Sub- vs. In-fertility

Thank you all for your comments from the last post.  It’s nice to know I have such great friends out there praying for us :)

I’ve heard (and read, by scouring every website that comes from googling “average time to conceive” over these past months) that a couple is not considered infertile until a year of random intercourse has gone by without conceiving.  For those practicing fertility focused intercourse (read:  correct timing based on NFP knowledge) the time is reduced to 6 months.

Doesn’t that seem a little harsh to anyone else?  After 11 months you’re not infertile, but after 12 months you are.  Surprise! (aka source of all things official) says infertility is “the state of being unable to produce offspring; in a woman it is an inability to conceive; in a man it is an inability to impregnate.

Again, rather harsh to have this arbitrary and empirical cut-off of 12 months, huh? Especially considering many women trying to conceive are recently coming off hormonal contraception which clearly affects your fertility (not in my case, but still).

And I’m really not just harping on this to make myself feel better for where I’m at!  Just trying to define the difference between infertility and reduced fertility (or sub-fertility).

The term “infertile” should be solely saved for those without wombs and castrated men. There are people like this out there and they have no chance to conceive.  Ever. As much as I’ve gone through, I cannot imagine the pain these people feel at the loss of what never was and never could have been.  However, all of us with these parts intact still as at least some chance at fertility, however diminished given each of our situations (and some people do have significantly lowered chances).  [Can you even put yourself in their shoes and imagine how insulting it would be to one of them to hear a woman with everything intact complain about being infertile?  Essh, I’m so guilty.]

All the rest of us else are just playing an odds game.  Some have higher odds than others.  Some people get pregnant as soon as their husband looks at them!  And some have every medical reason stacked against them.  As Joy commented after my last post, someone has to be on the other end of the bell curve.  Someone has to be there to bite that statistical bullet.

I think I have the only husband in the world who actually thinks that the longer we try to conceive, the higher our chances of conceiving.  (Yes, I almost smacked him the first time I heard that.) But (once I calmed down) I started to get where he was coming from. Does anyone remember probability density functions from stat class? (Or am I really the only engineering blogger out there?)  Given a certain probability to conceive, the more times you flip that coin and don’t get your intended result, the more times you have under your belt and closer you are to getting that result.  We just don’t know how far away that result is.

He’s always been a half-glass full type of person.

I drew a little graph to illustrate (I know, I’m a nerd).  With every month you don’t conceive, you’re one month closer to the end goal because as impossible as it seems for us to conceive as an individual, the stats out there show that about 95% of people that try to get pregnant, will eventually get pregnant (85% will get pregnant within a year, and increases slowly from that).

The only catch is that while 95% of people do conceive, 5% never will.  I have to be the negative voice echoing in my husband’s ear that the asymptote doesn’t end at 100%, it ends at 95% because not everyone who wants to gets pregnant.  If only!  And I think that’s the crux of all the anguish women have who are trying to conceive, the waiting part.  At least people who are truly infertile do not suffer in that “what if?” purgatory.  Am I in that 5%?  I already won the 15% lottery, why should I not win the 5% too?

And I personally believe this is why we see all those “Just adopt and you’ll get pregnant!” stories.  There wasn’t really anything magical about adopting, those people were just on the tail end of the bell curve, and they decided to pursue other paths to parenthood than just wait it out.  My neighbor (appropriately named Sarah) didn’t conceive until she was in her 40’s, after years of trying and eventually giving up!  These people are who God uses to perform miracles, however improbable.

And while I know that a lot of good can come out of reproductive endocrinology and doctors who try to understand what’s preventing our bodies from conceiving and helping us (they have helped diagnose and treat very serious problems!), here’s where I think the infertility industry and mostly artificial reproductive technologies really do us sub-fertile women a disservice:  By claiming that you’re infertile after one-year of no pregnancies.  You KNOW they know I’m out there googling that and freaking out!  If it really is stress that’s preventing conception from happening – like so many people claim – do you think it’d be a good idea to put a time limit cut-off on something so huge as one’s ability to create life?  And I don’t just place blame the industry, they’re providing a service that our contraceptive culture is ultimately at the root of.  I just think the fertility industry is particularly evil for capitalizing on women who buy into their temptations of  motherhood (with lots of cash!) by taking advantage of women in their most vulnerable states.

