Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Cycle review

The medical evaluation phase of my infertilty treatment has officially begun. Yesterday I had my first cycle review with PPVI, which was complicated because of my lack of progesterone and estradiol levels (due to no bloodwork). The nurse who I talked to on the phone was super nice and felt really bad about my problem with labs around here, so that made me feel a little better, although she offered no additional help on that front. She also reiterated what I already figured was good news - that I had a normal mucus phase this past cycle. After having Dr. Keefe review the information, she called me back and had some instructions for me. She said I need to start taking prenatal vitamins (which I've been told a million times but never take) and they are going to put me on something called parlodel for my high prolactin. I'm happy to start taking something (I feel like I'm the only one not on anything at all!) but I'm nervous because it has severe side effects like heart attack and stroke. I know lots of things do, but my aunt (a maternity nurse) told me they stopped giving the drug to new mothers (who don't want to breast feed) because of the risks. I know I shouldn't be nervous, but I'm good at it.

I feel very positive about starting this new phase. There is still so much left to try (not to mention if my problems were corrected with surgery then it's as if we've only been trying to conceive for one cycle now. That'd be like getting pregnant on the honeymoon!). But I really believe my hormones are part of my infertility puzzle and now I'm one step closer to righting what's wrong.

So we have almost finished painting our entire house. We are doing every room with the exception of one bedroom and the laundry room. It's definitely helping to keep my mind off of things. I can't wait to move in!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Day Two *Update*

So yesterday was cycle day one for me. I handled it well. It's okay because I know God will take care of me. I'm not sure how, or what will happen but I know it will be okay eventually. That's a big improvement for me. I think not really having any hope of conceiving this past fall (after I found out how bad my endometriosis was) has helped me to not get too disappointed each month, even though I guess I have a good chance of conceiving now. (Notice I said "good" chance. That fact that I can admit that is an improvement!)

So tomorrow I have to call PPVI for a cycle review. I had a short cycle this time around - only 25 days (when I first started charting my cycles were 40+ days, but lately I've had some short ones, although this is the shortest). My peak day was somewhat normal for a change - day 17 - with about 10 days of mucus. Most importantly the mucus did not stop and start, it was pretty constant during that time. But... my luteal phase was only eight days. What does that mean? Here are the luteal phase lengths for my last eight cycles: 8, 3, 12, 9, 10, 8, 10 and 3 days. I read today that you need at least to days for implantation, so three of those cycles are long enough and five aren't. And I wonder what happened when it was only 3 days. And I wish I knew what my progesterone levels were. They were okay the last time they were tested - a year ago!! Ugh... I guess this is where my patience comes in again. I'll know exactly what's going on eventually. I just have to wait.

One thing that is definitely helping to take my mind off things is our new house. We've been painting for three days now and have about four more days of it to go. We'll officially move in this weekend. I even kept my cool today when things got pretty frustrating. It involved one of those automatic roller machines and a paint color I hated. You'd think being an artist that I would be good at picking colors but I'm awful.

If anyone gets a chance, could you say a quick prayer for me? I'm going to the dentist tomorrow for a couple fillings and I have major anxiety about it. I'm actually doing well, though, because I think God is giving me the grace to be calm about it. I just want it to be over!

***Thanks for your prayers! The dentist was MUCH better than I ever thought. I brought an hour and a half of music on my ipod, specifically songs to calm me down, and I didn't even make it through Tiny Dancer and she was already done drilling! Not even one complete song! Two more visits to go now...

Friday, February 22, 2008

Letting go actually works

Well I decided to just let go of trying to have blood drawn this month (not that I had control over it, but I decided to not stress about it). I could have tried again today, since PPVI said sometimes you can have it drawn on Peak+8 if you have to, but we closed on our house this morning and my sister's flight was canceled so I wasn't about to waste another day calling labs along the eastern seaboard. But I have gotten some helpful ideas from a couple people and we'll see what happens with those. I'm going to turn my energy towards setting something up for next month, and on Monday I'm going to call a hospital in Northern VA who has sent blood to PPVI before. I feel better since I let go of this and gave it up to God (hey, that's what is supposed to happen, go figure!). Maybe I should try this more often! All I know is I can't say I'm working on patience for Lent and not follow through with it when things get tough. Did I expect not to have my patience really tested these forty days?!

As for my cycle, today is CD 25. Technically it is now CD 26 (the clock just turned to midnight but I think this post will register as Friday). And, as I said earlier, today is Peak+8. The bad news is this afternoon I briefly experienced some sensations that lead me to believe my period is on the way. The feeling only lasted a minute but it has never disappointed before (or, I should say, it always disappoints). So we will see. My temp was still up this morning, but since I am taking it for another reason (thyroid study) I don't really know enough about BBT to use that as evidence. But I guess I shouldn't over-analyze things. The most I can hope for is that I ovulated this month and that maybe, just maybe, my cycle will appear somewhat "normal" this time around. My body is healing, my ovaries are healing and this will happen in God's time.

