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.  

The run-down

This will probably be an extremely boring post for those not undergoing any fertility treatment.  I have to admit until very recently I skipped over these types of posts because they seemed ridiculously detailed and, well, I’d get bored.  Similarly to the way I now skip over details of what an X month baby is doing and/or not doing on schedule these days.  Don’t feel like you have read this is you fall into that category. 

 

The Good:

–  They were able to remove three spots of endometriosis on my pelvic wall and three more spots on my left ovary using the laser (which is apparently not as good as the surgical knife but only has a 20% reoccurance rate and means I don’t have to come back for another surgery).

–  My tubes are still open with good pressure gradients.

–  I have good mucus and seem to ovulate on my own (will be confirmed tomorrow hopefully).

–  I have good levels of estrogen pre-peak and good progestrone levels in the first part of post-peak….(wait for it…)…

–  I have thyroid levels in the range of normal…(wait for it…)…

–  My husband has an extremely high percentage of normally shaped sperm…(wait for it…)…

 

The Bad:

–  My FSH/LH hormone ratios is reverse what they should be. (Does this imply crappy ovulation?)

–  My T3/Reverse T3 hormone ratio is also reverse what they should be, which from what I understand, is making my body act hypothyroid even though my levels aren’t individually within an abnormal range.

–  I go from the highest progesterone zone to the lowest progesterone zone in one day, which is more than a 50% drop and puts me as a Type III Luteal Phase Defect (and likely contributes to my massive PMS each cycle).

–  My right ovary has “polycystic tendencies” but Dr. H was “unimpressed” (maybe that should go into the good column…)

–  My husband’s sperm have a slightly lower than normal count and motility.

–  And probably most disconcerting, I have an unusual endometrial lining, what I believe he called “endometris stippling”.  Could be due to low-grade infection but I don’t have the compulsory tail-end brown bleeding that accompanies that, so…its a little different although once the biopsy comes back I’ll probably still be proscribed an antibiotic.  He seemed to be really excited to have a great picture of it to show his fellows though.  It looks white/pinkish and bumpy, although I can’t seem to find what a good endometrium looks like to compare it to.

 

So there didn’t seem to be any one, clear reason why we’re not conceiving, but a bunch of little factors that may be contributing.  He gave us a 50% – 75% of conceiving assuming my husband can take some supplements.  I was hoping for higher, but I’m not even sure how he came up with that number.  We have a few directions of where he wants us to go from here but I think I’ll save that for later.

Ok, so feel free to comment on this post so I don’t feel like a weirdo for putting all this out there.  Anyone ever heard of this stippling and how serious it is?

Oh yeah, and this being the 4th day after surgery I feel MUCH better.  Hopefully the rest of our 30 hr car ride out west will be tolerable…

What we have in common with Batman

Leave it to my husband to look at the positive.

After recently talking about our increasing humility (although I guess not now that I’ve talked about it with the outside world – oh this humility thing is so hard!) we happened to be in  hotel here in Mexico flipping through the channels before bed.  Batman Begins was on, one of my husband favorite movies and superheroes.  A brief background, this movie was one of our first dates and I’m surprised he talked to me again after I fell asleep during it.  He’s long claimed that Batman is the most believable superhero, since he really doesn’t have any super powers, he just overcomes sad life circumstances that might cripple a weaker being (his words).

The scene that was on was the one where Katie Holmes’ character is mocking Bruce Wayne, the playboy, because “he doesn’t understand what its like to have a job and responsibilities, all he does is party and live a carefree life.”  (It was in Spanish, so at least that’s what I think she said.)

I was sitting there knitting and missed the whole conversation (did I mention my  Spanish progress was sacrificed for my dissertation?) but my husband leans over there and says,

Look honey, we’re like superheroes!

Huh?  Where is this coming from and what is he talking about…

Batman”s misunderstood too.  People think that he doesn’t suffer any and just parties and here he is saving the world from evil and no one even knows.  And he can’t tell them about his secret identity!  Just like us, we look normal but no one even knows that we’re helping to save the world with our suffering.  We’re like superheroes.

