Tuesday, December 8, 2015

A Need to Flee: Let It Go

We walked into the waiting room, our arms overfull of diapers, clothing, all manner of baby gear. Frozen was playing on the TV; Elsa was belting out "Let it Go." We had enough that it took both of us two trips to carry it all in. We were at the Pregnancy Resource Center of the South Hills to donate almost all of the baby things we had accumulated. Some of it was hand me downs, mostly from Husbandido's sister, most of the clothing, the swing, play mat, the thing to support baby in the bathtub. The Diaper Champ came from Freecycle, before we knew that having a baby wouldn't come easily. I bought the diapers in our early days of trying, when they were on super good sales. 

We started giving away our baby items this past summer, using some of them for gifts for family and friends who were expecting. But with our home study approaching, it's come time to clear out most of the baby gear. I've been rearranging many of the rooms in our house, trying to make it abundantly clear that we do have the space, and we are as ready as we can be without knowing number, ages, or genders of the children that we will be matched with. 

The receptionist seemed surprised to receive quite many items and thankful; she made it clear how much it was appreciated and would go to those who needed it. She even let us know that many of the women donate the items that received when they no longer need them. 

Everything delivered, we stepped back into the hallway, and I started sobbing. Though we are still working with PPVI, we have no expectation that treatment will work. I no longer expect to choose names, see our child on an ultrasound, experience all of the highs and lows of pregnancy. I no longer expect to be the only mother that our children will have; I now expect to have to hide my distress when "You're not my real mom." is hurled at me again and again. Though it's been an extended process, donating all of these things has been the biggest, most concrete step of letting go. And it hurts. 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

A Rejected Essay

As some of you may know, this summer Veils by Lily had an essay contest, with the only requirement that the subject relate to the Real Presence. Since I love to write and think I'm pretty good at it, I was excited to enter; I was even more excited when I was asked if they could publish my name. I was... decidedly not excited when it became clear that my essay was not selected as one of the top 10. Submitted for your [verb] is "Where is God?", my essay, rejected by the judges, on the Real Presence. 

Where is God?

The shootings in Charleston and Chattanooga… Genocide of Christians and Yazidis in the Middle East… Boko Haram kidnapping, raping, and pillaging in Nigeria… Parents abusing and killing their children… So much hate, so much pain, so much suffering. Where is God in all of this? Where can we turn to find Him?

Whether it is as far away as the other side of the world or as close as the loss of a child, suffering can lead us to doubt His presence. The deeper our pain, the greater our suffering, the easier it is to think that He has abandoned us. Even Christ felt that abandonment, crying out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34)

Despite our feelings of abandonment, we are taught that God is ever with us:Where can I hide from Your Spirit? From Your presence, where can I flee?” (Psalm 139: 7) In Matthew, we are reminded that Jesus Christ is Emmanuel, “God with us.”  (Matthew 1:23) But that knowledge is a cold comfort when we cannot feel His presence. We are taught to ever turn to God, in our rejoicing, in our pain, with our every request. But where can we turn to find Him?

There is so much noise, so much busy-ness, so many competing voices in our lives, that finding and hearing God is a constant struggle. We forget that we are not the only ones with difficulties hearing His voice. When Elijah went to Mount Horeb, “a strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the Lord – but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake – but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was fire – but the Lord was not in the fire. After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound… A voice said to him…” (1Kings 19: 11-13) The Lord speaks in a still, small voice, one that we can easily miss amidst the competing voices.

Most of us have neither the inclination nor the ability to retreat into the desert or climb a mountain seeking God. The daily demands of our lives preclude it. Where, then shall we go to feel His presence? We can turn to our Bibles, finding His words in Sacred Scripture, but even those words can feel far away, part of another time. How much better would it be to see God, to be physically in His presence, to hear His voice? None of us is guaranteed to see or hear Him, but we can find Him, physically present, in any parish, anywhere in the world. Almost every day bread and wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. At the Last Supper, “Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body.’ And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins,’“(Matthew 26:26) words echoed by the priest during consecration. With those words ordinary bread and wine are transformed into so much more – the Real Presence of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. In the act of receiving Communion, we physically receive Him into ourselves. At Eucharistic Adoration, we are invited to sit quietly in His presence, to pray, to reflect, to pour out our hearts to Him, to listen.

To most of us, Eucharistic Adoration is strange and unfamiliar. What do we do? Why should we go? Just as our relationships with our family, friends, and spouse are built by spending time together, so is our relationship with God. At Adoration we can escape from the ringing phone, the dings of new e-mail, the constant updates of social media. There we can sit quietly, speaking to Him. We can pour out our hopes and fears, worries and anger. God wants to hear all of it; unlike a friend or a spouse, He will never tell you that you’ve said that before or imply that He is tired of listening to your worries or complaints; He never tires of listening to us. We can just sit there in quiet or read, knit, or crochet, keeping our hands busy and minds clear, just so that we are there, spending time with Him. It doesn’t matter if we can only spend a few minutes at a time or if we can spend an hour or more; God wants us to spend time with Him.

The most important time we can give Him is going to Mass. With so much going on and so little time, it can be challenging to make Mass a priority. It can be even harder when we feel like we’re not getting anything out of it. So why bother going? Christ Himself tells us “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have do not have life within you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.” (John 6:53-54) We go to Mass to be nourished, to be fed with the bread of life that we might never go hungry. (John 6:35) We go for the “spring of water, welling up to eternal life,” that we might never be thirsty. (John 4:13-14) Even when we don’t feel like we are getting anything out of Mass, we are being fed, being nourished by God’s greatest gift.

Where is God? He is there, waiting for us to return to Him, “with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning.” (Joel 2:12) He is waiting, “God of all encouragement, who encourages us in all our affliction.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4) Where can we find Him? In the Eucharist, the body and blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, we find Him. 

All Bible verses use the New American Bible translation. 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

What makes a family?

What makes a family? I started grappling with that question months ago, and I've been going another round with this question since the World Meeting of Families has been in the news. Growing up, I knew a family was a mom and dad and their children. Of course, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins make up an extended family. Since being an adult and struggling with infertility, I have more questions than answers about what makes a family. Are Husbandido and I and the cats a family? Sometimes I can't help but feel like the answer is yes but no. Yes, we are a family. As so many have said, a new family is started when a couple weds, not when they welcome a child. But in common parlance "family" is so often used to refer to those with children. 

I won't argue that the ideal family is a married mother and father with their biological children. But we don't live in an ideal world, and divorce, out-of-wedlock childbearing, infertility, and death affect family composition. A single mom and her child(ren) are a family. Even after divorce, a couple that had children together is still a type of family, though often complicated by step-parents and half-siblings. So blood can make a family. But a couple (or single person) who adopts and their child(ren) are a family, too. Some adoption advocates say that "love makes a family." But that same phrase is used by advocates of same-sex marriage. Yet as Catholics, we believe that men and women are different and complementary, that children deserve to be raised by a mother and father. And how often do we hear of estrangements and rejections within family, whether created by blood or adoption, where there seems to be a lack of love between members of a family. Does rejection and lack of love unmake a family?

