Monday, December 21, 2009

Never Enough

I have been working on reading through the bible the last couple years. It has been great to read scripture and learn more about salvation history. After beginning to write this blog, I started reading scripture through a framework of infertility. I am always looking for good quotes (that I can take out of context) to fit my posts. Psalms and Job were especially fruitful and I definitely recommend reading through those books from an infertile perspective. I finished Proverbs the other week and one verse towards the end of the book has really stuck with me.

“Three things are never satisfied, four never say, ‘Enough!’ The nether world, and the barren womb; the earth, that is never saturated with water, and fire, that never says, ‘Enough!’” Proverbs 30:15b-16

I found it so interesting that the writer included the barren womb. How true that statement is! As I go through year after year, doctor after doctor, loss after loss, sometimes I feel that I have hit a wall. This process can be so long and sometimes it can feel that we may never reach our desired goal. But I continue to press on. Even after my darkest days of feeling that I can’t go on, I one day wake up with a refreshed resolve to continue.

Even my family has occasionally told me I should seek adoption after all this time (that is a topic for another post). I know that the situation may seem hopeless to them, or that they are wondering why I would put myself through so much, but to me, there is always something new to pursue. There is always hope. All of the doctor’s appointments, time off work, time spent in waiting rooms and on the phone, medications and their lovely side effects, and emotional burdens have truly added up, especially this past year. When I read on message boards about other women who have had multiple miscarriages, there are so many horror stories of things that have gone wrong. I wonder how many times I can do this to myself without something like that happening to me. I know it must be hard for my family and friends to understand why this barren womb will never say, “Enough!”

I have seen the same characteristic in so many other bloggers who I have been able to keep up with for (almost) a year. Some of you have been on this journey longer than I. Some have never conceived in that time. We all face moments of darkness and the feeling that this is too much, but we all find something that pushes us to continue. I know some are working towards acceptance and moving past formal treatments, but the prayer in your hearts is always, “Thy will be done” and the openness to life still remains.

I truly feel that God is leading me to continue. It seems that even though we’ve come so far, there is still much to explore. That although we’ve aged, there is still more time. We each promised in our wedding vows to accept children lovingly from God, and it seems that the graces received from the sacrament are working actively in our hearts. We still desire to fulfill that vow, and have made (heroic) efforts to achieve that end. Those graces have brought us this far, and I’m sure they will continue to direct our paths until we finally accomplish the work that God is bringing forth in us.

“With full voice I cry to the Lord; with full voice I beseech the Lord. Before God I pour out my complaint, lay bare my distress. My spirit is faint within me, but you know my path.” Psalm 142:2-4

“In his mind a man plans his course, but the Lord directs his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

“In the same way, the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings. And the one who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because it intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will.” Romans 8:26-27

Reflection Questions
1. What causes me to feel burnt out in this journey?
2. What motivates me to keep pushing after hitting a wall?
3. In what direction is God directing my path at this point?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Gift of Mercy

When I was going through my miscarriages, certain words sprung to mind. It is always very difficult for me to pray at these times and these words are what I clung to. After my third loss, I realized that all of the prayers had to do with mercy.

During my first loss, I was completely shocked and devastated. The only words that came to mind were, "Jesus, I trust in you." It took me almost a year before I made the connection that this was the prayer of Divine Mercy. For our second pregnancy, I made it all the way to 12 weeks. We saw the heartbeat and thought everything was going to be fine. But one Monday morning I woke up and found that I was spotting. I ran straight back to my bed and sobbed. The prayer that came out was, "God, have mercy on us!" After things started looking bad on the ultrasounds for our third baby, the words that came to mind were from Psalm 130, "Out of the depths I call to you, Lord; Lord, hear my cry!" When I looked up the rest of the psalm, I found that the following verse was "May your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy."

For a few months after my last loss, I have been pondering what God's message was to me regarding mercy. When I think of God's mercy, I usually think of forgiveness of sins; however, that was not the type of mercy that I associate with my losses. Instead, I was asking God to look on me in my suffering and to have compassion. To lift me out of the depths and transform my suffering.

I eventually had to ask my husband what insights he could take from my prayers. What followed were some of the most beautiful words about suffering and the gift of mercy. I actually pulled out a pen and paper and started taking notes! Here were some of his thoughts:

During times of suffering, we receive intuitions of God's closeness. We are more receptive to God's compassion because we can relate to Jesus' innocent suffering in the closest way possible. In our sufferings, we are raised up and brought into the mystery of God's love. The innocent are purified, raised up in suffering. When we are feeling at our lowest, we can use the words that Jesus prayed on the cross, "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit."

Mercy is revealed in suffering. The Father's mercy is always a suffering with, not standing extrinsic from the situation. The depths of our suffering can be reached by God – mercy is never far. We need this mercy and grace to be healed.

Until recently, I haven't done much thinking about God's mercy and how it relates to the suffering of infertility and miscarriage. In the times when I lost my babies, if you had asked me what I needed most from God, I probably would have said "peace" or "comfort." I find it interesting that my soul knew what my intellect did not. That God could not grant me peace of comfort in those times because grief cannot be covered – it must be worked through. Even Jesus grieved for Lazarus before raising him from the dead. My soul knew that I needed to pray for God's mercy. And in those hours of suffering, God lifted me up to experience His loving mercy – although it didn't relieve my suffering, it allowed me to experience a unity with the suffering Christ that I was unable to comprehend at the time.

"Have pity on me, Lord, for I am weak; heal me, Lord, for my bones are trembling. In utter terror is my soul – and you, Lord, how long...? Turn, Lord, save my life; in your mercy rescue me." Psalm 6:3-5


 

"So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help." Hebrews 4:16

"But the wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity." James 3:17

Reflection Questions

  1. In what ways does God offer mercy?
  2. How is God's mercy revealed in suffering?
  3. What gifts have I received from God in unexpected times?

Three O' Clock Prayer to the Divine Mercy

You expired, O Jesus,
but the source of life gushed forth for souls
and an ocean of mercy opened up for the whole world.
O Fount of Life,
unfathomable Divine Mercy,
envelop the whole world
and empty Yourself out upon us.
O Blood and Water,
which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus
as a fount of mercy for us,
I trust in You.
Amen.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Slacking

When I first started this blog, I had hoped to post once a week. That was going well for a while, but this fall I obviously fell off the wagon. Work tends to be really busy for me in the fall with lots of travel and overtime. This fall was no different, and so posting once a week and commenting on everyone's blogs has not been happening. But I am still out here and doing well! I've been trying to keep up with everyone at least peripherally but haven't been able to do much commenting. I am hoping to get back on the bandwagon next week. You all remain in my thoughts and prayers even if I am a slacker! Happy Advent!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

One of these Things is Not Like the Others

Sometimes we IFers stick out like a sore thumb. It can feel so obvious to us that we are different then the other people we interact with because of our IF.

Take a visit to the doctor's office. First off, the nurse pulls my file and it is 2-3 inches thick. And that is not because I have been a patient there for years or because I have had several pregnancies with this practice. No, I have been with the office for less than one year and have had no births. Then we go into the waiting area. Everyone else in the room is pregnant. They are happily thumbing through their pregnancy and parenting magazines and dutifully carrying their bottles of water. Then I walk in. Instead of carrying a magazine, I am carrying a thick black binder with all of my medical records and select research articles. I pull out something from work that I can proofread – no time for leisure reading – I am a career woman (ha ha!).

Or how about the last baptism I attended? While everyone else was smiling and sending warm thoughts during the blessing of the mother I was trying to hold back tears and wondering how I was going to look and act normal when this thing is over and we have to socialize. At the reception all the other women my age are quietly breastfeeding their babies or chasing around little ones. They barely have a chance to hold an adult conversation. Pan across the room and there I am, saddled up next to the bar and hanging out with all the guys in the room. (Yes, thankfully this baptism reception included an open bar!)

Then there is church. We are very blessed to go to an awesome church with faithful priests and laypeople. Our priests often preach about the good of family and having babies. On one hand it is great because you don't hear sermons like that in many churches these days. But I always feel a little awkward. When the priests talk about what a blessing children are and how couples should be open to it, I feel like everyone is staring at my husband and I and thinking, "I'm glad they're here to listen to this sermon." It's not that anyone in church ever says anything. They probably aren't thinking about us at all, but as I sit alone with my husband year after year, looking at all the families around me, I feel like we are sticking out like a sore thumb during those sermons.