I got an email today from someone who reminded me of a song that speaks volumes about what I need to do right now (thank you!). Here's a portion of it.

"Praise You In This Storm" by Casting Crowns
I was sure by now
God You would have reached down
And wiped our tears away
Stepped in and saved the day
But once again, I say "Amen", and it's still raining
As the thunder rolls
I barely hear Your whisper through the rain
"I'm with you"
And as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise the God who gives
And takes away
And I'll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am
And every tear I've cried
You hold in Your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm


For some reason, this line always hits me the hardest: "I raise my hands and praise the God who gives And takes away." It may not seem like God has taken away anything from me, but I truly feel like He has. My dreams have been taken away. My fertility has been taken away. I know it might not be permanent, but right now it is real. But it's the praising of God through this that strikes me. I'm definitely not good at it and the thought that people do that is amazing to me. But if I get bad news in the next week, I'm going to give it my best shot.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Problems *update*

Well I spoke too soon. I cannot have my blood drawn today because no one will draw it and ship it. And on top of that, no one will draw it and turn it over to me to ship myself. I guess I took it for granted where I use to live because I just walked in the closest lab and handed them the order from PPVI and they shipped it. No questions asked. Apparently the Richmond, VA area does not ship blood or give your own blood to you.

So is this the end of my road? Without blood I can't do anything else. I guess my next step is looking for a lab in northern VA, NC, MD or maybe I'll just drive 8 hours to the lab in NY I had it drawn at last year! This is ridiculous. So no bloodwork this cycle. Another month to wait, another 30+ day postponement. I'm actually handling it well and my husband and sister both pointed that out. I'm just now beginning to get teary about it. And to top it all off I felt like the people at PPVI were getting annoyed at me calling all day. Maybe it was in my head. But, as my husband pointed out, shouldn't they be helping with this? I feel like it's so hard to navigate your healthcare these days. Being someone's patient doesn't even mean much. You still have to be ultra-proactive or nothing will get done!

Oh - here's the best part: I went into a lab this morning unknowingly, and told them what I needed. They said they don't do that. But the fascinating part is that I went there in November and they claimed they did do it, and I had it done and figured they shipped it. But then I got thinking, I never got a print-out from PPVI about my results and at my post-op appointment Dr. Hilgers never referred to that bloodwork. So I called PPVI and asked if they had a record of bloodwork from Nov. Big surprise, they did not! So this lab took my blood, later realized it needed to be shipped which they don't do, and instead of calling me they just forgot about it. But still charged me of course! How great is that? They just, what, threw my blood away?!

Okay, I'm going to forget about it. Nothing I can do now. Patience. Patience.

*Update - So finally a woman at a lab was nice enough to look into it for me instead of just telling me no. She called me back and said she found out it's against the law for a lab to draw blood for a dr. not liscensed in the state of VA. Against the law?! I called PPVI and they'd never heard of that and claimed they've had patients in VA have blood sent before. So now my next step is to find a physician who will take me as a patient and basically have them copy Dr. Hilger's order and get my blood drawn. But I'll actually be back to square one then because I still need to find a lab who will ship it or let me take it and ship it myself. Not to mention the doctors who are affiliated with PPVI are all about two hours away. And who knows if they are even accepting new patients.

To top it all off, the nice woman who told me it's against the law also told me there might be one place in Richmond that could do it for me (how, if it's against the law??) and it's called Richmond IVF or something. Does IVF stand for something else that has to do with blood?? Because that just takes the cake if I would have to go to an IVF clinic to have my blood drawn and shipped to PPVI. I'm not even going to call them.

This is a horrible day. It's my poor sister's last day here and she spent it watching me make calls all day. Then we decided to go shopping which I hoped would get my mind off of things, and I tried a million things on (which I hate) and when I went up to the register I whipped out a $100 gift card only to find out it was the wrong one, and had $9 on it! So I had to put everything back and it was just one of those times when I almost broke down. Not because of the clothes or the gift card, but because should I have expected anything less? This is how this day has been. Oh well, I guess it could be much worse.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Great article!

This morning I got a pleasant surprise when my husband pointed out to me a headline on the cover of the most recent issue of Faith & Family that arrived today. It read, "God Made Me Infertile." Yay! A story about infertility in a publication that isn't all about infertility! And it was an article I knew would be pro-life and would not contradict Church teaching. My next surprise came when I flipped to the article and discovered it was all about Lottie and Tate from catholicinfertility.org! But it wasn't over yet. I read the article, which talked all about the couple's struggle with infertility, their adoption journey that has brought them three beautiful children, and their discovery of the Pope Paul VI Institute. A lot of the story I was familiar with from their website, until the end, that is. It said they were able to conceive and Lottie is pregnant with a baby boy! I am so excited for them!