Is an unmarried, cohabiting couple a family? Is living together and love all it takes to be a family? Then what about close friends, choosing to share a house or apartment? Don't we sometimes say that we love our friends as we would a sibling? Then again, not all families live together. In my previous job, many of my overseas co-workers were on a rotation schedule; in their quest to give their families a better life, they spend half the year living and working in another country. So not all families live together, at least not all of the time. 

So what is it that makes a family a family? It doesn't have to be blood, but it isn't just love, either. I don't have a good answer to that question. In fact, the more I think about it, the less of an answer I have. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015


Once again I've managed to go AWOL on you... And once again it's not for lack of anything to say, more for lack of time. I volunteered for the search committee for our parish's new director of music ministry, not quite realizing how many meetings, choir rehearsals, and Masses I was committing myself to. I'm thrilled with the candidate we have chosen, and the experience gave me a new perspective on finding my voice again (which I hope to write about later). 

The biggest source of craziness for me has been Omaha, meaning PPVI. The Friday before Labor Day I got a call from the scheduling nurse about scheduling surgery (which my phone promptly dropped). Not knowing her extension, I couldn't call her back; the voice mail and subsequent e-mail said to send her a copy of my latest chart so she could work on picking potential dates for my surgery. At that point, I wasn't 100% committed to having surgery again; I recover slowly; I didn't really see any positive effects from last year's surgery; I thought everything would be out of network and thus very expensive. Getting that phone call meant that we had to be certain - did we really want to do this? At this point neither of us has high hopes that having surgery will lead to me getting pregnant; more realistically we are hoping for answers, less pain, and closure. And are those worth the time, money, and hassle? Once we scheduled, canceling or changing incurs a $275 fee, so I wanted to be certain. On the long drives to and from my godfather's cabin in Michigan, we discussed and debated whether we really want to do this. Despite all my doubts and griping, the answer was yes. 

Tuesday morning I got the call back from the scheduling nurse. If we wanted to wait for Dr. Pez, who wrote the letter I received, to come back from maternity leave, there was a date at the beginning of November; if we wanted Dr. H to do the surgery, there was a date in early December; Dr. K was an option, especially if we wanted to do this as soon as possible. I could get scheduled with her for early October. Having surgery so soon was an option I hadn't even considered; the possibilities were overwhelming. At the nurse's suggestion, I said I would get back to her on Thursday morning, since she would be off on Wednesday. After going round in circles for a long time and despite rumors of Dr. H's lousy bedside manner (if I could deal with the then team doctor for the Chicago Bulls when I was 15, who had a terrible bedside manner, I could deal with Dr. H now that I'm an adult, right?), we decided on that early December date with Dr. H. Thursday morning I called the scheduling nurse back to book that date, which was fortunately still available.

However, when she called me back, instead of confirming the date, she told me that she had miscalculated my cycles. If the last pattern of the last couple of cycles continued, the December date I would be looking at would be December 18, not early December. We would have to stay in Omaha over Christmas for the ultrasound series. This new information necessitated a new round of frantic phone calls to my mother and Husbandido. Round and round and round we went. Both Husbandido and I were strongly opposed to me having surgery a few short days before his 40th birthday. Neither one of us wanted to be in Omaha for Christmas by ourselves, but the October date was less than a month away. After colossal amounts of waffling and dithering, we chose October. There was one pleasant surprise during the process: either hospital option was in network, so we should end up paying less out of pocket.

Once we got confirmation of the date, it was time for the whirlwind of booking flights and a hotel (which required deciding how long we were going to be out there without knowing for certain how long the ultrasound series would take), arranging for time off work, and starting the hormone series (at the suggestion of the surgery/head nurse, who recommended I start mid-cycle, then pick up the CD5 draw at the start of the next cycle, so it would all be done before surgery). My boss was not happy with me for not giving more notice, which had me upset, given that I let him know the same day I scheduled it. Up until that point, I was expecting to have surgery in late November or December. 

I've been stressed about the scheduling, about work, about being so busy and having no down time, about getting it all done, about whether the committee would agree on a candidate, and about my cycle. I'm sure there's irony somewhere in there: stressing about my cycle being weird could be making it more weird. This my third cycle off fertility drugs, and this month peak day was earlier than the last two. My post-peak phase has been much longer, too; it's P+10, and I haven't started spotting yet. The last two cycles my post-peak phases were closer to 7 or 9 days, with spotting starting much earlier. Now I'm waiting for the spotting and CD1, so that I can do the CD5 draw and get the blood out the ice cream's spot in the freezer. 

Omaha, here we come.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

A Jealous Rage

I don't think anyone can accuse me of pretty-ing up our experience with IF; if you were to look back through the archives, I think I've been pretty honest about the ways in which IF has affected us. I'm not going to deny that there has been growth and development during the last more than 4 years, but I wouldn't remotely go so far as to say that it has strengthened me or improved my relationship to God. I think it has strengthened our marriage and forced us to improve our ability to communicate and to adapt to changing circumstances. I can honestly say that I don't like how infertility has changed me; pre-IF I was much more open and extroverted; I was less defensive, less angry. My self-confidence, which was never good, has been battered and abused even more than it was when I was an adolescent. 

Yesterday was particularly ugly. I am physically, emotionally, and spiritually drained. Between work, being on the search committee for a new director of music ministry, trying to prepare to work with PPVI, adoption stuff, and general household stuff, I haven't been getting enough sleep or down time. There is always too much to do, too much to think, to worry about. Friday, after an appointment with the counselor I've been working with for the last couple of months (more on that later - really!), I stopped at 3 different labs/outpatient diagnostic centers trying to find one that is willing to do the blood draws, centrifuge and separate the blood, and either ship it to PPVI or give it to me to ship. Each stop took 15 minutes or more as I tried earnestly to explain why I needed to have this done, hoping someone would be willing to do it. Before I got out of the car at the first location, I asked "God, if You want me to do this, please make this easy." If we couldn't find somewhere withing reasonable distance, we were considering dropping the plans to work with PPVI. At the third place I stopped, I found a phlebotomist willing to slightly bend the rules (they aren't supposed to centrifuge samples that they aren't going to test) if I could get a kit with all the tubes needed (and something to hold them for transport). This meant another call to PPVI; after our early experiences calling them, I wasn't looking forward to it. (That first phone call from the receptionist asking who I was did not leave me with a very good impression.)

Yesterday I got the call back; they do have a kit they will send. Between my original call and their return call, I had come up with another question: how do I handle a post-peak phase shorter than 11 days? The slip for blood works requests draws on P+3, 5, 7, 9, and 11; last cycle my post peak phase was only 6 days. This cycle I'm on P+8, though I started spotting by P+5. The phrasing was odd, but the intent was clear: "Just do the best you can." (Because I have so much control over the length of my post-peak phase. [Sorry for the sarcasm.]) You would think that I would have been cheered and encouraged by the existence of a kit, and PPVI's relatively quick response. Instead I was hurt and angry. I don't want to go through all this. I don't want to have surgery again. I can't begin to guess what they will have to offer me - higher doses of Clomid, injectables? Given the blood clot scare that I had on 75 mg of Clomid, neither Husbandido nor I are eager for me to go on anything stronger; we have real concerns about whether it would be safe. But I don't want to have super short cycles where I'm bleeding for half the days or more. I don't want to have niggling doubts about whether I'm facing premature menopause or something worse. (Though I have occasionally thought that it wouldn't be that bad to have uterine cancer; it would be a legitimate reason to have a hysterectomy, and there couldn't be any second-guessing that decision.) 

