Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Life is a Trigger

You may have noticed that it's been winter all year here at Conceiving Hope.

Sometimes life is permeated with a grey, foggy haze that doesn't lift. That's the best way to describe 2016. The death of a parent. The death of another child. The death of an aunt. The death of a friend. A new diagnosis - this time a disease brought on by pregnancy itself. And so winter wasn't coming, it just never left.

I'm mostly still back at January 22nd, even now. Remembering every bit of that morning before I knew my world had changed.... remembering a peace that was a lie. Freshly fallen snow that morning, a hot cup of tea, a slow start to the day, and time spent soaking it in. Yet far away, the loss of a parent in those same moments. It's strikes me even now how eerily silent it was that morning. Hauntingly so, as crystals formed, and snow flakes settled and everything in the world was frozen for a moment...

Grief is a strange sensation. Like the snow that morning, it is mostly silent - but discernibly there. And after the snow, it's even like the feel of sticky morning dew on bare skin in springtime. Or like a thick, hot breath inwards on a particularly humid summer evening. Or that first crisp scent of Autumn in the air that catches your nose.

They are all so distinct, aren't they? Familiar, yet new. Recognizable, yet different. There, yet not really. The deafening quiet of that snowy morning and particularly the change of the seasons this year are some of the most poignant to me still, as I think back on the loss. The world kept going, but I did not. And loss upon loss, I became numb. I didn't even keep up motions in my numbness. I just was. Or am. Or something...

In 2016, all of life has seemed a trigger. Maybe it's hope delayed? Or maybe this is some Phoenix metaphor where I have to be burned to ashes before some dramatic rebirth. Perhaps my Hashimoto's is conjuring up exactly that scenario. I'm not sure, nor does it really matter much which it is. I just am. Or whatever is left of me, anyway.

Losing a parent is so very different than losing a child. Almost everyone can relate to one, and very few can relate to the other. Yes, losing a parent is expected at some point, but even in the shared experience - the reality of it is utterly unique and unshareable.

I buried my father on my birthday. And since the year I was born, it always snows that day. It did that day too. I'm not sure how it's 8 months past that day already, but it is. I'm still in winter, stuck in January, and the rest of you kept going.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Martha's Dignity, My Infertility

You could throw a proverbial rock into the Christian interwebs and the chances would be pretty good that you'd hit a blog that teaches women the virtue of how to be a "Mary" in a "Martha" world. It seems to be the *it* thing to write about as a female Christian blogger and you can find just about any of the advice that you are looking for, whether it be in checklist form, countdown form, prose around biblical verses, or some snazzy pin with a pretty graphic.....unless you want to explore the dignity and virtue of Martha.

If you've read Luke 10:38-42, then you know the story. Martha worries about serving, Mary lounges at the Lord's feet. Martha is anxious and seeking for Christ's validation. Mary is carefree and hanging on Christ's every word. No, I'm not a biblical scholar.... thank you for asking! :)

The interesting thing to me though (but that I never read in all these Christian blogs and analyses of Martha/Mary) when people are referencing this story is this: the good of Martha. We focus on what we perceive are Martha's shortcomings or what we perceive are her missteps. And more often, I think we see her as the woman who doesn't find favor with the Lord in those verses. Don't be like Martha is the mantra we're all taught. But by comparing Martha to Mary.... we really don't afford Martha her dignity. As women - and humans - we don't get the luxury of comparison without the consequence of being sinful. We are not all just compilations of our sins... there is dignity imparted onto our souls by God Himself and it is greater than our missteps, failings, and sins. Put more simply, our job isn't to judge Mary or Martha, but that role is left open only to Christ's bailiwick. And what does He do when the opportunity to judge and compare is upon Him? He does neither.

I feel like infertility has taught me a lot about Martha. Infertility taught me to eagerly welcome Christ... just like Martha. Infertility reminds me of all the worries and anxieties that I possess.... much like Martha. And maybe most poignantly, the path to and through infertility reminds me of the intense feeling that I've been denied by Christ. But that isn't really what Christ did, is it?

