"...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

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.