Monday, February 23, 2015

A Choice or A Calling?

I have no doubt that some people feel called to adoption. I am not one of them. Neither is Husbandido. (I asked.) We talked about our ideas about how to raise children and how many children we wanted on our early dates; adoption didn't come up until we were well into the realm of infertility. (For those counting, think four or five years later.) 

For us adoption is a choice; we may not like our options, but they seem to be a) adopt or b) remain childless. I am much more okay with b than Husbandido is; I keep trying to convince him that we should sell our 4 bedroom, 2 1/2 bedroom house and move to a cute little bungalow or cottage. No dice on that one, though; he really wants children. It's not that I don't want children, but I have more doubts and qualms about adoption than he does. At this point, we have more or less agreed to pursue adoption once we are done TTC. (Meaning in a month or two.) But for us, adoption is a choice, not a calling. It doesn't mean we are any less suited to adopt; it just means how we are getting there is different. 

I don't quibble with the statement that not every couple who cannot have children should adopt; not everyone wants to do so or is suited to it. I also agree that adoption solves the problem of childlessness, not infertility. But I do think we need to be careful not to overemphasize adoption as a calling, as not everyone who could or should adopt may feel a distinct calling. Whether you get there via a calling or a choice, adoption is valuable and needed; every child deserves a home and parents. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

A Crisis of Faith

(N.B. The events described below happened in December; I have wanted to write about them for some time, but this post has been difficult to write. Though it may not always seem it, I am doing better now.)

For the first time in months, maybe years, I had come up with a fun way to tell my parents I was pregnant. I imagined calling them: "Hi, Mom. Hi, Dad. I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that I have to have blood work done every other day while we're out there. The good news is that... I'm pregnant!" You see this month was different; my chart was not like previous months, and that could only be good, right? After nothing but months after month of failure, a change had to mean something positive. I was having to wake up in the middle of the night to use the washroom every night post-peak (which isn't at all normal for me). I really believed that we had succeeded, that we were going to have our own Christmas miracle. My mom would be able to have a baby shower for us when we were back in Illinois for my grandmother's 90th birthday bash. We would finally see something positive from my surgery, instead of just months of heavier and more painful periods. 

My post-peak phase wasn't even particularly long, but it was long enough for me to get my hopes up. Then, on December 12, P+something became CD1. And my faith broke. It wasn't just our situation; it was the suffering of so many of you, of Christians in the Middle East and Africa. It was the unfairness of it all - how some have their dreams come easily, while others struggle and suffer. I could believe in a God who was all-powerful and all-knowing. But One who loves all of His people equally? How could I believe that? If you saw a parent who showered one child with love and care and attention but abused his other child, would you say that parent loved his children equally? 

"Ah, but though God permits evil, He can bring good out of even the worst of things." you might say. "And His will is only for what is best for us." It all sounded like a bunch of cow pucky to me. Even worse that cow pucky, it sounded like Panglossian optimism*.What interfering, do-gooder, busybody doesn't say that they know better than you? What they think you should want or do is so much better for you. And nowhere are we promised that God's plans will grant us anything in this life. Even in the parables that Jesus himself told we hear of playing favorites, the lost coin, lost sheep, Prodigal Son, etc. If He is so much more joyful on the return of one who is lost, then why bother trying so hard to listen for His will and do as He wishes? Why not live your life and repent later? No, we don't know when our time will come, but rarely is death instantaneous. 

I stopped praying. In truth, I couldn't pray. I struggled to do the things that needed to be done, finishing the shopping, wrapping, Christmas cards, cookies. Writing Christmas cards was the hardest thing because I felt like the only one writing letters about how bad things were and how close we were to being done TTC. Other people wrote about their children's accomplishments, or vacations, or new babies. All I had to write about was the coming end of our dream. I dreaded going to my parents' place in Arizona; this would be the first time that we were all there since my sister-in-law, I, was pregnant. And of course Posey, the only grandchild, would be the center of attention, with this being the first Christmas she would be old enough to really be aware of. 

The first thing that began to pierce the darkness, depression, and anger swallowing me up was a line from Constantine**: "Evil wins when we let it destroy our faith in the power of good." It took watching the scene several times to get it written down just right, but it was a line I wanted to remember though hearing it made me cry all the harder. 

Husbandido and I had been planning to go to the penance service at a nearby parish on December 17. I wasn't sure I saw the point in going; what was I supposed to do, go to confession and say that I wasn't sure I believed anymore, that I wasn't sure I could believe anymore? But that was more or less exactly what I ended up doing; I sat down and told the priest about our nearly 4 years of TTC, of the constant heartbreak, of not just my own suffering but seeing that of my friends. I told him that I wasn't sure I could believe anymore; I don't think I got into the IF stuff until after he assigned my penance, including some Hail Marys and re-consecrating myself to the Blessed Mother. I think I blurted out something to the effect that her being the mother of Christ was part of the problem, since I couldn't conceive. I don't remember what he said then, only that I left confession feeling lighter than I had in what seemed like a very long time. I could start to pray again, not necessarily well, not with the confidence I had before, but I could start. 

Writing this now, in February, I am shocked that it was only 5 or 6 days where I was swallowed whole by darkness, anger, and depression. At the time it felt like weeks, like it would never end. I can't claim that the past two months have been filled with hope and peace; it's been the same roller-coaster, only now knowing that the end is near. I am still struggling with the thought that the last four years could all be for naught, and I hate thinking that it will end almost the same as it began, only with us older, more tired, and broken. Now when I pray, though I ask to succeed, mostly I pray for peace and for guidance. 

* Voltaire's Candide, where Professor Pangloss teaches his students that they live in "the best of all possible worlds" and "all is for the best."

