Dear infertile Catholic, it’s ok to be different

Dear infertile Catholic, it’s ok to be different

The world promises you comfort, but you weren’t made for comfort. You were made for greatness.

-Pope Benedict XVI

Last week, a marketer on Twitter assumed I had daughters. Granted, it was a doll company, so it wasn’t the world’s most unreasonable assumption. Still, though, it felt rather uncomfortable.

I politely tweeted back that I won’t be blessed with daughters as I have permanent infertility, but I have always loved dolls.

Crickets.

The next day, they tweeted back “I have a sister who is adopted. And you can be a mother to people through…” Fill in the blank with the same spiritual motherhood things you hear all the time as an infertile.

Now, I don’t bear these people any ill will, but I’m bringing it up here to say why is it that when people hear “infertility”, the first thing that pops into their head is that I’m interested in adoption?

Sure, plenty of people with infertility decide to adopt… but the two do not go hand in hand. Still, there is a lot of pressure on infertile couples to “just adopt” (as if it’s that simple). Why?

Maybe it’s because people are Pollyannas, always looking for an up side. Or maybe it’s because our society likes to have quick fixes, and sweep any pain or suffering out of sight as quickly as possible.

Maybe it’s a deeply ingrained assumption that marriage must always include children, at any cost, no matter what, or it’s not real. At least not as real as those marriages with children.

The truth is that God has a plan for each of us. And each one is unique.

When Christ calls you out on the water, what can you do? It’s wet and it’s cold and it’s scary, and everyone else thinks you’re nuts and tries to convince you to stay in the boat. But once your eyes are caught by his penetrating gaze, how can you do anything but move towards him, no matter what it takes?

Giving up our adoption feels like that–like stepping out of the boat when everyone is telling you that you need to stay put. And though part of me wants to cling to that security, I know deep inside that I have to step out onto the water.


 

Have you ever had a moment when you knew God was asking you to make a choice that no one else was going to understand?

 

 

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A Light in the Darkness

A Light in the Darkness

This year, James and I hosted our first Thanksgiving. My parents and sister came to our house, and everything was wonderful. We have so much to be thankful for: each other, our continued “newlywed” status (almost 3 years in), our home, our parents and siblings, our trip to England this year, and my new job, which is a total gift from God. After 6 years I am finally doing what I want to do, AND it’s right across the street from a cathedral where I can go to daily Mass on my lunch break. Wow. What a blessed year!

You’ll notice I left out the adoption stuff on our gratitude list. Not long after started the process, something began stirring in my soul. That something, I am convinced, was God. What we were doing (domestic infant adoption) just didn’t feel right. At least not now. I can’t help but feel that there’s something else he wants us to do, at least for now. Maybe we’re supposed to be foster parents. Maybe we’re supposed to wait a few years before adopting. Maybe we’re supposed to adopt internationally. Or maybe we’re supposed to do something radically different, like become missionaries for a while.

I don’t know what it is we’re supposed to do, but I know it’s not domestic infant adoption. At least not now. Every day I’m praying more than I ever have, and going to Mass. So far, the overwhelming message is “Wait.” I have no idea what he wants from me, but I keep asking. And waiting.

And it’s frustrating. It’s frustrating not knowing what to do next. Part of me wishes God gave us this message before we paid money to an adoption agency. But I know he has his reasons. Maybe I just wasn’t open before. It’s also frustrating being the only one without a baby… but also knowing that I cannot adopt simply just to “fit in.”

Yesterday, as per tradition, we put up our Christmas tree. Instantly, my heart breathed an overwhelming sigh of relief. Finally, it’s time to start getting ready for Christmas. And everything is better at Christmas, because having that tree in the living room reminds me that Jesus is here. It reminds me that God loved us so much that he became one of us, and he lives, and he is with us, and he is here in this home. And everything is going to be alright because nothing, absolutely nothing, can separate us from the love of Jesus Christ.

Half Agony, Half Hope

Half Agony, Half Hope

August 2015 has been the most stressful month of my life to-date. That is a fact. On August 1, we started the adoption process (yay!). On August 6, I learned that I am being let go on October 6 (?!?!). I could go into lots of detail about both of these things, but suffice it to say that, in the words of my beloved Jane Austen, “I am half agony, half hope.” I’m trying so hard to focus on the hope. And so, I wrote this:

The Tightrope

They say the way is narrow and lined with rocks.

It’s narrow alright, and on either side, a terrifying chasm.

