The Infertility Companion for Catholics: A blog book tour and giveaway!

Today I have the pleasure of introducing a new resource that maybe all of us at one time or another wish existed.  In fact, maybe its lack started us to writing about infertility on our blogs or made us start a blog all together.

An actual book about infertility for Catholics!  Novel idea, eh?

The book is The Infertility Companion for Catholics: Spiritual and Practical Support for Couples, written by Angelique Ruhi-López and Carmen Santamaría and published by Ava Maria Press.

The idea for this book was born out of the experience of two friends, Angelique and Carmen, who live in Florida and who both had unexpected obstacles in their journeys to growing their families, including infertility and secondary infertility.  While they didn’t journey simultaneously (first one friend, then the other), their shared experiences helped them to see the need for a very Catholic resource and eventually drove them to write this book. Over these next two weeks you’ll see from the schedule here that a bunch of different bloggers will be participating in the “Blog Book Tour” to give you reviews, excerpts, interviews, and giveaways surrounding the release of this book, which has been scheduled to conveniently coincide with Infertility Awareness Week, April 22-28th.  How smart is that?

Angelique and Carmen, just hanging out, writing books together :)

The book title does say a lot about whats in it: practical and spiritual support.  When I first heard about this book I really did think to myself (and maybe out loud), Oh please don’t be just another Catholic book telling us don’t do IVF.  Don’t get me wrong, for many people, this is an important topic that needs to be clarified from the get go.  We’ve all heard that “Oh, my friend so and so did IVF and she was Catholic” so clearly, this is an important moral question that needs to be addressed and discussed in a very loving manner because many, many people out their haven’t heard this message.  However, I was just praying that this book didn’t stop there!  To tell someone what treatments are off limits without offering the alternatives and support to make it through a now even more estranged journey (which is where most Catholic materials I’ve read seem to stop) is a bit like – forgive the bad analogy – throwing someone in an ocean, telling them they can’t use a raft, and then expecting them to just learn to swim and make it back to dry land on their own.  Sure, maybe some will figure it out, but a great deal of people will struggle and flail in the process.

So back to the book, the first chapter reads very instructive and well, practical.  Helping the reader to answer the question if they meet the scientific definition of infertility and a rundown of some common diagnoses.  Before going into what the Church teaches about artificial reproductive technologies (ART), there is a great little chapter about what our faith has to do with infertility at all, including references to familiar bible stories and a background to theology of the body.  For many, this is the confusing leap between why the church is even concerned with what couples do privately, and I loved that this was included before the actual details of the Church’s stance on ART! Afterwards there is a chapter on treatment options available for Catholics which addresses specific and again, practical concerns that Catholic may have with traditional approaches to infertility treatment and how best to navigate that path, including both author’s experiences.

Finding the correct spiritual support is a huge part of making it through experiencing infertility in one piece and even then it can be a close call.  This was where we get to my favorite part of the book!  The part that I was really hungry for, help finding the meaning and peace in the midst of all the cloudy emotions and remembering Jesus in all of it.  The next few chapters, Discerning God’s Will, The Cross of Infertility, and Bearing the Cross: A Spirituality of Infertility, all address these more intangible difficulties of infertility while calling us out of the darkness of despair to remember our purpose as Christians.

Probably the most valuable part of the book for me was the description and explanation of the St. Ignatius spiritual discernment exercise.  This can obviously be found elsewhere, but the application to one’s own infertility journey is very, very valuable and a good reminder to what its really all about.  And this is where I will give props to my husband for “being right” and I will hopefully not upset the blogging community too much, but this is an extremely big advantage to not blogging about every detail of the infertility journey and is probably why as some point along our paths, most of us have taken a step back from doing so.  This community provides an invaluable resource of support and love in what is otherwise a very isolating journey.  However, discerning the next steps in something so personal and spiritually important as the steps tied to the growth of your family is really between you, your husband, and God.  But saying that and knowing how to do it so you get that calm and peace in your soul are two different things.  The St. Ignatius steps laid out in this book were extremely helpful to proper discernment for dealing with any big decision, but especially infertility related ones since it can get so confusing emotionally.  Its always good to remember to have that quiet time between just you and God to pour your heart out and then really, truly listen.  Good stuff!

