Tuesday, April 29, 2014

I Suppose I Should Be Happy...UPDATED

We got a call today that a potential buyer accepted the offer on our house in Missouri. Given the housing market today, I know this is good news.   Our house was on the market for less than a month, and during that time, we got two offers. This latest one is about what we'd hoped for, and to sell a house in less than a month in rural Missouri makes us pretty lucky, I know.


Once we sign the contract and close on the deal, our ability to adopt closes too.    Sure, we could start the process over again in our new state but as many of you know, going through the home study process is lengthy, time-consuming, not to mention, expensive.  And then there is our age...mid-forties now.     We've already been approved and waiting for over a year. So, yeah, we aren't exactly gung-ho on starting all over.

I am trying to put this all in God's hands.   It's not easy.  We really wanted that adopted baby we thought we were going to have.   I wanted the boys to have a sibling that wasn't their age.   I wanted Joah to have an adopted sibling, in particular, so that they could share in that.   I hoped for a little girl, but a little boy would've been perfectly fine too.   He'd have had some great big brothers to follow around!

Anyway, we have 24 hours to sign the papers.  It would be foolish not to.   We can't keep waiting for something that may never happen.     I just wish that infertility didn't filter into every decision, every aspect of our lives, even when it comes to buying and selling a home, but it does.   I should be used to that by now, I suppose.

God runs the show,   But sometimes I still get surprised by the story line.  

UPDATE 5/6/14:   We found out today that the contract on selling our home fell through, no fault of ours. The sale was contingent upon the buyer selling their previous home and things fell apart on that end.  So, we are back where we started...a house on the market which is the bad news, but we are still in the adoption pool until it does sell, which is the good news.    Please, God, let this be a blessing in disguise.  

Friday, April 25, 2014

7 Quick Takes - Easter Surprises, Appalachian Winters, Old Friends, Double Trouble, and Witnessing Faith

So happy Easter everyone!   I am still reeling from this Easter surprise.   I think I have heard the phrase "God is good" at least three times this week and it is true.   He never abandons us. His timing may not be ours but when the time does comes for Him to reveal Himself to us, by golly, He makes sure we know its Him.   I am rejoicing in the birth of this little baby who arrived in their arms during the Triduum.   God bless her.  God bless her birthparents for choosing life and adoption.   God bless her adoptive parents who carried their cross with such grace.  It bears repeating:  God is good!   Alleluia!

I am enjoying getting familiar with mountain life in Kentucky.  We had a cold snap a couple of weeks ago and woke up to this.
The day before this was 75 degrees.  Honest.
In the mountains, this is known as Dogwood Winter, because when the dogwoods bloom, sure as shootin', we'll get a cold snap.  And just in case you may not be familiar with Appalachian colloquialisms used to describe winter, let me just bring you up to speed.

First, you have Sarvus Winter which is when the "sarvusberry" trees bloom (which are actually "serviceberry" trees but if you call them "serviceberry" and not "sarvus berry" around here, you'll immediately identify yourself as a "furriner", which may not be a bad thing, unless you are trying to fit in, although if you are a "furriner", trust me, you'll never fit in anyway, so go ahead and call them whatever you want...the non-furriners are very accommodating).  Okay, so after Sarvus Winter, we have Redbud Winter.  Then comes Dogwood Winter.   Now don't ask me which winter it is if the Redbuds and Dogwoods are blooming at the same time, as they were this year. My husband asked me that, but since he is one of them "furriners" I just described, I tried to be accommodating and just pitied his ignorance because everyone in the mountains who ain't a "furriner" knows that Dogwoods trump Redbuds every time.

So, after Redbud Winter comes Dogwood Winter, if they aren't simultaneous as they were this year.   But we aren't done with winter yet, because we still have Blackberry Winter coming about 3 weeks after Dogwood Winter.   So, expect that in a future Quick Take.   Or you can be like my husband and just call them all Winter.   But that would be way to simple for us mountain folk.
Dogwoods + Snow?   Definitely Dogwood Winter.

Being back home in my mountains also has meant getting re-acquainted with some old friends.   Feathered friends, that is.   Some people speak Spanish, some French, some German.   Not me.  My second language is Bird.   And when you live in a forest like we do, it is a whole lot more useful than speaking Spanish, French, or German.

Timing our arrival back to eastern Kentucky with the arrival of the spring migrants was a stroke of totally unplanned brilliance on our part.   Each day of this month has brought the arrival of new friends starting with the black-and-white warbler pushing his squeaky wheelbarrow through the woods, followed by the yellow-throated warbler telling me to "cheer, cheer, cheer, cheer up" and just a few days ago, I heard the flute-like harmonics of the elusive wood thrush as he sang  "ee-o-lay" , which meant not only that most of the migrants have returned home, but also that it is time now to plant corn (another mountain thang).

