Journey of Infertility (my post for National Infertility Awareness Week)

Photography Credit: http://freedomphotography.smugmug.com/
Photography Credit: http://freedomphotography.smugmug.com/
Quote: Author Unknown

Apparently, this is National Infertility Awareness Week.  Who knew?  Right?  I certainly didn’t until I stumbled upon a few blogs about it.  I kinda find it funny that there is just one week to be aware of infertility.  Those of us who have experienced it, are experiencing it, or, like in my case, lived a life of it, are always keenly aware of the presence of not being able to have a biological child.

I so wish that there would have been attention given to infertility when I was a girl.  Instead, it was a hushed topic.  Some of the reasons why I never had deep discussions about it with anyone while growing up was because of my age.  I mean, what in the world do you say to an eleven-year-old who had a hysterectomy?

Most of the time people would say things like “God must have a plan for you.”  My thoughts after hearing these words often went something like this, “Why yes, I’m sure He does and it obviously doesn’t include biological children.”  Or, I was given the advice of “You can always adopt!”  Again, the thoughts behind my smile went like this, “Oh wow, thanks.  I had not thought of that before.”

Now, I know that sounds a little sarcastic.  Looking back now on my life experience and the pain of growing up infertile, I know that I kept these thoughts to myself.  I could not control what happened, but by golly, I could control how I responded to it.  I know God had a plan for my life, I just didn’t know what it was or if it included children.  Throughout the majority of my life after the surgery, I did not want other people’s advice.  This was my battle to win, my life experience to navigate, and my journey to seek the answers.

One thing that I find ironic about infertility is that it creates a sense of isolation and loneliness, but it also creates an unspoken bond with others going through it.  There have been moments where I felt I could almost read someone’s thoughts by their expressions when speaking about infertility.  I just find that to be interestingly ironic.

Just a few weeks ago, I was speaking to another adoptive parent.  She and her husband spent many years trying to get pregnant.  Although she expressed  great joy and love over her little boy, she also agreed that infertility really is a life-long process to deal with.  Missing out on having a biological child does not go away.  However, the incredible and genuinely loving experience of adoption does not go away either.

I feel like an old veteran of a battle waged many years ago whose wounds have healed and are now a source of strength to carry on.  I feel the need to encourage others, motivate others, and testify about how the Lord does work it all out.  For those of you who are just now experiencing a life different than you expected, hear me when I say this:

  • There will be times when you feel like crawling into a hole where no one can find you.
  • There will be those moments when the words of other’s will sit on you like a heavy weight.
  • God is NOT punishing you.
  • You ARE still able to be a parent; it may just take you a little longer to become one.
  • It is okay to avoid the baby departments at stores (stop beating yourself up over it.)
  • It is normal to be a little envious of your friends who are having babies…ALL at the same time (again, stop beating yourself up over it.  This is a process of healing and does not reflect on how much you love your friends.)
  • Baby showers are the worst when you can’t have one, and going into an ob/gyn’s office is miserable when you are the only non-prego chic in the room.
  • There are others who feel the same way you do.  Find them.  Seek support from them.
  • Most people really don’t know how you are feeling.  This is just a fact that you need to accept.
  • Whether you become a parent through birth or adoption, all of these hard times you are going through will seem like a blip on the radar screen compared to the lifetime of love you will be able to give and receive through parenting.  

Infertility is more than about pregnancy.  It is a sojourn into the pits and valleys of despair.  It is a path where each step taken leads to healing.  Like the quote on our family photo above, we were not separated from our children when they were born.  We had all embarked on a journey that led to each other.  Our journey together really did not end at our adoption.  We began a new one with new stories to be written, lessons to be learned, hopes to be fulfilled, and new revelations of the Lord’s presence throughout it all.

Love Your Little Ones

photo (61)Most of my day today was spent holding my 4-year-old daughter’s hand while she quietly laid in the emergency room hospital bed.  My daughter woke up early this morning, crying and screaming for me.  She was grasping the back of her head and crying out that something popped.  She was inconsolable.  I suggested that she must have slept wrong, and helped her change positions (she refused to move).

