"...suffering is one of the universal conditions of being alive. We all suffer. We have become terribly vulnerable, not because we suffer, but because we have separated ourselves from each other." -- Rachel Naoimi Remen

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Refining Me

I am a member of the CMDA (Christian Medical and Dental Association) and the WIMD (Women in Medicine and Dentistry) which both offer wonderful devotionals that often resonate with me.  The WIMD doesn't have a FB page so I receive this only in email format and couldn't find another way to link it here other than copying every word.  So, here it is (emphasis added in bold).  Although I completely agree with the attitude of gratitude that has turned up on FB in November, I felt her point was poignant:

Devotion - Thankful
by Tiffany Owens

The Thanksgiving season is upon us. Sadly, the holiday is becoming dwarfed by other expanding fall traditions and an ever earlier commencement of the Christmas extravaganza. The enemy is constantly on the prowl (John 10:10), encouraging us to be too busy and distracted to give thanks. In reality, this period of thankfulness is paramount for preparing our hearts for the Christmas season. Thankfulness displaces the focus from oneself to one’s Provider and Sustainer, often quieting the discontented heart, leading to a more purposeful (and less harried) approach to honoring our Savior’s birth. I desperately want to lean in deeper to my Sustainer during this season.
For several years, I have enjoyed the trend whereby social media is used to make a daily list of blessings. The posts generally start with, “I’m thankful for…” It’s wonderful to see answered prayers and appreciation of gifts beyond what many of these friends may have imagined. There have been some conspicuously missing posts, though. I haven’t seen many that say, “I’m really mad/hurt/bitter/sad/angry, but THANKFUL for my loneliness/burn out/financial problem/suffering…” Paul encourages us to “give thanks in all circumstances…” and I, for one, do not naturally lean toward that response (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NIV 2011). In fact, sometimes, I think I prefer to stay in my sour mood, even while God’s Word offers me the steps to “move on.” Why I would want to remain grumpy, I cannot explain; however, I do know that choosing joy and trusting in God’s precepts seems to require effort on my part and is contrary to the actions of the world around me. I feel too weak to tackle yet another obstacle, so I sulk. Paul struggled with an opportunity for bitterness. He described a thorn in his flesh, which was sent as a messenger of Satan, to torment Paul. He pleaded with God to remove it from him, but God did not. Instead, He responded with the relieving news that Paul’s weakness was an opportunity to highlight the perfection of God’s power within Paul. This led Paul to conclude, “…when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10, NIV 2011). Presently, I’m feeling sour and grumpy and weak because of a thorn of my own. I greatly desire to honor God through the situation, develop perseverance and authentically show others Christ’s power within me. I don’t want to miss out on experiencing the joy of Thanksgiving and Christmas because of my misguided self-focus. How might I develop a thankful spirit about a situation from which I’d rather be spared?
  1. I am going to acknowledge that God is not instructing me to be thankful for the “thorn” itself. He’s guiding me to be thankful for the all-sufficient grace He has provided.
  2. I am going to resist my natural response to sulk or get busy attempting to fix it via my own abilities. I choose to claim the power of Christ, even when I don’t feel it, by demolishing “arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5, NIV 2011).
  3. I am going to express my thankfulness. By leaning into God’s grace and making my wayward thoughts obedient to Christ, I am then able to be more comforted by the Holy Spirit’s sweet presence. Upon reflection, I’m truly thankful that the presence of the “thorn” is causing me to seek deeper fellowship and rest in Jesus than I would have otherwise experienced.
Dear God, thank you for being my Provider and Sustainer. Thank you for the abundant blessings I so often take for granted. Thank you for loving me enough to challenge me in areas where I am not resting in your best and for giving me your Word and Holy Spirit to guide me. I KNOW your grace is perfected in my weakness, but please help me to FEEL it today too. Amen.

So, let me follow her lead and try it here:

I'm thankful for my losses because with the babies has gone my pride.  Inappropriately placed pride for results that I hadn't really produced on my own but was claiming to have.  With humility, I've been able to connect empathetically in ways I'd never before been capable of.  With eyes wide open, my perspective has broadened and thereby my heart has opened. 

I'm thankful for my losses because they've helped me to learn to be mindful of the moment. 

My losses have helped me lean away from the temptation towards perfectionism. 

I'm thankful that my losses created the nidus for this conversation.  I'd been contemplating it for months and hadn't been courageous enough to share.  Although the openness of this blog has made some uneasy, it's helped the peace within me flourish and for that, I'll forever be thankful. 

I'm thankful that I've been able to witness through my losses in this way. 

I'm thankful for my experiences of healthcare this side; they're making me a better physician. 

I'm thankful that through my losses, I've had a patient partner to lean on.  I'm thankful he's endured those same losses with me.  I'm thankful that he felt our losses differently than I, because that way we were able to pull and push each other along in healthy ways. 

I'm thankful that my losses and your losses have united us; they bring us together in a unique and powerful way. 

As the song by Unspoken says, "If I'm under fire, I know it's refining me"
It's not natural for us to think this way, but it is necessary.
Because hurt, pain, loss and unfairness will continue to haunt us.
New loss will come in different forms in the future. 
Wiser, stronger, we are refined. 
We're thankful that Someone loves us enough to bother refining us.   
"All my dreams, all my plans, Lord I leave it in your hands...
have your way with me"

Thursday, November 7, 2013

I've Always Loved You

"Not you Mar..." were my dad's words when I called home in the first few weeks of medical school and told him that "everybody failed the first anatomy test."  "Not you Mar."  Unconditional love, confidence, faith, and maybe even admiration in me....  "Yes, Dad, me too."

So, on my wedding day, I danced with my dad to a tremendous song by the best Christian band on the planet,  "Don't you know I've always loved you?... Even before there was time... And I always will..." so the song goes.  It's a song telling the story of God's unconditional love for us and it'll make you cry.

Although I'd experienced it in the receiving end, I didn't know much about emoting unconditional love until my brother's son was born.  Before I even met him, I felt true love in my heart for that boy.  I really did, and it shocked me.  Prior to that I really didn't know what everyone was talking about all giddily.  

Recently that same song came on my radio ~ it doesn't get much radio play ~ so that was a special treat. 

Hearing it again got me thinking about my future daughter or son.  I don't know who they are.  I don't know where they are.  I don't know what they are... how their eyes will look, or how their laugh will sound. 

But one thing I do know, is that I love him or her.  Deep down in my soul, I have love.  Set aside just for him or her.  Perhaps it hasn't been there since 'before there was time."  But it's been there for at least two years last August.  At least since that second pink line showed up and I knew I was a mother of two.  I've been dreaming of that girl or boy.  Not in the how cute they'll be on prom night kind of way, but in the companion kind of way.  The story-telling, laughing, keeping me up at night, kind of way.  I imagine my son's sibling relationship and the strength of character that'll grow in him.  I hear a heart-to-heart with my husband and our second child and it's a beautiful image.

