A (not so) encouraging story

The third clinic was the charm today.

That’s one thing that stinks about moving to a new area and trying to explain to each receptionist that you need your blood drawn for hormone testing, but that your doctor is out of state so you’ll actually just need that blood back now thank you.  I’m just gonna go pop it in the mail and hope the USPS guy doesn’t ask me what it is.

I even pulled out the “this is for my fertility treatments and I have to do this today” line on the first two clinics and nada.  One told me it was against California state law to give me my own blood back.   Really?  Don’t tell that to the 3rd clinic…

Anyway, during the blood draw the nurse was extremely nice.

So this is for fertility treatment?

Yea.

Oh yeah, sometimes it just takes a while, you know?

(So I’m realizing…)

You know, I tried for quite a while to get pregnant before I did.

(Oh awesome, she understands!  Kindred spirits!)

Yeah, me and my first husband (red flag!) were together for 5 years and tried but nothing.  They told me I had one ovary and it wouldn’t happen.  It put a lot of stress on our marriage, you know.  He was from a Hispanic family and his mother always asking “where are the children??” So we divorced.  Then on my second marriage I didn’t ever use birth control because I didn’t think we could get pregnant and now I have three children!

Oh, wow!  I guess its about couple fertility, huh?

So, it took me a minute to figure out her actual point, but I can only conclude it was, “Leave your husband and get pregnant”?  Ummm, yeah.  Not so encouraging.

There was that other time our lab cleaning lady told me that lovely story about her Indian friend who “came over from India and married a white woman who couldn’t have children” so he left her and had an arranged marriage and was “popping them out so fast” right after they got married.   Yes, I shifted nervously in my seat, scratched my arms and tried to change the subject because really, what’s more fun than talking about husbands leaving their worthless-non-procreating wives?!  (Just about anything!!)

But I hope those stories suffice all those people who type “husband leaves infertile wife” into the search engine and find this blog.  Apparently it happens on occasion, as depressing as it is.  If you want some helpful things men have said about infertility, here is something by my husband.  He’s a pretty quiet guy on the subject, no matter how much I beg him to share his thoughts.  He deals with it differently than I do, there’s no doubt its not as all-consuming for him and obviously his hormones don’t effect the way we discuss things as much, but I do catch glimmers of what is really going on in his head.  I’ve come to appreciate his non-emotional side as being the rock that gets me by, although it can be frustrating when I want to say “Man, isn’t it awful that they already got pregnant?” and all he can say is “No.  Good for them.”  Because really, good for them.

And those are all the stories you’ll find about husbands leaving their infertile wives on this blog.

Maybe we could all say a little prayer for couples coping with this extra stress tonight.  Lord knows we all need it.

 

*Updated to add a little info on getting your blood drawn for PPVI Institute:  In Texas I had the most success with Any Lab Test Now.  They were amazing at helping me and when I went there I saw at least 3 kits for other women who were doing the hormone panel as well (they even store it for you the whole month!) so I could not recommend them enough.  Unfortunately, they don’t have one in California, so here I tried Que.st Diagno.stics and Lab.Corp, who both were not able to do the draw.  I finally found success at a local hospital’s outpatient lab and from what other commenters say, that is the most frequent place they have found success as well.  I also had to do a draw in a small beach town and randomly had success with the local “for minor emergency clinic”, although that could have been a fluke.  I played up the “I’m going to have to drive 2 hours unless you can help me and I can’t have a baby” card hardcore for that one.  

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Somewhere out there

Am I the only one that saw this story about the perigee moon and thought of this song?

Those little kids voices are even cuter than I remember…

And even though I know how very far apart we are

It helps to think we might be wishing on the same bright star

And when the night wind starts to sing a lonesome lullaby

It helps to think we’re sleeping underneath the same big sky!

Too cute.  You know what I’ll be doing tomorrow.

Empty arms and empty nets

Last spring we happened to share with the priest who witnessed our marriage that we were going through some issues trying to conceive.  This was still fairly early in our “attempting” so I just happened to mention in passing if he could include our desires to grow our family in his prayers (he was actually over to bless our house), especially because he had some formative spiritual direction for us when we discerned we should be open to our fertility.  Being the thoughtful and involved Father that he is, he mentioned that he had recently heard of several couples who were having the same issues and asked if we would all like to get together for mass and dinner.   A few weeks later he followed up with an email, asking if a date three months in the future was OK for us to get together. 

