Tuesday, February 24, 2009


I don’t really think of myself as much of a game person, but I love the game Taboo! My normally introverted self can barely wait for my turn to be the “speaker” in the game, trying to get my teammates to guess the word on my card. When my husband and I are on a team together, we are nearly unstoppable because we can easily pull from our life together to elicit certain words or phrases that would seem to have no connection to the word that is to be guessed.

After an experience we had with a friend recently, we found ourselves in conversation about a different kind of Taboo. Although our culture has come a long way over the years (both good and bad), the topics of infertility and miscarriage are still taboo to many people. It can be hard to navigate our relationships to determine which people should be let in on our true desires for parenthood and the wild ride of fertility testing.

We were recently at an event where two of our good friends were present. We were happily conversing in a small group when suddenly Katie got a serious look on her face and asked if she could talk to us for a minute. As we walked to a quiet corner of the room, we were both wondering what in the world this was about. “Please don’t be mad at me,” she started out. Then she explained that she and her husband pray for us each night during family prayer time. Her husband’s parents are often present and have heard their prayers for us. One day, Katie’s mother-in-law asked if they were praying for us because we were trying to have a baby. She admitted the truth and her mil asked if she could enroll us in the St. Gerard Society. Katie apologized for having revealed this part of our lives to her in-laws (who we do know through various family events over the years). We quickly reassured her that we were not mad, but happy about this news. It means we have another couple who is praying for us and we have had a devotion to St. Gerard ever since we first started TTC.

It is hard to know how people will respond when we share with them the very personal news of IF. We have been lucky to not have any real horror stories about people’s responses, as I know many couples do. But we do see many different reactions from the people we tell. Some people show a genuine interest and concern, being sure to ask how we are doing, inquiring about our testing/treatment process, and reminding us that they are praying for us. Others have kept quiet, acting as though we never told them a thing. It is likely they are just unsure about what is appropriate to discuss and they want to let us “make the first move” in furthering our conversation.

So, how much do you tell people about your TTC experience and who do you tell? I’ve heard of couples who have gone through years of fertility testing and treatment without telling their own families and others who tell everyone they know. Most of us probably have at least a few fairly good friends that we haven’t let in on our secret, while we have found ourselves telling perfect strangers (who ask offhandedly if we have any children) that we are hoping to start a family soon or that we have a baby in heaven. Keeping up with who knows what can be exhausting!

It takes a lot of faith and trust to talk about these taboo things in life. But it can also provide a lot of benefits to us and others. Perhaps we can share the burden with someone who is also struggling or learn from those who have had similar experiences. The graces we receive from the prayers of others help us more than we may ever realize.

“The trustworthy man will be richly blessed.” -Proverbs 28:20a
“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep." -Romans 12:15
“Bear one another's burdens, and so you will fulfill the law of
Christ.” -Galatians 6:2

Reflection Questions:
1. Have I come to a consensus with my husband about what is permissible to speak about with others and who should /should not be informed about this personal part of our life?
2. Do I inform my husband when I tell someone new about our struggles with infertility?
3. What have I learned (positive and negative) from sharing my IF journey with others?
4. Have I received any support or prayers from others that have helped me along this journey? Have I expressed my thanks for those gifts?

Lord, give me right judgment when I speak with other about my struggles. Help me to respect my husband’s wishes when discussing personal matters. Give me a heart of patience and humility when others respond in ways I do not understand. Most of all, help me to be a good friend to others who are burdened, not expecting more from them than I am willing to give.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Why Not Me?

Although I try not to dwell on it, it is difficult for me not to ask God, "Why not me?" You know how it is – you hear about an abusive parent, a woman who has had an abortion, or a teen mother. You begin to wonder why God would allow a baby to be conceived in those situations while withholding the blessing of a pregnancy from a couple who is ready and willing to welcome a child into the world. It seems these days everyone is having a baby – even Shrek had twins! I remember almost being in tears at the gym as I saw an interview with the pregnant "man" and his wife. Why would God allow someone who had rejected her own femininity to be able to conceive and bear a child?

I wish I could say the "Why Not Me's" stop with distant strangers in whacky situations. But I find myself asking that question in response to even my closest friend's blessings – pregnancy announcements, baptisms, get togethers with friends. It can come out of nowhere at times when I thought I was at peace. I think we need to work on putting the situation into perspective. Life is not about who has what. If we constantly compare ourselves to one another, we will never be happy. Someone will always have what we want (and perhaps someone else may envy what we ourselves have). In St. Augustine's Confessions, he says, "…for you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you."

"Why not me?" seems like such as simple question, but what is beneath it? Lack of trust? Lack of faith? Doubt in God's plan? Self-centeredness? Jealousy? A desire for control? Perhaps I need to take a step back and rest these things in the Lord. It will take continual conversion of heart (and mind), but with the help of the Holy Spirit, I will receive the grace I need.

Am I willing to trust in God's plan for my life and my fertility? Can I rest these desires and questions in Him?

