Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Missing: 55* Million

Can you imagine the headlines, the screaming to DO SOMETHING!!! if 1.2 million American children were dying each year from a single disease or were kidnapped or trafficked? And yet much of the country chooses to look away or worse, considers those children an acceptable sacrifice to convenience and choice when those defenseless children are killed before birth. 

Since Roe v. Wade constitutionalized abortion (see this article for a full description about how the Supreme court decision purported to end the disagreements over abortion)  throughout the U.S., 55* million children have died. 55* million people who would have been someone's child, maybe someone's sibling, someone's spouse, someone's parent are instead just gone. Instead of being recognized and known as an individual, they are left as nothing more than a fraction of a statistic. 

Since 1980, there have been between 1 and 2 billion abortions worldwide. To put that into perspective, do you know how many people were killed as a result of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami in March 2011? Only 15,883 died. The AIDS epidemic? 1.6 million died in 2012; since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, 35 million people have died. Yet how much more money and attention has been spent on researching and treating HIV/AIDS than preventing abortion? 

In some communities, even in some countries, sex selective abortions have warped the gender ratio. Throughout much of Asia, the sex ratio is heavily biased towards males (see this article and this one), to the point that there are an estimated 163 million missing girls. The upper limit of the natural sex ratio is 106 boys for 100 girls born, but in some regions that ratio is now as high as 126 to 100. In China these excess young men are known as barren branches. In some areas this has led to an trafficking in women for brides or to staff brothels (this article describes the situation in China). Throughout history, an excess of males has led to increased violence and social unrest.

The simple fact is that life isn't convenient; unwanted singleness is inconvenient; IF is inconvenient. Suffering and struggle are inconvenient, but they are an inherent part of life. Yes, there are many women for whom pregnancy is a true crisis. Unfortunately only about 1% of them will consider adoption. Despite population growth, the number of infant adoptions in the U.S. has plummeted from about 90,000 in 1971 to 18,078 in 2007. To my mind, worst of all are those who suggest that it is better that those children be killed rather than be raised by adoptive parents. 

Today was the March for Life; coming up in a about a month and a half is the start of 40 Days for Life. Many who struggle with IF, including me, have a difficult time participating in such activities. But each of us, in our own way, is being called to testify to the dignity and value of human life. We can support pro-life legislation, such informed consent laws and adoption tax credits. Even if we cannot go to the March or pray outside a clinic, we can pray and fast. We may not be able to volunteer at a crisis pregnancy center, but we can donate, even in small amounts (like this baby bottle campaign or a similar one here). Even if we do not adopt, we can encourage and support those around us who are discerning adoption or who have adopted. It's not always easy for family and nearby friends to understand and support a couple through the adoption process, so our support is even more necessary. 

Most difficult of all, if we know someone experiencing a crisis pregnancy, we can do our best to support her. I have not always been as supportive as I would like towards our step-niece, whose first pregnancy was unplanned and a challenge, but in recent years, I have been making more of an effort (she is still struggling in raising her two children). (It can be very easy to be angry, not so much at the person experiencing an unwanted pregnancy, but at God for 'giving' a baby to someone who does not want or is not prepared for one, but that is temptation we must struggle to resist. The woman experiencing a crisis pregnancy is suffering no less than we are, though in a completely different way.) The tears and mourning of those who have miscarried give potent testimony that it was not just a clump of cells or a blob of tissue, it was a child that was lost. The longing and heart break of those suffering from infertility can be a priceless witness to the value of human life. Each of us in some way can make a difference in supporting a culture that values each and every human life.