Walking in Catholic circles, sometimes I feel like I want to wear a sign that proclaims, "I am not contracepting, I am infertile." We may feel like our lack of fertility makes us stand out from others, but I don't think people dwell on it as much as we think they do. A lot of our self-consciousness and feelings of not belonging are self-inflicted. Acquaintances are not necessarily judging us for being childless, just as we are not always judging them for the cars they drive, clothes they wear, jobs they have, or number of kids they've had. If we feel isolated from our old friends, we have to ask ourselves whether it is our friends isolating us, or if we are doing it to ourselves. Sure, there are certain things our friends are doing that we can't – like going to play groups or getting together in the middle of the day when we are working. And they may not be as good about keeping in contact with us as they used to be. But am I isolating myself from them as well? Am I still trying to keep in touch with my friends and planning get togethers at times that work for both our schedules? I know that I have lost contact with some of my friends because after they had kids, they stopped initiating contact and I felt like I was always the one having to reach out. Although our lives may be vastly different now, we still share a friendship.

Sometimes it is hard to be the one who is different, but everyone has something that they feel keeps them from fitting in. Maybe this experience is meant to teach us to reach out to others when they may feel uncomfortable or like they don't fit in. Hopefully that is not the only thing we going through this for, but at least maybe that is a small part of what we are supposed to be learning. J

Reflection Questions

  1. How do I deal with feeling different from my friends and acquaintances?
  2. Do I isolate myself from friends and family who have children?
  3. How have friends and family shown their support for me during times of suffering?

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord." Isaiah 55:8

"Thus says the Lord, cease your cries of mourning, wipe the tears from your eyes. The sorrow you have shown shall have its reward, says the Lord. There is hope for your future, says the Lord." Jeremiah 31:16-17

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God." 2 Corinthians 1:3-4


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

God’s Timing?

(Health update at bottom of post)

After my second miscarriage, my aunt called to check on me. During her words of consolation, she told me that maybe it was God's way of telling me that it is not time for us yet. Definitely not something you want to say to someone after a miscarriage! After my third, my Mom chimed in with the same thought. I know what they are thinking – once my husband is finished with his Ph.D, and gets a job in academia, then we will be in a perfect position to have children, but not now while he is in school. But this reasoning really gets to me. Why would God put it in my heart that I wanted a baby at age 27 when He wasn't planning to give me a baby until I was 32, or even older? Wouldn't He just wait until it was the "perfect" timing and then put the desire in my heart? Does He really want me to go through years of suffering and loss instead of placing a child in my arms?

In a weird way, it does make some sense. If God knew that it would take me years to get to the bottom of all my fertility problems, maybe He put the desire in my heart at an earlier age so that when it was His perfect timing, all of my issues would be sorted out and viola!, a baby will arrive. But couldn't God help me solve my fertility issues without me having to go through this TTC nightmare? He could have made my cycles crazy so that I would get my hormone levels checked out and corrected. He could have given me unmistakable signs of endo (not that I am wishing for that) so that I would have it removed prior to TTC.

He could have done all sorts of different things, but this is what He chose for me. I am left wondering why. Why is my strongest desire – to become a mother – going unfulfilled? Why do I have this desire if it is not God's will for me? I know that I have been growing through this experience – learning patience, trust, surrender, humility, dying to self – but is that my answer? Did I have to lose three babies to learn that? I will cherish my children in a special way because of this. But did I need to go through this for 3.5 years to learn the value of fertility and children (no!). Those answers just aren't satisfying to me right now.

Well, I originally wrote a different conclusion to this post. I wasn't very happy with it, but I just wanted to finish this post off since I was finding no inspiration. Then all of a sudden a thought came to my mind. What if we had waited to start trying until "God's perfect timing?" That means that even though we would have been using NFP and therefore somewhat open to life, we still would have been actively trying to avoid a pregnancy for our first 7 or more years of marriage. And while that may be okay for some couples, maybe that wouldn't have been okay for us. Maybe it would have led us to be more self-centered (I already have enough problems with that). Maybe we would have grown apart. Maybe as our personal income levels increased, we would have gotten caught up in a materialistic lifestyle. Maybe we wouldn't realize the precious gift that children are and therefore would postpone trying to have a baby until it really was too late. Instead, He has provided us with a cross that has drawn us closer together. We have a united front in trying to address our fertility issues. We have supported one another in our times of loss. No one can comfort me the way that my husband is able to – even though this cross is shared by many, it is still very personal to each couple. We have put off moving into a bigger place, or buying new cars and other creature comforts in order to save money for future needs – either so that I can someday be a stay at home mom, or we will have money to pursue adoption. We have a common goal and dream. We desire something that is very good. Even though God's timing is mysterious, tonight I will cling to Romans 8:28, a verse that has sometimes been hard to understand on this journey. "We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose."

"Our soul waits for the Lord, who is our help and shield. For in God our hearts rejoice; in your holy name we trust. May your kindness, Lord, be upon us; we have put our hope in you." Psalm 33:20-22

"At dawn let me hear of your kindness, for in you I trust. Show me the path I should walk, for to you I entrust my life." Psalm 143:8

"The Lord supports all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look hopefully to you; you give them their food in due season, You open wide your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing." Psalm 145:14-16

Reflection Questions

  1. Is God calling me to stay on my current path?
  2. What can I learn from experiencing unfulfilled desire?
  3. How has being fully open to life effected my relationship with my spouse?

A Prayer to St. Gerard for Motherhood

O glorious Saint Gerard, powerful intercessor before God, and wonder worker of our day, I call upon you and seek your help. You who always fulfilled God's will on earth, help me to do God's holy will. Intercede with the Giver of life, from whom all parenthood proceeds, that I may conceive and raise children who will please God in this life, and be heirs to the kingdom of heaven. Amen.

Health Update: My new cycle started this weekend and all of my symptoms from the last two months have been relieved. In the first morning of my cycle, I had already seen more AF than I have the last two cycles combined! So I am very thankful that I was able to identify my problem and have surgery so quickly. It looks like I made the right decision. There are still some complications that could arise, but for now, all signs are looking good. Usually I am praying that I won't get a period, but for the past three months, I have been anxiously awaiting a period as a sign that my body is recovering from the miscarriage. I have never said so many prayers of thanksgiving for a period before this weekend! Many thanks again for your prayers for me.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Green with Envy

Isn't it crazy how infertility leads us to view good things as negative and vice versa? We hope that our doctors will find something wrong with us instead of hoping for perfect health. The night before my laparoscopy, I suddenly started getting nervous that my doctor would find nothing. It hadn't really occurred to me before that point in time, but what would we do if all of the build up to surgery and the pain to follow was for nothing? I cannot imagine how hard it is to be diagnosed with unexplained infertility. At least if our doctors find something, we will be able to work to correct it.

I felt the disappointment of good health the other week when we met with my doctor. Back up to the day that we lost our last baby. My sister called to let me know her doctor had found a blood clotting disorder in her workup. This disorder causes both recurrent early pregnancy loss and late pregnancy loss, but it is easily treated. I thought we had finally found the cause of our pregnancy losses and had hope that next time would be different. But my test came back negative. I should have been rejoicing as this disorder can lead to other problems such as diabetes and heart disease. However, I felt…disappointed.

Then there is the phenomenon of feeling sad when hearing happy news. Pregnancy announcements, baptisms, and kid's birthday parties should bring us joy. And we do feel joy for our friends and family. We may enjoy being included in the special events of our loved one's lives. But underlying the impulse of joy is a twinge (or more) of sadness and longing. A realization that other's lives are moving forward while our lives feel like they are permanently on hold. The scenario was played out so realistically in the movie Julie and Julia when Julia sobs at the news that her sister is pregnant while continually saying to her husband, "I am so happy for her." Many of us had strong emotional reactions to that scene because we knew exactly what Julia was experiencing. It is a mixture of competing emotions that can leave our head's spinning.

I am part of a group at church that has been studying the US Catholic Catechism for Adults over the past two years. We are almost finished! This week we discussed the 10th commandment "You shall not covet your neighbor's goods." The discussion of the 10th commandment focused on envy and one quote from the catechism grabbed me. "Envy is an attitude of sadness at the sight of another's prosperity. It can create a disordered desire to acquire such goods, even by unjust means. Envy tightens the heart and subdues love. For this reason, envy is considered a Capital Sin" (one of seven sins that can lead into more serious sin). Wow – does some of that ring true for me! The Catechism didn't just leave me to feel guilty though – it gave me some advice on how to overcome envy. "Baptized people should counter envy with humility, thanksgiving to God for his gifts to oneself and to others, goodwill, and surrender to the providence of God (cf. CCC, no. 2554)." Humility, thanksgiving, goodwill, and surrender. I know that surrender and thanksgiving are frequent blog topics and something that I need to continually work on. But do I ever think about humility or goodwill? Yes, we automatically experience these things at times, but do we truly work towards them as a means of combating IF envy? It seems that there is always more work to be done in getting through IF gracefully – more layers to peel off the onion. But how blessed we are that God offers us the graces we need to combat our weaknesses, even if imperfectly.