Considering that most of these neotropical migrants are in serious decline, I feel very privileged to have them taking up residence all around me.   Hopefully, they'll be around long enough for me to teach my boys how to speak Bird, too.   But first they have to master which end of the binocs to look through.  Baby steps.


So back to Easter.
The boys got to participate in a little Easter egg hunt held after Mass at our very small church (there are no large Catholic churches in rural Appalachia) and it took John about 0.2 seconds to find the one and only plastic egg in the grass that had been adorned with a very fresh and odoriferous feature compliments of the free-ranging dog living next door.   Score one for John.   Tom was the lucky parent to find John first, just as John proudly exclaimed "what's this?" and wiped said feature all over his best Sunday pants and then all over Tom's best Sunday pants.   No sweat for this Mama, though because Thank Goodness For Polyester (John) and Dry Cleaners (Tom).   Tom got John cleaned up and was able to resume the egg hunt just in time for there to be no more eggs left to find.   But that was okay, too, because the boys were already well-stocked with chocolate for the next three months thanks to the five-pound Easter baskets they'd received that morning, compliments of the grandparents.   I'm still trying to decide if candy-related holidays are something that this mother likes or strongly dislikes.   I'm leaning toward the latter.   It wouldn't be so bad if we could maybe space Valentine's Day and Easter a little farther apart???   At least now we should be good until Halloween.

If you want to know what kind of week I've had, let me just say that frequently this week, I have ended my days by Googling phrases such as "twin 3 year olds discipline" and "twin 3 year olds behavior" and "parenting twin 3-year olds", etc etc.     And each time, all I could find was a whole lot of other desperate mothers (and fathers) who had apparently Googled the same and gotten nothing more than sympathy from other parents with twin 3-year-olds but no meaningful advice as to how to tame such 3-year-olds.   The best I could come up with was "keep them separated" and "it'll get better in 2 to 5 years".   Granted, my boys aren't real twins, but at 6.5 months apart, I think I am having a lot of the same discipline issues that parents of twins may have.   When they are together, which is most of the time, they are like wild little animals constantly antagonizing and instigating and looking over their shoulders to see if anyone (Mama) is watching.  
When they are apart, they are delightful little boys who like to be read to, cuddle, and will play quietly with toys or entertain themselves in other non-destructive manners.    
Nap times are especially challenging because one will always try to provoke the other to the point that neither one ends up napping.   Frequently, we must put them in separate rooms to get them to sleep.  During Mass, Tom and I have started sitting on opposite sides of the church to keep the boys apart (and that actually works well).    Anyone with experience in this arena willing to offer advice?  I'm all ears.

Slowly we are starting to get adjusted to our "new normal" and I am making progress unpacking room by room.   We now have all boxes sequestered to the basement, which makes me very happy, but is not very pleasing to Tom considering basement = man cave.   But we are getting there.   Finding the time to do fun stuff in the midst of trying to get a house put right-side up has been a challenge but with the lovely spring weather we're enjoying, we have been making a point to take the boys out.   This week, we found a paved trail that the boys enjoyed riding their trikes on.    The trail was built to be handicap-accessible, but for this mom, handicap-accessible also means trike accessible.   We took Pawpaw with us too, and he seemed to appreciate the fact that the trail had no inclines greater than 5 %.   Win Win.
"C'mon Pawpaw, faster!"

Lastly, there have been a lot of blog posts this week about infertility given that it is National Infertility Awareness Week.   I am so grateful to all the Infertility Bloggers out there, many of whom inspired others like myself to start blogging and sharing our story.   If you missed Rebecca's series of posts, I encourage you to check them out.   Thank you to her and all the Catholic IF bloggers who posted about their journey with infertility this week.   As someone once said "it is a club nobody wants to join" but once in it, it is encouraging to be surrounded by such courageous witnesses of faith and it just may be the antidote to our self-absorbed world.  My prayers are with you all.

Have a great weekend!   Happy Mercy Sunday!  and thanks to Jen for hosting.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Epilogue: Their Cross Was Heavier

If you read my infertility story, you now know some the struggles that Tom and I faced emotionally and spiritually while trying to become parents.  The constant disappointments, the waiting and praying, the isolation and desperation were at times unbearable, to the point that I nearly lost all faith in God.  

But my story wouldn't be complete without this epilogue.

During our years of infertility, Tom and I have been blessed to be friends with a couple carrying this same cross. But unlike Tom and I, they have carried their cross much longer.

You see, our friends have been carrying their cross for almost nineteen years.   Nineteen years.

And over five years ago, they started the adoption process.    Five years.

Tom and I started the adoption process the same time as they did.   And together, we all waited for a baby. And then I got pregnant and had a baby.   And they kept waiting. And then Tom and I were chosen for an adoption. And they kept waiting.

