Archive | April 2014

Lost

Lately, my life has felt like a series of contradictions. Strong desire to stay home? Gotta work. Get a job? You don’t have to. Called to work for the church? Jk, the position’s not open yet.

I don’t know what to do or what to think. My brain is frazzled. I am struggling to do things I usually do without thinking. Cooking is a chore. I love to cook. Playing with the kids requires so much more energy than I have. My kids are my passion. My house is a disaster. I can hardly stand it….

Even prayer is failing to clear my mind. I am spinning out of control mentally. What am I supposed to do? Rest in the Lord, I’m told. What does that mean? I can’t just sit still. I can’t be that metaphorical man in the ocean, demanding God help me but refusing the boats that come by. But I can’t see the boats. I don’t know if they’re boats or just broken pieces of the boat I sunk. I don’t know which way is up, which way is the “right” way.

And yes, I’m aware that our God is so awesome, he can use any situation. I’d prefer not to put my family or myself into a situation of him needing to remedy a situation, though. Been there. Done that. I have the t-shirt and the magnet. Don’t wanna visit again.

So now I sit here and wonder. I’ll keep going down the path that logically fits, though in the past, logic has failed to deliver. Still, I have to move. Somehow. I have to trust. Right? Maybe if I trust enough, have enough faith, something will clear.

That seems like a contradiction in itself. 

Advertisements

Those Three Words

I Love You by HaskinsJ, deviantart.com

I Love You by HaskinsJ, deviantart.com

I didn’t realize how much I refused to say it. I wrote papers in high school about how I didn’t believe it existed. I wouldn’t say it to anyone. I wouldn’t even let myself think it. And if I did say it, it was hollow, said just to please some romantic. When the hubby’s, then just the boyfriend, family said it all the time to anyone, I was shocked. Scandalized. Afraid. When I tried it with my family, those three words fell flat, and I again refused to say it.

I couldn’t say “I love you.”

I don’t know why. Really, I have no idea! It isn’t like my parents never said it to us kids. They said it all the time. My mom would whisper it while she tickled my back at night as a little girl. My dad would tell me on our daddy-daughter dates. They’d tell us randomly throughout the day.

Whatever the reason, whether something forming over my rebellious high school years or as a result of watching my parents’ marriage struggle, I decided that love was something precious and rare, maybe non-existent all together. I kept it locked in a little corner of my heart, with “Only Use in Emergencies” plastered across the front of the glass. Those words were only when I really, really meant it.

My husband’s family, however, had the completely opposite idea: they said it to everyone special to them. Family, friends, even me. I was shocked. Was love so trivial to them that they shared it with everyone? No, I realized, as I watched them. Every time, every time, my husband left the house, one or both of his parents would shout out “Love you!” and he’d shout it back. There was always a lightness in his walk, a slight smile after we left.

If they said it to me, though, I’d freeze. I’d cough and splutter and turn red, and then mumble an awkward, “Love ya, too” while desperately glancing at the hubby. I didn’t know what to do. I wasn’t allowed to open that case except in an emergency. It was currently only open to the hubby, and I was scared to say it to anyone else. I was afraid it’d cheapen it.

Over the years, I’ve watched the hubby have long-lasting, incredibly deep relationships with those around him. He is loyal to a fault with his family, willing to do anything and forgiving anything. He calls his best friends brothers and isn’t ashamed to say, “love ya, man.” He goes out of his way to make sure that they know he cares, helping friends’ little sisters move broken-down cars, offering help whenever he can and drinks if he can’t. My husband’s heart is huge. There is no one he cannot befriend, and he loves freely and openly.

I thought I was doing better. A recovering love-a-phobic. We always say “I love you” when we hang up, and if one of us forgets, we text to see if they were mad. It’s easy between us. And I love my boys ridiculously, saying it perhaps more than normal folks do. I even toss it into conversations with my family, even though I know they probably won’t say it back. (Not because they don’t love me, too, but because they either aren’t expecting it or because it’s just not the way we function.)

Wednesday at church, though, I had a revelation. One of my Bible study sisters always says, “Love you!” as the boys and I leave. I always awkwardly nod and pretend like #1 is doing something crazy so I have an excuse not to say it back. Emergencies only, and all. And I realized: love isn’t just romantic. It seems so simple, but it was why I’d kept it bottled up for years. I assumed that “I love you” was either romantic or for immediate family. I couldn’t seem to wrap my brain around loving someone else. In that moment, I realized that I have a very narrow view of love, one that’s kept me stinted in my relationships and kept me much lonelier than I should be. I’d severed friendships because I wouldn’t allow myself to love. Cut off family because I was afraid of it being thrown in my face. Refused to open up to my new family-by-marriage because it seemed so foreign.