**For those who aren't watching, it is a show about John Constantine, a freelance exorcist and master of the occult as he and his compatriots battle evil; it's based on the Hellblazer series of comics. While being dark and gruesome (and occasionally featuring dodgy theology), it is a great show about the war between good and evil.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Rules for Arguing (That Don't Work for IF/Adoption)

We started Valentine's Day with an argument - how romantic. Granted, it's never great to start the day with an argument, but it seems particularly ironic on a day devoted to love. Over the years of our marriage, we've experimented with some of the common "rules" for arguing, such as "don't go to bed angry," "use I feel statements," etc. Well, not going to bed angry only meant staying up later arguing, which was never constructive. Granted, you sleep better if you can resolve things before bed time, but that's just not possible sometimes. And let's face it: while there are times that "I feel" statements communicate your point, there are plenty of times that they leave a lot out. The one rule we've found works pretty consistently for us is "whoever cares more wins." 

Whoever cares more wins works most of the time. What do you want for dinner? He wants fish, but right now the smell makes me queasy? Okay, we'll have something else. What do you want to do today? These sorts of decisions are easy to solve with whoever cares more wins. It's even worked pretty well in determining financial priorities. 

However, it fails utterly when it comes to decisions relating to IF and adoption. When the decisions involved lead to a life-long commitment and can cost close to a year's salary, there is too much at stake for either of us to simply let the other have his or her way. We are mostly on the same page regarding continuing TTC; unless our doctor can give us a compelling reason why a new treatment protocol would work, this is our last month of TTC. 
Our doctor's office has reaffirmed that there are no changes to the treatment plan, despite last month's blood work being a little disappointing. It's starting to feel like they are out of ideas, though an optimist could claim that perhaps they are just convinced that the current protocol should work. (Husbandido gives them more of the benefit of the doubt than I do.)

The last two weeks have been busy and stressful; last Saturday was another of the giant birthday parties for Husbandido's family (4 birthdays, 16 or 17 people). Plus there was the nagging e-mail from my aunt about needing pictures in preparation for my grandmother's 90th birthday bash and the overwhelming preparations for running Fr. Robert Barron's Catholicism series at our parish. Though I was trying so hard not to volunteer, guilt got me to agree to speak to someone about it, which somehow turned into running it. (Funny how that works, isn't it?) And today is, of course, CD2.

As we approach the end of TTC, we are more seriously reconsidering adoption. Husbandido is pretty strongly in favor of moving ahead with it, quickly. I have more doubts and concerns; adoption was never something I considered before IF. With my background, I cannot deny that genetics and prenatal environment are important in determining who a person is. I don't claim that parents and environment don't matter, though recent research suggests that they matter less than we might like or imagine. I am terrified of spending a fortune to adopt and a raise a child (or children) who will then turn around and reject us as not their "real family" once he or she is grown. If we are going to end up old and alone, isn't it better that we at least have the money to cover a decent care facility rather than being stuck in the facility for the indigent? (Yes, I am quite aware that is a worst case scenario, thank you very much.) In trying to research adoption, I have found a plethora of opinions, from whole-hearted support to adoptees who wish they were aborted to those who think adoption is evil and we should all just give the money we would spend adopting to birth mothers so that they can keep their babies. What I haven't found is good, solid research on the long-term results of adoption. How common is it that they maintain good relationships with their families? How common is rejection or estrangement? We can speak to those we know who have raised adopted children or who were adopted, but as the saying goes, the plural of anecdote is not data. In the end, it will probably not be research that convinces me but a leap of faith. (I hate making leaps of faith.)

Monday, February 2, 2015

Mary's Hopes and Dreams

While spending the holidays with my family in Scottsdale, AZ, we had the pleasure of attending Our Lady of Joy in Carefree. In the front of the chapel there is a painting of Mary holding and playing with Jesus amongst the cacti and other plants of the Sonoran desert. As I've written before, I haven't always had the easiest time connecting to Mary. But something about this painting drew me in, made me think more about Mary the person, not The Blessed Virgin Mary. What were Mary's hopes and dreams? We know very little about Mary, primarily her family, her youth, her humility and her faithfulness. But there must have been so much more to her; surely she had hopes and dreams and fears. As an only child, did she long for a house full of children, so that her children would not be alone? Though she probably didn't dream of love as we now imagine romantic love, what hopes did she have for her future husband? As a faithful, pious young woman, she probably hoped for a husband who would also be strong in faith. Did she hope that her husband would be learned or a man of means? Did she simply hope that he would be kind and treat her well? Did Mary dream of a handsome husband? Did Mary, knowing of her cousin Elizabeth's barrenness and her parents' difficulties, pray that she might not undergo that trial? Did she dream of permanence, a home where she would spend the rest of her life? We know that Mary was humble and that most Jews expected the Messiah to come as a king, so she almost certainly did not dream of bearing the Son of God.

Whatever Mary hoped and dreamed before her betrothal and visit from the Archangel Gabriel, it almost certainly was not what she got. Mary's plans and hopes and dreams, like ours, were turned upside down by God. Until that moment, I never imagined that Mary could understand the loss and pain of infertility. She may not have experienced infertility or miscarriage, but she experienced the trial of finding out that God's plan for her was different from what she had imagined for herself. Though she might not have been through month after month after year of trying, of feeling loss every month, she almost certainly had some moments of fear and uncertainty when traveling to Bethlehem late in her pregnancy or when the angel warned Joseph to flee to Egypt. Though she was obedient and faithful, Mary still may have questioned what God was doing in her life; she may have doubted or worried. Mary's pregnancy and maternity doesn't have to be what keeps me from turning to her, for it was that pregnancy and maternity that turned her world upside down, as my lack of pregnancy and maternity has turned my world upside down.