I know the pain it must have caused them to see us become parents twice while they still waited.  Believe me, I know.  But they never let their pain show. Instead, they shared in our joy.  She took the time to make each baby a personalized cross-stitch.   He bonded immediately to our boys and bounced them enthusiastically on his knee as they squealed with glee.  They suggested we all go to the zoo together. They looked forward to fishing with the boys, and they offered to babysit.   They watched as our two babies became toddlers and then preschoolers.

And they continued to wait for their dream to come true, too.    

It broke my heart that nobody was selecting them for an adoption.  They are so faith-filled, their lives so Christ-centered.   I was and still am in awe of their trust in our Lord with their lives.

Each time we visited, we tried to remain hopeful and encouraging but as the years passed, I could see their hope starting to wane. This year, 2014, they said, would be the last year they would wait. They were getting older. I'm sure they felt like their dream of being parents was never going to come true.

Throughout it all, they never ceased to inspire me.  I would like to say that if the tables had been turned and it'd been them, not us, having the baby and then adopting, that I would have been as joyful and gracious towards them as they have been to us.  But I know better.

This past couple of months, I wrote my infertility story and called it the Lent of My Life because when I reflect upon my life, those were the days my faith was tested the most. I thought my cross was too heavy and I prayed daily to be relieved of it.

But my cross, heavy as it was, was not as heavy as theirs.  And truth be told, I didn't carry my cross as well as they carried theirs.

Last Tuesday, my phone rang.   It was my dear friend and she exclaimed, "remember that phone call we've been waiting for for over five years?"  

Nineteen years they waited.  They prayed.   They loved in spite of their pain.

And now, their Lent is over.  Because this past Thursday, as we all said goodbye to another Lent for another year, they said goodbye to their long Lent and hello to their newborn baby girl.

The stone was rolled away.  And I am both honored and humbled to have been a witness to it all.  And it is in their journey, and not my own, that I believe the greatest lesson is to be learned.

Our dear friends, holding my baby almost four years ago.
Today, they are holding their own.  At last.   Praise God.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Lent of My Life - My Infertility Story (Conclusion)

Tom and I have been through a lot of ups and downs in our marriage but probably nothing has challenged our relationship with each other, with our families, and with God more than our struggle with infertility and miscarriages.   So, I wanted to share our story with others who may be facing this same struggle.   I have been posting it during Lent and this is the Conclusion. Maybe it can give someone a little hope.   If you missed the other chapters, you can read them  here, here, here, here,  here,  here  and here.

I’ll never know if it was the naltrexone, or a miracle, although in hindsight, it appears to have been the latter, but two cycles after starting the naltrexone, I was pregnant again.   I was shocked, and Tom and I were scared to death.   I called my doctor immediately and he ordered bloodwork and prescribed a cocktail of vitamins and progesterone, which I started taking immediately.   And then we waited.  It would be two weeks before the ultrasound that would tell us if our baby was likely to live or die.   I counted the days.  Tom and I prayed and held each other tightly.   We told our parents immediately this time, asking them for their prayers as well.   We asked Francis Gabriel for his intercession. We needed those prayers immediately, for ourselves if not for the baby. 

I remember making it to the six-week point, a few days before my ultrasound was scheduled.  “I didn't make it this far with Francis,” I thought.   Could this one be different?  I didn't dare get my hopes up.   Nothing in my life had scared me more than this.   Our ultrasound was scheduled on the Feast Day of the Holy Innocents and I prayed fervently for their intercession.  Have faith, I told myself.  Have faith.   Don’t give up.   God is here with us.  It was a mantra that I repeated over and over in my head, day and night.  

And then we saw it.  The flicker on the screen.   The 141 beats per minute.   Life!   My doctor smiled, I exhaled, and Tom wiped away a tear.   “Looks like 2010 is gonna be a big year for the two of you!” my doctor exclaimed.  

And so it was.   I gave birth to our miracle, John, that summer. And that adopted child that I had long since given up on ever having?   Joah was born six and a half months later, the day after Valentine’s Day.    None of it was an easy journey.   My pregnancy with John was another test of faith, in which we faced a terrible fetal diagnosis at 20 weeks, followed by a miracle healing, and then a pre-mature rupture of membranes (PPROM) at 32 weeks, followed by another miracle healing.     And being chosen by a courageous young lady to be the parents of Joah?  That has a miracle behind it too.  God proved himself to be God even though I had doubted Him.   I am humbled by it all.  

This is not to say that the heavy cross of infertility that I had carried had been lifted off my shoulders.   Not at all.   After John and Joah’s birth, I started to long for another baby.  Now I was really full of hope!   I believed that I had been miraculously healed; that God had looked down upon me and said “Enough” and removed the burden of that infertility cross from me forever.  