Depending on quite how the individual/family deductibles and coinsurances work, we could be out over $10,000 just for the diagnostic work that PPVI wants. They're out of network, which complicates and makes everything more expensive. Is it worth it? We won't know the cost until afterwards, and we can't know what they could offer us. We're trying to make a decision when all the information needed to make a good decision is unknowable. To say that I hate that, and it's driving me crazy would be an understatement. I'm feeling pressured to make a final decision; once we get the call from the scheduler and schedule surgery, there is a $275 fee to cancel or reschedule. Compared to the cost of the blood work/ultrasound series/surgery, that's peanuts, but in our general budget, it's significant. 

Yesterday afternoon it just all came to a head; I was bitchy; I was whiny; I was miserable. Husbandido didn't seem to want to listen to me; my mother didn't want to listen to me; I didn't want to listen to me! What thoughts were going round and round in an endless circle? "Why does God hate me so much? How is it that my body is so uniquely screwed up? I can't think of anyone else my age who has had this many surgeries already; this next one will be 6. Six! So-and-so can have a baby. As can so-and-so. And so-and-so has has 2, or is it 3, and is pregnant again and wasn't even thrilled this time. (Names omitted to protect the innocent, but these are real women who have experienced IF.) Why does God hate me so? I'm trying so hard, all this work for the church. Does He just like to torture me?" Mercy? Grace? Love? I could see none of it, lost totally in a jealous rage. Though today has been better, I'm still angry and still jealous. I still don't know why God hates me. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

"They're Not Perfect"

Out of the five cats we've had, Bilbo is the closest to "perfect," and he doesn't cover in the litter box. (This wouldn't be a big deal, but he can be one stinky kitty! We've had him on supplements to help his digestive system.) Quickstep had a heart murmur, which eventually led to his death at age 8 (heart attack/build up of fluid around the heart). Mara was a spoiled brat about the litter box; if it didn't meet her standards, not just for being scooped but for having the litter replaced, she would find a spot she preferred, usually somewhere on the carpet. We tried all kinds of things, but in the end we mostly ended up trying to change the litter frequently enough to keep her happy. Right as we were about to fill out the paperwork to adopt Robin, he started suckling on my shirt, and the volunteer who had been helping us got this look on her face. She was clearly thinking, "Oh kitten, you've just gone and scotched this deal." Except he didn't - we adopted him anyhow. (Though I'm much more likely to tolerate Robin slurping on me than Husbandido is.) Then Robin came down very sick, needing to be syringe fed, and there was some question of how good his lung function would be when he recovered. My mother asked if we would keep him; I was appalled - of course we were keeping him! He was already ours. I've written about Biscuit's past before; even after 2 years with us, she is wary if we are standing up. She will come over for attention if we are seated, but standing humans are scary. Not a one of them has been "perfect."

"These aren't perfect kids," Rick, our main contact at the adoption agency, told us in an early conversation. As we have been researching the conditions listed on the Considerations page, that has been brought home. The conditions listed range from rickets to missing limbs, cleft palate to tuberculosis to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Trying to decide what we would and wouldn't consider has been a real struggle for us. It's not that we wouldn't love any child, but we are trying very hard to be realistic about what we can handle. Part of the struggle ties into the stereotypical experience of a couple that is expecting: "Are you hoping for a boy or a girl?" The commonly accepted response is "It doesn't matter, as long as he or she is healthy." (I have no clue what the response would be if the person said "A boy" or "A girl.") But healthy isn't an option; these kids are either coming from an abuse or neglect situation or they have real health problems or both. On some level, choosing what we will and won't consider almost feels like it has a eugenic edge to, as if is related to those who would abort a baby that wasn't "perfect." But on a practical note, there are limits to what insurance will cover and what we can afford to cover treatments for. 

Not that it's not possible, but a wheelchair-bound child would require moving; all the bedrooms in our house are upstairs, and the staircase is probably too narrow for a chair lift. There's the question of whether a special school would be required (such as The DePaul School or The Pittsburgh School for the Blind). If we adopted a severely disabled child, who would care for him or her after we die (or became unable to do so)? At this point, we are currently leaning towards hoping for a child or children whose conditions can be treated here, where there are more resources available, and that the child or children would eventually be capable of living independently. Unfortunately, time, money, and caregivers are limited for children in an orphanage. We have time, money, (insurance coverage,) and love to give. That doesn't make researching all the listed conditions on the Considerations page and deciding whether to check "Most Preferred," "Would Consider," or "Would Not Consider" any less heartbreaking.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Start Spreading the News

This past Saturday we started telling close family members about starting the adoption process. This was largely a pragmatic move, as we had asked our sister-in-law's sister (Husbandido's oldest brother's wife's sister, who I'll call Gigi) to be one of our references and didn't want everyone to find out secondhand. W and Gigi don't have much family, so Gigi and her daughter have been treated as part of Husbandido's family; we celebrate their birthdays and invite them to family gatherings. Though treated like family, they aren't technically related to us, so Gigi is eligible to be a reference for us, which is great because she has spent significant amounts of time around us in settings with a lot of children.

I underestimated how difficult it would be telling people that we were starting the adoption process. Explaining how it works wasn't the hard part; answering the same millions of questions repeatedly wasn't the hard part. For me, the worst part was hearing "I'm so excited for you!" It's probably counter-intuitive, but those words were the hardest to hear. So often I couldn't help but think "Good for you. I'm not." I keep feeling like the character from the Talking Heads song, "Once in a Lifetime," "And you may tell yourself/This is not my beautiful house/And you may tell yourself/This is not my beautiful wife..." As we were telling family and some friends about our plans for adoption, what's involved, and how long it will take, part of me was screaming "Wait!!! Stop!!! This isn't my life! How did this get to be my life?" I am grateful that the process will take a while; I need that time to accept that it is my life. These aren't the children I have dreamed of or prayed for, but they will be our children.

(We did have a couple of people break out the "You'll get pregnant as soon as you adopt" canard. Mostly we bit our tongues on that one, as we are quickly learning that most of the people who say that are not the sort to be swayed by facts and figures.)

Saturday, August 15, 2015

No Longer Either/Or

Near the end of 2012 Husbandido and I decided that if we hadn't succeeded in getting pregnant by that summer, we would start the process of adopting from Russia. We had an agency here in Pittsburgh picked out that was friendly and helpful; we had researched the process and knew it would be acceptable for us to be going through the process while continuing TTC. Then the rumbles about Russia closing started; we asked the agency, and they assured us that Russia grumbled periodically but would not close. And then Russia closed to US adopters. The agency we loved tried to get programs going in other countries but ended up closing their doors; their web page no longer was there; the phone was disconnected.