It’s a rickety bridge of ropes and broken boards,

And at the canyon’s bottom, sharp rocks and rushing water,

But my Lord is holding my hand.

He’s walking with me, carrying me,

And I am trying not to look down.

He asks me, gently, to fix my eyes on him

As he leads me across this tightrope

Above the never-ending abyss.

He whispers that I will not fall,

And commands his angels to guard below.

I do not know the way,

Or how long it will take,

Or how much more difficult the journey will be.

But I do know that I can close my eyes,

And worry not, because he is with me always.

My Lord will lead me home.

Wandering, Not Lost

Wandering, Not Lost

“Not all those who wander are lost”- J.R.R. Tolkien.

That’s become the catchphrase for my life in the last few years, and particularly since last Fall. I know God wants more out of me because he keeps asking for it. Read this, pray this, visit me now. It’s not really so much demanding as it is exciting, like a scavenger hunt. He’s asking for a leap of faith. Trust me. Leave the familiar, the known.

Humans are funny. Even when we’re not happy, even when we’re unfulfilled by where we are, we’re still afraid to leave what we know. We don’t know where life is taking us. We don’t have all the answers.  And yet we know that in order to be satisfied, we need to close our eyes and jump, trusting that he knows where he’s leading us.

This weekend, James and I took a big leap.

After 11 years of infertility and 2 years of the most wonderful marriage we ever could have imagined, on August 1, 2015, we officially began the adoption process.

Saturday afternoon, we sat together at the computer and submitted our application. I was so overwhelmed with happiness, I cried. Never in my life did I imagine that I would be so excited, so emotional, so incredibly HAPPY at this moment.

Monday morning, our agency told us that we are approved. We are now beginning our home study.

I know that there is a long road ahead, but I am so excited to be on it with my very best friend. ❤

Which Way to Adoption?

Which Way to Adoption?

Recently, our hearts have been moved toward becoming parents. We seem to have decided on a home study agency, but still need to find an out-of-state placement agency. Still, we haven’t done any paperwork. Why?

Money. Career. Where-the-heck-is-my-life-headed. You know, that stuff.

PA281186

You see, as much as I LOVE our life at home, I still haven’t found a satisfying occupation, let alone career. And we can’t yet afford for me to be a stay-at-home-mom (thanks, Maryland economy). I’m not sure if I’d rather find a great job or be able to quit, but I know that I do not want to have a baby when I’m working full-time at a stressful job that I don’t enjoy. That would be a nightmare that I would prefer to avoid.

So, what do I do? Let’s look at the options:

1. Start adoption paperwork now. Pray I find a new job. And if I don’t, hope that we can afford the unpaid maternity leave. And hope that we don’t enter the realm of nightmares (see above).

2. Wait 3 to 5 years more before starting the paperwork, by such time we would hopefully be able to live on my husband’s income alone, or that plus something part-time for me. Downside: waiting, even more. And who knows if 3 to 5 years is enough. The DC area is expensive. It could be more like 5-10! And what if we’re not supposed to wait anymore? What if the one that is meant for us is coming sooner than we think?

3. Find the new job ASAP, one that uses my talents and (hopefully) has resources for adoptive maternity leave. Start the adoption paperwork after I get settled in that. Maybe have to struggle a bit with the full-time work in the beginning, but hopefully transition to something part-time in two or three years. Downside to this is getting a new job and making sure I like it. And given my track record, finding a new job takes a long, long time.

And as much as number 3 sounds the most logical, and number 1 the most insane, I’ve often seen that things fall together in a pinch when God’s involved with something. What do you think? Am I letting fear hold me back? Or should I focus on finding a career (as unlikely as that could be)?

After promptings from a number of people we know, we started praying a novena to the Sacred Heart of Jesus through the intercession of St. Jude for my job situation. I know that something will come of this (it never fails), but I do not know what, yet. It is guaranteed to be answered on or before the 8th day, which is Sunday. I will publish a thank you after that date. June also happens to be the month dedicated to the Sacred Heart, so this is rather fitting.

sacred-heart-of-jesus

I know I’m asking the world in this post, but, basically, what is my vocation and how do I find it?

Trusting in Two Steps Back

Trusting in Two Steps Back

This week, we made the tough decision to put off our adoption plans until we pay off more of our debt. Based on our calculations, this means at least another year before we can fill out our first application.