She settled down just a bit, and I stumbled back into bed.  Again, I was awakened to the same crying sound.  I gave her a dosage of Tylenol and started the process of deciding whether or not to take her to see a doctor.  Two hours passed and my daughter would not let go of her head.  She continued to complain of pain.  After a brief drop off of one child to a sitter, I phoned her doctor to set an appointment.

No sooner had I hung up the phone, the doctor’s office called right back and urged me to take her to the emergency room in case something neurological had taken place.  I quickly scooped my daughter up and hustled to the hospital.  The ER doctor suggested a cat scan of the brain and neck.  He simply told me in a rather non-emotional way, “I just want to check for anything possibly happening to her vertebrae, or a brain tumor.”  Um…or a brain tumor?  

This was not the first time these two words have been said to me in regards to my daughter.  When she was just 6-months-old, her skull grew so rapidly that her doctor ordered an MRI to rule out a brain tumor.  We were her foster parents at the time, and really had no idea what to expect.  Thankfully, it was clear.  We decided at that time that if the results were not what we wanted, and if she had a brain tumor, we would have continued fostering her.  We loved her so much regardless of what the future held.

Throughout the past four years my daughter has complained off and on of headaches, but usually they subside.  This one today though was completely unlike any other she had.  She literally held the back of her head in her hands all day and would not move.  As we waited a couple of hours for the results to be read, I sat next to her, holding her small, soft hand, and just thought about how many other mothers were in my position.  I felt fairly confident that the result would be okay, but still, the worry was there.  For just a brief moment I pondered the thought of her having a tumor, but quickly forced myself to “not go there”.

The doctor came in and reported that the scan was clear of any tumors, but that the radiologist found an abnormality in the top of her spinal column.  They called the neurosurgeon who took a look at it and reported that this was a congenital birth defect with her top vertebrae.  Apparently, the vertebrae did not fuse together completely.  There is a chance that it could repair itself, but otherwise, it should not be a problem for her growing up, and it did not contribute to today’s events.  The doctor advised me to watch her closely, follow-up with her pediatrician, and to report back should her situation worsen.

My drive home was full of thoughts about what had transpired today.  Again, I thought about all of the other mothers whose news about their babies had not turned out in their favor.  I also thought about my own mother who endured my childhood health problems.  I thought about those times she must have held my hand and endured through the sleepless nights of the month I was in the hospital following my hysterectomy.

One would think I should know this by now, but I learned, or better yet, learned again today that our health is not a guarantee.  Our children’s health is not guaranteed either.  One day we may be holding their hands walking them to school, and the next, we may be holding their hands waiting for test results.

My daughter is tucked in her bed as I’m typing this.  She is fine for now, and we are supposed to follow-up with her doctor tomorrow.  I’ll end this post with the following thoughts that occurred to me today:

Love your little ones.  Don’t take any day for granted with them.  Appreciate the moments, however small they may be, with your children.  These moments provide the fuel to continue doing the best job we can as a parents.  It is also in these moments that we can find subtle reminders of the blessing of children.

Thoughts about last Monday

I thought twice about writing this one.  I’ve thought even more about posting it.  Actually, I had convinced myself not to write or post it, but upon waking this morning,  I just could not escape the thoughts trapped in my head yearning to be released.  So, here I go….

My intention is not to hurt anyone or be offensive.  My thoughts after last Monday have been “all over the place”.  I want to come away from this post feeling that I’ve taken a tragic situation that the bombing at the Boston Marathon was, and turned my feelings of anger into introspection about where we are as Americans…not just Americans, but Christian Americans.  A part of me feels as though I do not have the right to have an opinion.  Another part of me deeply wonders if I would feel the same way if my spouse, children, mother, father, sister or friends were victims of the attack.  Honestly, I do not know, and pray I will never know what it feels like to be looking at tragedies like these from the inside out.

Like most Americans, I was angry when I saw what happened.  I was worried that there would be more attacks, and I felt sadness for the loss of life and liberty for so many people on that day.  I heard calls for prayer for the victims, the city of Boston, and for our nation.  I did not hear anyone call for prayer for the perpetrators of this act.  My thoughts, (although I did not express them out loud to others at the time), were perhaps we should pray for the perpetrators as well.  Why shouldn’t we pray for them?