My second baby was a girl and my fourth was a boy, the others I don't know.  And again, I don't know what the next will be.  But, that doesn't matter.  I don't really see that the love is being 'transferred' from one baby to another.  It's always been there, right where it belongs, on the heart of the one to come.  The babies I've lost, I love too, but they were never going to Be.  The ship didn't go off course.  It's right on. 

I'm filled with the hope of tomorrow, and of today.  That the baby I've longed for will be here soon.  And I'll finally get to say, "don't you know I've always loved you?"

Probably, he or she won't really know it until he or she sits in this seat one day. 
Unconditional love is really something special,
and from this vantage point is breath-taking. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Top Twenty Today

After reflecting on my recent post, I wanted to be sure it was clear how I felt about these two things:

1.  Suffering - in absolutely no way, shape or form, does God cause our suffering.  Sharing with Christ in communion doesn't mean God's happy about it, or that He brings it upon us.  Suffering happens because of an imperfect world.  Suffering as it relates to pregnancy problems happens because of medical illness most often.  Something in the process broke down (and no, it wasn't you getting a pedicure, eating deli-meat or not standing on your head for thirty minutes after doing it!) We did nothing to cause this loss, and neither did God.  But we can bear it... together.

2.  Blessings - the abundance of blessings around is truly too plentiful to count.  I mentioned in the last blog about being thankful that my one toddler was napping so I had time to blog.  I thought, as an example, it'd be nice to dissect this statement for a moment to be sure we recognized the many layers of blessing here, and indeed in everything. 

"I have a toddler..."
(1) He's healthy enough to survive to age 3... (2) I was healthy enough to have him...

"I have one toddler..."
(3) Having only one kid allows me some freedoms as he grows and becomes more independent...

"My one toddler is napping..."
(4) Not every three year old naps.... sometimes little babies don't nap... I have a child who's lived to three and still naps... (5) for two hours almost every afternoon... (6) I don't have another baby to keep me busy right now... (7) I don't have chores or other work right now...

"So I can blog..."
I can (8) read, (9) write and (10) type... (11) I've been given the gift of creativity... (12) I've been inspired to share my story... (13) sharing my story has liberated me in ways I never knew possible... (14) sharing my story has allowed me to bear witness to (15) my faith foundations... (16) sharing my story has helped heal me... (17) sharing my story might help heal you... (18) sharing my story has brought me closer to friends I'd lost touch with...

"right now..."
(19)  I'm here right now, writing, praying, thinking... (20) you're here right now... and we're together, miles apart but together in this very real, very beautiful, struggle...

Dear Lord,
Today and always
Guard me against blame
We should not blame you for our loss
Also, please I beg you, do not allow us to blame ourselves
Today and always,
"have your way with me"
Help us "dance in the minefields"
By counting our blessings
In great detail
All the time
We need an attitude of gratitude
Today and always

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Our Family Story

Probably the most sentimental thing my OB ever said to me was after our first miscarriage.  I was upset but trying to be tough and probably a little embarrassed about crying in front of him and he consoled me saying, "this will always be part of your family story." 

It meant so much to me then and still does today.  I use those words when talking to other friends amidst loss or other changes; the ever so common feeling of 'this is not how I thought things would turn out'. 

Although I do consider myself an optimist, I'm definitely not a romantic.  I think television and the movies have damaged young people's expectations for generations to come; reality will never live up to that which we see there.  I like to say I'm a realistic optimist, which yes I know, is an oxymoron.  But, I do think it's all in your perspective. 

When you're in the middle of a crisis... one of the most trying times of your life....
When you've done "everything right" and things still seem to go wrong...
I think it's then that it's most important for us to embrace 'our story.'  We should be mindful of the moment.  Thoughtful of the big picture.  And yet also give ourselves time to grieve. 

In college the most interesting course I took throughout my four years was entitled "Suffering and the Problem of Evil".  Back then, I hadn't seen the worst of the world; things usually worked out like I'd hoped they would, and only a few people had ever really disappointed me.  And yet, I still felt the class was fabulous.  I took it at the Seminary on the Mount Saint Mary's College campus with several seminarians and a few lay people.  Taught by a prominent theologian who's name I can't remember, I sometimes day-dream about the topics we discussed that semester and wish I could go back. 

I learned that suffering in this life bring us in communion, yes common-union, with Christ.  He was perfect and yet he suffered.  Somehow we've gotten ourselves some very unrealistic expectations in this life.  Even after the Last Supper in Luke 22, Jesus "knelt down and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done."  I guess, when my babies have died, that I have shared in Christ's suffering.  In the moment, I have never thought of it that way.  But, from this vantage point now, it does help. 

I think it's important to remember that the Bible does not promise us that which the movies do.  He doesn't say it will be easy, He says "I am with you always" (Matthew 28:20)

I also think it's ok to be sad.  Jesus begged God to take his suffering away; so certainly it's ok if we do that too.  However, He didn't expect it to be easy, and we shouldn't either.  I don't know how this idea became instilled in me, but I definitely thought when I was younger that if one bad thing happened (like I didn't win a race one week) then that was my due and certainly next time would be better.  Like it was some law of averages or something.  But, in adulthood I've learned it's not so easy.  It doesn't feel fair.  And we know, from the example we have in Christ, that life is not fair.  He also teaches us, that it's ok to lament that... for a moment.  We don't have to always "keep calm and carry on" when we're in the midst of a major loss.  It's ok to break down. 

And then we have to build ourselves back up.  We should embrace our 'family story.' 
It is not so bad. 
I've blogged before about the freedom in having an only child that's almost three.  Like the sign I recently stole off Pinterest says, "Count your many blessings, name them one by one."  We have many.  More than we can count. 

Mindful of the moment, I'm grateful I have time to blog while my one toddler naps.  God willing, this time next year my younger child will be fussing and won't afford me this time. 

This is not what I ever expected.  When I got married and imagined my family, it did look different than this.  And that is ok.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Don't ask, don't tell?

When it comes to pregnancy, and the chance of miscarriage, when and whether to tell family and friends is always a tough call. 

With my first pregnancy, we waited until the end of the first trimester to tell everyone.  That seemed wise, my Mom had several miscarriages so I knew it was a possibility. 

With our second pregnancy, we waited again.  But, at the end of the first trimester we made big announcements to friends and family, via email and in person.  Five weeks later, we had the most uncomfortable email of our lives to write. 