Yet God calls us to first love him, and then love others. My husband, who doesn’t go to church regularly and didn’t grow up going to Christian school or singing “Amazing Love” in youth group, understands the heart of God more than I do.

I was humbled. Beyond belief, I found myself staggering to my knees. Love wasn’t and isn’t about some thing that I give only to those who are worthy. Rather, it is something to be given to everyone, because I’m not worthy. I don’t deserve love from anyone, because I’m flawed. I tend towards micromanaging, controlling, and dominating. I want to have everything in its place, and think only I can do it best. (The biggest of my human flaws.) I, as a sinful creature, deserve nothing but separation. Yet for some reason, God loves me. He loves me ugly spots and all. If I can be loved, it seems only logical to love those around me.

Last Wednesday, I said “Love you” back to my friend. A weight lifted off my shoulders and I felt free. It seems silly, and overly simple, but I am realizing that love is for our sisters and brothers, our friends, and our family. It is for those we value, and saying it to more people doesn’t cheapen it. Rather, it makes it more precious, more beautiful than it could ever be otherwise.

Someday, I hope to have the kind of heart my husband has: one open to loving everyone, one that easily forgives and quickly forgets. For now, I’m so thankful that God brought him into my life, so I can have the nearest human example of what true love really is.

Avoiding Life’s Mudslides

The Hero by jpgmn, deviantart.com

The Hero by jpgmn, deviantart.com

My Bible study this morning had Psalm 40:2 in it.

“He lifted me out of the grave,

He lifted me from that muddy place,

He picked me up, put me on solid ground,

and kept my feet from slipping.”

I love that. It’s my husband’s (yet-to-be-read) Easy-to-read version, so the phrasing is a little different, but it spoke to me more than my usual NIV. The notes at the bottom say that “grave” is literally “pit of destruction” or “Sheol, the place of death.” It goes on, saying that the “muddy place” David mentions was Sheol, the place of death that was surrounded by mud. Sheol was the ancient version of hell, the eternal resting place for everyone – righteous or unrighteous – and was set apart from God.

I’m not going to try to interpret David’s meaning. It wasn’t David’s story that spoke to me. It was my own. It was my circumstances that God whispered to this morning.

Right now, my women’s Bible study group is studying the book Having a Mary Spirit by Joanna Weaver. It is a fabulous book that addresses our inner struggles as women (and people in general) to constantly be in control. We have to be in control of our image, of our family, of our career. We have learned flaws that drive us. My primary one is the flaw of performance, constantly needing to perform at a certain level to make sure I get others’ approval. Mom coming over? The house must look like a model home, not like I have two kids and a husband and cook from scratch. Stay at home mom? My kid must be able to read by Kindergarten. My food must be organic and made by hand, not out of a can. Going to church? My boys must be dressed to a T, I must be uber-involved, and I must sing beautifully during worship. Whenever I’m not serving in Children’s Ministry.

None of those things are bad things inherently. They’re all driven, though, by my desire to hit certain standards to feel good about myself. When I fail, because I will fail, I beat myself up and feel like a failure. The flaw is my worship of status and standard, rather than my worship of God and His power.

I’m learning to lean on him and try to reach his standards with him, rather than attempting to reach self-imposed standards on my own strength. Psalm 40:2 was like a balm on my bruised heart. I’ve not had an easy time giving up my selfishness or my standards, but it was like he knelt down, hugged me, and whispered, “Let me hold your hand. I’ll keep you from slipping back into that muck.”

Not three hours later, I discovered that the government aid we had been waiting for was denied. With it gone, we are facing the tough reality that we will have to get health insurance for all of us through hubby’s work. (Per law, though I’m on my parents’ insurance until I’m 26, I have to switch because hubby’s work offers it, meaning much higher premiums.) To top it off, #2 might have a serious allergy, meaning more finagling of the food budget. My first reaction was panic. And fear. The insurance would likely be nearly 20% of hubby’s take-home pay, and 75% already goes to housing costs and insurance. Anger soon followed. After all, we were just as deserving of help as all the other people out there! Why were we denied? What magical money do we have hidden, or is it the same excuse as last time, that “the system says we should be able to change our spending habits and provide well enough?” Are we supposed to live on Ramen and hot dogs?