But I had forgotten that even Jesus was not relieved of His cross when He had asked for such in the Garden of Gethsemane so why should I expect any different?  How could I prove my love for Him if I did not carry this cross?   And so, I continue to carry it.   One year after Joah was born, I found myself saying goodbye to another baby, our third pregnancy, lost after 10 weeks, a little baby that we named Karol Elizabeth.   Karol came into this world two days after Joah’s first birthday, the irony of which was not lost on me.  Life is fragile, and all life, no matter how old or at what stage of development, is meant to be celebrated.   So, Tom and I celebrated the birthday of our little one-year-old boy and two days later, we commemorated the birthday of our little Karol, whom we buried under the trees next to Francis.  

There are two graves next to Francis now.    One year after losing Karol, we lost Isaac Anne, again at 6 weeks.    And now, I am a few days past turning 45 years old, and my dream of having more children grows distant as I realize that this chapter of my life will soon end.    I still hold onto the hope that maybe, just maybe, we will get chosen to adopt another baby, but that dream, too, is starting to fade.   I suppose this could be it.   This may be how this story of my infertility ends.  But other stories have now begun too, and it is because of my infertility years that I am where I am today, and who I am today, hopefully for better and not worse.   

Infertility will always be part of me.   The pain changes but it never goes completely away.   I will always miss that big family that I never got to have.  I struggle with fear of losing John and Joah because of the losses I've already experienced.  I still choke back tears and envy when I see a mother with her newborn baby.  I try to suppress my anger and cynicism when I see others taking their ability to have children so lightly.   And I still wonder why I had to bear this particular disease, this particular cross. 

I know that I will have those answers someday, but not in this life.   Nobody can rationalize infertility, and those who try, fail miserably.   All I can do is share my story, and pray that someone might find some hope and reassurance in it.   I kept trying to find reasons for my pain and did everything possible to avoid it, to the point that I gave up ever hoping for what I wanted most.   But God didn't let me stay in despair.   He kept tugging on me and allowing me to hope again.   And I trust that in time, He will turn my hope into acceptance, and that I will reflect on my life and see only the blessings I have been given.  Because, really, I have been truly blessed.    We all have.   To be given a cross to bear for Christ’s sake, and to carry it with the help of His grace, is a reflection of His love for us, even though our human minds can’t make any sense of it.   If we could make sense of it, there would be no need for faith.  There would be no need for Him.

Everyone who bears this cross of infertility has their own story and the endings will all be different.   But the stories all share the common threads of pain, loss, abandonment, and persecution.   In the end, really all that we can do is just persevere.  When the cross becomes too heavy, and we fall, we get back up and keep following  it where it leads.   It’s what our Lord did.   It is the stuff that saints are made of.  And in knowing that, we can hope.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Lent of My Life - My Infertility Story (Chapter 7)

Tom and I have been through a lot of ups and downs in our marriage but probably nothing has challenged our relationship with each other, with our families, and with God more than our struggle with infertility and miscarriages.   So, I wanted to share our story with others who may be facing this same struggle.   I have been posting a chapter each Wednesday during Lent and will post the conclusion on Good Friday. Maybe it can give someone a little hope.   If you missed Chapters 1 through 6, you can read them hereherehereherehere and here.

It was October again, our 8th wedding anniversary and the third anniversary of our loss of Francis, and I sat next to his grave.   I didn't visit it often and the summer months had covered it with honeysuckle. To anyone else, the grave would've been invisible but I knew it was there and I felt ashamed for letting it go unattended for so long.

I had spent the past several months trying to suppress the heavy sadness that was consuming me inside.   I was 40 years old now, and at the age where most people just assumed that Tom and I would never have children.  We had been seriously trying to have a baby for 6 years and waiting to adopt for almost a year.   I had given up on having a biological child and now all indications were that we would not be chosen to adopt due to the lack of babies being placed and our age.   The last remaining hope that I had, which had been that we’d get to be parents through adoption, was nearly gone, and no emotional wall that I tried to built could protect me from the despair I was feeling.  

The most painful part now was knowing that most people assumed we would not have children.  Even I was beginning to have trouble picturing myself with a child.   I didn't dare tell anyone that “we’re trying to start a family” or “I’m trying to get pregnant” because I couldn't handle the “are you crazy?” looks and raised eyebrows that I thought I’d get due to my age.  It was easier to just let them assume I had chosen not to have children and avoid the comments and questions.   It was easy for me to hide the truth, because on the outside, Tom and I were both career-oriented and we were living what appeared to be a great life as a “child-free couple” with all the amenities.  

Even within our family, it seemed that everyone had given up on us becoming parents.  There was no more talk of “when you have kids” and our dog had long ago become the “grand-dog.” They didn't ask for adoption updates and seldom spoke of the fact that we were waiting to adopt.   Our short-lived pregnancy with Francis was never mentioned again after the miscarriage.   Pregnancy and birth announcements of other family members were not always shared with us.  All of this was meant to “protect our feelings” but of course, did just the opposite.  Instead, it made us feel more isolated and put distance between our extended family and us.   We now avoided family reunions and many family holidays were spent “just the two of us”, which was always bittersweet, but less painful than the alternative.  

