Post-Infertility Pregnancy Announcement Anxieties…that’s a thing, right?

I am a big fat chicken. And I’m not 100% sure why. But I need some advice, folks. (Beware, this one’s a bit of a rambler.)

Many of you have had the experience of being asked horribly rude questions like, “Are you pregnant?” and “When is the baby due?” when you were NOT expecting. It’s awful, even when you know without a doubt that the person asking you is well-intentioned and just excited for you. But when you’re not actually expecting (and worse yet, when that’s all you want in the whole wide world but you can’t do anything about it,) it’s really hurtful. I’ve mentioned all this before, I know. I’ve told you some of the stories of people coming up to me at my store, rubbing my belly, and then arguing with me about whether or not I was pregnant. Yeah, arguing. Those were rough days.

I'm not pregnant

But the issue that I’m facing now is that for once, praise and thank God, I AM actually pregnant. And I’m so, so happy, so overjoyed. But I haven’t figured out how to handle all the folks that are starting to ask again now that I’m starting to actually show. Because I still think it’s kind of rude of either a) complete strangers or b) Nosy Nellies who immediately spread it like wildfire around the place to be asking. Maybe I should be taking it as a compliment that they think I’m naturally skinny enough that any little bumps would have to be a baby (I’m not.) But I just don’t enjoy being talked about and I sort of feel as though cheerfully answering, “Yes I am! Baby’s due in July!” is rewarding bad behavior.

But the last thing that I want is to allow myself to bask in bitterness over past hurts. If infertility was my cross to bear before, then it’s because it was supposed to help make me a saint. Which means that if I don’t find a way to let go of the bitterness (the pain is one thing that will never entirely go away, but the bitterness is something entirely different and something that should be under my control), then I haven’t let God work in my life the way that He’s trying to.

I’m so scared (it sounds overly dramatic, but I am) of having hundreds of sweet, well-meant Catholics at my work asking in very pushy ways very personal questions that I may not want to answer. Even though all I want to do is celebrate this baby, I’m so anxious over the thought of being touched and exposed more than I already have been. Infertility doesn’t just disappear with a miracle–it leaves a few scars. (Don’t get me wrong–I’ll take those scars absolutely any day in exchange for my miracle!)

Is embracing this kind of nosiness part of embracing a culture of life? Is this kind of experience and anxiety unique to my situation as a fairly public member of my Catholic community? Is there a wonderfully charitable way of addressing my sweet but nosy customers that I haven’t thought of yet? Or do I just need to find a way to put on my big girl panties and throw myself into this touching/personal question asking/”I’m so glad you finally decided to have a baby!”-hearing experience and offer it up?

Advice…go!

Miracles and Motherhood

I have miraculous news. So miraculous, I haven’t been able to even think of writing about it. And if today you’re in a place where you need to not read it, that is more than ok. Click away. I’m not going to judge or blame you because I’ve had those days. So, so many of them. But if today is the kind of day that makes good news fill you with joy and lift your burden, read on:

We’re pregnant.

Those feet--so cute!

Those feet–so cute!

For the first time in my entire life, that little stick showed two pink lines. We cried (especially me, of course,) and then immediately started looking up any and all reasons for false positives. Even after having logically ruled them out, being late, and having had a strong positive test (and then another one the next morning because crazy,) we were so in shock that we were too terrified to let ourselves believe it. In fact, part of me still doesn’t. I’m not sure when that will really change. When does it?

We called our doctor on Monday morning (we found out on a Saturday night–All Saints’ Day–which means we have to assume that this blessing is thanks to the ENTIRE litany of saints we’ve been praying to every night,) and she was good enough to talk a little sense into me, thank God. She told me to chill out (somewhat more politely than that) and just let ourselves embrace it RIGHT. NOW. She reminded me that no matter what else ever would happen or not happen, that I was now a mother and he was now a father and nothing would ever, ever, ever, ever change that. And I needed to hear those words so badly. So, so badly. More crying ensued, of course. Those were the words I’d been waiting to hear my entire lifetime and I knew they were so true. I’m more grateful than any words can ever begin to express for that gift. I know how many women I love are still longing to hear them, and please, please know that I pray constantly that we all might someday.