On the one hand, I know it’s the right decision. With more money in our pockets, I’ll be in a good position to be a stay-at-home-mom, or at least a mom who gets to work from home part-time, or volunteer in a museum. I can concentrate on becoming a writer. And I’ll have another year to figure out if there is a career out there for me. That is all great stuff, and I can live with that.

On the other hand… times like these make me want to run outside and scream, “Why can’t we have babies just like every-f-ing-body else?!”

I hope the neighbors appreciate my restraint.

Another year.

How can you live in the moment when something you want seems so far away?

I’m no stranger to waiting. Our engagement was 2 years, and not by our choosing. At the end of it all, we were able to see how many wonderful blessings came in that time.

I hate that we are doing this again now.

I hope that the people in my life will understand that even though I’m trying my best to focus on finding work I enjoy, making my home beautiful, and getting healthier, I have a huge hole inside of me. And if I’m declining baby shower invites, skipping new baby visits, and crying in the pew when surprise baptisms happen at Sunday Mass, it’s not because I’m not “happy” for them.

It’s because this weight is too much to bear.

I know this year will be good. I know there will be wonderful things to come. I am grateful for a real chance to improve my life. I trust that God has a plan.

It doesn’t make this any less difficult.

Anything-Can-Happen October

A week ago (while we were on our Great Western Vacation), I got one amazing piece of news. I’ve been chosen as this month’s Adopt-A-Blogger by This Cross I Embrace, a wonderful blog that I’ve been following for years, and mentioned in this previous post. I am so incredibly grateful for this. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your prayers and support. If you’ve never heard of this beautiful prayer campaign, check this out:

Adopt-a-Blogger

I’ve been asked to write a few paragraphs about myself, and truth be told, I don’t know what to say. My infertility journey is a little unusual. At age 16, when I still hadn’t gotten my first period, my mom took me to a number of doctors until someone was finally able to figure out the issue. To everyone’s shock, we discovered that I was born with MRKH- a rare birth defect that affects 1 in 5000 women: I was born without a uterus, cervix, and, well- check this website out for more information, if you’re curious as to details. That kind of shock doesn’t just literally affect the course of your life- it also creates a huge identity crisis. Was I actually female? Was I still like every other girl? Why did God make me this way? What was the purpose of this? Why make me female and Catholic without any hope of becoming a mother?

That was 10 years ago. In that time, I’ve done a lot of grieving, and I’ve come a long way. I learned that having a uterus isn’t what makes someone a woman (even though in our English language, we refer to a girl’s first period as “becoming a woman”). I’ve learned that being a faithful Catholic does not mean that your marriage must produce 6+ children. I’ve learned that my life has meaning and value, and that God does have a purpose, even if I can’t see all of it at once.

I feel like Dorothy at the end of the Wizard of Oz. There’s nothing in that black bag of cures for me- yet if I’ve learned that if I really want happiness, I can find it in my own back yard.

James and I are looking forward to adoption, and hopefully we’ll be able to start the process in the Spring. In these past 10 years, I thought I had done my share of grieving, and it seemed that I had come to peace with my own loss. But, oddly enough, marriage has made me start grieving again. I’m grieving for my husband’s loss. I’m grieving for our loss as a couple. I (and we) need healing and help with this grief. If you are so kind as to participate in this wonderful program with TCIE, please consider praying for our emotional healing and for us to get through this new stage of grief, and for us to have courage and success with adoption, if it is God’s will for us.

Thank you, and God bless.

Finding Our Purpose

This morning on Pinterest, I was reminded of St. Catherine of Siena’s famous quote, “If you are who you were meant to be, you will set the world on fire.” Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my purpose, the purpose of marriage, and the purpose of our marriage in particular.

Building the Kingdom. That doesn’t only mean co-creating children, necessarily. It means living to the fullest in your state of life. Christianity without suffering isn’t Christianity, it’s Paganism. We can all be nice and get along. What makes Christianity different? It’s our willingness to bear wrongs patiently in the name of our God. Its taking up your cross daily, and striving to live according to the Gospel.

We want to adopt someday. We’ve visited several local agencies and are forming a plan of how to go about this. For some reason though, I don’t feel that now is the time to start this process. We’ve only been married for a year, we have some debts we’d like to pay, and some traveling we’d like to do. We’d like to be in a position where I could stay home with the baby at least two or three days a week.

I feel like God is calling us to something else right now. I just don’t know what it is. And yes, we still have major emotional breakdowns whenever someone we know announces a pregnancy, but that has more to do with grief and less to do with adoption. Does it makes sense to say we’re peaceful about our current childlessness, yet grieving our infertility?

