18 October 2016

A Thought Provoking Sunday

This Sunday we had a really uplifting church service. If you've never been to a sacrament meeting with a congregation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons), you should add it to your bucket list. The talks given by members after the sacrament was passed were so brave and honest. Then Scott and I went to a teacher's council meeting where we discussed ideas on how to improve challenges extended to class members that are open and allow for agency and varying spiritual progression. The Relief Society lesson talked about charity and how we can show more love to our neighbor. Then that night we attended a special meeting where they announced that our ward boundaries were shifting slightly and a few families would now be attending another ward, including the presidents of three of our ward auxiliaries. A lot to ponder!

One of the sisters that I serve(d) with in the Relief Society presidency gave a talk on Sunday that truly moved me. She began her talk by saying, "How many of us would love to be able to have a magic wand that we could wave like Harry Potter to give us all of our righteous desires? ... Three years ago I had the privilege to hear Elder Oaks from this very pulpit. I have not forgotten one of the things he told us. He said, 'We are children of a God. We have a heavenly father and mother. He reminded us to have hope. You cannot have everything you desire in morality, but you can have everything you desire in the eternity. But you must desire it more than your desires of the world. We have the capacity to become whatever we desire in all eternity.'" This sister reminded us that the purpose of this life is not to get everything we desire, which means that at times we won't be blessed with the righteous desires of our hearts.

She then shared some words from Elder Neal A. Maxwell in a talk given at our church's General Conference in April 2000.  He admonished us in that conference to be content and find purpose in the space allotted to us in life. That's not to say we should stop progressing, stretching, and striving for something more, but rather that we should, as he put it, "do what we can within our allotted 'acreage,' while still using whatever stretch there may be in any tethers."

Elder Maxwell went on to say, "The Lord knows our circumstances and the intents of our hearts, and surely the talents and gifts He has given us. He is able to gauge perfectly how we have performed within what is allotted to us, including by lifting up some of the many surrounding hands that hang down. Thus, yearning for expanded opportunities while failing to use those at hand is bad form spiritually."

I needed to hear that, and I know others felt the same words applied to their current prayers. I know that Heavenly Father loves us and wants us to be happy, but that doesn't mean he's going to give us answers in the way we expected. It was clear from the messages this Sunday that I need to be more observant to see the opportunities at hand that might still accomplish my righteous desires.

12 October 2016

Capturing My Grief

My Wisconsin Sunrise. June 2016

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. I have a friend who is following the 2016 Capture Your Grief program and her posts are raw, real, and inspiring. After thinking about this for awhile and then seeing her courage, I figured that this is probably the best of times if any to share my story on this blog.

I don't talk about my health, for many reasons. One of which being that I've learned from experience having Crohn's Disease that people unintentionally define you by your trial and end up treating you differently. Since I occasionally have flare-ups of inflammation and poor digestion, casual conversations with friends and family take a pause to include a "how's your health" moment. Or having a meal at someone's house can bring about the question "what can you eat, anyway?"

I'm guilty of doing the same. In fact, I asked my brother these same questions on Sunday, right after I tried for two seconds to think of some other way to find out how he was feeling since his recent flare (comme si, comme ca, btw). Maybe I should have said, "I love you and want the best for you, and if you ever want to vent about bowels, I'm a phone call away." Hindsight.

My natural instinct is sympathizing instead of finding empathy. It seems like society has taught me all the wrong ways to express my sadness for the pains that others are feeling. I've been on the receiving end of those failed sympathies and attempted silver linings to know that those words don't make a positive difference. It's a hard habit to break. In addition to being a lame empathizer, I've noticed that I have a tendency to be whiny when I'm fishing for sympathy from Scott or my mom, so it's best that I avoid that.

That's all to say that I'm not public with my suffering (though Scott may get an earful, not to mention a nose-full of my belly pains), and I'm not open with my grief.  So while there are many who may guess that we struggle with infertility, and a few who are up to date on our attempts to find answers, I hesitate to share about my miscarriages with most unless openly asked, and even then I'm reluctant to be detailed.

For those privileged few who read my blog and want to know the details (potentially TMI, so beware) here is your exclusive: We’ve been trying to conceive for over two years now and I've had several miscarriages all ending around 6 weeks, the most recent confirmed miscarriage having occurred in June 2015. We put off TTC at that time so that we could have tests done, and let's be honest, because miscarriages are an emotional roller coaster, even at 6 weeks. Six weeks is just long enough to take a picture with a positive pregnancy test, research best prenatal vitamins, schedule the first doctor's appointment, and plan a pregnancy announcement before having all those dreams go down the drain, literally.

In the beginning of this year, we met with a reproductive endocrinologist who suggested that both Scott and I be tested to rule out reasons for the miscarriages. This included blood panels, hormone tests, chromosome genetic tests, a sperm sample, a sonohysterography. All the tests came back normal. The results gave the doctors no indication why we are having multiple miscarriages. As far as we know, with unexplained recurrent miscarriages there are only minor treatment options  (taking baby aspirin to prevent clotting or supplementing with progesterone) until we have more information about what may be causing them. For now we will continue to try to conceive and keep the pregnancy naturally, and then go in to the specialists once I have the next positive pregnancy test in hand to do labs and occasional monitoring.

You may ask, if I'm so averse to sharing grief and details about my health, then why am I posting now? While I don't find comfort in support groups, I do find solace in knowing that I'm not the only one experiencing infertility. Also, I'm incredibly grateful for those few that I HAVE shared my story with who have an empathetic ear and some knowledge of the testing because they've experienced the pains of infertility... trials that I am only aware of because friends were open with their grief.

While it is essential for coping and my motivation that I focus my thoughts and daily planner on what is going well in my life (oh, you know, work, book club, dating my hubby, travel, service, church, Gilmore Girls mini-series coming to Netflix, etc.), I recognize that all questions asked come from a place of caring for our happiness and health. Even though I would prefer not to talk about infertility because I don't want it to define me, I've found that being silent strains relationships. Those who care, or those who are going through something themselves, are wondering if they can ask and likely don't know how to support me if I don't make that clear.

So I'm trying. I hope to be able to pause before my automatic defensive feeling kicks in when someone asks me directly about babies. I've committed to myself to share updates with family when I have an update and to be clear about whether that information should be kept private or what a supportive response might be. It seems ridiculous that I have to be so conscientious about sharing these things, but I guess that's due in part to my introversion and in part to the nature of infertility which is a sensitive topic for many and not generally talked about openly.

So to start things off right, know that you can share this post with individuals if you know someone who might specifically benefit from reading it or someone who loves us and would like to know more about what we are facing. The best way to support us at this point is prayers or happy thoughts, whichever floats your boat. No sympathy cards, please, unless they happen to include gift cards to Jane.com. I kid... about the gift cards anyway. No sympathy allowed. You're welcome to email me, though, if you have questions.

Of course, with every miscarriage I mourn what just days before was the potential for our family. I also mourn the blissful innocence that would have come with a healthy first pregnancy - excitedly taking a pregnancy test as soon as there are signs, worry-free testing and ultrasounds, months of planning and happy nesting in anticipation of the due date. I feel a tad shallow for saying so, especially after reading other women's infertility stories. It's not fair to compare, I suppose. I believe that each of us have trials that we are capable of handling. It helps me to find purpose and opportunities in my trials. The trouble is not blaming myself in the process.

One of my sisters-in-law reminded me last year that her story is different from my story. Even though she can empathize a little, she still doesn't know what I'm going through. But she cried with me anyway, and that meant more to me than anything she could have said.