In fact, I want to say what I’ve always desperately wanted to hear from someone in the position I was dying to be in. You ARE a mother. Even if your child doesn’t exist yet, or has passed away before even implanting, or hasn’t been conceived by the woman who will have the honor of bearing the child that will be yours to love, or if spiritual motherhood is the path that God has called you down, whatever your situation is. If you long for motherhood in your heart, if you know that motherhood is your vocation, if you already love your children with a ferocious, wild love–you are a mother. Please take that to heart and know that I mean it. I know we’ve all been scared that no one thinks we deserve the title until we’ve had morning sickness or changed dirty diapers, but I think that you do. Your motherhood doesn’t cheapen mine. You’ve spent nights sobbing and praying for the gift of or health of your children; you’ve written them letters and dreamed of kissing boo-boos and being covered in bodily fluids (because you’re realistic); your arms literally ache with the absence of their weight, I know. If you love your children so much that it hurts, then you are a mother. Even if you can’t hold your children in your arms today. You have a mother’s heart and that COUNTS. It does, it does, it does.

I hope that you won’t mind if I do my best to embrace this gift, this miracle, while I have him or her here. I’ve spent so long praying for this, and I don’t want any of us to miss out on a moment if we receive one. I’ll understand if continuing to read about however things go is too much for you. It’s really and truly ok. But I hope that, if you want, you’ll keep coming around and sharing with me. I pray that although I’m trying to embrace the tremendous absence of the weight that God has decided to lift from me (and trust me, it’s through nothing I’ve earned on my own,) that I’ll always have the heart that I hoped my friends would have for me. You’re still not alone, friends, and I won’t stop caring about your burdens. But hopefully, come July-ish, there will be pictures of someone adorable for us to all coo over together. That’s the internet equivalent of letting someone hold your baby, right?

I’ll fill you in on the chaos of the last several months later (and I promise there has been a lot going on,) but for now, would you please send up a prayer of thanks for us? We’ve received a gift we thought we’d never be blessed with and it’s absolutely a miracle. Thanks.

What Not To Say To Friends Struggling With Infertility

Infertility: What Not To Say

Just as a disclaimer before we begin: I know that at only a year and a half of conscious infertility, I am far from an expert in how all women feel. Please remember that every woman is different and needs to be loved and supported differently. But these are some good guidelines for the well-intentioned. These are things that I’d like the people around me to know. I welcome additional ideas or questions in the comments.

 

 

Dealing with infertility is hard. If a friend or co-worker bravely opens up to you about her own struggles with any form or stage of fertility struggles, here are some things not to say:

Continue reading

Nothing and Everything to Write About…And Answer Me This #1

So, I can’t possibly be the only one with this problem. I get all of these great ideas for posts I’d like to write, posts that I feel simply called to write (’cause, you know, blogs are there to make you feel self-important…wait no,) smack dab in the middle of Mass. Occasionally it happens in other situations where I’m utterly incapable of either making a note to myself or beginning to type something out…but it’s usually in Mass. When I’m supposed to be contemplating and immersing myself in Our Lord’s most incredible of Sacrifices happening right. smack. in front. of me.

Yeah. That's happening.

Yeah. That’s happening.

But that’s how the cookies crumble, folks. I mean, these strokes of brilliance are usually a result of meditation upon Father’s sermon, but still. In the battle of blog vs. Calvary, the Mass is always supposed to win. So I make myself a mental note to jot this new idea down the second I get downstairs to the bookstore after daily Mass (yeah, I’m unbelievably blessed to have a chapel with daily Mass just above the bookstore–it’s literally upstairs.)

Unfortunately, no amount of telling myself to do this will keep that grand revelation in my puny little mind for the requisite half an hour before I get down there. Not once has it happened. I should really bring a notebook up there with me every day, just in case, but I a) forget and b) am kind of nervous about having people notice me scribbling something down in the middle of Mass and inevitably asking me what that was about.

