Friday, February 28, 2014


Back in high school I took a class in Ancient Civilizations, in which we spent some time studying the world's major religions. Oddly enough, what I remember most is a story that could be described as an Islamic parable. Since it's been so long, I'm quite sure that I have forgotten parts of it, but I remember the message of the story.

A long time ago a wealthy merchant was about to leave for a trip. He tells his wife "I will be home in 7 days." His wife adds "Insh'Allah" (God willing). The merchant sniffs; "God has nothing to do with it. I will be home in 7 days." His wife was worried and fearful at his dismissal of Allah. Years pass and the merchant does not return home. One day, he finally returns home. His shocked wife says "Husband, you are home!" He replies "Insh'Allah, I am home. Wife, you were right." 

The message of the story is that all is dependent on God and His will, which is a concept that we in the West, especially America, do not often hear or want to accept. We focus on what we want, plan to achieve it, and try to do it our own. Seldom do we consider whether it is God's will for us unless we are faced with serious challenges or struggles.

Our first responses to those difficulties tend to be "Why me? That's not what I wanted." The struggle comes in learning to trust God and His plans for us. We don't get an explanation; we must learn to rely on faith alone, to truly surrender and say "As you wish."

(Please note that I have tremendously elided over major theological differences between Christianity and Islam regarding free will and submission for purposes of this post.)

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Random Rant*: People Without Children Have No Reason to Live?!?!

Those of you who don't live in Western Pennsylvania are probably blissfully unaware of the epic (I hate how overused that word is, but in this case, it's apropos.) war going on between Highmark Blue Cross/Blue Shield, the biggest health insurer in the region, and UPMC, the dominant health care provider. You cannot turn on the TV or radio, drive past a billboard, or open a newspaper without seeing an ad for one of them, often both. While it in and of itself is ridiculous, what makes it more frustrating for me is the recent spate of ads.

Such and such a person found him/herself with cancer/heart disease/other life threatening condition and was told by important doctors that "Of course we'll get you well! You have a long time to live for your kids/grandkids." Insert warm fuzzy expressions for the health center/doctors/insurance company here. The first 30 or so times I heard these ads, they didn't both me. Then today it struck me: Really?!?! The only possible reason someone could have for wanting to get better and live a long, healthy life is their progeny? What about a beloved spouse? Even a pet? Nieces, nephews, young friends? To serve others? Any other possible goal? Nope. If you listen to the ads, people without children have no reason to want to overcome heart disease/cancer, etc. A pox on both their houses, I say. 

*This is the start of an occasional series on things that drive me absolutely bonkers. I promise not to run them too often!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Olympics, Adoption, and 5 Year Olds

Now that I have everyone convinced that I'm writing about a few different things, I'm here to convince you that no, there really is a connection between the Olympics, adoption, and 5 five year olds. 

Though we continue TTC, and realistically, we would prefer to not have to go through everything involved in adopting, we are still considering adoption. Having put some research into it, there are several reasons why we would not pursue domestic adoption. The simple fact is that there are more prospective adoptive parents than there are children in the U.S. available for adoption. Because of the way domestic adoptions are structured, you can be perfectly qualified and eligible to adopt, yet never be chosen by birth parents. (As one of the kids always chosen last for teams in gym class, I really feel no desire to spend more time sobbing "What's wrong with us? Why won't anyone pick us?" It's bad enough wondering if God thinks we would be terrible parents and that's why he won't let us conceive. [Please note that is a 'sometimes' thought, not a frequent one.]) There isn't necessarily a rhyme or reason to why one couple is chosen over another by birth parents; it could be their appearance, pets, other children, or any of a million other reasons. To spend all that money and all that time waiting with no guarantee that you will ever adopt would be something that I wouldn't tolerate well. There's also a roller coaster effect involved when your info is being shown to prospective birth parents; I'm getting quite enough of roller coasters with TTC, thank you. Knowing that any child whose birth parents chose to place him or her for adoption will be adopted leaves me feeling like we, specifically, are not needed as adoptive parents for a child born domestically. However, there are many children internationally who will not necessarily be adopted, who linger in orphanages. They have a real need for families. Of course international adoption is not within the financial reaches of many; thanks to family assistance, it would be possible for us. It seems like we could both do the most good by adopting internationally as well as be most comfortable with the process by doing so. (Because the children are already in the custody of the state/orphanage, there is no chance of birth parents changing their minds. The big risk instead is the country's policy or openness to international adoption changing during the course of the process.) Previously we had fallen in love with this agency and had planned to start the adoption process last year, if we hadn't succeeded by midsummer. Then Russia closed to U.S. adopters, leaving us wondering what to do and putting adoption on the far back burner. That agency has since added new programs in Khazakhstan, Bulgaria, and Ukraine, though more and more countries are limiting international adoption to older children and those with special needs.