It's a great article (and a great magazine, by the way) and I suggest you read it if you have access to the magazine (it's not online as far as I know).

After a mini-breakdown last night (not anger, just a little sad-for-no-reason type of episode), I'm doing well today. I talked with the Pope Paul VI Institute for my six week check-up today and the great news is they have ordered bloodwork for Peak +7, which is tomorrow! I don't even need to be patient this time! They also told me I have to call on the first day of my next cycle to do a cycle review. I'm so excited! Things are moving forward and each day I'm closer to finding out if anything else is wrong with me, if my hormones are okay, if I need medication, if they'll try me on Clomid, etc., etc.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Waiting

Well I'm still trying to be positive, patient and hopeful! This, I guess, is when it's most important. It's easier to be patient when you're in the midst of fertile days. There's more going on, your charting everything, taking ovulation tests, looking for signs. Now I'm just waiting. Yesterday I was super positive for some reason. Just really happy and at peace with God's will. But today was a different story. I'm not mad at God or anything, but my mood definitely shifted and I'm a little more melancholy. It might be hormones.

On a side note, I am taking my temperature four times a day for a thyroid study the PPVI is having me do, and this morning my temp was up (it was the first day I was required to take it post peak). I guess that's pretty normal for post-ovulation and maybe another sign that I ovulated.

So I'm going to continue to keep my head up, even though I find myself having doubts about having hope from time to time, mainly how much more it might hurt if I don't get pregnant; honestly, I think I'm afraid I'll feel stupid for thinking it might actually happen. But I think the solution to that is to simply ignore those thoughts and push them out of my mind, change the subject. I'll be let down many times in my life, with or without hope. But if I trust in God, He will help me through it.

I know this analogy might sound silly, but I had an epiphany the other day when walking my dog. Sometimes she pees and comes back inside right away. Other times she drags me around forever. Usually I get really frustrated and pull her where I want her to "do her business," usually right around our apartment. But, in the end, she doesn't do it until she's ready. And if I fight her on it, it only takes longer and I wind up really mad. So the other day I just let go, let her pull me wherever she wanted and in the end, it took her less time than normal, I was happier, and not at all annoyed. My point (yes, there is a point here) is that I realized that's what I need to do with my infertility. Let go, loosen up, give up control, let God lead me where He wants me to go, even if I think I know a quicker way. In the end, I will be much less frustrated, I will find peace, and I will meet an end result that I will be happy with - and I will look back on it and think, "I should have done that sooner!"

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Just a quick update

So it's CD 20 (almost CD 21 actually) and still no more peak-type mucus, which is good news. The only odd thing is that I have been having some PMS-like symptoms for a few days now. Not a ton of symptoms, but a few in particular. My chest is super sore, I am having some lower abdominal pain (which since my surgery isn't that abnormal) and I've been having a sensation in my legs that I sometimes get before my period. I don't know if this means I will get my period in a couple days (which would be like 15-20 days earlier than normal!) or if this is happening because I'm ovulating (although if I did, it probably happened a couple days ago). Since I probably haven't ovulated in a long time, I may not be used to the symptoms (if these even are symptoms of ovulation, which I don't think they are). I'll soon find out, I guess.

Tuesday will be six weeks since my surgery. I guess this means I can't use that as an excuse anymore! Seriously, though, I'm still getting really worn out really easily. My sister and I went shopping today and I didn't last very long at all. Thankfully it's not like I have to return to work, so I'll still be able to take it easy. Thank God I can take time off to de-stress and focus on getting pregnant.

Friday, February 15, 2008

A lot to be thankful for

My streak of positive ovulation tests finally came to an end today. Yay! I've never been so happy to see a negative test. I know four days of positives isn't exactly normal, but it's better than five or six days I guess.

I'm trying not to look too much into things so I don't want to over-analyze this, but besides hoping for a pregnancy, I'm really just hoping my body starts to regulate itself after surgery and this cycle will be the first chance to see if it does. Today is CD 18 and I've had mucus for about a week, with the exception of not having any on the 13th and so far none today. I've always had enough mucus, so that's not an issue, but my problem is that I have like two weeks of it and it stops, then starts, then stops, then starts. I have been told that is because my body is trying to ovulate and can't, so it's trying to kick start itself. I'm really hoping that my ovulation problems were due to endometriosis and that things will soon start to look more "normal." So I'm really crossing my fingers that I don't have any mucus today, or for the rest of the cycle.