We took the classes to potentially adopt through Catholic Charities here in Pittsburgh in January 2013. Those classes just confirmed our belief that domestic adoption was not for us. Knowing that you could be chosen in weeks, months, years, or never was not something we were comfortable with. They already had more couples on their books than they would do adoptions for in 4 or 5 years. I was not comfortable with the idea of marketing ourselves as the best family for someone's child, so we decided to focus exclusively on medical treatments and TTC. 

As I may have mentioned once or twice, I turned 38 this year; Husbandido will be 40 this fall. Given our lack of success to date, the probability of us having three (biological) children, as we agreed before we got married, is incredibly low. As we've been getting older, I'm noticing that we don't have quite as much energy. I don't want to be 50 and trying to chase after a 5 year old. We've come to a point where we have decided that it's no longer either/or; it's time to switch to and. 

We received a letter from PPVI in early July and spent most of the last month trying to get answers to some key questions before we started working with them. Honestly, the call from the receptionist the morning after I left my first message, asking "Who are you?" was depressing and disheartening. As we struggled to connect and get answers, we questioned if it was worth it to work with them: they're out of network; it's far away; they're fussy. We aren't completely committed to doing everything they suggest, but we are still giving them a chance. I'm unhappy with the idea of having surgery again, especially since their rationale is that Dr. P. hadn't done the surgical fellowship and therefore did things differently and might have missed something. I don't know how likely it is, but we have up until we schedule surgery to change our minds. (Technically, we can still change our minds after that, though it would cost us $275.)

But given that adoption will take 1.5 to 2 years to complete the process, we can't continue to keep waiting. It's time to start the process. Last week we requested an application and had a Skype call with the agency. We have a couple of things we need to do to get our ducks in a row before we submit the application, but we plan to send it in next month. We have started work on the 22 (eep!) pages that are exclusively for agency use and know what we need to do; we've figured out how we will be able to afford it. Our top preference would be a sibling group, up to 4 children, both boy(s) and girl(s), with the oldest no older than 8. Researching everything on the considerations list was scary and intimidating, but we are comfortable with the decision to move forward. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Green-Eyed Monster

Lately my Facebook feed has been more like Baby Book, full of baby pictures. Then there are the first back to school pictures popping up; I can't quite believe that friends have children quite that old already. (My high school lab partner has a daughter in 6th grade!!!) And so I sit here, typing through the tears. Husbandido and I were trying to play a game of Thunderstone, but I couldn't really focus. I couldn't help but keep asking him why we want to want to raise someone else's children. Therein lies one of the fundamental differences in how we see adoption; to Husbandido, once you adopt them, the children are yours. To me, they are your children, but they will always also be someone else's children. Somewhere out there they have other parents, other relatives, that have nothing to do with you. 

I'm exhausted, which isn't helping my mood. I'm tired of thinking about life insurance, and where our birth certificates are, and making sure all our ducks are in a row. I'm tired of constantly questioning whether we're doing the right things. I'm tired of questioning whether it's worth it, any of it. I'm tired of trying to figure out how to deal with out of network claims and what lab will be willing to do the blood draws and let me send off the blood; I'm tired of none of it being easy. I'm tired of not being able to escape from everyone else's babies. (They even followed me into my e-mail when I scooted off FB to escape! Thank you Pregnancy Resource Center of the South Hills.) I even thought about going to bed at 8:30 pm, but I resisted because I'm not 5 (or sick). I knew if I tried to go bed, I would just end up sobbing up there. (Which, let's face it, wouldn't accomplish anything.) 

Nights like these, it's hard to fight the green-eyed monster, the one who asks "Why do they get what they wanted and I don't? Why does a 28 year old who has a 5 year old and toddler twins get pregnant with twins in an unplanned pregnancy that nearly ends in abortion, and I spend years taking medications and doing everything I can and still can't get pregnant?" Nights like these, jealousy gets the better of me, and I forget the many ways I am fortunate. Nights like these, I just want to give up. I could really stand to have a lot fewer of nights like these. 

Monday, August 10, 2015

St. Stanislaus

This past weekend Husbandido and I went on a road trip with our friends (and road-trippers extraordinaire) Amy and Matt. We spent Saturday at Waldemeer Park in Erie, Pa; Sunday we were off to Cleveland to see Matt Maher at The Fest. I had never heard of Waldemeer or The Fest until Amy asked if we wanted to join them; I had even been looking forward to a quiet weekend at home after a particularly busy time (job interviews, new job, going to Michigan for Posey's third birthday, my parents visiting, lots of phone tag with PPVI, and having an initial Skype interview/meeting with our adoption agency after requesting an application - more on all that later). Amy and Matt had won free tickets to Waldemeer as a door prize at a race; Amy messaged me to ask if we were free, so I turned to Husbandido and asked if he was interested. I don't remember exactly what he said, but it amounted to "YES!!!" 

Neither of us could figure out the last time we had been to an amusement park; we went to Hershey Park with my family the summer we were dating, 8 years ago. We went to Kennywood once before we started TTC, then we had bought discounted tickets through Husbandido's mother once during the last four years, but the day everyone was going was during the 2ww. It was early enough in trying that I was paranoid about whether it would be safe for me to go on any of the rides, so we ended up not using the tickets. (What a waste.) Husbandido was far more excited about Waldemeer; I was more excited about the concert. 

Amy had initially thought we would go to 8:30 am Mass at the cathedral in Erie, but we stayed at Waldemeer until closing, which made 8:30 not that appealing. (Sleep really is our friend.) On the drive to our hotel Amy was scrolling through the list of parishes, looking for one with a good Mass time, ideally around 9:15 or 9:30. Our best option? St. Stanislaus Parish. In case you couldn't guess, St. Stanislaus is another major Polish saint. (This weekend I learned that traditionally the first parish in a Polish community is named for St. Stanislaus.)

St. Stanislaus is a beautiful church, built in 1896. I'm wary of reading too much into it, but it seemed appropriate as we begin our journey to adopt from Poland. 

 "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us"

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

"Worth the Wait"

(N.B. No part of this post should be considered a criticism of those who have used this phrase. It is simply intended as an opinion of someone whose wait may not end.)

Last month I turned 38. We've been TTC for 4 years and 3 months. I have no clue if my eggs are any good or if they were ever any good; there simply isn't any way to tell. More than 2 months after our last doctor's appointment, I'm still fighting to get everything I need to send our records to PPVI. Our FCP is rarely answering my e-mails, and then only after a significant delay. (I understand that she's busy, but she's also the one that convinced us that sending everything to PPVI was what we should do.) I spent the weekend before last waiting for her to call and not having the phone ring. Quite frankly, I feel like I am waiting for Godot.

Meanwhile, I've been seeing the phrase "worth the wait" turn up in a number of blog posts. It's reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend a little more than a year ago about how it's easy to say that it's worth the wait if the end result is having a child or an adoption that goes well, but can you say it's "worth the wait" if the wait doesn't end or ends with a heartbreaking result? She planned to write a post on it, but I don't think she ever did, and now she's pregnant. So this is my opinion on "worth the wait." 

Looking back, from a position of having gained what you wanted, how easy is it discount the wait, the pain, the exhaustion, the suffering? Or from a different angle, if you knew, absolutely, that at a certain time you would gain your heart's desire, wouldn't it be much easier to use the intervening time productively, preparing yourself to receive it? We have no window to the future, no crystal ball. (And trying to know the future always ends badly - just ask Macbeth.)

"Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something." The Man in Black, The Princess Bride
Lately I can't help but agree with with the Man in Black. For all my hopes and optimism this month, it turns out that my blood work was again horrible. Estradiol was only about 1/3 of that desired; progesterone was only half. I've had plenty of months of great P+7 blood work, with nothing to show for it. What am I waiting for? For paperwork, for answers? I don't know if I care about answers anymore. Most particularly, for a different answer? I want the answer to be "Yes" but expect it to stay "No." If the wait never ends, can it be worth the wait? 

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Do They Pray for Parents?

Julie Davis' book, Happy Catholic, is a staple in my Eucharistic Adoration bag. I love just flipping to a random page, opening it up, and reading one or more of her reflections. In recent months, I keep ending up on page 85. I don't know whether that page has simply been worn open or if He is trying to tell me something.

God Doesn't Hand Out Cash
Damian: I thought it was from God. Who else would have that kind of money?
Ronnie: It's not really His think, is it, handing out cash.   -Millions 
Truer words were never spoken. However much we might wish to the contrary, God doesn't hand out cash.  
God tends to use created things to answer prayers. Things, for example, like us. 
Even as far back as Genesis, we see God creating the world and "seeing that it was good." He didn't wish Adam and Eve into being from thin air but used earth and spirit, and also a rib. Jesus used mud and spit to heal the blind. There is copious evidence that, having made all that is around us, God expects us to use it.
That is what makes it all-important that we act on it and step up to do our part. Because using us to answer prayer, whether we may realize it or not at the time, is his thing.
This past weekend was the celebration of my grandmother's 90th birthday. While there, I couldn't help but be struck by how much my cousin's daughter looks like she did at that age. You could stick her daughter's picture in with pictures of my cousin and I and you would think it was my cousin.  It has had me reflecting on how much we naturally hunger to see parts of ourselves reflected in our children. Does she have your eyes? Your husband's curly hair? Who will he or she take after in temperament? When you adopt you can hope that your child(ren) will reflect your values and morals, but in appearance or personality you have no hope that they will be a blend of you and your spouse.

As a biochemist with some training in genetics, I have really struggled with questions about adoption. Not only genetics but prenatal environment are proving to be so important in determining who a child is. And recent evidence from children born via third-party assisted reproduction is showing how much children long for their biological parents. Knowing these things has made considering adoption very difficult for me. I spent much of my childhood feeling second-best, like I had to earn my family's love, so the thought of being considered second-best by a child or children who we have gone to all the trouble to adopt and raise is worrisome. I've been wondering, contemplating, do the children in orphanages dream of and pray for their biological parents to come back for them or do they simply dream of and pray for loving parents? Is God trying to use me, to use us, to answer their prayer?

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

An Experiment in Veiling

Though I knew a few women who veil, it wasn't something I had given much thought to, until I saw Rebecca's post and her FB RSVP for Wear the Veil Day back in November. It got me started digging, trying to find out more about this custom and why some women choose to follow it. Following link after link both made me curious and brought me into the fever swamps. For the most part, advocates of women covering their heads referred to it as an expression of humility before God. Most of them advocated veiling as a deliberate choice, something they hoped women would try, rather than something that must be done. (Though if you follow enough links, eventually you find someone saying that it's really still mandatory, despite the fact that it's so uncommonly done. Mixed in you also start finding arguments about women being submissive to their husbands in ways that I'm not completely comfortable with, as well as arguments against Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. Ahh, the internet.)

Despite not being completely convinced by the theological arguments, I finally decided that it would be worth trying, an experiment, if you will. I decided on an Infinity Scarf Mantilla; that way if I decided veiling wasn't for me, I would at least still have a scarf I might wear. One Sunday in between ordering the veil and receiving it I saw a woman at Mass wearing a veil; this was the first time that I had seen someone doing so at our parish. Afterwards I complimented her on it, asking where she had gotten it. This conversation was the first Husbandido heard of my newfound interest in veiling; it took him completely by surprise. That veil that lady was wearing was one that had belonged to her mother, but her utter assurance that it was worth doing (and should never have been done away with) helped me be more confident in my experiment. 

My veil didn't arrive by December 8, so I missed Wear the Veil Day. I was nervous about conducting this experiment at our parish; I put it off until we went to Arizona for Christmas. With Christmas, Sunday Mass, and the feast of Mary, the Mother of God all happening while we were out of town, it seemed like a great opportunity to experiment without any potentially awkward questions. (We attended Mass alone; my parents, brother and his family did not join us.) I was nervous and felt weird wearing my veil walking into Mass on Christmas. Then I looked around at the stained glass windows; all the female saints except St. Kateri had their heads covered; I no longer felt alone. Before Mass started, I looked around; there were a few other women with their heads covered, which was reassuring. As Mass started, I found that my mind no longer drifted; it was easier to focus. The next two Masses where I wore my veil I also felt calmer and less distracted. The only comment I received was when I was talking to the head usher while Husbandido took pictures; he assumed that we regularly attended an Extraordinary Form parish. I didn't correct his assumption, though I found it ironic, as I have never attended an Extraordinary Form Mass. (I would like to at some point, though.)

After we returned home, it took me a week or two to make the leap into wearing my veil at our parish. Being on pastoral council, I wondered what assumptions people would make; I didn't want to give the wrong impression. I'm not trying to be "holier than thou" or push for any kind of return to "old ways." It's simply a personal expression of faith and humility. The first many weeks I wore my veil at our parish I was relieved that it was our temporary parochial vicar presiding, not the pastor (who knows me). The first time our pastor saw me wearing my veil I was incredibly nervous, as I was the first few times I saw other members of pastoral council at the Mass we attend. I was very surprised that no one said anything or asked any questions. I even skipped wearing my veil for Easter since we were attending Mass in the parish hall, where there would be fewer people. (Our parish is large enough that it is easy to feel semi-anonymous in sanctuary.) 

Before Easter I decided that I needed a lighter color veil for spring, so after much indecision (this time with Husbandido's input), I ordered this in sky blue. It's taken a little more to get used to wearing; the infinity scarf mantilla is definitely easier to wear. I now found myself planning my outfits for Mass to go with my veil, which also has me considering adding to veil wardrobe. Currently under consideration are this (though spelled differently,  Brigid is my confirmation name), this (blue is my favorite color), this (green is Husbandido's favorite color and my second favorite), or this (in black and brown, black and green, or black and blue). (I might just have a problem here... But they're so pretty!) Feel free to weigh in with what you think I should get next.

I was surprised by the comments I received on my veil at the Healing Mass we attended. Several women commented on how beautiful it is, as well as remarking that it isn't something you see very often. The only person at our parish who has said anything was a lady from the Dominican Republic, who I knew from Bible Study and who was taking the Catholicism series I was running this spring; she wanted to know where I had gotten my veil because she loved it and wanted to go back to veiling. 

