"...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

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.