(I’m serious, this conversation really happened. I was in shock with surprise and told him later that I couldn’t not put this on the blog.)

Just in case I ever doubted that we’re not in this together and that we both aren’t suffering.

He’s the positive one with it all in perspective.  To him, we’re superheroes.  And I guess we do have the potential to make this something bigger than just ourselves, as long as we keep that perspective on the greater goal of bringing glory to God.

We just need some capes, a mask, and a cool name.  Any suggestions?

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.

My husband on infertility

When I first began reading infertility blogs, I was more than a little concerned why there was such a dearth of men writing about this topic.   Did it only bother women?  Did their husbands even care? Or just not enough to write about it for the world to see?  What did they think about their wives blogging?  I know that men and women handle sub/infertility differently, and that not all can ever be accurately portrayed through written word, but I recognized this difference as just another thing to add to the pile that makes infertility so isolating.  It separates even the husband and wife at their most intimate moment.

It affects both of us and we are one through the sacrament of marriage, but to say that we handle our sub-fertility differently would be an understatement.  And not because one of us is doing something wrong. There is a reason women write about it, besides being more relational in general.  A woman’s body is the one that is to be changed by childbirth and motherhood, while a man’s body would always stay the same regardless of their fatherhood.  Since it is happening directly in my physical body, a body which was designed to do something that its not, it often feels like I am trapped in the middle of the storm, fighting a physical battle against an uncooperative body and swimming in hormones that scatter emotions without my consent.  My husband, while not directly in the storm, has a front row view of it and can feel the fringe of the rain and wind.  He’s so close to the storm and witnesses everything, but he escapes the torment of literally being in the storm.

To be so close to that storm, see it raging and battering their wives, and yet be powerless to stop it?  I don’t know that I give my husband the credit he deserves for being strong enough to endure it.

And yet, I’m thankful he’s not trapped with me.  From his more observant role, he’s able to have a better perspective on what’s really going on, he can see beyond what I can I see when I’m trapped in the dark clouds.  He can see the blue skies coming in the distance, where shelter is that will help me weather the storm, and just generally accompany me to show me that I am not in the storm alone and I will not die there alone either, no matter how it looks from my angle.  And for this I am thankful. It is not a fatal storm.  I cannot imagine the chaos if he was trapped in this downpour with me, day in and day out.  We wouldn’t be able to guide each other and we might truly loose our direction.

There were times in the beginning of this experience that he didn’t quite realize how dark those clouds were – how could he notice from where he was?  The hurricane doesn’t look that bad from a distance.  There are days he could use some reminding that my perspective is not so clear as his, that its not so easy for me to just ‘know’ that this storm will pass when all I see are clouds in any direction.  Sometimes when the thunder is screaming and the howling wind is deafening it makes no difference what my husband says anyways.  I can’t hear him through the racket.  Besides, his words have no power on the storm itself.  It will beat against me regardless.  There are days when we just have to literally cling together and bear the brunt of it.  Wait for it to pass and for the bluer skies to come.  On those days that I am so tired of being beaten down and drenched that his hands and hugs are the only thing that seem to reassure me that it will be OK.

That’s when being apart is the hardest.

Fortunately, I had the chance to ask my husband a few questions and record his concise answers on paper a few months ago when we were being interviewed for a story in the CCL magazine.  I’m so glad I have his responses now that we’re apart and I can’t feel his reassuring embrace during the tougher moments.  I wanted to share his thoughts here, especially since the husband’s perspective in the infertility blogging world is so scarce. They’re in bullet format, nothing fancy, and I bolded the parts I liked the most.

