Monday, July 21, 2014

NFP Awareness, and a Creighton Model Giveaway!!

It is NFP Awareness Week!

(Reason being Humanae Vitae came out this week, on July 25th, 1968.  If you have not yet read Humanae Vitae by Pope Paul VI, read it!)

But that's not all that happened on July 25th.  10 years after the release of Humanae Vitae, TO THE DAY, July 25th 1978 the first IVF baby was born.

Coincidence?  I think not.  Many, many people believe that PPVI was well ahead of his time in anticipating all of the backlash of society trying to medically suppress, destroy, and override its own fertility.

But, do not despair, because 3 years later, TO THE DAY, something else happened on July 25th.

Me.


(I'm the baby!)

Yup.  I share this fascinating date of birth with two very "fertility aware" phenomena.  So, it only seems fitting that I, myself would grow up to experience fertility "in the trenches" as both a woman with primary infertility, and as a FertilityCare Coordinator and Practitioner at a NaPro Technology office.

(July 25 is also the Feast of St James the Greater.  A quick google search on St James and Fertility yielded this little heretofore unknown tidbit:
The seashell, especially the scallop, is the symbol of baptism in Christianity.  The baptismal font is often shaped like a scallop, or decorated with one.  The dish used by priests to pour water over the heads of catachumens in baptism is often scallop-shaped.  The scallop, too, is the symbol for the Apostle James the Greater.   St. James used the scallop shell during his pilgrimage to beg for food and water.  Even the poorest people could fill the small shell, so he always found help along his way.  Later, followers of St. James wore the scallop-shell symbol on their hats and clothes and it became the symbol of pilgrimage.
Fertility is also associated with the scallop shell, as exemplified in ancient and renaissance  paintings of Venus, the Roman goddess of fertility and love.  She is often shown coming out of a scallop shell.  Perhaps this is why some pilgrims, walking the way of St. James, used the scallop in a pagan ritual to encourage child-bearing.)

And so to celebrate this very awesome week, I am excited to point you all in the direction of Simcha Fisher's blog, where she will be hosting an NFP Giveaway all week!!  Dozens of prizes will be given away, ranging from jewelry, religious items, and books, to health and beauty, music, and services.

My giveaway for NFP Awareness Week?  One FREE Introductory Session of the Creighton Model FertilityCare System, including materials to begin charting, AND a 20% discount on all subsequent follow-ups for life!  All sessions to be conducted via Skype.

Come on over to Simcha's blog, and enter to win this, or any of the other prizes that float your boat (there may even be a boat giveaway... maybe...) during the week!!



Tuesday, July 1, 2014

ADOPT-A-BLOGGER!!!

This month, JULY 2014 we pray for
Stephanie @ Chateau d'IF!!


How it works:


ALL bloggers, readers, commenters, lurkers, lurchers, creepers, crazies, borings, snorings, dazed, confused, and willing - i.e., ALL OF US - will be uniting our prayers for the entire month for the blogger mentioned above. At the same time, across the country, across the Americas, heck, even across the world, our prayers will all be directed in the same place, at the same time. FOR A WHOLE MONTH! Get ready for some SERIOUS fruits, people!

Click on the blog link above to visit the Blogger of the Month's post in which they will give you a brief history of their journey with infertility/adoption/childlessness. Then, continue to follow up and check in on that blogger throughout the month, to become more familiar with them and better align your prayers with their intentions.


Why?:


The idea is to pray a Childless Blogger, one of our own, to a Childless-No-More status. To bridge that final gap, to knock down that final wall, to make them MOMMIES against all odds!! Above all else, our prayers will be for peace and joy in their hearts as only God holds the answer to these prayers.


When?:


All month long! A new Blogger will be announced at the beginning of each new month. This post will be updated on the 1st of every month, so be sure to check back!


So,... How, again??


Pray whatever prayers you'd like. Do a Novena. Say a rosary. Meditate. Say a litany. The Memorare. Whatever your heart desires, whenever it desires it. You may also choose (and this is HIGHLY ENCOURAGED!) to offer up your suffering, any suffering at all, for the Adopted Blogger. Your offering can be as small as your patience with an overtired, sugar-high toddler, or it can be as large as offering your cycle (if you are going through infertility) in the hopes that your cycle will be instead the cycle in which their child is conceived. Singles? You, too have an excellent opportunity to offer your daily wait for a spouse. Not trying to conceive? That's okay- hey, trust me, I'm sure we ALLLLLLL can find some form of suffering in our daily lives to offer up!


So, join in, one and all, and please feel free to STEAL this lovely Bloggy Button below created by our own Rebecca @ The Road Home.



The button should link back to this post on your page (steal the URL from above), so that all blog readers can learn how to join in, and WHO to pray for!
(Remember, the post will be updated on the 1st of each month, but the link will remain the same.)