Sure, I thought. But I’ll probably be pregnant by then. Then I’ll probably feel really silly for agreeing to all this.

(In case anyone doubts I have the power of positive thinking).

Anyways, turns out I wasn’t pregnant, but we did have a lovely night of Mass, dinner and socializing with 3 other couples who were also experiencing difficultly conceiving.  There were two “older” couples and two “younger” couples – relatively speaking.  There was a range of “time trying to conceive”, basically ranging from almost a year (us) to 8 years.  Yes, you can bet that I felt like the weakest person in the world being there alongside couples that have carried this cross for much, much longer than I have.  At that point I was used to having my anxiety and fear being blown off for not trying long enough by fertile friends and was a little anxious at being blown off by these new infertile women.    However, it was a great experience and most of the couples understood that not conceiving is not conceiving and we all share a common bond, no matter the length of time.  They had supportive things to say, even if for part of the night I did feel like their ‘project’, with them telling me words of advice like relax because there is nothing else you can do, take one day at a time, and to have faith because that first year is the hardest.  I did start to feel a bit of a “pain Olympics” (or where infertile women like to compete over how ‘infertile’ they are), which was probably only apparent from my view, but this was to be expected I guess and minimal.  After all, I was just starting the journey as they were able to tell me about significant mile-markers and scenery changes along the way.  As with most things, it really helped having examples of other couples facing this hardship and surviving, “mentors” of sorts that could provide concrete examples of hope without diminishing the pain I felt. These couples gave me hope for my future that these tears would eventually dry up when talking about sub/infertility with strangers.

Perhaps the most miraculous moment came during Mass when the Father did a semi-introduction of us all to each other in the homily (after we had officially met but before eating dinner) and revealed the most amazing news yet – that the couple who had been married and open to life for 8 years, after at least 3 surgeries and multiple adoption failures, was yes, finally pregnant with their first pregnancy.  Praise the Lord!  They conceived sometime after the first email was sent and the date of our gathering.  They hadn’t actively tried anything in over a year, and there they sat, shedding tears of joy after waiting so long to receive this gift from God.  The whole room was in tears at this miracle.

I realized then that this was not a short term journey and the longer I counted months by days, the more I was setting myself up for heart-ache.    My vision of thinking well, at least I’ll probably conceive in the next few years suddenly stretched to a decade.  Am I strong enough to endure a decade of this – or even more? I admit I was terrified, but I’m glad I got that reality check early on.  Heck, when I would express doubt in us being able to conceive around the 6 month mark my husband used to jokingly threaten me with “Do you want to go to that Loving Embrace group where real infertile women are so you can feel embarrassed for being so sad?”  I knew then that I was weak.  These women were warriors and their faith, so solid.  At least in hindsight.  I was so, so weak.  I am so, so weak.

Perhaps the second “Ah ha!” moment of the night was during the homily again, when Father talked about his history and involvement as director of vocations.  Some of you may wonder what a celibate priest has to say about yearning for children, but the similarities were more than obvious.  As director of vocations in a small Italian order, he moved to Texas to expand more than 25 years ago.  The house they owned that he longed to be filled to the brim with young men exploring their callings sat mostly empty.  He could count the number of vocations on one hand and they were much, much less than he desired.  That he prayed for.  He often begged God to tell him that if He desired such a good thing and was there willing and ready to serve and mentor these young men, why did He not send them?  His empty nets mirrored our empty arms.  But even our 8 year empty arms paled in comparison to 25 years but luckily, its not all about the ‘pain Olympics’.  He reminded us that our desire for children and his desire for vocations both pointed to a similar longing, a longing for God.  A love of God so strong that you want to share it with others, no matter your vocation.

They were beautiful words to help me realize that longing for God IS universal, even if the specific cross of infertility is not.  Now, whenever I pray for those empty arms out there and the parents longing to fill them, I also try to remember those empty nets and pray for God to fill them as well.

Wedding dress memory lane, anyone?

Betty Beguiles asked about wedding dresses the other day and I’ve been wanting to chime in but have been limited in my free time.  So here I am a little late but, better late than never.  So here’s my post about my wedding dress!  Which yes, was very special to me.