But - if there is something else (other than endometriosis) that has been going on, I should be confident that it can be fixed. It just might take longer, but that's what patience is for, right? So I shouldn't worry. I'm just so thankful that I have/had a problem that can be fixed. So many people are dealing with forms of infertility that are not treatable and I think I can get so caught up in my sadness that I forget how lucky I am. We haven't had to grieve the finality of untreatable infertility. Sometimes I grieve it because I am a pessimist, but I haven't had to really deal with that. My situation really is hopeful, and my level of hope on any given day has nothing to do with that. A stranger would look at my situation and say it is hopeful. That's the truth that I have to start getting use to. I use to fight hope because of the fear of being let down, but I am confident if that were to happen, God will protect me. I believe He gives graces to those who hope in Him.

And I have a lot to be excited about! My sister is flying in tomorrow for a week-long visit and the day after she leaves we close on our new house. Then I'll have at least a month of getting it all ready, painting, sewing curtains, decorating. And many new episodes of Lost are still to come (how amazing has this season been?!), not to mention American Idol, and now that the strike is over The Office and 30 Rock will be back! And did I mention Lost? Then we're going on vacation with my family in April. I'm at my best when I'm preoccupied and have things to look forward to. This cycle will be over before I know it and then it will be time to have new blood drawn and possibly start taking something to regulate my hormones. Now, if God could just miraculously heal my cavities that I'll be having filled in the coming weeks, things would be really great!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Questions about prayer

Today I'm on cycle day 16. I've had six peak mucus days and the ovulation tests have been positive for the last three days. I still think this is a good sign because usually on CD 16 I am just beginning my "fertile" days. I've also had some pain in my lower abdomen the last two days. So far this cycle kind of appears semi-normal, but we'll see how it goes from here.

So as this cycle progresses, I've been doing a lot of praying and thinking. I've been stuck on something the last few days: I pray to God on a daily basis asking Him to allow me to become pregnant and have a child, but if He already has a plan for us, can we change His mind? And if we are supposed to accept His will for us, is it disobedient to keep asking Him for something that may or may not be His will? How can we accept and continue to keep asking at the same time?

I started thinking about this when I was praying a novena to St. Anthony. I was struck by the wording and the confidence with which you ask St. Anthony to obtain your intention for you. Here's a sample:

Animated now with the most lively confidence, even with full conviction of not being refused, I fly for refuge to thee...

I love that confidence and it really helps me to have hope that my request will be granted. I was always taught that we can present a request to God and if He thinks it's beneficial to our soul, He may grant it. But then if God already has it all planned out, does that mean He is open to changes? Is God persuaded by a really good argument?

Let's pretend, hypothetically, that God's will for me is that I never get pregnant. So am I wasting my time praying for a pregnancy? I know the benefits of prayer in general and getting a "yes" answer isn't the only reason to pray. But it just seems like a lot of time is spent asking for certain things and if we weren't able to change God's will, then why would so many people bother? Ahhh! This is so confusing!!

Here's a really bad analogy: Let's say I really wanted a certain gift from my parents for my birthday. I know they already bought me my present, which they really put a lot of thought into. I don't know what their present is, but I still ask them every day for a certain item I really want, which may or may not be the item they already bought me. Isn't it rude to keep asking them for this item, knowing they've already purchased a present and did it with my best interest in mind? But if I made a good argument for what I really wanted, why it would be ideal for me to have (and not selfish, mundane reasons, but that this present would make me a better person and a better daughter), would they take the first present back (assuming it wasn't already what I was asking for) and buy me what I wanted? My parents may, but I know them much better than I know God. He is still a big mystery to me for the most part, but I know He loves us and hears us.

There's probably an established Catholic teaching on this, but I'm not sure where to look. I posed this question to my poor husband and he seemed to understand it and have an answer but I couldn't make sense of what he was saying. Maybe I'll ask my question on EWTN's apologist forum. I'm definitely going to pray about it.

Sorry if this is confusing. Please share your thoughts on this if you have any!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Ovulation?

Today was a day of highs and lows. To start, I went to the dentist (that was a low, for you masochists who go on a regular basis). Okay, please don't judge me here and I swear I otherwise have wonderful hygiene, but it's been over a decade since I've been. It turns out, no surprise here, that I have four or five cavities and have to go back four times. I lost it and spent the morning sobbing. I have a huge anxiety of the dentist (obviously) and the thought of going back is very scary. It was about that time that I wondered what on earth made me go to the dentist today of all days. After more than a decade I suddenly decide to go now? When I'm supposed to be de-stressing and helping my body in every possible way to ovulate? My mom says it's a good idea for "when" I get pregnant and eventually breastfeed, since breastfeeding can take a toll on your teeth. So she says I should focus on that when I'm nervous.