*Other sources suggest numbers between 52 and 58 million.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Ugly Sweater

I was probably 14 or 15 that Christmas, and someone was sick that year. I don't remember if it was me, my brother, or my grandparents, but due to someone's illness, my father's parents didn't come over on Christmas Eve that year, which was unusual. Most years they spent Christmas Eve with us (my father was an only child, and they lived 20 minutes away). I knew my grandmother would give me a sweater because I got a sweater for every conceivable gift giving occasion. To give you some perspective, over the course of the years (pre-teen to early adulthood), I received 2 Christmas sweaters, a Christmas vest, an Easter sweater, and countless non-seasonal sweaters. I still have a few of them, but I've also sold and donated many. 

Getting back to this particular Christmas, with my grandparents not present, I somehow felt it was acceptable to voice my true reaction when I opened that year's sweater. Ugly doesn't really begin to describe it: it was a brownish grey, with flecks of many, many colors, almost as if it had been worn by someone doing a lot of painting. I expressed my disapproval of it, undoubtedly as only a teenager could. And boy, did I catch it from my mother. Little did I know that my mother had helped pick out this monstrosity. She thought the brownish grey would hide dust and dirt well, and the zip front would help make it practical for me when I was working at the stables or riding. 

When I got that sweater I hated it. It wasn't until years later, when I went back to riding (after many years away due to a knee injury) that I was able to appreciate it. I'm not sure I would have ever called it my favorite, but that sweater served me well. 

I am slowly starting to see IF as that ugly sweater: something I never wanted but that is coming to serve me well. Because of IF my faith has been tested time and time again; I cannot just drift through, going to Mass, believing but not fully taking my faith to heart. Because of IF I know that I owe my husband all of me: the good, the horrible, the in-between. I owe him the tears and the screaming fits as well as the apologies for being difficult. I know that we have to be able to talk about anything and to actually do so; there will be no waking up 20 years down the line and realizing that that now the kids are gone, we have nothing to talk about. IF is making me more compassionate towards others, no matter what they are suffering, even if it hasn't done a thing for my lack of patience. 

I'll leave you with Sara Groves' "What I Thought I Wanted," which describes so much of how I feel about IF.

Monday, January 13, 2014


Have you ever been just-ed? I'm guessing you have, even if you didn't call it that.

Within an IF context, probably the two most common justs are

  • Why don't you just do IVF?
  • Why don't you just adopt?
Sometimes that "Why don't you just adopt?" is coupled to "And then you'll be pregnant in no time." I got that one during confession; needless to say, that wasn't one of my better experiences with the sacrament of reconciliation. (In a single context, it might be "Why don't you just join an online dating site?" or "You just need to lower your standards.")

That one little word, that four letter word completely changes the implication of the sentence. Instead of coming across as simple curiosity about your choices, it implies that this option is so obvious, so easy, that this person knows so much better than you do. How could you possibly not see that? (Gee, why didn't I think of that? [hits head against nearest hard surface]) As frustrating and annoying as those justs are, we should try to see that they come from a place of misinformation and ignorance. (In a singles context, just try to think about how long it's been since that person faced the cesspool of the dating world. Once you're done laughing, read on.)

If your information about IF and adoption came from People and the latest celebrity news, you would probably think it was that easy, too. Oh, who's had IVF lately? Twins, you say? Where have the Jolie-Pitts gone to pick up their latest child? (Okay, I'll admit that there is some snark in that summation, but it also describes the surface level of information many have with regards to IF and adoption.) If you just listened to the popular press, IVF is simple, easy, effective, and doesn't cost an arm and leg; while hopefully none of them think adoption is quite as easy as depicted in Despicable Me or Annie, most people will have no clue how much time, money, and red tape are involved. 

As much as a challenge as it can be to stay calm and patient when you've been just-ed, it can be an opportunity to educate. I usually start with "There is no 'just' involved" then explain why their simple, straightforward option is nothing of the sort. There's one other thing we can do - police our own language and make sure that we aren't just-ing friends or family about their choices. Who knows, they might even thank you. If we're really lucky, we can start a movement and eliminate this unfortunate use of the word just.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Inanimate Objects Don't Lie (And Other Lessons from Today)

Before I say anything else, I want to start with a giant "Thank You!" All of your thoughts, hugs, and prayers have meant so much to me as I have struggled with impatience, mixed emotions, and high hopes. 