Exactly, sir.

Exactly, sir.

 

So uhh, until I manage to come out of the First-Holy-Communions-Induced coma that I’ve been living in for the last few months, how about we use that long little excuse/rant to segue into doing some of these Kendra questions? ‘Cause we can and that’s about all that can be done, unless of course you’re dying to hear about handmade First Holy Communion veils, weekend FHC retreats at parishes, and which Catholic kids books and toys I find to be the most awesome of all and regularly steer parents to. No takers yet? Ok, questions it is!

1. What time do you prefer to go to Mass?

We usually go to the 9 am on Sundays because at our parish, that’s the Extraordinary Form, the Traditional Latin Mass. And we love it. Also, there’s the most knock-your-socks-off coffee & doughnuts hour ever afterwards complete with dozens and dozens of adorable small children of varying sizes running underfoot and between your legs. Heaven.

But seriously, if I could make that Mass start at 9:30 or 10 am…that’d be great. ‘Cause it’s almost a 45 minute drive to get there.

2. Would you rather be too hot or too cold?

Easiest answer ever. Too cold. You can always add on an extra layer of clothing, snuggle closer to the hubby, or sit near a fire with a warm drink. When you’re too warm, you can only get so naked. And we’re not even talking about modesty anymore–once you’re buck naked in your own home, there’s nothing left to take off. Give me an excuse to snuggle instead.
3. How many brothers and/or sisters do you have?

I have one sister, but come from a large extended family that’s very close, so I never felt like I had a small family. Also, my sister is simply fantastic…very different from her terrorizing violent younger self. Thank God!
4. If you were faced with a boggart, what would it turn into?

Into someone who’s furious at me for something that I didn’t do. Or for no reason at all. I hate when people are mad at me, but I’ve learned to be a big girl and take it (mostly) when it’s rightly deserved. But my heart knows no sorrow like being inexplicably despised or yelled at.

5. Barbie: thumbs up or thumbs down?

Meh. I have no strong feeling about barbie dolls. When I was a kid, I didn’t pay much attention to what her figure looked like. I was mostly preoccupied with coming up with my own edition to market: Sky Diving Barbie. In my mind, she and her friends came packaged in a variety of attractive brightly-colored jumpsuits and looked so cool. In reality, I placed my Barbies in a sitting position on top of the blades of my bedroom fan, switched it onto high and hid in the closet to watch them fling themselves all over the room. I’d say that I was kind of a twisted kid, but I’m not sure that I’ve grown out of it.

6. If someone asked you to give them a random piece of advice, what would you say?

I was really tempted to channel my grandpa and say something akin to, “You want a tip? Don’t stand in the rain.” hehe. Except the one great piece of wisdom that I’ve really managed to learn in all of these years is this: Be sincere in what you say and charitable in what you think. With your spouse and with the whole world. If only we would all say what we really meant and really felt to one another (instead of being passive-aggressive about it,) and would give one another the benefit of the doubt again and again, the world would be a much more pleasant place.

Not that I’m qualified to give advice or anything.

 

I have to admit, I feel awfully grateful to have an easy mechanism for writing built in at least once a week. Hopefully it’ll help me to get back into the swing of things whenever I’m able to pop my head up from First Holy Communion Season Chaos. Also, with Easter coming, I had tons of fun creating little sample Easter baskets filled, not with chocolate bunnies and candy (which I do love,) but with awesome Catholic toys, books, and dolls. Sometimes my job is too much fun. It balances out the crazy.

Here goes Holy Week! See you at Catholic All Year’s Answer Me This!

Sorry, I guess I’m just in a meme kind of mood.

What We’re Doing for Lent

After my last post about my biggest goal for Lent this year, I thought it would be good and fun to share with you what we’re planning on doing as a family this Lent.

Over the years, I’ve found that I really need to challenge myself to commit to both physical and temporal sacrifices during Lent. I can remember after my earliest practicing Lents when I gave up Coke (it’s a big deal for a girl from the South,) when I decided that it would be much better for my soul to give up my time, which I am oh so stingy about. I spent a few years trying out things like the Liturgy of the Hours, Adoration, and reading the Bible daily.

