Monday, December 26, 2011

Infertility vs. Pregnancy Loss: No Contest

There has been a lot of talk recently in the news with certain well-known folks losing their 21st pregnancy. I was saddened by the news of their loss and the criticism they are recieving in a very painful time, and yet, I am glad that the subject of miscarriage is no longer off limits in general conversation. Those of us who have been on that road are no longer expected to sweep it under the rug, thank God for taking what surely must have been a deformed child from our malfunctioning bodies in mercy, and never speak of it again. Yep, I am glad our society is not there any more.

But what about those who never conceive at all? What comfort do we offer them? To those who lose a pregnancy, we give comfort through the Blessed Hope or by saying their baby is waiting in the arms of Jesus. Not those who can't conceive, though. No one says anything about any Blessed Hope to them! For their hurting hearts, the Blessed Hope becomes almost painful - they have no little ones waiting in the arms of Jesus to heal the hurt of loss their absence caused.
Instead, we offer advice: go on vacation! Just relax, then it will happen! Go to the doctor, they'll give you some drugs that you can inject yourself with over and over and then you'll ovulate and get pregnant! Or do IVF! Or just adopt!

Now don't get me wrong. There is a place, a need for adoptive parents. There are, indeed, many babies waiting for a loving family to adopt them. But it is not the cure-all that those of us who have had our babies would like to think it is. And it does NOT take the place of the babies born in the hearts of mothers who can't have them born into this world.

I recently read a post written by a mother who had secondary infertility. She'd had her one baby girl nearly ten years before, and despite many efforts to have another, was facing the fact that in her forties she needed to say goodbye to the baby boy she wanted desperately, but that she would never hold in this world, and never will in the next. It was an incredibly powerful statement of the terrible finality of infertility.

She needed to grieve him. She had a right to grieve him. And yet, so few saw the legitimacy in her pain. Why? Why are we allowed to grieve for the babies we lose in pregnancy, post conception, but not the babies that we loved and saw as a part of our lives before they were even conceived?

There is grief that comes when someone passes from our lives, whether they have been living in our bodies for a few short weeks and then gone before we ever met, or whether they have been part of our lives as long as we can remember. But there is also grief that comes from the death of a dream, particularly when that dream involves not just a life lived here on this earth, but a soul made for eternal life.

When once I told a friend of mine that I believed her right to grieve (losing hope through infertility) was every bit as valid as mine (having lost through miscarriage) her reaction was immediate, intense, and appreciative, which truly surprised me.

Because it is one of those taboo topics, shunned from polite conversation, even in this day and age of tell-all books and instant tweets, there are still many would-be mothers and fathers in pain. Silent pain. Alone in their grief, misunderstood by the vast majority, and given ridiculous advice by all.

It's not just a dream, a hope, it is a vital piece of the life they hoped to live here on earth and a jewel in the crown they wanted to cast at the feet of their Savior. Yes, there are ways to pursue parenthood, and many will and do. But first, before that step, they have to give themselves permission to grieve their own babies that they will never hold. How can they when the rest of society is so busy marginalizing the trial placed on their shoulders?

So next time you are tempted to say something like, oh just go on vacation, it worked for us! Or, when are you going to have a baby? You arent getting any younger, you know! Think again, and get your mental foot out of your mouth.

Next time you are tempted to take your children for granted, stop. Just stop. Ask yourself if what you are doing is really more important than the little hearts, minds, and souls that have been graciously placed in your care. They aren't accidents, not a single one of them. They each have a purpose. They aren't inconveniences to be managed. Take a moment right now to just thank God for each one of them, and remember what a blessing each is next time you are tempted to say something snarky to that childless couple in the restaurant that keeps staring at you and your kids. You don't really know what they're thinking. Her biggest struggle with you might not be the noise, it may be a terrible, ripping her heart out kind of pain that makes her grimace.

Yes, grant a little grace, folks. That mother (even if she isn't a "mother" in the world's eyes) deserves the same kind of tender sympathy that a woman who miscarried deserves and is given. And I can say that, because I've been the miscarrying mother.

May each one of you, mother or father, grieving or holding a child, hopeful or losing hope, find grace sufficient in our Heavenly Father this Christmas season. Never lose hope. Hope is necessary for life! I don't have all the answers, and because I've not walked in those particular shoes, I certainly don't have the right words of comfort. But I pray you will find comfort in the arms of the One who does.