I had it all planned out: I wasn't going to stay up too late Saturday night, but long enough so that I would fall asleep easily. Then I would wake up early Sunday, get a positive test, and leave a message so I could have the blood work done on Monday. Of course none of it worked out like that. An upset stomach kept me awake (and running to the bathroom) until 1 am, then I woke up at 5 am. I figured it would still be okay to test, since it was P+17, right? As I sat there, anxiously waiting for the darn blinking hourglass to finish up so I could go back to bed, I didn't really doubt that it would be positive. Clear as day, though, were the words "Not pregnant." (I have a general policy against messing around with "is there a line? Maybe that's a line?" I skip straight to digital, in black and white.) I managed to convince myself that the negative test was surely because it had only been 4 hours, and so the concentration was too low. I would get a better night's sleep tonight, and that positive test would be mine tomorrow. With that happy thought (and a temporarily calm stomach), I went back to sleep. But when I got up for the second time, I noticed what might be the start of spotting. (Of course I didn't want to believe it.) But as the day has worn on, the spotting has increased; it's now at the point where I'm just waiting for day 1 to arrive. 

If you guessed that I've been a mess today, you would be right. (Sadly, I have no prizes to give away. Better luck next time?) I have, however, managed to get boxes ready for recycling, tidy the basement, put away dishes, and do a load of laundry. That and play way too many mindless match 3 type games. I talked to my mom; hoping that would help. She tried, really she did, but the line that stuck out in the whole hour long conversation was "Well, the doctor said that he really didn't expect it to work the first time, didn't he?" Yes, but... It's hard to ignore what you think your body is telling you. The first time on a new set of meds you don't know how they are going to affect you, so it's harder to know what is just a side effect. 

Lessons from today: 1) Inanimate objects don't lie. (Stupid test!)
2) No matter what I think my body is telling me, it's just a side effect until proven otherwise.
3) It is possible to still have sore boobs while starting to spot. (When is *that* going to stop? I would really like my chest back.)

I should probably go eat something that isn't chocolate... I haven't had much of an appetite. I hope and pray you've all been having better days than me.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Fear and Guilt

Sunday will be P+17, the day I am supposed to take a home pregnancy test. Despite life doing its best to distract me (frozen pipes and needing all new tires), it's been hard to forget or ignore that mental countdown. So far there are no signs of spotting, nothing to suggest AF is approaching. I am still having several of those side effects (though my last HCG injection was P+9)/early pregnancy symptoms.

The fact is, there is a whirling mess of emotions going round and round inside of me. Hope is certainly one of them. But stronger than any others are fear and guilt. By now, I know a lot about being infertile and childless, but what do I know about being a mother? I am an aunt, a big sister, and I've been a baby sitter, but all of those pale in comparison to the overwhelming task of being Mom. There is no handing the child back when you are Mom; you are the one that everyone else hands the child to. Given our financial situation, I am also wondering how we could possible afford a baby; those new tires certainly didn't help. As of right now, Husbandido would have to work 160 hours of overtime and get paid for them before Oct. 1 for us to get completely dug of our mess. (This is where I know I should be trusting God to provide, but I'm still quite terrified.) We do have something of an absolutely last-ditch emergency fund if we have no other choice, but we are trying hard to avoid tapping it. I'm not old old, but I'm past the point of the dreaded "Advanced Maternal Age" and all the increased risks that come with it. Being infertile and childless has become comfortable, and I almost wonder if I want to leave it. (Told you those insanity producing hormones were powerful.)