It was hard, and has only gotten harder, to tell folks of sad news.  Although it can be eloquent in email, it's always awkward in person and I've had several tear-up or cry when I've told them my story in person.  I completely understand that it's hard for them... but that makes it even harder for me.  Neither of us can find the right words. 

And now, as we've decided to pursue adoption and are starting to tell people about that choice, I want to offer some explanation.  There's a large majority of colleagues and acquaintances who don't know the details of we've been through, and then I have to tell.  They wonder "how I looked so good at work through all of that?"  I wonder 'are they sad I didn't share it with them sooner?'  On occasion, I feel guilty.  I've kept the circle relatively small to spare them, and myself, that awkward encounter.  Now I know, the truth usually has a way of coming out. 

A friend of mine who recently suffered miscarriage shared his story; they had seen a heart beat and shared the happy news, only to lose the baby a few days later.  The updated news was much harder to deliver. 

And so, this all makes me wonder whether the golden rule of "don't tell 'til the second trimester" is a wise one after all. 

What I learned is that I had to tell a few people when I was pregnant, because whether I carried to term or not, I was going to need my friends and family to lean on either way.  Through trial and error, I've come to appreciate how important my support system is.  And they can only support me if they know what I'm going through. 

Are we alone because everyone else is self-absorbed?  Or are we alone because we're unwilling to share our fears, our reality?  Are we afraid that if we say it out loud it will make it more real?   

This is certainly one of those times where we should get rid of the guilt, that's for sure.  If you're afraid a friend "who's got it so easy" will feel guilty; just don't worry.  She may, she may not.  But she'll survive.  You deserve for your friend to be a friend.  She deserves to have the opportunity to do so. 

I know one thing I've struggled with is when people say "you're just handling this so well, I'd be a wreck."  Well, when I'm talking to friends from work, it's usually in a crowded hospital hallway.  Although I'm a fragile mother, I'm also a professional, and I know I can't just break down at work.  What else am I supposed to do other than (almost always) keep it together at work?  [I'm only a wreck at home.]

Contrary to many of my other blog posts, as I write this, I am not acutely emotional.  It's just something I've been meaning to blog because I know it was a big issue to me at one time and I know several who continue to struggle with it.  Similarly, I know friends with infertility who struggle with telling their friends of their plight, for fear of not being understood. 

One thing I know is, no one can truly understand.
Because no one is right where I am.
No one is right where you are.  

But another thing I know is, good people can try.  And that makes us feel loved.

When I was in college taking Latin, I shared "vera amicus est alter idem" with my best friend, "a true friend is a second self" (-Cicero).  In adulthood, I've been disappointed that although that friend is still one of my best; I no longer have anyone who I feel that way about.  It seems as though, that as we get older, we grow differently.  Our circumstances, year after year, make us more unique and complex, making it harder for us to truly relate to another's circumstances.  But I also know that with love comes empathy... and almost everyone I love has shown more empathy than I've expected when I've been honest with them. 

So, what do I recommend?  (Warning: here comes the advice column section of this blog ;))

I extremely strongly recommend against big cheerful announcements on social media before the end of your first trimester; because that conjures feelings of jealousy and disgust in people like me (SORRY; but it's true!!)

However, among loved ones, I recommend sharing your news as soon as you're ready.  You'll need someone to laugh and cry with.  You'll need someone to vent to, whether things go well or not.

Those of you who aren't pregnant or trying, I recommend that you ask your friends who are trying, how it's going regularly.  They want to talk about it; I can almost guarantee that.  It is probably consuming them.  They want a safe, non-judgemental place to tell the truth.  Don't call from down a hospital corridor "is that a baby bump I see!?" because that may cause a panic attack (as it did in me several times last spring!).  But, it's ok to ask "having any luck lately?" or "do you and -- still want to have (more) kids?" 

So, those are my thoughts for the day.  Just wanted to share. 

Dear Lord,
My story has gotten long and complicated. 
I want to be understood but
Sometimes I don't know where to start.
Help us to love and be loved.
Help me to be a better friend.
In your name, I pray.  

Thursday, September 19, 2013

...by our love

For the past two Sunday's in church, I've been hearing God pull on my heart strings.  My husband and I are both pro-life and support a local Pregnancy Center.  Morning Star Pregnancy Center serves women in crisis with unplanned pregnancies; it's the kind of place our society needs more of.  Although it's Christians who serve as volunteers and workers at this fine establishment, everyone is welcomed and loved in a way that exemplifies Christ, regardless of their religion or lack thereof. 

Now, since as we have decided to move towards adoption as a way of growing our family, I have started to see the value in such places even more.  Birthmothers all over our great country are undersupported when they want to choose life for their baby.  Maybe they don't have the family support, or the boyfriend or husband who can help out.  I can't begin to imagine most of their circumstances.  So, who can they lean on?  These may be Christian girls, regretting a mistake and where are we to help them?  Places like Morning Star can help.  These young women need us, as a society and as individuals, to help them in their time of need. 

So, as a way of "paying it forward" to my second child's Birthmother, I am going to continue to support Morning Star.  I don't know where she is out there... I don't even know if she's pregnant yet.  But, in faith, I know she's going to need someone to lean on.  I pray there's a Pregnancy Center in her neighborhood half as good as Morning Star.  I pray she has the support she needs, even if it can't come from her family for whatever number of reasons. 

I pray she's knows we are Christians by our love. 

Morning Star Fund Easy page

Monday, September 9, 2013

True confessions

Today marks a milestone... For the first time in longer than I'd care to admit, I "liked" a picture of a pregnant friend on social media.  About a week ago, I also "liked" a few beautiful baby pictures of 2 acquaintances who've I've been busy judging for the past 6-9 months, while they were pregnant... unfairly... I wasn't wishing them harm, but I was filled with an angry jealousy that often brought tears to my eyes.  A flash of hatred for their joy would pass through me.  Quickly that would be followed by sadness at my own shallow nature and guilt for being so critical. These friends and acquaintances actually do deserve all that's good... I knew it; I just couldn't see past my own grief to be happy for them.

Childish?  Perhaps.  True, nonetheless.

For those of you who haven't experienced the kind of loss and fear that infertility, miscarriage and preterm births bring, seeing others delight in their pregnancy and newborn's is something that's extremely trying for some of us, some of the time. Physical nausea over the sight of a baby-bump, or the thought of a baby shower is more common than you might think.  [Worse yet, the sound of a pregnant woman complaining about her big belly, or the baby kicking.]  I've lamented many manifestations of such jealousy with several friends suffering from difficulties where others innocently complain and seemingly take for granted that which we would give anything for.  But, I digress... although I feel strongly that it's a justified stage and wish some would be more sensitive, for those of us who are (or were) here, it's not us at our best or most healthy. 