Okay, so what do the Olympics have to do with adoption? Russia is closed to U.S. adopters; China has a wait time of 7 years. The countries with shorter wait times, who are more open to international adoptions, tend to be ones we are less familiar with. If asked, would you have any clue what someone from Kazakhstan looks like? Before the Olympics, I wouldn't have, either. I knew that Kazakhstan was a racially mixed country, and that most of the children available for adoption are of Eurasian descent, but that gave only a vague picture. Cue the Olympics. Watching men's figure skating (which I would have done anyhow), provided a great illustration of the range of ethnicities and appearances of the people of Kazakhstan. In case you missed it, or didn't pay that much attention, here are the two skaters from Kazakhstan. Denis Ten (first pic) looks nothing like I imagined someone from Kazakhstan to look (he is of Korean descent); Abzal Rakimgaliev (second pic) fit my preconceived notions better. 

Do appearances/ethnicities really matter to us in considering adoption? Not at all, though having some clue what to picture is helpful. I can't say that spending 2 or 3 months in Kazakhstan is particularly appealing, but understanding the reason for it makes a difference. (A 30 day bonding period is required by the government, so that the child becomes familiar and comfortable with his/her adoptive parents before leaving the orphanage and country.) 

That's two out of three - leaving only 5 year olds. Before this weekend, both Husbandido and I had a particular picture of 5 year olds, relevant since many countries are beginning to limit international adoptions to children 5 and older. We pictured walking into a kindergarten and bringing home a child (not in terms of process, but in terms of child development). Needless to say, it wasn't an appealing picture; not that a child is remotely grown up by 5, but that so much has already happened in establishing their personality and skills. It seemed like missing out on most of the cute and sweet years and getting mostly the sass and headaches of pre-teens, tweens, and teens. Hosting the gigantic family birthday party for my FIL, BIL, and step-great-nephew had us spending more time with said step-great-nephew, who is turning 5. After the party was over and we were laying in bed, we ended up pondering, "Is 5 that old? Would we consider adopting a 5 year old?" The revised answer seems to be yes, at least at the moment. (The fact that we continue to age may be part of it. I'll be 37 this year; Husbandido will be 39.) 10, however,  is way too old! As for anything in the middle, well, we haven't quite answered that question yet. Fortunately, we don't need to until we are ready to do something about adopting; for now, it's still in the realm of hypotheticals.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Party Planning 302: Hosting While TTC

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to Party Planning 302: Hosting While Trying to Conceive (TTC). If you are not here for Party Planning 302, you are in the wrong room. In this class, we will cover the ins and outs of how to successfully plan events while trying to start or expand your family. At the end of class there will be time for questions, so please hold all your questions until the end. 