Even if that home test is positive, I don't think I would yet be confident that our wait would be over. I'm not even sure when I would be comfortable thinking of it as "having a baby." Certainly not until after blood tests looked good, but even still, I can't help but feel like I know too much. Yes, the odds may be good after you hear a heartbeat or make it past 12 weeks, but knowing so many who have suffered even late losses, I am scared. Yes, I am still having some early pregnancy symptoms, but I do not feel remotely as queasy as I did during our brief previous pregnancy. (My mother will sometimes remind me that every pregnancy is different, and that having such symptoms really doesn't say anything about the health of the child. All of which is certainly true but not particularly reassuring.) I am scared of losing another child; as much as I want to hope, I am scared to.

The other dominant emotion in this maelstrom is guilt. So many of my friends have been through so much more than I have, trying longer, having surgeries, or multiple losses that if we are so blessed, it doesn't seem right or fair that it should be us, who have suffered comparatively little. I know there isn't a set amount of suffering that one must endure to be rewarded with a baby; really, I do know that. And of course, I know that if we have conceived, it in no way affects anyone else's chances; there is not a finite number of babies to go around. But I worry that us conceiving on our very first NaPro cycle would feel like a slap in the face to those who have endured so much more. The last thing I would want is to cause my friends pain. I also wonder what would happen to the wonderful friendships I have cultivated with others going through IF. No, the friendships wouldn't necessarily end, but they would certainly change, just as your friendships with your single friends change when you marry. 

I know that all this fear and worry aren't doing me any good, that I need to just hand it all over to Him and trust in His plans. (It's just hard.)

I'd like to leave you with a song that I am finding comforting right now, addressing the question of "Why?," helping me remember that I will likely never know, at least this side of heaven.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

All Members of the Body of Christ

If we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, all members of the Body of Christ, then we do not strengthen ourselves by diminishing other parts of His Body. If one amongst us is weakened or diminished, then we are all diminished. We have been instructed to forgive not seven times, but seventy-seven times; we are called to turn the other cheek again and again. To follow Christ's example, we are instructed to love and forgive those who persecute us ("ikForgive them, Father, for they know not what they do"); the saints provide countless examples of loving forgiveness in the face of anger, hate, and pain. Certainly there are times when we have the opportunity to provide information and gentle guidance, to help others grow in compassion and charity, but never are we called upon to sit in judgement; that is reserved for Him. 

Here's the bottom line: we are all sinners, inhabitants of a fallen world. We all have bad days, feel lousy or hormonal, and fall short of that ideal. But falling short, even knowing that we will fall short, does not excuse us from trying. There will be times when we need to complain, to vent, and let off steam amongst those who understand. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. But we should be wary of imputing malice where none may exist. (And yes, some things are truly beyond the pale, and some people lack grace and compassion in what they say.) The simple fact is that a lot of stupid, hurtful things are said out of ignorance or not knowing what to say. Haven't we all had those "Open mouth, insert foot" moments? We should struggle and strive for compassion and forgiveness of those who hurt us, even when the same person does so repeatedly (Remember those seventy-seven times? And no, I would not recommend counting.). And as Rebecca so eloquently said, sometimes my pain is about me and not about the person inadvertently causing it. It hurts to hear one's mother or MIL gush about babies and grandchildren, but her excitement is not intended to cause me pain. Her focus is on the joy of that new life, not my sorrow at what I do not have. 

Lord Jesus Christ, help us to grow towards your example, to love and forgive, that all may be strengthened and none diminished.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Goals for a New Year

At some point, I quit making New Year's Resolutions, since they seemed too easy to break. And once they were broken, it was hard to try to go back to them. Instead I started setting goals for myself for the year; that way, if I fell down, I could just get back to it. Without further ado, here are my goals for 2014.

1. Be more consistent in my workouts.
Too often if 2013 I let those pesky side effects keep me from working out. (Really, who wants to work out when they are exhausted and feel like they're going to throw up?) This year I'm trying to cut the excuses and just do it. (And yes, that phrase makes me think of the old Nike commercials.) Right now my workouts are 36 minutes, three times a week, in addition to regular ballroom classes. I'm thrilled that this year Husbandido has agreed to join me twice a week, in deference to his expanding waistband. (He was none too happy about needing new pants.) While he's happy for me that my weight has been going down, he's not so happy that his has been going up.