So... I share today, with a sense of triumph, that I think I might be getting through this stage!

I'm sure I will still have my moments... for, my reality is different from that 'bump' I "liked" today.  But, I embrace it.  And, I'm thankful to be coming through the "stages of grief" and moving toward a more peaceful place!

Dear Lord,
Please forgive me for my jealousy. 
Guard my heart and my emotions as I recover. 
Take envy from me today, and never let it return.  
Thank you for my countless blessings today and everyday.
Give a special blessing to all those I've judged and help me to do better next time. 
Please also forgive me for the times when, with my first pregnancy
 or perhaps even since then, that I was inconsiderate of another's plight. 
Help guide me and everyone who's had or gets the pleasure of pregnancy,
to always be thoughtful and considerate when celebrating or complaining
 about the joys and challenges of pregnancy and having a newborn. 
Thank you for your providence. 
You reign. 

(close friends who I love very dearly, hopefully you know who you are! please know I never hated you when you were pregnant! This story only applies to friends I don't see much and mostly keep in touch with online.)

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Mastery to Mystery

"...prayer is a powerful way of embracing life, finding a home in any outcome, and remembering that there may be reasons beyond reason.  Prayer is movement from mastery to mystery" (Rachel Naomi Remen) 

My Mom always says that "no news is good news" and for those of you who have been checking in on the blog updates and haven't found any for about a month now, "no news is good news."  I think the pregnancy hormones have finally dissipated; and with that my creative juices.  So I haven't written much.  In addition, I'm feeling good.  A little sickness put me in my place, and was a bit of an "ah-hah" moment for me.  I learned that I needed to put myself first and it was completely liberating. 

So we've decided for now, to take our first ever, real break. 

My Mom and several others we know in her generation were told, after many pregnancies or pregnancy mishaps, to stop trying.  When I saw my Doctor and asked him recently, he didn't feel there was any medical reason for this in my case, but suggested that it's an emotional choice. 

Despite being an emotionally strong person at baseline - I admit I've been wounded lately.  My husband has truly been my rock, but I can see in his eyes that he hurts when I hurt.  Recently, I've also been looking at this from my son's perspective - my sense is, he's had enough of Mommy being sick or in the hospital. 

And so, a break we'll take. 

How long will it be?  
  A year? 

I don't have a plan. 

So, what does this mean from my son's perspective about siblings?  He wants them.  Teaches teddy and takes Tow-mater to lunch everyday.  And we want them for him; not that there is anything wrong with only children, it's just not what we want for our family.  Which means we have to look at all our options.  Several have suggested a second opinion or fertility workup, but for many reasons we don't feel the desire to pursue any further testing.  First, my best friend from med school is an OB and most of my close friends are physicians or are married to one, so seeking another would really be like a fourth or fifth opinion.  Is there any utility in hearing again the inevitable treatment suggestions: better luck next time (let me tell you how that worked last time!) or in-vitro treatments which have no guarantee of success and are fraught with complexities that we just aren't open to discussing.  Furthermore, we have no interest in false hope. 

Lately, Mandisa's Overcomer has been speaking to me.  She, and His promises that she refers to in this song stand up to the fears that immobilize us, as Jewel suggests we should. 
The things that you fear 
are undefeatable 
not by their nature 
but by your approach  
                  ~ Jewel 
Look at what you're afraid of from another perspective.  Do not let that fear incapacitate you.  What are those of us who struggle with infertility and miscarriage afraid of?

We're afraid of the unknown,
we're afraid of the path He's leading us down,
we're afraid of losing control. 

But what I've learned lately is that we do not have control and we never did.  When I had my son I had an inappropriate, unrealistic illusion of control over his and my circumstances.  Praise God it worked out easily that time.  But if the challenges of the past two years have taught me anything, they've taught me that I've taken too much credit for that good outcome.  I have a healthy son by the Grace of God.  Period.  My subscription to the OB's rule book may have helped a bit, but only a tiny bit.  Certainly those rules have gotten me nowhere with the five pregnancies since then.  And what's that say for me?  Nothing.  What's that say for God?  Nothing.  My body is imperfect just like yours, and this process is ornate; it is fragile. 

Relinquishing control is liberating. 

Admitting it was just an illusion has power. 

Right now, my break feels darn good.

And so, we chose to Overcome.  We strive to relinquish our need to be the masters of our own existence, and accept the mystery inherent in it.  We hope to expand our family and rely on Grace for that.  To that end, we'll likely adopt my son's little sibling. 

Chapter 1 of Jeremiah gives a famous baby scripture; I've adapted it here:

Before He formed you in the womb, I knew you.
I've been praying for you for years,
I had plans for you but they were not God's plans.
Now I anxiously await the crossroads of design.
Lord protect your precious creations across this vast world.
They need you and so do we. 
If our desires are not your desires;
take them from us.
Where children are unwanted,
help them find safety and security in your arms.
Let me be your arms.
Strengthen us for the journey you've prepared before us.
Surely we'll rely on you in this uncharted territory.
Many are facing an unknown challenge,
 maybe on a seemingly familiar road,
but they still need you too. 
Now and always.
In the face of the friendly and the mysterious alike.
Your Grace carries us.
Help us hand over the wheel, surrender the veil; our illusions. 
Thank you for your guidance.
Thank you for this and every answer to prayer,
whether its the answer we always hoped for
or maybe even something better.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Glimpses of Truth

I believe God created the world with a big bang. I believe He gave us science and faith as tools to triumph over sickness, natural disaster, evil and death.

In that, I see myself and most I know in this very real juggle of how we are and how we think we should be.  Hence, my drawings of the progesterone pray-er; the hormonal disciple. This is true when it comes to the little picture, and the big picture... I mean really (an analogy), it is hard for us to "judge not" when we're premenstrual, right? [Well try being pregnant four times in twelve months or living with someone who is (just ask my husband)!]

Seriously though, how do we use science, and modern medicine, faithfully?  Part of why this is so challenging, is that it's so unique for all of us.  Each of our experiences is often not generalizable to friends and family.  Recently, I came across a great article that summarizes recurrent miscarriage.  And my doctor has followed the recommendations I read there almost exactly.  I suspect you're doctor has recommened different things according to your circumstances, and I do not pretend to understand all that.  This makes it hard to use the appropriate dose of empathy.  I've heard anecdotes online of a variety of treatment options that have "worked" for some.  But when it comes to the fertilization, implantation and growth of an egg into a baby, so much can happen in any one of us.  During my last pregnancy, my husband and I were distinctly not trying and we ended up pregnant.  I have to admit, that thanks to so many stories I've heard and been told, I actually thought that it might work out because we weren't trying...  Isn't that the most popular story going around, "just don't worry and then it will happen!" Well, I know it's been true for some, but unfortunately not for us.  (Truly, I'm happy for those of you who have had this experience, and I don't mean to take away from that whatsoever.)