I may sound really confident that its all going to be OK for sub-fertile women and that they should wait it out, but that’s not what I’m trying to do.   I’m really just trying to spread a little hope.  Its hard buts its an individual decision to wait it out, contemplate life, come to their own new conclusions in their altered life plan regarding how long to wait, decide which (moral) treatments to pursue, and whether or not adoption or fostering is viable path for parenthood for them.  As Sarah wrote, just because you’re told “it will happen eventually”, doesn’t mean that it gets any easier in the meantime (plus, we all fear that 5%).  But unfortunately this is something that each person has to work out between themselves and God.  The scariest part is that there isn’t anything anyone can do or say to take this suffering away.  This is our cross and believe me, its heavy, we could just do without this lifelong label of “infertile” to stress us out even more!

I’ll stop here and save why I think contraception and the contraception mentality does a disservice (in general, but especially) to subfertile women, for another post!

An anti-announcement

I don’t really have anything to announce.

I only have a post in which I’m honest with myself.  Admission is the first step to rehabilitation, right?

It has not been easy for my husband and I to conceive.  As in, we could be thisclose to holding  our baby by now if it had happened “when we wanted it to.”  Not the longest time in the world but, it hasn’t been nearly as easy as people made it out to seem, especially when your heart breaks every month at the thought of what could have been.  Or, more accurately, who could have been.

This has been harder than I ever imagined it would be.  Harder than I think people who haven’t gone through it will ever understand.  Not that its their fault, its just so hard to imagine so much pain that I guess it’s easier not to think about.  I probably would have chosen to not think about it to, but I’ve been forced in this position and though I’ve literally begged God not to take me here, this is the path he’s chosen for me.

And I guess I’m writing about this now because when I started this blog almost a year ago I thought, “Hey cool, I’ll be able to talk about things that I feel like people don’t understand well and I’ll get to share those things that matter to me, like NFP and the Catholic faith.  And then I can throw in some little updates about random things that develop in my life, like my husband and house and maybe future  little moonheads :)” I really didn’t intend for this to be solely a personal blog.

I really, really didn’t intend this blog to be about not having children.

And then this happened.  My developments, well, didn’t develop as I had “planned.” I never dreamed I’d be experiencing let alone writing about (gulp) sub-fertility, but here I am.  You always think it can’t happen to you.   And I guess sub-fertility (more on why I won’t say “IN-fertility” later) qualifies as “things people don’t understand well” also, which is why I feel its even more important for me to stop being in denial!

Of course no one wants people in on their most intimate details of their marriage and its hard to admit failure, but I think its even more dangerous to act like fertility is something we can control.

So anyway, that was my anti-announcement.  These are the (lack of) developments in my life and God has a wonderful sense of irony putting these little NFP teachers on this path but here we are, trying to walk (and sometimes crawl) it.

Matching what?

I’ve realized I’ve never fully explained why I named my blog what I did.

It’s not really profound.

My husband’s nickname (and the nickname he now calls any cute, adorable kid that he thinks resembles himself) is “little moonhead”.  It started though because he really was a moonhead when he was little, as in, his head was as big as the moon.  Like a seriously cute, but nevertheless a ginormous moonhead.  It looked like a bobble head.  His mom has horror birthing stories to prove it! (sorry, but yes, I went there).

So as is the family tradition, I naturally joined in the making fun of his giant moonhead.  And purposely pose for pictures to make his head look even MORE ginormous.  Like so.

(I think he knows it in this picture.  Look at those suspicious eyes…)

That is until one day when I borrowed his hat, only to discover that SOMEHOW our heads are exactly the same size.   I have a moonhead too?? To be fair, I feel like I have more of a pin head that’s narrow but long.  His is more spherical and moon-ish.  But regardless, both of our heads take up about the same volume.  So we’re matching moonheads.  (Yes, we’ve thought about this entirely too much.)

