Revisiting Infertility… Finding Joy

I found myself sitting there, smiling , trying to hold back the old sobby, mixed up “happy for you, but sad for me” tears as I watched someone I’ve loved since the day I met her announce her pregnancy.  I love this moment for her, her hubby, for all of us.  Her announcement means new life in our family… a miracle, as every conceiving of new life is, and a new generation to bless all of us, an answer to prayer that there would be no struggle for this special one to realize her dream of pregnancy.

I sit there quietly holding my breath with a smile on my face, because yes, I am genuinely happy about this announcement while the room explodes in laughter and cheers. But I also want to just sink back in the woodwork, fade away so no one sees the tears ready to overflow down my cheeks.  Breathing in and out, staying silent, just smiling in the background I watch the happiness all around me, happiness I feel too, all mixed up with what’s inside ~ those dormant feelings I’ve worked so hard to manage, to deal with, to let go of… of grief that always gets pricked in this particular kind of moment.

I thought you were over this, Hope, plays in my mind.  Get yourself together. I thought this #infertility thing was behind you, or at least you’re walking with it and engaging life the best way you know how, all the while carrying this you don’t want to still exist, this scar that’s hidden.  You’re nearly 50 for goodness sake, how can this wound that has built your capacity to be compassionate, resilient and hopeful still prick your heart this way?  How is this even possible that once again, emotions pop up, feel out of my control, there they are, surfacing, not letting me forget that it’s still there, it’s still a part of me?

Infertility is like that, I guess.  I’ve spent the last few months running over all those feelings, feeling them and then once again, trusting God to help me let go to let true joy shine through.

I didn’t want to write about this because it seems oh so pitiful.  I have two great kids that call me Mom.  The privilege of that isn’t lost on me.  It is my calling to raise them, miracles that they are, to be a man and a woman who are all they were created to be.

But as I speak about in this post of long ago,  there’s  whole lot of loss attached to not ever bearing a child, much of which I don’t deal with anymore on a daily basis, and for that I am thankful.  A big part of that loss is wrapped up in this quote from that long ago post…

And the hardest part for me, harder than all of it, is the sheer loss I feel from not being able, even for a moment, know what it feels like to be a part of God’s plan for the world, to bring a child here, a child he decided needed to be created for a special purpose, that He decided would be my child to raise. That’s part of what I believe I was created to be. And I don’t get to be that. Ever. Never.

I never ever ever want my grief and loss to dampen another’s joy.  Ever.  In fact, there is joy for my in seeing that life goes on… watching my children bloom into young people, seeing my beloved nieces and nephews find love and start their families.  I’m already a Great-Auntie three times over, with two more coming this year!  This brings such joy, seeing God work in the lives of these people I love, to see beautiful babies come into this world, to make our lives more full, of all sorts of things, but really… of joy.

As I’ve worked through these feelings, I’ve realized another truth about how wonderfully and fearfully we are made.  Since life has moved forward from the days of trying for pregnancy and infant loss to be filled with the joys (and hardships) of raising two kids in their tweens/teens, I have to admit and accept that my heart still gets pricked from time to time.  It’s like my body knows even if my mind doesn’t dwell on these things every day now.

This Dear One’s announcement, you see, the timing, the due date and all that comes with it, parallels the pregnancy 16 years ago that was my Jamie-Noel.  I didn’t mean to cry.  Wasn’t even really thinking about it, or remembering.  Until the announcement, and a flood of memories, of how Hubs and I planned out how we would tell our parents and the rest of our family, at the same time of year, an experience we never got to do as Jamie-Noel was gone to us just a few days before.  And so much more, as you can imagine, and my body that’s carried around this thing that will not be cast aside, that has changed me, some for the better I hope, remembered too, and thus, tears.

And I have to be okay with that.  Grief is a powerful thing.  It can take us over, we can’t escape, we must walk with, walk through, embrace, no shoving down to dark places because the remnants of unexpressed grief will overpower and risk the joy possible when we live through, when we let the tears fall, when we say let grief and joy live together.

I’m 50.  I had to let go of the HOPE of pregnancy and giving birth awhile back  I had to for our future’s sake.  It doesn’t mean I don’t still dream (and I mean literally have dreams) of more children, though I’m pretty sure our family of four is enough joy and adventure for us.