Martha served Christ...freely, enthusiastically, and seeking favor. Even when what seemed most important to her was not granted, I believe Christ's exact words in that passage afford her dignity more than they point to someone else being more virtuous. His careful words address her worry directly as a balm and He focuses on what she needs in light of what she wants. We should all be thankful for that kind of attention, right? Notice that Christ's words don't actually offer a comparison of the sisters. It's a powerful passage to reflect on, if you look at it from that vantage point and reread His actual words carefully. He certainly could have compared them, but look at what He did instead.

Let me never judge anyone who enthusiastically seeks to serve the Lord for any reason. Let me focus more on what Christ says to me alone. And if I feel denied in my request when I feel unfairly left alone to carry what I see as the heavier burden, let me remember the tenderness with which Christ will speak to me if I seek His Will. I get there by recognizing the good of Martha, not by comparing her to anyone. And maybe there is something to that cartoon I drew a couple years ago after all....

Friday, January 1, 2016

Adopt-a-Blogger!


This month, January 2016, we pray for
S @ Mystery Blogger!!

Something a little different coming your way this month, everyone! Sometimes people don't have the flexibility to be open about their infertility and they need to maintain their anonymity. As you can imagine - Conceiving Hope knows a thing or two about that. So what do you do when someone is voted to be our next Adopt-a-Blogger, but isn't ready to share their infertility struggle with the world, their work place, and their family (especially at the holidays!)? You pray doubly hard for them!

This prayer campaign is about praying for those who suffer in silence, and I cannot think of anyone more worthy of prayer than our blogger this month. The upcoming season of Lent reminds us of longing to be through the desert, something the infertile couple knows the feeling of in their vocation to grow their family with no end in sight. It can be heartbreaking, and I pray for  God to lessen your pain.

S describes herself and her intentions below, so please be kind and generous and take a moment and make time to read through this and pray for our mystery blogger this month!

As always, I pray for the intentions of everyone joining me in prayer in this Adopt-a-Blogger campaign, that God's will be done in your life. Happy New Year and here is S in her own words here: 

Thank you for praying for me this January as the Adopt-a-Blogger this month. I feel bad that we aren't able to share our identity since you are so graciously praying for us, but our family and careers are connected to our blogging presence and this isn't a topic we've broached with either of those worlds yet. We've been married for 3 years. We have male factor and female factors involved in our infertility. Both of us have surgeries scheduled in the upcoming month, and we could really use your prayers for healing for that, if nothing else! As we continue to seek God's will to grow our family, we appreciate your support and understanding. Please pray for God to make His will clear in our lives so that we know can answer the call He placed on the sacrament of our marriage. 
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How it works:


ALL bloggers, readers, commenters, lurkers, lurchers, creepers, crazies (clomid meltdown, aisle 3!), borings, snorings, dazed, confused, and willing - i.e., ALL OF US - will be uniting our prayers for the entire month for the blogger mentioned above. At the same time, across the country, across the Americas, heck, even across the world, our prayers will all be directed in the same place, at the same time. FOR A WHOLE MONTH! Get ready for some SERIOUS fruits, people!

Click on the blog link above to visit the Blogger of the Month's post in which they will give you a brief history of their journey with infertility/adoption/childlessness. Then, continue to follow up and check in on that blogger throughout the month, to become more familiar with them and better align your prayers with their intentions.


Why?:


The idea is to pray a Childless Blogger, one of our own, to a Childless-No-More status. To bridge that final gap, to knock down that final wall, to make them MOMMIES against all odds!! Above all else, our prayers will be for peace and joy in their hearts as only God holds the answer to these prayers.


When?:


All month long! A new Blogger will be announced at the beginning of each new month. This post will be updated on the 1st of every month, so be sure to check back!