But first a quick digression.  I was flipping through digital wedding photos while a sample was running in lab.  I came across our wedding photographer’s blog post where she posted all our wedding pictures and a flood of emotions came over me.  Just seeing those pictures and remembering how I felt walking down that aisle and cutting that cake and seeing all our goofy smiles to prove it just made me tear up.  I look forward to the day when I get to see that man every day again, instead of little trips every few weeks before we separate again.  I haven’t written much about it, but this has been emotionally/mentally/physically challenging and I just can not wait for it to be over.  For us to be a normal couple again that commutes to a normal workplace 30 min. away instead of internationally.  I know it will be worth it in the long run, but until then it is not easy.  So I was looking at these pictures and silently tears started streaming down my face, tears of joy/nostalgia/tiredness and everything and who walks in but my boss. She hasn’t walked in like that in months.  Embarrassing.  I acted like I wasn’t crying (even though it was obvious) and I just answered her questions.  But her husband lives in China so maybe she understands.

Anyway, onto the dress.  I was never one of those girls who imagined my wedding dress.  In fact, I was one of those girls who screamed and kicked every time I was forced to wear a dress when I was younger.  For this reason, I was concerned about finding a dress that was ‘me’.  Of course, as soon as I saw it I knew it was perfect.  The one.  And well, for me, I think it was :)

It had little cap sleeves and a square/Queen Anne neckline and lace all over.  Lace was the only thing I knew I wanted.

"Model" shot my sister took of me while our photographer was taking someone else's picture. Hence fake smile.

But the open back is what really sold me.  It kind of looked like a heart.

The back is what sold me.

And another favorite part was my bustle.  French, as opposed to American I guess?  Either way, it was way cool.

The French bustle

Especially when I twirled!

Ok, enough bragging.  My dress was tight.  And so was my photographer.

It was funny though, because I tried to get a friend of mine of similar stature to use it later.  It was just so beautiful I wanted to share it!  She respectfully declined and I thought it was because she didn’t want a used dress, which I could understand.  However, it later came out that her mom didn’t think it was modest enough.  Ooops.  Oh well.

Her loss.  Ha!

You should post about your wedding dress too so I’m not the only late one :P

My marriage/faith/fertility time-line

I compiled this nice little time-line of my marriage/faith/fertility a while ago and never published it.  I guess I will now, just to share.  Its way more detailed in terms of life events than a treatment history but, maybe understanding where I’ve been will help you understand where I’m coming from and serve as a reference on this blog.  Enjoy learning more about me than you ever cared to!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

April 2012 – After being on progesterone shots and suppositories for 36 weeks, we gave birth to our healthy son, Samuel, at home!  God is good!

August 2011 – Get chastised for not taking my temp 4x’s a day to increase my T3 dosage (still at 7.5 mcgs – which is funny, considering someone once told me Dr. H won’t even look at temperatures?) Parlodel, both 2x a day.  HCG on peak +3, 5, 7 and whoops, ran out of it on day 9.  Order it for next month.  Did  my blood draw, took a pregnancy test on August 15th – peak + 12 and nothing.  Waited for the cramps to bring the flood but they didn’t.  August 21st – peak + 18 took another test.  Positive – we have conceived for the first time!  First full cycle after antibiotics + surgery combo!  Wow.

July 2011 – Finished up antibiotics.  Did HCG on peak +5,7, and 9.  Noticed increased irritability, anger, and strong emotional reactions, but luteal phase was 14 days.  Symptom review from Hilgers comes back and makes me a candidate for new thyroid study.  Started T3 on next CD1

June 2011 – Visit Omaha for a week to complete: laproscopy, selective HSG, endometrial cultures, and ultrasound series.  Some endometriosis is removed from pelvic lining and left ovary, tubes are open and with good pressure, and ovulation occurs on day after peak with 2.6 cm follicle.  Diagnosis of chronic endometritis of the uterus.  Culture results come back positive 2 weeks later and start 5 weeks of antibiotics.  I guess I’m in “treatment” now.

March 2011 – Perform and send in to Omaha a month long blood draw panel for thyroid and other hormone testing.

February 2011 – Finally send in new patient forms to Dr. Hilgers after finding out he’s covered by our insurance starting Jan.1st.  Increasing folic acid amount (from 400 to 1200mcgs), starting loaded veggie diet with (intentionally) limited meat and no low-fat dairy.

