Christianity, Infertility

A Post in Two Subjects.

it begins.

My progesterone-in-oil shots (PIO) and all of the (HUGE) needles arrived in the mail, and a feeling of excitement and fear found its way into my brain. We have been making sure to do the “baby dance” on all the right days this cycle, even changing up plans in our schedule around it, and I am excited to see whether or not the progesterone supplementation will help me to achieve and (God-willing) sustain a pregnancy. On the other hand, the needles are huge. And they were expensive. Insurance didn’t cover any of it, and I am afraid that my (potential) endometriosis will turn out to be so severe that PIO injections alone won’t help. I can’t help but feel like it is a little naive of me – after all of the failures of this journey so far – to think that a few cycles of PIO injections will “do the trick,” and yet – that is exactly what I want to happen!

I also began my ultrasound series and will be doing my estradiol testing over the course of the next few days. I’m not going to lie. I don’t cry much, but I cried afterward. I accidentally glanced up at the monitor while the technician was doing my ultrasound, and I couldn’t help but think of all the times that I have seen pictures of friends’ pregnancy sonograms. And here was mine. With no baby. I didn’t expect it to be that hard, but it was. The sadness blind-sided me. On top of that, the exam was very uncomfortable. I’m going for another one in just two short hours. I am just ready to get through this cycle and through the rest of my PIO trial cycles, and find out whether or not I will be pregnant or need surgery.

As Lent progresses, I have been doing a decent job of keeping to my commitment to drink only water during the Lenten season. But it’s been rough. I have been craving juice like crazy! I thought I had a mild juice addiction before Lent, and now I know that my addiction to juice is probably more severe than I first believed! During those times when I crave the soothing rush of a cranberry-apple or the thick salve of a pomegranate-cherry, I think about those who are literally giving their heads for the cause of Christ in other parts of the world. I mentioned before that fasting has always been a difficult concept for me, but through the giving up of my favorite beverages I am starting to understand just how little we are asked to give for the sake of our Lord. I am such a wimp, to struggle with giving up juice, while others are giving much, much more.

Their sacrifices have put the idea of fasting into better perspective for me.

It’s actually perfect timing that this cycle of PIO injections, ultrasound series’, and estradiol testing falls during the Lenten season. I hope that I can keep it all together as I try to honor God through “juice-addiction” and infertility. It’s difficult to walk the path on which God has placed you. My commitment to fast for Lent is more than just drinking water for forty days. It is a promise from me to God that says I will be disciplined enough to follow Him, come what may. Come raging juice withdrawal. Come infertility. Come death.

Because my life is not about me.

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Christianity, Infertility

Anxiety.

I am feeling so anxious today.

I went to the doctor last Monday and she laid out a pretty good plan for moving forward in our journey to become parents. As it turns out, in addition to the suspected endometriosis, I have incredibly low progesterone and abnormally high estrogen levels. The doctor said that technically, I could be conceiving each month and losing the child due to the fact that my low progesterone levels would make it nearly impossible for the baby embryo to implant into my uterus.

The first step of the plan she laid out for me is to have an ultrasound series from day 10 of my cycle until ovulation. The next part of the plan begins 3 days after ovulation, when I’ll start taking progesterone injections between 3 and 11 DPO. I’ll have a few more estrogen and progesterone tests this cycle, and if I’m not pregnant by May – I’ll have surgery to diagnose and remove any endometriosis.

I have scheduled the ultrasound series and am waiting for the pharmacy to call me and confirm the order for my progesterone shots. All of this waiting is so hard.

As an infertile, I feel like all I do is wait. I anxiously await the doctor appointments that I set, then I wait for the right time to carry out whatever instructions the doctors give me, I wait out the days between ovulation and my next period, and ultimately I wait for that day when my period won’t show up. My life is a never-ending waiting game. I am usually patient, trying to stay focused on the little moments that make up the mosaic of my life, but today I am anxious. I am so anxious.

This morning, Psalm 20 was part of my daily reading routine. I normally hate to take scriptures out of the context in which they were written and randomly apply them to my life, but I couldn’t help but feel like God was speaking to me through Psalm 20 this morning. Last Friday, I told God that I just can’t do this anymore. All of the waiting. Getting my hopes up for nothing. Seeing friends grow their families and not understanding why my body won’t work. Infertility has taken over, and I just want my life back. I’d begun trying to re-plan and re-envision what life could be like, sans children. I started asking myself, “would it really be so bad to never become a mother?” I figured I could make a career change, find new hobbies, keep my gorgeous figure for the rest of my life.

