Sunday, March 22, 2009

Protecting My Heart

I recently had an email exchange with a friend. She inquired how my last doctor's appointment went. I told her that everything was healing well from my surgery, but some testing had shown hormone and other issues that need to be worked on. This is my first month with a new protocol. I mentioned that since I still have some things to work out, I wasn't expecting a pregnancy right away. She then wrote back that hopefully it wouldn't take more than one cycle for the hormones to fall in line (I can just hear some of you either laughing or groaning!). I love my friend dearly, and appreciate her faithful prayers for us. But as she is pregnant with her third baby in four years of marriage, she can't quite relate to our experience of trying to patiently wait for a child.

As I reflected on this exchange over the weekend, I realized that my words over email showed that I am already falling back into the pattern of protecting my heart. Those of us who have experienced the challenges of infertility have learned quickly how to lead a guarded life. I protect my heart each time I decline a baby shower or baptism invitation. I protect my heart each time I tell myself I am not pregnant during the 2 week wait. I protect my heart each time I quietly excuse myself from a discussion about someone's pregnancy or young children. I protect my heart each time I break down and take a pregnancy test while telling myself that I am not pregnant and should not be taking the test right now!

Tonight I began to wonder how Mary reacted after Simeon foretold that a sword would pierce her heart. How often did she ponder what his prophecy meant? Did she live in human fear of what sufferings she may have to endure? Through scripture, I know that she said "Yes" to all that the Lord had planned for her. She responded to Him with faith and trust even though the road was filled with sorrows. She did not excuse herself from being present at the foot of the cross because she was scared of how she would emotionally react. She knew it would be difficult, but she went anyway. She held the body of her crucified Son in her arms. We cannot begin to imagine the depth of her sorrow on that day. But though her sorrow was great, I imagine that her joy on Easter morning was even greater! Mary lived fully. What an example we have in her!

"In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin's name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, 'Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.'" Luke 1: 26-28

"and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, 'Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.'" Luke 2:34-35

"God, I praise your promise; in you I trust, I do not fear. What can mere flesh do to me?" Psalm 56:5

Reflection Questions
1. In what ways am I guarding my heart?

2. Have I closed myself off to friends, family, or God?

3. Is God calling me to release anything?

Novena Prayer to the Immaculate Heart of Mary
O Most Blessed Mother, heart of love, heart of mercy, ever listening, caring, consoling, hear our prayer. As your children, we implore your intercession with Jesus your Son. Receive with understanding and compassion the petitions we place before you today, especially ... (special intention).
We are comforted in knowing your heart is ever open to those who ask for your prayer. We trust to your gentle care and intercession, those whom we love and who are sick or lonely or hurting. Help all of us, Holy Mother, to bear our burdens in this life until we may share eternal life and peace with God forever.

I found this statue of Mary's heart being peirced by a sword in a church in Assisi - just had to post it!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Diving Back In

My husband and I are officially diving back in. We have been on a break for a few months as I prepared for and recovered from surgery. The break has been so refreshing – especially after the emotional torments of late summer when I turned 30 and celebrated my sixth wedding anniversary – without a baby…or a pregnancy. This is our third break, the other two immediately following my miscarriages. Each time I have found them so refreshing. I have definitely enjoyed these last few months of relative emotional and mental stability!

No more emotional breakdowns on the day I start my period (or the week before to be more accurate!). No wondering whether each symptom I am experiencing is a sign of pregnancy – or just PMS. No obsessing over pinpointing ovulation. I even attended my first baptism in several months. Although there were times of heartache and longing, I was able to deal with those emotions in a healthier way.

Now it is back to the grind. New supplements and medicines, more testing (although that never really ended), scheduling mandatory TTC sessions, and more obsessing all around.

It can be very difficult for a couple to decide that they need to take a TTC break. We often feel that we might miss that one perfect month when everything falls into place. There are also considerations as to whether we have grave reasons to avoid a pregnancy for a time. It is quite a change to have to actually think about avoiding a pregnancy for once! But taking a break can bring a lot of healing.