"A tranquil mind gives life to the body, but jealousy rots the bones." Proverbs 14:30

"Rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, insincerity, envy, and all slander." 1Peter 2:1

"Finally, all of you, be of one mind, sympathetic, loving toward one another, compassionate, humble." 1 Peter 3:8

"As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God's varied grace." 1 Peter 4:10

"All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice. (And) be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ." Ephesians 4:31-32

Reflection Questions

  1. In what ways has IF affected my ways of thinking?
  2. How does envy play into my life?
  3. What are some virtues I can work on to combat these feelings?

An Act of Contrition

My God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart. In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good, I have sinned against you whom I should love above all things. I firmly intend, with your help, to do penance, to sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to sin. Our Savior Jesus Christ suffered and died for us. In His Name, my God, have mercy.
Amen.


 

Monday, October 5, 2009

One Track Mind

I have a one track mind, and although it does pertain to s*x, it is not what you think. IF has slowly taken over my whole life, including all of my thoughts, it seems. It is really remarkable how much time and energy I spend thinking about IF. Praying the rosary? My mind is probably wandering to IF, and if I am focusing, I am likely trying to connect each mystery to IF. Focusing on that conference call? Doubtful – I am probably thinking about my most recent doctor’s appointment. Looking super serious and focused in spinning class – not likely because I am pushing myself to my limit. It is probably because I am thinking about my pregnancy losses. Listening to my husband talk about his day at work? It may look like that, but really I am thinking about calling my doctors office to order my most recent medical records, figuring out when I am going to get my next blood draw, and trying to remember if I took all my meds/supplements that day. I honestly think my husband would be shocked if he realized just how much of my thoughts were consumed by this. He is focused on his own challenges, and although IF is one of them, it is more likely that his one-track mind has something to do with his looming dissertation. It doesn’t help that my new hobby is blogging and I spend my leisure time checking everyone’s updates. That just raised the intensity level a few notches higher!

It is fine to spend a certain amount of time focusing on IF. As women, we are naturally connected to IF in ways that our husbands aren’t. Each day is a whole new experience – we are checking our fertility signs and wondering whether we are having pregnancy symptoms or just PMS. We may have to keep track of an ever-changing mix of medications and supplements. We are the ones who have to decide whether to POAS. Then there are the emotions we face when seeing pregnant women, or friends with children, or engaging in certain conversations. And don’t forget about that never ending stack of books and articles there are to read to try to find “the answer.” It can be absolutely exhausting! But letting IF become all-consuming can lead to real problems. Am I not being as productive at work because I am not focusing during meetings, or am I spending too much time consulting Dr. Google instead of working on my tasks? Am I fostering good communication in my relationships if I am tuning people out and focusing inward? Is my faith life suffering because I am not centering myself during prayer? Mind control can be so difficult, especially if, like me, you have let yourself slack for a while now.
One quote has been coming to mind tonight, I think I got this from a retreat. “Be where you are.” It is so easy for me to let my mind take off to IF-land. But I need to really live my life – to live in the moment and enjoy where God has placed me right now. When I am in a social situation, I should be enjoying the company I am surrounded with. When I am at church, I should be practicing the presence of God. And I should actually put in a full day’s work so that I don’t feel like I am always running behind! I need to make the most of all of this “me-time” that I have been blessed with right now. Even though I would much rather be offering myself as a gift to my child, I know that the day will come when I will wish I had a free moment to explore my own interests or spend in quiet reflection.

I have been feeling the need to find something to put my energies into, especially since I am in post-m/c, post-surgery purgatory with no idea when I will emerge with the green light to TTC. I am feeling like plunging myself into some kind of intense exercise regimen – doing something that I wouldn’t want to do when TTC. However, this weekend I just wasn’t feeling 100% over surgery. So I finally decided to start tackling a scrapbook of our trip to Italy…two years ago. I have had the pictures sitting in a box under my bed for close to two years, picked out the album a year ago, and had not touched it. But this weekend I finally started working on it (see the fruits of my first days on the job below). It was so refreshing to have something else to get obsessive over. And I have to admit, this would be hard to do if I had little ones to take care of!

“You shall not have other gods besides me.” Exodus 20:3
“Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:2
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8

Reflection Questions
1. How much of my time is spent pursuing things related to infertility?
2. Has this reached an unhealthy or counterproductive level in my life?
3. What are some things other things that I can put my energies into right now? Are there any projects I have been putting off, or would I like to pursue a new hobby?

“Examine yourself often, at least at night and morning, as to whether your soul is ‘in your hand’ or whether it has been wrested thence by any passionate or anxious emotion. See whether your soul is fully under control, or whether it has not in anywise escaped from beneath your hand, to plunge into some unruly love, hate, envy, lust, fear, vexation, or joy. And if it has so strayed, before all else seek it out, and quietly bring it back to the Presence of God, once more placing all your hopes and affections under the direction of His Holy Will.” St. Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life


Okay, so I just added a title to this page, but the paper was so cool I had to share.


6 Cities in 12 Days
The Daily Agenda with Memories

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Surgery Update

Got good news today following surgery. Dr. S found one band that *may* be scarring – he sent it to pathology for testing as he wasn't totally sure. He also found another area of possible retained "products of conception" and cleared that. My tubes are open. Hopefully I will get a decent period in a couple weeks. Then next month we will do an ultrasound series to make sure I am ovulating and to check the growth of my endometrial lining. If everything looks good, hopefully we will be cleared to TTC again sometime in November. Thank you ladies so much for your thoughts and prayers. I am humbled to have so many amazing women praying specifically for me – especially since I don't even know most of you in person!

I am feeling good now, just very tired. Not much pain at all. When I got transferred back to outpatient, I found out that they gave me Tramadol in the recovery room – the same pain killer they gave my cat following his surgery this summer! I told my husband that if the pain got too bad, maybe I could dig into the cat's left over stash. Ha ha!

Isn't it crazy to look at surgery pictures? In my untrained eye, looking at my pictures, I would say there was only one where everything looked good and smooth. In all the other pictures it looks like there is all sorts of tissue out of place! Of course Dr. S explained all the pictures to my husband but he can't remember what anything was, except for the one that shows the suspicious band of tissue. Guess I'll have to wait for my post-op.

Also, I have a good Catholic story for you ladies. We were down in GA this weekend and our priest friend wasn't able to come over to give me anointing. So on Sunday my husband was insisting that we ask the local priest to anoint me after mass. I was chickening out since it wasn't my priest and my parents and in-laws were at mass with us and would have to wait through it. But he and my mother-in-law insisted. They got to work before mass tracking down someone to ask for the anointing. When they got back to the pew, my mil told me that she added my name to the prayers for the sick to be announced during the Prayers of the Faithful. I was a bit embarrassed, especially having my parents there and also knowing that we probably knew some people outside of my family that would be at mass. By the time the petition came around, I had forgotten about it and my mind was wandering. Then I heard my name and looked over to see my husband and mil snickering. I thought they were laughing because the lector had butchered both my first and last name. But once the prayers were over and before the music started, the music minister (who put my name on the list) got on the mic and said, "There was one mistake in the Prayers of the Faithful. (Insert my name) should have been listed under prayers for the sick." I looked over at my husband and asked, "Did they say my name under prayers for those who have died?" Sure enough they did! I was hoping that wasn't a foreshadowing, but here I am alive and well! And we did end up knowing some people who were at mass – hopefully they didn't freak out thinking I had died!

So things are looking up and hopefully my cycles will get back to normal soon. I have learned so much over the past two weeks and have decided that I will never again have a D&C unless it is medically necessary. It really is crazy how that one procedure can ruin a woman's fertility. It is really not worth the risk. If you are interested in learning more about Asherman's Syndrome, click here.

Friday, September 25, 2009

More Prayers Needed – Different Reason

Here I am begging for prayers again! I am going to have a surgery on Tuesday with Dr. S. This is a long post – feel free to skim.