And so we will keep praying, keep loving, keep being. We know that God has plans for us, and so far He has only led us to beautiful, beautiful things.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11

Spring!

Spring!

True to the season, we have so much to be happy about right now. There is so much to look forward to, and so many things to process.

 

Our first married Easter was beautiful. We are truly blessed. My parents joined us for Mass, followed by brunch at our house. It was really wonderful. My sister had gone to the Vigil the night before, so she hung out in my kitchen and cooked while were at church.

 

Later, James and I went to his side for dinner. We had a wonderful time visiting with everyone. After talking with his mom, aunts and cousins over the course of the weekend, there was one recurring idea that was mentioned.

“Why don’t you guys put in the application, get the home study, and leave the rest in God’s hands?”

Wow. Honestly it’s such a mind-blowing idea, though it might not sound like it to some. It’s a little different than just deciding to “try” like our fertile friends. If you get pregnant right away, you usually have 9 months to prepare for the baby. If you get chosen right away, with adoption, it can be WEEKS or, in rare cases, DAYS before a baby is in your hands. Of course, it can also take several years.

That, perhaps, is why many have said to put it all in God’s hands. Nothing will happen without a home study, of course, but after that, leave it, and trust.

I think I can do that. Trusting can be hard, but it is something we’re not strangers to. I know that with our family, if we were stuck and needed baby stuff in a pinch, they would help us. As for careers and child care, maybe God will lead me to something I can do part time or from home. My other worry has to do with all the traveling I want to do. Can we take the baby with us? Will we be good at that? I mean if Will and Kate can take George to Australia, surely James and I can take our baby to the great cities of Europe. Does that sound ridiculous? I mean people live with babies every day in every city of the world. It’s more expensive, but it has to be doable, right?

Maybe this is where trust comes in.

Just don’t open it.

Just don’t open it.

Those ancient Greeks were pretty insightful when you think about it. Pandora, the first woman, had a box full of crazy that was better left closed. I bet most of us can relate to that. I found mine a few weeks ago.

Christmas Eve was a tough one this year, emotionally. The week of Thanksgiving, I had a CT scan that showed I had a didelphic uterus, rather than uterine remnants. The difference here is huge. My original diagnosis from 10 years ago meant there was never, ever, any chance of pregnancy, ever. The message from the CT scan meant that there may in fact be a chance of something, someday, with minor surgery. After 10 years of grieving, someone gave a glimmer of hope. So, to get a better sense of this confusing situation, I scheduled an ultrasound for the morning of December 24th.

I had put this behind me. 2004 was the year I spent going to doctor after doctor, getting test after test to figure out what was going on inside of me. MRKH was a blow. It was so hard. It has taken almost a decade to come to grips with. I have spent 10 years grieving the loss of any hope of pregnancy, ever. To have the door of possibility opened again after all of this time is so scary. I want to hope for it, but I’m so afraid to get my hopes up.

The ultrasound went fine, but about 10 minutes after I left the building, they called and asked me to come back for another one. I cried. I thought my days of being a guinea pig were over.

It was easier when I was 16. When I was 16, I didn’t really understand what this meant for my life, and it didn’t really matter.

I want to know which way to go. I want to know if I should continue with my grieving and move toward adoption, or if I should continue seeking medical treatment. I imagine that this is the way it feels for countless other couples dealing with infertility. When is it time to leave behind the doctors? When do you decide that you are done with tests, exams, and rude questions? How do you make the choice to leave behind any chance of pregnancy?

Do you ever stop believing in miracles?

After a week of hoping, the news came back (on December 31) that everything was as it was before, and the doctor only ordered more tests because of a possible renal track anomaly. I wonder if he had any idea what kind of emotional worm-can this opened. I heard on the news yesterday that 9 women in Sweden received uterus transplants, but pregnancy would still have to be achieved via IVF. That’s a step closer, but I still don’t think there’s anything in that black bag for me.

In the last 2 weeks, I’ve gotten back to where I was before Thanksgiving. Maybe I’m even better than I was before. We signed up for our first adoption agency information meeting. It’s not for a few weeks, but that is perfectly fine. We’re going to take our time with this.

I do believe in miracles, and I always will. Right now, though, I think our miracle is going to come in the way we least expect.

And, truth be told, there is so much good happening in my life right now that I can hardly wait until my next post to fill you in.