2. Be a better correspondent.
Over the past couple of years, I've gotten really bad at staying in touch with friends and extended family. As I was going through old letters that I hadn't responded to, I realized that roughly two years had passed since I had last written a real letter to my great-aunt. I got to be close to this particular great-aunt while I was a single, cat lady grad student, and aside from a disagreement after my grandmother died (Thanks, Dad. [My father dramatically downplayed the emotional and verbal abuse I suffered from my grandmother, which led my great-aunt to think I was making a big deal out of nothing.]), we have stayed pretty close. I'm trying to better at keeping in touch.

3. Try to reduce dairy and sugar, while still keeping hydrated.
I've been trying to reduce my dairy consumption, but so far it's just left me drinking less, which isn't good. I absolutely refuse to completely give up dairy, but I'm trying to cut back on how much I consume as well as choose "better" options. According to my doctor, harder cheeses are better than soft cheeses, and Greek yogurt is better than regular yogurt. I do like almond milk, but I need to get better at keeping it in the house. 

4. Pay off debt and rebuild our emergency fund.
2013 out-emergencied our emergency fund, to the point that we ended up taking on some additional debt. We paid a 2% balance transfer fee to give ourselves until 10/1 to pay it off without interest, but I will be much happier when it is gone. I would dearly love to have a nice, fat emergency fund, but I think I may need to start small with how much I aim to save. In the meantime, we also have to ensure that we're saving enough to cover the property taxes, since we use our savings account as our own personal escrow account. 

What are your resolutions/goals for the New Year? How are you holding yourself accountable?

Monday, January 6, 2014

Side Effects or Suffering for a Good Cause?

Yes, I realize that it is a totally artificial distinction, but to maintain my sanity, I mentally separate the drug side effects from "real" early pregnancy symptoms. Of course they overlap, and it is impossible to tell whether they're side effects or early pregnancy symptoms. To try and keep my hopes from getting too high, I have to keep telling myself that they are just side effects. The down side is that I have a harder time considering side effects as suffering for a good cause; if I actually were pregnant, I would have no problem dealing with the fatigue, strange appetite, periodic queasiness, slowed digestion, and (maybe) sore boobs, since the discomfort would be for a wonderful reason. (As a side note, the sore boobs are driving me mildly bonkers; I am not a small busted woman to begin with, so having them feel larger and heavier isn't fun. To top it off, it hurts if I wear a bra; it hurts if it don't wear a bra. I just can't win. It's even interfering with my ability to fall asleep. I have a small number of bras that are less uncomfortable, but there are only 5 or so. I am stubbornly refusing to buy more bras to deal with stupid side effects.)

I'm not sure if I've mentioned it before, but I am one of those people who always suffers from side effects (not the heart attack/stroke/death/blood clot level side effects, but if headaches, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, etc are possible side effects, it's a safe bet I will have them). At this point, I am at 2.25 months of menopausal symptoms (thank you, Clomid), and about 5 months of early pregnancy symptoms as side effects. Keeping track probably just adds to my crankiness, since let's face it, it's hard not to be cranky at side effects. They're called side effects for a reason, right? They're unintended and aren't really related to the purpose of the medicine. I'm trying to offer up my suffering up for a few people, but unfortunately, it isn't helping my attitude much.

Sadly, trying to think of them as side effects hasn't kept me from randomly asking my husband questions like "If we have succeeded, at one point would we adjust your withholding?" or "Does this mean we would need to pick a Christmas themed name?" (Peak day was December 26th. And yes, having peak day right around Christmas is not helping me keep my hopes down.) I've already been counting down how many days to get through until P+17 (next Sunday for those following along at home); Lord please grant me peace and patience!