No, there is no contest between miscarriage and infertility. There is only pain, maybe a little more similar than you might have thought, and there is the Healer of all hearts, hopefully in between there is kindness, understanding, and prayers lifted up for each other through our unique trials.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Out of Alignment

(too bad I can't sleep like this guy, eh?)

About 6 1/2 years ago we got a new bed. Well, new to us anyway. It was a family hand-me-down, so don't anyone get all skeeved and worried about bed-bugs, y'all.

I was thrilled. It was the most amazingly comfy bed I'd slept on EVER. Or at least, that's what my pregnant body told me. And it really was comfy. But as the years flew by, the bed lost a little of that comfy factor.

Apparently mattresses get all old and stuff. Colby has been telling me for quite a while that we need to replace them. It's been pretty low on my priority list. Seriously, why fix something that's not BROKEN.

Fast forward to about 6 weeks ago. I had been having pain in my right hip for a few weeks. It got so bad that I'd wake up in the night crying. Colby said it was because of the bed. I thought, Nah. Can't be.

Then I began to have pain in my left knee whenever I walked very far or, heaven forbid, went to the gym. As in, I needed a knee brace and a lot of ibuprofen the next day.

And THEN the jaw pain started. The left side of my jaw wouldn't close right and I had a really hard time chewing anything!

Left jaw, right hip, left knee. Hmm.

I thought someone had pushed fast forward on the aging button.

(Twerty - aka Nerd Bird)

Then one night the pain in my hip was overwhelming and my tossing and turning and crying did it for my husband. He was convinced the bed was to blame, so in the dark he helped me move and grabbed all the blankets and flung them over us so that we were sideways on the bed.

The next few nights brought such relief. I slept. Without tears. I ate, without clicking. I walked, without a knee brace. By Thanksgiving I was completely back to myself.


I couldn't believe it. Colby was totally right about the bed. A small change of direction made all the difference in the world.

It got me to thinking about foundations. I mean, we're a little out of touch with the idea of foundations these days, don't you think? When we read in the Bible about the "wise man" building his house upon the rock, it's a thought process we don't spend much time on. Most of us don't build the houses we live in from the ground up. If we do, we hire someone else to think about how deep to dig the foundation, what codes need to be followed, and which company to use to dig the holes. We don't do it. Not with our own two hands. Not any more.

But what if we build our sleep schedule on a really old mattress? It's amazing how just a tiny bit of misalignment of our "foundation" - our spine - can cause such drastic reactions in other places of our body! My back was out of alignment, and by turns, so was the rest of my body.

So with our spiritual walk. If we are out of alignment in our spiritual "foundation" - our personal, heart-to-heart relationship with Jesus - we're going to be out of alignment a little bit everywhere else in life, too.

The pain in my knee felt just like it did when I'd twisted my knee while skiing. The pain in my jaw just seemed to have no connection to my spine whatsoever. And yet... they both were connected.

Next time I'm feeling a little "out of alignment" somewhere in my heart, I think I'll focus a little less on fixing what FEELS out of place and focus a little more on what's at the core - building my foundation on the Rock.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Words With Kids

No one really tells you about the hazards of having kids. They don't focus on the stuff like stretch marks or the possibility of embarrassment during sessions of public breastfeeding (while your other kids get much needed play breaks in the dead of winter at the mall playground), and they don't tell you about the absolute certainty of humiliation when your kids SAY things in public making you red in the face until you'd rather hide in a hole than see particular people ever again.

We all think we're immune to things like this. We're just all happy and excited and thinking to ourselves, I won't be the one to get stretch marks, I'm stocked and ready to go with all that shea butter goodness!. Or, I will NEVER breastfeed in public so that won't happen to me! Or better yet, I just WON'T CARE what anyone thinks while I feed my baby!

And, invariably, by the time reality sets in the little munchkins have us all wrapped around their little fingers and stuff, so we go on our merry way and completely neglect to tell our friends, who are thinking of starting their own families, about these things.

Then they start talking. And I don't mean in the cute 18-month-old, Oh, wow, you said "truck!" but it REALLY didn't sound like "truck!" kind of embarrassing way. I mean in the 6-year-old, Oh, WOW, you'd think this kid is being interrogated by LeRoy Jethro Gibbs sort of Let-me-tell-all-the-deep-dark-secrets-of-the-family AND let-me-go-crawl-in-a-hole way.

Yeah. That.