Matching moonheads.  And whenever I call him a moonhead, he calls me one right back.  We even named our rockband “The Moonheads”.  And our wireless network.  I guess it just kind of stuck.

So these are the Adventures of the Moonheads.

I told you it wasn’t that cool.  That’s what I get for impulsively naming this blog!

Take 7 (11)

1.  I don’t know if there are any students out there who read this (or if anyone reads this?), but if there are or you know of any, tell them to apply for the It Takes a Family Conference 2010 in Murrieta Springs, California because TODAY, May 21st, is the deadline!  I went last year and it was a great experience!  Its an ecumenical conference about marriage and plus, its in California!  Most importantly (because hey, students have no money) if you’re accepted, they cover the costs to go!  If you have any questions feel free to email me!

2. We sold our car on Craigslist last week.  And then this week I got an email through a listserve I’m on that the guy who bought it is trying to sell it for $1500 more!  Who does that??  Moral of the story:  Don’t feel cheap for bargaining for stuff on Craigslist, because its probably overpriced anyway!

3.  I started this workout this week.  A friend bought it and got a bunch of people together so I thought I’d join.  Insane, right?  Its only day 4 and I’m beat.  Last summer I did a boot camp at our gym and ended up being a dropout because I couldn’t get up that early.  We’re doing it in the morning this summer too.  Any bets on how long I last?

4.  Bluebonnets remind me of my grandma.  She loved all Texas wildflowers but she really loved bluebonnets.  She even named her cat Bluebonnet.  The hippie in me wants to name our future daughter Bluebonnet and call her Bonnie! (Still working on getting the hubby on board)  It seems only fitting that she died right along with the bluebonnets this season.  I grabbed some of the seed pods from my parents yard to plant in my yard next year to remind me of her.

5.  Its a little sad realize that both my grandmothers are now gone  and that my children, my future Bonnie, will never know their great-grandmothers.  I know many people don’t have their grandmother’s alive, let alone great-grandmothers, but I did when I was little.  And although I probably didn’t appreciate it then, I cherish those memories of Great-Granny “Basket”.  I wish they could have been here meet Grandma Who-who!  I’ll just have to be sure to share many stories.

6.  We’re in the process of painting pretty much our whole house.  After all, May is the month of home repairs!  Maybe I’ll post pictures next week!

7.  My basil is alive and thriving.  And so are my tomatoes!  Maybe this is how I’ll create life…by gardening! Ha.

Please check out more quick takes with Jen at Conversion Diary!

Why I’m a Bad Blogger and Thoughts on Life

I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m just a bad blogger.  I know this is partially because this blog doesn’t really have a point and I struggle between talking about personal things and writing about what interests me.  I also feel like I have commitment issues and I’m too easily distracted!  I’ll think of something really interesting to write about, think through the process of writing it, and then by the time I’ve done that I’ll feel no need to write it out anymore!  In general I struggle with putting my thoughts done in writing (Evidence A:  this research paper I’ve been working on forEVER).    I don’t want to say something incorrectly or make a bad point and then have proof that I said it so poorly!

I think I just need to be a little easier on myself.  After all, that’s why I wanted to start this blog to begin with.  Know thy faults, right?

Anyway, so many things have been happening lately that I’ve been finding it hard to keep track of my own thoughts.  But I did want to write a few things I keep thinking about after my grandma’s death.  Important thoughts, you know, thoughts on life and such.

1.  I don’t have many experiences with death.  I have lots of experiences with moving and leaving people and goodbyes, but I haven’t had many close people in my life die.   Like a forever goodbye, no possibility of seeing you in this world again.   That probably sounds silly and naive to people who have experienced the death of a loved one.  I guess I was just sheltered.  But then a week before I became Catholic  3 people I knew died.  [Well, one was a murder in my apartment complex, so I guess I didn’t know them, but I did live in the same building as them.]  Those deaths spaced so closely together hit me SO hard.  Like God was shaking me and telling me, “What I’m calling you to do is SO MUCH more than just about what concerns you in your little world.  This is real.”