But eventually, I realized that I’d fallen into a trap with that too. It was too easy. Because I am a great big wimp when it comes to physical difficulties. And I need to learn to master physical discipline if I’m ever gettin’ to Heaven. Seriously. So now, I try to make sure that I have a good mix of both things each year. Here’s what we’ve come up with so far this year:

Let's do this.

Let’s do this.

The Physical

Partial Abstinence

For the last three years, my husband and I have followed the traditional practice of partial abstinence during Lent. Partial abstinence means only allowing one meal a day that contains meat (except on Fridays, which have none at all.) We prayerfully considered doing no-meat at all during Lent, but ultimately decided that it wasn’t beneficial for our health at this point, and frankly: it’s a little too much to follow successfully. Partial abstinence for us is hard. Although our regular breakfasts don’t include meat, our lunches almost always do. And finding ways to cook lots of vegetarian/pescatarian leftovers or suffer the consequences of choosing between PB&J and tuna sandwiches every day is very penitential for us. It’s very hard, but it’s been so good for us! It was after practicing this for the first time that I felt really, truly joyous all through Easter (instead of just on Easter Sunday.)

Reducing Sweet Snacks

I can’t really cut out snacks completely due to my medications and health problems, but I can choose to have apple slices or crackers instead of that cookie someone brought into work. We don’t eat a lot of sweets around our house to start with (as evidenced by the stacks of old Christmas, Halloween, and Valentine’s candies on top of our pantry–from last year,) so giving them up isn’t a very big deal. We actually have been instead making it a point to add a special dessert on days when a solemnity falls during Lent (oh, how I love those days!) Just to make the distinction feel a bit more special.

Giving up Liquor & Cocktails

Oh Manhattans, how I love thee. (But seriously, wikipedia images… who wants to put Crown in a Manhattan?)

If you knew us, you’d know that this is kind of a big deal. Okay, now we sound like drunks. I promise we’re not. We’re just a family that loves the fun of a yummy, well-mixed cocktail over a glass of wine or a beer. We still enjoy wine and beer, but isn’t a Martini just so much better most nights? Or a Manhattan? My husband has gotten pretty good at mixing all kinds of cocktails over the last few years and they’re really our go-to treat. So we’re giving them up. Waaay harder than giving up candy, let me tell you.

The Temporal

Keeping Television Time to about 1 Hour a Day on Weekdays

We have a bad habit. When we both finally make it home on weeknights, as soon as dinner’s on the table, we’re exhausted. Done and ready to snuggle. So we watch one of our favorite TV shows on DVD. We don’t have cable or internet powerful enough to watch hulu on, so we own everything we enjoy watching together on DVD. While this is great, we often don’t keep it to one show (or a long show and a short one,) because we’re just beat and would rather keep watching and eat away at the little time that we have each evening. So we’re keeping it to one hour of TV time together on weekday evenings so we’ll have time to do some of these other fun things:

Reading the Gospels Together Daily

We’ve been wanting to do this for a while. The plan is to just start at Mark and work until we’re done with John (we’ll decide what happens after that when we get there.) We decided against a set amount of reading per night because every night is different in this house. Some nights we might get through a few chapters, but half a chapter might be all we can do on some nights when we work late.

Reading “My Catholic Faith” Together Weekly

I’ve told you about My Catholic Faith, right? If not, seriously, take my advice and go buy yourself a copy of it now from wherever you can get it. It is THE best family Catechism I have ever seen. And I run a Catholic bookstore, remember? Everything is so well organized and clearly written–no fuzzy gray areas for those without theology degrees. Bishop Marrow gives simply the best clarifications and elaborations on Church teachings you can find. Also, the pictures are beautiful and so, so informative. Just go get yourself one, dig? (P.S. I hear that if you get it through that link, they might throw me a couple of pennies. Which is cool. But no pressure.)

Best. Catechism. Ever.

Best. Catechism. Ever.