Most of you know that I had my third miscarriage in July. Because I was just about to leave on a big family vacation to the beach, I opted to have a D&C. This was my first time having a D&C and it may have been the worst decision I have ever made. Everything seemed to be going fine. I had signs of ovulation about a month later, and about two weeks after that, when I would expect my period, I had two days of very light spotting. This was accompanied by pelvic pain and the need to pee a lot! I kept telling my husband that I felt like I had fluid swirling around in my lower abdomen. It was really uncomfortable – even to walk. I thought that I must have had an anovulatory cycle accompanied by a bladder infection based on the symptoms. So, the following month I took my temperatures a few times to confirm that I actually ovulated. I had signs of ovulation and the temps corresponded. But last week, I was out of town and got hit by all the same symptoms. I was helping lead a day and a half workshop and kept having to run out of the room to hit the bathroom and
I was popping ibuprofen the whole time! I knew then that something was wrong.

So, I consulted Dr. Google. I kept typing in my symptoms and a website for Asherman's Syndrome popped up every time. No, no, no, I thought – I went onto all the regular message boards, but was not finding anyone describing what I was going through. So, I finally clicked on the Asherman's website, went to their list of symptoms, and realized that they were describing what I was going through. Asherman's Syndrome is scar tissue in your uterus that is most often caused by an overly aggressive D&C. The potential side effects are devastating – diminishment or complete loss of a period, permanent infertility, miscarriages, high risk pregnancies (placenta previa, incompetent cervix, and worse!). It can also cause endo because if your cervix or uterus are scarred shut, and you are still building an endometrial lining, it cannot be passed from the body during a period – instead it flows back into your abdominal cavity. I started googling Asherman's and every website said the same thing, "rare disorder, rare disorder, rare disorder." I feel like I am being totally broken down. Everything that we have done up to this point means nothing if I have a serious case.

As with endo, there are varying stages of Ashermans. I am lucky to have figured this out early, as many women take years before they realize what is going on and by then the disease has caused permanent damage. Treatment would be by hysteroscopy. You then have to have repeat diagnostic hysteroscopies or HSGs to determine if scar tissue has reformed. If it continues to form, you continue to have surgeries. I will also likely have to go through hormone therapy to try to build up my endometrial lining so that it is thick enough to carry a baby. Whether it will grow back and how much it will grow back will be determined by how bad the D&C damage is. I am hoping that since I am seeing spotting and I really feel like I have fluid in my abdomen during my times of spotting, that I still have a pretty good endometrial lining.

It has been an emotional past couple of days since I came to this realization. I am feeling alternately overwhelmed, defeated, and hopeful. I feel like God is telling me to have Hope. As most of you know, we decided to name our third baby Hope. The name had come to me sometime between my 2nd and 3rd miscarriages. I always thought I would have a third miscarriage – I don't really credit this to intuition as much as to the fact that any woman who had had two m/c's in a row and has not been given any real explanation for it will anticipate the same result with her next pregnancy. When I got pregnant, I really couldn't imagine that I was going to carry to term, I didn't want to talk about the pregnancy, even with my husband. This Sunday, we were saying a rosary and at the very beginning, we were praying for faith, hope, and love. I started pondering Hope and wondering why God had placed that name on my heart for my third baby when I knew I was going to miscarry. Not only did I miscarry, but losing that baby is causing me this horrible disease. Then I realized that THIS was the reason God led me to that name. That He does not want me to despair about what might happen, but to have Hope. So I am trying to ponder that right now when I am feeling down.

Monday night I emailed Dr. S to tell him I was suspecting Asherman's. We were scheduled to see him on Thursday to review a slew of blood tests I had after my m/c, but I knew that this would completely change the conversation. First thing the next morning, I got a call from the surgery scheduler in his office who told me that Dr. S had received my message and wanted to know when the date of my last period was. As I was opening up my chart on the computer, she explained that Dr S had a surgery cancellation on Tuesday morning and that if I began my "period" on the 15th or after, that I could come in for surgery. Well, I look at my chart, and my spotting and pain began on the 15th! I had imagined that it would be at least December before I could have surgery due to my travel schedule and Dr. S's surgery schedule. That would have meant two more months of pain, period backflow, and scar tissue growth. My husband was supposed to be in New York Monday and coming home Tuesday, but he was able to rearrange his schedule so that he can be with me on Tuesday! I have been a bit concerned about having Dr. S do my surgery because although he is a talented surgeon, he is not an Asherman's specialist. But I feel like God has been leading us in this direction and providing many signs that this is the way for us to go. This morning I got one more sign. I had emailed my friend to ask for her prayers for Tuesday. She wrote back to assure me of her prayers and said that about a month ago she had called her church to ask that they say Mass for us this Tuesday, the Feast of the Archangels. Our first two babies were named Michael and Gabriel, so this feast day means a lot to us. I had not even made the connection and to know that a mass will be said for us that morning is amazing! Also, we are at "home" in Georgia this weekend visiting family and we are asking our good friend who is a priest to anoint me. So, please pray that my surgery will go well on Tuesday and that my fertility will be completely restored. Surgery is 8:00 am and I should be able to come home that day. Recovery should be much easier than the lap. Thank you to everyone in advance for all of your support and prayers!!!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Faith Like a Child

About a year ago, my father-in-law was telling me about the poem Hound of Heaven by Francis Thompson which he had read often growing up. I recently read it for the first time, and although I didn’t do a close read, one line stuck out to me. “All which I took from thee I did but take, Not for thy harms, But just that thou might'st seek it in My arms.” I have often found myself reflecting on that statement and recently added it to my homepage. Last weekend I mentioned it to my husband and he told me how it reflected God calling us to come to Him as children.

That got me thinking. We all know the bible verses about having faith like a child. What could I learn from children that could apply to the IF journey? Here are a few thoughts:
1. Persistence: Kids are famous for their persistence. We have all been talking with a friend and watched their child tugging at their shirt saying, “Mommy, mommy, mommy” until their mother stopped the conversation to attend to them. No doubt we did the same thing to our parents. Kids know how to get the attention of their parents. They don’t realize that it may seem rude to ask for attention over and over again. We may feel like we have already put this before God enough and that He knows what we seek without us even telling Him, but God wants us to continue to ask Him for the desires of our heart, not to bury them deep down and hope He gets back to us someday with the answer we want. Think of a child that wants a puppy. The child will think of any excuse to bring up the topic of the puppy. Anytime it comes to his mind, he will blurt it out. We can do the same.
2. Fearlessness: When we are children, we are often more daring than we are as adults. I know that I loved jumping off the high dive at the pool when I was young, but these days that would totally freak me out. And you can forget about me jumping feet first into cold water! As we age and mature, we come to understand more about the risks we face and we sometimes let fears rule us. I know that I have had to learn how to face some of my fears in this journey. I was petrified of all GYNs and had to force myself to make my first appointment just a few months before we started TTC. Now I can bet that I’ll get a physical at almost every doctor’s appointment and I’ve had to do countless ultrasounds and other procedures. Surgeries, drugs, side effects, injections, lifestyle changes. We’ve all had to face something that we were scared of and things that made us uncomfortable in this process, but we are willing to do these things to get our desired end result. We know that it will be worth any sacrifice we make today.
3. Trust: As children, we trusted that our needs would be met. We would have full tummies and warm beds. We couldn’t go out and get a job to pay for these needs – we had to rely on others to provide them for us. In the IF journey we have to learn to let go and trust that God will take care of us. If we are meant to have biological children, we will. If we are meant to adopt, we will. If we are meant for a childless life, God will help us to accept that. And throughout this whole process, He is showering us with the grace we need to handle anything that may come our way.
4. Being Out of Control: Children are often ruled by their parents. They don’t have cars. They can’t stay home by themselves. If their parents say, “we are going to the store,” the child must go. If the parent says, “no, you can’t go play at your friend’s house right now,” the child must obey. So too, we have learned that we don’t really have control over our fertility. Although we try to do everything we can to help it along, ultimately we can only do so much. We have to give in to being out of control. Sometimes our parents had to tell us no. We didn’t always understand why – we still may not understand why our parents said no to us at times. But those no’s have shaped us into who we are today, as much as the yes’ we received. Those no’s have helped make it easier for us to bear the “no” we are hearing from God right now. Hopefully, one day we will find that God wasn’t really saying no to us. He was really saying “not yet.” Only time will tell.
5. Innocence: One of the first things I think of when reading “have faith like a child” is innocence. Although we are now adults and have learned things we wish we never had to know, we still maintain innocence. Compared to God’s infinite knowledge, our knowledge is so finite. We cannot presume to understand His ways. I have often thought that I will never understand miscarriage. Even when I get to heaven, I feel like I won’t understand why God would allow this to happen. Or why God would allow the child abuser or teenager to become pregnant and not the caring adults who have the means and the love to support a child for life. But that is thinking on my terms, using my knowledge and understanding. How innocent those thoughts must seem to God.