November 2010 – Miss a cycle for the first time in over a year due to distance from husband.  Wow, it feels good not to wonder if I’m pregnant.

October 2010 – Receive referral back from Hilgers.  My cycles are “functionally abnormal”.  Now what.  Stop taking magnesium, messes my stomach up too much.  Wait.

August 2010 – Send in our 2 months of charts to Dr. Hilgers and move to Mexico.  Per practitioner’s recommendation, now taking  magnesium and vitamin D3 in addition to B-vitamin, flaxseed oil, folic acid.  Tired of peeing bright yellow already.

July 2010 – HSG shows slightly tilted uterus with two open tubes.  Pain feels similar to my period and self-proclaim that I’m a hoss…maybe I got lucky or maybe those period cramps are pretty painful after all…

June 2010 – Meet the Creighton practitioner, begin classes and begin charting.

May 2010 – Appointment with doctor on day 28 of my cycle. Charges me $50 to tell me I’m not pregnant.  Blood test for Progesterone and CA-125 (indicator of endometriosis):  Progesterone comes back low (get period next day) and CA-125 is low too, indicating no endo? (not entirely conclusive).   Go back two weeks later for ultrasound of my follicles.   I guessed which follicle I thought was maturing based on pain and was wrong.  That’s not right.  Despite that, great follicle growth and post-coital test reveal all systems go on day12, 12 hours after the deed.  Email Sew (yes, she made my timeline) after reading about her history involving ovulation pain.  She strongly recommends Creighton (surprised?).  I sign up for classes that day. Decide to learn Creighton to see what the hype is about and to practice charting when we move to Mexico, because oh yeah, we’re moving to Mexico.

April 2010 – Husband receives grant in Mexico.  Actually toy with the idea of going.  Make a doctor’s appointment to see what’s up.

January 2010 (also) – Have a chance to talk to an NFP-only family practitioner at an NFP training course and she mentions that my ovulation pain (still present, some months much stronger than others) and irregular temperatures in the luteal phase may indicate a hormone issue that might be helped with certain vitamins.  I eat healthily but it’s a good place to start anyway.  Begin taking evening primose/flaxseed oil and continue with the Optivite (which I was also on due to PMS symptoms.  Also was already taking folic acid).

January 2010 – Famous misread pregnancy test incident (2nd I’d ever used – from a 2-pack). Think I’m pregnant and am delusion-ally happy for a full 20 min. before my period starts.  I had never understood those commercials that said 1 in 4 women misread pregnancy tests, but afterward understood how one could “will” themselves to see two lines.  Develop deep contempt of my 17 day luteal phases and pregnancy tests and upon husband’s advising, vow to never take another test again.

September 2009 – Husband applies for grant in Mexico for 2010 year while I’m in China.  Attend retreat and have unintentional spiritual guidance (is spiritual guidance ever intentional?) regarding starting our family.  Realize that now all of our personal reasons for postponing are non-existent, unfortunately for the study.  We know we need to change something.   Take a leap of faith and decide to leave the study after 8 months (which we were told would not affect the statistics) and stop using NFP to avoid.

Summer 2009 – Gnawing feeling that this study is not what we should be doing.  Talk about how having a child before graduation might actually be more flexible/speed-up graduation.  Discuss with husband and decide that we will not back out on our commitment for the year.

Spring 2009 – Begin to realize that reasons to postpone children should come from within rather than outside forces (read: a study).

February 2009 – Finish NFP certification process and begin teaching classes jointly.  With each passing month, will and reasons to postpone feel weaker.  Decide to enter an NFP study for  a year to recommit ourselves to postponing pregnancy for another year, since we do feel like a unique couple who would love children but would probably be best to wait (We did note that there is an option to leave the study if intentional).

November 2008 – After some prompting, begin the process to become NFP teachers.  Think “Who is going to listen to teachers who have only been married for a few months?!” (fortunately, this girl did) but quickly realize that before we have children is a great time to get trained, if anything to ease the load of the teachers with kids.

October 2008 – Get married.  We are both still 2 years from graduating and live far from family, so we decide that will use NFP to avoid pregnancy until I’m closer to graduation (he’s ahead of me – so we thought probably in 1-2 years).

January 2008 – He proposes, I say yes :)  We get stuck in an elevator for New Year’s/our engagement.  Go to mass at the L.A. cathedral the next day.

