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One Small Step

A week ago, I stepped into my OB/GYN’s office for the first time in over a year. A half hour later, I left with a new prescription for Clomid, Provera, and Metformin. It all felt so familiar, it was as though I was living my life of two, or five, years ago.

Except I came home to a house full of children, screaming and fighting, and a floor that was unseeable because of the massive field mine of toys that stretched from the front door to every corner of every bedroom, and I had to ask myself, can I even handle another child? Can I handle the constant stress and mess and lack of rest? Because some days it feels as though I am seriously failing. Some days, it feels as though my head might explode if one more child whines about what is on her dinner plate or about how itchy her shirt is or about having to pick up her toys before bedtime. There are days when the monotony of parenthood — the barage of reminders I have to give Cupcake in the morning so that she will be ready for school on time, the taking of Skittle’s hand numerous times a day to lead her to the potty, the gentle (but infinite) guidance I have to give Poppy to keep him from unplugging every lamp in the house, the meal planning, the drawn-out bedtime routines, the toy pick-up over and over and over — seems overwhelming and exhausting. And so often, the worry that ebbs and flows over my children’s health — worry about everything from allergies (yes, lots of them) to asthma (probably not) to mysterious fevers, strep, UTIs, and yeast infections (the last four of which have all made an appearance at our house within the last three months) — just feels like so. damn. much. TOO much for one person, or for at least this one person, to handle with any sort of grace or dignity. And to think of doing it for one second longer than I have to seems foolish.

And then there are the other days. Days like yesterday, when I take just Cupcake out for hot cocoa and we talk about wonderful things while we sip from our cup and she is a delight to be around and declares it “the best day ever.” Days when Poppy takes a few steps on his own and then collapses onto the ground in a fit of belly laughs because he is so proud of himself, or  when wide-eyed Skittle crawls into my bed and whispers into the darkness of the room, “I love you, Mommy.” There are days when the kids are happy and loving from sunrise to sunset, and thank me sweetly for the cookie on their plate at lunchtime, and play nicely together all day long. Or maybe they don’t — maybe they fight or argue about who-knows-what and yell and snatch toys away, but then they say “sorry” unprompted and give each other an affectionate, genuine hug and all is well again. And there are days when we go on adventures as a family, near or far, and nothing on our list of daily tasks to do weighs on us. And there are days when we spend a relaxing morning at home, us adults sipping coffee with our littles snuggled next to us on the couch while we watch home movies, and I am suddenly reminded how quickly the years go by and that they will be all grown up in a flash. Those are the days when my heart explodes and I wish I could do this a million times more.

Though we are not taking any preventative measures — and haven’t in nearly eight years — we are not yet officially “trying” for our fourth take-home baby. But we are putting a plan in place. I have significantly cut back on sugar and caffeine. I will wean Poppy over the course of five weeks starting in April. I will order my regime of vitamins at some point in the future if necessary. And now I have my prescriptions, for better or worse. And perhaps I won’t even need them. Perhaps lightning will strike twice and I will fall pregnant with my one lucky, post-weaning ovulation as I did with Poppy. But that seems like a little too much to hope for and so I am preparing for a harder journey.

I don’t know what will happen in the months to come. I am hopeful and excited. I am apprehensive, scared, and even a little sad. This very well may be our last baby. It’s a relief to be at this point, but it’s bittersweet as well. It hurts to think that this could be the very last time I do any of this. Even more, it hurts to think that I may not get to do it at all. I mean, let’s get real, you guys. My ovaries don’t work as they should. None of this is a given. And so I’m fearful of what is to come. What I will have to endure. What I will put my family through in doing it.

It’s a difficult thing to go forward, knowing that the path ahead could be nothing but a journey towards failure, disappointment, heartache, and loss while also knowing that it’s probably possible to be perfectly happy with what I have right this minute. My children are incredible. My life feels full. It’s hard to imagine being much happier than this. And yet, without this fourth baby, I know that it will forever feel as if someone is missing around here. Our family is not complete and missing someone who could have been here, if only I had tried, is not really the way I want to live the rest of my life. I have never let fear or doubt stop me when it comes to going after something I really want. And this — this big family — is something that I want so much. I have longed for it since childhood, long before I met my husband or ever heard the term “infertile.” Even when we were celebrating just having one, so grateful for the opportunity to be parents at all, my heart always yearned for more. And it feels so, so close.

