Who does Mary like more, infertiles or mothers?

I wrote this first part when I was pregnant…and never got around to publishing it.  Finished it up with some more thoughts.

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The title is joke.  Sort of.  I was asked a question two weeks ago that stopped me dead in my tracks.  Mostly because it seemed like such a simple question but I hadn’t even considered it.  Which naturally, made me feel like a bad Catholic.  I was talking with a family member (on my husband’s side) about faith and getting through tough situations and how just like our fertility issues, “there would always be some difficulty to get past in life and if you have faith, you’ll see how it was always meant to be and for the best” (which always makes me grit my teeth a little because of course there is some truth to that but it’s not total truth and fertility issues are really unique, especially primary infertility, some situations will only make sense in Heaven and since you can only have a conversation like this after you know someone can get pregnant, right? WHEW.).  It was then that the question came

“When I was pregnant, I just felt so close to Mary.  Because, you know, she was pregnant with Jesus just like I was pregnant and having that commonalty was just so special.  Have you felt that this pregnancy?”

Short answer:  No.  Not at all.

Bad Catholic?

I’m still trying to figure that one out.  Maybe part of it is my Protestant background, maybe some of it is my relationship with my own mother, but I think a bigger part is that Mary and I had to come to an understanding when I was in the depths of it, and that experience is still pretty fresh.  I can’t remember if I’ve written this story here, but I’ll retell it anyway.

I will first say that my husband, like most Catholics, does have a special place in his heart for Mary.  He would encourage me to ask her to pray for us and appreciates the beauty of the statues of Mary and usually stops to say a prayer at whatever church we’re at.  I always struggled with this because almost every image of Mary has her holding a baby Jesus.  Depicted as the ultimate Mother, she was something I could only dream of and on the superficial level, it seemed we had nothing in common.  Why would she want to listen to me let alone ask the Creator of the Universe to answer my prayers?

It was after mass one time when the tears had been flowing and it had been a rough couple of weeks that my husband motioned that we should just go lay it all out to our Mother Mary and really ask for her prayers and comfort.  We were heading over to the corner of the church to pray, with the candles and kneelers, literally walking directly towards it down the aisle and were like 5 feet away from the kneelers when out of nowhere this pregnant girl literally cut us off and knelt down, taking up all the space.  I think I immediately had tears streaming down my cheeks.  It might seem melodramatic, but that really was how the situation happened.  It was as if my worst fears about Mary having no need to hear my pleas was confirmed true.  Of course, this pregnant woman’s requests were much more to her liking, I was just this penitential child upset by what I didn’t have and there was all the physical proof I needed.  Mary just said “let it be done to me”, she didn’t know and had no reason to know what it was like to beg for the gift of being a mother.  Getting a miracle pregnancy vs. trying really hard and it not happening aren’t exactly the same situation.  I left church almost hysterical and my poor husband didn’t have any clue what was going on until I could gather the emotions to tell him how that was the pinnacle act of what I had always feared in my heart which means my fears must be true.

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I don’t remember when it happened exactly, but probably somewhere in there due to my husband’s chiding of course (I don’t come to these things on my own usually) I knew I had to stop being mad at Mary for something that was clearly in my own head.  The Mother of God couldn’t, wouldn’t, DIDN’T love me less because of that pregnant girl I saw.  I don’t know why it took  me so long, but I had (finally) had a vision of Mary at the Passion.   I had even played this role in a Passion play several years before this, but I guess I just forget things quickly.  I realized that the image we see of Mary, possibly more often than her holding baby Jesus, is of her holding Jesus after the crucifixion:

Mary holding her son, her dead son.  Knowing grief is central to Mary.  I don’t know how I missed it before.   A very wise friend of mine told me once after her miscarriage that she realized she couldn’t protect her child from the one final thing in this world, death.  Infertility itself is like watching your child die every month …(miscarriage being that in reality)…Mary understands infertiles very, very well.  She knows the pain of being helpless and of grieving a child taken for reasons beyond your control.  I guess this is how I made peace with Mary.  And I realize that sounds absurd, “making peace with Mary”, but our experiences have a profound way of shaping us.

So its not a ‘competition’ as I have oft to make things.  Or an ‘either or’.  Mother Mary is there for us in different phases of our lives, we just have to ask for her help.

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Sarah’s Hope – An infertility retreat opportunity!