But all this brings me back to one of the questions I've always wanted to ask, on the Other Side. Why is it that there are so many unwanted pregnancies and yet so many who want to be pregnant and seemingly cannot?  

Uganda Safari after Medical Mission 2007
And my list of questions goes on... most recently and most pertinently, when will I know when I've had enough?

Well, I have no answers here, but wanted to share some interesting results of my research:

Worldwide, 370,000 babies are born each day.

A number of large animals have gestation's longer than humans.   Several sources note the African Elehant at the longest ~ 660 days or 22 months. 

Anually, between 25,000-30,000 babies are domestically adopted; more than all international adoptions combined. 

Between 1978 and 2012, five million babies were born through In-Vitro Fertilization.

In developing countries, preterm and neonatal death is often related to Sexually Transmitted diseases like Syphilis.

Unintended pregnancies account for almost 50% of US pregnancies which is higher than other developed countries.

Somewhere between 20-30% of all pregancies end in miscarriage.  A large majority of these occur before the baby develops a heart beat.  Women with more than one miscarriage have an increased risk of future miscarriage that increases with every pregnancy.

Recently, my therapist suggested I should listen to my body -- I was telling her that it is a lot harder to get in shape this time around as I'm preparing for another race and haven't been running for the past year or so.  And I suspect she's right, I'm a little worn down and I need to listen. 

[Side bar commentary: Yes, I have a therapist.  
Started seeing her after my fourth miscarraige. 
Yeah I know... I mean I have friends who are therapists. 
But, I don't have any who see a therapist...
But, until we
- the overachieving, proud, successful people of today, until we -
start admitting we are vulnerable,
the stigma will never go away. 
I'm not ashamed to admit I need help.]

So, why do I share all this with you today?  Because I'm searching... and I sense you're searching too. 

Searching, while longing for some answers.  Something meaty to hold onto that helps this make sense.  Searching with faith and science as my guide.  I'd like for it (wisdom) to come to me like a big bang.  If it knocks me over the head, then I will know it came from You. 

When should we stop trying? 
When should we start trying again? 
Should we ever stop trying? 

I don't know where to look, where to turn for truth.  Science and faith both feel blurry.  I see and hear so much, in our multimedia society, from well meaning bystanders, from church-goers and beloved family and friends... but, how do I know what's wise and to be followed?  What parts of what I see and how I feel are hormonal, which are the good Lord leading me?   

Only God knows when I've had enough. 

Illumine Me, by Clara Scott (1895)
Open my eyes, that I may see
glimpses of truth thou hast for me;
place in my hands the wonderful key
that shall unclasp and set me free.
Silently now I wait for thee,
ready, my God, thy will to see.
Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit divine!

Open my ears, that I may hear
voices of truth thou sendest clear;
and while the wavenotes fall on my ear,
everything false will disappear.
Silently now I wait for thee,
ready, my God, thy will to see.
Open my ears, illumine me, Spirit divine!

Open my mouth, and let me bear
gladly the warm truth everywhere;
open my heart and let me prepare
love with thy children thus to share.
Silently now I wait for thee,
ready, my God, thy will to see.
Open my heart, illumine me, Spirit divine!
Please notice, I link in songs I love or songs I think are helpful for meditation.  Click the marroon links to listen.  I just find them on YouTube.  Also the pictures are mine, feel free to copy or share them with a link, but unless otherwise specified know that they are my personal work. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

How to -- Let Go and Let God

It sounds cliche, but everyone's saying it. 

Not in the, 'I'm just gonna sit back and relax and wait for God to show up' kind of way... But in the relinquishing control of our circumstances to the Author, kind of way.  In an earlier blog, I talked about being an athlete, and in that, I'm used to setting goals, working hard, and accomplishing what I'm after.  Not without Grace, of course; but many things over the years, have seemed to be at least partially within my control.  I know several with a similar struggle, and this applies to not just family planning but many issues with parenting and other tough things we have to conquer.  A friend with an eating disorder has the same goal; letting go of control - or our illusion of control - and focusing on God's will and direction for our life. 

Rick Warren says, "You don't have to always be in charge. Instead of trying harder, you trust more."

But, this is easier said than done. 

Saying, "just don't worry about it" is entirely unhelpful because it simply is not possible. (hint, hint, please never say those words to a friend who's trying to start or expand her family.)

I've been a Francesca Battistelli fan for a while now, and admittedly, it all started with "I'm Letting go."  However, right now, as I Try to Let Go, this song just irks me.  It's so upbeat it makes me want to barf!  While the lyrics are right on, the tempo is all wrong.  This is not a happy place.  This is no fun.  I am not skipping through a meadow here.  She sounds like she's already conquered the mountain; she is not down here with us.  I'm certain that when Francesca wrote this song, she had already Given It Up.  She wasn't actively Giving Up.  Because the act of giving up is a pit of your stomach rock bottom kind of feel.  It's not fun and it is most certainly not easy.  And although you know there is light at the end of the tunnel, you can only see the tiniest sliver when you start off.  So, send me a dark song about Letting Go and I'll get on board. 

Nevertheless, I want to get where she is at.  Letting Go and Letting God takes serious commitment and active participation.  You can't just pray for worry to go away, you have to pray for ways to hand over the wheel, and then listen and go in the direction you hear. 

Here are some examples of how I think I've been successful, Giving it Up: 

1.  Do something for YOU
Yes, you.  Especially when it comes to family planning, much of what we do revolves around someone else or the thought of someone else.  A friend of mine with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome spent countless hours giving herself injections and suppositories.  For me, 'trying' has taken the fun out of running, since my babies haven't been the picture of health thus far, I fear stressing them on a long or hot run and have therefore avoided getting out there.  But running has calmed my anxieties and brightened my perspective since I was 12 years old, and I miss that peace.  So as an act of Giving it Up, I signed up for my next Half-marathon.  It gives me 3 months of fun running, something healthy to focus on, and makes me feel like I'm choosing and controlling what I can.  (And you can't just say you're going to do it; the signing up part forces us to stay committed... I cannot do this on my own.)

2.  Get rid of something material that you've been holding on to
If you've wanted a baby for some time, chances are, you are holding on to something you don't really need right now.  Having a second trimester miscarriage, I'd bought decorations for a nursery that still isn't built.  They're beautiful and I most certainly plan to use them one day, and have no intentions of parting with them.  But, I've also been hoarding diapers.  When my son would grow into the next size, I'd store them (we're thankful for big closets here!) and so they've stayed... for more than two years.  It is (was) a huge collection.  So last week one day, I donated them to my favorite neighborhood Pregnancy Center, Morning Star and now someone who actually needs them can use them.  What are you hoarding?  Give it Up. 