So there it is, the JOY.  I am anticipating this new arrival, and the continued growing of my Great Aunthood, and embracing it, thankful…joyful.  And remembering I don’t have to cower in a corner when grief hits because joy can live there too.

Come, Little One.  This world needs more JOY.

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Happy Sweet 16, Jamie-Noel

It’s hard to believe if you were here, we’d be doing things like getting you ready for your driver’s test, planning a huge birthday party, preparing for grade 11.  I imagine you’d be working at camp over the summer and we’d miss you terribly, maybe even miss your birthday-day but celebrate with you when you came home to do laundry and sleep til it was time to go back for another week.  We can only imagine you playing the piano, or not, maybe you’d have your Dad’s love of gardening, and write, write, write like some days like your Mom feels like she has to, just to get it all out.  You’d probably be binge-watching something on Netfl!x and texting your friends.  I wonder if you’d be dating or if you’d be like your Mom and Dad were way back when, lots of friends, no one special.

We know that life with you would have been amazing and wonderful, but God had other plans.  He chose heaven for you before we ever met, and still, each year as we hang your special ornaments, we remember that He’s got you even though we don’t.

And you know what?  Mom and Dad are okay.  Great really.  God brought two extraordinary people into our lives in ways that, when we tell the stories, we can hardly believe how it happened ourselves.  And although we miss you still, and sometimes still work through stuff related to you not being here, we also know that we are stronger, wiser, more compassionate and resilient for having known you, and lost you, and received the precious gifts of two more children to know and love and care for as long as God gives us that privilege.

And it’s even so much more.  The people ~ families ~ that come with these children, not born of us, but still your sister and brother, well, they are extraordinary too.  As much as we long for you still, we know that our world has expanded exponentially because we were asked to step out of the comfort of what we knew to experience the world in other ways.  That’s what adoption, and knowing our kids’ other families have brought to us, so much that we never knew we needed to know, to be all we were created to be.

So Dear Sweet Child, we look forward to the day we get to see your face for the first time when you welcome us to heaven, hopefully still a little while from now.

But for now, Happy Sweet Sixteen, Our Jamie-Noel.

God is good.

I See You: Reflecting on #MothersDay

Writer’s Note: This entry was first written in Spring 2007, It seems like a lifetime again, and yet, I read it through and know that even though I still have my Mother with me on earth, even though I love being my kids’ mother, I feel keenly the losses I’ve suffered, and I pray each day that what I’ve faced will always, always soften my heart for those who I know face the hard things too. I know I’m blessed but I think I would fail in making the most of my life experiences if I didn’t do the work of acknowledging the losses that many women feel in light of all the emphasis on mothering and Mother’s Day every year.
For some, even for me, even as I am privileged to be a Mother, it is a re-opening of a wound I/they work hard to heal, and I’ve come to realize, again through personal experience, and in knowing many women of character who have endured so much, that a huge part of getting through the heartache is for someone to say “I see you”.
And so that is what this is…

 “I see you”. 

I think the celebration of #Mothers is a wonderful necessity in our lives these days. I think a lot of mothers and their influence on their children and therefore on the world has been minimized to a desperate degree. With all the push in the culture towards a woman’s self-satisfaction in her career has overshadowed the immediate role of a person who is a Mother in the life of the child they parent. So celebrating Mothers is good, very good.  And I am blessed to know many exceptional mothers who give all for their children.  And I celebrate these women. 

But what about those who for whatever reason find this day painful, heartbreaking? 

I know women who avoid church like the plague on Mother’s Day Sunday because they know all it will do is highlight the fact that they’ve lost… whether it be a child due to premature death, stillbirth, miscarriage, or a child through adoption… or the dream of a child at all because of infertility or the single life. Or through custody disputes in divorce.

 And yes, children who’ve lost Mothers through any of these avenues as well. We celebrate Mothers, but I think we do a big injustice to other mothers (or people who long to be mothers) by only celebrating, and not taking a moment just to acknowledge that there is pain for many.

Through years of ministry and just plain life, I have met woman upon woman for whom this day is hard, and you would never know it.  They are women who are obviously parenting, but carried lost children in their hearts, and long for the day they will be reunited with their little ones born to heaven or living in another family.  No one would ever know their hearts are heavy by their appearance.  I know women who have lost many children before they were blessed to parent on earth, and they remember them.  I know women who have placed  children in another family, and miss their kids every…single…day.  I know women for whom childlessness is overwhelming, and they long for things to be different.  

