Infertility: Having an Advocate When You’re Too Weak to Be an Advocate

Since it’s Infertility Awareness Week, I’ve had our struggles (past and possibly future) with infertility in mind a lot. I’ve read some incredible posts already that have moved me, often to tears. I just want to say one thing to the kind souls making these posts: Thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

All of this has really brought to the forefront of my mind recently just how badly women and men suffering from infertility need advocates in the world. We need our friends, fertile and infertile alike and in every variation in between, to be a voice, to remind the world that we’re there.

Infertility is so often a silent, invisible cross that we bear. Maybe our closest friends and family know something about it, or maybe it’s just between us and our spouse. But it’s oh so very rarely that someone in the worst of it puts it all out there for the world to see and doesn’t keep it from anyone. And that is just fine, because we’re vulnerable. We’re already in one of the most painful positions imaginable and since people tend to be accidentally hurtful when they’re trying to be supportive, it can be that much harder to share a burning ache that most people, thankfully, have never had to experience.

But that doesn’t mean that we’re not desperate to be heard, to be seen.

I know that I always wanted (and often still do) to wave my arms and jump up and down screaming, “I’m here! I’m here! I’m here! I count too, and my vocation to motherhood is a real thing!” But I was always terrified of not being able to control the information once it was out there.

That’s the thing, for many of us, I think. We’re already in such pain and so much of what should be such a private process for us (just us, our spouse, and God) has already been picked apart and laid bare before our doctor’s eyes, our NFP instructors perhaps, and anyone who thinks they should have an opinion about our family size (specifically its lack thereof.) We’ve already been told when we need to be intimate, on what medications, and how. We’ve already had more trans-vaginal ultrasounds and blood draws than you can shake a stick at. They don’t even phase us anymore. But still, we feel vulnerable and raw. And it’s scary to share that and risk being under a microscope again.

That’s why we desperately, desperately need you. Most of us are too tender right now to be an advocate for ourselves, but we would give almost anything to have an advocate. Someone just to occasionally remind the world (especially as Mother’s Day draws near) that we are here.

We are all around you, even though we might be hard to spot between the cultural norm of waiting nearly a decade to have children or choosing to have “just one or two.” There are so many of us that have been waiting and hoping for motherhood and fatherhood since day one. We’ve been open to life in every way possible and we’ve sacrificed so much to adhere to the Church’s teachings on the dignity and sanctity of human life, despite our yearning to become parents however we can.

So if you can, whatever your fertility status is, say something. Acknowledge us–our presence and our struggle–this and every week. Share one of these amazing articles, a picture, a prayer. Just be a voice if you can be one.

Now that we’ve been given the gift of our miraculous pregnancy, I’ve been feeling called more and more to become that voice. As some of the intensity and utter rawness of our infertility begins to scar over (it will never leave us entirely, I know,) I feel the Holy Spirit asking me to step out one toe at a time and advocate for my sisters and brothers. I’m still scared, and scarred, but I’m trying to learn.

Will you join me, if you can?

Advocacy and Infertility

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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:

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St. Monica, Motherhood, & Absolute Hope

Before I catch you up on leg three of our big Summer road trip (which admittedly is not nearly as exciting as the first two legs,) I thought we’d take a little break and I’d just throw out a little thanks to Monica who accidentally (must have been an accident, right?) got me the most views in a single day that I’ve ever had so far. Who knew bragging about what great kids catechesis crafts stuff she comes up with would pay off for me too?

I promise you that it’s merely a coincidence that I’m bragging about my own new favorite Monica in a post about her great namesake.

We’re selling this new book on St. Monica in our store right now. It looks wonderful and this image just captures her so well.

I’ve always felt so drawn to the beautiful St. Monica whose steadfastness, persistence, and simple example of Christian womanhood have never failed to inspire me when I’m feeling my lowest. St. Monica is someone that I strive to be, especially in the workplace each day.

I run a Catholic bookstore, which is simultaneously one of the most fun, exciting jobs I can imagine, and one of the most emotionally and spiritually difficult. As a store, we exist not just so people can swing by and pick up a miraculous medal or baptism gift (although of course they can,) but also as a spiritual soft place to land, a support network, a counselling center, a cheerleader camp, a library and a set of shoulders to cry on. We see people in our little store every day that are suffering and surviving through tragedies and losses far more intense than I can even imagine experiencing. We also see people brimming over, exploding with joy in their happiest moments. It’s an emotional roller coaster every day as we fill the moments between heartbreak and celebration with stocking the shelves, placing orders, restarting the CD player, and checking email.

My job, really, is to help people get to Heaven, however I can. That’s what every task of my day from answering the phone to holding a sobbing customer who recently lost her child in my arms, to selecting the right books, to teaching a new friend how to pray the Rosary is all about. It’s a beautiful and wonderful thing to be blessed with such a vocation. It’s a vocation to do a million little things a day that seem like logistics, but are really acts of great love. It’s a vocation to comfort, to mourn alongside others, and to acknowledge their pain by sharing in it in some small way. It’s a vocation to put a copy of My Catholic Faith into someone’s hands who doesn’t know they need it yet (Ask your local Catholic bookstore for that one please!) It’s a vocation to pray fervently that every person who walks into the store making jokes about being a cafeteria Catholic (I was guilty of this for years) will some day see the light and bask in the fullness of Truth.

It’s a lot like motherhood. I’ve mentioned before that we haven’t been blessed yet with children, but I like to think that Our Lord has given me this job as a way of both practicing for future motherhood and as a way to actively live my vocation as a mother in a way that models His own mother and St. Monica. He challenges me every day to dig deeper, no matter how exhausted I am, to bring consolation, or insight, or at least a smile to the face of every person that He sends through that door. He’s given me a way to care for others and to learn how to love more generously.

Just like the motherhood that I see exampled in all of the women I’ve met online and whose blogs I read, I am called to example love, patience, steadfastness, humility, and simplicity in the same way that St. Monica did each day of her life. St. Monica exemplifies a motherhood spent waiting in absolute hope. I pray that I can learn from her example not only as a mothering caretaker of souls at work, but as a woman who is waiting to fulfill her vocation to love as a mother of children. I pray that I can learn to patiently wait for God’s perfect timing and perfect plan for our lives, all the while remaining steadfast in an absolute and trusting hope. I pray that I might remember always that my every action, no matter how quiet or simple, has the potential to draw me and others closer to Our Lord.

Oatmeal bread is simple, strong, and solid, like St. Monica.

Oatmeal bread is simple, strong, and solid, like St. Monica.

I’ll tell you about our adventures in bread-making soon, but I wanted to share a picture of this oatmeal bread that we made using a recipe from my new favorite cookbook. Baking bread is an excellent way to honor St. Monica on her feast day because very little that you can do in the kitchen requires more carefulness and patience.

St. Monica, ora pro nobis. Please make us good waiters.