–  One difficult part of dealing with infertility is that you’re in a minority group that is not recognized in our culture.  There is no acknowledgment that infertility is a privation of a good, the inherent good of children, something that should be present.  This doesn’t have personal implications so much as implications for our society and where our values are at.  It makes me sad that people can’t understand anymore that this is such a sad thing, unlike 500 years ago when it was probably more universally recognized.  It also conceals the cross of this suffering since people don’t have the ability to understand that its suffering. There’s no empathy.

–  The emotional toil comes from trying to balance how much you let go vs. how much you pursue treatment.  The pain is in the uncertainty of how to act. It takes a lot to answer these questions and dig deep to see who you are and where you’ll go from here.  This has helped our marriage because by being forced to address these hard to talk about topics, we’ve been forced to acknowledge, address, and accept the deep fears of possibilities that attack the foundation of marriage: 1) you might never have kids, 2) as much as you’d like to think otherwise, you are weak, your marriage covenant is vulnerable to one of the deepest attacks that can happen to a married couple, 3) you may not leave a physical legacy.  Although it is hard, this makes you discuss the very foundation and principle components of what exactly makes your marriage unique and distinguish that from what is desirable, but ultimately optional.

– Infertility is a good reminder that we’re shooting for the Holy Place in Heaven, not the Hall of Fame on Earth.

–  This trial has made me realize how the graces to communicate about this issue are stronger for my wife and how I need to grow in that regard. It is 110% true that infertility effects men and women differently. Every month brings about discussions that have small graces and is almost like a test when I see our relationship is suffering as a result of the different ways we handle this cross. Am I going to choose God and be inspired to change or will I ignore those graces?  Making our marriage work in the small ways and the day to day life when this is hanging over our heads is the hardest part.  Every moment is a challenge for me to be better than I thought I could be.

–  Advice for men starting to go through this:  Make yourself ponder those three points and be able to handle their consequences.  You learn a lot in silence and meditation, as with other trials. Listening to your spouse rather than trying to figure them out is more important, half the time they just want to be heard.  Although this cross may feel like its affecting your wife more and your wife is directing the lead on how to handle it, remember that your meditations and spiritual direction are also very important to your marriage.  Don’t be afraid to offer prayerful direction to her.

There, that almost felt like a virtual hug.

 

What does your husband have to say about your sub/infertility? What does he do best that helps you through the storm? If you write a post about it, let me know! 

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

Only a matter of time

I was ecstatic when I found out in December that A Complicated Life was chosen by a birth mother to adopt a baby.  My mouth dropped to the floor when I found out another month later that the adoption was dissolved because she was pregnant.

After how many years?  Nothing short of a miracle.

What was my husband’s response, when I told him what had transpired?

When are you going to realize its only a matter of time?

I had no response.

The month went on to reveal that both girls that I have been in more personal contact with over these last months, and who have been trying for the same amounts of time as I have, are also pregnant.  Women who would help me get through those particularly hard months through lovely emails of understanding.  I selfishly wonder what I’ll do without them.  The latter woman just started her own blog and I was all prepared to announce her publicly, in order to get her a nice friendly welcome :)  It turned out she’s now accompanied by a tiny little growing baby as well, so please go say hi to Katie still!

So, when am I going to realize that it’s only a matter of time? My husband is the one that famously said, the more time that goes by, the closer we are to our family!  Huh?  My head wants to know this and I guess some days I do.  I know it, that’s why I try to use the word sub-fertility, even when my heart screams No its impossible, you will never get pregnant, because I know that it is still possible. I know eventually a day will come when this will all seem like the distant past, whether through birth/foster care/adoption we will have our family or our understanding of what else we will do and we will know with certainty that it was only a matter of time.  Because that time will have passed.  It will kind of be like cheating, ha!

But now, that is not what I feel.  My emotions follow hope up and down on a roller coaster to the point where they can’t tell which way was up and what direction I should be facing.  What I feel after a failed month is that I am foolish for hoping, for believing that I could do the same thing and expect an entirely different result.

