Losing Relevance

Subtitled “Make new friends, but keep the old.” Ha!

My greatest fear when I was younger was being forgotten.

I think this stems from moving around while growing up and always being the new girl, without a place to really, truly belong outside of my family.  I was great at jumping in the conversation and making friends, but I always worried that once I moved on, people would forget me since I was never there that long to begin with.  And if they forgot about me, that would mean that it was as if I didn’t exist.  If I didn’t exist, then I didn’t matter.

I have grown past most of those issues, mostly due to the geographical stability that I’ve enjoyed for the past 8 years and having the chance to form lasting meaningful relationships, but I’ve realized that this is a continuous lesson I’ll have to face throughout my life.  Because its not always geography that changes our identities.

I was reminded of this as I talked to a close single friend recently.  Although we’re looking from two different angles, I realized how similar our perspectives are.  To her, it seems that everyone is changing their identity from “friend” to “wife/husband” and moving on, where from my view they’re all going from “married couple friends” to “parents”. And that’s a new identity, complete with drastic life changes.  Though dear, I find it harder to find things in common and make conversation with these friends.  “Oh yeah, morning sickness?  I’ve heard its bad…”  “Kids keeping you up late? Tell me about it.” So after a lifetime of me moving on, its my turn to be left in the dust.

I’m sure this is the same way she feels when I talk about my husband.   Yet from my perspective, my relationship with my single friends doesn’t feel as different as she described.  Was I being realistic?

Short answer, no.  I remember this happening once before, in 8th grade, when for the first time a close friend moved away before I did. I came to the realization that maybe I’d had it easy all along, being the one to move on. At least that way I could enjoy new experiences and meet new people without the constant reminder of the past.  There I was for the first time, missing my friend with evidence of an obvious hole where she had been amidst the same, familiar surroundings.  You have less time to mourn what you’re missing when you’re busy with new activities.  I know that when I would move, while I missed my old-location friends and loved to catch up when we could, the reality of how our relationship changed never hit me as strongly and I was not forced to deal with it in the same way as the one left behind.  I always saw my moves as inevitable (thank you, military) and thought our friendship was continuing in the only way possible.  I never really thought about the reality of what it would be like to deal with that obvious change on a daily basis.

This “moving-on” effect feels much more pronounced now that my personal ability to “move on” is stunted by the simple fact that God’s will is not my own and I am unable to change my circumstances (as I’m sure my single friend feels). I literally can’t move on and its not as simple as moving to the same location as my friends.  I can deal and I can find joy in different things, but I can’t move on to where they are.  It really amazes me how similar I imagine this “waiting patiently for parenthood” phase is to Purgatory.  Literally, I feel that I’m tasting a glimpse of what it must be like, watching other souls ascend without looking back (and why would you, you’re now in the light of God!) while we remain, with knowledge of the promise of what’s to come but still forced to bear this cross until its enough.

I often wonder how I will react if/when we get pregnant. I’m almost ashamed to admit that those two silly months where I thought we were (my first month – of many – with a 17 day luteal phase and that silly month I misread a pregnancy test only to get my period an hour later) that of the first few extremely happy thoughts I thought, one of the happiest ones was Thank GOD I’m leaving that awful, awful place!

How quick I was to leave those others behind, so quick to forget their pain and so grateful to be moving on.  But the joke was on me!  I’m still here, forgotten as those others happily ascend onto bigger and better things.  But how can I blame them.

A couple I met the other week said it the best:  The infertility club is the only club you want to get out of as fast as possible!

I don’t want children in order to play “catch-up” with my friends. That’s not my point.  I’m just realizing that being left out of relationships is another unfortunate consequence.  That I am slowly losing relevance with friends that were once close.  I just hope we’re patient with each other as we take on these new identities and are able to remember our similarities, in spite of our differences.  I hope I never become numbed to their challenges and unable to discuss them, though they may involve the very thing I long for. And I hope that at the same time my sometimes sullenness and thoughts on this subject don’t make them uncomfortable, drag them down and make them want to forget about me!

I’m forever grateful for the friends I still have things in common with and the new friends I’m making, even if we all want out of this club :)

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Couldn’t have said it better

If you guys don’t read That Married Couple, you really should!  Elizabeth’s over there posting on a lot of interesting topics (from leaving the bathroom door open to apologetics!), but I was really impressed by her post today on Onan’s sin.

Its commonly known (at least in the Catholic world) that all Christians were formally, theologically against contraception until 1930, when at the 7th Lambeth Conference the Anglicans decided that it was justifiable to use contraception in limited circumstances.