Summer 2007 – Curious about this NFP thing.  Order kit and start charting, just to see if it’s possible.  Surprised at the ease and fall in love with the data. Nerd.

Easter 2007 – Confirmed in the Catholic Church and the boyfriend’s whole family flies out for the big day and my parents/brother come too. Good times.

October 2006 – Went to doc for increasing pain around my abdomen around the middle of my cycle (later realize it’s probably ovulation pain, but something’s off – it really, really hurts for up to 4 days of my cycle).  Get one ultrasound done and am supposed to come back in two weeks to get the other.  Pain goes away and I don’t go back, to “save money”.  Stupid (grad) student.

Summer 2006 – Entered RCIA classes to “learn more”.  Famous last words :)  Also started strong acne medicine that requires you be on birth control.  Convince my doctor that I do not need birth control because I will not be having sex.  Hard sell, but she lets me sign a waiver (and the rights to sue her).

Spring 2006 – Learn about NFP (and call my now-husband crazy, as he is the first person I’ve met in my life who doesn’t want to use contraception in their marriage) and later, Catholicism. (much more detailed version of my conversion here)

January 2006 – Get off the pill on a whim, 2 months after meeting my boyfriend (now-husband) mostly to help us commit to a chaste relationship, a change for both of us.  Normal cycle returns soon after.

How to tell people about your sub-fertility

I brought up yesterday how amazing it was to be pleasantly surprised when a friend reacts in a supportive way.  I want to reiterate that I understand that not everyone will react that way and that the actions we take to protect ourselves are just that, to protect ourselves.  It was just a nice reminder that I do not need to protect myself from everyone and that good people who can relate to me do exist.

I need more pictures in my posts...here's a Mexican sunset!

In general, I am a very open person and I can talk about things that are personal to me without feeling too vulnerable. However, I’ve realized the issue with sub-fertility is not so difficult for me to talk about it, as it is for me to tell people.  After all, what good response is there to “We haven’t been able to conceive.”  Its just a conversation killer.

Anytime I’ve told people about our problems (I’ve only told family and a few close friends who know me well), I’ve started crying.  As soon as the initial tears start flowing, I’m OK.  I can talk with my friends/family about it and not cry again.  Of course, I’m not really about telling just any old person, but about telling the people you’re closest too for example, who might wonder why you’re taking a vacation to…Nebraska? My friend this weekend gave me the idea after she told me about a similar situation with her mom.  When her mom had breast cancer, she was fine talking about it with friends and coworkers, but she just could not tell them herself.  She worked it out where her manager told everyone instead, so by the time she talked to them they already knew and it was easier for her.

I’m big on owning and accepting my feelings.  This is happening to me, so a big part of me wants to be the strong one that can tell people about this.  After all its my life, so I’d like to be there when it happens.  A prideful part of me wants to be the one that has it all together and accepts this completely in stride and doesn’t cry in front of people.  But, I know that would just be a show.  It does affect me.  It dose cause me pain and I don’t know what I gain by hiding it other than by giving off an “everything’s OK” guise to further propogate the idea that I don’t need anyone’s help.

I’m starting to see the advantage of say, having my husband tell his family so that its easier to talk about in the future with them and so that I don’t scare them all away and make them not talk about it ever again by being a blubbering mess.  I know other women feel differently, but it is therapeutic for me to talk about it, so I don’t want to ostracize people and make them think I can’t.   My big fear with this is that because I don’t tell them myself, they will think they can’t talk about it to me and then it will be even more awkward.

I'm already awkward. I don't need anything else to make me more awkward.

This is of course assuming that they don’t already know, which I’m guessing they have an inkling.  The last time we were at his grandparent’s house his grandma asked us why we don’t have kids yet (in Spanish, so keep in mind I’m just barely following along – but I did catch that!) and the hubs responded with our patented “We’ll have them when God gives them to us.”  Never to be easily tricked, his grandma responded with something along the lines of “Well, you have to work at it to you know!” Did I mention she’s a little feisty? And apparently his dad chimed in with “That’s why they’re going to see the Virgin of Guadalupe, Grandma.”  So.  Maybe they got the hint (even if it was lost on Grandma) or maybe his dad was just trying to save us from intense Grandma questioning.  Its a fine line you can’t distinguish between!

