Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Girl Next Door

About two years ago, I had an office next door to a girl, "R" who has now become a close friend. We had always been friendly but had never gotten too comfortable with each other. Then one day, another co-worker, "K" walked into my office and confided that R was also having a hard time becoming pregnant. I realized that both of us had been talking to K about our IF struggles, but neither of us had talked to each other about them. I guess K decided that this was the day we both needed to find out. It turned out we had both been trying for about the same amount of time.

Within a couple days, R and I were confiding in each other and connecting in new ways. There is a definite bonding that happens quickly between two women faced with the IF experience. We discussed doctors, possible causes, treatment options, diet, etc. I helped lift her up and listen to her on days when she was feeling down and she did the same for me. She moved away from the area temporarily while her husband took a 9-month class in another state. One weekend I received a message that she was in the hospital and would explain more on Monday. Immediately I imagined what was happening and began the prayers. On Monday, I learned that she had an ectopic pregnancy. I finally confided in her that I had a miscarriage, and although they are different situations, I can understand the suffering of losing a child.

Our relationship continued to grow. Last spring we were together at a meeting and were alone for a few minutes. She started to delicately prepare me for the "I'm pregnant" news and I was so excited to tell her that I was pregnant as well. We had gotten pregnant within a week of each other! We were both screaming, hugging and crying. We quickly became pregnancy buddies, spending lots of time quietly talking on the phone (during work time) about our symptoms and plans for the pregnancy, doctors, child care, etc.

Sadly, I miscarried at 12 weeks, but R was able to carry to term and now has a 6-month old boy. I wasn't sure how I would handle watching her pregnancy progress and seeing her little boy. I prayed to God for the grace to get through this time. At 4 or 5 months, she returned to the area and I knew I would be seeing her every day. I was quite anxious about how I would react to seeing her and hearing my co-workers talk to her about the pregnancy. Although it was not easy, God gave me the grace to get through it without feeling sorry for myself (at least that's what I say now). I was even able to go to two baby showers for her (one personal, one at work) which I normally avoid like the plague. When I see her little boy, I can't believe that I could have had a 6 month old (and a 2-year old) if my pregnancies had carried to term.

I'm so thankful that God provided me with this friendship at a time when I needed it most. It is amazing to me that the girl in the office next door, was going through the same struggles as me for so long and neither of us even knew! Please pray for my dear friend. She was diagnosed with a likely case of thyroid cancer last week (doctors are still not totally sure, but it looks like it). She'll have surgery on Monday and will have radiation therapy as well if it is indeed cancer. Thanks in advance for any prayers you can spare!

"We accept good things from God; and should we not accept evil?" Job 2:10b

"Two are better than one: they get a good wage for their labor. If the one falls, the other will lift up his companion. Woe to the solitary man! For if he should fall, he has no one to lift him up." Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

"Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep." Romans 12:15


Reflection Questions

  1. How has God surprised you during your IF journey?
  2. What friends have you met along the way that have helped you through struggles?
  3. Has God given you the grace to get through difficult situations?
  4. How do you handle situations that you do not feel you have the grace, strength, or courage to face?

Prayer of Thanks for Friends

I want to thank you, Gracious Lord, for the good friends you give me; they are for me a priceless bounty.
Thanks to them, friendship is neither an abstraction, nor a distant, almost impossible, dream.
I owe to your providence, Lord, the possibility of counting on the constant help of friends.
Between me and them you have formed a solid bridge,
which can withstand all threats of destruction.
The happiness with which you have blessed us enables us to enrich one another.
Lord, you alone know the reasons that drew us closer together.
I promise to do everything in my power to deserve this precious gift that you have reserved for me.
I ask you, Gracious Lord, to keep them safe in your hands, for they are yours above all.