For them and so many more living with disappointment and loss in their parenting life, Mother’s Day makes it all the more harder, just one more milestone they have to mark in their loss.  I have known women who struggle because mothering the children they love and are blessed to parent is not what they expected, often because their child has challenges that keep them from being able to express love in return.  For these, and so many more with very unique circumstances, this day is hard.  I see you.

 This definitely gets very personal too.  Our journey to our family includes having to “live through” the pain of infertility and pregnancy loss in front of everyone, and how we needed someone to stop and say “I see you, and you know, you can have a break on this day instead of preaching, leading…we understand you may be hurting”. No one ever did that. I don’t blame them because looking back, how could they know? 

But still, I don’t want that to happen to others now that I know how it feels. We were fortunate during that time to be surrounded by some amazing teens from our youth group, who seemed to be sensitive beyond their years to our pain, who most definitely said, “I see you”  and who celebrated us as people of influence in their lives. But not everyone has that.

 I know that in any given faith gathering this Mother’s Day, regardless of how large or small, there will be AT LEAST one (but most likely more, many, many more) women who have lost a child and no one knows about it. First mothers through adoption. Childless mothers through infertility. Single women who long for the chance to be a mother. Others who’ve lost babes through pregnancy loss. Or stillbirth. Or abortion. Or cancer. Or an accident. Or divorce.  I see you.

 Older women who have outlived their children.  Or live with regret over the breaks in relationship.  I see you.

 Children who have lost their Mothers. Through death. Through adoption. Through divorce. Against their will. Are we ready to remember them, to acknowledge that they might, most probably do, have pain on this day??? We never know who might be hurting even though on the outside, you can’t see it.  But I see you.

 So please celebrate, but as you do, remember the hurting mothers.  See them.  And say a prayer of of blessing and peace for them. 

Treasures in the Dark

I might just this time, hit “post” on this entry.  It’s been brewing, and written and re-written since somewhere before the end of January.  I haven’t wanted to publish it, mostly because if I did hit publish, I would have to mean what I say.  And I wasn’t sure if I meant it or not.  Til now.  After some recent events in our life, both in seeking out new ministry opportunities and a tragedy in one of our children’s first families, I have felt this strange and growing awareness that indeed, ‘everything means something’.  Sometimes we can’t fathom what that something is in that moment, and now, almost six week since my initial epiphany about this, I honestly still don’t know.

But…

stuff is happening, most notably a change in my spirit, the heaviness lifting as day after day I look forward more and more with a sense of the old optimism, even though it feels as if we have by no stretch of the imagination been living from crisis to change to crisis.  And still…the lightheartedness remains, even in the middle of it.  Stuff like what has happened these last two months even a year ago could have really set me back in my ability to cope.  I’m not sure what it is, except I’m trusting it is God, and the power He has to make all things new.

And to help us all find “treasures in the dark”.

So onto the post…

Let me set the stage for you of that dark afternoon in January.  I’m less than three weeks post-op from my hysterectomy, really feeling the weariness of constant pain and healing.  I’m struggling. I’m tired. I’m sad.
My shoulders felt like I’m carrying a backpack full of stuff of which I can’t define, but cannot throw off. My head won’t stop thinking even though my body needs to rest, but rest does not come.

I’m torn…torn about what to do  with all this. And even more, what to do with all the hope and determination I have put into my dream of having my family.  My family is here. We’re this miraculous family of strangers.  Against the odds, here we are, a family.  Dreams do come true.  They do.  Hope has gotten me there. I should be able to embrace that and let the rest go.

And then I face these moments, where all the distractions in the world don’t cover up the not-knowing of what I do with all that has happened.  Surely, no…surely, the struggle, the pain, the loss, the twistiness, the crying out, the pushing through, the learning … surely it means something.  It has to doesn’t it?

The room is dark, curtains drawn against the twilight sky outside.  I can hear my kids playing out in the living room, my mom making supper, the TV on.  I lay there in the dark, listening to a book on CD from one of my favorite series of books  by Jan Karon. (if you’ve never read her Mitford books, you are missing out… they are like soul retreat for me).