Over time though, that feeling of “seizing the moment” wears off.  Eventually I get sucked back into my little world and what’s going on with this and that person and it becomes easy to forget the big picture.    There’s nothing like a death in the family to shake you up and realize that about 90% of what occupies your day is completely pointless.  In the end we will ALL die, and what will we have to say for our lives?  It’s hard to straddle that line between what’s important in the long run and what I have to deal with today.  I’m pretty sure these are normal thoughts after a loved one dies.

This time I think it will be different.  I feel like its hard to get sucked back in to my “normal” life now.  Maybe its just too early.  Maybe its because I was closer to her.  I’m not sure.

2.  Being surrounded by your whole family and generations that you’ve created has to be one of the best ways to die.  I know Grandma WhoWho was in such pain in the end of her days, but I know that having her little great-grandson there to smile and giggle made it better.  I could tell by the smile on her face the day she died. We literally had a party for my grandma (and my cousin’s birthday) on the day she died.  And though it was the “strangest party she’d ever been to”, we were all together.  And she knew she was loved.  I pray for the souls of those who die alone.  I hope they know they’re loved too.

3.  I’ve been thinking a lot about the fusion of the body and spirit, and how deaths naturally lead you to spiritual thoughts, even if you’ve ignored those questions before.  I’m sorry if this is morbid, but seeing my grandma’s body after she died and knowing that it wasn’t her, what made her her wasn’t there anymore, was a real wake-up.  This body is soo temporary.  I don’t know how you couldn’t believe in a soul and a place where your soul goes after your body fails you.

4.  According to my sister (and I agree), the point of life is to create life.  And my grandma did a great job of that.  She had four children who went on to have her grandchildren, so she created life in the literal sense.  She was also warm and open to friends and strangers.  She would talk to anyone and made friends so easily, partly due to the fact that she took such joy in the little things.  Although she outlived many of her friends she had SO many friends show up at her memorial service.  My grandma made friends and spread life so easily!  It made me think about how I would create and foster life.  In our NFP class we talk about how to be “open to life” that goes in right along with the section on infertility and we discuss how many ways one can be “open to life”.  Of course having children is what most people think of, but even after you’re done starting your family you have many more years to create life.  What will I do then?  My grandma played bridge.  I think I’ll probably learn bridge too.  It seems to be in the blood.

5.  I like praying with my family.  There were two instances where we joined hands in a circle and prayed for my grandma all together as a family, once before she died and once afterwards.  It was comforting.

6. Along this same line however, although I was with my husband, there’s nothing lonelier than sitting in church on Mother’s Day, the day your grandma died, without your family.  I don’t think I’ve ever wished I could share my faith with my family more than that day.

Gone from my sight

It was the strangest Mother’s Day this year.

“I am standing upon the seashore.  A ship at my side speads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean.  She is an object of beauty and strength.  I stand and watch her until at length she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.

Then, someone at my side says:  ‘There, she is gone!’

“Gone where?”

Gone from my sight.  That is all.  She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side and she is just as able to bear the load of living freight to her destined port.

Her dimished size is in me, not in her.  And just at the moment when someone at my side says: “There, she is gone!” There are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices ready to take up the glad shout:  “Here she comes!”

And that is dying.’

– Henry Van Dyke

We will always love you Grandma.

Running it out

The hubby and I have recently taken to jogging very very slowly running together. And guess what?  It turns out its actually quite therapeutic.  I used to be an avid runner, but with hip problems, the crazy humidity here and just aging in general, I’ve taken to being an elliptical/whatever-a-CYBEX-is- fiend.  Its a nice sweat and I get to watch TV (pretty much the only time I do!).  The only problem is that it feels much like being a hamster on a wheel.  Trying your hardest to make it but still. going. nowhere.  Eventually I just loose motivation.