A few final things we can learn from children, maybe God doesn’t mind if we continually ask Him, “Are we there yet?” and “Why, why, why, why, why?” And don’t forget to ask your Mother!

“He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, ‘Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.’” Matthew 18: 2-4
“And people were bringing children to him that he might touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this he became indignant and said to them, ‘Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.’ Then he embraced them and blessed them, placing his hands on them.” Mark 10:13-16

“Jesus looked at them and said, ‘For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.’" Mark 10:27
Reflection Questions
1. What does the quote from Hound of Heaven say to me?
2. Which points listed above do I identify with most? Which can I learn from the most?
3. What other things can I learn from children?

Like A Child - Jars of Clay
Dear God, surround me as I speak, the bridges that I walk across are weak
Frustrations fill the void that I can't solely bear
Dear God, don't let me fall apart, you've held me close to you
I have turned away and searched for answers I can't understand

They say that I can move the mountains
And send them crashing into the sea
They say that I can walk on water
If I would follow and believe with faith like a child

Sometimes, when I feel miles away and my eyes can't see your face
I wonder if I've grown to lose the recklessness I walked in light of you

They say that love can heal the broken
They say that hope can make you see
They say that faith can find a Savior
If you would follow and believe with faith like a child

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

What I Didn’t Expect

I never thought it would be so hard to get pregnant.

I never thought it would be so hard to stay pregnant.

I never thought it would take this long. I'd turn 30 without having any children. I'd worry about how few kids we might have instead of how many we might have. I'd feel so out of control. I would be this far in the process and still feel like there is so much more to explore. This would consume so much of my time and energy.

I never thought my first doctor would refer me to an IVF clinic. I would see four doctor's and still no take home baby. I'd be in tears leaving a doctor's appointment. I would drive so far to see a doctor. I would feel like I knew more than my doctor. My doctor would hug me. My doctor would pray with me. I would want my doctor to prescribe injections. I'd get so used to disrobing for strangers.

I never thought I could talk about my miscarriages so nonchalantly. I would associate Thanksgiving, Tax Day, and 4th of July with losing babies. I would be told I had to have three miscarriages in a row before any testing could be done. I would actually have three in a row. My babies would meet God before I would. You could work with someone five days a week and have no idea that they have had three miscarriages since you've known them. I never thought I was so good at keeping secrets.

I never thought I would learn an NFP method other than sympto-thermal. A 70-year old widow would teach me Creighton. Words like uterus, ovary, and cervix would slip so effortlessly off my tongue. I would talk so openly about my cycles and fertility issues with women I had just met. I'd call PPVI to order a perforated condom. We'd rent a room near a hospital for the sole purpose of using a perforated condom.

I never thought having blood draws would seem like no big deal. I'd be on a first name basis with the lab ladies. I'd actually like the "mean" blood lab lady. The ladies at the lab would pray for me. They did female ultrasounds in places other than on the stomach. My ultrasound tech would hug me. I'd get kicked out of an ultrasound room because my bladder wasn't full enough.

I never thought my insurance file would be so thick. My co-pays for blood labs would be so low they wouldn't even bother to bill me. I'd have "female" surgery. We'd have to drive through snow and ice storms to make it to my pre-op appointments and surgery. I'd do a bowel prep in a hotel room. I'd wonder how many other women had done bowel preps at that same hotel.

I never thought I'd know what HCG, PCOS, CrMS, D&C, MTHFR, LUFS, and PAI-1 stood for. My hormones were messed up. My cycles weren't really regular. I had endo. So many seemingly unrelated things affect fertility. I'd be on so many medications and supplements. I would have gone so long without trying acupuncture.

I never thought this was something my husband and I would face in our marriage. There would be a section of my bookshelf dedicated to infertility. Sex would sometimes feel like a chore. We'd adopt a cat to fulfill our desire to nurture something. I'd still be working for my company six years later. My sister would face the same struggles.

I never thought I'd have a negative pregnancy test. I'd have so many negative pregnancy tests. I would go to the grocery store and buy a pregnancy test and tampons at the same time. A positive pregnancy test would fill me with so many conflicting emotions. My prayers after getting a positive pregnancy test would change from "Thank you God" to "Please help us get through this God."

I never thought I'd have a blog. I never thought the blog I never thought I would have would be about infertility. I would share some of my inmost thoughts and feelings on the internet. I would meet in person anyone I met on the internet. This post would get so long.

I never thought I'd sulk at baptisms, baby showers, and kid's birthday parties. The sight of pregnant women would make we want to cry, throw up, or cuss. I'd be jealous when other people announced a pregnancy. Seeing friend's Facebook pages would make me feel so sad. I would dread Mother's Day. I would feel like bursting out crying in public with no apparent provocation. I'd dwell so much on other people's comments. When I heard kids singing, "First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in a baby carriage" I would want to yell out, "Yeah right!"

I never thought I would cry during a homily. Seeing young families at church would upset me. Prayer would be so hard. My prayers would go "unanswered" for so long. God would withhold this gift from us. I'd question God's plan. It would be so hard to place this in God's hands.

I never thought it would be this hard to get pregnant.

"Five times at the hands of the Jews I received forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I passed a night and a day on the deep; on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my own race, dangers from Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers at sea, dangers among false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many sleepless nights, through hunger and thirst, through frequent fastings, through cold and exposure. And part from these things, there is the daily pressure upon me of my anxiety for all the churches." II Corinthians 11:24-28 (IF doesn't sound so bad now, does it??)

"We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed…" II Corinthians 4:8-9

"Grace and favor you granted me, and your providence has preserved my spirit. Yet these things you have hidden in your heart; I know that they are your purpose." Job 10:12-13

Reflection Questions

  1. What did you not expect on this journey?
  2. How has the Lord helped you handle unexpected situations?
  3. How have you grown in faithfulness and trust in God?

An Irish Prayer

May God give you...
For every storm, a rainbow,
For every tear, a smile,
For every care, a promise,
And a blessing in each trial.
For every problem life sends,
A faithful friend to share,
For every sigh, a sweet song,
And an answer for each prayer.

Monday, August 31, 2009

No More Stories

It seems like everyone has a story that they want to share if you tell them you are dealing with infertility. If I say that we have been trying for 3+ years, they tell me about their friend's sister's co-worker who had her first baby after 10 years of trying – or that they finally conceived after giving up on TTC. If I say I have had 3 miscarriages, they tell me about their cousin's uncle's brother's wife who had 7 miscarriages and was later able to carry to term. I know that all of these stories are meant to be an encouragement and inspiration to me to not give up, but sometimes I wish people would just appreciate what I am going through without telling me about someone they know who had it even worse!

At times it feels like they are minimizing my struggles. Instead of sympathizing with where I am right now, they start talking about some other couple. It makes me feel like I am in some sort of a sick contest to see who ends up with the most difficult journey to a family and still triumphs. Like I need to compete to have the absolute worst story so that I will go down in all of my friend's history books and our story will be the one they tell some other unsuspecting infertile woman who is just looking for some support and affirmation.

But it makes me wonder how often I have done the same to someone else. Do I ever respond to someone who has just told me about a struggle by comparing what they are going through to someone else's struggle, or even to my own experiences? Instead of trying to support them, let them talk it out, offer my prayers, do I just divert my attention to something or someone else? Do I truly listen to what they are telling me, or do I just start thinking about how I am going to respond to them? Wow, this is starting to sound like one of those seminars on active listening!

Living with IF, we develop certain sensitivities to common things that people say – like "just relax," or pointing to their cute little child and saying "this one right here is birth control" (yes, that really happened to me recently in the grocery store). I know my friends who have children have their own pet peeves about what people say to them. I remember making a comment to a friend after she had her third boy, that maybe next time she would get a girl. I later found out that people say that to her all the time and it really gets on her nerves – like she isn't happy with the children God gave her – whoops! I guess there are a lot of things you don't learn until you walk a mile in someone else's shoes.

Last summer during a particularly rough period, I ordered the book Hannah's Hope by Jennifer Saake. It is beautifully written. As I was looking for bible verses tonight, I grabbed her book and found a chapter entitled, "Put Yourself in My Shoes (Before You Put Your Foot in Your Mouth). A few sentences that I highlighted seemed particularly appropriate:

"In trying to explain fertility challenges to those who have never lived through such experiences, I have to remind myself that the outside perspective is one of innocence."