So we will try. Come what may, we will try to achieve what always feels impossible. A miracle.

I just have to get this out.

I hate real estate. I realized that a long time ago, when we bought our first home. There are too many twists and turns, too many curveballs. I don’t have the patience. My nerves aren’t made of steel. My heart isn’t strong enough. I just can’t handle it. I wasn’t MADE for this.

And yet.

Here we are, deep into the process and desperate for a much larger homestead for our family of five, and the only way OUT is through.

A summary: We put our house on the market on a Thursday in August. By the following Monday, we had four offers. We negotiated with the lowest one because it was a cash offer. Eventually, we got them to agree to pay asking price. Swell. We were happy. Everything progressed nicely. Meanwhile, we did our own house-hunting and, after making a total of three offers, one was finally accepted. We were thrilled. This was really happening! The home passed the inspection and appraisal and is now in escrow. We are, potentially, just days away from closing on it. But! BUT. But but but we are on septic (not sewer) here where we live right now and that is where the problem lies. We had to have it inspected as part of the sale and it’s a whole long story, but needless to say, it did not pass inspection. It started as a small problem and has become a HUGE problem (how? don’t ask me! this whole thing is a ridiculous, convoluted mystery) and we have consulted with five different companies and no one is in agreement of what needs to be done or how to do it. We have already extended the closing on our house once and are in danger of doing that again, if we don’t get this fixed NOW. We’re at a crossroads…fix it (which could, quite literally, take months and cost anywhere from $3500 to $25000) and delay closing (again) and probably lose the house we want to buy…or offer a hefty reduction in price to the buyer and hope he will be willing to take this on himself.

It’s a mess. I am a mess. My husband and I are fighting. I’m yelling at the kids. In a fit of rage, I nearly threw my husband’s shoe out the front door and into the mud, which is laughable now, but felt anything but in the moment. Through the ups and many, many downs of this, I have tossed around the word “divorce,” callously mentioned killing myself, and threatened to walk away from my life and never look back. None of which I meant. Not even for a second. That’s not how I — normally — talk or think.

But I don’t feel normal right now. I feel one broken nail away from having a complete meltdown. I am saying and doing things that are not me — not who I strive to be — and I hate myself for it. I feel ashamed, embarrassed, disgusted. Between the loss of my dad, Cupcake’s start to kindergarten, planning a big party for Poppy and Skittle in just two weeks, and — most of all — all of the stress of trying to buy a house, sell a house, and pack up 1500 square feet of JUNK and CLUTTER while also dealing with two children who scream and cry all day long and a baby who likes me to constantly be near him…I feel as if I am about to break. Something is going to go wrong and I am going to be one of those people who ends up having a mental break, and is found butt naked, wandering down Main Street in a daze. See that woman with her boobs flopping in the breeze? That is ME.

I say it tongue in cheek, but seriously…how much more? How much more can I take? I keep saying I can’t handle any more and I do, but I’m not doing it well. And I know these are First World problems. It’s just a house. It’s just money. I’m thankful I have both. My husband keeps reminding me that I don’t have to eat in the same place that I defecate, so I’m already winning at life and — yes! Holy cow, yes! I get that I live a rather good, easy life. I’m lucky in many, many ways. But still. This is my reality and I want more for our family.

Since Poppy’s arrival, I have felt cramped and claustrophobic in this house. Even a good spring cleaning didn’t give me much breathing room. My home — my safe haven — is starting to choke the life out of me. We need more space to spread out. We need a fresh start. And that house we want to buy? It already feels like Home. I can see our pictures hung on the walls. I can hear the kids squealing and screeching as they ride their bikes in the culdesac and I watch them from one of the balconies with a cup of coffee and a good book in hand. (Haha. Nice dream, right?) I have imagined Halloween spent there, finally in a real neighborhood where the kids can go trick-or-treating. I know where I want to put our Christmas tree. This is where I want my children to grow up. I can’t let the hope of that go. This house is it. I feel it. And the thought of losing it makes me go crazy. I’m afraid nothing else will ever be good enough and I’ll spend the rest of my life mourning The One That Got Away. Not to mention, the thought of going through all of this again with some other house down the road pretty much makes me sick. I’m not cut out for this, remember?