Right in the middle of my panic attack, “David’s Song” came on Pandora. The last verse echoed in my heart.

I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though it all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah”

Suddenly, I felt a stillness. In that moment, I cried out to Him. “Why is this happening? I know I’m supposed to trust in you, but in this moment, I don’t know what to do! I’m lost. Our family is struggling, and it seems like everything is against us.” I took a deep breath, and remembered Psalm 40:2. He had promised to keep me from slipping, to hold my hand and keep me on solid ground. “I trust you. I don’t know what else to do, but I trust you. Help us.”

The peace I felt then was humbling. Was I still scared? Yes. After all, I still don’t know what’s planned for us. The anger and worry, though, was slowly drifting away, to be replaced by clarity. I knew what I needed to do, even though my heart wanted to run away. And as I followed His lead, he began opening doors.

Soon, I will be a working woman again. As a wife, it’s my role to be a helper to my husband, a support and a partner in life’s ups and downs. Just as God will keep me from slipping down into the muck, I am called to help my husband and keep our family from sliding down into despair. Do I necessarily want to be working? No. I love being a stay at home mom. I love caring for my family in those domestic, traditional roles. I realize, though, that right now my husband needs me to step up and help financially. He and I are a team. Together, we’ll shoulder the burden and make it through. With two incomes, those budget issues we have will be solved, or at least massively reduced. The stresses he faces daily will dissolve. And I will grow even closer to God, because this will take a lot of self-humbling.

Someday, I hope to stay home with my children again, to take care of my family through making them my career. Right now, I will sacrifice made-from-scratch meals and perfectly organized kids’ rooms and a clean kitchen table for knowing that they will have food and will be on health insurance once this current one expires.

Most of all, I will remember that I can’t do any of this on my own. My desires will always have me sinking in the mud. All my efforts will only end in spiritual stagnancy and death. So, I’ll continue to pray for guidance and continue to lay my fear and anger and frustration and struggles at the feet of the only One strong enough to handle them, the only one who can keep me from slipping into my past self.

I will trust the solid ground he puts me on.

So, What IS Egg Donation?

My bouquet, though try to ignore the mess...

My bouquet, though try to ignore the mess…

So, I’ve written about my experiences in the past, and mentioned that I am an egg donor now, but what is an egg donor? What happens? Am I selling my body parts on the black market? Have I thought this through?

Breathe with me, folks. Egg donation is not nearly as scary as it sounds. Sure, there’s needles involved, and no sex, and some health side effects that a few people experience, but the over-all process is fairly straight-forward.

To start it off, no, egg donation isn’t (usually) black market. There are some companies that take advantage of prospective donors, and they’ve received a lot of attention as “egg brokers.” Do yourself a favor and make sure to thoroughly research your agency before you jump on in. I chose two different agencies and ended up going with The Donor Solution. They operate out of Houston, Texas for the general Texas area, as well as some other areas like California. Texas is more accepting of egg donation than many states, as well, which makes it a prime location for the gift of life.

Also, egg donation is often for women who either have no eggs (like a genetic abnormality where they don’t have ovaries) or who don’t have good quality eggs. Some parents choose to use a donor egg if one or both have a genetic disease trait. Many of the women seeking egg donation have tried other methods. And yes, some of the couples are gay men. In Texas, at least, the surrogacy process cannot use the surrogate’s egg, to protect the family from any parental claims, so they need a donor egg. Whatever the case is, the eggs are a necessity, not a luxury. This isn’t a case of rich people wanting a designer baby. It’s two people wanting a baby of their own, nothing more, nothing less.

And so, the process begins. As a potential donor, I had to fill out pages upon pages of information on myself and my family history. They leave no stone unturned. Everything from my physical appearance to my education to my medical history and that of my family was meticulously looked at. Was I nervous? You bet! After all, I’ve already got the two boys. They seem ok, but maybe my eggs wouldn’t be good enough for someone else! (After all, most of us don’t get thoroughly screened before we get pregnant unless we have reason to.) Thankfully, the only question they had was about a family member’s severe ADHD. Given that they were a later-in-life baby and are fully functional and fairly brilliant, it was ok-ed. The last step was submitting as many pictures of me as I could get my hands on. Selfies, anyone? Seriously, though, it was really fun finding pictures from my life and seeing how my boys look like me, and wondering if the baby they have will to. (Just conjecture, people. Not actually dying to know.)