The pressure is off in your romantic life and you can spend time courting one another again. For a woman, it can be especially beneficial emotionally. It is important for a couple to decide together when enough is enough and it is time to refocus. If TTC is getting to the point of straining your relationship with your husband, family, and friends, or you are feeling that it is too difficult to bear, I encourage you to prayerfully consider whether it is time for a short break. Even if just for a month. This is a time to refocus – on what is most important in life and on how you are dealing with the particular cross of infertility. Over the past few months, I have recognized some of the destructive thoughts I was having when I would see a pregnant woman or young family. I have learned that my way of thinking was not the way God would have me think. I've become more conscious of those harmful thoughts and emotions and worked towards redirecting them. I know that I still have a long way to go, but at least, I have made a start!

"Thus says the Lord, your redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: I, the Lord, your God, teach you what is for your good, and lead you on the way you should go." Isaiah 48:17

"The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack. In green pastures you let me graze; to safe waters you lead me; you restore my strength." Psalm 23:2-3a

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, on your own intelligence rely not." Proverbs 3:5

Reflection Questions

  1. How am I dealing with the cross of infertility? Is it negatively affecting my relationship with God, my spouse, or others?
  2. Do I need to change my attitude or correct destructive thoughts?
  3. What would be a serious reason for us to take a break from TTC?
  4. When taking a break, how could I use my time wisely to heal myself physically and emotionally? What relationships may need healing?

Litany of the Way: Prayer for the Journey

As Jesus sought the quiet of the desert, teach us to pray.

As Jesus washed the feet of His disciples, teach us to love.

As Jesus promised paradise to the thief on the cross, teach us hope.

As Jesus called Peter to walk to Him across the water, teach us to believe.

As the child Jesus sat among the elders in the temple, teach us to seek answers.

As Jesus in the garden opened his mind and heart to God's will, teach us to listen.

As Jesus reflected on the Law and the prophets, teach us to learn.

As Jesus used parables to reveal the mysteries of the Kingdom, teach us to teach.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Dentist's Office

One question has changed my relationship with my dental hygienist forever. It seemed like such an innocent question. At my check up a couple years ago, she asked if I was taking any medications. I answered truthfully that I was taking Prometrium (a progesterone supplement). Instead of respecting the patient’s right to medical privacy, she began to ask questions.

What is that? Oh, why are you taking it?

Out came the story. Yes, we are TTC. A test showed I have low progesterone levels which are needed to support a pregnancy. My dental appointments have now become more like a visit to the hair salon, spending a little girl-time gossiping about what is going on in my personal life. Of course, I never say too much since my mouth is pried open most of the time!

I like my hygienist a lot, but this is not a relationship I had anticipated having with her. To make matters worse, the dentist’s office doesn’t have any doors and the walls only reach about ¾ of the way to the ceiling. So, I can hear anything that the people in the room next door to me say (sorry to hear about that cracked tooth, sir) and they can hear me. My self-conscious tendencies get the best of me and I imagine that they are just waiting for me to walk out so they can catch a glimpse of this mystery women.

On my last visit, it was time for my annual x-rays. A woman I had never seen before came to the waiting room and asked if I wanted to have x-rays taken during the visit. When I responded yes, she said, “Okay, Liz (my hygienist) told me that you were trying to have a baby, so she wanted me to check to see if you wanted x-rays or not.” Luckily the waiting room was pretty much empty at the time. I could only respond as cheerfully as possible, “no such luck in that department right now.”

My six month check-ups are now reminders of our lack of success in baby-making. I sure never thought there would be a connection between the bedroom and the dentist’s office! Does God have a plan for this unanticipated relationship that I am in? Perhaps the office staff or the person in the next room is a middle-aged man with no interest for such topics. A young woman who isn’t even thinking about marriage right now, much less children. Or maybe it is a woman (or husband) that finds a bit of comfort knowing that they are not the only people struggling to have a child. Sometimes our lives are touched by people who don’t even know it.

“For we all fall short in many respects. If anyone does not fall short in speech, he is a perfect man, able to bridle his whole body also.” – James 3:2

“Set a guard, LORD, before my mouth, a gatekeeper at my lips” – Psalm 141:3

“Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, as indeed you do”. – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Reflection Questions
1. Has anyone touched your life without knowing it? Perhaps a stranger you have observed, or a person you hear about from a friend or a news story?
2. Are there any boundaries that I need to set when speaking about my personal life with others?

Lord, give me right judgment in revealing myself to others; comfort and humor in times of embarrassment, and openness to the leadings of the Holy Spirit in my conversations. Thank you for those who have touched my life – especially for those who will never know the comfort they offered me.