Her post covers the biblical argument as well as quotes from the founding fathers of the Protestant Reformation (including Luther, Calvin, and Wesley) as to why contraception and coitus interupptus is a serious sin because being against contraception was never just a Catholic thing, it was a Christian thing.

Definitely worth checking out, as well as pondering what has changed since then.

We’re getting smarter…in all ways!

My brother-in-law sent my husband and I an interesting article published in the New York Times from this past weekend, entitled Educated Women Opting for Motherhood.  Did anyone else happen to see it?

The crux of the article is that in general, the percentages of women not having children are increasing across racial and ethnic boundaries, as compared to 1992.


However, when we look at this same information across educational degree attainment, we see that the percentage of women who are achieving advanced degrees (Professional, Master’s, and PhD) and have never had children is decreasing.

So what does this mean? There are probably several takes on why this is happening, so I’ll just throw my hopeful idea for what I think out there.

Maybe this idea of New Feminism is finally catching on!  Educated women are realizing that being mother’s is not only a fulfilling career option but also a smart option, for themselves and our society.  The outdated view of feminism that includes our reproductive biology as a burden is becoming a thing of the past, especially for those most educated. Now if only we could get past the stigma of having more than two children

One can hope this trend continues!

Do you have some other ideas for why this trend might be occurring?

Take 7 (15)

Feeling too wordy lately, so I’m going to do a Quick Takes of pictures from this last week.  More fun for everybody :)

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Our half bathroom, newly painted:

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Huge caterpillar on the parsley

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My grandpa on his 85th birthday (NOT his 58th…he was in denial!).

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Enjoying the festivities.

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Monkey bread is almost gone!

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Giant “Audrey” plant in my parent’s backyard.

Like from Little Shop of Horrors, no?

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The giant tomato jungle at my parent’s house too.  My little potted tomatoes are mad jealous.

Ok, you can go over to Jen’s at Conversion Diary for more Quick Takes.  She’s at a monastery for a few days and it looks pretty relaxing!  Have a great weekend!

Children as commodities

I read a post at Project M the other day about why couples desire to have children.  I thought it was really beautifully written and brought up a lot of points that my own husband and I have come to as well.  In summary, Kathleen describes how the desire to share her love with her own children comes naturally from the abundance of love that she shares with her husband (although she says this much more eloquently – so you should go read the article!).

I’ve been trying to put down in words for a couple weeks now why my husband and I want to have children and why its so frustrating to not be able to in the mean time (in case it isn’t obvious!).  The thing is, over the course of coming up on the short end of these desires month after month, I’ve realized that some of the reasons I have are incomplete.  That maybe I should re-evaluate why we’re trying to start a family in hopes that I’ll develop less frustration at our current situation and more peace in why we’re here, as well as develop other possible life routes since, as we all know, fertility is not guaranteed.  For simplicity, we’ve come up with a couple reasons why we desire children that fall into these two basic categories:

  1. We want to pass on our genes. I like my husband enough to think that this world would be a better place if there were more people with his qualities!  And I don’t think I’m too shabby either :)  And OH how I would love love love to see little mini Michael-son’s running around, a perfect little blend of our physical features as well as a literal, tangible reflection of the love we have for one another!  We could enjoy them being all cute and tiny and tolerate the bad times knowing that the overall package was worth it!  We could be kids again as we’re with them growing up, what fun!  It would be an easy career path for me to choose to stay home to raise them and I wouldn’t have to think about what else to do :)  In short, we want children because they’d be incredibly cute (as a result of our genetic mixtures, of course we’d think they were perfect!) and provide us with loads of entertainment as we raise them.
  2. We want children in order to become less selfish. This is actually probably my husband’s number one reason to want children.  And he says this often.  We’re both afraid of becoming more and more selfish as we grow older and only having ourselves to worry about.  With children comes great responsibility, not only with our time and emotions, but also physically and financially.  I really believe that these sacrifices are necessary to help guide you towards greater treasures (the heavenly kind) and help teach you to value human relationships greater than material wealth.  Nothing worthwhile is easy and we all know that raising children isn’t a walk in the walk!  This is ultimately what I feel we as Christians are called to do, to build up the kingdom of God.  With greater incomes and more opportunities to spend money on ourselves, we might be tempted to take more elaborate vacations/buy nicer things than we would if we had many tiny mouths to feed right in front of us.  Would that really be the best use of our resources?  We know that the sacrifices in having children are far outweighed by the benefits we (and the rest of the world) gain from having them.  We would partake directly in building up the kingdom of God by raising little souls to glorify him!  What greater calling is there than that!

Ok, so, while I personally am inclined to think that the second reason for wanting children is a little more noble perhaps than the first, I’m realizing that there are major problems with each reason.  Let’s look at them again.