Matthew 5:44 – But I say to you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which spitefully use you, and persecute you;

As the events of Friday played out on the television screen, I was shocked to hear how young both men were.  The youngest brother is only 12 & 1/2 years older than my son.  I do not know all of the details of how these two brothers came to the place where they chose hatred.  I cannot comprehend knowingly setting a bomb by anyone and walking away.  I also could not help but feel pity for them.  I pity them for being lost in the mix of hatred and confusion.

They had their whole lives ahead of them.  One was a young father, and the other, just barely an adult.  Now, one is dead, and the other might face death through the justice system.  Please hear me say this loud and clear, I definitely want justice for the victims. I definitely want a trial to be held.  I definitely love our country.  I find it a blessing to live in a country that is free.  I still cannot escape the “what if’s” of these young men’s lives.

What if the chaos they must have felt in their hearts was replaced with the love of Christ?  What if Christians in their communities and schools would have ministered to them through friendships, love, and prayer?  What if they would have been embraced by Christians in a way that left them no doubt who the Lord of love is?  What if….?

There has been a multitude of Facebook posts about the incident.  Some have been deep prayerful desires for healing, while others have been about seeking vengeance on this young man, and any other that would cause harm to our nation. If I didn’t know better, I would wonder if we (American Christians) put our country before our Lord, our patriotism before our prayers, and our flag before our faith. Again, I think of what Scripture says.

Romans 12:19 – Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.

I know it is cliché to ask it, but, “What would Jesus do?”  Sometimes this question is asked rhetorically when determining whether or not to give change to the homeless man on the corner, or to turn the other cheek when facing opposition.  I challenge myself to ask this question when faced with the seemingly unforgivable acts like the one committed nearly a week ago.

I know that my words may alienate some readers.  I hope not.  Writing my thoughts out has become my way of working through times that might cause a stumble in my  faith.  I challenge you, fellow writers and readers, to consider what the Lord would ask of us during this time, and any other.  What is our Christian response supposed to be in times like these?

Our instinct is to seek revenge, but I pray that we would seek a deeper relationship with our Lord, and with each other – friend and foe.

Rest in a Restless World

I’m tired.  I’m tired of pretending that I’m not tired.  I’m tired of getting up each day and going to a job that I know exists because people abuse and neglect their children.  I’m tired of worrying about whether or not there will be enough families out there who want to take in kids who have suffered great trauma.

I’m weary.  I’m weary from trying to shield my children from the news of the day.  I’m weary from the knowledge that humans willfully damage each other, kill each other, and downplay the importance of one another.  I’m weary from the frustration that Christians often worry more about politics than people, or at least, give that impression.

I know that part of my weariness comes from the ups and downs of the human experience.  People are killing each other for their ideologies, perversions, or greed.  Children are left abandoned on the streets to suffer at the hands of evil.  Fathers are turning away from their families to seek what they perceive as greater things.  Mothers are choosing wickedness over their own worth.  People are forsaking compassion for their passions.

Weariness has been on my mind all week, and yet, I fully recognize how lucky I really have it.  I’m not a single mom working three jobs to keep food on the table.  I’m not a small child living off of scraps in a third world country.  I’m not homeless.  I’m not sick.  I’m not hungry.  I am loved.

While meditating on these things, I looked up Scripture that specifically address weariness and rest.  I know there are many more, but here are just a few that I’d like to share.

Exodus 33:14 – 

And He said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.”

Matthew 11:28-30 – 

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy, and My load is light.”

Psalm 62:1-2-

“My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.”

Psalm 62:5-

“Yes, my soul, find rest in God: my hope comes from him.”

John 14:27- 

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you.  Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”

Psalm 37:7-

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.

In my opinion, the last verse I am sharing is the one that turns that fading flicker in my heart into a flame.  It is the one that renews my hope for things to come, and strengthens my resolve to continue yearning for a world where compassion leads.  It causes me to strive to live a life that continues to breathe love.  It especially reminds me that in this world of chaos and confusion, the only true rest and peace in this restless world is found in the glory of the Lord.

John 16:33-

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”

Thank you Father for the Blessed Assurance of You.

Wishing Flowers

photo (60)After playing around in the backyard, my son quietly opened the screen door, placed two “flowers” on the floor, closed the door, and then said, “Mommy, I got you something.”  I pretended I didn’t know that he had done this, and acted surprisingly thankful for his gift.