To our surprise, we were chosen THE DAY they posted my profile. Like, hours after. Perks of being blonde-haired and blue-eyed, I suppose, though I like to pretend like my ACT scores were the final deciding factor. And then…. we waited.

There were tons of blood tests. One is to check your levels for fertility. Another is an STD test, since no one wants to accidentally spread any of those. Then, there were genetic testing blood tests, and a few other tests I’m not sure what they were for. (I know I was told, but I just went in to get my blood drawn.) The toughest part for me was finding someone to watch the boys. Most clinics don’t allow children in the drawing room with you, and it’s a little difficult to pretend like they’re Little People while they still wear diapers and monster beanies… During this time, I also met with the fertility doctor and had a brief psych eval and discussion about what is expected. Up until I met him, my parents-to-be were nebulous and distant. He shook my hand and said, “The parents are so grateful to you. Not many people would do this, and it’s an amazing thing.” It made them real and sent goosebumps down my arms.

Finally, after all the testing was complete, the mom and I were ready to sync our cycles! Thankfully, my fertility doctor let me use my regular birth control, just skipping the placebo pills until the mom was on her next cycle. For some donations, there’s actually a shot to keep you from having your period. (SO thankful that wasn’t my case…) Thus began 6 weeks of waiting and meticulously taking my pills within 30 seconds of the previous day. Maybe I should have set my alarm for 7, rather than 8, to give them… I probably should have gotten up earlier than 7:50 most days…

And then, the big day arrived. I stopped birth control pill on a Thursday and got a crash course on how to do the shots, which had arrived by mail a few days earlier. (Side story: one of the shot tutorials was on a USB key that looked like a positive pregnancy test. It fell out of my purse and about gave the hubby a heart attack. Moral of the story: saved the sucker for times when he’s being mean, to scare the pants off of him! I mean… Don’t freak your husband out.)

Everything moved super fast from this point. The following Saturday, I had my first ultrasound. These are vaginal ultrasounds (*GASP* I said it!), so be prepared for that. Otherwise, it’s a little shocking to expect your belly to get goopy and be asked to drop your pants. During the ultrasound itself, they measured my endometrium (the uterus lining) and counted the number of follicles (baby eggs) I had. I was shocked when they said 30! Just a little daunting.

The next Monday, I started my shots. Surprisingly, they weren’t terrible. The first shot was in a pen, with a certain amount of fluid in it that you twisted a dial to get. So, a 450 IU pen had 2 days worth of shots. That one went in easily. The needle itself was barely thicker than a hubby beard hair. The second shot, though, was more tricky. Thus, the pregnancy test USB key instruction manual. This one was time sensitive, so I had to mix salt water with the medicine and then administer it. It was a little thrilling to feel like a mad scientist, mixing vials and squirting liquid from a needle tip. But, it meant that there weren’t any extras in it to dull the pain. Remember getting a cut at the ocean and how the water burned? Yesh… is the same… But purposely done and injected into your belly fat. I discovered that the key to painless stickage was breathing. My La Maze classes paid off! Labor was not for naught! Seriously, though, deeply breathing, focusing only on the shot, and tuning all else out made it painless. It was amazing!

That Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, I had ultrasounds to measure the growing follicles. I also had blood work done just after to measure my estrogen levels, to ensure I wasn’t being overstimulated. (More on that later.) By that Saturday, I had 14 decent-sized follicles, and they hoped to do the retrieval on the following Wednesday. They asked I come in on the following Monday just to check everything, to make sure the eggs were where they needed to be. Needless to say, my body decided to play coy and surprise them with a bunch of eggs nearly ready, so they pushed it back one more day to have the best-sized, most mature eggs possible. Oh, the drama of switching baby-sitters and drivers last minute…

The last four days of the shots, I also had to give myself a shot in the evening to prevent any early ovulation. This one, regardless of breathing, hurt like the Dickens. I’d bet my left arm that the majority of the pain was because I’d get a good stick, then realize I’d not gotten the bubble out of the vial, pull it out, try to stick it again, fail two times each time, and finally get it in again, only to want to cry from all my adrenaline and breathing disappearing. It doesn’t help that the needle is about the size of a small sewing needle, either. Talk about mentally psyching yourself out!

