Monday, December 30, 2013


Nearly every cycle this past year, I had ultrasounds which showed beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was not ovulating. Though getting this news every month was disappointing, the certainty of the bad news offered protection. The past year, I never had to face the 2WW. I didn't even take more than a couple pregnancy tests all year (compared to probably 30+ tests the year before).

The past 12 months I've been busy building a wall around my heart. I know things won't work out and so I don't have to feel the let-down when things do indeed "not work out." This month there were no ultrasounds- only half-assed charting. My charting showed I was not ovulating and yet without that proof from an ultrasound that I've grown so used to having, I let myself hope. Hope that we may just be pregnant.

Conversation with girlfriends this weekend only got my hopes up further. "Everything can go wrong in a cycle and you can still get pregnant. It's all up to God in the end," was the take-away from the conversation.

I had been feeling unusually tired the past couple weeks. I was super-close to CD 28 and I wasn't noticing the usual pre-AF cramping... could it be? Was God trying to tell me something through my friend?

I let myself fall into this all-to familiar monologue of gathering evidence for pregnancy. And then... the spotting began.

I have never been so upset by AF before. For the first time in along time, I allowed myself to grieve the child that might have been. I cried. And cried. And thanks be to God, my husband held me. All I could think of was Rachel crying out "Give me children or I shall die." I didn't understand where all the pain was coming from. It just felt like I could be swallowed up by it at any moment.

And then I finally opened an email a friend sent me the other week:

"They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength." -Isaiah 40:31, RSV-CE

How do we wait for something we need so badly, something we know for certain is God's will, and something that we just can't live another day without? We must wait patiently and confidently, not complaining. To do otherwise would be to insult God by displaying a lack of faith in His ability to deliver. We renew our strength by "waiting" for the Lord (Is 40:31, RSV-CE).

The Hebrew word translated as "wait" or "hope" in Isaiah 40:31 can mean to twist together, as cords of a rope are intertwined. In our waiting, then, we wrap ourselves around the Lord and He wraps Himself around us. When discouraging forces pull at us, we are not pulled apart. Instead, like strands of a rope, we and the Lord are pulled more tightly together and grow in strength. We never "come to the end of our rope" because the Lord has roped us tightly into His presence.

"Hence do not grow despondent or abandon the struggle" (Heb 12:3). Stay focused on Jesus (Heb 12:2) and confident in Him. Don't even move an inch out of your position of hope. 

And I have to believe that even if it means pain and grief and monthly loss- God wants me to hope right now. And ultimately if my hope for a child remains unfulfilled- it will not have been in vain. At the end of this road, I hope you will find me firmly intertwined with Our Lord- wailing and grieving maybe- but wrapped in His arms standing firm in hope.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Magic Blanket

I have lots and lots of trouble sleeping. If you've read my other posts you may have noticed. I have always relied on B.enadryl to fall asleep and a few months ago- after years of me asking doctors if it could cause problems with fertility- a nurse at PPVI told me it could interfere with fertile CM. So...I've been trying to eliminate that and have been relying on L.unesta the past couple of months. L.unesta is not meant to be used long term but I'm trying to fight one battle at a time. And I can't really fight if I'm not sleeping so... stopping the L.unesta will have to wait. I've tried all the natural sleeping remedies, some help, some don't, some make the restlessness worse but I have finally found a miracle solution! The 'Magic Blanket.'

The 'Magic Blanket' is a weighted blanket- filled with a bean like material. Mine weighs 12 pounds but they recommend different weights depending on your own height and weight. According to their website- and this is common knowledge among Occupational Therapists- weighted blankets can cause the brain to release more serotonin and dopamine. "These neurotransmitters have calming effects which have proven to be beneficial for people experiencing sensory integration disorder, anxiety, stress, Asperger's Syndrome, ADHD, and Rett Syndrome.  It's important to note that The Magic Blanket is not a substitute for care from an occupational therapist or mental health professional."

I am telling you this blanket works wonders! I have never slept so deeply. I've never felt so refreshed during the day. For the first time that I can remember, my brain doesn't feel foggy and my bones don't feel tired and achey. I am in heaven!  I definitely recommend this for anyone with sleep issues, anxiety, etc. 

I saw an Occupational Therapist about a year and a half ago for an assessment. I've always had an extremely limited diet. I've subsisted mostly on various forms of bread and cheese for the majority of my life. Eventually, my husband's knowledgeable aunt, suggested we see an OT for an assessment and possible treatment. I was diagnosed with 'Sensory Defensiveness-' a form of Sensory Processing Disorder. I highly recommend taking a few minutes to read about it, as 1 in 20 people have some form SPD. There are many little changes those SPD can make that can drastically improve quality of life. It's especially important that children with SPD get a diagnosis, as SPD can cause distress in nearly every area of life, leading to low self-esteem and depression.  SPD makes the anti-inflammatory diet especially challenging for me so I've temporarily given up on that. But maybe with this newfound energy from actually sleeping, I'll be able to focus on the diet:-). 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Misha's Story