Reflection Questions

  1. What is beneath my questions of "Why Not Me?"
  2. Do I question God's plan for my life?
  3. What do I need to lay before the Lord in confession?
  4. What virtues can I build up to overcome these weaknesses?

"For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder" – James 3:16

"Then I declared my sin to you; my guilt I did not hide. I said, 'I confess my faults to the LORD,' and you took away the guilt of my sin." – Psalm 32:5

"Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light." – Matthew 11:28-30

Prayers of St. Augustine
Watch Thou, O Lord, with those who wake, or watch, or weep tonight, and give Thine angels charge over those who sleep.
Tend Thy sick ones, O Lord Christ.
Rest Thy weary ones.
Bless Thy dying ones.
Soothe Thy suffering ones.
Pity Thine afflicted ones.
Shield Thy joyous ones.
And all for Thy love's sake. Amen

Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy. Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy. Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I love but what is holy. Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy. Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy. Amen.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

This Should Be Easy

One Christmas afternoon, I went for a walk with two of my sisters-in-law at a nearby park. Both had experienced difficulties in trying to have a baby. One was eventually successful and the other has yet to conceive even several years later. My husband and I were not trying at the time, but had started daydreaming and planning the perfect timing to get pregnant. My sisters-in-law were discussing the difficulties of TTC, finding doctors who have your best interest in mind, and dealing with the emotional difficulties they faced. One thing that my sister-in-law said stuck with me – "It [infertility] is so hard because no one expects that they will have problems." This came from a woman who would go months without a period! Little did I know that I would learn the same lesson from first-hand experience.

When we first started planning to TTC, I expected things to be easy. I had always had regular cycles, and because we were using natural family planning, I knew when I was ovulating. Since NFP is immediately reversible, we could go from trying to avoid to trying to achieve conception at any time – instead of waiting months to rid hormones and chemicals from my system as do most women who are on birth control. I felt like I'd been hit by a load of bricks when I had my first (second, third…) negative pregnancy test. I remember feeling depressed and disillusioned those first few months as I came to the realization that things would not be so easy after all. Could it be that we would actually have problems trying to get pregnant? I was not one of those women who took it all in stride, not worrying about infertility until after a year or more of TTC. No, I knew from various websites exactly what percentages of couples are able to get pregnant in one cycle, two, three, six…

I had to change my way of thinking and envisioning my future. I wouldn't be one of those women who can plan a pregnancy, I would have to learn to let go of control in planning my life and trust in God's perfect timing. I have experienced different levels of trust over the past several years; at times resigning myself to the will of the Lord, other times desiring to take matters back into my own hands. How lucky we of faith are to have someone to trust and to ask to direct our paths. I imagine the pain of infertility would be even more difficult without having a relationship with an all-loving God.

It is often hard for us to step back from the various situations we are facing (especially distressing situations) to see that along with the struggles, we are receiving many blessings and opportunities for grace. I know that I personally need to take a step back to consider how I have grown and to be thankful for the opportunities I have had during this time of waiting. Here are a few immediate thoughts:

  • I am thankful for having a loving and supportive husband. We have only grown closer as a couple through the shared joys and sufferings of the past several years.
  • My husband and I were able to take a trip to Italy in 2007, which would not have been possible if we had a child as planned. The trip was full of blessings and opportunities for healing and hope.
  • My compassion for the struggles of others has increased, especially those experiencing the crisis of infertility.
  • I have had the opportunity to pray more dedicatedly for those suffering from infertility and miscarriage, and to unite my sufferings to theirs.
  • I have learned that although the pain of this cross may sometimes feel heavy, I am able to bear it with the help of my Savior.
    "When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, You knew my path." -Psalm 142:3a

    "On the way of wisdom I direct you, I lead you on straightforward paths. When you walk, your step will not be impeded, and should you run, you will not stumble." -Proverbs 4: 11-12

Reflection Questions

  1. How did I react when I realized that I was not in control of this aspect of my life?
  2. Have I learned to place my trust in the Lord? Is there anything that I have not surrendered to Him?
  3. What situations, blessings, or opportunities for personal growth can I be thankful for as a result of this period of waiting?

Prayer of Abandonment to the Father's Will

I abandon myself into your hands;
do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.

Let only your will be done in me,
and in all your creatures -
I wish no more than this, O Lord.

Into your hands I commend my soul:
I offer it to you with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father.

- Charles de Foucauld

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Building a Family the American Way

In a way, we are building our family in the time-tested tradition of many modern American couples. For our first few years of marriage, before we started TTC, I would joke with my husband:
“First you get a plant. If you can keep it alive for a year, you move on to a pet. If you keep that alive for a year, you can try for a baby.”

It seems that we are following in the footsteps of many couples before us.
1. Keeping a plant alive – check! This was actually harder than we had expected. We have been through several different plants and only one has managed to flourish under our care.
2. Adopt a pet – check! After more than 5 years of begging, my persistence finally paid off. My husband broke down and decided that we could adopt a cat as part of my 30th birthday present.
3. Have a baby – not happening! At least not yet. We have been TTC for nearly 3 years with no “take home babies” to show for it. Our first two babies are now in heaven – a source of both hope (yes, we can get pregnant!) and sorrow.