So that’s why we started running (ok, maybe it had more to do with the little panza around my hubby’s waist :)).  Running makes me feel like I’m making progress. Gaining ground.  Accomplishing something.  Unlike other areas of my life that just stand. still.

Not all the areas though.  Some parts of our life are moving quite out of control right now. Like crazy, head-spinning fast!  Like,  moving to another country fast.  I guess its good to feel accomplishment with the small things. Like running 3 miles.

There are additional benefits to running with my hubby too.  Like realizing that sometimes when you’re so out of shape running so fast, you don’t have time to talk everything out.  No time to analyze every little, tiny detail of your life trying to figure out what it all means.  (Something we are entirely too good at and only getting dangerously better at as these PhD.’s wear on…)

Sometimes all the words in the world don’t get you anywhere anyways because at the end of the day you still have to walk the walk. With running you can just be together, with no pressure for words.  And I like that.  Its refreshing to see in the physical sense that no matter how tired I am of it and how much it hurts, in the silence of our breathing I can look across my shoulder and see my hubby running right beside me.

And that’s comforting.

Do you run together?  Do another activity together?  I’m usually a go out for coffee/lunch type of girl – and did I mention over-analyze? –  so I’m curious to see how you get your quality time with significant people in you life!

Pioneers in the NFP world!

This past Saturday Mike and I finished the last class of what may soon be a new way to teach NFP…via the internet!

We were approached a while back by Rebecca and her husband who were interested in learning NFP but had no teachers in their state.  Rebecca was so sweet and so motivated that we decided to try this internet teaching via Skype, and it worked out great!  Skype has a screen sharing option where we can do the powerpoint presentation so that the other person can follow along and we’re able to use the file transfer to share practice charts as well.  The free phone bill is nice too! It was really a great experience and I was actually a little sad after the class since we’d no longer have these once a month meetings with Rebecca and Cliff.  They are such a sweet couple and I’m sure we’d hang out if they lived in Texas (and probably go to some basketball games together!).  Hopefully we will get to meet them in real life soon!

Its hard to understand where and why God is leading you when you’re in the moment.  Its only in hindsight that you can usually look back and see how all the pieces fit together so nicely.   Last year + a few months, Mike and I embarked on teaching our first NFP class, still newly weds ourselves.  We wondered, who would listen to us, believe what we had to say?  We had no children and little experience using NFP ourselves.  Our families smiled nicely when we told them we were getting certified to teach, but nothing more.  Nonetheless, we both had such strong feelings while learning NFP and knew that the method was sound (in part by reading countless journal articles), that we felt we had a duty to share with others what had so richly blessed our relationship and marriage.  We were nervous and didn’t know what to expect, but we made announcements at Mass (to many blank stares) advertising our first class.  Little did we know who would be listening!  In fact, from those announcements and that first class, we met one of the most sincere women I’ve had the privilege of knowing. [I think my favorite part of that first class was at the end, after we’ve talked about temps and mucus, how NFP can help your relationship, etc., Elizabeth raises her hand and asked “Ok, seriously, that’s great and all, but how long do you have to abstain for??”  I couldn’t have appreciated her in our class more!!  Direct and to the point!!!]

Since then, through teaching more classes and starting this blog, my favorite part of being an NFP teacher has been watching how this knowledge transforms lives.  The fruits of teaching!  People come to the class from many different backgrounds;  some people in our classes want to be there and learn the method, while others are required by their priest to take them before they get married.   I never tire of seeing people eager to learn or watching as couples warm up over the two month course to eventually wanting to chart their own cycles.

I admire women like Elizabeth and Rebecca who both came to the class either on BCP or freshly off, looking for something deeper.   To me that shows a huge leap of faith and a profound willingness to change.  I’ve been humbled to have their trust as we navigated their charts and cycles and show them that yes, NFP really does work.  These are great women and they have my deepest respect!  They remind me to never take what I’ve learned for granted, to keep teaching with vigor,  and most importantly, to not get discouraged when some couples in the class don’t seem as enthusiastic as others.  I guess we don’t know what seeds we’re planting and where God’s path is leading them!

Only in hindsight will we understand.