Then I returned home and decided to take my first ovulation predictor test in quite some time. My cycle actually appears "normal" this month so I was inspired to buy the kit and see if I ovulate. I've taken severals of these tests before and have never, ever seen a positive (I've never seen two pink lines on ANY test). So just moments after peeing on the stick, I saw two pink lines, one brighter than the other. I looked closely and realized the line I needed to be darker was actually a little lighter, meaning it was negative for ovulation, but I was still pretty excited because I've never even seen it that close. I figured maybe it meant that a positive would come tomorrow. Then, about an hour later, my husband happened to look at the test, compared it to the picture on the box, and realized that I had the lines mixed up and it was, in fact, positive! I felt like an idiot, but was very excited.

So hopefully this means that I will actually release an egg this month. I'm not sure if that's what this even means, and maybe the level of lutenizing hormone still rises in women who never actually release an egg. I have no idea how that works. All I know is I've never peed on an OPK stick and had it turn out positive before. This has got to be a step in the right direction and I needed this today.

Then tonight was fun because we went to a rally for John McCain. It was packed and very exciting and I took tons of pictures. [Disclaimer - If you happen to be reading this and are from the Richmond area, please know that my husband does not, I repeat does not, publically support a candidate. He was just there as my driver. He also wants to add that he went for "journalistic research" or something.] The highlight was when I got to shake his hand as he was leaving. Here's the picture of "the handshake" taken by my husband. I'm the one with the hair who the senator is intently gazing at:



So it was quite a day. Tonight, I think I'll start a novena to St. Anthony - since it worked for Beth!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

His perfect will

Since my husband and I have moved to our new state, we've been amazed at how many there are of one thing in particular: vanity plates. You can get one for just $10.00, and apparently a lot of Virginians find that offer hard to pass up. And I mean a lot. We are constantly trying to decipher them, imagining scenarios by which the car owner would pick such a plate, and we even report back to each other on annoying ones we've spotted. Well, today as I was driving I noticed a plate in front of me that read ROMI2 2. As always, I felt like this was a sign (assuming it wasn't for someone named Romi who likes the number 2). When I got home I looked up Romans chapter 12, verse 2 and found this:

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Let me just attempt to explain how perfect this passage is for me right now. As I've previously posted, I underwent a conversion about three years ago. I have always been Catholic, but had drifted away and this conversion brought me back. At some point in the last few days something made me start thinking about my conversion and whether I had really changed. I had certainly changed in some concrete ways - I attend Mass every Sunday, go to confession, was commissioned as a lay minister - but I started to wonder, is my heart truly different? Do I convey Christ to others? Would my friends and family say I've changed for the better? I'm not sure. So I had been thinking about this lately and had begun to feel that little tug. You know, that little tug on your soul when God decides to put something on your heart, when suddenly everywhere you turn someone's talking about that something, EWTN is doing a special about it, it's the focus of the homily at Mass that week. I knew God was calling me to continue my conversion, which is supposed to be a lifelong process anyway. But I wasn't sure yet how it fit into my infertility struggle (because, after all, doesn't everything have to do with infertility?).

Then I saw this license plate. The first part of this verse really speaks to my ongoing conversion and what I've been thinking about this week: Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. It's exactly what has been on my mind lately! The next part of the verse ties into infertility and something else I constantly struggle with: Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is. When I saw that it had to do with God's will, I knew I was meant to see it.

So perhaps becoming less of the world will help me become more in tune with - and accepting of - God's will. As I've said before, I like instructions and have a difficult time with someone simply telling me to accept God's will. Maybe this is God's way of letting me know how to actually get to that point.

The last part of the verse is my favorite - his good, pleasing and perfect will. Let's just think about this for a moment. Infertility is God's good, pleasing and perfect will for me and my husband. What a thought! Surprisingly, it doesn't make me angry or bitter, but happy and peaceful (okay, but I have to admit I still hope pregnancy is His will for me. I'm not that good yet!). Knowing that His will - whatever that may be - is always good, pleasing and perfect makes accepting it a little bit easier. It's just another reminder that He loves us so much and His will would never be to bring us harm. Now I just have to remember that on my depressed-and-at-the-complete-end-of-my-rope days.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

What I've learned so far this Lent

My first 15 minutes of silent prayer went well yesterday (although after I finished my post I completely forgot that I had just written that I was going to pray and only remembered after checking email and a few websites). I had a nun (actually a sister, but for the sake of not confusing it with one of my biological sisters, I'll call her a nun) instruct me once to sit in a chair with my feet planted firmly on the ground and close my eyes. So I do this, and then ask God to speak to my heart. It's sometimes hard at first because I like to fidget, but I usually calm down after a few minutes and then the time flies. Between yesterday and today I think I had a few good topics come up while I prayed. I'll share them here from time to time, for no other reason than so I can reflect on them and perhaps they'll help someone else as well.