Who needs a retreat?

Who wants to go to Texas?

This is what Texas looks like in April!

I wanted to share this opportunity with anyone who’s interested in attending a weekend day retreat for those struggling to conceive or dealing with pregnancy loss.  This is seriously an answer to many prayers, so I hope someone finds this information useful or can send it to someone who would be interested!  Sent to me by a friend in Austin, Texas!

We are excited to announce the date of our first retreat for couples struggling to conceive or with pregnancy loss! You and your spouse are invited to join us on Saturday, April 28, 2012 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Schoenstatt Shrine in west Austin (225 Addie Roy Road, Austin, TX) at the Sarah’s Hope & Abraham’s Promise Retreat!

The retreat will feature discussion on topics related to Catholic fertility issues as well as the opportunity for reconciliation and a Healing Mass with Fr. Charlie Garza from Santa Cruz Parish in Buda. We are delighted and humbled that our Prayer Team will be praying for us throughout the day at Eucharistic Adoration. Let us know if you know of anyone who’s not officially on our Prayer Team who might want to take part in a holy hour for us on April 28th to pray for our intentions!

The day promises to be a beautiful one that will renew us on our journeys to parenthood, so please go ahead and e-mail us at SarahsHopeAustin@gmail.com or call (512) 736-7334 to register for the retreat. We’d like to get a headcount so we can plan accordingly. There is a $30 suggested donation to attend, and lunch will be provided.

If either you or your spouse are unable to attend, we’d still love to have either one of you, so please join us if either can make it.

Let us know if you have any questions! It is our sincere hope that you will prayerfully consider attending.

In Christ,
Cari, Erin and Jen

Please contact me or the email/phone numbers above for more information.

Here’s also more information about the monthly support group.

SarahsHopeFlyer

If you do end up going, it would be nice to hear how the weekend went so that we can incorporate some things into our group out here in California.  Thank you!

Heavy Heart

Yesterday I learned that my surgery buddy’s baby is in heaven now.

Please pray for this new mother. The grief must be enormous.

I have no more words.

:(

The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Fall prayer buddy reveal

After some unexplained hesitancy…or just distraction, I joined this sessions prayer buddies at the very last minute.  And I’m so glad I did.  I had the pleasure of “meeting” someone new and being able to pray for Holly at Falling Upwards.  I had never read her blog before and honestly, initially felt unprepared to pray for someone who had such different prayer requests than me.  But I prayed and continued to pray at daily mass for Holly, her beautiful family, and their intentions.  As I went through so many changes myself these past 6 weeks, my prayers evolved also.  I was glad to have been matched with a woman who challenged myself and really made me stress the importance of putting and praying for someone else before yourself.  I really needed that.

Holly, I hope you have felt the power of these prayers in your life and that your intentions are being resolved!

Additionally, I learned that Perfect Power in Weakness was my prayer buddy this time around and she was as sweet as can be.  I was totally surprised too!  And what did I come home to last night but a beautiful card and the first gift I have for my baby from someone else: a sweet book that will help me record memories for my child.  I want to let you know I have tried to read it twice and had to stop because the tears were blocking my vision AND that my husband loves my “reading the baby book face.”  I’ll have to pull it together to finally write something!  Thank you again, C!

 

Finally, a special thank you to J at Still Standing for tracking me down and making sure I was signed up!  This would have been a horrible session to miss.  Please join me in prayer that J gets the insurance issues resolved to help pay for her surgery this coming month as well.  Her situation is breaking my heart right now.

I pushed play, He pushed fast forward

I had planned on writing about how my first days of school work went this week (its going well, in case you’re interested) or maybe publishing one of the half posts that I had started this summer and never finished, but then something else happened.

Starting with the number 18.

Peak + 18.

I’ve gotten to 17 before, a few times.  But then reality always comes back, in the form of blood.

Crushing.

Saturday I started to have hope, maybe it was possible.  I knew as soon as I thought about it I’d get my period, because that’s what happens.  But I went there, because I needed that hope.  It had been so long since I even felt a little hope of pregnancy, especially these last few weeks.  The disappointment would be worth those few  moments of hope.

But I had never reached day 18 before.

This is what 18 looks like.