  1. We want to pass on our genetic material. Ok, if that came across as really cold and incredibly egotistical, that’s probably because at the root of it, it is. There’s no other way to get around it.  As cool as we are, we’re really not that amazing (I know, shocker, right?).  The world will survive without our little genes running around.  There’s really not too much else to say other than I think this is the hardest reason emotionally to tackle.  I think this is a natural desire biologically to pass on your genes, but having children that look like you is not necessary to serve the kingdom of God.  I don’t think there is anything wrong with wanting these things and this is how God designed procreation to happen and these desires are not intrinsically evil!  I guess I do see it becoming wrong if my intense desire for these things causes me to sin, i.e., be envious of those who have this, etc.  (Wanting to have children to enjoy childhood again seems like an OK thing if that’s something that I like/enjoy/am good at, so nothing really wrong there!)
  2. We want children in order to become less selfish. Yes, I still do believe that having children is one path towards becoming less selfish, but just because you have children, it doesn’t follow that you’ll become less selfish.  There are plenty of stories of mom’s and dad’s out there that make you cringe with how selfish the parents are.  The biggest irony in wanting children to become less selfish, as my husband and I have discussed and we both agree, is that its not a good sign when your pursuit of children makes you selfish (since that’s what you’re trying to avoid!).  How awful is that!  I guess I’m saying that parenthood is not the only path to sainthood.  In fact, it seems the majority of saints weren’t parents (probably for a variety of reasons, but maybe one is because its that much harder!).  I should want to spend my money/time on others without being forced to! And to use children as your personal path to sainthood just doesn’t seem right, maybe since that’s an entirely utilitarian approach to something that seems so sacred.

Which brings me to my point. Partially through my involvement with the Ruth Institute and partially from my own experiences, I’m realizing that one of the most detrimental things we can do is treat children as commodities, in the same way that we treat our fertility as a commodity.  Children aren’t ours to create when we want because we just want themChildren are ours to accept – not demand – as gifts from God. It seems that viewing children as commodities is the same mentality that’s responsible for creating that weird possessive, controlling, hovering parent (as opposed to a parent that recognizes that they are merely a shepherd  guiding a soul in this life) and the “must-have-children-or-bust” infertile woman/couple (as opposed to someone struggling but still trying to accept their sub/infertility and/or other routes to parenthood).

We can’t think of children as accomplishing something for us, although they may sometimes and oftentimes do do awesome things for parents (and may play a part in helping them get to heaven), ultimately that’s not their main purpose.  A child’s purpose is to ultimately grow up to glorify God and find salvation through Him for themselves. In the same way that someone can use a boy/girlfriend or drug to fill a vacancy in themselves, we can use children.  I’m starting to really trust that if God requires me to have children to get to heaven, I will have them, biologically or adopted.  If not, I won’t, and I’ll find another way to serve Him.  God wants me in heaven, so, I should be at peace with either way.    I know I’m not there yet, but I hope one day I will be completely at peace with this because right now it still causes me a lot of anxiety.

Which brings me to my next point. I watched this video on CNN.com and words can’t really describe what I’m feeling.  A mixture of being angry, sad, disgusted and disheartened is probably close.  No one is entitled to children as they are a gift. But I do thank that video for helping me sit down and finally articulate why viewing children as commodities is so detrimental.  Such a slippery slope.

I’ve said it before, but I really do intend to post more on same-sex “marriage”.  Maybe I need some encouragement? :)

That monthly talk

The sympto-thermal NFP course that we teach covers not only the scientific explanation for why the method works and how to use it, but also how NFP promotes a more joyful marriage focused on true couple unity and why the Church teaches against contraception.

Unfortunately, many of our clients are engaged couples who have never heard a good explanation of this teaching.  In these cases, the non-scientific part of the class is almost more important to them.  Who wants to know how a method works if you don’t believe you should use the method in the first place?

For these reasons, we focus a good portion of the teaching time talking about how NFP helps your relationship.  The knee-jerk reaction to learning about the abstinence required to use NFP is to question how denying intercourse can bring two people together.  It seems contradictory at first.  We point out that many times during a marriage either couple will be required to abstain for the other, whether if its for sickness, business travel, or after childbirth.  There are also many ways to be intimate and foster unity without being sexual.  One thing we like to focus on is how denying this act promotes dialogue about where each person is at in the relationship and their desire to grow the family, because unlike business trips when abstinence is required in order to have a job to provide for one’s self and family, this abstinence is required in order to respect the couple’s mutual fertility.