PS – My friends from college are adopting their second infant in a span of just over 12 months! I can't believe what luck they have had. If/when we go the adoption route, I will definitely be on the phone with her to find out what the heck she put in her family profile! Here is her adoption story for #1 – scroll beneath the photos for the adoption timeline. First adoption only took 38 days – what!?!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Nothing is Ever Easy

Sometimes it seems that it is so hard to get anything done regarding IF. Some of the simplest tasks become drawn-out, frustrating events. That is how things have been going for me recently. At my last Dr's appointment, we were reviewing my surgery results, hormone panel, and miscarriage panel testing. The doctor spent a good deal of time with us reviewing my results and outlining a course of treatment. He quickly ended our meeting because he was behind schedule. Before leaving the office I realized that he had not mentioned anything regarding progesterone supplementation even though my hormone profile showed that it was very low post-peak. I decided to wait and either send the doctor an email or call the nurse about it. It took a couple weeks for the doctor to set me up with a protected email account where we could send messages back and forth. He sent me my instructions for the new treatments and then asked if we discussed progesterone supplementation. Great, I thought, he noticed that missing piece as well. I responded to the message right away and never heard a response. Called the doctor's office a couple times and never heard a response. Finally, about two weeks later, and cutting into my post-peak phase, the nurse called and said the doctor never got my email message. Ugh! By then I was close to P+7 and my monthly blood draw and cycle review. I sent him and the nurse a second message immediately. They decided to wait to see the blood work and monthly chart.

Finally, around the start of my new cycle I got a response that the doctor wants to supplement my progesterone. But of course, nothing is ever easy. He wants me to use a compounding pharmacy. I found one that is about 20-25 minutes away and called the number into the nurse last Monday. She called that day to order my prescription. In the back of my mind I thought maybe I should call the pharmacy to make sure they got the order and were filling it. But of course I didn't. On Thursday I had an appointment that was fairly close to the pharmacy. I decided to kill two birds with one stone since the pharmacy is really out of my way otherwise. I got to the pharmacy counter and of course they had trouble finding the prescription. The assistant asks if it is possible that it is new order. "Yes," I said and she found the order immediately. The problem was, they hadn't filled it. And since they had to compound it, it would be a few hours before they finished the order. "Usually people call first," they explained. Is it crazy of me to assume that a pharmacy is going to fill my prescription when it is called in by my doctor? I gave them four days before stopping by to pick it up!

Since it is a small pharmacy, it has very inconvenient hours that just aren't working with my schedule. We had plans with friends in the area on Saturday, but got done about 15 minutes too late to get to the pharmacy before their 3 pm close time. They are closed on Sundays (good for them) and now I am going out of town until Thursday evening. It seems that I should be able to pick it up next Saturday, but that is cutting it really close to when I will need it. This one little item that should have taken 1-2 days to take care of has turned into a month and a half project!

Trying to coordinate my cycle review was a second (albeit shorter-lived) fiasco that I won't get into. Why do simple things have to be so hard? As if it isn't frustrating enough that conception doesn't work as smoothly as it should, adding the frustrations of working with doctors offices, labs, pharmacies, insurance, hospitals, and others just seems to add insult to injury.

I know this is all a great lesson in perseverance. Romans 5:3-5 says: "… but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us." These verses seem to reflect the IF journey and so many of the faithful Catholic women I have met along this path. We persevere and endure through this affliction, through daily sufferings and inconveniences. We stand counter to the pressures of this world with regards to illicit IF treatment showing a formed and proven character. And of course we are reflections of hope. If we had no hope, how could we continue on this journey? I know that God must rejoice in the faith, hope, and love of the faithful infertile woman. May we continue to lovingly persevere along this journey, growing in virtue every step of the way.

"We urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, cheer the fainthearted, support the weak, be patient with all." 1 Thessalonians 5:14

"Indeed we call blessed those who have persevered." James 5:11a

"In this you rejoice, although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ." 1Peter 1:6-7

Reflection Questions

  1. How do I deal with setbacks and frustrations along this path?
  2. What virtues have I developed through perseverance?
  3. Reflect on Romans 5:3-5. How does this reflect my growth through infertility?