"When my life is over, do I want to be remembered as that self-absorbed woman who could only focus on her own hurt…"

"As you find yourself in uncomfortable places or conversations, ask God to give you grace to survive the moment, along with an understanding heart to hear the intended meaning behind your friend's words."

"Then Job answered and said: I have heard this sort of thing many times. Wearisome comforters are you all! Is there no end to windy words? Or what sickness have you that you speak on? I also could talk as you do, were you in my place." Job 16:1-4

"The prating of some men is like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise is healing." Proverbs 12:18

"Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection." Colossians 3:12-14

Reflection Questions

  1. How do I wish people would respond when I tell them about my struggles?
  2. Do I respond to others in the way I would like to be treated, or do I end up saying and doing the very things I dislike?
  3. Am I too focused on myself to appreciate other people's struggles?

Lord, help me to be a good friend to others. To truly listen to them, affirm them, and offer support when it is needed. Give me the wisdom and sensitivity I need to respond to other's needs. Help me to appreciate other people's comments for what they are intended to be, instead of what I twist them to mean. In all things, let me respond charitably to others.



Monday, August 24, 2009

Family Matters

This month my husband and I celebrated our 7th anniversary and my 31st birthday. I love the month of August! While these milestones mark another year passed and another year older without a baby, they are also reminders of how blessed I am to be in this beautiful family. It is easy for me to think that my husband and I are part of a family, but that we are not a family yet because we don't have any living children. In my mind, I know that our family started the day we were married, but how do you grasp that concept when you have grown up thinking that family necessarily involves children. A couple years back we were spending a weekend with our college friends. This couple got pregnant on their honeymoon and every chance they have had since. The oldest daughter was talking to me one morning and asked, "Are you guys married, but you just don't have kids?" It occurred to me that in the family she has been raised, it had never occurred to her that a couple might be married with no children. So, how do my husband and I form a family by ourselves?

The family is the fundamental cell of society and it's roots are in the married couple who form a family on their wedding day. One of the most basic characteristics of a family is sharing. We share a home, food, income, activities, friends and relatives – we don't have to have children to do any of those things. All of the things that a family encompasses is modeled first and foremost in the married couple through the expression of their vows– together in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. Yes, we are dealing with the sickness of our bodies – even if that may not be physically evident to others. Our husbands join us for important doctor's appointments, hold our hands when we receive difficult news or are undergoing an uncomfortable procedure, they care for us when we've had surgery and vice versa. We face good times and some very difficult times, but we persevere and hopefully our relationships are better for it. Each day of our marriage, and through every sacrifice and shared experience, we are deepening our commitment to those vows. We become a model of love and of the true meaning of family, in a world that so often needs to be reminded of that.

Families are never called to be closed in on themselves, but to be fruitful. During the rite of marriage, we state that we intend to accept children lovingly from God. So how are we to look at our marriages if we try to have children, but are unable to? Well, we are seeking to accept children from God –whether naturally or through adoption. We are not preventing ourselves from receiving children, but waiting for God to bless us at the time of His choosing. And when He does decide it is time, there is no doubt that we will love those children in a special way. Our patience, endurance, and perseverance bears much fruit in the meantime – fruit that will help us in our future roles as parents. For now, we may seek ways to serve others outside of our family whether through giving of our time, prayer, or monetary blessings. But most important of all, we are blessed with this extra time to focus on building a strong marriage. People are attracted to strong families and strong marriages. What our future children and what society needs most are strong, happy marriages. That bears fruit beyond measure.

"Make known to me your ways, Lord; teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my savior. For you I wait all the long day, because of your goodness, Lord." Psalm 25:4-5

"For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother (and be joined to his wife), and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh." Mark 10:7-8

"It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails." 1 Corinthians 13:7-8a

Reflection Questions

  1. Do I see my husband and I as a family? Why or why not?
  2. How are our interactions and experiences of infertility a reflection of our wedding vows?
  3. How are we being called to be fruitful at this time?

A Marriage Blessing Prayer

We thank you, O God, for the Love You have implanted in our hearts. May it always inspire us to be kind in our words, considerate of feeling, and concerned for each other's needs and wishes. Help us to be understanding and forgiving of human weaknesses and failings. Increase our faith and trust in You and may Your Prudence guide our life and love. Bless our Marriage O God, with Peace and Happiness, and make our love fruitful for Your glory and our Joy both here and in eternity.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Thankfulness

It can sometimes feel like infertility is the heaviest cross in the world to carry. I know that so far in my life it has caused me more pain and stress than anything else I have had to deal with. I'm not used to things not working out for me! But when I start to feel sorry for myself, I try to think of people that we know who are suffering under such great crosses. We are truly blessed to have a joyful marriage, good jobs with stable income, good relationships with our friends and family, and our health. I know that the health thing can be questioned considering that my reproductive system is obviously not working properly, but overall I am a healthy person.

We know two amazing couples who are dealing with cancer – one that knows it is terminal. Both are young couples with children. They are such an inspiration in the way that they handle the physical, emotional, and spiritual struggles that they face. My husband told me that our recent adventures with the cat reminded him of the struggles that some of our friends go through because of the physical ailments of their children. If we were under so much stress and had so much concern about a cat, imagine if your own child was ill. One couple we know has a son who has had over 50 surgeries in his four short years. Most involving his brain! Can you imagine what they go through each time they hear that their little boy will need yet another surgery? Other friends have children with Downs Syndrome, Cystic Fibrosis, Spina Bifida and the list goes on. They are amazing parents that have been handed a special role.

When I hear that we will always have struggles in this life, sometimes it makes me want to cling onto my infertility for fear of what may lie ahead if we are blessed with a family. I am comfortable with the IF, I feel like it is something I can handle, even though that can change moment-by-moment depending on my mood.

God has truly blessed my husband and I in so many ways. And one of those ways is through the friends he has put in our lives. Their faith, hope, and trust in God, and even their joyfulness are an inspiration. They serve as a reminder that it isn't all about me. That anything can be dealt with if we maintain our relationship with God. And that as much as we need prayers, we are called to offer prayers for others – to mutually help one another through the struggles of this life. We may never find lasting peace in this life, but we are living for more than this life – we are living for the life to come.

"The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who honor your name trust in you; you never forsake those who seek you Lord." Psalm 9:10-11

"For I long to see you, that I may share with you some spiritual gift so that you may be strengthened, that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by one another's faith, yours and mine." Romans 1:11-12

"Bear one another's burdens, and so you will fulfill the law of Christ." Galatians 6:2

Reflection Questions

  1. Do I have friends that are in extra need of prayer right now because of the crosses they bear?
  2. What might I do to help them (prayer, meals, notes of encouragement, running errands, etc.)?
  3. What can I learn from others who struggle with difficult crosses?

The following is an excerpt from our Archdiocesan newspaper. They are doing a special series on marriage and I thought this was an appropriate reflection.

"He [God] promises when we marry that He will meet us wherever life takes us. Usually where it takes us is beautifully ordinary. But God also will use the difficult times to make us more holy…They teach us to forgive, to be patient, to be more kind, more compassionate, more trusting in God and others. In short, these times teach us to sacrifice, and they introduce us to the great paradox of our faith – that we gain our life when we give it away."

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Adventures of Herbie – Part 3

The vet said we were supposed to try to keep the cat from running or jumping for two weeks, until he got his staples out. That was definitely going to be a problem. He wasn't too bad for most of the week, but in the last two days we were home he was definitely starting to get more energetic. We decided he needed to get boarded during our vacation so that someone could keep an eye on him to make sure he didn't pull his collar off and we figured it would ensure that he wasn't running and jumping around too much.

So I researched all the kennels in our area – from the basic places to the fancy pants pet resorts. I called a few up and explained our situation. I decided on one after talking to the owner about our cat's situation. I liked her because she started telling me the modifications they would make for him. "She is on the ball with this," I thought. I wanted to visit them just to make sure, but we didn't get a chance to during the week.

So on Saturday afternoon, the day before we were leaving for vacation, we headed over to the kennel. It was in a country-type area and there was a house where I think the owner lived that looked pretty dilapidated. But I knew she had done a lot of work to renovate the kennel area, so I was hopeful that it would be better. We walked in and met one of the staff members. "This is the cat area," she said, pointing to a small little area to the left of the front desk. The website said that the cats were separated from the dogs, but the only thing dividing the two areas was a single door – like a bedroom door. Anytime anyone went into the dog area all the dogs would go crazy – we sometimes couldn't even hear the lady we were talking to because the dogs were so loud! And it definitely smelled like dog in there.