Premio Dardos Award

Heidi Saxton Milan at "Mommy Monsters" bestowed upon me on Friday the Premio Dardos Award. Thanks so much Heidi - my first award! Premio Dardos means ‘prize darts’ in Italian and it is given for recognition of cultural, ethical, literary, and personal values transmitted in the form of creative and original writing.

The rules are:
1) Accept the award by posting it on your blog along with the name of the person who has granted the award and a link to his/her blog.
2) Pass the award to another 15 blogs that are worthy of this acknowledgement, remembering to contact each of them to let them know they have been selected for this award.

Okay, so I am new to blogging and don't keep up with 15 different blogs (unless you want to read all of my friend's family blogs). At any rate, I'd like to nominate the following:

Sew Infertile (a great combination of hilarity and serious contemplation)
All You Who Hope (another great/inspiring infertility blog)
Momopoly (for those of you who are Moms)

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Is Anybody Listening?

I have heard several discussions among women with IF about how long they should continue asking God for the gift of a child. It seems that we often get tired of praying for the same thing all the time, and sometimes feel that we are bugging God, or pressuring Him. The women often say, “I know that God knows the desires of my heart, so should I really keep praying for this?” Or, “Is God’s silence to my prayers an indication that having a child is not His will for me?”

This week we had a parish mission. On the final night, the priest read Matthew 7:7-8 “Ask and it will be given you; seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. “

I could barely wait for his instruction on the passage, knowing how much it relates to our petitions to God for the lifting of our infertility (or the grace to accept it). I wish I had brought some paper with me to write down all of his great insights.

One thing he said is that we shouldn’t see our unanswered prayers as a waste. He then told the story of his father who was basically agnostic. For forty years, the priest prayed for his father to have a conversion. Finally, during a medical crisis, his father finally said he wanted to become Catholic and was baptized. Then today at mass our pastor talked about his recent trip to visit his brother. The brother had fallen away from the faith for almost forty years. He is now returning to the church and his wife and her daughter who are part of a non-denominational church are also considering the Catholic faith. Forty years of persistent prayer! How they must have felt like giving up hope at times, or that their prayers were not heard. With two priests talking about this in the same week, I think God was trying to teach me a lesson about how He answers our prayers. Today our priest spoke about God working with us patiently through our struggles – in small ways, things change. He spoke of how God’s time is not our time. How forty years to God is but the blink of an eye. If they could persevere in prayer for forty years, why am I so impatient when my prayers have not been answered in a few short years? Perhaps God is working in me in small ways, to form me to be the mother He would have me become. Little by little, I have learned of the medical causes of my infertility and miscarriages. These things cannot happen overnight; we must be patient with God.

Our mission priest also spoke of the prayer of petition being an exercise in the virtue of hope. Hope seems to be a recurrent theme this year, with the Pope releasing Spe Salvi and the theme of the papal visit being “Christ our Hope.” I have not read all of Spe Salvi, but one line I read has stuck out in my mind. It seems to stick out in a lot of people’s minds – I see it used often in articles, during sermons, or as people’s email taglines. “The person who has hope lives differently.” I have hope that God will lift the suffering of infertility from me. Knowing that, I need to examine how I should live my life in accordance with that hope. (Maybe I should start by reading that ecyclical!)

“May He grant you your heart’s desire, and fulfill all your plans…May the Lord fulfill all your petitions!” – Psalm 20: 4; 5b
“Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
“The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful.” – James 5:16b

Reflection Questions
1. Do I become impatient when my prayers seem to go unanswered? How long am I willing to persist in prayer for a petition that is close to my heart?
2. In what ways have I grown during this time of infertility? Have things been revealed to me that I would not have learned otherwise?
3. Do I have hope that God will give me the grace to accept His will in my situation?
4. How will I live differently because of the gift of hope I have received?

Act of Hope and Confidence after Holy Communion
My soul, confide in Jesus. He can do thee every good. He is God and He loves thee. In the Blessed Eucharist He is sweet and mild and generous. Urged by love, He comes to manifest His love to thee. Yes, my dear Jesus, Thou art my hope and my salvation. Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place my trust in Thee. I trust, O Lord, that Thou wilt enkindle in my heart the flame of Thy pure love, and a real desire to please Thee; so that, from this day forward, I may never will anything but what Thou willest. Amen.