Thank you for participating in the Adopt-A-Blogger Prayer Campaign!!! Your prayers are powerful, and so very much appreciated!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Stages of Infertility through Time

After my last post, I began thinking of the whole process of infertility, and the different stages through the years.  I've often touched upon the comparison to the Stages of Grieving, here on this blog:

  1.  Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

These stages are cyclical, not just within a given menstrual cycle, but also through time.

And, I've definitely been to each, like this poor sap:


(Thanks again to Barbie for introducing me to this awesome video!)

It's certainly not melodramatic to compare the Stages of Infertility to the Stages of Grieving (aka the Stages of Dying), since the diagnosis of infertility brings with it the same reported levels of stress as the diagnosis of cancer or heart disease.  In fact, here is one blogger's comparison between her own cancer diagnosis and experience with infertility and miscarriage:

“Yeah, lucky me I have had both cancer and infertility.  But, hands down infertility has been so much harder. My cancer journey and the accompanying chemo and radiation was primarily physically painful (of course there was a lot of worry too, but a lot of physical pain). And thank goodness, at the very least, no one said anything stupid like "just relax" or "this is God's will" "or maybe you weren't meant to have hair. " Okay that last one was sarcastic, but I think you get my drift.
My experience with infertility (which started 8 years after the cancer) and recurrent miscarriage has not only been physically painful, but at points soul-crushing and I have bordered on despair. Not to be a debbie downer, but while my family was awesome during my cancer treatment, it was not like that during our IF struggles. It boggled my mind, and yeah I was bitter at times, but what helped was finding people who could and would support me.”

But in thinking beyond the stages of grieving as they pertain to infertility, I realized that there is a deeper progression happening alongside these stages, as our cross is carried over time, which is more of a linear progression than a cyclical one.



In Early Infertility, as I pointed out in the last post, there is so much pain and hope, hope and pain, tied together, always either at odds with each other, or fueling each other in their intensity.  Early Infertility is a horrible place to be, because no matter what, you just. cannot. escape. it.  Infertility, all things fertility, and baby, and family, and happiness, and rainbows, and sunshine, and expectations are quite literally everywhere, and they appear to be just out of reach.  If we can only reach just a bit more, try just a little harder, say and do just the right thing at just the right time, surely, we will be able to lift ourselves out of the muck and into the land of everyone around us (with babies).  Early Infertility is a time of living, and grasping at the Future.  Everything about Early Infertility is sharp.  It is penetrating, immediate, but also superficial, in that the hurts evaporate easily and quickly.  This is not to say the pain is a superficial pain, as you think about the nerve endings on our skin being incredibly sensitive.  The pain is real, but it is a necessary first step to numbing the superficial to begin working on the mid-level. 

Mid-Infertility, as I recently (i.e., 5 seconds ago) coined it, is not as much defined by what year of infertility as it is the couple's mindset and emotional status.  For me, Mid-Infertility occurred between years 3-6.
Mid-Infertility is a time of dwindling hope, accompanied by a deepening self-awareness.  Mid-Infertility is a time to soul-searching, a time of deciding just how far and just how long you will fight.  There is a glimpse of joy and beauty in the realization that you have grown as a person, have survived things you never thought you'd be able to survive, but also a real threat of depression when the expectations of Early Infertility begin to sneak in.  Mid-Infertility is a time of living, and lamenting in the Past.  Mid-Infertility, above all, is a time of discerning the difference between expectations and hopes.  If experienced spiritually, it can lead to a "rounding out" of the individual, where the pain of the past can be transformed into a deep conditioning and purgation.  There is a fullness that is achieved as the sharp edges of Early Infertility are smoothed from a quick, localized pain to become a deeper, lasting pain.  Allowing the pain to be felt is one crucial part of the Mid-Infertility identity.  It is a scary place to be, but if the fear can be turned to faith, it can be so incredibly purposeful.

Which leads me to Long-Term Infertility (veteran status).
Again, Long-Term Infertility is mostly consistent with the mental, emotional, and spiritual level of the individual, but I personally was not able to get there until year 6 through present, and only after all medication, charting, caring obsessing was completely stopped for quite some time.
Long-Term Infertility is a place void of all expectations.  Instead, hope is reignited, true, God-centered hope replacing false, self-centered hope.  Long-Term Infertility has allowed all of the pain from Early and Mid-Infertility to penetrate deeply to the root, allowing the pain to melt away the deepest fears and insecurities felt so powerfully in Mid-Infertility.  The pain now is a slow-to-rise pain, not a quick and sharp one, but it is firmly grounded.  Long-Term Infertility is a time of living just for today in the Present.  It is a safe place to be because once reached, even though the mind, the heart, and the spirit may wander back to regretting the past or worrying ahead about the future, having found oneself in the peace of Long-Term Infertility, it takes only a moment to bring oneself back into that reality.  Long-Term Infertility is not without pain, but it can be full of joy.  Best of all, Long-Term Infertility, once reached, is a place where you can escape all of the negatives of infertility and truly enjoy all of the positives (yes, I said "all of," there is more than one!) without feeling guilty or like a quitter.  Long-Term Infertility is about progress, not perfection - and about understanding what that means.