So,... How, again??


Pray whatever prayers you'd like. Do a Novena. Say a rosary. Meditate. Say a litany. The Memorare. Whatever your heart desires, whenever it desires it. You may also choose (and this is HIGHLY ENCOURAGED!) to offer up your suffering, any suffering at all, for the Adopted Blogger. Your offering can be as small as your patience with an overtired, sugar-high toddler, or it can be as large as offering your cycle (if you are going through infertility) in the hopes that your cycle will be instead the cycle in which their child is conceived. Singles? You, too have an excellent opportunity to offer your daily wait for a spouse. Not trying to conceive? That's okay- hey, trust me, I'm sure we ALLLLLLL can find some form of suffering in our daily lives to offer up!


So, join in, one and all, and please feel free to STEAL one of these lovely Bloggy Button Thingies for your your blog, facebook, pinterest, twitter, instagram, or wherever:




                              

The button should link back to this post on your page (steal the current URL from above), so that all blog readers can learn how to join in, and WHO to pray for!
(Remember, the post will be updated on the 1st of each month, so the link changes each time)

Thank you for participating in the Adopt-A-Blogger Prayer Campaign here @ Conceiving Hope!!! Your prayers are powerful, and so very much appreciated! 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Infant Loss Awareness Day

I am keeping vigil with all who mourn, grieve, and wait... because today is the same as every other day on the calendar when you've experienced the loss of a child: every day is Infant Loss Awareness Day.

They are all gone too soon.

Be good to yourself before clicking on any of the links below - know that you will see pictures of pregnant bellies, children, and talk of pregnancy in all of them, even the academic links. If you are new to this blog, please see the resources tab for help on how to manage a loss at all stages of the process (before, during, and after) physically, practically, spiritually, and in remembrance.

Miscarried and stillborn babies, as well as infants who died after birth... are all now saints in Heaven (not angels), being held in the arms of our Creator. We, as women, delivered them into this world through our bodies, but a small part of them physically remains behind in us forever. The scientific phenomenon is called microchimerism. And there is a lot of research behind it in recent years.

Our children remain with us at a cellular level forever. That makes every mother of a lost child a sacred relic, if you think about it for a moment. I am praying with all of you and for all of you as we navigate another reminder of all who are missing in our lives. We are not broken. Our children are literally strengthening us from within, for years to come. As long as we live, they are here within us, a tangible part of us that remains literally in our hearts and minds. And we are not the same as we were before them. Even those whose losses were so early that they never had an ultrasound... you are changed. Your child is a reality as you live and breathe each moment. In fact, those experiencing recurring miscarriage are more likely to experience this phenomenon, statistically speaking.

But until we get to cradle them in our arms, in the home of our Heavenly Father, let us keep vigil with each other.


Saturday, August 15, 2015

Good Things Happen To Other People

On this Feast of the Assumption, Catholics recognize the miraculous moment when Mary was ascended into Heaven, bodily. It's hard to imagine a human body ascending into Heaven, isn't it? I find myself wondering whether we have any real sense of Mary's journey through life - or the details surrounding her Assumption - from our vantage point in the year 2015. Are we so far removed that we can't relate anymore? 

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Around every corner, there is another birth announcement. It seems birth is "in season" lately. I guess it makes sense though... as Christmas was 9 months ago. Almost all of the people who I began this walk through infertility with now have children in their arms - or they eagerly await impending births (biologically or through the gift of adoption) of children still in utero. And really, there seems hardly any greater joy than to be able to congratulate someone on the birth of a child after they have suffered the pains of infertility. We all jump at the chance to do it - myself included. What could be better? I mean, I have one idea... ;)

Good things happen to other people, so you can hardly begrudge someone at realizing their life's dream, just because your own dreams were the same and remain unfulfilled. It's one of the more complicated sets of emotions that get navigated when a couple experiences infertility: joy at the blessing you crave for yourself, bestowed on someone you care about.