3.  Give Thanks

picture from Hershey Park website
Ann Voskamp inspires me, "The hard discipline to lean into the ugly and whisper thanks to transfigure it into beauty. The hard discipline to give thanks for all things at all times because He is all good."  In 1000 gifts, she encourages us to look for and write down our blessings.  She keeps a journal in her kitchen and constantly scribes the big and small.  In her opinion, it doesn't have to be a Disney vacation to be a beautiful day.  There is wonder in the routine, we just have to have the eyes to see it there.  I know she's absolutely correct that we have much to be thankful for.  In fact, it's great to not be pregnant right now.  It's also wonderful to not have to worry about a baby for many
reasons.  What are those reasons?  Write them down.  Hang them on the bathroom mirror if you have to. 

So, I suggest that in an effort of Giving it Up, relish what you can do because you do not have a baby, or are not pregnant!

Find a friend with a Hot Tub
Plan a date to the Amusement park and ride every ride
Sushi Sushi Sushi
Have two lattes in one day
Buy some skinny jeans (yes, you can)
Plan a trip to the Wineries (still on my list :))

Please don't hesitate to reply with ways you've Given it Up. 
Suggestions are more than welcome! 

Monday, July 22, 2013


This is just a beginning resource.  Please leave a comment on the blog with other suggestions and I'll add them after vetting.  All recommendations are apprecaited! 

National Miscarraige Day - October 15th http://www.october15th.com/
This is a nice website with a number of links and resources.  It is also nice to know that there is a national day of remembrance for those lost.  A friend clipped an article from the paper and sent it to me after my first miscarriage and it really meant a lot to me. 

Here's a website.  The blogroll of faces of other families who've suffered similarly, is nice.

Saint Gianna, for all Moms,  http://saintgianna.org/main.htm

Mommies Enduring Neonatal Death, a Christian Nonprofit, http://www.mend.org/support/

A very nice gift, one of my best friends sent me after my second miscarriage, I've been wearing it for almost a year now and love it.  Lots of people ask about it and it opens the door, in a loving way, for a conversation on my terms.  It's a great gift for anyone struggling with this. 
And refers to the poem,

One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord.
Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.
In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand.
Sometimes there were two sets of footprints,
other times there were one set of footprints.
This bothered me because I noticed
that during the low periods of my life,
when I was suffering from
anguish, sorrow or defeat,
I could see only one set of footprints.
So I said to the Lord,
‘You promised me Lord,
that if I followed you,
you would walk with me always.
But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life
there have only been one set of footprints in the sand.
Why, when I needed you most, you have not been there for me?’
The Lord replied,
‘The times when you have seen only one set of footprints in the sand,
is when I carried you.’
-Mary Stevenson

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Afraid to Hope

In my last two pregnancies, I've experienced a fear of hope.  It's a hard concept to articulate, but if you've been there, or are here with me right now; I suspect you understand as quickly as you read these words.  

I'm not claiming to be a good disciple here, just a real one.  So, that's the truth... for a little while now, I've been afraid to hope.  As well-meaning folks say, "don't give up hope," or "I just know you'll have a healthy baby soon," it falls on deaf ears with me;  I just do not feel that hope is well placed any longer...  But then I feel guilty for 'not having hope.' 

I wonder, is being afraid to hope the same as having doubt? 

Is doubt not trusting God?   I surely don't want to be there
So, what is this feeling of mine?  Is it something I need to work on, or not? 

"To look forward to with desire and reasonable confidence," is what dictionary.com has to say about hope.  And as Christians, that confidence comes through Christ. 

The Catechism states it well, "The virtue of hope responds to the aspiration to happiness which God has placed in the heart of every man; it takes up the hopes that inspire men's activities and purifies them... to the Kingdom of heaven; it keeps man from discouragement; it sustains him during times of abandonment..."

So as I interpret this, the origin of my hope - that longing for more children, since it's how I've envisioned familial happiness for some time now - is something natural in my heart.

But neither this statement nor Romans 15:13, "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit," suggests to me that I should hope and trust that God will give me everything I ever dreamed of. 

Looking up doubt in the Catechism brought me, interestingly, to the virtue of prudence, "the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to chose the right means of achieving it... With the help of this virtue we apply moral principles to ...overcome doubts about the good to achieve and the evil to avoid."

Practical reason, and my life lessons thus far, are teaching me to be cautious.  I may not have another viable pregnancy.  More biological children may not be in our future.  I may long for this, but it may not be God's plan for my family and the prudent, scientific me can interpret the facts I have before me.  Although no serious disease has been diagnosed, there may well be something modern medicine cannot identify that is "wrong" with us.  On the other hand, perhaps my next pregnancy will produce the next member of our pack.   All this to say, that my losing 'hope' on the possibility of healthy pregnancies, isn't doubting God's providence, it's actually accepting it. 

I have hope... yes I 'look forward to with desire and Great confidence', that we will be okay.  I have hope in eternity as well as this present life being abundantly blessed.   I don't need another kid for that to be true.  In ways I cannot imagine, I am confident there's a beautiful future ahead.  I may need to adjust my expectations to catch up to the Good Lord's design... but here I am, deliberately choosing to do that.  I don't want to dwell in my own dreams.  I must look forward with strength and confidence that we can face whatever comes, together. 

So my prayer today comes from Aaron Shust, "My hope is in You"
(click the link on the top line of this blog to listen to his music video)

...I will wait on You
You are my refuge
My hope is in You, Lord, all the day long
I won't be shaken by drought or storm
My hope is in You, Lord
A peace that passes understanding is my song
And I sing my hope is in You, Lord...

~ I trust You today.  Help me trust You everyday. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Knowledge is Power...ful

On a cinder track behind Archbishop Neale School, completing the President's test for fitness, I finished the first mile of my life, at age 12, in 7 minutes, 17 seconds.  (On the farm I knew I was the second-fastest of my dozen cousins - Mikey was the fastest.  But this mile at school morphed my sense of self.)  And so began the most defining feature of my adolescence: a love for running track and a knowledge that with hard work, I could accomplish anything I desired.  At such a formative age, this Grace given natural talent also helped form my prayer life and strengthened my relationship with God in a number of ways.  I had always been a smart enough kid, but running really became what defined me, and this is when my sense of self worth solidified .  As I developed into an athlete, I applied the lessons I learned on the track to other aspects of life, like school, and was successful there too.  My sister recently referred to herself as a "lifetime over-achiever" and if that's also true of my life, I'm certain running is what started it off.  Hard work got me through Medical School and then Residency too. 

