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.