I often find it funny that I was given this cross of ‘difficult feelings’, something that I’ve more recently tried to discount and run away from in my adult years.  Reason and rationality are the things that make this world go around, that make results appear in the world.  Emotions are the things of little girls and silly women, that made me cry when my siblings would taunt me and that made my college roommates pine after boys that would never love them.  Reactions that perpetuated endless teasing, foolishness and false hope.  Feelings aren’t based in truth, but in subjectivity by design.  But adults, they are beyond feelings.  I was once (still am?) the harshest critic of someone who didn’t feel like doing something.  Buck up, do it anyway. Feelings are that, abstract and clearly not necessarily based in reality nor truth.  I didn’t understand these feelings that could be so paralyzing, so all consuming.

I do now.  I guess I now understand what I dished out against, even if I only ever thought those things.  It comes full circle.  But just because I have these feelings, I still know it doesn’t make them right.  Perhaps this is why this is so hard for me.  I’m still fighting the reality of what I’ve become.

And now I’m trying hard to discount my own feelings, to push them down and out when they’re bursting at my seams, begging from some release.  To have my head understand and rule my thoughts over my heart’s fickleness.

And to truly know and believe with my whole being that it is only a matter of time.

Even if I know half the time, its that other half that always gets me. 

Fight, flight, and fertility – A little more personal

I’ve realized I may not have done the best job explaining exactly what I meant by “what makes me me” yesterday.  So if you didn’t read that, please do.  I attempt to clarify how I think that study relates to me here as well.

I can’t seem to access the full article now, but what I remember is that the study (referenced here again) looked at fertility of women over a year and found that higher levels of alpha-amylase, the enzyme that is released under acute stress, reduced fertility over a period of the first month, but over the course of a year of trying to conceive those values had no influence.  What’s interesting is that ‘infertility’ is defined as inability to conceive after a year, not just a few months.  It seems then that yes, this enzyme would be effective in delaying conception, but statistically not for what the medical community defines as infertility.  I wonder though, if someone is under extreme acute stress for an extended period of time (unlikely but still possible), would fertility be compromised?  The article didn’t address that.

Cortisol levels were also measured, which is more of a measurement of how your body is trying to sooth itself basically.  More cortisol would maybe mean that you have experienced a lot of stress and your body is trying to recuperate.  This study found that higher levels of cortisol actually related to higher fertility, which is totally confusing.  So short term, acute stress is bad, but long term stress seems to be good?  Mixed messages much?

In life in general, I don’t buy that stress is entirely bad.  Stress makes us do extraordinary things.  Perhaps I wouldn’t have worked as hard as I could on that project if I didn’t fear about turning in a bad version, maybe I would never have received that fellowship if I hadn’t “stressed” to get the application turned in on time, and we stressed to make the money/time commitments work to see our families when it otherwise wouldn’t have been possible.   Stress makes fathers provide for their families (how many young dads stress about finding jobs once they have children?) and it helps mothers feed their babies when they’re crying (which produces stress).

What I thought was interesting about the article is the difference between involuntary vs. voluntary stress.  Voluntary stress to me is more related to your situation:  having a stressful job, being in grad-school, being in financial/martial stress, etc.  Those are stresses that aren’t guaranteed to be constant forever and have the potential to change (although you made very well need to stay in those situations for the time being – this says nothing to the immediacy that they can be remedied) and are related to cortisol levels.  Involuntary stress is how your body naturally responds to stress, more along the lines of how we have designated “Type A” and “Type B” people.  There are people (like my husband) that it just takes forever to get them stressed out.  Then there’s me, where it seems like I have an automatic response button or as my dad puts it a “sense of urgency”.