But I never feel right when trying to envision childlessness for myself. Even without the biological ability to have a child, I would certainly adopt. I know that I am meant for motherhood. Everything in my life has pointed toward it, from the different experiences I’ve had, to the things that interest me, to my line of work, right down to my personality. I am meant for motherhood. And I am closer to it than I have ever been.

So, I am anxious. I am aching with anticipation. I am desperate for relief from this particular hell that is infertility. But I will wait. And the first words I will speak to my children – after their births or adoptions or as they come into my home as my foster loves – will be the words I think God wanted me to hear, today.

May the LORD answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you. May He send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion. May He remember all your sacrifices and accept your burnt offerings. May He give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed. We will shout for joy when you are victorious and will lift up our banners in the name of our God. May the LORD grant all your requests. Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed; He answers him from his holy heaven with the saving power of his right hand. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise and stand firm. Give victory to the king, Oh LORD; answer us when we call.”

Christianity, Religion

Lent Begins!

Without fail, the Lenten season sneaks up on me every year. I always find myself scrambling at the last minute to decide on the most meaningful way for me to participate, and I usually fail miserably somewhere in between days 5 and 10. I grew up in a Christian tradition that did not observe Lent, and I had never even heard of the 40-day period of fasting until I was in high school! As a non-Catholic, non-Orthodox, and non-Protestant Christian, it is sometimes very hard for me to find a sense of community during these times of the year – and as a result I tended not to participate in Christian rituals like Lent. I didn’t begin seriously trying to observe Lent until about two or three years ago, and even now I partially attend a church that makes no mention of it. It’s no wonder that I’m always caught off guard whenever the season rolls around. Still, I want to make Lent a part of my spiritual practice, and this year I really want to hold myself accountable in observing the season.

Fasting has always been a difficult concept for me. As a child, my church used to hold a fast each Tuesday, and I didn’t get how being hungry and having stale breath all day could bring a person closer to God. As a pre-teen, I converted to Islam and learned that fasting was meant to help build compassion for those who go hungry every day. This made sense to me, and as I got a little older I understood that fasting was about self-denial. Still – every time I fasted it seemed like I was just counting down the minutes until I could eat again – it didn’t improve my spiritual life. By the time I’d returned to Christianity, I had completely given up on the idea of fasting. I was no longer under any requirement to do so, and so I didn’t.

This year, I am going to try to re-embrace the fast by giving up all beverages except water for the next 40 days. I think this is going to be a challenge that is not insurmountable, but also not easy. I am addicted to fruit juice. I love my cran-apple, peach-mango, pomegranate-cherry, and white grape juices. I also enjoy a tasty rum-based drink or margarita every once in awhile, and on rarer occasions when I’m feeling especially in a junk food mood I like to have a red bull with pizza or a burger.

I am hoping for three things this lent (1) not to fail, (2) to get a better understanding of why fasting is important, and (3) to discover how to more clearly hear what God is saying to me. Of course, I’ll be blogging this lenten journey and hopefully will learn something along the way. I’m such an amateur when it comes to fasting! There’s a lot for me to learn.

If you’re observing Lent, what are you giving up or doing differently this year?

Christianity, Family, Infertility

Say WHAT!? // Part 2

Last week, I wrote a post about some of the craziest, most insensitive comments that infertiles receive as we struggle with trying to get pregnant. In that post, I promised a follow-up that would explain some of the things our fertile friends and family members can do to help us during these difficult times. As I am writing this, I am struggling with the (very tactful and gentle) announcement of a close friend’s pregnancy. She asked about how to go about breaking the news to her other infertile friends, and her question reminded me that I owe this blog a post! My friend’s announcement, although extremely painful for me, was a reminder that there are people within the fertile community who are sensitive to the struggles of infertility. Hopefully, those of you who are not struggling with infertility will discover ways to care for your friends who are.

Don’t Brush Us Off

I remember what a shock and crisis of conscience I felt when I first began sharing my struggles with infertility. Some people that I shared with made my journey feel so trivial. I was told that I was too young to be worried about it, that things could be worse, that I should be happy that I don’t have children and can have time to myself, I was told to “just relax” or to have more faith – I was even told by someone to stop complaining! It had taken me quite a long time to come to terms with the fact that I might never be able to produce children, and when I finally opened up about it – I was shot down. The truth is, infertility is a disease. It is a disability. When my body is unable to do something that it was designed to dothere is a real problem. No amount of “relaxing” is going to help me get pregnant if my insides are defective. In my experience, the desire to become a mother is one of the strongest desires on earth. This is what I believe I was made for. And I shouldn’t have to feel guilty about that. If someone opens up to you about their infertility, it is likely that they have been stewing over it for quite some time. There is a good chance that your friend is in deep, deep pain. Do not brush it off with platitudes.