We’ll be reading at least one lesson per week during Lent, in the hopes that the habit sticks after the season is over. We’re deciding to keep the night flexible because when we’ve tried this previously, all it took was one wacky schedule change (which happens all the time) to throw off the whole thing. This way, maybe once a week will turn into twice a week.

In addition to these hard and fast commitments that we’re challenging ourselves with, we’re also planning to look for little opportunities throughout the day to offer extra little sacrifices. You know, the quiet little gestures of sacrifice for others that we ought to be doing anyway, or little extra penances like standing when we’d rather sit, doing our least favorite chores first, or doing things the hard way when the easy way is still an option. (Or big things like actually going to the gym.) This post has some wonderful ideas for just these kinds of sacrifices. I might even make some St. Therese Sacrifice Beads to help us along. I’ll let you know.

I’m so grateful to have had the season of Septuagesima again this year to help us prayerfully prepare for Lent’s coming. We were reminded with the readings and homilies in Mass that Lent was soon approaching and had the opportunity to do a “trail run” of some of our planned sacrifices to see if they’d really bear good fruit in practice. Isn’t that great?

There’s what we’re aiming for this Lent, what about you?

Renewing Hope in Lent

How do you like the new look? It’s still a free theme, but one where I could make a few more modifications than before. I’m a fan. Sometimes it takes a visible change to jump-start a new beginning. Which I’ve been needing badly.

I’ve been guiltily avoiding writing for the last month. I just haven’t felt like it. The inner debate that goes on daily always goes something like this:

Motivated Me: You should write something tonight! You enjoy it! You said you would. And it’s been almost a month.

Tired me: Shut up. I’m too tired to write. And there’s nothing to write about. And I’ll be ignoring my husband. And my eyes hurt. And I’m boring anyway. And I’m SO STRESSED OUT. What’s the point? I’m going to go make dinner.

Motivated me: …ok. You win.

That’s pretty much what’s been going down.

The fact of the matter is, my reluctance to write is just a symptom of a much bigger dragon that I’ve been battling this month: the loss of a sense of hope. We got some tough news relating to our infertility earlier this month (more, more permanent roadblocks, but thankfully nothing that makes it impossible,) and hearing the news just sucked the hope right out of me. Which I know doesn’t make any sense because as I just said, it’s not impossible. We DO still have hope. My husband reminds me of this fact constantly, trooper that he is. He hears news like this and all he hears is, “There’s still hope.” I thank God that his heart is so hopeful.

Oddly enough, I’ve been so very, very hopeful (still heart-broken, but hopeful) through this entire process, until I got that particular batch of news. And I sort of already knew it was coming. But hearing that our chances are officially down a solid 50% was…impossibly hard.

I’ve been struggling for weeks, searching for that familiar feeling of hope, praying that Our Lord would find it and return it to me. I know that He will. I feel it coming back to me, finally, in little drips here and there. Oh, it feels so good to hope again. I don’t know whether what I’ve been feeling is really the sin of Judas, the sin of despair, or if it’s simply been an inability to get excited and let myself make my heart vulnerable again. All the time, I was mentally aware that God will do what is best for us, no matter what. I think it was just hard to convince my heart of the fact that what’s best for us still might be biological children.

Lent offers us the opportunity to renew ourselves spiritually, to intentionally reconnect to the magnitude of Our Lord’s great Sacrifice on the Cross in order to more fully experience the joyful hope that is Easter. So this Lent, I am throwing down the gauntlet. Whatever it takes for me to regain that hope, I’m going to do it. I’m going to fight for hope the way I would fight for a child or fight to live. If it means writing more (which I hope it will,) then I’ll do that. If it means just trying to rest and allow myself to not feel so guilty about not writing, then that’s what’ll happen. Because nothing matters more than renewing this hope. God can make anything happen, this I know. And He may still choose to make this happen.

In this is all the hope we ever need.

In this is all the hope we ever need.