This is why I think the part about the alpha-amylase enzyme via acute stress was what I was referring to yesterday.  It’s really interesting because your “fight or flight” mechanism really seems to be something that’s hard to control, its just automatic (hence, fight or flight). I know whenever I get in a conflict or tense situation (for example, when I am asked a Catholic theology question by my evangelical family member at a family gathering), or even right when I’m about to do any public speaking, my heart starts beating so fast, I get hot, and I feel like I’m either going to choke or throw-up.  I literally have to practice what I’m going to say until I have it memorized because my brain will cease to function from nervousness!  I have absolutely no control over that and its been with me my whole life.  Of course its debilitating in other ways (its really hard for me to give an improvised talk because of this) but I’ve learned what I need to do and considering I still have to give talks on a regular basis, I know I have improved.  But it will still never be ‘easy’ for me.

Seeing that that could be linked to not getting pregnant, well what’s a girl to do?  Beat myself up more?  These situations will always happen in my life, even if I limit them.  I know breathing exercises and centering my thoughts and focus through prayer has helped calm it down, but that heart beating thing in a sudden situation just happens anyway.  I’ve learned the best I can do when it happens is to just keep breathing and speak calmly.  It seems like you could limit a stressful lifestyle, but could you erase that immediate response mechanism?  This is what I mean by I am who I am.  It seems to me that some people are geared like that and others aren’t.  I look at my husband and he doesn’t even know what I’m describing when I tell him what happens to me!

But he has lived with me for 2 years and known me for the 2 years prior and has seen my natural responses and I guess knows me well enough to realize that this really isn’t something that I can just ‘turn off’.  And I love him for expressing to me that even if we never have kids because of it, he still loves me for it.

Anyways, I’m certain I can’t be the only sub/infertile blogger that has these issues…

The day I felt the most loved

Before I tell this story, I’d just like to clarify that there are days I have felt unloved by my husband.  I am sure there have been many more days where he’s felt unloved by me.  There are days where I think, how could we ever handle a child if we argue like this without one?  No wonder God doesn’t bless us. Then there are days that are just OK.  Sub/infertility is hard on marriage.  As my husband says, its an opportunity everyday to be better than you ever thought you could be and some days you don’t meet that challenge.  Our life is by no means perfect.  But then there are days where I feel so, so loved.  This was one of them.

 

One of the harder things for me about accepting our sub-fertility has been the idea that I did or am doing something wrong, something that has caused this.  This will sound conceited, there’s no way for it not to, but I’m usually good at things.  I learn things fairly easily.  I’ve gotten good grades.  I’m usually not scared to ask questions, although I do struggle with self-confidence, particularly since starting graduate school (when I’ve learned how much I actually don’t know!).  I’m athletic and have also been involved in sports.  I’m tall, so I usually feel physically capable, even around men.  Even when I’m not good at something  (like track in high school for example – I was awful even at my small school) I have the discipline or stubbornness or whatever you call it to stick to it and at least see some improvement that I can be proud of on a personal level.  I read books on how to run faster and jump higher in high school and had a tutor for my college math courses.  Working hard has usually equated to success in my life.

Having a child is not so much “work harder and it will happen.”  In fact, many people think that it is the exact opposite.

It was common for people to remark that Mexico would be the ‘relaxing break’ we needed to conceive.  As we passed the 1 year mark right as we moved there in the fall, I naturally had a hard time swallowing this advice.  Pure length of time trying seems to point to more complicated issues that would at least involve time due to decreased probability, if not for treatment. But naturally, bringing this fact up confirms that you are indeed, stressed out.  And in spite of research showing that does stress affects conception, but only in the short term (as opposed to long term), everyone seems to have a few stories about that ‘one person they know’ who had perfectly timed adoption and conception (even my priest in the confessional told me this!) that throws all that research out the window, right?  Couldn’t they have still just needed more chances to try to get pregnant? But its all still too coincidental to believe it myself.

I would have conversations with my husband about this.  It couldn’t be just stress that was keeping us from conceiving, could it?  There were many months were I didn’t ‘dwell’ and where I just picked up and went on with my life.  We even went on some cool, relaxing trips!   Even when I did have months of unusual stress, my charts reflected no change hinting that my fertility was compromised.  Same old, same old.   But that idea haunted me.  He knew it and would ask me, what if we do get pregnant soon and all those same people say, See I told you.  Just stress for you! What would you say then?  I voiced that it would bug me that they thought that, that ultimately we’d never know for sure, but I wouldn’t care because I would be pregnant!