I’m rambling now. What was my point again? Your guess is as good as mine. But I feel my walls going up. I feel guarded. I’m not motivated to pack anymore. I’ve stopped window-shopping online for all the ways I want to beautify our home. I qualify every conversation about the house with “if we get this house…” I’ve said on more than one occasion that this feels painfully similar to those times when I have been pregnant. So hopeful. Desperate for it all to work out. But so, so afraid to make any solid plans…to prepare for The Big Day…to count my chickens before they hatch. I lived in fear of a miscarriage then. I live in fear of losing this house now. And though they can’t be compared, not really, my heart can’t really separate the difference in this moment.

I just want everything to be okay.

On Blind Faith

Note: This is a post about faith and God. I welcome any comments and opinions, but I ask that you be respectful of my beliefs. And please know that I am not in any way commenting on you, your situation, your opposing faith, or lack thereof. This is only about me, what I have learned, and what I believe in the dark corners of my heart.

Also: Pregnancy is briefly mentioned throughout this post.

This is a post I have been wanting to write for some time, long before Skittle ever came to be, or I ever saw a heartbeat, over and over and over again. I have talked about it with Kelly over at Life is Good Today in some great length and it is something I have pondered for many months. Early on in the life of this little blog, I wrote about my struggle with my faith since my miscarriage. I was born and raised a Christian, but I was mad at God and I couldn’t make sense of my loss or anyone else’s. But in Kelly’s comments to my post, she mentioned blind faith, which really spoke to me. Now I realize that it (“it” being “blind faith”) is a bit of a redundant phrase, as all faith is essentially blind — that is, faith is believing in something that cannot be seen or touched, something that we don’t have solid proof of — but it made me see my faith, and faith in general, differently.

I realized that blind faith was exactly what I needed to have in order to get through this difficult period of infertility (and later, the scary first weeks of pregnancy) with any sort of grace or peace. It was my only hope. And it helped, I will say. Letting the control slip from my hands into Someone Else’s, and just working every damn day to believe that everything would work out, would be okay, was all part of some grand plan, gave me what I needed to make it from one day to the next. I will not lie: it has not always been easy. I still get angry at God sometimes, not only for me but for all of you, and I still don’t have all the answers. There have been days when I must have repeated my mantra of “blind faith, blind faith, blind faith” a thousand times because I needed the constant reminder. But it helped. Oh dear God, it helped. And in the end, I believe that’s the purpose of faith and prayer. It is not for God. God is God. He wants but does not need for us to believe in Him, worship Him, or go to Him in all things. Rather, faith is for us. It changes us. It lifts us up. And it makes life so much easier.

And in my hard work of learning to just let God be in charge, and trust that His plan is the best plan, I have come to learn so much about what it means to have blind faith. Because it is more than going to church, believing in God, praying for what you want and expecting you’ll get it. It is more than worship and praise. It is trusting fully, come what may. It’s accepting God’s will, and embracing it, even if you simultaneously despise it. It’s acknowledging the hateful and angry feelings you have towards God, and working through them. It’s knowing you will be okay and you are not alone, even if you don’t get what you want. It’s understanding that God knows best, even if you don’t like His reasons. It’s grasping that there is a purpose for your pain.

Blind faith does not require that we seek answers and try to understand God’s plan. In fact, I think it’s the exact opposite: not wanting or needing the answers at all. Just going forward with your eyes closed, leaping into the unknown. Basically, it boils down to trust. You can’t see where the road in front of you leads, if the trip will be easy or hard or long. But just trusting that, one way or another, God will lead you through it.