As my posts suggest, I've been struggling in my relationship with Jesus lately. I've felt so distant, so numb. I've wrote a bit about letting God love us this past month, and for whatever reason in the past week, more details about a very important moment in my life came back to me. I've written about the moment God made it clear to me adoption was part of his plan for us. The story I heard on the radio that day was about a little boy in an orphanage- that was the main point, the biggest thing God was trying to communicate to me at that point (I thought). And so, as months and years have passed since that day, I lost track of what the story was actually about. But with all this talk I've been doing about letting God love us, it occurred to me that that story I heard so long ago, the one that had impacted me so much, had a little something to do with letting Jesus love us. I didn't remember the specifics, but I contacted the amazing people at Relevant Radio (with my vague description of the story) and they promptly sent me 'Misha's Story.' The little orphan who God used to help me see my own call to adoption, had yet another lesson to teach me...
In 1994, two Americans answered an invitation from the Russian Department of Education to teach Biblical morals and ethics in their public schools. They were invited to teach at prisons, businesses, fire and police departments, and then a large orphanage housing about a hundred boys and girls—and here’s that story:
“It was nearing the holiday season and time for the orphans to hear, for the first time, the traditional story of Christmas. We told them about Mary and Joseph arriving in Bethlehem, finding no room in the inn and going to a stable where the baby Jesus was born and placed in a manger.
“The children and orphanage staff listened in amazement. We gave the children three small pieces of cardboard to make a crude manger, and each child was given a small paper square, cut from yellow napkins that I had brought with me. No colored paper was available in the city.
“Following instructions, the children tore the paper and carefully laid strips in the manger for straw. Small squares of flannel, cut from a worn-out nightgown an American lady was throwing away as she left Russia, were used for the baby’s blanket. A doll-like baby was cut from tan felt that we had brought from the United States.
“I walked around to see if they needed any help, and I came to Misha. He looked about 6 years old, and in the little boy’s manger was not one, but two babies. I called the translator to ask him why there were two. Crossing his little arms in front of him, Misha repeated the story he had heard very seriously, and very accurately, until he came to the part where Mary put the baby Jesus in the manger—and then Misha started to ad-lib.
“He made up his own ending, and he said, ‘And as Maria laid the baby in the manger, Jesus looked at me and asked me if I had a place to stay. I told him I have no mamma and no papa, so I don’t have a place to stay. Then Jesus told me I could stay with him, but I told him I couldn’t because I didn’t have a gift to give him like everybody else did. But I wanted to stay with Jesus very much, so I thought about what I had that maybe I could use for a gift. I thought maybe, if I kept him warm, that would be a good gift.
“‘So I asked Jesus - if I keep you warm, will that be a good enough gift? And Jesus told me, ‘If you keep me warm, that will be the best gift anybody ever gave me.’ ‘So I got into the manger, and then Jesus looked at me and he told me that I could stay with him – always.’
“As little Misha finished his story, his eyes brimmed full of tears that splashed down his little cheeks. Putting his hand over his face, his head dropped to the table and his shoulders shook as he sobbed and sobbed. The little orphan had found someone who would never abandon or abuse him, someone who would stay with him – for always.

From Glen's Story Corner, Relevant Radio

Saturday, November 30, 2013

"Everything happens for a reason": not helpful and not true

Disclaimer- I'm looking forward to sharing my thoughts and experiences with you regarding this topic, but first I want to share this amazing post from another blog. I found it while researching for my own post on the topic. It is a MUST READ. This is not written by a Catholic but based on my understanding of the faith there is nothing here that contradicts the teaching of the Church. If I'm wrong please do let me know. 

That's NOT in the Bible! "Everything happens for a reason" (Romans 8:28, Genesis 50:20)

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.
Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good.

This series is called “That’s NOT in the Bible,” and each week, we’ve looked at a phrase or saying that might sound like it comes from the Bible, gets quoted like it’s from the Bible, and some people might actually think does come from the Bible that’s not actually in there. However, it really is true that if you torture the Bible long enough, you can get it to say just about anything!
Trey Warren asked me earlier this week which myth we were going to bust today. And you know, Myth Busters might have been a more accurate title for this series, but we’re into it now and it’s already been published. Besides, the name “Myth Busters” belongs to some other group, and I don’t have the budget for pyrotechnics they do.
Most of these sayings are little morsels of worldly wisdom, passing themselves off as Godly wisdom. Many of them are sorta true, to a point, in the right light, in the right context, but as we’ve seen, they just don’t quite cut it, because God offers us so much more. My hope is that through this series, we’ll all get plenty of food for thought and see how God works far beyond and far more than just what the world offers. Take out your sermon notes as we look at and beyond today’s phrase, “Everything happens for a reason.” May we pray.

Thursday night is date night in our home. This week, it happened to coincide with Charlotte Restaurant Week, making an exciting list of possibilities for us. We decided well in advance that we would go to the Melting Pot in Huntersville, and Ashley would make the reservations. However, as happens to so many of us, my beloved wife got distracted by the cares of the world, and forgot. And so, we did not go to the Melting Pot for dinner on Thursday night.
However, on Thursday afternoon, two friends of ours called. They had tickets for that night’s performance of Madama Butterfly, but he had gotten ill and they wouldn’t be able to use the tickets. Did we want them? We said sure, and enjoyed our date night at the opera instead of the Melting Pot and just between us, I got off cheap this week!

Now, you could easily say, “God must have intended for you to go to the opera instead of the Melting Pot.” Depending on what you think about an evening at the opera, you could even say that was our punishment for forgetting to make the reservations! Still, think about the implications of what that’s really saying.
For one thing, God must have screwed with Ashley’s memory so she would forget to call and make the reservation. Then, God must have caused our friend to get ill and start vomiting. Apparently, God cared so much about making sure that we got to the opera that night that God made our friend get sick, just so we could go. And so, if everything happens for a reason, that’s great for us, but from our friend’s perspective, God is sortof a jerk, and honestly, Ashley would prefer to have her memory instead of stumbling into this good fortune!
Further, saying “everything happens for a reason” is the wrong moral of the story - it places God in the story in the wrong spot. The real story here is not about how everything works out, it’s that we have some amazingly kind and generous friends who were thinking of others even when their day wasn’t going so great. They said, “OK, clearly our day is not going to go as planned. We are not going to get to enjoy the fun thing we have planned. But, these seats shouldn’t go to waste. Even though we can’t enjoy them, someone else still can.”

So no - the evening didn’t go exactly as planned, either for us or for our friends. Even so, God is not found in the orchestrating of events that cause Ashley to be forgetful and someone to get sick all for the purpose of sending us to the opera. Rather, God is found in bonds of friendship and an act of generosity, and in redeeming good out the jaws of brokenness.
When you think about it, redeeming good out of the jaws of brokenness is something God’s been doing all along. We worship a God who brings resurrection from crucifixion, who defeats death with new life, who overcomes sin with eternal life. It is not that God wills calamity or death or destruction - no, in fact, God desires just the opposite. And yet, even though God is not the author of these evils, God is at work in those hard places for good purposes.