Similarly, I've often found a home in the verse:
"From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." Luke 12:48
Being the best possible athlete I could be was honoring God. Since the good Lord gave me the gift of service in Medicine, I've chosen to practice on medical mission trips. Since I've been given much, much is asked of me, and hard work helps me rise to that occasion. This has becoming my operating system. That verse has been a motivator for me countless times, and jives well with my hard work ethic.

However, in young adulthood, I was disappointed to find that no amount of hard work could help me find a Good Man.  (In God's time.)

And now, I find this heart-breaking lesson to be true again... no amount of hard work can help me carry a baby to term.  Friends of mine struggling with infertility see the same in their lives; absolutely strict compliance with all the series of recommendations out there on how to conceive and carry, do not seem to be enough for many of us to reach our "goal" of having children.  Truthfully, prayer doesn't seem to be helping either. 

Numerous websites have list upon list about what you can and cannot do during pregnancy (i.e.: babycenter).  And I'll admit that I have followed much of what I found.  In my first pregnancy, I read up on the recommendations and then did some further digging into the research that supports them.  For instance, on the topic of caffeine (as I lifelong addict, I was particularly interested in this one), I found that while most commercial websites recommend against caffeine, the medical literature supports consumption less than 100mg per day.  So, my earl grey, at 40mg/cup is perfectly fine.  Even a latte from Starbucks, with 1 shot of espresso only has 75 mg, and so I occasionally chose to indulge.  

I've continued these "responsible" choices in subsequent pregnancies as well.  Since I believe that life begins at conception, I believe I start mothering on that day, and have felt a responsibility to act properly from that very day on, to the best of my ability.  It might sound a bit obsessive compulsive, but for me that has meant, for instance, not drinking more than 100mg/day after day 14 of my cycle.  It's meant no sushi then too, and the list goes on.  And I'm largely proud of this "good behavior."  Feeling it's my duty as a good mother, and even a decent disciple.  I mean, He is entrusting me with Much.  Right?  I've got the financial resources... I really should eat organic... and the inner dialogue goes on...

To date, I've appreciated all the additional knowledge our tech-filled society offers. And I've said more times than I can count, "knowledge is power."

I guess I've believed that power was positive, until recently.

But this, my 'operating system' seems to have failed me.  My hard work at perfect mothering has failed four fetuses.

And so, I've come to feel that "knowledge has both saved and burdened us" (Atul Gawande, Checklist Manifesto).  I've found I can't be "responsible" if I don't know when I'm ovulating, but tracking ovulation makes me obsessive.  I want to avoid pregnancy and give my body and soul a break, but how do I do that without taking pills?  I don't want to take pills because then I am really not letting God do His work, I'm using medicine to control it according to my fears and desires (future blog topic/get ready!)... and I'm not certain how to balance all this.  Where is the middle ground between being afraid of taking an Advil (NSAIDs also have controversial evidence and recommendations in pregnancy; mostly negative and probably to be avoided) when I've got a headache in the latter half of my cycle, and knowing that alcohol in pregnancy is clearly irresponsible?  My sense is that many of my Type A like minded friends struggle with this as well. 

Thus, knowledge is power...ful.  And while the word "power" often carries a positive connotation, I'm venturing to say that in this instance it's crept into the negative.  As with so many things pertaining to parenting in this information age, many I know are overwhelmed with all the guidelines we are 'supposed' to follow.  While Gawande refers to the practice of medicine in the Checklist Manifesto, I'm not sure parenting is any simpler.  And right now, conception and carrying miraculous life feels even more challenging than navigating the pitfalls of modern medicine.  Where does Gods path cross with good stewardship of my gifts, and practice of the powerful knowledge I acquire and have access to? 

A question previous generations did not have to face, I'm hopeful that we'll trudge through this toward a more well defined and less guilt-ridden path for our children when they become parents. 

Until then, I'm relying on prayer, and devotion, to help me through this.

Dear Lord, today and everyday, I'm faced with news articles and blog posts with advice.  Some of this is well founded and some of if seems deliberately fear-mongering.  Guide my choices daily.  I need You to help me find Your way.  I feel burdened by the knowledge I've gained in medical school and on the Internet.  My friends, family, and I all cope with this in different ways, but I've gone from feeling empowered to engulfed.  Take away this guilt.  I am doing my best.  Now I need to trust that You are here to protect me, and mine, no matter how small.  Lord, replace my fears and guilt with peace.  In Jesus' name.  Amen. 

Friday, July 5, 2013

Reasons beyond Reason

You know what that  means, don't you?  (I've heard it more times than I can count, from well meaning friends and family and although it is absolutely true, it's challenging to truly embrace.)

Reasons beyond reason means that we cannot make sense of it in this earthly life.  (Babies dying, infertility, illness -- it is so UNfair!)  No amount of tears, of worry, of prayer or even science can make us understand that which is beyond reason.

And it is not because our God is uncaring.  He loves, He cares, He creates and He invites all His people home, even my tiny fetus. 

But, in this earthly life, our bodies, modern medicine and science are not perfect.  No amount of prenatal vitamins or caffeine deprivation can perfect it.  It is not our fault; but it is certainly not His either. 

(-- ME, August 2012, after my second miscarriage)

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

"Be still"

Both my mother and mother-in-law's favorite scripture.  "Be still and know that I am God."  (Psalm 46:10)

Be Still!? Can I be still?  I don't think I can.  Women, we multitask.  That's the way I'm wired, and I can say the same for nearly all my friends as well.  Heck, even men these days are multi-tasking-it. 

I think it may be our generation - what are we?  Generation X?  Or do we as a generation have ADD?  I mean it.  In this multimedia first-world, do we know what it means to "be still?"  When was the last time you were still?  That vacation a few months ago, that feels like years ago now, and even then there was still a toddler, or two or three.  And when I do sit still, my i-Phone calls my name with facebook, e-mail, and calendar alerts.  Even on my commute, where I continually vow to be better at praying, or at least at singing worship songs, I find I must catch up on current events - it is an election year and I want to do my civic duty and vote - or phone calls to friends and family.  And again, prayer and worship are pushed aside. 

I, for one, am undereducated on how to "be still."  Generational or choice, I know I need to take a cue from my mother's generation and sit down and pray. 

Or, maybe even get down on my knees, and give it to God.

Dear Lord of all creation, you've blessed us with abundance in our fast paced world of comforts, technology and family.  Help  us count and appreciate those blessings.  We come to you today, however, asking that you teach us how to take pause.  Help me "be still."  Help me to know you.  Sometimes, I can't hear you  because of the noise of this world.  I can't see you in the glare of my i-Phone.  I need you to redirect me to you.  Especially now, as I am carrying your precious creation.  The work that is going on inside me is nothing short of a miracle.  Help me to be still and know that you are God of all, especially me, in my attention-deficit world. 