To me, this is what blind faith is. I know this now. I know this not because I am growing another baby, but because my faith has evolved significantly since losing Teddy Graham last year. All those times I was standing still — all those times I was waiting for my period, waiting for ovulation, waiting to be done with Provera, waiting, waiting, waiting — I had time to think about this. And yet practicing this sort of faith, letting it take over my head and heart at all times — well, I’m still working on that. I imagine I will be for the rest of my life.

Sorry for the rambling, friends. I don’t want to come off as preachy. I know this is a sensitive subject. I know so many people, especially in this community, find it impossible to believe in anything at all or really struggle as I have, or more. I hope I haven’t offended anyone. I don’t judge and I hope you won’t judge me. It’s just, without my faith and without working towards a greater understanding of what that means, I would have been lost over the last year. In fact, I would have lost it (as in, my mind). So while I’m so happy that some of you made it to the end of this post and have been supportive enough to listen to all my ramblings, this post is really for me. Because when I face another crisis (and there will be another one), I want to remember what I learned. I want every bit of it written down as a solid, tangible reminder that faith got me through once before. And it will do it again.

Here We Go Again….

This is another “one more sleep” post.

One more sleep until my second ultrasound.

One more sleep until I am at 7w1d, the exact point where I started bleeding in my last pregnancy.

One more sleep until I find out if my baby is still alive, or dead.

I have managed to remain pretty serene over the last week. Much more so than I ever was while pregnant with Teddy Graham. Is that because, somehow, I instinctively knew that Teddy would not survive? Or have I only learned that meltdowns, freakouts, and nonstop worry will not get me anywhere? It will not save my baby; it will not kill my baby.

The times when I start to feel like I’m spiraling a little out of control with my fear and anxiety is when I spend too much time analyzing my symptoms. I am 7 weeks today and have I experienced a lot of cravings, a few aversions, and some nausea, some exhaustion, some breast sensitivity. Some. I always think “some” is not enough. “Some” is often barely worth noting. What I hold onto, long for, and obsess over the most is the “morning” sickness. My biggest wave of nausea was over last weekend, which is too long ago for my comfort. Today, I have felt pretty decent, maybe just a little extra tired and hungry. This does not leave me feeling overly warm and fuzzy about my ultrasound tomorrow.

And I know this really means nothing. You can have a thousand pregnancy symptoms and still have a dead baby in your womb. You can be asymptomatic and Baby can be thriving. It probably doesn’t matter. Maybe it’s still too early for the worst of my symptoms. Maybe this is just a “good” day. I had plenty of them amongst all the bad days while carrying Cupcake. Maybe this pregnancy is just going to be totally different, which so many of my friends have assured me is perfectly normal. I don’t know, but I sure would love to go to sleep tonight and wake up tomorrow knowing that Skittle is all right. But I won’t. All I have is hope.

What I do know is that I certainly feel more pregnant than I ever did with Teddy Graham. I know that I fell asleep at 10:30 a.m. on the sofa today while Cupcake played with her new Cookie Monster toy that she got for Valentine’s Day. I know that, while I often don’t feel nauseous, I also don’t often feel my best; I feel “off” and unlike me. I know that it was only two nights ago when I felt a wave (albeit, a brief wave) of nausea.

Please, someone, tell me these are signs that Skittle is fine. That we are all fine. That everything will be fine.

Praying for Babies

First of all, thanks to all of you for your kind, supportive, and encouraging comments on my last post. I have successfully stayed away from Google and am trying to embrace the moments of peace and joy when they find me. I am still terrified, but taking this all one day (or one minute) at a time.

But instead of writing yet another ten or twenty paragraphs about how hard and scary these early weeks are (because we all know there will be plenty more to come!), I want to talk about the church service I attended in January. It seems a little silly to write about this now with a BFP in my back pocket (so to speak), but I want to do it anyways because it was an amazing and horrible experience, all wrapped into one. It was like nothing I had experienced before and I think it deserves an honest discussion.