For the fertile couple

The physical denial of your spouse helps you feel that sacrifice for your future children in a very real sense.  Having this sacrifice makes you talk about your deepest feelings all the more.  This isn’t in the “Oh, if you can talk about mucus, you can talk about anything!” sense (although it may help), but more because having this conversation allows you the opportunity to discuss your values and internal struggles on a regular basis.  Where one couple might discuss the issue once and then not again for a few years, the NFP couple is almost required to revisit the conversation and contemplate these serious issues with each passing cycle.  It becomes like a monthly check-in to make sure the other is continuously discerning their married vocation (if these conversations aren’t happening more frequently).  Even if the conversation doesn’t directly happen each month, each couple is aware of the sacrifice that is taking place in order to reach their goal.  For my husband and I, having to revisit this conversation each month and weigh our situation ultimately helped us realize that our reasons for avoiding children were less grave than we thought.  It also helped us talk directly about our intimate fears regarding how children would change our lives.  And that ultimately allowed us to overcome them.

For the sub-fertile couple

I’ve struggled more recently with what purpose the that monthly talk gives to the sub-fertile couple.  Sometimes it feels like Groundhog’s Day: the same thing just keeps happening over and over and you keep ending up in the same spot.  If the fertile couple ever dreading having to repeat that same conversation of why they’re abstaining yet again, the sub-fertile – and especially the infertile couple – dreaded it 10x more.

Yet I think in this case it becomes even more important for the couple to spend that time coming together and reflecting on the unity they are called to.  It seems like its easy to focus on just what you’re not getting, about what isn’t happening.  You’re willing to make the sacrifice to have children and you’ve discussed this a million times over, but nothing changes.

Inadvertently I’ve realized over these last months how important these monthly conversations with my husband are to renewing our martial bond and our faith.  We cry and get the frustration out, but we also take steps to move on.  To look at the positive and focus on what we can do as a couple during this time we don’t have children.  We try to not focus on a pity party (ok, actually I do but my husband doesn’t let me!).  And despite the heartbreak, we both always feel very refreshed and renewed after that time together.  It also helps having a distinct time to mourn and deal with the sub-fertility issue so that it doesn’t consume us completely for a whole month (even though we do revisit the topic often).

The fact that divorce is more common for couples going through sub/infertility is another kick in the pants for us to remember that no matter how hard that conversation is to have and how much it may feel like we’re just talking about the same thing month after month, it is really important that we come together during that time and have that conversation.

Anyway, what do you think?  Does this month talk happen with you?  Do you think we talk too much?  Ha!  How do other sub-fertile couples deal with this Ground-hog’s Day conversation?

Just relax

This is undoubtedly the most frequent advice I receive from anyone when I let them in on the personal issue that has been most troubling to our marriage thus far:  our desire for children and our inability to have them so far.

If you’re in this same place then you know, this is probably the hardest advice to swallow, mostly because the “just relax” mantra is often quoted as a way to get pregnant. I believe what hurts the most about this advice is the underlying implication that you are doing something to sabotage the birth of your own children.  And my prideful self is hurt by that.  This type of advice for conceiving also seems to minimize the natural emotional response to not conceiving, as in, its really, really hard to do the same thing every month and have the same result.  It is difficult to determine which came first, not conceiving or worrying about not conceiving?  Its like the chicken or the egg.

I’m also not really sure on the scientific research behind that advice, but I doubt there are any studies out there that can directly correlate amount of relaxation to conception.  Otherwise it would seem that every teenager who was ever terrified that they were pregnant would not have conceived!

But this past weekend, after hearing this advice for the upteenth time, this time from someone who has gone through sub-fertility as well (and not out yet), I finally heard it with new ears.  (Well, to be honest, not right then, but on the way home.)

“Just relax” finally struck me as really, the only worthwhile advice out there. Not to achieve pregnancy, but in general.  Because really, what else is there to do? I’m on this path whether I like it or not.  Yes, I can pursue treatments to help my health and yes, I can pray, but worrying will not get me anywhere.  In anything, certainly, but especially in growing our family.

Before I started RCIA, I started reading the bible and this is the first verse I ever highlighted, Matthew 6: 25 – 34.

25For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

26Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?

27“And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?

28“And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin,

29yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these.

30“But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!

31“Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’

32“For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.

33“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

34“So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

It felt like pure gold in my heart as I knew I had some crazy life changes coming up that I was already stressing about.

I’ve realized what the hardest part of this for me right now is trying to figure out how I specifically will seek His kingdom.   I thought it would be through motherhood.  Apparently for the time being, I was mistaken.  So what will I do, specifically, now?  I want to know all the answers now! Like a little kid throwing a tantrum.  I know I need to find a path that suits me, that uses my gifts and serves others.  It’s a lot easier said that done, but I’m trying to do this without worry, without fear.  We have no reason to worry.  It is already decided. 