That’s what happens in the story of Joseph. Joseph, not the father of Jesus, but the Old Testament character whose story is told over the last 15 chapters of the book of Genesis. It’s a great story - go home and read it this afternoon! In a nutshell, Joseph is the favored of 12 sons of Jacob, who spoils him and causes the other brothers to resent him. The other brothers sell him as a slave to some passing merchants, who in turn sell him to the captain of the guard in Egypt. Through an interesting turn of events that include an encounter with a married woman with a raging libido - a cougar, perhaps, time in prison, and some dream interpretation, Joseph ends up in charge of the affairs of the nation of Egypt - sort of how we might understand a governor in our day. Because of what he saw in the king’s dream, predicting seven years of bumper crops followed by seven years of famine, Joseph devises a plan to store away the excess grain in the good years so it will last through the lean years. He ends up providing an invaluable service not only to the people of Egypt but to neighboring countries as well, ensuring that everyone has the food they need.
Hearing there is food in Egypt, Joseph’s brothers travel there, and that’s where they have an ironic family reunion, realizing that the brother they hated so much they sold him into slavery is now the one who will literally decide where their next meal will come from. However, Joseph’s disposition toward his brothers is summed up in the verse we read earlier from the 50th chapter of Genesis: “Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good” (Genesis 50:20a).

We live in a world where bad things happen, but we are certain God didn’t do them because of who we know God to be. In a variety of ways, the Scriptures tell us over and over again that God is Love. In fact. if you remember nothing else today, just go home with the knowledge that God is Love. That’s the starting point - the reality that God is Love is the trump card in our understanding of God. Love is the framework from which God operates. It would make no sense for God to visit calamity upon God’s children “for a reason” because God is love. If something isn’t rooted in love, then we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it didn’t come from God. God is Love. Period. God is ALWAYS Love. Period.

Yes, we live in a world where bad stuff happens. In the enduring words of Forrest Gump, “It happens.” And when it does, God’s heart breaks for the evil this world - and we who live in it - are capable of committing. Just because something bad is taking place doesn’t mean that it’s happening for a reason, and it especially doesn’t mean that God did it. No, like a good and loving parent, God is weeping right along with us, grieving as we are grieving, hurt by the very things that cause pain to us. Look around - and you don’t have to look far - to places where people are hurting, and you’ll discover that God is also hurting in those places. God is not a masochist, deriving pleasure from inflicting pain on God’s self, nor is God a sadist, getting a kick out of the pain of others. God is Love, and God’s will is ever-directed to his children’s good.
Honestly, I don’t know why we say things like “Everything happens for a reason.” Perhaps it numbs us to the pain that is present in the lives of so many. Perhaps it helps us find meaning in the midst of difficulty. Perhaps it gives us the illusion that we understand and are in control of things our feeble human minds will never understand. But - and here’s the dangerous part - it too easily allows us our minds to make God the author of suffering and the perpetrator of evil.

The phrase “everything happens for a reason” leads us to a place of mistaken identity about who God is. As we blame God for things God hasn’t done, we may get mad at God or turn away from God, when we need to be saying, “God, I am in a real mess, and I need you more now than ever, and I need you to take this difficulty and redeem it for good. I give it to you, and if there’s anything good to come out of this, please find it.” Saying “everything happens for a reason” keeps us from this honest, raw, and healing place with God.
Looking back, Joseph realized that the horrible, painful, and inexplicable things he experienced, not least of which was being sold into slavery by his own brothers, were not done by God. That’s not the role God plays in the story. Rather, God says, “Given these circumstances, what you’ve had to endure, the things that have been done to you, the atrocities you faced that were so far outside my will, outside my desire for you - in light all of these things, what would be best for you?” Even as our circumstances may change moment-by-moment, God’s will is always for whatever is best for us. Do you see how different that is than simply saying “Everything happens for a reason”? One view makes God a monster. The other is rooted in the reality that God is Love, an all-powerful healer whose will is ever-directed toward our good.

I close with some thoughts on this subject from Dr. Ben Witherington, the Amos Professor of New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, KY. He wrote the following earlier this week, just two weeks after his 32-year-old daughter die, completely unexpectedly, of a pulmonary embolism. He writes:
>> I was determined from Day One to be open to whatever positive thing there might be to glean from this. I cling by my fingernails to the promise of Romans 8:28 that “God works all things together for good for those who love him….”
The first point that was immediately confirmed in my heart was theological: God did not do this to my baby. God is not the author of evil. God does not terminate sweet children’s lives with pulmonary embolisms. Pulmonary embolisms are a result of human fallenness and the bent nature of this world.
One of the primary reasons I am not a Calvinist and do not believe in such predestinings from the hand of God is (1) because I find it impossible to believe that I am more merciful or compassionate than God. Also, (2) the Biblical portrait of God is that God is pure light and holy love; in him there is no darkness, nothing other than light and love. (3) The words “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away,” from the lips of Job, are not good theology. They’re bad theology. According to Job 1, it was not God, but the Devil who took away Job’s children, health and wealth. God allowed it to happen, but when Job said these words, as the rest of the story shows, he was not yet enlightened about the true nature of where his calamity came from and what God’s will actually was for his life — which was for good, and not for harm.
So, for me, the beginning of good grief starts with the premise of a good God. Otherwise, all bets are off. If God is almighty and malevolent, then there is no solace to be found in God. If God is the author of sin, evil, suffering, the fall, and death, then the Bible makes no sense when it tells us that (1) God tempts no one, that (2) God’s will is that none should perish but have everlasting life, and that (3) death is the very enemy of God and humankind that Jesus, who is life, came to abolish and destroy.
“He came that we might have life and have abundantly.” If there are promises I cling to, as I weep for my sweet Christy, it is this promise, not the sorry solace and cold comfort of “God did this but we do not know why.” No. A thousand times, no! God and his will are always and only for what is good, and true, and beautiful, and loving, and holy.
As I stared at my baby in the casket — who did not even resemble herself at that juncture — I was so thankful that the God of the resurrection had a better plan for her than that cold comfort that “It’s all God’s will.” I believe in a God whose Yes to life is louder than death’s No — not because God likes to hold [contradictions] like life and death together in some sort of mysterious unity, but because God is in the trenches with us, fighting the very same evils we fight in this world, like disease, decay, death, suffering, sorrow and sin.
They don’t call him the Great Physician for nothing. He too took the Hippocratic Oath: “Do no harm.” >>
What does all this mean? Listen carefully. If something happens that causes harm, or distress, or disease, or decay, or death, if something happens that leads someone into a future that has no hope, if something happens that is not fundamentally rooted in love, then it is not from God. Period. End of story.