Yesterday, while in prayer, I think God was trying to get me to examine my motives for wanting a pregnancy. Now, I know He knows I want to raise up children to worship Him, because I have told him this a hundred times. I don't think He thinks my heart is entirely in the wrong place. But I do think He is questioning this immense desire for so-called joy that I say I have. You know, that feeling of complete happiness and accomplishment and celebration that we see others experience and we feel left out? I think the Super Bowl first brought it to mind, just imagining how it must feel the night of a Super Bowl win. Then I thought about it again while watching American Idol, the complete joy the contestants who get a yellow ticket to Hollywood must feel. I think seeing a positive pregnancy test would feel that way, and lately I've begun to covet that feeling. Not that there's anything wrong with joy or being happy about a pregnancy; of course God longs for us to be joyful and learning of a pregnancy has been a joyful time for people throughout history. But it's the coveting of that feeling where I go wrong. I obsess over it, imagine what it must feel like, feel sorry for myself that it appears unattainable, jealous of those who experience it in any form. This is where it goes from actual joy to a worldly desire for pleasure. I think God is trying to get me back on track. Like I said, He knows my intentions are pure for the most part, but this infertility thing can mess with your head. Plus, I think He wants to remind me that joy is there for the taking and I don't need a pregnancy to experience it. Right now that is a hard pill to swallow, but deep down I know it's true. I just can't seem to figure out how to feel it right now.

I've also been trying to focus on trusting in God's will. Along with working on having patience this Lent, I am also going to try to trust God. I had an insight into this the other day while brushing my dog Sophie's hair. She's a Lhasa Apso (the ones in the dog shows who have hair all the way to the ground..it must be a full-time job to keep up with that) and for the past three years I haven't been good about brushing her hair and she always becomes all matted and then we have to take her to get shaved. So I'm trying something new and brushing her hair every day or so. For the most part she must like it because she sits still, but the other day I must have hit a knot because she went nuts. She immediately jumped up, barked at me and showed me her teeth to which I replied, "Sophie, I'm doing this for you!" I realized that, obviously, she can't possibly understand that I have her best interest in mind. Her reaction comes from an inability to trust me in this situation. Well, I immediately thought of how this parallels my own problems with God. Infertility is causing me pain and I blame Him for this. Why? Because I don't trust Him. If I trusted Him I would take the pain because I know He has my overall best interest in mind. But, just like Sophie, I growl and bark at Him because of a lack of trust. I know this is something I need to work on and so I'm going to try to pray something simple this Lent that is second nature to Catholics but I, for one, don't really mean it: Thy will be done. Maybe if I pray it with my head, my heart will follow.

This is kind of a hodge-podge post, and I know this is getting long, but I wanted to include a story of something that happened last night at Ash Wednesday Mass. I had to go alone because my husband works nights and I went to a church closer to our house, instead of where we normally go. The place was packed; I had to park on the road a distance away and had to stand, along with dozens of others, in the back of the church. At the end of the homily the priest announced that high school students were going to assist in handing out the ashes. When I reached the front of the line a high school boy put his hand to my forehead and proceeded to absolutely drench me in ashes. I felt them all over my nose. I watched them fall onto my shirt. As I turned to walk back I put my hand to my nose only to realize I had probably just smudged a small portion of what was covering my face. I put my head down (of course I had worn my hair in a pony tail so there was no hiding) and I felt like people were staring and I swear I heard laughing (I'm sure I didn't really, but it's amazing what your mind can do). Let me just say, too, that I'm not someone who likes to show off their ashes. I've heard the debate about whether people who like to wear their ashes should go to an evening Mass, while those who are embarrassed of them should go in the morning. I would definitely be someone who should go in the morning, because it would truly be a penance for me to wear them all day, worrying if people were looking at and judging me. So while walking back I immediately began to think that God must have done this to me because He knows I don't like them and was trying to teach me humility. Well, if so, it worked. But then I began to think that my huge amount of ashes must be proportionate to the amount of sin I've committed this past year. Kind of like coal in your stocking at Christmas, God was showing the world, or at least this packed parish, that this woman was really bad. Finally I reached the back of the church and kept walking, looking for a bathroom. I found it, prayed no one would look at me as I entered, and luckily found an open stall just inside the door. I closed the stall door behind me, whipped out a compact with mirror and saw the horror - it was pretty bad. I wiped it all off, tried to wipe off my shirt, and calmly walked out to the sink area. As I was washing my hands, a woman walked in laughing - with ashes all over her face! She was complaining about the high school boy who did it when another pretty young girl heard her and said that was why she was in the bathroom too. So I chimed in, and immediately felt better. So maybe it wasn't some big lesson about what a horrible person I am! But then again, there are probably a few lessons in there somewhere.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Prayer

I'm feeling good today, although a bit hesitant about my Lenten sacrifice of impatience and nervous that I will fail. My good spirits may be due to the weather outside - it is in the 70's and I'm a life-long northerner so I feel like I'm vacation - or to hormones. But, nonetheless, I haven't been impatient this Lent as of 3:30 p.m. EST.