So we were in the cat room, talking to the lady and she was showing us the cats they had in there and talked about how sweet this little kitten was who was boarding there. The cat was sitting in a cage right next to a table that had a time clock on it. The time clock clicked over and the kitten jumped up, startled. "You would think she would be used to that by now," the lady said. "That clock clicks over every minute." I still simultaneously laugh and feel bad for the kitten thinking about it trying to doze off for a cat nap and being startled every minute or so! Couldn't they move the clock??

When the lady looked at our information in the computer, she realized that the owner was going to put our cat in a dog cage since the other cages were kind of like tall bird cages with three perches for the cats to jump up on. She told us there wouldn't be room in the cat area for the cage, so it would probably be put on a table in the bathroom. "It's the best room in the whole place," she told us. "It's cool in there." We tried to imagine our poor cat sitting by himself in a bathroom all week long and then having the staff come in to use the facilities while our cat sat there and watched. Yikes!

So we left and of course were not happy with the situation. We called all the other kennels in the area that afternoon, but most were closed and the ones that were open weren't answering their phones. The next day, a Sunday, we were still feeling guilty about sending our cat to sit in a bathroom all week. We decided to call a vet that is just up the road from us that had Sunday hours. I originally hadn't even contacted them about pricing or anything because I read in their boarding policies online that if you don't pick up your pet within 8 days of your scheduled pick-up date, they were authorized to "dispose of or destroy" your pet. No way did I want to put my cat over there – even though we aren't the type to leave our cat somewhere indefinitely.

We went and visited and it was definitely a better situation. Being at a vet's office was a definite bonus in case he ended up getting to his staples again. So we decided to board him there. It ended up being the most expensive place in the whole area. Even more expensive than the fancy pants pet resort that told me "for an extra $13 per day, we will give your cat play time, a tuna treat, and spring water." Say what? Why would I pay extra for my cat to have spring water?

We picked him up from "camp" on Monday and he got his staples out and cone off on Tuesday. Hopefully he is done with his adventures! So now you know more than you ever cared to about my cat. Hopefully I won't be posting about him in this much detail in the future! Although it was very expensive, this was probably a blessing in disguise. Instead of getting very self-centered and down over the past few weeks, we were able to focus a lot of attention on the cat and he gave us lots of good stories to share.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Adventures of Herbie – Part 2

So the day after the surgery, the doctor said we could pick Herbie up in the late afternoon. The doctor described him as being "stoned" from all of his drugs and he definitely was as you will read later. Before we got to see our kitty, the vet came in to talk to us about the surgery. I asked how long it had taken since if they really went in for surgery at 2:30, the surgery would have lasted over 4 hours! She said it was actually only about 2 hours – they started late. "We were going slowly, trying to be careful," she said "because we aren't expert surgeons – like we aren't board certified or anything." Say what??? We were glad we didn't know that beforehand. I wonder why they have someone listed as a surgeon on their letterhead if they aren't really certified – I guess things are a little different in the animal world.


So the cat came home in a soft e-collar. The vet said he looked like a little flower in it because it was a blue collar. He looked like an amateur groomer had gotten a hold of him. His whole belly was shaved and he had 24 staples! My sister and I started calling him Frankenkitten because of the staples. They had also shaved parts of both of his front legs for the IVs. But what really had us wondering was why the shaved the back and part of the side of his tail? My best guess is that maybe they tape the tail down during surgery?? Here is a picture of him when he came home.

He was put on the following meds:
1. Clavamox – antibiotic
2. Tramadol – pain med
3. Pepcid AC – antacid – Yes, we were sent to the pharmacy to pick up Pepcid for our cat – then had to divide the pills into 8ths so we wouldn't OD him.


I had never heard of Tramadol before, but a few days later I was reading some messages from an Endo listserv and realized that the women who have really bad endo pain are prescribed Tramadol! Wow – that is some powerful stuff. Herbie only got ¼ of a pill, but he got it 2-3 times per day!


The cat was definitely stoned all week. His eyes were constantly dilated all week! The first night we brought him home, he was walking like a drunk. Anytime we pet him, he would just fall over on his side. But you never saw anyone so happy to be alive. He purred the entire first night he was home and after that, he still purred anytime we would pet him. And of course he slept a lot, even for a cat. I kept checking him to make sure he was still breathing – it freaked me out to have to tie that collar around his neck – I was always scared I might get it too tight and he wouldn't be able to breath.

Another thing we learned last week is that if your cat is constipated, feed him pumpkin. The vet said cats love it. We decided to go ahead and feed him some preemptively and he really did gobble it up! One of the cutest things I think I saw all week was one night looking in the kitchen and seeing my husband standing in front of the toaster oven. He had put Herbie's food and pumpkin on top of the oven and was heating it up for him!

So in the week following the surgery, we had to take him to the vet three times.


1st Visit: The second night we had him home he got the collar off and pulled out 4 staples and got his incision open a bit. The next morning I brought him into the vet. Instead of re-stapling him, they just glued his incision back together. Apparently they were a little haphazard with the glue and dropped some on his lower belly. When I got him home and out of his cage, I realized that his tail was glued to his stomach! He could have cared less – he was just laying on his back purring. I got out the scissors to cut his tail from his belly and after that he had a tuft of fur glued to his stomach! The vet recommended we keep him in our room at night so we could hear if he was pulling his collar off. So for the rest of the week, we got a taste of what it is like to have a newborn in the house. We were up about every two hours because he was either trying to pull his collar off, or rolling around, or trying to groom himself but instead all he could do was lick his e-collar with that sandpaper tongue.


2nd Visit: I came home at lunch every day to check on the cat. I felt like Angela from The Office going home to check on my sick cat and give him medicine! The day after our first vet visit, I noticed that he had a protrusion around the area where he had pulled out his staples. So I called the vet and got another appointment for that evening. It wasn't anything serious – apparently sometimes when air gets into the body from a wound like that, the pocket of air will get filled up with some fluid and that makes the protrusion – a "seroma." In addition to all his meds, we were told to give him warm compresses 2-3 times a day on the seroma. Have you ever tried to put warm compresses on a cat? Not too easy. It wasn't too bad if he was knocked out from his meds, but if he was more alert, it was definitely difficult to get him to sit still for very long! We had also noticed that his sides had gotten red, we thought from him scratching, but our vet thought it was probably razor burn!

3rd Visit – Two days later we were back again. The cat had gotten his collar off once again and this time had really gotten into his incision. They had to re-staple him. He also got upgraded to a hard plastic "cone of shame." He wasn't used to the extra clearance he needed when wearing the new collar versus the soft one they originally sent him home in. The rest of the day we would hear him bumping into the sides of doorways, chairs, and walls with the cone.


So instead of having our neighbors take care of the cat during our vacation, which would have been practically free, we decided it would be best to board him. And that is a whole other story…

Here is a video of the cat trying to groom himself. This is what we would wake up to at night. I don't think he even noticed that he wasn't actually licking himself!

video

Friday, July 17, 2009

Adventures of Herbie – Part 1

In honor of my vacation, I am taking a break in both format and content from my normal blogging to share some stories about my cat. He has been a great comic relief and distraction in what would have otherwise been a more difficult week. Many people have told me I need to write these stories down, so here they are! Hopefully you guys are pet people, otherwise you will probably think we are crazy, like we used to think about pet people were. I know SOME of you aren't cat fans (GIMH), but I'm sure if you met our little angel, you would love him.

You endo ladies will love this – my cat had to have a laparotomy on July 4th. And let me tell you, it is expensive to bring a cat surgeon in on a federal holiday! It all started on the Thursday before the 4th. When my hubs got home, he noticed that the cat had gotten sick. We didn't think much about it. All day Friday we were at home and we noticed that though the cat seemed to be hungry, he wasn't eating. We thought maybe he was rejecting his new food (we had just switched him from kitten to cat food the week before). So I went to the store and got him a different kind of food. He ate some of it that evening, but then got sick again. After that, he started getting sick every 20-30 minutes. He would be sleeping, and then all of a sudden he would stand up, make a funny meow, and then get sick. When my husband would hear the meow, he would jump up and grab a paper towel and try to put it under the cat before he could get sick on the carpet. At about 10:30 pm, my hubs had been looking stuff up online and said he thought we needed to take the cat into an emergency clinic. I was trying to put it off as I was tired and the clinic was 20-30 minutes away, and who knows how long we would be there. My parents have a cat about the same age who had done the same thing the weekend before and she ended up just having a stomach bug and got sent home with anti-nausea medicine. He seemed to do fine during the night, and the next morning he was purring and playing a bit, but he still wouldn't eat or drink anything. Then he started getting sick again, so we knew it was time to take him in.