On January 27, I attended a service at a local church (“local” being about 45 minutes north of us). It was the last Sunday of January, which meant it was time for their annual Presentation Sunday — a prayer service for couples struggling with infertility. I had never been before, but when I read an article about it last year just as we had started trying for another baby, I told my husband that, should we still be TTC in 2013, I wanted to go. Of course, I didn’t really think we would be stuck in this same place a year down the road. But I guess the joke was on me, because we were and we went.

A little background: This was their 25th annual Presentation Sunday. They have had people from all over the country fly in to be prayed for. And there have been many, many successes. They stopped keeping track when they reached 500 babies born post-Presentation Sunday some years ago. Some of these babies were born nine months after the prayer service and some were born much later. Also, the pastor and his wife are one of us…that is, they suffered 11 miscarriages/losses (one of them at six months) before they were able to have their son.

Now, let me be clear…I did not go there expecting a miracle. I thoroughly believe in the power of prayer, but I know that we don’t always get what we pray for. It’s not a case of “ask and you shall receive.” Sometimes, what we want is just not in the cards, or God’s plan, for us. I am realistic about this. But I guess, in my heart of hearts, I hoped that this type of service would have some mystical powers or really speak to God and voila! A baby would be conceived and born. But at the very least, I felt it might be powerful to be surrounded by couples who were facing our same set of circumstances, and understood the pain and fear that arises from that. Not to mention, any amount of prayer usually brings peace into my heart. I may not get what I am yearning for, but it’s easier to go forward with that sense of peace.

So that was the good part of the service. Hearing the testimony and success stories. Hearing the pastor’s sermon about how you need only the smallest amount of faith, something the size of a mustard seed, to get a miracle. Seeing the women around me weeping and knowing I’m not alone. Feeling that kinship. But then along came the problematic part…

Towards the end of the service, my daughter started to get restless. Two years old, listening to “old” people ramble…who can blame her? We had toys, snacks, and books for her, but she was tired of sitting still, and especially tired of sitting still quietly. So my husband took her into the hall. I had told him before the service that, should this happen, I needed him to come back into the sanctuary when it was time to be prayed for. And when he left with Cupcake, I reminded him, “Stay close.” Do you see where this is going?

When it was time to go the front to kneel before the stage and have others lay their hands on us and be prayed for, Honey still had not returned, so I went alone. Alongside lots of other couples. Because I was the “single” woman up there (and therefore not aligned with their belief that married couples should be blessed with children), I was ignored. Never mind that I was wearing a wedding ring or that this sort of ostracizing is so far from what Christianity is about, but no one touched me and no one prayed for me. I was sobbing (which was okay, because so was everyone else), but not because of my infertility. Instead, I felt utterly alone, abandoned by my husband, enraged, and singled out. Eventually, a woman did ask if I was praying for myself and when I told her my husband was in the hall with our daughter, she prayed for me, and so did several others. It was a weird experience, because the church I regularly attend is very conservative and doesn’t speak in tongues or lay hands upon others, or do anything remotely like this. And I couldn’t even focus on the prayer, because I was still so upset over being there without Honey and being treated like an outcast. So I just cried while they prayed and that was that.

After the time of prayer, the service ended, my husband and daughter returned, and we left the church with me completely distraught. I am ashamed of how mad I was at Honey for abandoning me. And how devastated I felt. I know it’s silly, but in those moments, I felt as if we blown it. Ruined some magic formula to getting the pregnancy and baby that I so very much longed for. After some time, and quiet thought, and a long phone conversation with my mama, I started to calm down and realize how ridiculous I was being. But still…it was a hard thing to handle. I wanted to leave that service feeling such a strong sense of peace and hope, knowing I had done everything I could to try to have another baby, and instead I felt devastated. Not exactly how I imagined it.

Of course, now that I got my BFP, just two days after that service, I waffle between:

  • Wow, that prayer service really worked!

AND

  • Hahaha, I didn’t need you guys after all! Take your judgmental Christianity somewhere else please!

In the end, this service didn’t matter at all. I didn’t need it. But I’m still glad I went. And I can’t say that, if this pregnancy doesn’t work out and we are still standing still next January, that I wouldn’t go again. Because I would. I do think I would.