Still, I’d counter him that what if maybe I was too strung out and if he thought that’s why we weren’t getting pregnant.  Did he think it was my fault?  He, the person who knows me best, would know.  Maybe it sounds crazy that he could tell me something like that, but I trust him too much to not listen if he did tell me.  And he’s good at telling me something that I need to hear how I can hear it, without sugar coating it or being unnecessarily mean.  I am direct like that and that’s how I appreciate being treated in return.  And I trusted the people who told me those things too much to just get pissed off at their comments without first considering them.

While I’ve never been a planner or an organizer, I’ve always been more of a type A personality in that I try something until its beat and I don’t usually give up on something.  If someone says something that doesn’t make sense or confuses me, I’ll think about it and take the time to look it up until I come up with a conclusion for myself.  I’m my harshest critic.  What if this aspect about me, that same thing that makes me me, was hurting my fertility?

I thought maybe there is something that I can’t see for myself here.

It was one day during these conversations that I have never felt so loved by my husband.  We were talking about stress and fertility and how what constitutes ‘relaxing’ for the purpose of increasing fertility and do you know what my husband said?  I paraphrase:

“The reason those ‘just relax’ comments directed at you bother me, is because I take it as people saying that you need to just stop being you.  ‘Just stop being you and you’ll get pregnant’ is what I hear.  Sure all those times that your drive pushed you to do things you might have given up on, it was great, but the implication that you need to change yourself or that you’re not good enough is frustrating.  It seems to me that because this is who you are and you’re valuable to the world because of that, even if you can’t be a biological mother, you have something to offer.  If those things are connected, we’ll never conclusively know, but maybe you were given the strengths you were given to do something else.”

I understand that the people who made those comments to me love me, see me hurting at my lack of motherhood, and were trying to offer suggestions to help me get what I desire and am longing for.  When you see someone hurting, you want to help fix it.

I’ve realized in our short marriage that marriage is a choice everyday.  Every day (month? year?) you learn something new about your spouse and you have the choice to keep choosing marriage with them.  With this new found sub-fertility on our plate, I wondered if it would be the easiest choice to keep choosing me, especially if other people were already concluding that I’m doing this to myself.  These qualities that he used to like about me, that made me ‘me’, maybe they’re not worth it if it means you’re simultaneously self-sabotaging your chances to have biological children.

Looking down the barrel at a future with no biological offspring and again choosing me and my traits?  It doesn’t affirm me, it affirms us.  The magnitude of that conscious decision makes me speechless.  I can’t express enough how much my husband’s words meant to me.  That in spite of everything, he truly loves, accepts, and chooses this person, still, taking these traits with the good and the bad.

Nothing has helped me relax more than knowing this.

An exchange of hope

I saw this picture today and thought, wow, I have a good looking husband did I really go to India?

Traveling is not something I take for granted and is something that I hoped and hoped for for so long.   I get giddy like a schoolgirl as soon as I plan a trip and quite literally bounce off the walls.  I always wanted to travel when I was younger and I’ve always been drawn to the idea of distant places, probably because my dad would bring back strange mementos from all over the world but pictures were few and far between. So I was left to dream.

Exactly 5 years ago I did my first (and only) international service trip.  I was thinking about applying to the Peace Corps after I graduated college and knew I needed to have more experience doing similar activities if I was going to commit to two years of it.  We were to go down to a tiny village in Nicaragua with a group called Engineers without Borders and install a solar panel at their school to produce electricity.  We’d also be performing a health survey and testing the household wells for contamination in order to plan the next trip.