At the vet hospital, they recommended that we do hundreds of dollars worth of tests. The first thing they did was and x-ray and sure enough they found something. They came in and showed us the x-ray and there was some stringy looking stuff wound up in his stomach. We were trying to figure out what it could be. We thought it might be a guitar string as my hubs had just changed his strings the weekend before and the cat was playing with them. But he said he counted all his strings before he threw them out, and it seemed like he would have problems earlier if it was really a guitar string. They recommended surgery of course, and we okayed it. They said the surgery would be about an hour, maybe a bit longer depending on what they found.

They gave us a call at 2:30 to say they were going into surgery. At 5:00, we were getting ready to head to our friend's house, so I asked the hubs to call and check on the cat. Still in surgery… By the time we got to our friend's house at 5:30, I was ready to cry. I thought that we had waited too long to bring him and it was all my fault for not listening to my husband. At 6:30, one of the doctors called me. She said they were still sewing him up, but she wanted to give us an update. They had opened him up and started palpitating all his organs when they felt something in his small intestine. Not only did he have something in his stomach, but he had something in his intestine too! It turned out to be one of those plastic screw covers that they give you to use on put-it-together-yourself furniture. In his stomach, they found two ponytail holders! One had been chewed in half and the other he swallowed whole!

A few months back the cat had somehow figured out that he could get the screw covers off our furniture and he would pull them off and then run away. We have baggies full of screw covers that the cat had pulled off, but I guess he found one that we didn't know about. Then a few weeks ago, he started really getting into my ponytail holders. He would grab them off my nightstand in the middle of the night and take off. We'd find them throughout the house in the morning. It had run through my mind a couple times that maybe he shouldn't be playing with those, but I didn't think he would actually eat them. Kitty was to spend the night at the hospital and we were supposed to call the next morning to see if he was ready to be picked up.

So this is the end of Part 1, which actually isn't too entertaining, but the stories get better from here, so keep tuning in!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

An Emotional Day

Friday was an emotional day. I have felt very blessed with the peace God has given me over the past couple weeks. Although the ultrasound days were always hard, since I was having no physical signs of m/c and most of my pregnancy symptoms had disappeared, I just kind of went on with life as usual. It was easy to forget that I was even pregnant! Even on Friday morning I was feeling pretty normal, not overly sad as we drove down to the hospital. I definitely could sense the extra stress coming out in being impatient with my husband, but other than when the nurses at the hospital would say how sorry they were about our loss, I wasn't overly sad. I was beginning to think, this D&C thing is sooo much easier emotionally than having a natural m/c. Especially when you can do it before the symptoms of m/c begin to occur. I also wondered if I was just getting really hardened to all of this emotionally.

We had a really hyper pre-op nurse who kept us pretty distracted while we waited. When she found out that we were both Catholic she proceeded to tell us that she and her husband were both raised Catholic and each had 6 siblings. She then told us about how she joked with her parents and in-laws about them not understanding the rhythm method. Are you kidding me??? This was the nurse that God decided we needed today? We weren't sure whether we should be witnessing to her or if it was just God's way of inserting humor into our day.

Because of some communication issues at the doctor's office, I didn't get my surgery scheduled until Wednesday afternoon leaving me no room to request a specific day based on which doctor was on call. The scheduler let me know that Dr. P was on call for Friday, which I was disappointed in. I have seen every doctor at T.epeyac (other than Dr. F who everyone raves about) and she was my last choice for the D&C. When she came in this morning, she definitely didn't increase my confidence at all, but I just trusted in the Lord that all would be okay.

It wasn't until right after we spoke with Dr. P and they were getting ready to wheel me back that the emotions started to come. I was failing miserably at holding the tears back as my husband leaned over to remind me that Hope was up in heaven praying for me. This hospital is not real great at privacy for outpatient surgery. As they were wheeling me down the hall and I was trying to hold back tears, it seemed that every patient's curtain was open and all their loved ones were staring at me. I decided to close my eyes and act like I was already under anesthesia. The anesthesia nurse met us about half-way down the hall and gave me some of the good stuff. I think I had some type of weird medicated dream because the last thing I remember before waking up was being in the operating room and them pushing my stretcher up next to the operating table and telling me to switch beds. Surely that was a dream because I cannot imagine any doctor telling someone that had just been shot up with anesthesia to do anything involving movement!

Next thing I knew I was waking up in the post-op area and immediately began crying again. They brought my husband down and once he was there the nurse pulled the curtain to give me a little privacy. Thank goodness. Before that, I could see the girl directly across from me who looked totally knocked out, but her loved one kept staring at me as I burned through a few tissues. Luckily I didn't have to spend too long in post-op. They just wanted to make sure I could pee, so off I went walking down the long hall past all the patients and their family/friends to the restroom, a nurse walking closely behind me with a tight grip on the back of my gown to make sure I didn't moon anyone or collapse. Isn't it weird that they had me walk all the way to the restroom (which was down two hallways), but I had to be taken out of the hospital in a wheelchair? There is no consistency there!

The ride out of the hospital was the worst. My husband went to pull the car around and the nurse wheeled me halfway down the hall and then just left me there. A few minutes later two other ladies came up and started to take me downstairs. When the elevator arrived a guy walked out and quickly realized he was on the wrong floor. "Sorry," he said, "my wife just had a baby and I haven't slept in five days." Uughh! Then the nurse starts saying how lots of babies were being discharged that day and that Friday's tend to be like that. THEN she said, "Today I had a man who pulled up in a classic red mustang with pink balloons tied to it. It was the SAME car that his dad brought him home from the hospital in." OMGoodness – I couldn't believe this was really happening! They had me sit in the front entrance area for a minute while they clipped off my arm bands and I wondered why in the world I decided it would be a good idea to leave my sunglasses in the car. At least if I had them, I could try to pull off a Jackson-family funeral look where maybe not so many people would realize I was crying. I couldn't wait to get into the car and was even more excited about getting home. Unfortunately, there was traffic on the beltway and it took us two hours to get home! They had pumped me so full of fluids that by the time I got back from my pee-run down the hall in post-op I already had to pee again. I was quickly regretting deciding to wait until I got home to go to the b-room. We finally got back and I shut myself up in my room for the rest of the day. Today I am feeling a lot better emotionally. I think Dr. P did a good job because I am also feeling really good physically with no cramping.

I know this is getting really long, but two more prayer requests and then I will stop begging for prayers.

  1. For a healthy recovery that there will be no complications that could affect my future fertility or ability to carry to term.
  2. That we will have a good vacation and be blessed with the grace we need to get through the difficult times. We will be with about 50 of our family and extended family members, including my 20 nieces and nephews and one great niece. The great niece is the exact same age that baby Gabriel would have been (we were due about 2 weeks apart) and it has always been really hard for me when we see her. We live pretty far away, so I have only seen her 2-3 times, which I think makes it more traumatic than if I had more contact with her. It kills me to see my husband holding her. I'm sure we will be getting lots of words of consolation and that type of stuff always brings tears to my eyes. I also dread any questions we may get from the kids. Some of my bro and sis-in-laws have told their young children about our miscarriages in the past. I think they are way too young to be learning about this type of stuff, and since kids are naturally inquisitive, I have gotten some very direct questions from them in the past which have been really hard for me to deal with emotionally.

One last thing I wanted to share. I have been working my way through the bible for the past couple years and right now I'm reading through Psalms. I have found so many great verses for the IF experience. A few nights ago I read Psalm 56 entitled, Trust in God, and loved some of the verses and one of the footnotes. I have read them every night since. Here they are:

"O Most High, when I am afraid, in you I place my trust. God, I praise your promise; in you I trust, I do not fear. What can mere flesh do to me?" Psalm 56: 3b-5

"My wanderings you have noted; are my tears not stored in your vial*, or recorded in your book?" Psalm 56:9

"This I know: God is on my side. God, I praise your promise; in you I trust, I do not fear. What can mere mortals do to me?" Psalm 56: 10b-12

*Footnote from NAB Personal Study Addition:

56:9: Are my tears not stored in your vial: a unique saying in the Old Testament. The context suggests that the tears are saved because they are precious: God puts a high value on each of the psalmist's troubles.

Thank you to everyone who has been praying for us. I have really felt wrapped in prayer. Know that I pray for you as well.