Feeling pretty confident in our abilities, we originally tried to skip directly from Step 1 to Step 3. This is partially because my husband is allergic to cats, we can’t have a dog in our current housing situation, and other pet options (anything that lives in a tank or runs in a wheel all night) just didn’t seem appealing.

Alas, we were meant to go down the same road as many American couples as we try to build our family. The plant, pet, baby thing does have some practicality to it. Our sweet kitty has taught me a lot about my own self-centeredness. Sometimes he is ready to play while I am trying to work on something (sometimes important, sometimes not). Guess who usually gets the short end of the stick – poor Herbie! I am learning that I still have some growing to do before I am ready to be a parent. But what couple is ever “ready?” I think having a baby is always a shock to the system, no matter how long you’ve tried, or how much you’ve desired parenthood.

So, we will keep trying. I know that God has sent us on this journey as a means of personal growth. My challenge is not to be complacent, but to keep pushing myself in areas where I know I need to change (being other-centered vs. self-centered, offering my sufferings to the Lord, developing a closer relationship with God, my spouse, and others, etc.)

As a quick side note, it is now only four months since we adopted our cat and I am sorry to report that the plant is almost completely dead. What was a flourishing plant a couple months ago is now just some dried up stalks and a tiny shoot desperately clinging to life. The future does not look bright for the cat if/when we do bring home a baby. But I think he is heartier than that!

“For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare, not for woe! plans to give you a future full of hope. When you call me, when you go to pray to me, I will listen to you. When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with all your heart, you will find me with you, says the LORD, and I will change your lot…” -Jeremiah 29: 11-14a

Reflection Questions:
1. How have I dealt with the challenges of realizing and accepting that I wasn’t going to be able to get pregnant according to my own timing?
2. What can I do now to prepare myself physically, emotionally, and spiritually to start a family?
3. Are there areas in my life that need improvement or goals that I can achieve during this period of waiting?

Lord, I know you have placed this challenge in my life for a reason. Show me the areas where I need improvement. Guide me in using this time of waiting productively. Most of all, help me to trust in your beautiful plan for my life – a plan for my welfare and not for woe! Amen.

Monday, February 2, 2009

About This Blog

Me? A Blogger? I never anticipated doing this until just recently. What do I have to offer from my average ordinary life? Went to work, made dinner, cleaned the house, went to the gym, went to church, It is all pretty standard. Then it came to me one day (while I was cleaning the bathroom no less!). My experience of infertility over the past few years has made a deep impact on my life. Although I still feel like I am behind the curve from many ladies at my stage of TTC, I have had a lot of experiences that seem to have stuck with me for one reason or another. My goal for this blog is to make it more than just a commentary about where I am in my TTC journey. I hope to channel my energies into looking more introspectively at my life and my relationship with God.

And here comes my first tangent…When I was in elementary school, I wanted to be a writer. One of my English teachers seemed to think that I had a flair for writing and wanted to encourage it. She set it up so that each week I could go to the library to read the Kindergartners a story that I had written and illustrated (my illustrative skills are still about the same today as they were back in elementary school, which was not very accomplished, even for a 5th grader). I dreamed of becoming a writer, but this dream came to a swift end once I hit writers block in middle school. I kept trying to write new "books," but they all seemed to have the same plot – a love triangle between a beautiful teenage girl and two handsome teenage boys. I was definitely not writing from personal experience. I have not kept so much as a journal since high school after my mom found (and read) my diary which was laden with secrets I had been keeping from her. But now, at age 30, my desire to write has suddenly returned and I find myself with all sorts of storylines to share.

I am setting this up after the style of a devotional book I am currently working through (the same format most devotionals are in, I am sure). An anecdote about some part of my IF experience, then looking deeper into what can be learned from that experience, offering a few questions to ponder, and perhaps a short prayer to the Lord. "It sounds very Ignatian," said my Theology Ph.D candidate-husband when I told him about my idea. "Yes," I replied in my most studious sounding voice. "What does that mean?" I secretly wondered to myself. So, I am setting off on a journey of the self. I know that I will be learning and growing through this experience. I hope that perhaps it might help someone else out there in cyberspace too!

Before I get started, here is a little background:

My husband and I have been TTC since April 2006. After a lot of blood, sweat, and tears (literally), we have received a diagnosis of endometriosis. I recently had a laparoscopy to remove the endo and clear a partially obstructed tube – waiting on my post-op appointment to find out our new plan of action. Along this journey, we have blessed with two beautiful lives that were lost too soon, Michael and Gabriel.

The title of my blog comes from a quote that touched my heart a couple years ago.

"Nothing else in my life has been as baffling to me as not being able to conceive a child. My emotions hide even from myself, spilling out in tears of sadness or anger at the most inopportune times. There have been no days of real clarity, no times when a light has come on to show the way—not even a little. But the mysterious and marvelous mercy of God has convinced me of one thing in all of this—it is dark because I am in that deep, hidden place under God's wing."

Find the full passage, click here.