Listen and Learn

When a friend comes to me with a problem that he or she is facing, my first reaction is to try to fix it! I hate seeing people in pain and I always want to be the one to save the day. That being said, I totally understand the temptation to give advice to your infertile friend who opens up to you! After all, this person is frustrated and unhappy and you hate to see them feeling so down. But resist the urge to give advice. Chances are, your friend has already tried it all! I didn’t really open up about my infertility until about 2 years in! By that time, I had tried everything I could think of (and could afford) that didn’t go against my moral code. It was rather insulting when someone said something like, “Well are you having sex during ovulation?” or “You need to get more exercise!” By the time your infertile friend is opening up to you, they have probably tried nearly everything. All they need from you is an ear.

What you CAN do, however, is a little basic research on infertility. There are so many thoughts and feelings I have about my infertility that I cannot adequately put into words. Sometimes, though, I find that others have done the hard work of expressing the pain of infertility for me. By reading others’ accounts of their experiences, medical problems, and emotions – you can get a glimpse into what your friend is likely dealing with and be better equipped to listen. Doing a bit of research on infertility is a great way to show that you care and are interested in what your friend is walking through.

Sympathy that Counts

There was one time where I thought to myself, “Why am I the one who has to go through this?” No sooner than that thought crossed my mind, I immediately asked myself if I would have wished infertility on someone else. And when the answer was no, I realized how grateful I am that it is ME dealing with this, and not the people that I love. My friend who announced her pregnancy mentioned that she wished she could say she understood what I was dealing with, but that she doesn’t. The good news for her (and for all you fertile friends out there) is your infertile friend doesn’t want you to be able to understand!! Most of us wouldn’t wish this on our worst enemies. Yet, although we know you can’t understand the pain of infertility (and don’t want you to be able to!) there are some things that we wish you would do to show your support and sympathy.

Be careful about how you announce your pregnancy. Most of us prefer that you tell us first, privately, so that we can process our grief before the rest of the world clamors around at your fertile feet, singing your praises. Having a baby is such a beautiful, life-changing, wonderful, miraculous event. And we have been robbed of that miracle. We are genuinely happy for you and want to see you grow your family, but we are devastated with grief, anger, frustration, and sadness at every pregnancy announcement. There are a lot of feelings to process before we can respond appropriately. Give us that extra time by letting us know as soon as you can, and before the big reveal.

Don’t be offended if something “suddenly comes up” on the day of your baby shower or child’s birthday party. Events like these are huge triggers for us, especially if we have recently miscarried, started our period, or found out some devastating medical news. Attending an event like this under our circumstances for even twenty minutes can literally ruin an infertile’s entire week. If we do show up, it wouldn’t hurt to let us know that you see our pain and appreciate us for being there anyway. Although we aren’t showing up in order to earn your gratitude, it helps to ease some of the pain of being there when we know that our pain didn’t go completely unnoticed.

Be a good parent. There is nothing more maddening (to me, at least) than when I hear about the abortion, abuse, or neglect of a child. When I hear things like this, I sometimes tell God – “I would have treasured that child!” On the other hand, when I see my friends being good parents, it honestly makes me feel so happy. I am grateful when I see people treasuring the gift that God has given them, instead of taking those gifts for granted. I pray for my parent-friends constantly in their journey through parenthood. And I am proud to be associated with people who are such loving mothers and fathers.

-Remember that adoption is not a replacement for having biological children. While an infertile who adopts loves the adopted children and most certainly considers those children to be their own – it does not erase the pain of a broken body. While, for some people, the pain of infertility may subside for awhile because of the joy and excitement of adoption – don’t assume that your friend has completely come to terms with their infertility simply because they’ve adopted.

Don’t Assume that We are Ungrateful

With infertility – as with any struggle – there are good days and bad days. When I am having a good day, I generally don’t talk about my infertility because there is no need to “vent,” so to speak. When I am having a bad day, on the other hand, I have pretty much all but melted on the ground. What this means is that you – as a fertile person – are more likely to hear your friend’s troubles on a day when things are really bad. This might give you the impression that your infertile friend is ungrateful or a complainer – when in truth they are only venting because it just happens to be a bad day. Infertiles count their blessings all the time. We know that there is so much to be grateful for. I have many things that I am grateful for and I remind myself of those blessings multiple times each day. I am growing and I am becoming more spiritually mature than I ever would have without infertility. But growth is a process, and every day is not a good day.