Anyway, I’d appreciate any personal stories on this as I’m totally on the fence about how to handle it now that I can understand why it might be better for everyone if my husband just deals with his family, even though I am concerned about the “egg-shell” effect.

Do you tell your family hard news yourself or do you get your spouse to do it?

Teaching NFP as a subfertile couple

Believe it or not, one of the first things I thought of when we didn’t get pregnant right away was

Oh great, now no one we know is going to believe that NFP works.

And I don’t think that was a crazy thought.  I’ve been in the NFP world long enough to know that when women or couples are considering usage of NFP, barely anyone actually does their own research (though these amazing people do exist – and can I include myself in that list? ha!).  In fact, I would venture to say that after hearing about NFP for the first time, the overwhelming majority of people rely purely on anecdotal evidence when discerning whether or not to use NFP.  For example, the couple that taught them NFP may be old and totally ‘out of it’ or they knew someone they once heard of who got pregnant using NFP or the couple teaching them has 6+ children so NFP must not work.

I wanted so badly to be that teaching couple that people could relate to.  And I know that in reality that translates into making a good first impression.  Being that young couple that looks just like them.  Still in school, trying to figure out how to foster the best marital relationship.  My husband and I feel so passionately about promoting healthy marriage and this being such a huge part of my conversion story, we just knew that this was our calling.

But now part of me feels like we have just another reason for people not to believe us when we stand up there, explaining the scientific details of how NFP works.

Oh, they can’t get pregnant.  No wonder they’re down with NFP.

And it sucks.  I don’t want to be another anecdote.  And I don’t understand why God would give us such a calling and at the same time, such a handicap to hurt our effectiveness along the way.

But, eventually, I know its not about us or what we do or say that will change people’s minds anyway.  I could shout from the rooftops what a gift fertility is (and I have and will continue to do so) but that doesn’t mean people will listen.  It is not people that change people.

When we get a new class of clients, before we start our first NFP class we make small talk and study those faces, some eager, some bored, some there for the other one.  They don’t know anything about us, maybe other than we’re going to talk to them about mucus and sticking thermometer’s where? (correct answer: mouth!).  But a single question will bring everyone together and remind them why we’re here.

We just ask about their upcoming wedding and there’s an instant smile on everyone’s face. An excitement that we all can relate to about the new relationship about to occur, as the bride looks at her soon to be groom and gushes about the details of the event.  An appreciation for this new, sacred relationship.  After all, that’s why they’re pursuing a Church wedding and taking the necessary classes.

And then as we warm up to each other, there are always those same first questions. Somewhere along the lines of

“So you guys are going to teach us how to not have 20 children, right?”

And that’s when my heart sinks.  I realize how different my husband and I are.  How our path is not the common path.  I remember that naivety that I see in their faces.  The thought that oodles of children and the associated financial and emotional drain is the biggest marital concern that everyone is trying to avoid.  The innocence that there’s not something worse out there that’s capable of tearing at the very seams of your marriage.

I just want to grab them by the shoulders, shake them, and tell them now that they should be so lucky! I want to save them from planning out their life and getting their hopes set on dreams that they have no control over.  I want to tell that even if things don’t go as planned and they have a ‘surprise’ baby that was not orchestrated in the month they set aside, that there are still worse things.

But I don’t.  People don’t change people.  The spirit does.  We laugh and continue on, because our path is not the common path.  Even in our NFP class, we’re instructed to not spend too much time on the infertility slides because statistics say that the young couple sitting in front of us will get pregnant.  And while I once held my breath that everything would be OK with our client’s fertility, when I do hear from past clients about their new pregnancies, I breathe out a sigh of relief.  And I am once again reminded that our path is not normal.  Normal people get pregnant.

As a subfertile couple teaching couple, those Duggar family comments make me realize how even though our path may be different, we can still focus and teach about what a gift fertility is.  Because we believe so strongly that if there’s one thing that’s worse and threatens the sanctity of marriage more than oodles of children and the associated strain they cause, one thing that’s worse than the physical and emotional pain of infertility, its the lack of appreciation and respect to that gift of fertility.

And we’re there to provide an example and to teach that if they keep their focus on God, they will be able to get through the things that life throws their way if they just stick together.  Because ultimately, that’s what we’re doing too.

I just hope they see it like that.