(--ME, written August 2012 prior to my second miscarriage)

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

My first Devotion

Written August 2012

It's the day after my second consecutive miscarriage and we are writing this book.  That's what I tell my husband, and so we start.  Because we need to be devoted.  A pregnancy and people trying to have a baby devotional - whether by adoption, surrogacy, personal pregnancy, fertility aids, however - because it's a struggle and no one knows, or seems to remember clearly, unless they are in it now.

And I don't say we need to be devoted as if we haven't been, or that our previous trails have somehow been punishment.  I say we need to be devoted because I know devotion will free me of stress and pressure, both of which I have too much of right now.  We need to "fix our eyes on You" (Hebrews 12:2) because "worry is wasteful and useless in times like these" (Jewel).  But, that is easier said than done; so we need to be devoted. 

Our prayer in writing this devotional is that we will be increasingly committed to Your Word, and it's good works from our favorite authors, and thereby share our struggles and strengths with friends we know who are challenged with the same. 

Sunday, June 30, 2013

What's in a name?

Our first thought was "A Doctors Prayer through Pregnancy."

And then, "Progesterone Prayers."  This one inspired the drawing (which I allowed my toddler to color), and is descriptive of how I feel pregnant. 
Progesterone Pray-er
Progesterone is the hormone that gives women many of their pregnancy symptoms, and I seem to be particularly sensitive to this.  One funny symptom of mine is crazy dreams.  For any of you who've ever taken Malaria prophylaxis when traveling to the developing world, vivid dreams is a commonly listed side effect and I experienced them whole heartedly on Mefloquine.  When I was pregnant with my first child, I had just come home from a mission trip to Nicaragua and had the dreams on the drug, so didn't realize at first that they were a product of progesterone.  [Let me preface this by saying that I love scary movies and watch mostly crime drama tv shows.]  So, when I was pregnant the first time, the week I conceived, I dreamt my sister was killed.  Later, my colleague from work and I were arsonists.  In my second pregnancy, before the (+) test, my best friend was raped.  Recently, I dreamt another colleague and I were tied up in a drug ring.

So, that's the "power of progesterone" as I like to call it.  But it has good side effects too, such as, making me more creative than usual (of course my spark usually comes in the middle of the night, or while in the shower or driving!).  Hence, the book and blog idea.

"Phantom Kicks"... where did this name come from?  Since my first pregnancy was a term live birth, I have the pleasure of knowing what it feels like to have a baby kick.  I didn't feel it with my first pregnancy until somewhere shortly after 20 weeks.  But, they say that in subsequent pregnancies you can feel it earlier.  In my second pregnancy, I was sure I felt her kick (lost her at 16.5).  After that miscarriage, and sporadically since then, I have had the sensation of a baby kicking.  Much like phantom limb pain, a pain an amputee feels after he looses a limb, I imagine this sensation has come to me, and others, as a subconscious reminder of what once was.  Although I'd never heard the term before I started using it, you can do a google search and find other moms, those who've lost and those who haven't, who use this phrasing to describe similar feelings. 

It's a friendly, and sometimes sad, reminder of what was. 

It's part of my reality.  And we thought it made a catchy title.  So, there you have it. 

Who we are

Med school in our early twenties.

Met shortly after that.  Well his last year and my first in Residency.  On a medical mission trip in Costa Rica. Yeah, that's how God started our life together... years with only a couple hundred miles apart but we had to meet a few thousand miles away. 

First kid born full term, we were both 30; he was conceived after two months of "trying."  We're thankful for fertility. 

Human life is a blessing.  We learned that in church (Catholic grade school for me, Sunday-school for him) and then again in Medical school.  When I dissected the hand in Anatomy, I really knew it.  Only a divine creator could fathom something so intricately beautiful.  And then on those ultrasounds, I Really knew it.  Finally, when you hold a perfect creation in your arms, it is true.  What a gift.

About nine months later, we were pregnant for the second time.  Miscarried at 16.5 week, baby number 2 had Trisomy 18.  A blessing in disguise they said.  Better to lose her now, than later. 

Then we took some time off, actually for a friends wedding in the Carribean, not our own mental health.  To avoid pills, we started Sympto-thermal Natural Family planning.  Wow, aren't our bodies a wonder?!  As much as I already knew about myself, being a runner since 12 and a woman (I happen to think we women are much more self aware just by the nature of menstruation and all), wow did NFP open my eyes to things I didn't even realize were possible.  (Anyone struggling with fertility, I highly recommend it!)  Of course, we were actually using it to avoid conception, but it is great, highly effective and educational. 

Third pregnancy almost a year later.  Miscarried at 6 weeks.  Never saw a heartbeat this time.  Was it a life?

Fourth pregnancy 4 months later.  "Surely God will bless us this time."  Early Ultrasound shows slow heartbeat and hemorrhages, 2 weeks later our baby dies.  Trisomy 16.

{And yes, I say 'dead baby' a lot.  I'd apologize for making you feel uncomfortable, if that does, but the fact of the matter is, that part of the reason I'm writing this blog is because I'm sick of apologizing to other people for my suffering.  Sorry if that makes you uncomfortable.  It does me too, but it's still my reality.  And this brings me to another of my soap boxes: I believe that life begins at conception.  It's ok if you don't, but that's what we believe.  So if that's what you believe, or even if you believe that life begins at first heart beat, then it's a life when that starts.  And that doesn't just apply when you're marching on Washington for some law.  It applies when my baby dies.  It's real.  Just because you never got to kiss his face, he was alive inside you, and that matters.  Ok, end of rant.}

Fifth pregnancy was a virtual duplicate of the fourth, occuring only 1 month later this year.  "Who has four consecutive miscarriages?," I asked myself a million times.  "It can't be me."  Yes, I'm a Christian, but I'm also a scientist and that just seemed so statistically improbable!  Nevertheless, we were also somewhat afraid to hope, afraid to 'let go and let God'; as it's becoming obvious that His plans are not our own.  Ultimately it ended in another demise, also at 8 weeks.  This one we didn't have tested. 

Sixth pregnancy was a total surprise.  Began when we weren't trying and ended around 8 weeks, a blighted ovum.  Truly this diagnosis means the embryo and baby never formed, so it was lost around 4 weeks, we just didn't find out until much later. 

So here we are...

Blessed beyond measure with fertility and a solid marriage that's "dancing in the minefields".  Thankful for a hilarious toddler who'd make a great big brother one day. 

A question mark over God's path for us...  

"O Lord, help us."