Lord, thank you for the gifts of faith, hope, and love. With these virtues, I can faithfully endure along this path. Please help me to persevere through struggles, frustrations, and sufferings. Help me to be patient with others and with myself. Lead and guide me through your Holy Spirit, that I may do your will in all things.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter! In honor of this joyous occasion, I am taking a break this week from blogging. I am posting a few selections from the Easter Vigil. We went to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in DC and enjoyed a beautiful liturgy.

"Come, then, all you races of humankind who sin has saturated and receive the forgiveness of sin.
For it is I who am your forgiveness,
I, the saving Pasch,
I, the Lamb sacrificed for you,
I, your purification, I, your life,
I, your resurrection, I, your light,
I, your salvation, I, your King!
It is I who bring you to the heights of heaven:
It is I who shall raise you up here on earth."
Excerpt from Procession

"This is the night when Christians everywhere, washed clean of sin and freed from all defilement,are restored to grace and grow together in holiness.
This is the night when Jesus Christ broke the chains of death and rose triumphant from the grave.
What good would life have been to us, had Christ not come as our Redeemer?
Father, how wonderful your care for us! How boundless your merciful love!
To ranson a slave you gave away your Son.
O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a Redeemer!
Most blessed of all nights, chosen by God to see Christ rising from the dead!"
Excerpt from Easter Proclamation

"O Lord, it is you who are my portion and cup;
it is you yourself who are my prize.
I keep the Lord ever in my sight;
since He is at my right hand, I shall stand firm.

And so my heart rejoices, my soul is glad;
even my body shall rest in safety.
For you will not leave my soul among the dead,
nor let your beloved know decay.

You will show me the path of life,
the fullness of joy in your presence,
at your right hand, happiness forever."
Psalm 16:5, 8, 9-10, 11

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Dreading the Date

The tax man cometh. And so does a date that I am dreading. For me, tax day and Thanksgiving will always be sad reminders of the loss of my two babies. For the past couple weeks, I have been reminded of my pregnancy last year through random associations. I remember being pregnant while doing Stations of the Cross; I remember going to buy Easter candy at the store and putting something back because the thought of it was making me nauseous; I remember having to package all of our tax materials and get them off in the mail just a few short hours after learning that our baby's heart was no longer beating. I will always associate the Pope's visit to the U.S. last April with the day I lost my baby. Amazingly, my husband was able to shake the Pope's hand the next day, which felt like a gift straight from God after what we had been through.

All of us who have gone through IF know the feeling of dreading a date. Sadly, we have sometimes lost the joy of celebrating our birthdays, anniversaries, or holidays because they remind us of another year that has gone by without the gift of a child. Child-centered holidays and family get-togethers can carry a particular sting for us. I've often heard it said, "don't let the devil steal your joy." This is easy to say, and hard to live out. Although it is inevitable that we will reflect on our childlessness during these milestones in life, I think we can ease these sufferings by not allowing ourselves to dwell on IF. Yes, these are valid emotions and they need to be dealt with; but we should not let ourselves obsess in our sorrows without spending time rejoicing in the meaning of the day. This can be challenging depending on where we are in our cycles, who we are with, etc. Trust me, I know.

I have had some rough Mother's Days, but last year was not one of them. My husband had learned a few tricks over the years which certainly helped. He got me a card, made a special breakfast for me, and took me out to the mall for the day. In the past, I have cried throughout mass and then moped the remainder of the day. I never asked to do anything special and allowed myself to wallow in my sadness. Sadly, I was thinking more about myself then about my own mother and mother-in-law who have been such amazing influences in my life.

Although April 15 will be a sad reminder of the loss of Gabriel, I hope that with God's grace, we will be able to rejoice in the joy of knowing that we have a baby interceding for us in heaven instead of feeling sorry for ourselves for the pain we have endured.