There’s a lot more to this book, including a very necessary chapter from Carmen’s husband talking about the male perspective of male factor infertility which I applaud him for writing and telling a much needed perspective that is non-existent in the blog-world, as well as a chapter on Infertility’s Effect on Marriage, dealing with The Loss of Miscarriage (including instructions on what to physically do after a miscarriage as well as support network resources), and Opting to Adopt.  There is also a great chapter on How Family and Friends Can Help, which would be great to give if you’re having difficulty explaining to those trying to understand infertility how they can support their loved ones and that in a mine field of things not to say, there really are things that can help.

The fact that the book was peppered with inspiring quotes, bible verses, and catechism references makes it very biblical and Catholic resource that really helps tie the suffering of infertility directly to our faith.  Each chapter has a list of further references at the end that will help the reader find more information on a topic of interest.  Although at times it can be confusing to remember who is writing each chapter (Angelique and Carmen switch on and off) and it would have been nice to have a reminder as each chapter started, a strength of this book really is the perspective of two women, one who faced infertility and one who is currently facing infertility.  The difference in tone of their writing is subtle, but perhaps its like reading the blogs of women who have become pregnant and had children vs. those that are still in the midst of the struggle.  There is a difference, maybe a wisdom or confidence that comes from experiencing faith and prayers completed vs. an inspiring  rawness of someone still following faithfully in the struggle that makes a difference in relate-ability and ultimately makes the book a stronger resource for all of those dealing with infertility.  It is really a great resource for those starting off on this journey or looking for more resources to support them along the way.

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 Finally, in being given a chance to read and review this book I was also given the opportunity to give one away to a reader!  I’ve never actually done a giveaway before but am super excited to be able to have this as a giveaway prize!

Anyone can enter and the rules are simple: just leave a comment with your name (or pseudonym), email (only I will see your email – so I can tell you you won!) and one thing that you would look forward most about reading this book.  Or the one thing you wish this book would address if you didn’t see it addressed up there.  If you don’t feel comfortable commenting I’ll accept an email entry as well :)

I’ll close the comments in a week, April 24th, aka Baby Moonhead’s “official” LMP due date, select a winner at random and send you this book!

You can either try to win this book for yourself or for a friend who you know would appreciate it, both are great ideas!

Thanks again for reading and a special thanks to Angelique and Carmen for letting me get a head-start on the blog tour to accommodate for our blessed extenuating circumstances over here!

Ongoings

We had our first Southern California infertility/miscarriage/prayer support group meeting about two weeks ago.  Only a few couples showed up the actual event and so it turned really informal, which was probably good for ‘bonding’?  A few others  emailed/called to say that they were interested but had scheduling conflicts.  We’re planning another one for early March…hopefully we can get a few more people out of the woodwork.  So, if you’re reading this and you’re a lurker, please email me to find out more information!  We’re all super cool and non-threatening, I promise!

I wonder what my role will be in this group going forward, I do.  I wonder how my larger belly at the next meeting will be perceived but I hope I can just remain humble enough to listen and support others and not be a cause of pain, I don’t know.  I just know that I’m called to this ministry now and to help organize something that badly needs it in this part of the country.  Its painful to hear of women suffering multiple miscarriages and not having any support from their churches…hopefully we can provide some relief and support.

So this and NFP seems where I’m called right now, only we’re doing less on the NFP front.  I hope to schedule an information session in March also at our parish.  We are helping with RCIA but are trying to obeserve and make suggestions instead of going in and just changing their classes.  We are both serving as sponsors for confirmandi, and I THOUGHT we would be ending on Easter, which would be several weeks before our due date, but they changed the weeks this year with the bishop and we’re now supposed to be at the downtown cathedral a few days before our due date!  A little nuts but we have ‘subs’ ready in case the baby comes early.

We’re also serving on a panel for the high school confirmation class “vocations and discernment” talk in a few weeks (although, it was suggested that another couple “with children and experience parenting” serve also since we didn’t know anything about that…have to admit that comment ruffled my feathers a bit, but I’m sure the old man who suggested it didn’t mean any harm).  If any one has any idea about what things to say to high schoolers or any good youtube clips we can show, do share!  I’m a little unfamiliar with this age group but we’re trying…hope the Holy Spirit gives us something intelligent to say!

