And every month, I'm reminded of the incredible meaning of each of those things in the picture. Things that don't mean anything to anyone else except a backdrop to a (really still crummy, but I promise, friends, I'll learn and get better!) photograph marking another milestone month in the first year of life - nothing more than another kid's picture floating across their Facebook wall, lost easily in the sea of all the others.
But to me. Oh, to me. Every 13th of the month sweeps me back with an emotional gust of wind, right to that cross I once embraced, and didn't always understand.
I was so very hopeful in my first two years of NaPro treatment. I was convinced I would be healed of my infertility and be one of those success stories told far and wide, particularly when I scheduled my first surgery, the laparoscopy, ovarian wedge resection via laparotomy, and the selective hysterosalpingogram (yes, my surgeon was, like me, an overachiever). I just KNEW in my heart that once I had the surgery, and the "underlying cause" of my infertility was healed, I'd be counting the mere DAYS until pregnancy occurred. So sure was I, that I started this blog. Yes, while entitled 'This Cross I Embrace,' I fully intended for the title to describe the OLD me, because the woman just starting the blog was going to be an infertility survivor, thanks to NaPro surgery. This would, essentially, be a Pregnancy and Mommy Blog, with a healthy dose of "But, wait! I had INFERTILITY!!!" thrown in for good measure.
I made up my mind before the surgery in April of 2008, over 1.5 years into infertility and NaPro, that I'd better be ready for this baby which was guaranteed to fall into our laps pretty much the moment we came back home from the hospital. And so, I decorated a nursery. That's right. I designed, researched, picked out all the furniture, and then eventually painted 4 different colored walls of my NURSERY. The first thing I ordered was the glider on eBay. And,
Here it was in the nursery (with freshly painted walls) of our old apartment, almost completely set for a baby who would never live there.
Oh, but that glider. To two more homes that glider would follow us, leaving behind those colorful walls, and eventually being stuffed into the corner of a junk room to gather dust and absorb old, painful memories of hopes gone by. In fact, I never even sat in it past 2009. And yet, I didn't have the energy, or the desire to sever the final thread, to get rid of it.
Until August 2014, when it was resurrected to all its glory. Slowly, but steadily, that glider learned how to rock once again. That ottoman felt the weight of a mama's feet upon it once more. The glider came back to life.
And every month as Robbie sits upon that glorious, OLD glider, I'm reminded of the days of my own infertility infancy. The days I had the GALL to plan all of my hopes and dreams. The days of innocence, before experience made me perhaps a bit too cynical. And I know I desire the same optimism for my son as his tiny body grows, upon that glider.
First, I became a FertilityCare Practitioner. Then, I became a NaPro Sonographer. By 2010, I had basically invented my own career in NaPro/FertilityCare, and I loved every minute of it. I loved having a purpose for my cross that was tangible, visible to myself and to others. I loved bringing hope to others.
But, of course, there were difficult times. Times when I had to witness someone finding out that yet another cycle had failed, that there was NO LIFE within them. Moments when patients and clients had all of their hopes dashed before their eyes, lessening the summit of each subsequent curve on their never-ending rollercoaster of infertility. Days when nothing seemed to make sense as to WHY these amazing, faith-filled women with so many prayers on their side, weren't getting pregnant. Sure, I had my own anger about my own infertility, but at least I could say God "needed me" to be there in that capacity to serve others. What really angered me was not having the same easy answers for these women.
One such patient, never pregnant, came so often for ultrasounds that we had each other's cell numbers to coordinate schedules. On a particularly difficult night while I was juggling 3 jobs, she was my last patient at 6:30pm, and she showed up with a gift of chocolate bars and warm fuzzy socks! I could have KISSED her, it was just perfect! Despite all the pain she felt with each failed cycle, she always thought of others, and tried when she could to brighten someone else's day.
When she found out I was pregnant, I was so worried about inadvertently hurting her. She found out through my colleagues, and the next time I saw her, she had a gift for me: a beautiful card in which she thanked me for doing what I did for her and other patients, and... a handmade GORGEOUS and big baby blanket. The green in the blanket that she picked out matched the green glider she had no idea I had. I didn't know it at the time, but I instinctively laid the blanket atop the glider when I got home that night, and it has proudly stayed there ever since, adorning all of our photos with an extra dollop of sentimentality- a reminder of all those women, couples, and clients who have touched MY life and without whom I wouldn't be the same. Which leads me to...
One such Creighton client of mine had already been dealing with infertility when she found out about NaPro and Creighton, and, as God would plan it, sent her my way to learn charting and for ultrasounds. She had not done much by way of treatments, but had resolved to the fact that they would likely never conceive - until NaPro. I watched as each new treatment introduced offered more hope to this client, only to be dashed with another failed cycle, and my heart broke for her as I felt responsible for getting her hopes up in the first place when she had already felt somewhat resolved. And so, of course, when I had to share with her the news of my pregnancy, I was hesitant to do so. At her next appointment, she, too, showed up with a gift for my unborn child - a stuffed baby lamb, with a cross on its foot. An adorably soft and cuddly toy, it was quickly joined by many, MANY other stuffed toys as the months went on through pregnancy. But it was at that first month's picture, May 13th, 2015, when I instinctively reached for that lamb. It had meaning beyond its liturgical reference, even though that was a really great piece. It meant, to me, that my friend and client would contribute in a big way to the memories we were forming through Robbie's first year. That, despite her never having conceived, she was there, represented in every one of our pictures, and that one day Robbie would know about her, as well as the woman who made him his blanket. It meant that his mama's life prior to conceiving him was spent trying (and hopefully not failing too much) to bring others hope.
The Baby is a big 10 month old bouncing boy, now. He is easy in ways infertility never was, and he is challenging in ways that infertility well prepared me for. The challenges of being a mother to Robbie are like the challenges of the very best day of infertility - it's like the Peak Day, when you've had the best mucus cycle of your life, used all of the days, and saw 3 great follicles on the ultrasound. There is no challenge in motherhood (for me) as a CD 1, or the 2WW in infertility. Seeing that miracle baby upon that glider, with that blanket and that lamb every month makes my heart stop for an instant every month. It is simply too much to take in, that all of these very important representative pieces from the past come together in one STILL unbelievable experience of taking a picture of MY SON as he grows bigger and stronger. Without my past, and all of the people who touched it, I'm not sure that my son would be here.
And of course, there is the camera that takes all of these (crappy, sorry) pictures.
A camera I received exactly one year ago on Valentine's Day at my surprise blogger shower.
Another crucial, and representative piece to these moments - all of you. The love, CONSTANT prayers, and generosity you've given to me since 2008 and my first blog post is, simply overwhelming. Robbie's life has quite the backstory, and I can't wait to tell him all about it as he grows, and grows, and grows.