Wearing a veil helps me separate the sacred from the profane; it keeps me focused on God during Mass and Eucharistic Adoration. My experiment in veiling won me over; I hope you will consider conducting your own experiment.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A Healing Mass

Have you ever been to a healing Mass? Actually, let's back that up - have you ever heard of healing Mass? Before May 17, I certainly hadn't. Of course I was vaguely familiar with the concept of healing services, though I associated them with charismatic sects. (Honestly, the image that most sprung to mind was some kind of tent revival. We're Catholic - we don't do that.... Right?) But there was the notice in the bulletin, just a small notice, about a healing Mass at St. Mary's parish, in Cecil. The Mass was on Wednesday, and we didn't have anything else going on that evening; it would only be about 20 minutes away. 

From Sunday until Wednesday evening, we waffled. Would going do any good? Certainly God can choose to work through mediums such as a relic, medal, prayer or healing Mass, but He doesn't need any of it to effect a change or healing. Going (or not going) wouldn't change His mind; He has His plans, to which we are not privy, which do not change. How many of us have said, over and over again, that while yes, we are exhorted to turn to Him in prayer constantly, to never stop asking, getting the answer we hope for isn't simply a matter of praying longer or harder or having deeper faith? (That way lies the Prosperity Gospel, not the way of the cross.) Honestly, I couldn't quite see much reason to go, but without going, there would be no way to know if it were worthwhile. 

And so we went. St. Mary's is tucked away, a bit more difficult to get to then the directions first suggested. When we arrived, the parking lot was packed, much to my surprise; we were directed to park in the cemetery. In many ways, St. Mary's looks like the church we were married in, St. Bartholomew's; they both have the 1960's/1970's style of architecture and stained glass. It seemed like the service had started by the time we arrived; everyone was singing when we walked in, so we chose a pew near the back. 

For the most part, the Mass was Mass. I couldn't help but see the irony of the Scripture reading, featuring the woman with hemorrhages, both because it was during my period as well the contrast between her complete faith and my uncertainty. It wasn't always easy to hear the priest presiding, mostly due to the sound system, but at times due to the family with young children that sat behind us. (I'm pretty certain that the baby tugged on my veil at least a couple of times.) 

At the close of Mass, the presiding priest shared a list of conditions and situations that they heard as they prayed beforehand. "One of the things about the Holy Spirit is that it allows us to hear God. As we prayed before Mass, here is what we heard. A young man will have his vocation to the priesthood affirmed tonight... Tonight someone will be healed of the diabetes... Foot problems... Breathing problems... A child will be healed in the womb tonight..." The list went on, with everyone listening raptly. Sometimes someone would call out "Amen" or just raise their hand as a condition was mentioned. For about 5 minutes, the priest listed conditions and situations; I kept hoping that IF would show up, however it was described. It didn't. There was something that sounded like it could refer to adoption but only in an oblique way. 

After the dismissal and blessing of the oil, the priests spread out to various posts in the aisles. As each priest took his position, a line quickly formed. We eventually joined the unorganized not-quite-a-line in the back corner behind where we had been sitting. The family with the two young children who sat behind us were first in line; it seemed like both boys had some kind of health problem. The crowd/line ebbed and flowed; a couple of women complimented me on my veil, and then it was our turn. For the first time when I told a priest about our infertility he listened; he asked if we were trying to find the underlying cause of it. I explained that we were still working with doctors to find and treat the causes of our IF. He prayed over us for some time, closing with a smile and "Come see me in 3 months." Afterwards, I was filled with calm and peace, something that has been in short supply lately. 

As we were leaving, I commented to Husbandido that the priest we spoke with looked kind of like Pope Saint John Paul II. I can't say that the peace I felt that night lingers; circumstances since have knocked that out of me. I can say that going to the healing Mass was well worth it, and we will likely go back. (For those in the Pittsburgh area, the schedule is here; for other areas, typing "healing Mass [location]" should help you find one.) 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A Personal Note

I recently realized quite how long I've been AWOL from my own blog... It's not because I have nothing to say, but because things have been a little too crazy around here.

Instead of writing about Infertility Awareness Week here, I chose to do it on Facebook. Let's face it, if you're reading infertility bloggers, you're probably pretty aware of infertility (and may just be an infertile yourself). Brevity has never been my hallmark, which can be problematic on Facebook, but I think my posts reached at least a few people. 

Our wedding anniversary was the Sunday after Infertility Awareness Week ended. I chose to put up a "bonus" post because IF does color birthdays and anniversaries. Not long after, my birthday followed our anniversary, and I worried it would be swallowed up in the preparations for the annual Mother's Day brunch we host. Hosting brunch helps keep from focusing on just what it is we're celebrating; I'm too busy dealing with the food and making sure everyone is having a good time. Part of me is a little bitter that we host the gatherings for Husbandido's family that include both of our birthdays, but the only other alternative is for his parents to do it. (His sister only hosts the party for her daughter's birthday; his oldest brother never hosts [I haven't seen the inside of their house in the 8 years we've been together], and his other brother lives in a one bedroom apartment.) Especially given that MIL passed out and was taken to the hospital by ambulance for the second time just a week before Mother's Day, I don't feel right asking her to do more. So I tried not to lose my birthday in the midst of cleaning the house from top to bottom. Since we host brunch, we go to Saturday evening Mass Mother's Day weekend. I was okay until the priest had all the mothers stand for the blessing. Of course it's never just a blessing, there's always the obligatory applause, everyone recognizing and telling the mother's how much they are valued. I lost it; it's entirely possible that I do it every year and just forget about it between times. But I could only lose it for so long; there's always too much to do before hosting. 

Brunch went well, though K never did RSVP. I have to say not knowing how many guests to expect drives me mildly bonkers, but it's typical of K. That morning we found out she wasn't coming from her mother; Cindy, K's daughter, was sick. Everyone had a good time at brunch; the last guests didn't leave until almost 8 pm. 

Since then we've been trying to take it easy and rest a bit before the ginormous birthday extravaganza my aunt has planned for my Grandmother's 90th birthday. It's a 10 hour drive for us, so we'll leave that Thursday after Husbandido gets off work and drive halfway. Two 10 hour days in the car out of three days is too much for us. Apparently there are 43 people expected at the Saturday dinner, including a number of my mother's cousins. I am dreading the obligatory questions about children, especially given that one of my cousin's wife is expecting. Then there's the fact that the great-grands are pretty much the star of the show. Every year I ask myself why I feel so obligated to go, and I always come back with the same answer: I would feel horrible if something happened to my grandmother, and we hadn't made the time to see her in the year beforehand. So I put up with the stress, frustration, and cost to go. I reserve the right to grumble about it, though.

I've been fighting with my doctor's office, trying to get information that was promised to me at our April 2 appointment. Today, roughly 6 weeks later, I finally got the list of recommended supplements that I expected to receive within days of the appointment. His nurse said that he's doing some research about the ultrasound series, which is why I haven't yet gotten the instructions for it. (I have to admit that makes me nervous.) I was incredibly frustrated yesterday, when I didn't find out until 3:30 pm that the nurse who was supposed to be my usual contact was retiring and not helping patients anymore. It was made worse by the fact that my period had started, while I had 2 days of progesterone left; I was hoping someone could confirm that I should not take those final doses. Thankfully, Marie came to my rescue. I am eternally grateful to those of you who have been a huge help with medical information... but I can't help but be annoyed that I can't seem to get key information from my doctor's office. We're starting to wonder whether we're getting to a point where Dr. P is out of his depth, making it more important that we get everything together to send to Omaha. 