Not meant to be? Discerning parenthood

“I think clearly God is telling you guys you’re not meant to be parents right now.”

I was catching up with a friend the other day and this was what she came up with after I had filled her in with the going-ons of our life these days.  All I could think of in response was,

“Well, duh.”

I wasn’t upset she said that, because it is probably the most direct and obvious statement of the truth I’ve heard in a while.  In fact, if I were to get upset, I guess the response would be purely an emotional one, more along the lines of “Well why doesn’t God listen to ME because I WANT to be a parent right now” and not actually refuting the truth of what she said.  That would be besides the point.  Her statement still rings true.  It stings and is hard to swallow probably because yes, in my situation, it is true.  I don’t believe God could be making a mistake right now.

I have to remind myself as a married couple we have been called by God to be open to fertility, not necessarily to be parents on demand – which very well may have been our desire.  I think back to how we discerned to no longer use NFP to avoid pregnancy and I remember the decision vividly.  While the decision was complex and personal, it was blatantly clear we no longer had just financial reasons and while neither of us had graduated and had certain jobs, we would have been in a position to properly care for a child had one come along in 9 months.  I’m slightly embarrassed to say that it was not that we had a strong pull that now was the time for us to become parents, although part of me wishes it was so I could have more clarity on our move from here, its just not true.  And in hindsight, I would consider it a blessing that it didn’t happen that way for us.  It was only that our just reasons to not share our fertility with each other were gone, which thankfully, is more than enough reason to not use NFP.  While one great benefit of NFP is that it can help you target your fertile time to achieve pregnancy, NFP’s main purpose as far as morality is concerned is to help those with just reasons to avoid pregnancy.  I do not believe the Church teaches anywhere that NFP is meant to be the default condition of all married couples.  What it ultimately came down to for us was that we knew by using NFP to avoid pregnancy, we were literally holding something back from one another.  Yes, we had not contracepted and done anything immoral, but we were both conscious of the fact that we were not entirely giving ourselves to one another.  For just reasons, our fertility still remained guarded.  And over the course of a few months, it became clear to each of us, first separately and then together, that we weren’t being called to hold back from one another anymore but to take what came.

Take what came.

What came is that we discovered that the opposite of a call to avoid pregnancy is not a call to pregnancy, which unfortunately, many people of varying degrees of fertility believe.

1664 Unity, indissolubility, and openness to fertility are essential to marriage. Polygamy is incompatible with the unity of marriage; divorce separates what God has joined together; the refusal of fertility turns married life away from its “supreme gift,” the child

This is why the comment,

“Perhaps God’s just telling you guys that you’re not supposed to be parents right now”

is so funny to me.

What else could God possibly be telling us?  We have given him ample opportunity for Him to bestow on us the ‘supreme gift’.  Just as I don’t believe He makes mistakes with “oops” babies, I know that if we give Him the openness of our fertility, He’s not up there saying “Oh crap!  Those little guys missed the egg again!  Sorry Moonheads, I’ll try harder next month!” In fact,  I believe that only by giving Him the openness of our fertility after responsibly discerning parenthood can we be certain that our desires aren’t getting in the way of His will.  Just like we can’t accidentally become parents, we can’t accidentally not become parents.

Which then brings me to the statement which I do find rational disagreement with,

“Why don’t you just adopt?”

I’ve stated the call to not use NFP to avoid pregnancy is not necessarily a decision to become parents.  God gets to make that decision.  For us, God has made the decision to not make us parents so I do believe I should approach our journey to continue to be parents with the utmost prayer and selflessness, which of course is not an immediate decision.  I’ve talked to other women who felt, much like I did, that the first year of not postponing pregnancy felt more like a year of being a mother without a child, rather than just a woman with no children (which is in reality more accurate).  I believe that it was because somewhere in there, in either my anguish to hide the fact that I wasn’t pregnant or in order to try to keep hope alive and prepare for what still may have come statistically,  I made the decision that I was to be a parent.  At this point I’ve realized I have no power to make that decision.  (I will add in here for those who wonder that my husband has remained level headed and not had to play these mind games with himself.  One difference of how infertility affects men and women!) The fact that God is so clearly not making use of our biology, is a large, harsh, but realistic sign to me that perhaps not only am I not to be a parent right now, but not at all.  Maybe we are supposed to fulfill our desires to become missionaries or some other non-traditional way of serving others, as opposed to parenthood, at least at this moment.