But as I sat there next to Francis’ grave, I realized that all the walls I was putting around myself, with my family, with my friends, and with my co-workers, were doing nothing more than making me feel less loved and making me less able to love.   I had tried to stop the pain but instead, now I was carrying even more pain.   I was merely existing, and not really living.  My thoughts were completely inward now and I had little compassion and empathy for any suffering of others because I was convinced that my suffering trumped anyone else's.  I filled my head with hopeless thoughts.  I told myself that nobody would pick us for an adoption and that there was no point in pursuing more medical interventions.   I was rejecting all hope but I found myself incapable of replacing that hope with acceptance.  Instead, I was replacing it with feelings of doubt and self-pity. By doing so, I had become a self-absorbed, bitter, angry and envious person.  As I stared at the little grave site that I had neglected for so long, I knew that Francis deserved better.  

I knew then that if I wasn't ready to accept not having children, then I needed to regain the hope I had once had.   Even if it was a long-shot.  Even if I thought I knew what the end result would probably be (i.e., still no baby), I had to have some hope to hang onto.  So, I walked away from Francis’ grave, went inside the house, opened the file drawer and pulled out the letter regarding low-dose naltrexone that my doctor had sent a few months back.    I read it and made an appointment.   I was going to try again.

Friday, April 11, 2014

7 Quick Takes - All's Well That Ends Well?

It's been a few weeks since my last Quick Takes and it feels good to get back at it.  A lot has changed since my last Quick Takes so if you have a minute, or ten, allow me to catch you up.

The Surgery.   As you may recall, Joah was scheduled for a tonsillectomy on March 18.   That seems like a year ago now!   First, let me thank any and all of you who said a prayer on the little guy's (and my) behalf. The good news is that from check-in until check-out, the whole saga was over in about 3 hours.  The surgeon said everything went well and the sleep apnea issues should now be completely resolved.  We were told that Joah may also need to have tubes put in his ears during the surgery too, but the surgeon said the ears looked good so we were able to avoid that part.   Joah was such a trooper walking into the hospital, insisting on pushing his suitcase the entire way.  

Pre-op Joah.  Somethin's up...
The poor kid had no idea what he was in for.  Nor did I.  Which leads me to...

The Recovery.  Okay.  So before the surgery, in typical helicopter-mom fashion, I asked the doctor about a million questions and then a few days after that, I called his nurse (the doctor was kind enough to give me her number,  or maybe he was tired of talking to me?)   and asked her about a zillion more.   I wanted to be as prepared as possible for what was ahead.  I have to give the nurse credit, she was honest.  Completely honest.   In her words:  "after the surgery, be prepared for at least a week or two of hell".  Did I believe her? Not really.  She's just painting the worst case scenario, I told myself.   That'll never happen to me, I thought. Joah's a tough kid and little kids always bounce back fast, right?   Wrong.  
Recovery room Joah.  No way was he eating that popsicle!

Wiped out after the Battle of the Medicine.
 Granted, it could've been much worst.   We didn't have any post-op bleeding to deal with.  We didn't have any high fevers or vomiting.   So hurrah for that! But my oh my.   The pain he was in.  It was heart wrenching to watch.  He screamed and screamed (which I know had to have made the pain worse but try explaining that to a 3 year-old).   He was not allowed to take any pain medicine stronger than over-the-counter doses of ibuprofen and acetaminophen.  And he would not swallow.   Period.   Which means he would not swallow the pain medicine.   Tom, who planned to go to work a few days after the surgery, had to stay home the entire week instead because I could not get pain medicine into Joah without one of us holding him down.   It was awful.  This put the phrase "tough love" into a whole new ball field.    The poor boy would fight with every ounce (and he has a lot of ounces!) against taking that teaspoon of medicine.    We tried bribery,we tried mixing the medicine with his drinks or soft food, we even tried taking some ourselves as good example to encourage him, but he was having none of it.   So, tough love it had to be.   Thankfully, after about 10 days, he seemed to be in less pain and we were able to back off the medicine.  After week two, he was back to eating his body weight in mac and cheese and, for the first time in two years, sleeping peacefully and silently. But we weren't quite over the trauma yet.   However, before I get to that part, let's talk about what else was going on....