P.S. Please forgive the lack of editing in this post–I was afraid that if I didn’t publish right away, I’d never get to it. Gotta get stuff done! 😉

Cheater’s Michaelmas

I know, it’s still a day early for Michaelmas. But tomorrow we have plans that we can’t get out of that involve not being home all day, so we’re celebrating today and hopefully our dear St. Michael won’t mind much. On the up side, since I’m posting a day in advance, you can totally steal my oh-so-complicated and original feast day ideas. 😉 [Edit: It actually took me so long to get this written up that now it really is Michaelmas. Whoops!] Confession: I came up with these very cheesy ideas, did the shopping, and THEN found some super delicious-sounding and legitimately traditional recipes online that I simply don’t have the time, money, or energy to produce. So feel free to call this a “Poor Man’s Michaelmas Dinner.”

Firstly, a little history (because learnin’ is important):

Fierce.

Fierce.

St. Michael the Archangel is the angel who fought satan during the great battle. And won, of course. My favorite tidbit about him actually stems from the fact that he was so named because when the evil one, who was the highest of the Seraphim (thusly named Lucifer, “light bearer”–think the light of God) heard that God the Father intended to have a Son who would be human, a being far beneath the angels in honor and glory, he became enraged. He was so offended because, as far as he was concerned, he was the closest to God and would never be so foolish. He started to believe that he was not just very close to God, but rather like God. Which of course he wasn’t (and isn’t) remotely. “Michael” means “Who is like God?” Please note the question mark. Even though ancient Hebrew has no punctuation, it’s important to establish that it was a (rhetorical) question and not, as it’s often mis-translated, “he who is like God.” Because obviously, no one is. That’s the point, yes? In short, that question became the battle cry of Michael and the other good angels during the battle.

Good story, right? What’s that, you already heard it? Only someone else told it better? Well aren’t we catechized. Good job. 😉 In that case, here’s some other fun facts about the angels that you might not already know.

-You know how every person is assigned a guardian angel when he or she is born? Well, each family is also assigned one during the Sacrament of Marriage. Boo-ya. (Good thing too, ’cause I need all the extra angels looking out for me that I can get.)

-Devotion to the angels is supposed to be a mark of predestination. Which makes me feel like I should start asking for their help a little more often.

-The nine choirs of angels are divided into three hierarchies which are (highest to lowest): Seraphim, Cherubim, & Thrones, Powers, Principalities, & Dominions, Virtues, Archangels, & Angels. Although apparently it’s more traditional to list them in ascending order. But I thought this would make more sense.

-Michael shares a feast day on the new calendar with the other two canonically-mentioned Archangels, Raphael & Gabriel.

* All fun facts from the totally awesome book, St. Michael and the Angels. You should get it.

Beautiful image of the choirs, yes? Can you guess who that is in the middle?

Secondly, here’s some fun recommendations of my favorite angel items from the store. You should get them.

Cold-Cast Bronze Statue. This company has the most detailed statues I've ever seen.

Cold-Cast Bronze Statue. This company has the most detailed statues I’ve ever seen.

An amazing book put out by TAN Book Publishers. It's basically a 30-day devotional to teach you all kinds of traditions about the angels.

An amazing book put out by TAN Book Publishers. It’s basically a 30-day devotional to teach you all kinds of traditions about the angels.

OK, we’re finally on to the food part. Here’s how we celebrated our early Michaelmas this year (in truly cheesy literal cheater’s fashion):

Yummy, yummy, in our tummies.

Yummy, yummy, in our tummies.

Angelhair Pasta with three colors of peppers to represent Michael, Raphael, & Gabriel. It was crazy good. Initially, I’d intended to make my own white parmesan sauce for this, but it was late and I’ll confess I cheated. I got to try out one of those new recipe starters. It was great. And went very well with the wine. Also, it was way less expensive than roasted goose, which is apparently the real traditional Michaelmas dinner.

Drool.

Drool.

For dinner we had–of course–angel food cake! And since my husband informs me that apples are totally in season right now, I cooked some apples in a bit of butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon. That’s a scoop of frozen coolwhip, by the way. But it tastes like ice cream. And, yes, it was even more delicious than it looks. Especially after we caved and drizzled the caramel sauce on top.

Happy Michaelmas!