Take 7 (14)

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I’m really, really tired today.  My only excuse is that I was up late mourning celebrating the Laker’s win.  Again.  I need to wake up and get it together!

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That reminds me of another conversation I had with Jennifer Roback Morse of the Ruth Institute a few months ago, when we talked about our struggles to conceive.  I wanted to talk with her because she’s so grounded and has come out of the other side of this so beautifully, really diving deep into her faith and has found her purpose.
The funny thing she said to me was,

“Alison, were it not for that infertility thing, I’d still be a second rate professor somewhere publishing papers that no one cared about!”

I still don’t know my path, but I do have faith that it will work out.   This is only temporary!

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Speaking of Jennifer and the Ruth Institute, if you are a parent, would you please take a few seconds to fill out her little survey on the importance of fathers in the family?  Its a simple survey that is basically trying to discount what people are calling science these days.  It will take like 30 seconds and they are trying to get 7800 participants by Father’s Day!

Fill it out for me, since I can’t!

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I successfully completed the 10k last Saturday!  It was a hot day and really windy, which made the leg out easier (wind at the back) than the leg coming back to the finish line (against the wind).  And I met one goal because I didn’t walk!  I believe my time was 1:03:30.   So, I didn’t meet my second goal which was to break the one hour mark…

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But, they messed up the course length so we actually ran more than 10k!  Seriously?!  Has that ever happened before??  The whole point of the race is to basically pay some people to tell us how far 10k is and tell us how fast we ran it in.  I guess 50% isn’t bad. But that does make me happier on my time and forgives the fact I was over 1 hour :)

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Did you know you could get sunburned running at 7:30am?  Yeah, me neither.

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In spite of all this working out, I have actually gained weight.  A solid 5 lbs.  Is it muscle or the ice cream from this new diet?

Either way I don’t really care.  I feel good :)


Go on over to Jen’s at Conversion Diary to look for more Quick Takes!

“Its not that we didn’t try”

I saw this video about 5 years ago when it first came out on PBS and its still resonating in my ears… Its a special about this amazing female professor who is working on a cure for cancer using nanoshells.  A cure for cancer, people.

She was interviewed by PBS in order to not only explain her research, but also to address the issue of the lack of women in her field of research.

As a female researcher, when I saw this video 5 years ago there were a few lines that stuck out to me. There has always been an issue of retention with women in any intensive field of research and as the interviewer pointed out, it sometimes has to do with the fact that women have troubles balancing family and work.

Interviewer: Naomi I noticed, did not have children, which made me wonder if that’s about work.

Dr. Halas: No, I cannot have children.  Its not that we didn’t try…I mean that’s another thing that people sometimes do look at someone who’s childless and say you know well, ‘You like science more than children’ but no, I like kids too..

When I saw that years ago I naively thought, Wow, how much does that suck? You practically find a cure for cancer and all “they” care about is why you have no children!!

Now I watch that and I tear up, because I feel like I understand her struggle more now .  Its deeply personal.  Its not they putting this desire to have children in you, it comes from within.  How horrible to feel judged about something that no one understands.

I wonder, does her research truly fulfill her or would she still give it all up for a child?

I wonder what will fulfill me if I really cannot have children.

PS: You really should  watch the video, its only a few minutes long and will also give a quick and easy intro to nanotechnology!

Home Improvements

I’ve been talking a lot about all the work we’ve been doing in our home lately but I never posted any pictures.  Maybe that’s because when I look at the pictures I think, wow! All that work and that’s all the improvement??? Ha!  At least I feel better and it gives me something to do.  Nothing makes a house feel like your own than a coat of paint!  I have so many pairs of “paint clothes now” that its almost become my new wardrobe!    At this point, after we paint the master bath and stairwell, I will have painted the whole house.  Just in time to move :)

Our living area/kitchen/dining room is now completely green!

And the downstairs bed/bathroom went from this:

To this!

Yeah, I think those last picture are the ones you can’t really tell a difference besides the fact that I picked up, which is kind of depressing considering its actually painted a lighter color and I didn’t use a primer, which means I had to do like 5 coats in order for it to turn out right!  Oh well.  I think it looks cleaner and brighter, ultimately what I was going for.  I also got lazy with the color choice (its a cream color) since we found out we would be leaving soon and I figured neutral was a better choice for rentability.

Just realized I never took a picture of our upstairs bathroom…so I’ll have to do that tomorrow!  Its my favorite :)