I wasn’t Catholic at the time.  And it wasn’t remotely even on the radar. So imagine my surprise when I was looking back through pictures and found this one:

I’m the one chilling on top of the ladder installing wires in the church, right up next to a giant crucifix and a giant mural of Jesus.  A little foreshadowing, perhaps?  We were supposed to install the solar panel onto the school, but when we got down to the community, the residents told us they wanted it to serve their church instead.  This being a secular trip, I remember we all talked about it and eventually justified the change in plans because the church really served as their community center so we wouldn’t really be promoting their church.

I’m not lying when I said I developed a love of children on this trip.  My younger brother is only a few years younger and we never really lived around younger cousins, and although I’ve done my fair share of babysitting for neighborhood kids growing up, my experience with little kids was limited.  You know those people who just attract kids?

My friend reading "Huevos verdes con jamon"

Yeah, that wasn’t ever me.  That was always the other girl.

Kids didn’t scare me, I just didn’t know how to act around them.  But boy, these kids broke me down!

Helping me put together the solar panel

 

And I particularly love this one!

By the end of the trip they were flocking to me!

And then there were these most adorable little twins with strawberry blonde hair.  I was so shy around them but by the end I snatched one up because he was too adorable not to have a picture with.

I’d just met the hubs a few weeks prior to leaving on that trip and when I think back to that time, the feeling I get in my stomach is synonymous to the feeling I remember having when I first met him.  It wasn’t quite love at first sight, but after our first couple conversations I had the distinct feeling that this man would change my life.

One of the last days on the trip we had a couple hours free in town and I wanted to send him an email to let him know I was thinking about him.  I asked our translator how to say “I miss you”.  Well, somewhere along the way I messed it all up and I proudly signed the letter “Te extracto mucho” which, all Spanish speakers already know, is definitely not how you say I miss you.  Its been our little inside joke ever since.

Anyway, that feeling that I get in my stomach, those butterflies of a new love, a new approach to life, and the feeling that you can go out there and change the world, all wrap up as one for me.  I’ve decided its the feeling of hope.  Before we got to the village, we thought we were going to change the world.  And we’d do it starting with this one community.   A few tests later and we realized how contaminated their well water was.  Bacteria and nitrates, it was no mystery why the rates of disease were so high.  We sat around contemplating what would be our next project.  A health center, a better school, clean water.  They needed it all.  How could we change the world if we couldn’t fix the problems in one village?

But we had to start somewhere.  We could give them a bit of electricity.  And the next time, a clean water source.  Although the basic civil infrastructure was what was lacking, engineered solutions could only skim the surface of what was really a political and sociological problem.  We worried if what we offered would have longevity.  Electric generators were common in the town and they powered tiny TVs and radios.  They could have easily used our solar panel for the same after we left.  Would our water system made out of PVC last or would they get tired of walking all the water to the town center to get clean water and just go back to using their contaminated well water?

Towards the end of the trip, it really hit us that all we had to offer was the idea that there was someone out there who was willing to help.  A hope of something that was greater than themselves.  Of course we could help provide limited tangible assistance as well, but we were unconvinced that that was the most valuable thing we offered.  Its frustrating, seeing a situation that you can’t change even if you really, really want to.

Of course the big surprise was that they offered us hope as well and planted the idea that we worried about all the wrong things.  How could they seem so happy, didn’t they know they had nothing?  Where were our children, our families? the younger women wanted to know, as they were our age and already had little packs of children running around their ankles.  A party they threw for us actually turned out to be a lengthy, fiery sermon about Jesus.  Too bad it was lost on us as only a few of us understood Spanish.  But the music and dancing later was universally understood as a celebration.

Soon after I returned from that trip I decided to go to grad school and study drinking water treatment.  With more education maybe I could help people on a larger scale.  Soon after that trip I also started attending Mass, which led to the start of my faith journey.  And soon after that trip I followed that butterfly feeling and started dating my now-husband.

My life really did change directions from that exchange of hope.

I wonder how anyone’s life in that village changed.