The Packing.  Did I mention that during the post-surgery trauma, we were also trying to pack up the rest of our household so that we could move it 500 miles east?   Normally, I take a lot of pride in my ability to plan things to the n'th degree to avoid all foreseeable chaos.  
Missouri house chaos.
Which is why I am still asking myself "what the Hades was I thinking" as I reflect upon these past three weeks of what the nurse aptly coined "hell".   Because not only were we dealing with a very needy, very emotional small child but in between traumatic medicine doses and cuddles, we were also dealing with a million things that had to be taken care of before we could close the U-Haul doors and say sayonara to the Show Me State for good.    And it is a darn good thing that I don't believe in signs from God, well, I don't believe in "bad" signs from God, because if I did, I'd probably be sitting in a padded room right now.   Here are just a few of the little things that happened, most of which I chose not to take as a "sign":
  • a) The realtors all agreed that our house probably would sell for less than what we paid for it.  As in, what we paid for it 12 years ago.   And on top of that, we were told our septic has a "70% chance" of not meeting the (newly revised, of course) county codes and if so, those repairs could add up to another 10K of financial loss for us.  So, I am seriously considering starting a novena for our septic system.  Would that be sacrilegious?
  • b) The U-Haul facility decided to not notify us of the location of the truck we were renting until less than 24 hours from our scheduled pick-up time.  When they did finally notify us, they told us the truck would have to be picked up an hour away from where we lived AND that the trailer we were also renting from them could be picked up at ANOTHER location an hour away from that one.   Thank you U-Haul, for always keeping convenience to your customer in mind.
  • c)  The scheduled day of actually loading the U-Haul, this happened.  As my dear husband, who is also a certified weather spotter, pointed out, this was not the heaviest and most rainfall we'd received in 24 hours in a year .   It was the heaviest and most rainfall we'd received in 24 hours in SIX years.   Boxes got soaked.   Valuables got water-damaged.   But at least the U-Haul didn't blow over in the 50 mph wind gusts.  It did rock back and forth pretty good.  Seriously.
Photo taken at around 2pm just before the sky fell out.
  • d) Finally, after storms were past and the truck loaded, Tom turned the key to start the U-Haul and "click".  Dead battery.   Apparently the "auto" part of the  "auto-shut-off" on the U-Haul light in the back of the truck was not functioning and with all the lightning around, we had failed to notice.     Commence looking for jumper cables, more phone calls to the U-Haul customer service department, etc. etc.   An hour later,Tom went to pick up the trailer for towing our car and get it hitched to the U-Haul.  When he got there, he was told by the U-Haul rep...
  • e) ..."Sorry, but we don't have anyone here to help you hitch that up and we close in an hour." This is when the angel appeared.  He was a middle-age guy who looked like he came straight off of Duck Dynasty, wearing his overalls, sporting an unkempt long beard and saying that angelic phrase "is there anything I can do to help you?"  Turns out, he knew all about how to hitch a vehicle-towing trailer to the back of a U-Haul and he helped Tom get the job done.   The guy didn't work there, he just happened to be "hanging around"?   I'll take that as a sign.

A moment of distraction. 
The Regression.  So by now, you are probably getting the picture that it's been a stressful few weeks.   Which leads me back to Joah.   Which actually leads me back to myself.   You see, before the surgery, Joah was just starting to show signs that he was moving out of the "terrible twos" and into the much less terrible threes.   I know some of you don't believe in the "terrible twos" so I could just say that half of my family has control issues.   That half being Joah and myself.   Someday, I hope to outgrow mine.   Before the surgery, Joah seemed to be outgrowing his. However,  post-surgery, we learned that there is something called "child regression" in which young children who have been through a traumatic event often begin acting younger than their age again.  Such seems to be the case with Joah.

John deciding that he too, can regress and look pitiful for attention.
I think we are moving out of it, although the poor little kid is still waking up at night looking for Mommy and has been having frequent tantrums.   No doubt the surgery combined with the sudden change in his home venue has totally rocked his little world.
I don't blame him for acting out.   I can totally relate because....

He's not the only one who has regressed these past few weeks. When Lent started, I was determined to tackle my "anger" issues...best described as losing my temper in 3 seconds flat when I was feeling overly stressed and physically exhausted.   I was making a conscious effort to take deep breaths, walk away, count to ten, say a Hail Mary, anything that would defuse any anger I could feel building up in me.   And it was working great.   And then these past three weeks happened, and after night after night of less than 8 hours sleep (caring for Joah) plus having my parents in the house for two weeks (they were gracious enough to come help but having two extra people in a small house during all this didn't exactly reduce stress) plus all the non-signs I already described took their toll and regress I did.   It wasn't pretty.   I am ashamed.   I apologized.   Thankfully, I have an understanding family.  

The Trip.   So, last Friday was it.   I watched our home of 12 years fade away in my rear-view mirror and headed east with my two little boys in the backseat (Tom left the day before to get a head start) and a tear in my eye.    I am happy to be moving back to Kentucky but I can't deny that the time spent in Missouri was not only the most important chapter in my life, but also the hardest, and with that recognition came bittersweet emotions.