I hope to be back to posting more regularly soon!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Finding Joy in the Midst of Sorrow

"Anybody here found joy in the middle of sorrow,
Just Say Amen!" - Finding Favour, "Say Amen"

There's no other phrase that sums up living with infertility for me - "finding joy in the midst of sorrow." We can't go around being angry, sad, and frustrated all the time. Trust me, I've tried. After a while, you get to a point where you start to hate yourself, to hate who you've become. It's exhausting and depressing. Then the next thing you know, you really are depressed and questioning whether your life has any value. (Perhaps a slight exaggeration.)

So here are a few things that have brought me joy lately.

  • Finding out on Easter Monday that the hellebores I thought had died had survived the winter
  • The scent of hyacinths (I would say that they're one of my favorite flowers, but I think I have too many favorites!)
  • Purring cats
  • A good book, a bowl of popcorn, and a roaring fire on a cold night
  • Finally being able to turn the heat off and open windows!
  • Playing board games with friends
  • Starting to think about throwing an "Un-Bachelor" Party for Husbandido (or should it be a birthday party? He will turn 40 this year...)
I'm not sure I can say that I've found "peace in the storm" or "hope for tomorrow," but I'm trying hard to find those moments of joy, in the midst of so much sorrow.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Apostle to the Apostles*

After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdelene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, 'He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.' This is my message for you." So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. (Matthew 28:1-8, NRSV)

Apostle to the apostles* - this phrase has been stuck in my head since Easter. In the early church, Mary Magdalene and the other(s) with her that morning were considered as apostles to the apostles. But what is an apostle, exactly? In the original Greek, apostle means messenger (literally, one who has been sent). Over time the idea of this special role for these women was lost; I think much was lost when we lost this idea.

Today we are all called to spread the good news, to be apostles, sent into the world. But I think there is a special role for our community, for those suffering from IF and miscarriage. I think we, too, are called to be apostles to the apostles. If that is the case, then what is our message? 

Life is a gift.

Day by day, month by month, in our words and our actions, we are called to testify that life is a gift. In our culture and world, where we so casually speak of planning our families and of "death with dignity," there is a strong need for the world to hear that life is simply a gift. Though sometimes you can plan for it, most often it will take you by surprise. Each life, each day has value. No matter what your struggles, sufferings, or weaknesses are, your life is a gift. The child who dies before birth? A difficult gift, but a gift nonetheless. Whether a person lives a few days or more than a hundred years, that life is a gift. 

There are many others called to spread this same message; Kara Tippetts did so beautifully and eloquently in how she lived and how she died. So many messengers are needed because the world doesn't want to hear it; we all want to believe that we can live our lives on our terms. "We can make our dreams come true if we try hard enough. We can eliminate suffering if we all come together." How many times have we heard this message? From commencement speeches to self-help books to TV and movies, we hear it constantly. Except we can't. Life is simply a gift. It is a surprise; we don't know what will be contained within. We must simply accept the gift as given. Suffering is a real and necessary part of life; it, too, is a gift. It isn't easy to be grateful for suffering, but perhaps we can learn to accept it is part of the great gift that is life. 

* I was initially remembering a form of this phrase as "apostle apostlodorum," which doesn't seem to be the correct Greek or Latin. I also was unable to find the phrase in my notebook from my course in "Women in the Biblical World." (I hate to admit that it's nearly 20 years since I took that class.)

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

On Setting Boundaries and Knowing When to Stop

Before I go any further, I want to thank everyone who has taken the time to comment recently. I thoroughly appreciate your thoughts, prayers, and concerns. You have given us much to think about and consider as we decide what to do next.

At this point, Husbandido and I have decided that it is worth sending my charts and medical records to PPVI for another opinion. Beyond that we have not decided how much else we are willing to do; it will come down to what is suggested and the rationale behind it. We have agreed that if they suggest doing the ultrasound series, I will do that. At the opposite end, we have agreed that it would take a very compelling reason for me to have surgery again. (Something along the lines of "Let's see what's going on" or "There has to be something else causing problems" would not do it.) We have also discussed limits on what dietary changes I am willing to make, since I saw no effect, either in how I felt or my antibody titers, when I went GF. 

Why did we decide to request another opinion? The first reason is wondering if there is something else going on, something that has been missed. None of the diagnoses I have received so far are such that conceiving is unlikely (Hashimoto's syndrome, diffuse stage I endometriosis, which was removed, and type III luteal phase defect). Based on what has been looked at so far, I respond well to treatment, with hormone levels in the desired ranges. Together with the not infrequent mistakes and confusion we have gotten from our doctor's office, it leaves us wondering if there is something else going on. Secondly, there is the simple fact that right now I am, at best, ambivalent about adoption. Most often the thought of adopting leaves me upset and depressed. Due to childhood verbal and emotional abuse I am very touchy on the subject of being second best or not good enough. The conventional wisdom that focuses on the loss and trauma that leaves a child eligible for adoption has me incredibly fearful of investing so much time, money, energy, and love into raising a child or children who will reject me/us as not good enough, not their "real" family, not enough. Tomorrow evening we are speaking to Bilbo and Biscuit's (two of our cats) foster mom, who was adopted as an infant and has raised an adopted son to adulthood. (She now has two grandchildren.) We also plan to speak to a couple from our parish who adopted their son from Peru (their son is about our age). So while we look further into the medical situation, we are also trying to deal with my fears about adoption. 

While we can't yet put a definite limit on when we will stop, this certainly isn't a commitment to try everything suggested. We will listen to the opinion we receive and decide from there. Usually I hate leaving anything up in the air, but I think this is the best decision we can make for now.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Tough Questions and the Cold Comfort of Answers

In preparation for our doctor's appointment on April 2, we had a follow-up with our FCP, L, last night. I would classify L as a "true believer"; she is not just an FCP but also an instructor and serves on the board; her confidence in CrMS and NaPro is impressive. She seemed surprised when we implied that we are considering stopping, likely partly due to her faith in NaPro and partly not wanting to see anyone not succeed. L suggested that if Dr. P doesn't have any new ideas about what to try, we should send my charts and records to Omaha and get another opinion. She also strongly suggested that I have the ultrasound series done. In the past when I brought up the ultrasound series, Dr. P didn't think there would be that much useful information gained from it, based on the ultrasounds I had done previously with our RE. L seemed to think that there was a chance I am developing follicles that mature properly but do not contain/release an egg. (Both she and Dr. P consider LUFS unlikely in my case based upon my charts and hormone levels.) She also seemed to feel strongly that we would (should?) want all the answers before deciding to stop.

Which leads to tough questions, and ones we had not considered before. Do we want to seek yet another opinion? Do we want to have the ultrasound series done? What would be gained by doing either? I want to be done trying, but until recently I never really thought all this would end in failure. Do I have it in me to keep trying? Is it selfish to keep trying for a biological child instead of pursuing adoption? Is it more selfish to just want to be done? If I do have the ultrasound series done, where? Do we even care about the answers anymore? 