Yet even though God didn’t do it, God can still work in it, and use it, and if there is any good to be found, God will find it. No matter how bleak the situation, God can and will work to bring good out of it. God is not inflicting pain on God’s children, God is not tempting us, God is not testing us. Even in the worst we might go through, no matter how much we hurt, God is there with us, loving us with the calm assurance that in life, in death, in life beyond death, we are not alone. God is with us!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Toddlers, parents, love and God

Disclaimer: this post may seem redundant on the heels of my last post about grief and Christmas stockings. I think my posts end up a little redundant because as God is guiding me toward a particular understanding, I experience it in new ways each day. I see the truth in new ways and new places and it's comforting to me to have a record of the journey. <3

A photo of my 18 month old niece has captured my attention and intrigue. In this photo, she has tears in her eyes and you can tell you she has just been sobbing, but has the cutest most joyful grin, and her face and eyes are all scrunched up- just screaming squeeze me! The photo brings up so many emotions in me. It brings up feelings of love and longing to be able to spend more time with my dear niece who lives far away and I rarely see. It brings up joy that she has so much spunk and personality. It brings feelings of peace and awe at the beauty of her relationship with her mom (my sister) who is such a loving and responsive parent. It captures a moment in time where my niece had just experienced powerful unpleasant emotions- sadness or frustration, perhaps. It tells a story for me: toddler was upset and mom stayed connected and attuned. Eventually, toddler was able to calm down using her mom's loving presence as a way to calm her body and quiet her mind. Because her mom stayed with her in her pain and didn't punish her or try to talk her out of it, or distract her from it- they were able to have the beautiful experience of smiling at one and other after having an emotionally taxing episode for both of them. 

This experience of connecting after a stressful moment/trial in a relationship is key to the health of our marriages, friendships, relationships with children and with God. 

I imagine God to be like the securely attached parent. They stay with their child when the child is overwhelmed by emotion. Sometimes they may offer a hug, a comfort object, or soothing words. The parent will likely be rejected by the upset toddler multiple times. The healthy parent doesn't see this as a rejection of themselves but sees it as a reflection of their child's profound pain and lack of skill in coping with powerful emotions (which is of course developmentally appropriate). The parent simply stays there with the crying child. The child can turn to the parent when they are ready, but the child knows the parent is always there- waiting. The child knows they don't need to earn the parent's love. They know that when they feel scared or overwhelmed by their big feelings their parent will be there with unconditional love. 

God is here for us through our big, scary, overwhelming feelings. He doesn't reject or shame us because we are angry, sad or lonely. Like a good parent, he has expectations and limits for us- pointing us toward more ordered lives, calling us not to act on every emotion and teaching us how to use both reason and emotion to live an ordered life.  He might offer us consolation- through his word, through the sacraments, through the thoughtful action of a friend or stranger. And like the crying toddler we may reject these offers- these expressions of love. In our own state of being flooded by unpleasant emotions, we can reject these most beautiful gifts. But He stays. And He continues to offer the gifts. 

As grownups, we have the capacity and responsibility to choose. Will we let Jesus love us? Or will we push away the gift? Letting others love us and embracing the healthy ebb and flow of all our relationships is key to peace and happiness. Chiara Corbella embodied this so beautifully. Her husband said this about his wife's approach to life after her passing, 

“how beautiful it is to let oneself be loved by God, because if you feel loved you can do anything,” and this is “the most important thing in life: to let yourself be loved in order to love and die happy.”

To let ourselves be loved by God, we have to allow him to stay with us in the ugly times, when we don't feel like connecting, when we feel incapable of connecting. Just invite him there. Tell him you trust him. He doesn't require you to feel loving all of the time. He doesn't even require you to feel trusting. Trust and love are decisions of the will. Even when a parent doesn't feel very loving toward their tantrumming toddler they make a decision to love that child in that moment.  Jesus is just asking you to let him stay. Let him stay with you in your pain and you can experience the beautiful joy of connection, consolation and peace after stress and uncertainty. Just like the mommy and her toddler, He smiles when he sees you smile. He gives you his peace. Tell him you choose him. You choose to suffer with him. Tell him not to leave you. He will stay.

Right now, I'm experiencing many big, scary, emotions- grief, loss, sadness, despair, fear. I think having the clarity around the adoption process has just brought on these difficult emotions. My unconscious mind (and the Holy Spirit) know, I need to process and feel these things before adopting. And so at just the right time, these emotions have come flooding out of me and I'm trying to turn toward Jesus: to place myself in his presence while I cry on the bathroom floor, to use His calm and soothing presence to relax my own body, to take a moment to breathe deeply and imagine his arm around me, to listen to His voice, "be still. I am with you." Even though, I've turned away from his gifts before, He is there, waiting and ready with a big smile when I've finally cried the last tear (of the hour/day/minute:-). I will let myself be loved and in doing so I will love better.


“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow. " -Melody Beattie

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The stockings are stored in the basement with care

Twas the month before Christmas, when all through the house not a creature was stirring not even a mouse. The stockings are stored in the basement with care, in hopes that small children will need them next year. No children to nestle all snug in their beds. While visions of loneliness filled them with dread...

Our first Christmas as husband and wife, we'd been married only 4 months and we didn't plan on starting our family for another 8 months.  I was focused on making our house a home and I was so excited to decorate for the holidays. I remember with great clarity shopping in P.ottery B.arn by myself. I found the perfect stockings. I picked up two- one for me and one for the husband. Almost immediately, it occurred to me that they may not have these exact stockings next year and if I wanted our kids to have matching stockings, I'd better get them now. I was mindful of the fact that the husband may not appreciate me spending hundreds of dollars on stockings for our hypothetical family so I thought, "I'll just grab four extra."

This will be our 4th Christmas since that day. I also remember thinking, "I hope I'm not jinxing anything by buying these." Of course I don't believe I "jinxed" anything. I've heard from many women that the fear of not being able to have children is something we all think about at one time or another, so maybe this thought was normal or maybe it was my intuition.

