Monday, June 29, 2009

Words of Wisdom

Last Sunday our pastor gave a sermon that I felt was directly aimed at me as it was so relevant to the IF situation. I wish I had a pen and paper with me to take notes, but here is my weak attempt at recreating at least part of what he said. The gospel was about Jesus and the disciples being on a boat in a storm. Jesus is asleep and the disciples are all scared they are going to die. They wake up Jesus and He calms the seas.

My pastor started off by saying that all of us have one thing in our lives that we wish we could change. We feel like our lives would be pretty good if only this one thing was different. For some people it is a relationship, for others it is improved health, for some it is to make more money, etc. He reminded us that we all have our different struggles in life. Even when one struggle is lifted, there will be another to follow. He spoke about the need to pray for God's grace. His grace is sufficient and will help us through any crisis. Although God may not remove our sufferings from us, He does offer the grace to handle those situations and to maintain our faith in Him.

He then mentioned the importance of the Mass and all of the congregants coming together. We all have different struggles, but we come together as a community to pray with and for each other. He described participating in the Mass as being on the boat when Jesus wakes up. How beautiful is that imagery? Although our life feels stormy and out of control, when we go to Mass, we experience the love of Jesus. Through prayer and the Eucharist, He calms us and gives us the grace we need. Our pastor reminded us of our need to pray for each other. And when times are hard, he reminded us to pray, "Jesus, I trust in you. Give me the grace I need."

I also recently remembered a phrase that our archbishop used in his Lenten Stations of the Cross reflections. I had been meaning to share it here. He prayed, "Lord, grant that I will always be faithful to you, then do with me whatever you will." I love reflecting on that statement – it puts everything into perspective. The most important thing is for us to maintain our faith and trust in God. As long as we have that, we have everything – no matter what struggles life may bring.

"But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, O Jacob, and formed you, O Israel: Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name: you are mine. When you pass through the water, I will be with you; in the rivers you shall not drown. When you walk through fire, you shall not be burned; the flames shall not consume you." Isaiah 43:1-2

"On that day, as evening drew on, Jesus said to his disciples: 'Let us cross to the other side.' Leaving the crowd, they took Jesus with them in the boat just as he was. And other boats were with him. A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up. Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him, 'Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?' He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, 'Quiet! Be still!' The wind ceased and there was great calm. Then he asked them, 'Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?' They were filled with great awe and said to one another, 'Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?'" Mark 4:35-41

"Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.' I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me." 2 Corinthians 12:8-9

Reflection Questions

  1. Do I feel that if only I am healed from infertility, that I will be satisfied in life?
  2. How do I respond when the struggle of IF is not lifted from my life each month?
  3. How has the grace of God helped me during difficult times?

Prayer for the Intercession of Pope John Paul II

O Holy Trinity, we thank you for having given to the Church Pope John Paul II, and for having made him shine with your fatherly tenderness, the glory of the Cross of Christ and the splendor of the Spirit of love

He, trusting completely in your infinite mercy and in the maternal intercession of Mary, has shown himself in the likeness of Jesus the Good Shepherd and has pointed out to us holiness as the path to reach eternal communion with You.

Grant us, through his intercession, according to your will, the grace that we implore, in the hope that he will soon be numbered among your saints. Amen.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

His Sacrifice

When we first began “planning” to have a baby my husband was preparing for his Ph.D. comprehensive exams and I was working full-time. When I realized that 3 months of unpaid maternity leave would put is in the hole $5,000 for rent and insurance alone, we decided it might be time for my husband to get a full-time job. We planned to wait until the summer when my husband was finished with exams and I would only be a couple months pregnant (ha ha!). But that winter a job opportunity came along that was a perfect fit for my husband. It was close by, he would be using the skills he had learned in grad school, and the benefits were great. We decided that he should go ahead and interview and he was soon hired for the position. The office liked him so much that they were willing to let him work part-time until he finished comps.

It was a busy and stressful few months for my husband as he tried to balance his work load and getting through a 50+ book reading list for exams. In May he took and passed exams and immediately switched to full-time work. His next step was identifying a dissertation topic – a process that ended up taking over a year. As the months went on without a pregnancy, I started feeling more and more guilty about my husband taking on a full-time job and barely having any time to devote to his Ph.D. work. The guilt has followed me to this day, over three years later. Several times I have recommended that perhaps he give up his job for now and just finish his dissertation, but he presses on. Each time we see some friends or family and they half-jokingly ask how his dissertation is going, I feel the guilt. When his Mom nags him about getting serious about his dissertation and about how it didn’t take his brother this long to get his Ph.D., I feel the guilt. None of these people have any idea why my husband decided to take on a full-time job at that point in his schooling, and my sweet husband has never brought it up in his defense.

The end is finally in sight – he is actually setting a date that he hopes to graduate, but it will take a lot of work and sacrifice to meet his goal. Even now I am still telling him to leave work and pursue the dissertation full-time. But he recently moved into a new and higher-level position and wouldn’t dream of leaving it now after giving his word to put at least 1.5 years into the position. I am so thankful for the amazing husband that God has put into my life. As I have told him on a numerous occasions, he is a better man than I had ever dreamed of marrying. (Thank God he is nothing like my high school boyfriends!)