Pray With Us!

If you are the praying type, don’t hesitate to pray with or for your infertile friend! Of course, we want you to pray that we will have a baby – but there are other things you can pray as well. Pray for our faith. Infertility shakes your faith to the core. If you believe in a God who can walk on water, make blind men see, and raise Himself up from the dead – the natural question that follows is why won’t He heal my body? Pray for our patience. With some medical issues, a person can see the “end of the road.” They can receive treatment that will heal them, and that will be it. No such luck for those of us with infertility. We don’t know when – or if – our suffering will ever end. We need patience and trust to deal with everything that comes our way during this journey. Pray for our finances. Infertility wreaks havoc on your bank account. It doesn’t help that most insurance companies don’t cover anything infertility related. Pray for wisdom of our doctors. Doctor visits are scary. Invasive surgeries are scary. The fact that we have to go through all this just to do something our bodies should naturally do is scary. Miscarriages are scary. Infertility related diseases are scary. Medicines, shots, suppositories – all of those are scary. We just want to be cared for by a medical professional that we can trust to do what’s best for our health. Pray for our emotional health. It has been said that the stress and depression rates of infertiles are similar to the stress and depression rates of cancer patients.

Ultimately, we all have struggles in life and need to learn to how to deal with one another in the most appropriate ways during times of difficulty. I am so grateful that my infertility has brought me to new levels of compassion that I had not known were possible. I hope to personally do a better job of the Biblical command to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15).

And to my wonderful friend who just announced her pregnancy yesterday – congratulations! You are an excellent mother and I know your children will absolutely thrive because of who you are and the role you and your husband are playing in their lives.

Infertility

Say WHAT!? // Part 1

If you’ve been trying to conceive for any extended length of time – and if others know about (or suspect) your struggle – it is guaranteed that you’ve heard some pretty crazy, insensitive, and downright insulting comments from others about your situation. Most of the time these commenters mean well. Yet, despite their good intentions, their comments come across as completely ignorant, and leave you in the awkward position of wondering how to respond. There are tons of articles on some of the most frequent infertility advice taboos, so I’m not going to get into those. Instead, I’m going to share a few of the craziest things my infertile friends have had said to them. I’m not generally a snarky or sarcastic person, but sometimes the things that come out of people’s mouths are horrifyingly amazing. Things like:

“You’re blessed, you can’t have a bunch of S#!**% kids!”

Yes. This is actually something someone said. And it’s such a terrible thing to say that it’s almost comical. Almost. Aside from the fact that you’re trash talking your own children (which says a lot more about the tree than the apple – *wink, wink*), an infertile person would take your bad kids over no kids any.day.of.the.week. Maybe it’s just your parenting that sucks. Food for thought. I hate to break it to you, but if you think your kids are “crappy,” and want to slander them – a person with infertility is not going to be the most sympathetic ear. Unless you’re offering to let us adopt them.

“We like inviting you to hang out with us because you don’t have kids, so it’s easier to make plans.”

I am so happy that one of the biggest tragedies of my life works out well for your social schedule.

“At least now you know you can get pregnant!” – said to someone after a miscarriage.

“Yay! I can get pregnant but not actually have a baby! This is going to be so much fun!!” Said no one. Ever.

All jokes aside, I do understand the basic sentiment behind this comment. But it completely invalidates the life of the child that was lost. Unborn children are not “tester babies” designed to discern whether or not a woman can get pregnant. These children are loved and yearned for. Their mothers begged God, cried over them, and physically ached for them before they ever came into existence. For the infertile community, the sleepless nights of parenthood begin long before a child enters the picture. A miscarriage is just as painful a loss as the death of a close friend or relative. If you’ve ever thought of saying something like this – do your friend a favor and keep it to yourself.

“Maybe the end of the world is coming and you’re one of the blessed ones that won’t have kids.”

Um. Okay. Moving on.

“Maybe you don’t want to be a mom badly enough.”

Most of us infertile people (who want children) spend so much time wanting to become parents that it consumes our thoughts and lives (admittedly unhealthy). We spend more money and time to become parents than our fertile counterparts with biological children. We become so engrossed in charting cervical mucus, planning intercourse, knowing our basal body temperatures, and stocking up on home pregnancy tests and ovulation predictor kits. We take fertility medicines, give ourselves shots and suppositories, have invasive surgeries, overhaul our diets and exercise routines, and avoid simple pleasures and conveniences like that fancy mojito or popping that excedrin for a headache, just in case. We will go through hell and high-water for these babies that we may never even have. We’ve never wanted anything more.