  • First off, DO plan parties and events while TTC. The process of charting, timing intercourse, medications, blood draws, doctor's appointments, and other interventions  can be overwhelming and time-consuming. It is far too easy to let TTC consume the entirety of your life. Don't let it. (If you can follow this advice, you will thank me. Even trying to follow this advice can have life-changing effects.)
  • DO NOT under any circumstances plan to host two parties during the fertile window, especially not during fertile window weekend (FWW). Let's face it, hosting gatherings, even intimate dinner parties, requires effort. The house must be cleaned; the menu planned; everything must be purchased; you have to make that last minute trip to the grocery store because you forgot eggs (or sugar/flour/milk...) the first time. Then there's all the clean up afterwards, as well the dramatic increase in the amount of dishes that must be done. Trying to squeeze intimacy in between party prep and post-party exhaustion makes it very difficult to see the act as a genuine expression of love between spouses instead of "Please, can we just get this over with so I can go to sleep?" 
    • If by some unfortunate circumstance, you should end up hosting two events during FWW, DO make sure the first event is the one less likely to make a big mess and leave you utterly exhausted. For example, it is far better to host the dinner party for a few couples on Saturday and the giant family party with 8 kids on Sunday than it is to do the opposite. (The exception might be if the adults only event was a very low-key event, like a movie night with takeout.)
  • If you should end up hosting events during the fertile window, DO NOT unsubtly shove guests out the door. Yes, you need time to unwind and reconnect with your spouse, but that is absolutely not an excuse for rudeness. A subtle (covered) yawn or plausible expression of concern about the road conditions is certainly acceptable. However, should your guests offer reasons for why they should get going, DO accept them. (For all you know, they may need to get home to take advantage of that brief window of fertility, too.) Above all, be gracious.
  • Though it should be self-evident, DO NOT, if at all possible, plan to host a baby shower near the time AF is expected to arrive. Just don't do this to yourself. Besides, as a host/hostess you always desire to put your best foot forward, which disappointment and pain can severely hinder. Should the scheduling unfortunately work out this way, DO know yourself well enough to tell whether being busy and focused on hosting will help or hurt your emotional state. For some people, being busy and focused on making sure all the guests are having a good time can help them not dwell on their pain and loss. Others may need to focus on delegating so that they can take brief breaks from the festivities. 
  • DO be aware that young children will want the attention of their aunt/uncle/family friend. If, however, you invite a critical mass of children of a similar age (and sometimes gender), they will happily play together and not be as insistent about monopolizing your attention. This is especially important when feeling the sting caused by not having children of your own; a few minutes of breathing room can be priceless. 
  • Do be aware that being around children can lead to discussions and reconsiderations of your plans and expectations. If, for example, the children are behaving atrociously, that may lead to "Do we really want kids?" Or it could give you a better perspective on what children of a given age are like, such as "Hmmm... five is younger than I was picturing previously; I might be okay with adopting a five year old." If you already have a child or children, you could end up asking yourself if a given treatment keeps you from being able to be really present with the child/children you already have (such as due to fatigue/nausea/other side effects).
  • Lastly, DO make sure that you are on the page as your spouse. He or she may be far more affected by the stress and effort of hosting than you are. The last thing you want when TTC is more stress, strain, and arguments. (Yes, I've heard the argument that make-up sex is explosive, but you do NOT want to be counting on getting to that point where you are ready to be intimate when TTC.)
Questions? Yes, in the back?

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Pain A Shortcut Can Cause

Honestly, I meant to start this whole 7-Posts-In-7-Days thing off on a light-hearted, fun note, so as not to scare off any new readers appearing. (If you're new: Hi! Thanks for dropping by! I promise that I'm not always so cranky. Really, come back tomorrow and check out my quirky sense of humor.) But then I read something that got my blood boiling; and if there's one thing you've probably figured out about me by now, it's that I tend to be rather opinionated. So instead of beginning this week with Party Planning 302: Hosting while TTC (which should be tomorrow's post), I'm writing about shortcuts.