This year I decided I wanted our Christmas tree to have a whole new look. Instead of doing all neutral ornaments with pops of red, which coordinated with our red stockings, I am using brightly colored vintage ornaments. This change in ornaments provided the perfect excuse (in my mind) to buy new stockings since there will no longer be much red in our tree. I hung the new stockings today and the husband (predictably) exclaimed, "why did you buy new stockings? What was wrong with our old stockings?"

I didn't have the heart to tell him that I just can't bare to hang the red stockings, that they- without fail- remind me of the four perfectly packaged, unopened stockings meant for the children we may never have.

I regret that this is such a depressing post. I don't want to depress anyone. I cried today and tried to explain to my husband that for some reason the weight of our childlessness is weighing much heavier on me these past few days. I told him I'm finding myself having overwhelming feelings of sadness when I see pregnant women (something very new for me), and feeling particularly sensitive to other's facebook posts about pregnancy. He responded by telling me to "look on the bright side." I know he was doing his best to be supportive but his response was anything but helpful. I explained to him that this isn't about a lack of optimism. This isn't about jealousy. I don't look at other people and wish I had their lives. This is about grief. When I see pregnant women or newborns, it's just like being reminded of a loved one that's passed away. I feel an oppressive sense of sorrow, like I want to reach out and hold my loved one- my sweet child- but they're not there. For now, I learn to live with the emptiness- empty stockings, an empty womb but not an empty heart- an aching heart to be sure- but Jesus is residing in my heart amidst this sorrow. He knows I don't need to be cheered up. I need to grieve and so He is letting me feel this brokeness, but He is there. In the brokeness, He is there.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

It's the little things

This was in my inbox today:

"Dear --- and ---,
------ Services has approved your preliminary application for the Domestic Infant adoption program. ---- agrees that children need loving Christian homes, and thank you for your interest in adoption. Your $50 preliminary application fee has been paid and your name has been added to the waiting list for the Domestic Infant Program. We will notify you, once you are invited to proceed with the next step in the application process."
I know we have a long road ahead of us and I am just marveling in the miracle of this first step. I've been waiting 2 years for this day. My heart is so at peace. We are one stepper closer to holding our precious child in our arms.  

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Understanding the past means a better future

"The way we are treated as small children is the way we will treat ourselves for the rest of our lives." -Alice Miller, For Your Own Good

As a psychotherapist, I see so many people suffer so much even if they are free of significantly negative circumstances or major environmental stressors. Too often the reason for this perpetual suffering is the way they were treated as children. Most people understand that a child who experiences ongoing trauma is going to become an adult who suffers from a great deal of mental and emotional hardship- until they are able to find psychological and spiritual healing, but the majority of people overlook the lasting effects seemingly benign forms of negative parenting can have on an individual. If a parent was physically present but emotionally absent, if a parent implies that a child's worth comes from their achievements or looks (or any quality for that matter), if a parent shows no interest in a how a child is feeling or what they think or mocks a child's expression of emotion, if blind obedience is demanded... these are just a few of the things that can impair a human being's sense of worth and dignity.

Naming this reality doesn't often win me many friends. I am accused of trying to tell other people how to parent when I couldn't possibly imagine what it's actually like to be a parent. Traditional Catholics cry that obedience is required of children, "the Bible says so!" Many who subscribe to popular parenting advice lament that focusing on a child's achievements will result in more achievements (which they reason could only be positive). It's true, I am not yet a parent. I do not claim to fully grasp the realities of parenting. For the purpose of this post, I would like to briefly respond to 2 of these common responses. 1) The obedience issue- for brevity's sake I'd simply like to reference this quote: "Discipline is about making disciples. Disciples choose to follow out of love and trust, not coercion and fear. Parental discipline must also be based in a relationship with so much love and trust that our children choose to learn from us, not from fear of punishment, but because our example is worth following." 2) The achievement issue- Focusing on your child's achievements to the exclusion of their efforts, their feelings, and their thoughts will likely get you an adult that believes their achievements/possessions/looks are what make them a worthwhile person. These people often chase after success unconsciously believing it is the key to feeling loved.

There are no perfect parents. Most - if not all- parents are doing the best they can with what they have. None of us have had perfect childhoods. Of course, our parent's failings are not an excuse for our own failings. As adults we are ultimately responsible for our actions. However, I want to challenge you to take the time to understand your past. Acknowledge the childhood needs that were not met. Admit your parents weren't perfect. If you've suffered abuse please find a good therapist (just like doctors, there are many bad therapists). Consider how the way you were parented might be affecting your sense of self today. Consider how the way you were parented might be shaping or distorting your ideas about God.

I have spent many years in psychotherapy. As a therapist, I have a responsibility to be proactive about my mental health to be able to provide the best possible service to my clients. A therapist who has not worked through their own issues (and everyone has issues) is rendering themselves ineffective. The childhood needs that weren't met in my life were subtle (ie I didn't suffer terrible abuse) but these unmet needs did impact the way I saw myself and impair my ability to form healthy relationships with others. Through therapy and spiritual direction, prayer and the sacraments, I continue to develop a more accurate sense of who I am. Too often Christians suffering from depression or anxiety are told to pray more or otherwise made to feel that their suffering is the result of some spiritual failing. The Catholic Church teaches that we all have intrinsic worth and dignity. Some of us had parents that conveyed this to us- explicitly or implicitly- some of us didn't, and I think it's safe to say none of us had parents that did this perfectly. Turning to Jesus is the most important part of the puzzle but don't deny yourself the human help he wants you to receive.

Find a Catholic Therapist
Holistic Women's Mental Healthcare
Christian Counseling/Parenting Resource
A Catholic Guide to Depression
Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints

Monday, November 18, 2013

Miracles do happen

No I'm not pregnant but I am absolutely elated! After 27 months of infertility and 23 months since I asked my husband to consider adoption, he has finally agreed to submit our prelimiary application!   Nearly 13 months ago, I was recovering from my 2nd surgery to treat endometriosis (my 1st surgery with PPVI). The news we received was nothing short of devastating. Despite having had surgery only 8 months before, I had Stage IV endo along with PCOS and endometritis. Of course the doctors were telling us that with treatment they were hopeful we would be able to conceive, and my husband seemed convinced this would be the case.