I know that in addition to sacrificing time for his Ph.D. work, he has unwillingly sacrificed being a father at this point in his life. When I see him holding a baby or interacting with our friend’s children, it brings a mixture of joy and sorrow. He will be an amazing father when the time comes just as he has always been an amazing husband to me.

“I found him whom my heart loves…” Song of Solomon 3:4b

“This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.” John 15:12

"Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 1 Corinthians 13:7

Reflection Questions

1. What types of sacrifices have my husband and I made on the road to having children?
2. Do I acknowledge my husband’s sacrifices and the ways that infertility affects him?
3. In what ways can I show my husband my thankfulness for him?

Christian Marriage Prayer

Lord Jesus, grant that I and my spouse may have a true and understanding love for each other. Grant that we may both be filled with faith and trust. Give us the grace to live with each other in peace and harmony. May we always bear with one another’s weaknesses and grow from each other’s strengths. Help us to forgive one another’s failings and grant us patience, kindness, cheerfulness and the spirit of placing the well-being of one another ahead of self. May the love that brought us together grow and mature with each passing year. Bring us both ever closer to You through our love for each other. Let our love grow to perfection. Amen.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

One of the Guys

I have found myself hanging out in the guy’s crowd at get togethers quite a bit over the past couple years. By now, most of my friends have children and are getting pregnant left and right. When we get together with a group of friends, I often find myself hanging out with the guys. This is to avoid having to listen to all the conversations about pregnancy, babyhood, and parenting. It’s just one more way that I protect my heart. Instead of hearing all the things the girls are chatting about, I end up listening to conversations about sports, politics, high-level theology, and more. Since these topics don’t particularly interest me (well, politics does) I often end up eavesdropping on the women’s conversations anyway. I remember one evening getting together at a friend’s house with a small group. Two of the girls were pregnant and the other two already had kids. They immediately went into the kitchen, hugged, and started talking shop while I ended up hanging out with the guys, pretending to be interested in something that I didn’t really care about. I felt so alone that evening. The crazy thing is, I was pregnant at the time, just too early to make any announcements! It seems that the difficult emotions we feel as a result of IF do not magically disappear with a positive pregnancy test.

In so many of these situations, I just don’t feel like I fit in. I obviously don’t fit in with the men’s crowd and usually can’t contribute much to their conversations. I don’t fit in with all my friends who are mothers. Even though I’ve been blessed with two conceptions, I feel like I can’t join in on conversations about pregnancy-induced food aversions or the exhaustion of early pregnancy even though I have experienced both. We don’t really fit in with any of the couples we know from church, because we are the only ones without children. This is not to say that we don’t have any friends or that people we know treat us like outcasts, just that in certain ways we can’t relate to them.

There are plenty of characters in the bible that can relate to feeling like they don’t fit in. Here are a few:
1. Hannah and all the women of the bible who experienced infertility. They had added social stigmas that are not as strong today.
2. Mary and Joseph when they were pregnant with Jesus. The movie The N.ativity really got me to think in a new way about how they were probably looked upon by other people in their community.
3. Jesus – I think of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane and how lonely He must have felt when even His friends couldn’t keep watch. How many times I have also quietly prayed that the Lord would let this cup pass from me.

I imagine that none of the saints felt like they quite fit in with the people they interacted with. This is a part of the human experience. We all experience “feeling like an outsider” in various ways throughout life. This is just one experience that I never imagined I would be facing, and that I have had to face for longer than I would prefer. Like Jesus, I need to surrender myself to the Lord’s will, no matter where that may lead.

“For he will carry out what is appointed for me, and many such things may yet be in his mind.” Job 23:14
“Have pity on me, Lord, for I am weak; heal me, Lord…” Psalm 6:3ab
“My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.” Matthew 26:39b
Reflection Questions
1. In what situations have I felt like I just don’t fit in?
2. Do I try to befriend others when they may be in a situation in which they feel like they don’t fit in?
3. What models of faith could I reflect upon when feeling lonely and different from others?

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it knownthat anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help or sought thy intercession,was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence, We fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins ourMother; to thee do we come, before thee we stand, sinful and sorrowful; O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not our petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer them. Amen.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Baby in the Backseat

Is it weird that my car reminds me of my infertility? I’m not quite sure when this started, but often when I am in the car alone, I begin to daydream about having a baby in the backseat. My guess is that this came about because I pass an elementary school on my way to work each day. They open around the time I go to work, so the area is always bustling on my morning drive. Every morning, I see parents in their minivans full of children, or walking their school-age children to school while pushing their strollers. How often I have longed to be one of those stroller-pushers in the neighborhood!

I’m not quite sure why I have romanticized the car seat thing. I know several parents whose children absolutely hated being in the car and screamed anytime they were near a car seat. So I know in real life, there isn’t always a quiet cooing baby back there…but this is my daydream. It intensified for a short while last summer when I traded my small Corolla for an SUV. There is so much room in my vehicle and it is just little old me inside!