What I'm talking about aren't physical shortcuts, but verbal shortcuts. In this case, the one that bothered me is essentially "adoption is a bad thing." In a longer form, it is said as "adoption begins out of loss and tragedy."  Here's the thing: what most people mean isn't that adoption itself is bad or that being adopted is tragedy. What they are really trying to say is that the circumstances that lead to a child being available for adoption are bad and a tragedy. Is it horrible when a child's parents die? Indubitably! Are addiction and child abuse horrible, terrible things? Unquestionably! Is it good when a woman conceives who for financial, emotional, or other reasons is unable to raise her child? Absolutely not! The "bad thing," the tragedy appears upstream of the adoption. It is the parents' death or other inability to raise their biological child that is a loss. That child loses little further, and may gain tremendously, if he or she is adopted instead of being raised in an orphanage or other institution. (If the adoption is kept hidden or the child is raised in ignorance of his or her cultural heritage, then yes, there is a loss. However, both of those are becoming increasingly rare amongst adoptive families.) Some research has suggested that the child can experience more harm being raised in an institution rather than a loving family; granted, with improvements in the care offered by orphanages, there is likely less harm. 

Is adoption perfect? No. Is adoption ideal? No. But people, please let's remember that we don't live in a perfect or ideal world. We live in a fallen, broken world, full of sin, disease, and suffering, and all we can do is to make the best of it. If we lived in an ideal world, there would be no divorce, no abortion, and everyone who was well prepared and wanted to be parents would be able to conceive.

I would argue that taking that verbal shortcut and saying "adoption is a bad thing" causes problems and pain itself. It easily begs the question "If adoption is a bad thing, why should I do it?" Don't most of us struggle to be good people and do good things? Many people who adopt do so both because they want to be parents and because they think they can offer a child a loving home. If you tell them that adoption is selfish, solely focused on meeting their desire to be parents, and that it is a tragedy, then they may become less likely to adopt. I'm quite sure that most prospective adoptive parents could come up with a long list of other things they could do with that $15,000 to $60,000. Deciding to and committing to adopting is hard enough without a shortcut making it more difficult and painful. So let's pay a little closer attention to why we're trying to say and be cautious taking (verbal) shortcuts!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Book Excerpt: Sons of Cain

I'll be posting a review of Sons of Cain by Val Bianco shortly, but before I do that, I wanted to share this (long) excerpt with you. Be forewarned, I cried reading it, for it is ever so eloquent in its depiction of suffering and despair.