Something I have been thinking about today, though, is prayer. I will need prayer to help me with patience throughout the next forty days. But I'm just not good at it. I loved having my weekly hour of perpetual adoration before we moved because it forced me to pray and also opened me up to new forms of prayer, namely sitting in silence and listening to God speak. Left to my own devices I am just not disciplined enough to pray. I think this is because my mind is constantly racing and thinking about a million different things (right now my topic of choice is paint colors for our new home). Or else I find a million things to do other than praying - there's just a couple more websites I need to check first or I might be missing something on t.v. This is so bad! I love God, so why isn't this love motivation enough? Do I love t.v. or the internet or decorating rooms more? Then, as you see, I fall into the whole guilt thing and am hard on myself. But nothing changes.

It's not that I don't pray. What I am good at is praying all day long, wherever I am. I pray while reading others' blogs. I pray when I hear of someone's sickness or death. I pray in a tempting situation when I need God's help. I pray when I'm depressed. But I just don't feel like it is enough and I know I have enough time on my hands to do much more. I also know that I need prayer to get me through infertility and I definitely haven't done what I should be doing in that department.

I also have a problem with how to pray. I have had assistance with this and have gotten better at it, but I'm still not sure I'm maximizing its potential. Like I said before, I have trouble concentrating during prayer. I try to pray at night while I lie in bed and before I know it I'm thinking about something else. How rude that is to God!

I obviously need to work on prayer this Lent. I really like the sitting in silence idea. Maybe instead of loading myself up with lofty goals of starting the Diving Office or some other sort of formal prayer (and setting myself up for failure) I will simply put aside some time to pray in silence, shutting out everything else and listening to God speak to me (heaven knows I need His input right now). I will start small, say 15 minutes a day, and increase it when I feel like I want to (again, so I don't set myself up for failure).

Now the problem is actually doing it. So I guess I will end this post and do it. Right now. Before I lose motivation, or check my email, or turn the t.v. on. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Stressful!

(Warning - this post has to do with politics, but as with everything else in my life, I will relate it back to infertility).

A character flaw of mine is that I don't like to be around people who I disagree with. Don't get me wrong, some of my best friends are liberals and pro-abortion, but I try not to think about that. I don't think I could be around them if the topics we disagreed on were discussed. I get stressed out, my heart races and I'm completely unable of defending my point of view (I would make a horrible apologist). When my husband decided to run for a political office six years ago, I told him my only problem with a life of politics is that I would hate to constantly be around political debate, to which he replied, "But if I'm in politics, you'll only be around Republicans!" That was a great point. It's not like the wife of a politician (at least on the level he would have been on) would be constantly bombarded by those in the opposing party.

We're currently not living a life of politics, but we might as well be. He is obsessed with it, while I can't stand it. I'm so sick of election coverage. As I told him last night, my two least favorite words in the English language as of now are Hillary and Obama, so I asked him to please from now on refer to them as Clinton and Barack. Tonight I had to leave the room as Clinton (as I like to call her) went on and on about everything I disagree with (and don't even get me started on the whole "woman" thing.. I wouldn't even think about voting for someone simply because we share the same gender. Just doesn't make sense to me).

I know this isn't good. I am constantly trying to stop myself from talking ill of her and others. Political debate just brings out the worst in me. I try to turn to prayer when a stressful political situation arises. I also try to pray for them to come over to the side of life, even though the chances of that are pretty slim. But still.

Anyways, tonight, as I was watching news coverage and my heart was racing and steam was coming out of my ears, I tried to convince my husband that it is bad for my fertility. That's right - Dr. Hilgers told us my hormones that are high are high due to stress and this is stressing me out, therefore, it's hurting my chances of conceiving. I'm supposed to be relaxing and reducing my anxiety level. But I can't relax when there's a chance a pro-abortion politican might be in the White House! The thought is too much for me.

He didn't go for that proposal and I'm pretty sure I will be listening to talk of "reproductive rights" for the next ten months. I just have to remember that God is in control, and even if we have an pro-abortion president I must trust that He has a plan. So I will try to relax and breathe. I guess I can also leave the room when it's on.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

An experiment in patience

With Lent just around the corner, I've been thinking a lot about what I'm going to focus on for these forty days. I've been trying to figure out how I'll go into the desert with the Lord - what should I give up, what should I start doing, how can I become a better Christian. I keep coming back to one thing - infertility, and it's not because of my obsession with it (well, maybe a little). Rather, it's because I need to, once and for all, begin to focus on the things I've been avoiding: Hope. Patience. Trusting God's will.

This may not sound like anything new. Hope, patience and trust are practically all I blog about. But the difference this Lent is that I'm going to stop talking and start doing.

I'm starting with patience. It's an underlying problem that needs to be tackled before I can begin to try to have hope or trust. It's something I need to work on to get me through each day.

pa·tience /ˈpeɪʃəns/ – noun: 1. the quality of being patient, as the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like.