Tuesday night rolled around, and I was finally ready to take the last shot. It was time to RELEASE THE KRAKEN! I mean… the eggs… This shot, unlike the others, had to be given precisely at 10:30 pm, no earlier, no later. The stress from not missing it was insane. Just think, 12 days of shots just to mess it up, and a whole family’s hopes, by missing a shot by 3 minutes! (I’m sure I was being dramatic, but the doctor was pretty emphatic.) I even set my alarm 5 minutes early so I could have everything prepped. And then it was done!

Thursday morning, bright and early, the hubby drove me and the kiddos to the clinic. The nurses walked me in, handed me a robe to change into, and giggled as I realized my toes would freeze without my socks, which were on the bed at home. The procedure room was in the clinic and looked very similar to the love child of a doctor’s office and ER room. Monitoring equipment, IV drips, cabinets full of supplies, a reclining bed, and our feminine favorite – foot rests higher than my nose. Two nurses were in there with me, as well as the anesthesiologist. She gave my vein a nifty, burning shot of numbing agent just under the skin to make the IV easier to put in. It was pretty cool to watch once the burning was gone. It left a bubble just under the skin. Unfortunately, the first stick didn’t go, so we had to switch to the one on my wrist. I have no memory of what happened from that point on until I woke up about an hour later.

The procedure takes between 20 and 30 minutes to do, and involves an aspirated needle with an ultrasound wand base to locateFemale Reproductive System Diagram the follicles and pull out the egg and all the liquid within. Pulling out the liquid helps reduce the possibility of bloating and fluid retention afterward.  Obviously, it isn’t exactly cut and dry, the path to the ovaries. So, the needle goes through the vagina wall. Fun stuff, right? I am so glad I was totally out for it. The doctor was very careful while he did it, because there are multiple blood vessels and other organs around it.

And then it was done. 27 mature eggs were retrieved.

Overall from start to finish, the cycle  wasn’t terribly uncomfortable. There was lots of pressure, kind of like someone pushing their thumbs just inside either of your hips. By the end of the cycle, my ovaries were about the size of Roma tomatoes or large eggs (is that ironic?) and felt it. The shots left some bruising, though not nearly as much as I’d expected, and I felt massively better after the retrieval. It’s been nearly a week now, and there’s only a lingering tenderness in my pelvis. For about three days, I felt like my insides were bruised. The day of, I slept for 6 hours when we got home, and I would have slept longer, but hubby’s Grandmother was leaving and I wanted to say thanks for wrangling the boys. It’s not easy to take care of two littles and a hubby with a severe ankle sprain.

Yesterday, I got a beautiful surprise bouquet from the agency (see it up there in all its glory??), and sometime today or tomorrow, we’ll receive our compensation check. Contrary to popular belief, the check is for the physical stresses of donation, as well as the time off, baby-sitting costs, and gas. It isn’t payment for eggs. Also, if I was in it purely for the money, I wouldn’t have been able to make it. Literally, the only thing keeping me from tears of frustration those last few days was the thought of the parents waiting for me. It wasn’t unbearable, but it was incredibly difficult. There is a lot of mental preparation that has to go into giving yourself shots, and knowing that you’re going to get incredibly uncomfortable. Worse for us, there’s no sex for a month. That’s a heavy strain on any relationship, and my husband and I value our intimacy.  The stress of getting it all right, too, was fairly heavy. I tend to internalize many a thing and put too much pressure on myself, but let’s be honest here: a family’s literal life was at stake. No room for error.

Was it worth all of that? Oh my gosh, you have no idea. Yes. A thousand times yes.

On a purely logical front, we will finally have the money to pay off my husband’s student loan that’s been hovering over us for years. In a way, helping their family has helped free our family, too.

On an emotional/psychological/realistic front, I just helped to create life. Our cycle was completely anonymous, and while I wish I’d had the chance to meet the parents, I have no desire to meet the child unless the family wishes it. I understand that any children that come from my donation are their children. She will be its mother, and he its father. Still, that baby/babies wouldn’t exist without me. Like I’ve said before, hubby and I would love more children (me, more than him for once). In our current situation, we realize that we financially cannot have another child and have no wish to strain our household more than it already is. Yes, a baby would be a miraculous and wonderful addition, and we’ll roll with it if it happens outside our control, but we want to be wise stewards of our resources and good providers and protectors for our boys. When the time is right, we’ll branch out. But oh…. How I want to give life. It’s just so precious and wondrous and amazing! A human being made from 46 chromosomes and two half-cells? It’s mesmerizing to me. The mother, somewhere out there, has let me do just that, without stressing our family resources.