All I could think about during this recovery was our child's birth mother. I felt an indescribable spiritual pull to pray for this woman that I didn't know- to pray for a situation no one else really believed was plausible. I had a few very holy friends who seemed to understand the depth of what I was experiencing, but many seemed to dismiss me with comments like, "it hasn't been that long. You don't need to think about adoption," or "maybe God just wants you to say yes to adoption and then he'll allow you to conceive." Ughhh. These comments hurt so deeply. So few people could understand. But this all made perfect sense to me. Many months earlier, I first received clarity about our call to adoption and now, in the midst of such bad news about my health, God was calling me, not to pray for healing or conception, but to pray for a woman I didn't know. This was the kind of thing that my spiritual director said has to be from the Holy Spirit. My simple and selfish mind could not be the origin of such a thought. I yearn to experience the beauty of pregnancy. I want to see my husband's face when I show him a positive pregnancy test. I want to know what it feels like to see your child for the first time on an ultrasound monitor. I want to delight in seeing my husband's traits in our children. I long for biological parenthood- this is true. But... I have an indescribable pull toward adoption- one that has been constant and unrelenting throughout 27 months of medical treatment.

I had been following the advice of many wise people in my life- to avoid "nagging" my husband about adoption- to trust that if God put adoption on my heart, He would work on my husband's heart as well. I've struggled these past 2 years to keep my mouth shut about it. We've had about 5 conversations about it. I admit, I was always the one to bring it up, but I tried to be discerning about it. Last night, I felt prompted to mention it gently, and my husband said we could submit our application! I talked to the agency today and they have a 2-6 month waiting list before we can even submit the official application and begin the home study process. This will be a long road but I am so excited about the possibilities that lay before us. "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." And we've finally taken that step. Pray for us!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


Myth: "It must be God's will."

Fact: This is right up there with "Everything happens for a reason." It's a trite cliche that does more harm than good. God did not create infertility and doesn't punish people with it. God
 does not desire infertility or any kind of suffering for us. Infertility is solely the result of one or more things going wrong with the human reproductive system. Infertility is such a spiritual battle anyway, please don't imply that fighting infertility is going against God's will. God desires healing and fullness of life for his children.

Physical pain relieved, spiritual pain increases

Surgery left me with more pain than I was expecting and I ended up on a high dose of narcotics for a month or so. Stopping the pain pills was a challenge of its own. Thanks be to God, I never developed a psychological addiction to the medication but I did develop a physical dependence on it. When I stopped taking it- despite my efforts to gradually reduce the dose- I developed withdrawal symptoms. I barley slept for 7-10 days, I had a racing heart, restless legs- essentially I felt like I was on the verge of a panic attack for over a week. I did some research on the neurochemistry of narcotic withdrawals and it seems the symptoms are caused by an excess of norepinephrine, which plays a key role in the body's fight or flight response. This would explain my panicky feelings. The week spent getting through the withdrawal was hell. As a mental health professional, I like to think I have empathy for those struggling with addiction, but this experience undoubtedly gave me a new perspective. I realized I am very guilty of taking the struggles of those dealing with addiction for granted. I've been quick to blame addiction on a moral failing or a lack of will power. Though addiction is a complex problem, the physical component is very real and very powerful. The severity of withdrawal symptoms is related to the length of time the substance was used, and the time I was on narcotics was relatively short. I cannot imagine dealing with more intense symptoms than what I experienced. I found myself thinking, "I completely understand why people take their own lives." It was that bad. And I know it is a million times worse for so many others. I wanted to crawl out of my skin. I wanted the terrible feeling of my heart and mind racing to stop and there was little to nothing I could do about it. My doctor did agree to prescribe Clonidine- a medication commonly used to curb the anxiety caused by opioid withdrawal- but lucky me, the medication only increased my symptoms. I am finally feeling better and very grateful for it, but I'm struggling with feeling as though I've come unglued. Throughout the struggles of the past month, I've neglected my prayer life. I feel guilty and overwhelmed by the degree to which I've failed. I know God brought me through this struggle but I don't understand why God is allowing me to feel so spiritually discouraged right now...

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Some bumps in the road to healing

Since my surgery last month, I have been having lots of trouble sleeping. For the first few days post-op I was waking up, literally 15 times a night because it felt like I needed to empty my bladder, but I never really had to. I've dealt with this before and part of the issue is the endo on my bladder. I think the other issue is the large ovarian cyst I have crowding things down there and causing something to press on my bladder. So I called the doctor and she prescribed Ditropan- for overactive bladder. It cured the constant urge to pee, but I was still wide awake at night. I call again. Now they prescribe Visteral- a prescription antihistamine commonly used to treat anxiety and help promote sleep. I had literally 0 response to the medicine. I call again (the doctor's cell phone this time because it's a Saturday- I'm very blessed to have such an accessible doctor!). He tells me to double the Visteral dose. Again, my body doesn't respond. Wide awake. Thinking. Staring. Planning my escape from the padded room they will likely lock me in soon, if I continue down this path a day longer... so finally, I give in to my own rules about xanax and I take the darned .25mg the doctor prescribed me awhile back for acute anxiety. I know it helps me sleep, but I hate taking it because it has the potential to be habit forming. So for the past few nights, after clearing the plan with my doctor, I've been taking 100mg of Visteral along with 0.25-0.50 mg of Xanax.

Then I notice a creepy red, itchy rash right under my bra line on the side of my torso. I don't think much of it and put hydrocortisone on it to help the itching. When it seems to be getting worse the next day, I decide I better go see the doctor. I'm scheduled to have major surgery in 7 days, and I assume a rash all over my abdomen would be problematic. On the way to the doctor, I worked myself into a frenzy that I had scabies- creepy little bugs that burrow under your skin. To my great relief- the rash was not a bug infestation, but it was Shingles. It seems very odd considering this is common in the elderly. What's with my body?

The doctor said it was likely triggered by stress. Anyone that has had chickenpox can develop shingles. It has something to do with the old viral cells staying in your body. She thought the insomnia episode was likely what sent my immune system over the edge. She gave me Lunesta to take for sleep instead of the Xanax. The Lunesta worked yesterday and now today it is not working which is I am typing the monotous details of this ordeal at 12:30 am.