I still can’t believe it.  I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop.  For someone to jump out from behind the wall and yell “Gotcha!” but then this.  I didn’t know these things came in positives.  One day I was preparing for the worst, scheduling my start date around my period, and the next I’m pregnant.  How can things change so quickly and yet still so slowly?  It would have been two years next month.  Two years of beautiful cycles and still nothing.

I’ve been waking up at night suddenly and then I stop, smile, and go back to sleep.  I remind myself, I am still pregnant and I enjoy the moment.  This is not a dream.  Lately, I couldn’t even dream dreams this good.

I’m pregnant.

Those words still don’t feel right together but there they are.  I get my blood test tomorrow.  It is early and if there is anything that sub/infertility has taught me its that a baby is the goal and pregnancy is only step 1, so please pray with me that we get to hold this little one on earth.

Praise be to God.

*If you know me in real life, I still appreciate your prayers but lets keep this between us only!  We will wait to tell the rest of the world in time. 

Letting it all sink in

Its been two weeks since my lap in Omaha.  I’m still not sure how I feel.

Physically, I’m almost back to ‘normal’.  My scars are still a little swollen and crusty and if I do too much bending over, reaching, or wearing a belt (my first time yesterday), it lets me know it.  The bloating is gone and so is any semblance I had to a woman with child.   I’m very grateful I went to Omaha and was able to cross off some structural issues from the list of why we’re not getting pregnant, but at the same time I look at what we’re left with and scratch my head when I think about what direction we go.

Emotionally, I’m wrestling trying to figure out where I am.  Because we didn’t get bad news, necessarily, I feel like my innate reaction should be one of happiness or relief.  I hate that I’m back to my ‘normal’ feelings of bitterness and anger.

Rosaries we both held during my surgery, from Dr. H

We had a lot of time to talk in the car ride out here after the surgery.  Regarding our fertility, we talked about how long do we ‘actively try’ using treatment, about adoption, and about my job situation.  But one thing I really wanted to talk about was who I’m becoming.

Of all the undesirable outcomes of sub-fertility, the thing I hate probably the most is who its turning me into. Which seems silly to say, since this is my life.  Its like saying “I hate how my life is affecting my life”.  No one wants to be that person who faces adversity, crumples down, cries and gives up.  The American dream is to overcome bad times, strong face forward and rise above the challenge!  But what I’ve realized that even if you’re trying to do that, even in facing the hard facts, you’re forever changed.

I’ve read about formerly “infertile” women who after they get pregnant write about still having this same feeling of resentment and anger towards the world.  And while it used to bug the heck out of me, I guess maybe I finally understand where they’re coming from.  After years of practicing anger and resentment, that doesn’t just go away.  It literally affects how you see the world and it molds you into a different person.

And what I hate more than the fact that I have no child in my arms is that I feel myself changing into an angry and bitter person.  Because I’m moving further and further away from my goal of serving God.   So much lately my first reaction to something is just, anger.  I have not found a good way to stop it.  The only reason I hate that more is that I know if I were to ever become a mother, I’d carry those same qualities with me.  I don’t want to be that person, Lord.

And then I think about how silly it is to think that I, of all the people in the world, can be given this cross and handle it gracefully.

“There are three things that are never satisfied,
four that never say, ‘Enough!’:
the grave, the barren womb,
land, which is never satisfied with water,
and fire, which never says, ‘Enough!’

Proverbs 30:16.

I cannot change the fact that this is where you want me, Lord.  But, oh Lord please, protect me from changing into this bitter woman who only sees the negativity in life.  I know there is so much good in this world.  Help me to see it and be a part of it.

Made it through

So much for not getting too personal on this blog.  Just wanted to update that I made it through the surgery and got back home safely this afternoon.  To my knowledge they lasered off some endo, which must be a good sign because they wouldn’t have done it there was too much, right?  We also  got a sneak peak at my thyroid panel the other day and it looked a little funky, so I’m looking forward to putting all the puzzle pieces tomorrow and trying to figure this out.

Dr.  Hilgers told us the other day that they once did a survey of the occupations of their clients and engineers were the most frequent occupation.  I’ve long thought that engineers were attracted to NFP for the charting, but it makes sense that we engineers like to “figure it all out”…and that includes through NaPro!

Anyway, thanks for all your prayers.

Felices Pascuas!

Easter has finally come!  And what I learned this Lent?  Easter always eventually comes.  He is risen!  And it is a great day, the greatest day of all.  After all, we have the greatest reason for hope!