The definition of patience (from dictionary.com) really struck me. When I think about what it means to be patient I usually think it means getting through the day without being obsessed with infertility. It means getting rid of that anxious feeling in my chest when I think about how I want to be pregnant RIGHT NOW. But I never thought it had anything to do with not complaining. Reading this definition is actually what inspired me to become patient. In that one definition a directive was given to me, an actual instruction of how to accomplish it. Don't complain. Bear your misfortune, your pain, without complaining, becoming irritated or losing your temper. I'm an instructions person; I need to be told exactly how to do something. So this is a good start.

2. an ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay

The important term here is willingness. I clearly don't currently have the ability. I may not even currently have the willingness; despair can be a comfortable place. I am very familiar with being irritable, angry, annoyed, impatient. But that's what Lent is for. I am going to be willing to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay because it is Lent and I owe that to God.

3. quiet, steady perseverance; even-tempered care; diligence.

Perseverance. Even-tempered. Diligent. So not me! But, again, these are good instructions on how to be patient.

So how do I become patient? How do I suddenly stop complaining and become that even-tempered person I've always dreamed of? I think the secret ingredient, for me at least, is to simply act like I am. It worked when I was trying to have faith, so I should have faith that it will work when I'm trying to have patience.

So here's what I'm going to try to do:

1. I will try not to complain (not about infertility in general, but about the time-table)
2. I will try to be more even tempered and not completely break down
3. If I feel a break-down coming on, I will pray
4. I will set small goals, looking forward to the things happening in the days and weeks ahead
5. I will act outwardly as if I am patient

Don't get me wrong, I'm not sure this will work. I'm not sure I won't fail. But I've got to start somewhere or I'm just going to drown. Like I've said before, I know God doesn't want me to act like this. He's asking me to follow Him out of this. I'm not happy with myself, I don't want to be so hopeless, so impatient, irritable, angry.

I don't think there's anything wrong with my natural reactions to infertility. It's completely normal to be depressed and to grieve. But God wants me to grow as a result of this as well, or else it would be a complete waste of time.

Friday, February 1, 2008

My patron saint and me

Today I received my patron saint for the year from yourpatronsaint.blogspot.com. I read about the site on another blog and was immediately intrigued. All you have to do is email someone through the site and they match you up with a saint. I'm not sure how they actually do the matches, but they say the saint chooses you. So, of course, I emailed the woman to ask for my saint for the year with the hope that it would provide some insight into my infertility and whether I'd soon get pregnant (everything with me revolves around possibly gaining some hint from God as to whether I'll ever have a baby. Probably not a good thing).

Well I received my saint today via email and it's (drumroll please).........

Saint Isidore the Farmer.

That's right, Farmer. As in one who works on a FARM. Well, if St. Isidore chose me, there must be a reason so I immediately googled him. Turns out there is a connection, and an initially depressing one at that.

Here's a quick synopsis: St. Isidore and his wife had one son who died unexpectedly as a child. They were in such grief that they decided God did not will for them to have children (ya, that's right). They decided to live a chaste life (yes, they lived together without having sex for the rest of their lives) doing good works.

Wow! My immediate reaction was easy: A childless saint chose me therefore I will be childless. Plain and simple. It took me a little while to get past this, at which time I realized I should probably look more into it; I at least owed that to St. Isidore.

What I came up with is that St. Isidore choosing me may not be a sign that I will be childless, but it may be a sign that he knows what I'm going through. Sometimes I like to picture the saints watching us and feeling sad for us. I'm not sure there even is sadness in heaven, but thinking that they feel sorry for me makes me feel a little better. I'm not sure why, but it does. So maybe St. Isidore feels my pain and wants to comfort me.

We obviously don't share the death of a child, but then my mind immediately went to miscarriage. Will I suffer a miscarriage this year? But I realized that I don't think God is trying to give me hints. God doesn't send us cryptic messages to decipher and find hidden meaning in. He also doesn't want us to worry all day about something possibly happening. So I don't think that was the intention.

I also started thinking I could probably learn a lot from St. Isidore's reaction to his childlessness, which was vastly different from my own. He started going to daily Mass and decided to take the quite drastic step of living a chaste married life. I don't think God wants that of me (the chaste part at least.. I should go to daily Mass) or for us to give up trying for children, but I'm not even in the same stratosphere as St. Isidore when it comes to our reactions. He embraced God in a radical way, while I am fighting God's will tooth and nail.

So I think I'll start asking St. Isidore for his intercession. When I feel like no one understands, maybe St. Isidore will. His grief moved him to change his life for the better and to focus on his true calling - worshipping God. All I'm doing in my grief is feeling sorry for myself. I guess there's a lot I could learn from this farmer.