“Why don’t you just get a uterus transplant!?” (said to someone who does not have a uterus).

Great idea! I’ll get right on that! In the meantime, why don’t you educate yourself about MRKH and other causes of permanent infertility!

“God gave you infertility/God is punishing you/God wants to teach you a lesson.”

This is a horrible thing to say, especially in a world where there are so many cases of child abuse and neglect. I personally know a family in which the abusive father murdered his toddler son – the youngest of his four children! If infertility were simply God’s means of preventing bad or immature parents from having kids, why would He allow someone like that to have four children while there are countless wanna-be moms and dads who would give anything to love and cherish the gift of a child? It just doesn’t work that way. The Bible says that the Lord causes the sun to shine and the rain to pour on both the good and the bad (Matthew 5:45). If a person went into an oncologist’s office and told all the patients that their cancer was a punishment from God, given to them in order to teach them a lesson, no one would think that was motivational or enlightening. The same goes for infertility. Our bodies are broken as a result of the broken world in which we live. While there are times when God uses our troubles to spiritually mature us, God does not go around doling out diseases and bodily dysfunction for the sake of “teaching lessons.” More accurately, it is God’s kindness toward us that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4).

As a general rule, I hate to complain about something without offering ways to make said thing better. I know that infertility is an uncomfortable topic for all involved, which is often the reason that people say such awkward things! Stay tuned for Part 2, in which I will list some helpful things that you can say or do for an infertile friend!

What’s the craziest thing anyone’s ever said to you about your infertility?

Christianity, Infertility

Haiku Sunday : Wings Unexhausted.

“Soaring with the storm.

Wings unexhausted. Softly.

The beauty of flight.”

I know. It’s not my best haiku ever.

I was walking with my husband to the movie theater last weekend, and we happened to see a little girl and her mother feeding a flock of birds. These birds were everywhere and in very large numbers, so I just had to get a picture of them. In the theater, as we were waiting for the movie to begin, I started uploading some of my bird pictures to Instagram and wanted to think of a haiku to go with one of them. I thought for a few minutes about what the bird pictures meant to me – aside from being random pictures that I took while walking to the movies – and as I scrolled through the pictures I’d taken, I was reminded of a sermon that I’d heard as a child.

The sermon, as I remember it,  was based on Isaiah 40:31. This verse says that “Those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength. They will mount up with wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and will not faint.” The minister who gave the sermon was emphasizing the point that when eagles fly through harsh winds or storms, they do not tire themselves out by flapping their wings incessantly. Instead, they soar. They get up into the air, spread their wings out, and allow the wind to take them the rest of the way. The minister was trying to encourage us to have that kind of trust in God. Instead of exhausting ourselves by constantly trying to make our lives fit into our own agendas, we should learn to “spread out our wings” (relinquish our need to control and manipulate life), and allow the “wind” (God) to take us on the journey. In doing this, we find more beauty and meaning in our lives – because we allow the one who gave us our lives to also direct it.

One of the things that I am learning, through infertility, is how to “wait upon the Lord” and “soar with the storm.” I am quite an indifferent person, and have never really wanted anything very badly in my life. I’m easy-going and easy to please, and I have often mistaken my indifference for patience, peace, or acceptance. In the times where I have been denied a want or desirable outcome, I was able to get over it fairly quickly (within minutes!). The truth is, I’ve never wanted anything badly enough to really become frustrated when it was denied me. Furthermore, the few things that I have wanted in my life have been within my ability to obtain.

Infertility is the first time that I am facing a situation where I can’t have something that I really want, and I can’t control when – or even if – I’ll get it.

And I’ll be honest, I hate infertility. With a passion. But I can also see the beauty in what it is teaching me. I can see how God is using it to make me a better person – more compassionate, more transparent, more trusting, and with more respect for the gift and the Giver of life. The longer I struggle with infertility, the better I am getting at simply spreading my wings and allowing the wind to take me where it will. I am getting better at waiting on the Lord. And for that, I am grateful.

No matter what your struggle is, use it as an opportunity to learn how to have true patience. Use it as an opportunity to become more compassionate and sensitive to the silent struggles of others. Use it to find beauty and meaning in the life lessons that your struggle will inevitably bring – the life lessons that will equip you for potentially harder times in the future. Most of all, use it to learn how to wait upon the Lord. He knows what He is doing.

Soar with the storm.