She has given my child life, too. I am indebted to her forever. That baby would have passed through without a chance of life, if it wasn’t for her. She is an amazing, wonderful person, and I will forever be grateful. (Her husband, as well. The struggles of infertility are rough, and it takes a strong man to weather it with his wife, to be a support and encourager in those difficult times.)

Would I do it again? Yes. Should you? That’s up to you, and your partner if you have one. It’s not something to do on a whim. It’s not something to do just for the cash. This isn’t a get-rich quick scheme, and it isn’t a walk in the park. But, if you’ve done your research, come to peace with the results, and have a good support system, egg donation is a wonderful thing. All it takes to see is a friend, a sister, a spouse’s struggle and the tears of relief or surprise that you’d be so willing to give, and it’s all worth it.

The Power of Shared Tears

The Child Who Was Never Born - Martin Hudacek

The Child Who Was Never Born – Martin Hudacek

It never ceases to amaze me how I feel when a friend or acquaintance opens up about their miscarriage experience. There is this feeling of awe, that they would trust me with such a powerful, painful experience. And sadness, because I know my own story, and so I can empathize. Even more, though, there is a sense of loss.

Perhaps many of you who have gone through this can relate. Maybe some of you who’ve never had a pregnancy but want one can chip in, let us know if it’s the same/similar for you.

I feel like we as a community of people have lost the ability to empathize. I don’t know if it’s an American/Western issue or just an issue with those around me, but crying with someone just isn’t really a thing. Especially if it’s anyone but your best friend or sister, crying is just… “weird.”

There is nothing else I longed for, though, when I had my miscarriages than for someone to cry with me. We all know that hollow feeling you get when you either say or receive an “I’m so sorry for your loss.” We just don’t know what to say in that moment. Really, words just don’t quite cut it. Actions, though. Actions are a literal balm to my soul. All I wanted was for someone to wrap me in a hug and let me let it all out. Someone to say, “It’s ok to cry. Let me cry with you. Let me be your protection so you can be weak.”

And yet, that’s so far from what often happens.

In my own experience, I thought I had to face it all on my own. Part of it was due to our history: 18 and pregnant isn’t a great place to start, and 21 and pregnant with no money isn’t much better. My mother, God love her, was and is and always will be very concerned with my welfare and that of our family. She is just one of many people who were and are, so this isn’t an attack on my mother. She is amazing in so many ways. I knew, though, that her concern for us would leave her very disappointed in us getting pregnant. I was afraid that she would say, “Honey, I’m sorry you’re going through this, but it’s for the best” or “It’s better this way.”  I couldn’t face that. Regardless of better or worse, it was a life. A life that I lost. I wanted to go to her and cry in her arms, let Momma kiss it better. But, I couldn’t be certain that she’d be honestly sad for me. I couldn’t bear the thought of even an iota of thought that the miscarriage was a good thing.

Then, there was the fact that both pregnancies ended very, very early. The first was 4 weeks 3 days in. The doctor was amazed I even knew I was pregnant. Ohhh… the words “chemical pregnancy” still make me tremble. The second passed at 6 weeks 1 day, but the sonogram at 5 weeks was so full of cysts that the doctors weren’t even sure which was the baby. Apparently, it never progressed from 4 weeks gestation. I’d gone in at 4 weeks when I got the positive because of the previous miscarriage (a case of incredibly low hormones). Turns out, I was wise to. Again, it was hormonal. One doctor told me that, at that early in the pregnancy, neither are actually considered pregnancies because they aren’t viable. It was so relieving to have my nurse squeeze my hand and say, “Baby, as soon as that positive sign pops, it’s a baby. Don’t let anyone tell you any different.” Her validation made all of the doubt and poo-pooing of everyone else bearable. To me, they were babies. They might never have gotten past those first stages, but they were still my babies. Every time someone brushed it off as my being dramatic, I died a little inside.

The worst, though, was the pain from those I did confide in.

One that I treasured as a confidant told me I had it better than her because I had a baby to hold when I lost the ones I couldn’t. She said it was worse for her with her miscarriages because she didn’t have a baby yet. I wanted to run away when I heard that. Neither is better or worse. The pain is there all the same. I might have had #1 to hold, but I knew the feeling of the first flutter. I knew the sound of a baby’s heartbeat impossibly emerging from my belly button. I knew the feel of kicks and heart burn and itchy skin. I knew that amazing feeling of birth and the moment directly after. I knew it all, was waiting for it, and lost it.