On the baby front, I’m growing away…a little too much says my doctor :(  But I can feel a moving, kicking, squirming little one in there all throughout the day so as long as I’m eating healthy I’m trying not to listen to my doctor and ignore the numbers. I would not step on that scale if they let me.  Seriously, I knew I was gaining a lot but I think there should be a warning button and/or personality test that the doctor’s take to see how much anxiety telling a given pregnancy woman they’re gaining too much weight will cause. I clearly have a perfectionist streak in the sense that if a medical professional tells me I’m hurting my baby, I will do what I can to not hurt my baby.  It would just help to know that their advice is reasonable.  And if its not, that also makes me think, what am I doing in this office again listening to you?  In all reality, I’m at most 5 lbs over the recommended weight at this point.  I hardly think that’s enough to scare a pregnant woman about and tell her to watch her calories.  Ok, no more weight talk…

Our birth classes are going well and I even bought some things for the baby the other week.  Pretty much the only unisex onesies I could find at the discount store and I just picked some slings  on Craigslist today.  What a steal!

The cashier said something sweet the other week, she asked if I knew the sex of the baby.  I’m always reluctant to answer that question because of course its a personal decision and a great majority of our friends/family seem actually upset at the fact that we didn’t find out.  When I told her that we didn’t know, she said something along the lines of “Oh, good for you!  That’s the last real surprise we have on this Earth so that’s just great.”   So I thanked her for being so nice about it, although I think her statement was a complete exaggeration.  It was nice to have someone support one of the first decisions we’ve made for parenting this child.  But the last great surprise?  Will a meteor come and kill us all?  What will the toy in my kinder egg be?…Maybe the last surprise that we can find out the truth to but choose not to.  I think I would have loved to been given the option of asking “God, am I going to have children?” and have a definitive answer.  I probably would have taken that answer in a heartbeat.  So, in a way I think not finding out the gender is my way of not being greedy, if you can even call it that.  I said that’s all I needed and I have my answer now, so now I just have to be patient and wait for it to get here.

And I go to Houston for a baby shower this weekend.  Beyond thrilled to be going back to Texas and to see my friends and then for a baby shower?  Oh man, I’m in Alison-heaven.  Trying to savor every minute!

Not quite as good as a hug

As happy as I am for a blogger that announces their pregnancy, somewhere in my head (or blog reader) I (sometimes) eventually stop being as loyal a reader as I once was, mostly because their blog doesn’t offer that sense of support that I crave(d).

This isn’t a dis-invite (de-vite? unvite?  here I am making up words…) to stop reading my blog, I just wanted to provide a couple other blogs (outside of the Catholic bloggers) I had stumbled upon recently that I felt tremendous support from and maybe they will do the same for some others who need it.

 

Held.  So, so good.  A Christian network of women currently or who used to suffer from sub/infertility writing about their experiences (and the best part, they don’t tell you!  You just get to read their wisdom).  Very faith based, but with a touch of ART mentioned on occasion.  Such wisdom and you’re bound to cry, so you’ve been warned.  Some of us could probably write over there as well…

Life as two.  I found Thelma’s blog from the Held site because her pieces were so insightful.  When I followed it to her blog I loved it even more and consumed almost all her posts related to infertility.  Her bio, “I do not write this blog from ‘the other side’ of infertility. We were a family of two the day we were married, and it appears that the Lord intended for our family to remain that way. To my knowledge, I have never been pregnant.  We have seen the Lord quietly close all the doors to parenthood (ARTs, fostering, adoption) as we traveled this road and we stand here today as we did on the day we wed: a family of two…..I wish I could tell you how your story ended.  I can’t promise you a child at the end of your road.  I can, however, be witness to the faithfulness of God in the midst of the storm.  He is near, faithful and strong enough to bear you up through all of this.  Lean on Him, even when it feels easier to be angry with Him.”

If that didn’t make you cry, you have no soul.  I found her blog the week before we found out we were pregnant.  What a gold mine.