When we started with CrMS and NaPro the better part of two years ago, we were hungry for answers after having been left with a diagnosis of "unexplained infertility." Of course we also believed that answers would lead to better, more successful treatments, ideally with fewer side effects. As diagnoses have piled up, we have been left with the sad truth that answers are a cold comfort when nothing works, when you continue to fail. Answers don't look up at you adoringly and will never say "I love you, Mommy." 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

"Don't End Up Like Me"

If this hadn't happened to me, I'm not sure I would believe it; it seems more like something an author would cook up to move the plot along. But it happened like this...

Last Tuesday I was attending an event at our parish, sponsored by the women's group, on handing our worries over to God. I hadn't originally planned to attend, but Husbandido talked me into it. (I was obligated to harass him about him thinking I was anxious.) It was the tail end of the two week wait, and we were leaving the next day to visit my parents. I had initially expected the trip to happen after we knew how the month had turned out, but a late peak meant that I was still waiting. There were three short sessions, with time for prayer/reflection/adoration in between them. During the second break, I headed to the washroom.

As I was leaving, I ran into Renee*. (Renee and I joined Pastoral Council at the same time, though she left after a few months as it wasn't a good fit for her. She is probably in her late 50s or early 60s and is a widow.) She asked how I was; I gave the honest answer that things were rough, as we were waiting to find out if what was expected to be our last month of trying had succeeded. Renee asked what Husbandido's thoughts were on adoption, and I explained that he was more positive about it than I am. I explained why I'm struggling with idea of adopting. She said that when they weren't able to have children her husband was unwilling to consider adoption. And then she said the most remarkable thing: "Don't end up like me."** She continued "Sure people ask about your work, but what most people want to talk about are families, yours and theirs." Renee told me that she is helping out her niece by babysitting a couple of mornings a week, which she loves. It was obvious that as busy as she is, as many friends as she has, she is lonely and wishes she had children and grandchildren of her own. Renee said she was praying for us, and our conversation ended shortly after that.

On Friday, events confirmed her words. We were at an art festival with my mother, and we ran into an artist she had purchased a painting from and become friendly with. After briefly discussing what new work the artist was doing, they switched to talking about their children. The artist was thrilled that her 32 year old son had finally gotten married, though she lamented her lack of grandchildren. My mother is usually very good about IF, but this time, right in front of me, she was commiserating with her friend about wanting more grandchildren and the challenges of one's children marrying later. "What most people want to talk about are families..."

"Don't end up like me." These words haunt me.

* Name changed 
** Please note that I am in no way intending to suggest that everyone who remained childless feels this way; this is only one woman's heartfelt opinion. 

Friday, March 6, 2015

The Problem with Neon

Last November, while at Eucharistic Adoration, I started looking up more information about Saint Gianna, since some of her relics were coming to a parish not that far from us. Through the wonders of autocomplete, I instead ended up at the website for Saint Mary International Adoption, which I had previously bookmarked. That simple autocomplete convinced me that it was time to at least request information. Through the joys of cell phone data, I wasn't sure that my request had been submitted; I quickly found out that it had, and that the folks at Saint Mary's are incredibly attentive and persistent. By the time I got home from running some errands, I not only had an e-mail with detailed information, but I had missed a phone call from them. 

A short time later, I was going through the drawer where I have "Catholic stuff" that I inherited from my grandparents. Amongst everything else, I stumbled across these.

The first is clearly a medal, though I don't know what is being shown behind the glass. It appears to be a piece of of fabric. (Guesses/hypotheses welcome.) The second set of pictures is more obviously a relic of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini. Who is Saint Frances X. Cabrini? The patron saint of immigrants. How did these items come to belong to my grandparents? Even my father doesn't know; I am hoping that my great-aunt can answer that question. Was this a sign? I wasn't sure; it could just be coincidence. Mother Cabrini made her mark in the United States first in New York, then Chicago, which were the two cities my grandparents lived in longest. I am wary of seeing signs and portents where there could be just coincidence and desire.

When it came time to draw patron saints for the new liturgical year, I prayed that our saints for the year would provide some guidance about what would come and what God is calling us to do. I was disappointed to find that our saints provided no obvious indication; my patron would be Saint John of Parma; Husbandido's patron saint for the year would be Saint Clare of Assisi. Neither of those suggested anything regarding conceiving a child or whether we should proceed with adoption. From that point, I started being more specific in my prayers. "Lord, I am not sure I am hearing what you are trying to tell me. Could You please give me neon? Something that is so obvious that it cannot just be me grasping at straws?"

Yesterday I got neon. One of the things I always do while I'm Adoration is to read about that day's saint in my copy of Fr. Alban Butler's Lives of the Saints. With this scheduled to be our last month of TTC, I decided to look up a couple of other relevant dates. Based on what I have seen so far, peak day will have been March 4, Saint Casimir's day. Who is Saint Casimir? The patron saint of Poland. Okay... what about peak+15, the day I would expect to start spotting if we have failed? Saint Joseph, foster-father of Jesus. What about P+17, the day which (if I made it that far) I could potentially be taking a pregnancy test? Saint Benedict - no hope there. Truly, I had been hoping that P+17 would belong to a married saint who had 10 kids. It was not to be be. I wept. Short of burning bush or angelic messenger territory, this seems a pretty clear sign. 

As I told Husbandido, it's not that I think we should let it affect our trying (we are still aiming to get I's on every day through P+3), but I no longer have hope that this will work. The problem with neon is that sometimes you have to face that which you would rather not face.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Abraham's Sacrifice and Ours

This week's Old Testament reading, of God telling Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, was a topic of much discussion last year in my Bible/Angel Study. Many of the women in the group struggled with that passage, wondering how Abraham knew it was truly God telling him to do this and how Abraham could possibly followed that instruction. Now maybe it's just that I don't have children, but I don't struggle with that story (ask me about the parable of the Prodigal Son, on the other hand...).  

In truth, I think the real reason that I do not struggle with the sacrifice that God asked of Abraham is that I see echoes of it in the sacrifice that we are asked to make. We are all asked to put our fertility, our dreams and hopes of children, in His hands. Some of us will, in time, be granted children, and some of us will be asked to permanently sacrifice our dreams of children. Some will never see a positive pregnancy test and others will see that joy only briefly, before surrendering their child back to God. We are asked to trust in Him, trust in His love and goodness, trust that He wants what is best for us and for all His people. 

Last year, in our discussions that sacrifice was real to me in that there was a loss, a sense of sacrifice every cycle that we failed to conceive. But now, with a few short weeks left, that sacrifice is more concrete. As we prepare to stop TTC and to tell friends and family that we are done, we have to accept that I will never be pregnant, that we will never see those first ultrasound pictures of our child, that I will never give birth, that we will never have biological children, that we will never look at our children and see bits of ourselves reflected back at us. In a very concrete way we are being asked to sacrifice the children of our hopes and dreams to God. 

How could Abraham prepare to sacrifice Isaac? God had made a covenant with Abraham, had made him very specific promises, which Abraham trusted God to fulfill. I have no covenant with God, have not been promised "descendants as numerous as the stars," but I, too, must trust Him with my sacrifice.