Another told me that “It just wasn’t God’s timing.” Granted, looking back I can see that it’s all been worked out for the best, but I firmly believe that God is not orchestrating fetal deaths. He might allow it, due to our fallen, corrupted world where our bodies and those of our children are not perfect, but I seriously doubt that God sits up there and rubs his beard and says, “Hmm… Grace needs to become more organized and needs to have more faith in me. Rather than let her have this baby, I think I’ll use it as a chance for her to grow.” The God I love is not cruel, nor is he manipulative. He uses what is presented. He does not force it to happen.

And the worst confirmed all my fears. “It’s better off this way.” File that along with the “You’re too young to have another kid” and “Y’all don’t have enough money for another baby” and “You’re not ready anyway.” I know mentally that they are meant in the best manner possible, and yet all I felt in the midst of my pain was condescension. I’m sorry, it’s not better off without my baby here beside me. And that comment of “there was probably something wrong with it anyway” is no better. I would give an arm and a leg to have a baby I could kiss, even for a moment, rather than not have them here at all. I know it’s selfish, since I do believe in heaven and I do believe that it’s a place of wholeness and perfection. Still, my human heart refuses to accept that away from me is better than with me. It hurts too much to think about.

The only response I really wanted was exactly what that nurse said. I wanted validation for my pain. I wanted someone to look at me and say, “It’s scary right now. It’s going to be scary for a while. But, you will make it to the other side.” I wanted a friend to come up, offer me a glass of wine, and let me cry. A few months after the second miscarriage, I got exactly that with a close high school friend who’d lost her baby at 12 weeks. It was the most healing thing I’ve ever felt.

I will be honest with you all. I’m sure a lot of my pain and suffering emotionally was because I did try to keep it all to myself. Those fears I talked about last post, the voice and the fears and the doubts? I didn’t mention that to my husband. The times that I screamed at God, demanding why? No one else was home. I couldn’t let anyone else see my weakness. After all, I had a toddler to care for and a career to keep up with and a husband to not freak out. So I sat in the bathroom with the door locked screaming into a towel.

It’s not the way it should be. We women (and the men who love us) should learn to empathize more, to break down that invisible personal bubble and offer a shoulder to cry on. How drastically less would my heartache have been if the words I heard had been, “Oh honey, I’m so sorry…” or “Come here, let me hug you.” I don’t know, honestly. And before I hear the “give it to God” comments, I did. It kept me sane. And lemme tell you, it was one of the worst, most beautiful moments of my life. It was one of those prayers where the pain is so much that there just are no words. Where your mind is so fractured that all you can do is scream. And scream I did. If God were human, he’d have slapped me silly. He’s not, though. Instead, he wrapped his arms around me and comforted me. He let me vent all my anger and fear and shame and feelings of failure on him, and he just held me.

We should do the same for our sisters. Maybe you haven’t experienced the pain of losing an unborn child. Have you lost a child after? Have you lost a loved one? Lost a marriage? Lost anyone important to you? The pain of relational void is something we have all experienced to some degree. I’m not saying we should all try to be in her shoes. No one can know exactly what you’re going through, and that’s ok. All you need to do is remember your own pain and then share that pain with hers. Silently is usually best, I’ve found. Just knowing that someone else has hurt like you have is so amazingly healing. And more than that, knowing that you have someone who knows what happened and is willing to be there to listen, to check up on you, and to be your strength when you have none left: those are the greatest friends I have.

The fears left from those sweet babies of mine may never go away. I feared I’d lose #2 up until the moment he arrived. Part of me still fears that he was a fluke, a miracle given to heal my heart. I know, now, though, that I have people who will stand by me regardless. The women I’ve met since who opened up about their own miscarriages have become a refuge from my fears. My husband has been amazing, blowing me away with his compassion and grace and understanding. Without him, I’d still be lost. Most of all, I’ve discovered that for every misplaced comment and painful minimization from one person, there is another personout there who has the wisdom or the longing to connect with me and bridge that gap.

It hurts. It always will. Time doesn’t heal all wounds, it merely pulls them away from the front of your mind. As soon as it comes up, though, it’s like it never left. I will not hide that pain anymore, though. And I hope I can be brave enough to break the wall and reach out to someone hurting.