He recalled the empty desperation and drunken rage that compelled him to place the cold hard barrel of the automatic to his head as he sat sobbing in the park. Who was he? What had become of his perfect life? Had he been able to see himself in the spiritual realm, he would have been horrified by the number of demons surrounding him. Dark spirits of despair and doubt, gleeful spirits of self loathing and violent spirits of self destruction. He was literally being smothered, for in their diabolical intelligence, these ancient demons sensed that he was destined to be one of the special few who walked the earth in unceasing combat with their kind. They understood, much better than he, that in rejecting God, Rieper had stripped himself of the armor that protected him throughout his life.
The demons had been enraged when Nick, as an infant, was consecrated to the Lord by his father. Throughout his young life, they attacked him to no avail. They began to break him when the loss of his family weakened his defenses. Surely, it was not Satan who had taken his wife and child. Yet just as surely, the tragedy presented a devastating opportunity to destroy the young man.
 The energy of evil is ceaseless and cruel, roaming the earth in search of weakened prey. Its ravenous hunger is never sated. Nick Rieper was indeed, trophy prey. And at the moment he appeared to be hopelessly wounded as the spiritual hyenas moved in for the kill. It was in this state of utter desperation that he finally, for the first time in months, acknowledged his Maker, as he raised his face to Heaven and cried out in bitter anguish, "WHY?"
He could never have known that at that very instant, several of the tormenting demons were severed in two by the flash of a burning white sword. The rest fled in panic.
Nick had always chosen to believe that it was the prayers of his guardian angel. It may have been those of  his dead wife, father or infant son, but he knew that somewhere, someone must have been praying very hard for him. For, in the midst of his despair he was suddenly granted a miracle.
The sound came from behind and above him. He recognized the flapping wings of a hovering bird, and he instinctively snapped around and raised the automatic toward the threat. Strangely, he saw a white dove fly off into the night. Moments later, he heard labored breathing, which soon grew into a tight-lipped groan. The sound came from everywhere and nowhere; it was a sickening sound, a sound that he had heard before only in combat. One could never forget the death rattle of a strong man fighting mortal pain. After a moment the muffled groan gave way to an expulsion of air, which ended in an involuntary sigh. He heard the man gasp for another shallow breath. It was then that he heard a horse, tortured cry out that first familiar word in Hebrew.
"ELI!" And then again, slower, weaker... sobbing. "Eli?"
It was the beginning of a sentence, an anguished timeless sentence. It was the crying plea of a dying, broken man as he summoned the last drop of his strength. The voice was filled with a depth of despair that bespoke the collective grief of all mankind.
He immediately recognized them as the words of the Cross. He had read them a hundred times, but never had he dreamed of the utter desolation, the profound sadness and simple broken humanity of that voice, that haunting voice. The effect on him was profound; the impact instantaneous. These were the very words cried out to Almight God by His own Son. It was the cry of God Himself, in the person of Jesus. The cry of a wounded child, His frail humanity racked in unceasing agony, and much worse, His Spirit in torment. Why, Father? Why have you abandoned me?
All at once, the commando understood.
It was as if all that he had ever learned or believed had led him to this one moment, this grand epiphany. If Christ Himself, had cried out in unanswered agony and desperation, what right had he, a mere man, to demand an explanation from God? He had asked the eternal question. Why? There was no answer. That was gift and the lesson. The only answer was surrender. Surrender and trust in the will of the Father. 

Friday, February 14, 2014


Several of this week's marriage tips from For Your Marriage have related to the marriage vows, I've been thinking about them. I have to admit that I hadn't given much thought to our vows between our wedding almost six years ago and when we saw Father Leo Patalinghug give his "Spicing Up Married Life" talk and cooking demonstration. One thing Fr. Leo includes in his talk was to have everyone renew their marriage vows.

"I, Stephanie, take you, Husbandido, to be my husband. I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love and honor you all the days of my life."

By the time we were finished, we both had tears streaming down our faces. Reciting those vows again, we couldn't help but be overcome by how little we knew what we were getting into when we first said them. 

Four months after our wedding, Husbandido lost his job; with it, we also lost our health insurance. The timing meant that instead of his employer paying the tuition for the two classes he was taking, we would be hit with a big bill from the university. At the time I was working as a temp; Cobra alone took most of my paycheck. We weren't sure how we would make it through. After much thought, we decided that the best thing was for Husbandido to switch to full time after that semester so he could more quickly finish his degree and get a better paying job. Being the sole breadwinner and in charge of the finances left me stressed out and overwhelmed. Even after completing his computer science degree, it took a long time for Husbandido to find a job (he was unemployed for ~ 2 1/2 years total); there were a lot of screaming fights about whether he was looking hard enough and whether it was time to think about relocating to find a job, as well as whether he could/should pick up something just to help our finances. Eventually he found a great job that he loves, and where he has been well rewarded. We started TTC a few months before Husbandido found his job; by the time we had been trying 6 months, I was starting to suspect that there was something wrong, thus beginning the rounds of doctors, tests, and treatments. 