Have any of you had shingles? Any tips? Praise God, I have no pain! Only itching and discomfort.

Dr. P says this should not interfere with my surgery next week, since I started anti-viral meds yesterday. I am worried that my healing from surgery may be compromised because of my already overloaded immune system. Does anyone have any immune boosting tips? Tips on promoting optimal healing after surgery?

Or tips on sleep???? FYI I already take LDN, magnesium, valerian, tried benedryl, tried melatonin, tried 5-htp...

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

He'll find you in the hurricane

There's an awesome thunderstorm here tonight. During a similar storm this July, my husband suggested we sit outside and watch it roll in. I was pleasantly surprised by his spontaneity and thoughtful desire to spend time together. We sat around our patio table as we watched the dark clouds grow closer. As the storm progressed, we were both getting drenched, and my husband looked at me with his mischievous grin and said, "I thought it'd be more lightning and less rain." I oh so wittily replied, "are you referring to the storm or our marriage?"  We both had a good laugh. 

Marriage seems to be one momentous battle after another for us. We thought it'd be more exciting, more awe-inspiring, more passionate. Instead, it has often felt like getting pelted sideways by gusts of rain. Despite this, we are committed. We are determined. And thanks in large part to the living faith of so many women in this online community, I can see the beauty in the storm. And now, instead of drawing any more tired/cheesy parallels, I'll leave you with the song stuck in my head today. <3.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

"Our own"

"For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity but of power, love and self-discipline."
2 Timothy 1:7

Reflections from January 2013: I just sat next to a married couple in their 50s on my flight home from Florida.  The woman shared with me that her daughter-in-law (due with their first grandchild this month) worked for Planned. Parenthood. Eeek.  I struggled to hide my horror.  Based solely on the fact that she did not cut-off all conversation with me I believe my poker-face is improving. PP is the largest "provider" of abortions in the country and since their founding in 1921, when they went by the name the American Birth Control League, they have worked tirelessly to systematically eliminate those that they view as "unfit," that is unfit to live.  Their eugenic roots are well documented and even their current executives exalt the work of their founder Margaret. Sanger.  Sanger used the terms "human weeds,' 'reckless breeders,' 'spawning... human beings who never should have been born," in reference to the poor, to immigrants, to African Americans and to Catholics.  She wrote in the Birth Control Review that the purpose of promoting birth control was "to create a race of thoroughbreds" (1921) and to achieve the ends of "more children from the fit, less from the unfit" (1919). (Learn more here: Planned Parenthood and Eugenics.)

As our conversation progressed, she shared that her daughter - not to be confused with aforementioned daughter-in-law- had been trying to conceive for over a year and that she had recently seen a reproductive endocrinologist. Per this woman's report, her daughter has PCOS and IVF was presented as the only solution.  At this point, I felt the Holy Spirit prompting me to share a bit about my own situation. "My husband and I have been struggling with infertility as well," I told her. "I actually just had surgery to treat endometriosis and PCOS. I was visiting family in Florida to cap off 6 weeks of post-surgery healing."

Not surprisingly this woman responded with the predictable well-meaning, yet ignorant, "Why don't you just do IVF?" I gently stated that because we are Catholic, IVF is not an option for us. I try not to say "we don't believe in IVF" because I think that can come across as if we don't believe it ever works or we don't believe it's real or we don't believe in science. When I say it's not an option, I know I run the risk of sounding rule-obsessed, but my hope is to be clear. This isn't based on some magical/illogical/irrational "belief." Our decision not to pursue IVF is based on an accurate understanding of human dignity and worth. My entire life is grounded in my understanding of the inherent worth and dignity of every human life. A belief can be wrong.  Facts are facts. Fact: Human life begins at conception. Fact: IVF leads to the destruction and disregard of newly created human lives. IVF is not an option because it is an assault on my way of being in the world. It is an assault on truth and beauty and human dignity. Just doing IVF would amount to just compromising intrinsic moral truths written on every human heart.

I don't have many- if any- readers so I am not afraid to be candid. I understand that someone who disagrees with me is likely to come across this post and to feel offended. I don't condemn anyone who has pursued IVF. I desire everyone to know the fullness of the truth and to experience the radiant light of God's love. I have made decisions inconsistent with the truth in the past. I will undoubtedly make mistakes again in the future. I do not claim to be "better" than anyone. I desire to walk in the light of truth and sometimes this means calling a lie a lie-even if it means others feelings will be hurt. It is my experience that most couples who choose IVF simply do not know there is another way. They don't know the reality of what takes place and they don't have an accurate understanding of what constitutes a human life.

But I digress... As my conversation with this woman continued I tried to steer the conversation away from a debate about IVF to a talk about the beauty of adoption. I told this perfect stranger that I felt very called to adoption and that my husband and I would be blessed to be able to grow our family this way. I could barely get the words out before she hit me with this doozy,"you and your husband are obviously very intelligent people. It would be a shame for you to not have your own."

Seriously?! Was I hearing this? This woman who considered herself "tolerant" was telling me that because I seemed intelligent it was all the more important to have biological children?! Not to mention the implication that adopted children would not be "mine." Do I judge this woman? Her heart? Her standing with God? No. I am not claiming to know the state of her soul so please don't condemn me for "judging." What I do know, however, is that each human life is as valuable as the next. Every child is unique and unrepeatable. God has a beautiful and brilliant plan for every soul. As far as I'm concerned genetic traits like skin color, athletic ability, and intelligence are trivial. They may contribute to your experience in the world but they have nothing to do with your worth. That's what this Planned Parenthood supporting, IVF-loving lady was missing, my husband and I may be intelligent but this doesn't point to the importance of having "our own," rather, our intellect gives us the capacity to know truth- the truth that all children are beautiful. All children are wanted. No children will ever be "ours," but all children belong to God.