Hopeful Mornings

The few times every year when I am so lucky to have my mom in town, she often offers to watch my daughter one or two mornings while I escape to Starbucks with a good book. Yesterday was one of those mornings. And it was so nice to have some time to myself. I ordered the largest coffee I could, not caring for once about the overload of caffeine in it, and escaped into another world as I read quietly while sitting in my favorite chair.

But there is a funny thing that often happens on these mornings: I feel the slow and steady rise of hope in my chest.  Is it because an hour alone makes me feel so relaxed that my guard is down? Is because I am energized by the caffeine I avoid on every other day? I can’t surely say, but when I am blinded by this hope, there is this crazy thing I do: after I’m done reading and sipping, I will wander down to the Target that is attached to the mall with the Starbucks I have been sitting in, and I will browse the baby section. I will finger the soft fabric of the little fleece shirts and matching pants that can be found so often at this time of year. I will hold the tiny outfit with the little rhino and the words “Tough Guy” close to my heart. I will imagine my baby wearing something so precious, one day. And I will consider, seriously consider, if I should buy the onesie with “I Love Mom” on it in Newborn size. I don’t. I do not yet have the balls or heart to make such a purchase, but there is a moment when I think I might. And even when I just can’t bring myself to do it, I will hope, and briefly believe, that some day I will. I will have a reason to make that purchase.

It is on these mornings that I hold onto the thought that I have been here before, and I can do it again. I. Can. Do. It. I only wish that this sort of courageous hope didn’t leave the moment I walked out the doors of the mall, into the sunlight and the reality of my life.

Seasons of Hope

Do all of you know the song, “Seasons of Love” from Rent? The one that goes, “How do you measure, measure a year?” It’s one of my favorites. It’s always playing on the radio at this time of year and it is constantly stuck in my head, which I am quite happy about. I love it that much.

Hearing it for the first time this year, it struck me that an infertile version of this song could easily be written. While others may measure their year by laughter, cups of coffee, or whatnot, we measure ours with BFNs and disappointments and failures. So I decided to write my own take on the song. It’s not perfect. It’s not funny, like my husband had hoped. In fact, after letting it sit for a while, I now think it’s kind of silly and lame. But I’ll publish it for you anyways because it was fun to write. And maybe one of you will get something out of it.

As a note, I did take some author liberties, removing or adding a few syllables here and there, changing the meter for a few lines, as well as adding a few extra stanzas in the middle (extra stanzas are in bold). I guess you can call this the Extended Version. For those of you unfamiliar with the song, I will add a link at the bottom so that you can listen to it. If you want to read my words along to the music, there is a karaoke version of “Seasons of Love” on youtube, but you’ll need to skip over the bold verses since those aren’t part of the original song.

And so, here is our song, ladies… I hope you enjoy it.

SEASONS OF HOPE

Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes,
Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Moments to fear.
Three hundred sixty-five worries
‘n’ dozens of pee sticks.
How do you measure an infertile year?

In tampons, in tests, in needles,
in chocolate eaten
when bleeding begins, in hopes dashed, in tears.

In five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes.
How do you measure
a difficult year?

How about hope?
Broken hearts ‘n’ hope?
How about hope? Measure in hope.

Seasons of hope. Seasons of hope.

Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes!
How do you measure
the worst year of your life?

In people who’ve been there,
people who’ve not,
in the nights in bed for a man and his wife?

In hugs from a friend,
in two-week waits,
in pleas to your god,
in times you are late.

Hope! Don’t give up hope!
Measure in hope, seasons of hope.

Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes!
Five hundred twenty-five thousand
plans gone awry.

Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes.
How do you measure the life
Of an infertile who cries?

In big fat positives,
Or in BFNs.
In lives that ended,
before they could begin.

It’s time to believe there’s
an end to this tough ride.
Let’s celebrate
with friends who make it to the other side.
Remember the hope!
Remember the hope!
Seasons of hope!

Oh you got to, need to,
Remember the hope!
You know that hope can be a saving rope.
Find hope, grip hope, give hope.
Measure a barren life with hope.