A few minutes later he said, “Do you know what those are?”  I replied, “Yes, they are dandelions.”  “No, they are not”, he boldly stated.  “Oh, well then what are they?” I asked.

“Mommy, they are wishing flowers!”

I thanked him again, picked up the wishing flowers, and then went about finishing up cleaning the kitchen.  I meant to make a wish with them, but my son and I got distracted, and moved on to other tasks to be done for the day.

My son’s vision about what most of us consider weeds got me to thinking about the perspective often used when looking at events or circumstances in life.  If something difficult comes my way, do I perceive it as having the possibility of hope? I’d like to say I do, but have to admit that there have been times where I’ve thought, “What a bad thing for this to be happening right now.”

In most respects, dandelions can become quite a nuisance when landscaping.  I actually think of them more as a weed than a flower.  Children love to pick them so that they can give them a slight puff of air which in turn sends their seedlings out into the world to create even more dandelions.  My son views them as opportunities for hopes to be fulfilled through unspoken wishes.

Like my son’s view of dandelions, God doesn’t see us as weeds, or nuisances either.  Instead, He sees us as having the great possibility to live meaningful and fulfilling lives.

God picks us up, and gives us fresh, loving air so that we can spread out into the world sharing light, hope, and most important of all, love.

my son making a wishphoto credit: http://sarahcarter.is/
my son making a wish
photo credit: http://sarahcarter.is/

Out of the Ashes

Photo credit: http://freedomphotography.smugmug.com/
Photo credit: http://freedomphotography.smugmug.com

Looking at the image above of my family causes me to think of how blessed I am. We are a family filled with lots of love, lots of trial and errors, lots of do-overs, and lots of moments that leave us laughing.  Looking at the image above makes my heart happy, and yet, it also makes my heart a little sad.

I know that sounds strange to say it makes me sad, but truthfully, it invokes a sliver of sadness.  It is not my children or my husband that do this to me.  It is the thought that my family…my everything here on Earth….was created out of the terrible circumstances of others.  The birth parents, grandparents, cousins, siblings, and other relatives that will not be pictured on the couch together with my children are on my mind.  My children will most likely never be embraced by their birth grandparents.  We have some limited contact with a sibling of my daughter, and we send letters to my son’s birth mother, but these things do not replace or ever will replace growing up in their families of origin.

I love the little ones I’ve been charged of taking care of.  I love them so much that my heart can’t help but break for what their birth parents have or are going through.  Substance abuse, mental illness, instability, homelessness, severe impoverishment…you name it….these are the things that make up the lives of birth families of the sweet ones I tuck in at night.  I know that the Lord formed my family.  I know that He took the messiness of life’s problems, and created the portrait of love above.  I know this.

Adoption has blessed me in some many ways.  It has fulfilled that deep longing to live for and love on a child.  It has broken me, humbled me, and rebuilt me again. Taking in someone else’s child has brought me to my knees in tears and in prayer. It is complicated, requires full attention, and yet, it is beautiful.  It is beautiful.

Still yet, my heart aches for those out there with whom my children come from that are missing out on the hugs, kisses, temper tantrums, scrapes, good dreams, bad dreams, and longings of children learning who they are in the world.  It was not meant to be this way.  Fathers and mothers were not meant to abandon their children, have severe addictions, or struggle with mental illness.  Still, here I am benefiting from these tragedies.

People may look at our situation and think, “What a great thing that has happened for them.”  I think that way too, but still, in that quiet place of my heart, that place that is secret, I grieve for my children’s birth mothers.  I carry them with me.  I think about them when celebrating the goodness of my children.

I know the day will come when my children will learn and fully understand the circumstances that opened their paths to our hearts and our home.  I know that day will be hard.  It saddens me.  It worries me, and it humbles me.  It also builds my courage to do a better job as a parent, to try each day anew to meet my kids where they are at, and to gently guide them as they grow.

There’s a lot of love on the couch in the photograph above.  There are moments of utter chaos and craziness that comes with three young children.  There are moments of exhaustion, and moments of exhilaration   There is definitely plenty of happiness that goes around.

There’s also a family sitting there that has shed tears, whispered prayers, and spoken hope.  There are two parents who know that out of the ashes of mistakes, darkness of addictions, and pain of regrets, this family…our family….was created.