And on a lighter note…

Scrambled Eggs.  Found this after the NFPWorks blog mentioned it.  Mostly funny, well, as funny as you can get approach to dealing with sub/infertility.  I love the movie Dumbo when I was a kid!  And now I see the connection…

 

I still don’t know what to do about the Catholic Infertility Support group in California I wanted to start.  I felt that I was in such a position to do some good here (despite no one emailing me and saying ‘yes, sign me up!’) and then…well, I’m pretty sure no one wants a pregnant woman running the group.  I feel bad though because I know that although no one emailed me or started one already, there has to be a need out there and they’re just by themselves.  I’ve still thought about organizing it and being the moderator or something, but I guess we’ll just see how things play out from here.

Shocking

I just got off the phone with the Family Life Coordinator of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the largest diocese in the United States, which serves almost 5 million Catholics.

That’s like, an insane number.

And do you know how many Catholic infertility support groups she knows of?

None.  Not a single one.

There are support groups for widows and separated/divorcées, but none for couples suffering from infertility.

I’m still in shock, but realizing how desperate this need is.   Much bigger than I had any idea about.

So for anyone who thinks this is “just another problem” you can have that’s not any worse than any other problem, clearly it isn’t if we can’t even talk about it.

I’m still in shock.

How to tell its time to move

How do you know when its time for you to move?

Everyone in your local sub/infertility group is either pregnant or has adopted.

Yup, it was time for us to get a move on.

I say that (partially) in jest because of course, we didn’t actually decide to move because all of our infertile and sub-fertile friends had finally adopted and/or conceived without miscarriage.  A while back I wrote that we had a little group going of couples who hadn’t been able to conceive, led by the priest who witnessed our marriage.  It was awesome to meet with these couples, all who had been trying far longer than us (8, 6, and 3 years).  Not even necessarily from the things they said, but they were able to give me comfort that “it was going to be alright” and that I was not alone.

The last time we met in May, we went mainly to say goodbye and to meet the new baby our friends had just adopted.  We were thrilled to meet the little guy, catch up with the parents, and say goodbye to the rest of the group.  Right before we left, that’s when I heard that the third couple was pregnant.  After 3 surgeries, 2 miscarriages, and almost 6 years of trying, they had finally made it to the second trimester.

My first thought was, Miracles are being worked in this group!  A year ago no one was pregnant, now there has been a birth, an adoption in record time (3 months) and what looks like a healthy one on the way!  God is listening to us!

My second thought was, I am alone.  And unfortunately, that thought hit while I was still talking to the new parents.

I was so happy and surprised for our friends.  They had tried for so long and had all but given up the summer before (and they conceived by making diet changes, no drugs, etc.)  Her joy was contagious.  I knew her struggle and I shared in her joy.  But that could not stop my tears.  I just kept smiling.  I knew they were tears of joy, but I also knew that they were tears of something that’s a lot harder to put my finger on.  So did she.  She tried to calm me  as I desperately tried to hide my tears that would not stop for the life of me (which I blame partially on the fact that I was already emotional from saying goodbye).  Luckily, it was literally the last exchange that happened before we left so it wasn’t too terrible that I was teary-eyed.  We made a quick escape.

As we drove off to our next good-bye dinner that night, I kept thinking how I was glad to be moving on, at least in some way.  To stay there while the rest of our group had reunions with children, man.  I mean, of course its fitting I’m the last one, I’m years behind these women in terms of trying.  But still.  I kept thanking God that he hadn’t left anyone behind that may have needed my support in person.

Which leads me to my next proposal.  While I’m glad no one needs my support in Texas, I sure as heck would love a support group here in California, specifically southern California.  I know there seems to be a large contingent of people on the east coast, but is there anyone out here who would like to meet up?

I guess I have a love/hate relationship with the thought of making friends solely based on our shared inability to procreate, especially considering that unlike motherhood, its a label that often changes as time goes on.  However, the relationships that I’ve made on the blog-world and carried into more personal relationships and the support I felt from that group were extremely important for my socialization and remembering my humanity, in that my problems aren’t unique to me alone (just a small percentage of people…).  And now, all of those people are with child.  And I miss them.   I understand there’s a danger that more people may go on to leave me as well, but I guess its better to have be-friended a sub-fertile than never to have friended at all, right?

Seriously, if anyone is in Southern California, let’s even make it “the west”, and either is looking for a support group or knows of one already, please let a gal know.

As always, appreciating your prayers.