Isn’t it strange the things that remind us of our infertility struggles? Or the things that we dream about doing that most parents see as commonplace or even burdensome? On Monday night I was at spinning class and all of a sudden felt this overwhelming yearning to hold a baby of my very own. The feeling was so intense it took me by surprise (perfectly timed to an intense section of the class). At least I have my cat to baby. After a year of working on him, I can now get him to let me hold him like a baby first thing in the morning and right when I get home from work. Is that sick or what? Poor cat, he is my substitute baby right now! Another couple years of IF and we might end up buying one of those pet strollers and walking him around the neighborhood!

All of this yearning has made me think about God’s yearning for us. God also longs for His children. Each day He wants us to acknowledge Him in the little things. Instead of big showy productions, He longs for a glance from us towards heaven. A simple, honest prayer, an act of love or charity in His name, or offering up our sufferings to Him. How often I go through the day without really communicating with God. Without doing all the little things that add up to a healthy and thriving spiritual life. He longs for me to bring all my joys and sufferings to Him, and what peace and contentment it might bring if I do!
“Cast your care upon the LORD, who will give you support. God will never allow the righteous to stumble.” Psalm 55:23
“In all your ways be mindful of him, and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:6
"What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it? And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy and, upon his arrival home, he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them, 'Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.'” Luke 15:4-6
Reflection Questions
1. Have I turned from God or put others thoughts or tasks before Him?
2. What time am I giving back to God?
3. What are the little things that I can do to build up my relationship with God?

Lord God, please help me to live in appreciation of all that you have provided for me. Calm my racing mind and help me to enjoy your presence in this moment. Through your Holy Spirit, guide me, that I will not turn my face from you, but may always seek you in joy and suffering. I wish to grow closer to you each day of my life. Amen.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Happens Every Month

Every month there is some new story with me. I think I feel something in my body that is distinctly different than previous months. In the 2 week wait, we TTC ladies tend to get really tuned in to every nudge, twitch, ache, or cramp. We notice if our appetite or energy levels change. We notice if our emotions are running high. Last month I thought I was overly emotional and noticed I was getting winded easily. I knew my lack of pre-menstrual spotting was because I was finally supplementing with progesterone again…but I still wondered…

As the wife in the movie Facing the Giants said, "sometimes my mind plays tricks on me." I completely identified with that line in the movie. It is too bad that early pregnancy symptoms are so similar to PMS! It makes it so much easier to get up our hopes. Even though I've been pregnant a couple times and I know that implantation cramps feel different from PMS cramps, I still sometimes trick myself into thinking that maybe these are "the ones." I guess I need to admit that not every symptom I face is cycle related. Maybe I am extra exhausted one month because I'm not keeping up with my exercise, or I'm eating junk, or…I'm just not getting enough sleep!

It can be difficult to get our hopes up only to stare a negative pregnancy test in the face, or see the signs of CD1. I learned once again last month that the fastest way to start a new cycle is to take a pregnancy test. I try to avoid testing at all costs, but I was about to go on travel and needed to know what medicines and supplies to pack.

The emotions on the day you test or at the first signs of a new cycle tend to run the gamut. Disappointment, sadness, bitterness, acceptance – it is a monthly heartache – a reminder of an opportunity missed. I guess God thinks a lot of us ladies, because He sure did give us quite challenge – one that cuts right to the core. But somehow we are given the strength and grace that is needed. We learn that we can handle more than we thought, that even if we are having a bad day, things will turn around. Though no day goes by without that silent suffering, there is much to be thankful for. The Holy Spirit, who we celebrate in this week of Pentecost is our constant helper and companion. The Holy Spirit helps us to pray when we have no words, and to move forward when we feel like holding back. The fruits of the Holy Spirit are some of those gifts that we TTC ladies need most: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Perhaps it is time that I take another look at my relationship with the "hidden person of the Trinity."

"The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD" Isaiah 11:2

"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

"We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the things freely given us by God." 1 Corinthians 2:12

"In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control." Galatians 5:22-23a

Reflection Questions

  1. Does my mind play tricks on me throughout the month?
  2. How do I deal with the disappointments of not conceiving each month?
  3. What gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit do I need most at this point in my life?

Prayer for the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit

O Lord Jesus Christ Who, before ascending into heaven did promise to send the Holy Spirit to finish Your work in the souls of Your Apostles and Disciples, deign to grant the same Holy Spirit to me that He may perfect in my soul, the work of Your grace and Your love. Grant me the Spirit of Wisdom that I may despise the perishable things of this world and aspire only after the things that are eternal, the Spirit of Understanding to enlighten my mind with the light of Your divine truth, the Spirit of Counsel that I may ever choose the surest way of pleasing God and gaining heaven, the Spirit of Fortitude that I may bear my cross with You and that I may overcome with courage all the obstacles that oppose my salvation, the Spirit of Knowledge that I may know God and know myself and grow perfect in the science of the Saints, the Spirit of Piety that I may find the service of God sweet and amiable, and the Spirit of Fear that I may be filled with a loving reverence towards God and may dread in any way to displease Him. Mark me, dear Lord, with the sign of Your true disciples and animate me in all things with Your Spirit. Amen.