Of course, my perspective on all of this comes from a woman who is still childless and unable to adopt or foster.  I am sure that there would be some hurdles thrown into this analysis should an adoption take place, say, in Mid-Infertility, or for a couple with secondary infertility.  But, it's my belief that with children as part of this equation, it doesn't make the spiritual progression stop, but it can certainly place a greater strain on the timeline.  I believe we are all meant to achieve the Long-Term status even if we have become pregnant in Early or Mid-Infertility, but God may just need us to use a different cross to achieve it.  The cross of infertility is only one of many we will face in life.  The danger is when that cross is lifted, believing that your spiritual journey has ended.  It has not!  Pick up, and embrace your next cross to continue your walk, as painful as it may be, into the Long-Term status, where every day is a new day, every day is a gift, and every day brings with it the challenge to remain in a place of gratitude and hope.


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Let Us Remember Our "Early Infertility" Sisters

As a veteran infertile, I often find myself most relating to other infertile women who are where I am, now.  Past the point of frantic "Does this look like 2 lines to you???" picture texts, and the tracking of every symptom, both real and imaginary, it has been helpful to find common grounding with the women who have moved into the "veteran" status with me.  There is an unspoken understanding in these friendships, and the unspoken part is the best part of all.  There is no co-obsession of all things infertility-related, no mention of cycle days, no exchange of newest treatment protocols.  But there's something else missing from these interactions, I've noticed.  There is no sharing of dreams.  Void from our communication is any statement that begins, "When I have kids..." or "When I get pregnant..."  It is the unspoken reality that we've all come to accept, and which hurts too much to challenge.

This is so different than the friendships I shared in Early Infertility (heretofore signifying first 3 or so years).  In Early Infertility, I couldn't get enough of all things infertility.  I slept, breathed, and ate gluten-free infertility like it was hopefully going out of style that very cycle.  I blogged, daily, I stalked others' blogs, I read about others' NaPro miracles, convinced I would be sharing mine one day, too, and I became a professional pregnancy test/Pre-Seed/OTC mucus enhancer bargain shopper.

It is true that I look back on those early years and shake my head at my own naivete.  It is true that through the cross of "long-term" infertility, I have gained many graces, and a wisdom I most definitely lacked in early infertility.  But it is also true that I needed my Early Infertility, in order to bring me to where I am today.  You see, I cannot look back on those years with too much disapproval, because they were perhaps more formative spiritually and emotionally than I realize.  And while I may read some of my blog posts from Early Infertility with this mentality




I do think that my naivete of Early Infertility wasn't *all* bad, and that perhaps my outlook in Long-Term Infertility is more tainted by bitter resignation than I'd prefer it to be.

And so, as I reflected on this, I began to see that I need to do two important things:


  1. I need to learn from my sisters in Early Infertility.  Part of the wisdom that comes with time and age should be in knowing that wisdom can be found everywhere, even where we may least expect it.
  2. I need to remember my own Early Infertility, how it shaped me, what it felt like, how I learned from it, and most of all, what hope felt like in those days.
What I believe I lost in my veteran status is a beautiful and amazing gift that those in Early Infertility have, and that is the ability to hope.  I've written about hope quite a bit over here at TCIE, through all stages of my journey, and I've made a point to always emphasize that our hope should be in The Lord, not in "getting what we want."  But, hoping to get what we want, if what we want is a good and holy desire, is not a bad thing.  There is a child-like quality about it, that, rather than being viewed as a lack of wisdom or an abundance of naivete should perhaps be viewed in this light:  

                            "Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such
                            belongs the kingdom of God.  Truly, I say to you, whoever does
                            not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.
                                                                                              - Jesus, circa 32 AD


Early Infertility is tough.  And perhaps one of the toughest parts about it is the hope that continues to be dashed with each passing cycle.  We watch as some of our comrades in battle conceive, and others do not, and our confusion leaves us paralyzed when there is seemingly no magic protocol of prayers and meds, no rhyme or reason to one person's continued infertility, and another's success.  We wait, oh GOD, how we wait, ever impatiently, for it to be our turn... and we stand in AWE at those who have been doing this for years longer than us.  (I remember discussing with friends in Early Infertility how none of us could ever IMAGINE what it would be like to have to wait THREE YEARS, as our friend B had, for her first.)  Well, I am here to tell you, my sisters in Early Infertility, Long-Term Infertility is NOT the constant daily torture that you are currently experiencing.  It does get better!  

But as much as I may be able to tell you about your yet unknown future, you can teach me, and all of us, how to cling to that child-like hope that I know pleases God so much.

May we always remember what our first couple, or few years of infertility were like - how raw every single emotion felt, how jarring words could be when interpreted in the context of pain, and how we longed for a numbness that never seemed to come... all the while truly holding onto the hope that the Lord would provide an answer to the desire of our incessant prayers.  May we always support, always console, and yes, always LEARN from these beautiful sisters in Christ, as their cross is ours - in perhaps its most painful AND hopeful stage.