I was a bit concerned about making a 9 hour drive with two small children alone but God was with me the entire way.   Thanks to His grace and our vehicle's DVD player, we made the trip with only two potty stops and no tantrums.    The boys did great and are so excited to be in our new home.   They have lots of space for riding their trikes and there is no traffic to worry about.   In the distance, we hear frequent trains as they pass through and blow their whistles and each time he hears one, Joah will stop what he is doing and exclaim "you hear that?  that's a northbound one"  or "you hear that?  that's a southbound one".   Most of the time, he is right about the the direction the train is heading.   Pretty amazing to this mama.

I am enjoying the fact that Tom telecommutes now, and he has been consistently working from about 6 a.m. until 2 p.m. and then he is free to help me do unpacking, watch the boys, whatever.   No more 2 hours every day spent driving to and from work.   It's great and has been a long long time comin'.

Life in Box Land.
The Unpacking.    Tom promises me that the unpacking will go faster than the packing did.   So far, he is right.   After spending the past five days bore-sighted on getting our kitchen organized and creating at least one space that was "box free", I am now looking at our new home and feeling much more at peace. 
All remaining boxes have been sequestered to spare rooms where they will not be calling my name every moment.   I have also been enjoying using this move as a means towards simplifying our life by having less "stuff".    Moving has a way of reminding you of just how much "stuff" you can accumulate in a short period of time and how much "stuff" you really don't need. It has been spiritually liberating for Tom and me to downsize our material possessions.   Plus, the house looks a lot better for it!

The New Normal.   So that's about it.    Tom and I both agree that these past three weeks have been the most chaotic of our married life.   The first three weeks before and after John was born were pretty darn crazy (maybe someday that will be a blog post in itself) but I think these three weeks beat that.   Maybe it is because we are older.   Maybe it is because we weren't entirely sure we made the right decision about making this move. Maybe it was because so many things just seemed to be going wrong at once.    I don't know.  What I do know is that we are all survivors.   And that God got us through it together, as a team.    And my parents still love me even after getting caught by my crossfire.   And my boys are happy.   And spring is here.    The next chapter has begun.
Proudly tonsil-free...
...and ready to move on (no pun intended!).

Thanks to Jen for hosting.    Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Lent of My Life - My Infertility Story (Chapter 6)

Tom and I have been through a lot of ups and downs in our marriage but probably nothing has challenged our relationship with each other, with our families, and with God more than our struggle with infertility and miscarriages.   So, I wanted to share our story with others who may be facing this same struggle.    I am posting a chapter each Wednesday during Lent and will post the conclusion on Good Friday.  Maybe it can give someone a little hope.   If you missed Chapters 1 through 5, you can read them herehereherehere, and here.

I had never given a lot of serious thought to being the mother of an adopted child, but I had always loved the idea of it.   I loved the idea of bringing a child into the home and giving them a secure and stable family that they otherwise may never have.  I loved the idea of using adoption to grow a small family into a larger family.  What I didn’t love was the idea that I had to adopt in order to have a child.  I wanted adoption to be a choice I made, not something I felt “forced” into by my infertility.   Again, I wanted to be the one in control and I resented anything that took control away from me, especially if it was connected to my infertility, and adopting was now connected to my infertility.    Subconsciously , I really resented that.

So, it took a bit of soul-searching and a lot of God’s grace to bring my heart back to where it was before I went through infertility.  That is, I tried to focus on the good that could come from adopting, and not the fact that infertility was the path that had brought me there.   I still had a heart that wanted to be a mother, wanted to give a child a family, wanted to grow a family.   So, I used that part of my heart to help me make the decision to pursue adoption.  I knew that part came from God, and the resentment did not.

Tom was quickly on board, too.  This is a huge testament to how big-hearted he is.  He didn’t hesitate when I approached him about my desire to start seriously pursuing adoption.   In part, I know he wanted to see me be a mother no matter what, because he knew how happy it would make me.  But in a larger part, he really wanted to be a father too, and accepting the fact that we may never have a biological child seemed to come easier for him than it did me.  Tom has never been one to put any limits or conditions on his love.  

So, adoption it would be!   We enthusiastically filled out the lengthy paperwork, got the background checks, submitted to the physicals, the fingerprinting and the home visits.  We excitedly shared our good news with our family.   We were going to adopt!  A baby was coming!    And we waited for our phone to ring.

But the phone didn't ring.   And another year passed.   Our adoption case worker (with Catholic Charities) would check in with us from time to time, usually to tell us that she wasn’t placing more than one or two babies every few months, and that she had a dozen couples waiting.   She sympathetically shared about how she’d been handling domestic adoptions for almost 30 years and that when she’d started her career, she placed over a hundred babies in adoptive homes every year, but now, she placed only a dozen or fewer.   She told us how almost no teen mothers ever choose adoption because the grandparents raise the babies, and that only the more mature college-age girls usually consider making an adoption plan.   And she encouraged us to market ourselves as much as possible and to even consider going to another adoption agency where our “odds” might be better because they offered better incentives to the birth mothers and as a result, placed more babies.  