For some, birth announcements (regardless of whose) become painful - stinging at the mere mention of children. And yet for others, the announcement of a birth itself isn't painful... but it is a reminder of their own infertility. And it's a reminder of the dull ache and sadness at childlessness that is still lived in their own life. Neither feeling is wrong. And feeling either way, in my opinion, is more a product of instinct than anything else. You don't aim to be upset and overjoyed at something simultaneously. It just happens that way.

Marian feast days have a way of stinging when you have experienced infertility though, don't they? Here we are, celebrating something beautiful and unbelievable that happened to a mother. Let's be honest - at it's core, that's what a Marian feast day is: celebrating a mother. Albeit an amazing mother... but there is no point in rationalizing the details and qualifying specialties with those who are in the throes of infertility. For some reading here - this is what the meme would look like, if they were honest about their feelings on a day like today:


You might be saying "yeah, but it's different". OK, great. It's different. But it's still a celebration of a mother. And for those who get lost in the pain of that - I write this post. My goal in writing here isn't always to have the neat or poetic answers. It isn't to tell beautiful stories that always end exactly the way we want. And it isn't even my goal to spin all the details into some neat, tidy, little package that in hindsight makes it all seem worth it. God isn't our magician. 

Sometimes life is hard. Infertility is always hard. And Marian feast days are tough when you navigate infertility. I'm validating that here. You aren't a bad person for feeling sad when good things happen to other people. You're human.

But today is a reminder that sometimes unbelievable things happen to humans. Sometimes the impossible happens - like getting carted up to Heaven with your skin on, and your soul still jiggling around on the inside. It's not a concession to your current pain. But it is a reminder that there is purpose in celebrating things that are painful. And that God does have a plan - and sometimes it involves the unimaginable. 

Infertility isn't something you were ever in control of to begin with, regardless of your 27-pills-a-day-regimen and your carefully plotted out diet. But if you are suffering on Marian feast days, struggling to find a relationship with the Blessed Mother, hurting from your own experiences with your own mother, confused at how to reconcile your faith with your pain, or otherwise feeling like you are flailing with this whole infertile-and-Christian thing... I have words of encouragement for you:

I am praying for you: The person who is reading this and crying. The person who is reading this while lurking silently online, never leaving a comment. The person who reads this and feels guilty, sad, alone, and forgotten. And I'm asking God to make His Plan a little clearer in your life so that you can see how hope is conceived in all things... even the things that seem difficult.

If you would like for me to pray for a specific intention, I am in the middle of a 54 day novena - praying only for others' intentions. I would love to add what's weighing on your heart to my prayer list. Just send me a message on the contact form above or comment below.

Good things are going to continue to happen to other people. And I hope you realize that to someone else, you are the other person. And they'd have given anything for the blessing they've watched you receive. Meanwhile, you'll continue to look at others' blessings the same way. This is human nature in our fallen world, isn't it? We aren't in a competition with each other, nor are our pains in vain. Nor am I ever going to say "get over it" to you.

If I'm even remotely right that it's instinct that creates these reactions though - then that means we have a reliable source of ignition to let us put our suffering to work, doesn't it? It's the only way out of the self-centered-prison that infertility wants to build around us and reduce our lives into and I'm convinced prayer is the most powerful weapon. Let's burn the pain of our infertility and use the strength of the inferno to power good things to happen to other people. It doesn't diminish the deepest longing in our heart for children. It won't relieve our childlessness. But I'm pretty sure if there is anything that could impress Jesus and answer His call in our life and fulfill His plan for us - it would start a little something like humbly putting your most painful pains to work selflessly for others. And that you could pull yourself out of the emotional and spiritual (and sometimes physical!) paralysis of infertility would be a testament to how we may be broken, but that it will not dictate what we are capable of as Christians...

God be with everyone reading here on this Feast of the Assumption, and the good things can you make happen for other people. Think about it.