When we first said our vows, we had no clue how soon those bad times would begin or how long and hard the challenges would last. The thing is - no one really knows what their married life will hold. We all have these ideas about how it will be, and rarely does it turn out that way. Today, or your wedding anniversary, take some time to think about how different your married life has turned out from what you expected and give thanks for the marriage vows that in so few words encapsulate everything that can happen. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


Recently Mary Beth a made a comment about conversation stopping completely after she answered the dreaded "Do you have children?" question, which got me started thinking about how we identify ourselves. "I'm an accountant." "A mother of five." "I'm a software engineer." It makes me sad. Are we reducible to our jobs and our parenting status? Now maybe it's because I hate thinking of myself as a housewife, but I think that there is a lot more to each of us than just what we do, if we're married, and how many children we have. But let's face it - depending on the circumstances, the first few question a new acquaintance is likely to ask you are "What do you do? Do you have children? (maybe an Are you married?)" 

Who are you?

I'm a child of God, an avid reader, a Catholic, infertile, human to 3 wonderful cats, an aunt, cousin, daughter, granddaughter, American, ballroom dancer, wife, home owner, gardener, coupon clipper, organizer (maybe even a hint OCD), lousy correspondent but generous gift giver, and much more. 

It's not easy to do, but instead of asking "What do you do?" or "Do you have children?" maybe we can start asking more interesting, creative questions. "What do you like to do in your free time?" or "Tell me a little more about yourself." or even "What kind of food do you like?" even "Do you have pets?"

Monday, February 10, 2014

Searching for Silver Linings

Well, I didn't need to worry about wasting a $5 test. 

And AF should be gone by next weekend, when we have a birthday party for our SIL's sister's  daughter, so hopefully my hormones won't have me completely nuts. (M is turning 4, and is a darling little girl.)

We really didn't have anything going on, and the weather ended up terrible (they didn't plow our street until late on Sunday); it ended up a good weekend to do very little. 

I think that's about it... 

(I'm currently waiting to see if today will count as day 3 or it's just the third day of spotting. I am profoundly glad that the nice folks at Giant Eagle specialty pharmacy are understanding about this kind of thing.)

Friday, February 7, 2014

A Definite "No" or Two More Days of Hope

As some of you already know, we ran into a big problem traveling with our vial of HCG this month. My first injection of this cycle was Wednesday January 29th; we flew out to Arizona on the 31st. I had initially been nervous about dealing with TSA, but there were no problems on that account. Instead we discovered our problem late Friday night, when we went to do the P+5 injection. The vial had leaked; instead of about 2 mL being left, there was only ~ 0.2 mL left. We used what little was left for the P+5 injection. I spoke to the doctor on call on Saturday, but he was pretty well useless. He didn't bother looking at my charts/records, just said that it "probably" shouldn't matter. Ummm, sure. (If that's the case, then why am I on these again?) I definitely had some moments of regret for choosing the closer NaPro doctor, where the rest of the practice isn't NaPro, rather than the slightly further all NaPro practice. I spoke to my doctor's nurse on Monday morning, and we were advised to skip the P+7 blood work and not worry about trying to get a new vial to do the P+9 injection. I was surprisingly successful at not thinking about it all and just enjoying the long weekend (Kittens! Butterflies! Swimming! Bohnanza! - more on that in a later post).

Of course now that we're back home, I haven't had quite such an array of exciting distractions (the Great Party Rescheduling Debate definitely doesn't count). So one big question has been on my mind lately - since I wasn't able to do all the HCG injections, should I test earlier? I can't say that I exactly want to test earlier, but given the probability that I would need to get on progesterone supplementation posthaste, I was wondering if I should test earlier. The reply from my doctor's office was simply that I could test on P+15. P+15 will be Monday. Even the last cycle or two before I started Femara, I was making it past P+15. Part of me doesn't want to "waste" the pregnancy test (and the money), but the other part of me is absolutely insistent that I should, just in case. (That's also the part of me that sometimes wonders if part of the problem with my previous pregnancy was that my body wasn't making enough progesterone to support the baby. I'm never quite sure whether to listen to it or just squash it.) What do you think? Should I start my week off with what will most likely be a negative test (I know, I know: I'm a real optimist.) or should I just wait?