Tom and I discussed all this and, needless to say, the hope we’d regained when we had decided to adopt rapidly started to fade away again.   Something about working with an adoption agency that paid birth mothers thousands of dollars for their expenses (which is actually paid for by the couples wanting to adopt) just didn’t feel right to us so we opted to stick with Catholic Charities despite the fact that our odds of getting a baby were very low.   We did market ourselves a bit at an online site, for a fee of course, but that also did not yield very good results, and instead, many women who were scammers and claiming to be considering adoption contacted us wanting us to send them money (although we did get one legitimate contact, but that birth mother decided to keep her baby).

It was all very discouraging and at this point, we didn’t have anything left but prayer, which was starting to feel really pointless.   I still was working with my Naprotechnology doctor but after all the medications and procedures, none of which seemed to be working, I had decided to take a break from it all.  My sanity was quickly waning and more than being a mother, I wanted to emotionally and physically just get away from it all.   My doctor had recently sent me a letter, informing me that he was starting to prescribe low-dose naltrexone to some of his infertility patients because it had shown some success, but I just put the letter in a file and didn’t respond to it.   I was done.   Medications weren’t working, surgery hadn’t worked, prayer wasn’t working, and even adoption wasn’t likely to work.    No longer was I going to fill my head with more false hopes.   I needed to reclaim my life again, and if it was without children, so be it.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Lent of My Life - My Infertility Story (Chapter 5)

Tom and I have been through a lot of ups and downs in our marriage but probably nothing has challenged our relationship with each other, with our families, and with God more than our struggle with infertility and miscarriages.   So, I wanted to share our story with others who may be facing this same struggle.    I am posting a chapter each Wednesday during Lent and will post the conclusion on Good Friday.  Maybe it can give someone a little hope.   If you missed Chapters 1 through 4, you can read them hereherehere and here..

Unfortunately, even though Tom and I felt a renewed sense of hope, we still didn’t get pregnant.   Two more years had passed since the loss of Francis.  There were frequent tears and I withdrew even further.    We prayed fervently for a baby, but the prayers were just not being answered, at least not in the way we wanted.   We said countless novenas, spent hours in adoration, but still, nothing.   I began to again question if being a mother to a child on earth was really the vocation God had been calling me to.   “Why would he put such a strong desire in my heart to be a mother if it wasn't His will for me?” I asked myself over and over again.    I was almost 40 and I was devastated.   I was supposed to have 3 or 4 kids by then and yet, I still had none.  Nobody starts a family after age 40, I told myself.   I’ll never get pregnant in my forties, I told myself.  I’m too old to be a mother now, I told myself.   It felt like my dream was over and I was haunted by pessimism.

One weekend, feeling particularly depressed, I went to speak to a priest.   In the confessional, I poured out all the anger, jealousy and pain that I’d been carrying for years and ended with “I’m tired of people telling me this is all part of God’s plan!”    He calmly and patiently listened and then simply said “it’s not God’s plan; it’s just biology.”  

“It’s just biology.”  

Those words hit me like a ton of bricks.  They were so simple, yet they said so much.  It wasn’t “God’s will for me”, it wasn’t “what’s meant to be”, it wasn’t “because I wasn’t meant to be a mother.”  It was “just biology.” 

The words from this priest helped me find the perspective that I had lost during what was then almost 6 years of trying to have a baby.   Infertility is just one of many serious diseases that can afflict the human body.  By keeping it in the context of it being a serious disease, and not a judgment (or plan) from God, I was able to find some peace again.  Why I had been afflicted with this disease was a biological question, not a spiritual one.   How I dealt with it was the spiritual part.   And when I put it in this context, in a strange way, I felt grateful that, of all the serious and grave diseases that I could be facing, I was given infertility.  Infertility was ugly and emotionally painful but it didn’t keep me from ever being able to climb a mountain or run a marathon or swim in the ocean like some diseases could.  The emotional symptoms of infertility were at times, debilitating, but I thanked God that at least those weren’t coupled with debilitating physical symptoms as well.   And although my prognosis wasn’t exactly encouraging, I did at least have a chance at being healed and it certainly wasn’t going to take my life.   I really had a lot to be thankful for and those few words from that priest reminded me of that.  

This is not to say that I didn’t still carry a ton of emotional baggage created by month after month of disappointment, but I did at least start feeling like I no longer needed to be angry at God.  I realized that God and his angels were suffering with me on those hard days when I longed to be a mother.   I still had to battle all the anger, jealousy, resentment, and disappointment that came with infertility, but I could stop battling and questioning God.   Now I understood that He was in the fight with me.  God only has one planHis plan is to offer us the grace we need to get through our sufferings in this life, no matter what the cause of that suffering may be.   I needed to stop questioning so much and instead, start asking God for His grace to lead me in the direction that He wanted me to go.