"My days are passed away; my plans are at an end, the cherished purposes of my heart." Job 17:11

"Those who sow in tears will reap with cries of joy." Psalm 126:5

"Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." James 1:2-4

Reflection Questions

  1. How have I dealt with holidays and milestones that are reminders of my infertility?
  2. Have I explained how those days make me feel to my husband, family or friends so that they can be more understanding of me?
  3. Are there any steps I can take to make those days easier to bear?

A Prayer for Healing

Lord, You invite all who are burdened to come to you. Allow Your healing Hand to heal me. Touch my soul with Your compassion for others; touch my heart with Your courage and infinite Love for all; touch my mind with Your Wisdom, and may my mouth always proclaim Your praise. Teach me to reach out to You in all my needs, and help me to lead others to You by my example. Most loving Heart of Jesus, bring me health in body and spirit that I may serve You with all my strength. Touch gently this life which you have created, now and forever.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Waiting Room

We've all been there – wasting away our days in the waiting room. As I sat stuck in the Denver airport for 6 hours on Monday due to a cancelled flight, I began thinking about waiting rooms. I think my worst waiting room experience was when I went to get a blood draw on New Year's Eve. I learned that this is the absolute WORST day of the year to get a blood draw. Everyone crowded the room the entire day trying to get their blood work done before their insurance deductibles reset the following morning. I was in the middle of my month-long hormone panel and had brought my biggest lab order that day. Unfortunately, my doctor hadn't coded all of the tests and only wrote out the test names. While the lab staff was supposed to be closed for lunch, they were on the phone with my doctor's office trying to get the codes for the numerous tests that I was to have. At the end of their one-hour lunch break, the patients were literally banging down the doors to get in! I felt bad for the lab staff who have now become my "LabCorps friends." After seeing me every other day for a few weeks, we started to build a good rapport – but not on that day!

I often feel like I am in the waiting room of my life. Sometimes it feels like life will start when we have a family. I didn't used to feel that way, but over the past few years, I know that I have been holding back. Before each vacation, trip, or choice in life, I have to consider if I will be able to do this or that if I get pregnant. At times I've considered changing jobs, but I pass it off thinking I might get pregnant soon because I just started XYZ new treatment. I would feel bad if I started a new job and then left for maternity leave (or forever!). Should I sign up for boot camp at the gym? No, I might get pregnant and not be able to participate. The list goes on and on…

I don't want to hold back in life. I want to enjoy this precious moment in time when my husband and I are able to grow together as a couple and enjoy the gifts that God has blessed us with. I don't want to look back in a few years and realize that I wasted away my time because I was too preoccupied with getting to the next step in life. It is a delicate balance between accepting the present moment with gratefulness and praying and pursuing options that I hope will change my life indefinitely.

One of my favorite bands right now is Casting Crowns. This post started making me think of the song Somewhere in the Middle by Mark Hall. This song sums up where I am in life right now. Here is an excerpt, but you can find the full lyrics here (#7). (Emphasis added)

"Somewhere between my heart and my hands
Somewhere between my faith and my plans
Somewhere between the safety of the boat and the crashing waves

Somewhere between a whisper and a roar
Somewhere between the altar and the door
Somewhere between contented peace and always wanting more
Somewhere in the middle You'll find me"

"Are the consolations of God not enough for you?" Job 15:11a

"Wait for the Lord, take courage; be stouthearted, wait for the Lord!" Psalm 27:14

"Yet the Lord is waiting to show you favor, and He rises to pity you; For the Lord is a God of justice: blessed are all who wait for Him!"

Reflection Questions

  1. How might I use my time in the waiting room more productively?
  2. In what ways have I held back in life?
  3. Do I try to enjoy the present moment without seeking more?

    Lord, please grant me peace and patience during this waiting period of my life. Help me to recognize the joy of the present moment and express my thanks to you. Guide me in recognizing when I am holding back in ways that I shouldn't. I trust in you!