Maybe you're wondering what my Planned Parenthood rant in the beginning has to do with all of this. Maybe you're not. Do you see the connection between PP's eugenic agenda and this woman's comments? I don't know that I can capture the link succinctly so I'll let you draw your own conclusions. For now, I pray for all children without loving homes. I pray for the unborn and for all women and couples facing difficult pregnancies. I pray for all birthmothers. I pray for our future child's birthmother. I pray that our country will one day uphold the value of all human life. I pray that the child destined to be "ours" through the blessing of adoption will not be aborted because someone at PP thinks her mother is not "intelligent" enough to have the right to procreate. Our Lady of Guadeloupe, Pray for us!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

He will restore

Satan is attacking my marriage on all fronts. Even our Christian therapist seems to have succumb to the influence of the evil one.  He agreed 6 months ago to read a book that summarizes the Catholic understanding of human sexuality.  He still hasn't read it. I expressed my concern about his lack of follow through and lack of knowledge regarding the basics of my dearly held beliefs (an essential aspect of doing good pyschotherapy).  He said, "I don't have an in-depth understanding of Catholicism nor do I desire to." I gave him a chance to correct his blunder. "Help me understand what you meant by that," I said. And he responded, "I do not have an in-depth understanding of Catholicism nor do I desire to."
That is an absolutely absurd and unprofessional response from a mental health "professional".  He needed to acknowledge my concern and address it directly. His desire or lack thereof to do anything has no place in our therapy. He is supposed to be the professional and decent professionals make an effort to be culturally competent- meaning they educate themselves on their clients' beliefs and culture. No one is asking him to study the Cathechism. He just needs to know a couple basics that are essential to the issues we are working on in therapy. After 7 months of not feeling heard by this person I am paying big money to just listen to me, I have made the scary decision to terminate our couple's work with him and find a new therapist. This was a huge leap of faith because it took an act of God to get my husband to agree to therapy in the first place. "Starting over" with someone else is going to mean a lot more work for us. I'm trying to pray for the grace to forgive this therapist. I feel so angry and let down right now.

The devil wants me to focus on the problem- to continue to obsess about this person's unprofessionalism, wasted time and money, hurt, etc but this just detracts from my focus on my marriage and the Lord's desire to bring us healing.

 This is what's speaking to my heart today.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Through the darkness

Written February 2013 I prayed fervently on the drive to work this morning. I asked God to give me His strength. I told Him that I feel the aching reality of my humanity- of my limits. I am in the trenches and He seems to have withdrawn His consolation. The devil however, has reared his ugly head quite a bit lately.  

I received some particularly challenging news about my health this Tuesday.  I've been having quite a bit of pain along with other weird symptoms.  An ultrasound confirmed that I had 2 complex ovarian cysts and my ovary was enlarged to almost 3 times what it should be. I have a significant family history of ovarian cancer and the doctor was quick to inform me they would normally be quite concerned about cancer with something like this, but because I just had surgery it just can't be (apparently it doesn't grow that fast).  He did say that we need to repeat an ultrasound in 3 weeks and if things aren't looking better surgery will likely be necessary.  This would mean my 4th surgery within a year's time. I can honestly say that another surgery doesn't scare me all that much.  It would likely be a quick procedure and pale in comparison to the long long surgery I had in December.  What does scare me is that we will be in this state of limbo forever.  I had a knee-jerk reaction when he mentioned surgery. I told him to just "take everything" so we can be done with this and my husband will come to terms with the fact that we'll never have biological kids and we can finally move forward with adoption! 

Of course I didn't completely mean what I said.  If there is no medical reason necessitating the removal of "everything" then I would, of course, never pursue such a drastic procedure. The part I did mean was the part about adoption. I am so ready to adopt.  I feel like I have been ready to adopt my whole life.  Ever since I learned there were children without loving homes- and before I understood where babies came from- I reasoned that people shouldn't have anymore babies if there were babies without homes. I promise I was not a mini secular humanist, it was just my childlike mind trying to address the reality of suffering children. My husband is not opposed to adoption but is not ready to consider it at this time.  I have to respect where he is at.  I cannot pressure him to move forward with a life-changing decision he is not open to making.  God has put adoption on my heart and I have to trust that he will open my husband's heart to this miracle if it is His will for our family. It would however be "easier" if I could move the process along by "forcing" my husband to come to terms with our infertility- say through the dramatic loss of my reproductive system. There is just something so painful about ambiguity.  I grieve and then hope. Grieve and then hope. Grieve and hope. There never seems to be a moving forward- a moving beyond. 

And so this news from the doctor left me feeling pretty raw.  I was sad, discouraged and confused.  The rest of the day, for whatever reason, the raw hideousness and heart-wrenching evil of abortion was made clear to me multiple times throughout the day through various random and seemingly unrelated events.  It truly felt as though Satan was taunting me. The cruel irony of having my infertility weighing so heavy on me while also being bombarded by the cruel reality of "unwanted" babies being slaughtered.  I had already been feeling ill-equipped to serve the clients at my work since returning after my 6 week recovery.  I had been feeling brain-dead and incoherent.  Now I was feeling like God was allowing me to see in a profound way the dark reality of abortion.  He was allowing me to feel the weight of my cross, that of struggling with infertility and being surrounded by women who are pregnant with babies they don't want. 

I prayed fervently on the drive home from work today.  I told Him how tired I am.  I told Him how scared I am.  I told Him I just don't know if I can do it anymore.  

In many of the trials of life we are told by well-meaning people to focus on the light at the end of the tunnel.  Infertility doesn't seem to be a situation where that kind of advice is helpful.  There is no "getting through" this because there may never be an "end" to this trial.  We may never become pregnant.  We may never know that we will never become pregnant.  We may never adopt. We may never know that we will never adopt. There is no amount of work we can do that can bring this dream to fruition and there is little reason to expect the ambiguity we wade through at this time will be miraculously parted like the Red Sea.  I just don't know but perhaps that's what God is asking of me now. To sit in the uncertainty, like He did in the Garden of Gethsemane, praying, "Father, if it be your will, let this cup pass from me."  Even though Christ knew he was called to suffer for humanity, He experienced ambiguity in the garden. He had to sit in the uncertainty of God's will, while his closest friends simply fell asleep. I have to believe that this unknowing- this being stuck in the land of uncertainty is part of a call to union with Christ. There's something a little bit easier about knowing what pain is coming your way- it's the anxiety associated with the unknown that I find the most debilitating. If Christ was called to suffer this anxiety, than why not me?