And the end of another liturgical season means the reveal of prayer buddies!  This lenten season I almost didn´t participate do to all I had going on and I didn´t want to skimp on my prayer buddy.  But I am so,  so glad I did as I got paired with a girl whose blog I´ve been reading for quite some time now.  She was one of the original blogs I started reading several years ago!

I´ve been praying for you, Catholic Mutt!

It was a very physical Lenten season of sacrifice for me and I had a lot of things to offer up, but in praying for you I especially focused on the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.  There is a special shrine in the Basillica of Guadalupe in Mexico City to St. Faustina and I´ve been reading her book for the last I don´t know how many months now, so it seemed like a good choice.  The simple prayer ¨Jesus, I trust in you¨ is so meaningful for your many intentions and I offered it on your behalf as well as the Chaplet.  I will continue to pray the novena since Divine Mercy Sunday is next week!  I hope you felt the prayers this season, you have peace and meaning  in your life,  and you have a BLESSED Easter with your family!

Happy Easter to everyone else too.  I hope you enjoy the feast!

No such thing as the real world

In these days of anxiety, deadlines, and pressure, I can’t help but look forward to my ‘real life’ starting.

Except I have no idea what that entails. And then I wonder if when real life is here, will I just look forward to something else?
(Despite your opinions on his interview skills/life decisions, his music is still catchy)
Are there some of us that are just never satisfied?  I don’t want to be in that group.  It doesn’t seem like really living.
I get excited about new things all the time.  But its a challenge for  me to focus on the here and now.  Especially this now.  But I’d hate to get to my real life and wonder why I squandered my fake life. We have THE great news, the same promise of salvation and eternal life always!  And the same strong support at all times.  I shouldn’t get so wrapped up in these temporary moments to lose sight of the big picture.
So I try to take a moment and see friends, put aside my pressures and care for the people I love things I believe in, even when I feel in over my head.   Like seeing family and helping with NFP teacher training and meeting Rebecca and The Man :)  Things like that remind me of why we work hard in the first place.
But I still have to get through the now by doing this work.  Now.
Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Lord, just help me tackle this batch of trouble right now.

Lenten Purging

The priest of our university chapel this past Sunday mentioned that Lent is like taking our car to the car wash.  There’s a layer of grime and dirt covering the car (especially now, during pollen season!) and when the car emerges it is bright and shiny and you remark Wow!  Is that the real color of my car?! Like our soul, emerging from Lent.

This has not been my lenten experience.

My husband asked if I had any thoughts after Mass and we talked about the homily and readings, as we usually do, and all I could think was that I rarely say Oh, how pretty and shiny when remarking on myself or my soul but rather Wow, how ugly and gross.  Perhaps this is because we are only 1 week in.  Maybe I’ll be singing a different tune at the end of Lent?  But I think the Father left out a huge detail of how painful the Lenten car wash is.  It is not so much a quick jaunt through some sudsy water so much as a deep, scalding scrub with an old pummus stone.  Ouch.

The things I struggle most with (or at least the most obvious things)  are addictive things, refreshing my email, checking Facebook, little mindless clicking games to fill the time, and yes, checking my blog reader.  I recognize the frequency that I do these things as just being there to fill the time and not intentional.  So part of my agreement with myself has been to only intentionally do these things, unlike last year when I gave them up completely.  I guess this practically amounts to only doing them on the weekend, my designated “free time”.  Like last year, I reserve the right to write my thoughts on my here, and unlike last year, I’ll probably take advantage of that.

(Well, except for Facebook, which I am once again convinced is the closest thing to innately evil that I can believe in and so am giving up for the whole 46 days.  Especially after watching The Social Network, I’m convinced I’ve unwittingly bought into Mark Zuckerberg’s plan to take over the world! Drat.)

Anyway, to say this has been difficult is an understatement.  I sit in an office/lab all day with little human interaction, my thesis does not talk back (or write itself), and my roommates are out of the country.  So I get lonely.  Just taking these things away leaves a cranky Alison, frustrated because I can’t click but I don’t know what else to do.

So I’m taking a page out of last year’s book and whenever I get really frustrated, or get that click-y urge, I’m going here:  Universalis. And I will pray the most relevant prayer.

And I’m offering it up for my Prayer Buddy  (amongst other things).

I guess this car was dirtier than I thought.