In order to “just adopt”, I would want to be sure that God is calling me to parenthood, which does not necessarily follow from not being able to have children biologically and in fact may be a large sign that we’re not.

I must also add that while adoption may not necessarily be the conclusion for all infertile couples for a variety of reasons, I do believe this period of being open to fertility is quite necessary as a step towards adoption.  I don’t know of any couples that have used NFP to avoid pregnancy while pursuing adoption, although that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.  God can use this time to plant this seed, prune us and see if we are called to parenthood.  However, that of course means that the time of working through the grief accompanying infertility is also necessary for adoption.

In short, I’ve learned (the painful way) that being open to fertility is not necessarily the same as discerning parenthood and that for some people, the painful way is how discerning parenthood has to happen, because God does not accidentally leave those childless.

Sitting in a tree…

K-i-s-s-i-n-g,

First comes love,

Then comes marriage…

Then comes…

Waiting. A new house.  More waiting.  Wondering.  Fun traveling and attending family/friend’s weddings.  Love. A family divorce.  More waiting.  A family death. Crying. A job offer.  A new NFP method.  More tears.  Doubt.  A graduation.  A move across the border/Gulf.  More traveling. And more waiting.

Sometimes I can’t believe its been 2 years and others,  that’s its been only been 2 years!  Thank you, second year of marriage, for teaching me nice little nursery rhymes are children’s things and we should leave them for the children because they are not the content of actual marriages.  I guess that’s all a lesson I needed to learn eventually. Even though my head knew it, living it is something else entirely.  In real marriages you laugh together and thank God, you cry together and beg God, you find peace together and praise God, and you repeat, together.

Year two included lots of growth that revealed (surprise!) plenty of room for more growth.  All in all, I don’t know if I should say this but, I’m glad this year is over.  It. was. hard.  There were plenty of good times, but still, difficult.  Much more difficult than anticipated.  But we made it.

And if we can make it through this we can make it through anything.

Happy Anniversary, babe :)

Having a family in grad school

On a school visit a few years ago when I was applying for graduate school, I remember one of the professors I was interviewing with mentioned that the best time to have kids is during graduate school, not squeezed in after tenure like most people try to do.  I’ve heard stories of people having kids during grad school and labs that are teeming with little kids that play by their parent’s desk as they work in lab.  It seems like the flexible schedule would make for an ideal time to get married and have children, doesn’t it?

But this has not been my personal experience.

I don’t believe that grad school is actually family friendly. At least not engineering.  [Maybe this is part of the reason why there are no females in science and engineering.]

I know anecdotal evidence doesn’t make the strongest when making such a broad claim as this, but I can’t help but go by what I’ve personally seen in my lab.

  • Part time isn’t an option.  Two (male) students in our lab have had children in the past year.  One (international) student’s wife is also in grad school.  They have alternated days of working in lab for this past year in order to accommodate both of their schedules.  The other (American) student has a wife that works full time from home.  In order to accommodate their schedules, he comes in in the morning anywhere from 3-5am  and works till noon and then goes home and takes care of the baby while his wife works from 12-8pm.  Our boss has recently said this is no longer acceptable.
  • Most international students send their children back to their home countries to be raised by their parents while they finish graduate school.  I think this is a hidden secret that no one talks about and is particularly common for Chinese and Indian students who populate a large percentage of science and engineering graduate students.  The aforementioned student in our lab is in the minority of students who actually try to have their children raised here in America, although he has been pressured by my adviser to send their child back to China.
  • Apparently my husband living in another country is not a unique enough situation to warrant “extenuating circumstance” to give me permission to do non-lab-essential work outside of the office (i.e. in Mexico).  I am going against my adviser’s wishes and incurring a pay cut.

Yes, maybe this is just the situation in my lab, but still, my lab exists!  All of these situations that I’ve witnessed in this lab over this past year have made me realize how undervalued family is in academia in general and how hard it is to be a female who has a family in this field.  I’m not saying it can’t be done, its just very difficult.

And I needed to vent.

PS:  We’ve met the writer of this comic strip and he’s hilarious.  We also gave him a few ideas for some comic strips that he wrote down (we saw him!) so we’re still hoping to see some of those published one day…and THEN grad school will all have been worth it.