice.

Joy. Nothing but joy as I celebrated for and with this beautiful friend of mine.


Et et.

When I read her post was when the rest of it happened. The tears came. The sobs came. The guilt came. When the both/and came to be.

I've spent much of the past 24 hours trying to figure out what it was that caused the tears. The sadness. The guilt. And here is what I've come up with.

Something about seeing it on her blog was what made it touch my infertile heart. Before that, it was a friend who I have prayed for, yelled at God on behalf of, and asked that her prayers be answered before mine. Hence the rejoicing.

But the rejoicing didn't stop my pain. And this time it was different. I was not sad because Amy is pregnant and I am not, no, there is only joy there. I sent this in an email to her, never intending to make it public, but honestly, I think it needs to be here. It is such a part of this road, and reminds me so much of a post Amy herself wrote about why does God give us a support system only to take it away? 

You see, once upon a time, when she still had a public blog, B at Hebrews wrote about Infertile Island. About how we are here, and we all want to get off this island and we rejoice when someone leaves, but it still leaves those of us here, right where we are. We have no way of getting ourselves off this island, it is God and God alone who can do that. And when one of our sisters leaves, we rejoice and at the same time we are sad to see her go. Because the island is a little less now.

And so, here is what I said to Amy:
The island of infertility is a little less fun because you are off it, and I am so glad you are gone, but I already miss you.
I miss you so much it hurts.
And I feel awful for that, because I miss you, but as much as I miss you, I am infinitely more glad you are gone from this island.
Because no matter how much any one of us wants to deny it or explain it. Those of us who do not have children, who have never seen a BFP, who have never had the phone call. For us, there is nothing to soothe our hearts. There is no promise, that even in the worst case scenario that we will be reunited with our children in heaven. As Amy said, she is forever more a mother. (And please, I am not comparing the pain of primary infertility with miscarriage, this is a fact. I am aware it brings no consolation.) We are left on this island, ever aware that it is not up to us if or when we will get to leave.

When we leave this island, it is a cause for joy. For rejoicing. For enjoying every. single. moment. of motherhood that comes. Be it a short time on earth or a lifetime. I do not begrudge any one of you who has experienced motherhood, if even only for a moment, any of your joy. Please - rejoice. Dance. Praise God. Give thanks. Celebrate. All of it. For every moment that you rejoice reminds me that all of this pain is real. That it is not made up in my head. That it is justified. That infertility is awful.

That no matter how this turns out, the joy of children is all that I imagine it to be and more. That no matter how fruitful my marriage is, no matter how much joy I experience without children, the joy of children is just as joyful as I think it to be. No, I do not mean that it is the most joyful thing I could experience, that can only be done in fully living God's will for my life - and if that is a life without children, then that is where I shall find true joy. But, this does not mean that a life with children is any less joyful. Both/and. Et et.

And so, tonight I try to wrap my mind around the fact that this island is different. Forever changed. Somewhere there is a new woman shedding her very first tears over a BFN, wondering if anyone else feels like she does, joining us on this island. Changing it in her own way. And one who has encouraged us and supported us and helped to us to embrace this island, to embrace this cross, has finally left.

And so, to you, my dear friend, in addition to all that I said in the email I sent you, I say this:

Congratulations!!! Rejoice and be glad. Thank you for the countless prayers, posts, emails, texts and conversations. Thank you for showing us all how to do this. Thank you for loving us all and embracing each one of us as we got off the boat and slowly, fearfully found our place on this island. Celebrate every moment and feel no guilt, for now you can show us that motherhood is both as wonderful and as hard as we imagine it to be. Both/and. Et et.

I have never been so happy to be so sad in all my life. This island will not be the same without you and I am so so glad you are off of it.

Deo gratias.


The Will of the Spouses, Part 3

Part 1.
Part 2.

When I wrote about TTA even though we were still TTC that first time, I never thought I'd revisit it once, let alone twice. Upon the second writing, I knew that everything wasn't perfect, but I figured we'd checked "TTA" off of our list and would move on.

Until I met with Fr. D. (the first of 3 sessions, 2 before the roller coaster of last cycle began, 1 in the middle of it), and he suggested that we TTA every other cycle. The look on my face must have given away my displeasure anger at this suggestion, because he immediately reminded me that he wasn't telling us what to do, but rather he was asking me to pray about and talk to The Man about this. I didn't have much to say even to that.

I was not so much angry that he was suggesting it, but rather that it needed to be suggested at all - which ultimately led me to realize that once again he was probably right. And, when I suggested it to The Man, his rather quick agreeable response confirmed this.

And so, here we are nearing the end of another cycle having TTA even though we want to conceive. Is this what everyone says when the say "the trying part is fun"? Because I'm not finding this fun.

While it may not be fun, I do find it necessary and if it can be as fruitful as the first 2 TTA months, then it will be worth it for our marriage in the long run. I also won't lie and say that after last cycle, knowing that AF will for sure be coming and no craziness to deal with won't be a bad thing. I also can see clearly how if we were using these "fertile" days, I would be 1) a nervous, anxious disaster and 2) completely baby focused for the 2ww after.

And yet, I am a woman who has had blocked tubes not once but twice. Time is not my friend. But, for the sake of my marriage, that must come secondary.

One of the benefits we talk about when teaching NFP is the conversation each month regarding goals for trying to space or postpone pregnancy. For us, we only had 1 "gray area" month when we went from TTA to TTC, and that was really only because I didn't think we should let the margaritas we'd had make such an important decision for us. It is only now, nearly 5 years later, with more than 3 1/2 years of infertility behind us that we find ourselves in a situation where each month the decision is somewhat unknown; where each month we are asking ourselves first, what is God's will and second, what is for the good of one another, what is the will of the spouses.

I have no middle ground on this. No ability to shrug it off and say "it is what it is." I vacillate between extreme anger or sadness (they almost always go together) and peace. The anger and sadness come at just how much damage was done to our physical intimacy during the years before NFP, yes I was on The Pill, but that wasn't the only bad decision we made. No decision was made to do harm, but the harm that was done is still impacting our marriage. The wisdom of the Church's teaching on the beauty and holiness of marriage and sexuality only becomes more and more clear as we work to undo all of these knots. The anger and sadness also comes when I consider the lost time, when the thoughts like "what if this was the month" start to enter my mind, only to be followed with cynicism and doubt, because what would make this month any different than the last 45 months? The peace comes when I reflect on the healing that is taking place, when I am gifted with moments where I see clearly that this is the life before me and I want to live it. This man who is patient and forgiving and loves me enough to not let all of this damage our marriage.

To those of you who have commented or messaged privately and are dealing with stuff like this, I wish I could tell you that this was all easy and that it would fix everything. I can't because that wouldn't be the truth. It's hard. I think the hardest part of it all is that there is no guarantee it will "work", there is no guarantee that time of "ease" surrounding our physical intimacy will ever come back. It just seems extra cruel that infertility took that away too.