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.


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