The Sisterhood of Infertility

You will never get pregnant again.

I froze. On stage, the Mary Kay speaker went on with her story about her fertility problems and her family’s decision to adopt. I mentally shook myself and refocused on her. Just because she had struggled didn’t mean I would.

You will never get pregnant again.

I glanced to my side, certain someone had whispered in my ear. But no, my “pink” sisters were enraptured with the speaker, oblivious to my sudden distress. Shaken, I tried to listen to her words again. She was talking about her repeated miscarriages now, and my heart trembled. She is you, don’t you see? You can’t keep a baby now. You’ll never be pregnant again, never feel the flutter of the first kick or the pleasant annoyance of feet in your ribs. Tears welled up in my eyes. I rested my head on my palm, trying to get the voice out of my head. It seemed to draw closer, and whispered, You will never get pregnant again.

I left the speech hardly able to hold the sobs back. Once I got to the bathroom,I couldn’t stop them. It was true, that voice. I’d gotten pregnant the first time hubby and I had done it with #1, and 21 months later I’d had two miscarriages back to back. One of them was a horrible waiting game of “when will it pass.” It shattered my heart and my spirit. I believed the voice whole-heartedly. I dwelled in the belief that my body, my mother vessel, was broken. The time I most loved, despite its trials, that time of blossoming and growing and creating – it was forever gone.

A year later, we decided to test the truth of that voice. I was terrified. As each month rolled around without those two blue lines, my heart broke just a little more. It was useless. I really was broken.

And then, just when I was ready to give up, we got pregnant.

Thankfully, the reality for me was that I believed in my fears. I wasn’t actually infertile, though for many their fears are also their reality. For me, the pain of losing those pregnancies was too much, and I believed my fears rather than risk that kind of pain again.

Today is a new day. Yesterday, I completed the final leg of my journey into egg donation. Hubby and I took a leap of faith and decided to give my eggs to a woman who either didn’t have them or had a problem with hers. After going through those terrible fearful months of feeling broken and then the joy of #2’s pregnancy, I realized that I wanted to be the missing piece for some other woman out there. All it takes is a memory, and I’m right back there. I found the baby cap someone knitted for the second miscarriage, not knowing. That pain is something that might heal, but will always remain. If there is something I can do to heal that in someone else, I will do it.

Yes, they are genetically my children. They are hers in every other way, though. She will carry them. She will feel their first kicks, hear their heartbeat for the first time, and experience their births. She is more their mother than I will ever be (though I will continue to love them as if they were mine, from a silent, invisible distance).

Yes, I’m also fully aware that I may never meet them. I’m ok with that. This mom and dad have moved heaven and earth for their baby. I have no qualms about the massive amount of love they already have for this child.

And yes, I was paid for it. Though the process wasn’t terribly uncomfortable or painful, I’ll be honest: my own pain of loss and the thought of the mother’s are what got me through it. If it had been all about the money, I wouldn’t do it again. Even small needles get annoying after a while, and bruises are not fun to stick through, and salt water shots burn like the dickens.

But I will. I will do it again. I’ll do it as many times as they let me.

Every woman, if she is able, should get to experience the joys, trials, and discomforts of pregnancy. I know what it feels like to think you are broken. To feel like you have entirely failed your feminine purpose. I am more than willing to give my eggs to a woman so she can overcome that feeling.

What’s more, I’m so inexpressibly grateful to her. She and her partner, whoever they may be, are giving life to a child when I won’t and shouldn’t. My husband and I can’t even think about pregnancy right now, though we would welcome it. In our present circumstances, it would be unwise, and we want to make sure that we can actually provide for all of our children. Plus, I am content with my little brood right now. This mom, though, is doing exactly what I cannot do. She is creating life. Those eggs I donated yesterday would never even have had a chance at feeling the sun on their face if it wasn’t for her choice. How can I not be thankful to her? My babies will live because she wanted them and had a place for them.

This isn’t a “pity me” post. It isn’t to brag about how great it is that I’m donating. I just want you to know, whoever you are, that I understand. And if it’s possible, I hope I can be the difference between you hearing that voice of fear and the sound of your baby’s cry. Maybe it won’t be me donating to you, but maybe someone who reads this will decide to donate, and maybe they will be your link to it all. Either way, I know your pain. I am so sorry you have to feel that way. I will do my best to change it.

 

#2 Birth Day