Maybe I homeschool because it seems safer (until we go to church) from all that baring of the communal family soul. Not that I don't share a few embarrassing tidbits of my own here on the blog. Usually those shared details are my own flubs and missteps, but now, it's time for a little payback. Oh, sure, the kids won't find these things embarrassing for about 10 more years (and knowing my kids, maybe they won't EVER), but I have to have a record somewhere of them so I don't forget!

Emmy: to me while trying on hand-me-down snowpants: MOOOOM!!!! (bursting into tears) They DON'T FIT!!!
Me: They look like they fit okay, where are they bugging you?
Emmy: They just don't FIT! (more tears)
Me: Let's see.... they're not too short, they're not too tight, what's the matter with them?
Emmy: THEY ARE BLUE!!!!! (and then flopping down on the bench, sobbing)

Joshua: to Emmy when they were sitting at the table (attempting) to do schoolwork: Look how sharp this pencil is!
Emmy: It's like a SWORD!
Joshua and Emmy: pshhp! Pshaaaw! Aaayaah! Shwoooop! (sword fighting with their pencils)
Me: STOP doing that you could put someone's eye out!!!
Joshua and Emmy: (pause) Then we could have an EYEPATCH! We'd look like PIRATES!!!
Me: (*fail*)

Okay, if you're squeamish, you might want to end this reading of my blog post right here.

Just warning ya!

Particularly if you are vegetarian, vegan, etc. or a member of PETA.

Okay, so we are *mostly* vegetarian. I will once in a while order something with chicken in it when we're out eating, but I don't ever cook meat of any kind at home. Well, there was that one time I made a baked salmon dish, but other than than, it doesn't happen. Until Thanksgiving.

It's Thanksgiving people. The day just NEEDS a turkey. So when we're home for that holiday I get past my absolute distaste of handling raw meat and... cook a turkey.

But that's not what happened here.

This year we were home, I didn't want to cook a turkey, I didn't want to THAW a turkey in my kitchen before I could cook it, etc. So instead I went and bought one of those pre-cooked rotisserie chickens. Yeah, totally the same thing, I KNOW, okay?! But anyways, so there we are with our nicely prepared dinner, and this little chicken thing sitting off to the side, and then....

Emmy: Momma, can I have the drumstick?
Me: (how does she know what the drumstick IS?) Umm, okay?
Emmy: YAY!
Me: Here you go, Emmy.
Emmy: Oh, boy, oh boy! (commences eating drumstick)
Emmy: Look, guys, there's the MEAT! (chomp, chomp, chomp)
Emmy: Look, guys, there a VEIN!!! (poke, poke, poke)
Emmy: LOOK, GUYS, THERE'S THE BONE!!! (hopping up and down, literally, on her seat)
Me: (slaps hand against face)
Emmy: Momma, can we clean off this bone so I can keep it?
Me: (ohdearLordhavemercyonme)

*and yes, for those wondering, I DID boil that bone (thank you, Temperance Brennan, for showing me how) until it was clean and give it back to her. 'Cause that's just the kind of girl she is, and the kind of mom I am. She thought she was being a paleontologist, and I do believe she would have taken it outside and buried it somewhere just so she could find it again except the dog stole it about 30 seconds later.

I think I'm embarrassing myself now, aren't I? Who needs the kids to tell on me when I plainly put out my redneck side for all to see right here?

Oh, dear. Time to go pick my teeth with one o'them leftover bones or somethin', now, ain't it?

Sunday, December 04, 2011

~ Never Forgotten ~

The days leading up to the 10th anniversary of Carl's death were marked by broken sleep, tossing and turning in the dark, grasping at memories that seemed too far away to reach.

The memories I have no longer seem like vapors drifting up through my consciousness and caught like tiny, glistening droplets of water on a web. Now they are solid, worn smooth like a stone carried around in a pocket. The details feel rehearsed.

There are no new memories to be made.

Friday was punctuated by tears, by unspoken questions that will not be answered this side of heaven, and finally, by peace and hope found in these precious promises:

"But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as other which have no hope, for if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him.... for the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a cloud and with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God!" 1 Thess. 4:13-16

"For now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know even as also I am known." 1 Cor. 13:12

I am, as I know many, many others are, thankful not only for these promises of hope but also for a loving Father who carries every memory of his children close to His heart, never letting any of it fade away. Every smile, every tear, every laugh, it is all kept safe in the heart of One who loved Carl more than all the rest of us put together.



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