One of the central stories from A Light in the Window (the second book in the series) surrounds the attempt by Edith Mallory (picture Cruella Deville), the small town villainous, to close down the Main Street Grill, in business for over 30 years,  in order for her to put in a clothing store.  The Grill  is a local gathering place and for Father Time (the main character), it is a place of friendship and solace, especially during his fifteen years there as the Anglican priest living single in a small town.  And as happens over and over in the books, Father Tim is called on to try to solve the problem between the Grill  owner and his landlord.  And in the end, it seems that the evil landlord is going to win regardles of their efforts.  It doesn’t make sense, but there is no way around it, and to everyone involved, it seems a waste that after so many years, such a central part of main street would be gone.

It’s finally moving day.  Everyone is there to help out their friends, both in the physical move and with moral support.  Father Tim finds Percy, the grill owner, down the hatch packing and they take a break.  And the following conversation happens as they try to make sense of this big change in Percy’s life… (taken from A Light in the Window by Jan Karon, (c) 1995 Penguin books, page 322-323)

“You can do it”, says Father Tim.

“How come I have to – that the question. Where’s th’ Lord when you need ‘im is what I’d like to know.”

The hot coffee cup warmed his (Father Tim’s) cold hands. “Right here”, said Father Tim, “with us, believe it or not.”

“You’re a preacher.  That’s easy for you to say.”

“Not really.  I have time of doubt.  I stumble around…”

“All that schoolin’ you had makes a difference.”

“Schooling doesn’t count for much in the end.  What counts is our personal relationship with God.  Period.  Bottom line.”

“I prayed about this.”

“You’ll get an answer.”

“This ain’t any kind of answer.”

“I have to tell you that he always answers. And he always shoots straight.”

“Well, he’s done shot and missed, if you ask me.”

The rector looked around at the dark dismal basement.  “Somebody said the brightest diamonds grow in the darkest cavities of the earth…”

“Meanin’?”

“In Isaiah, God said, ‘I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord…’ Times of darkness can be some of the best times.”

I stopped listening to the story at that point, as tears flowed.  It seemed to me in that moment in the darkness, both in my darkened, quiet bedroom and in my sad, tired heart, there it was…

There it was, the possibility that maybe in the darkness that has been a part of this whole journey, there are riches stored somewhere in the middle of it.  It’s for me to dig out the diamonds, and then to trust God that I’ll know what to do with the gems ~ of what I have learned, how I have allowed God to change my heart and perspective, the friendships, relationships from which I have benefitted for being on this journey… all of it…

Was it treasure?  Even the dark stuff in the bottom parts of my heart?  Was God storing up riches in places I could not yet see?  Was the next leg of this journey all about digging those treasures out, dusting them off, and sharing them with others so that they (AND I) could see that God is God and He is Good, and everything means something, and it’s alright.  

I lay there for several minutes in the dark and quiet as the CD shut off.  Tears dried up.  And I knew that somehow that with the closure of the actual experiencing this journey through infertility, and loss, and all that it has brought to my life, both wonderful and hard, maybe the next step of the journey was in the search for…

Treasure in the dark.

Am I up to that task?  Do I really want to do this, to share more of this journey, to actually find what others might glean and speak to it in order to make a difference?  This all can’t just be about the heartache of it.  And I know for certain it is not about God, the Villain, trying to do an evil thing in my life.

So maybe it’s my time to make the best of times out of the darkness.  I hope so.  I hope I’m up to the task of getting on with it, of plowing through whatever grief is left and settling into reconciliation with it all, and then finding a way to share the hope that I find.  I hope I’m up to it.  I trust that I am, with the help of God.

Isaiah 45 says:
This is what the LORD says:
“I will go before you, Cyrus, and level the mountains.
I will smash down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron.
And I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness— secret riches.
I will do this so you may know that I am the LORD,
the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name.
“And why have I called you for this work?
Why did I call you by name when you did not know me?
It is for the sake of Jacob my servant, Israel my chosen one.
I am the LORD; there is no other God. I have equipped you for battle, though you don’t even know me,
so all the world from east to west will know there is no other God.
I am the LORD, and there is no other.
I create the light and make the darkness.
I send good times and bad times.
I, the LORD, am the one who does these things.
Open up, O heavens, and pour out your righteousness.
Let the earth open wide so salvation and righteousness can sprout up together.
I, the LORD, created them.
“What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator.
Does a clay pot argue with its maker?
Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying, ‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’
Does the pot exclaim,’How clumsy can you be?’
How terrible it would be if a newborn baby said to its father, ‘Why was I born?’
or if it said to its mother, ‘Why did you make me this way?'”
This is what the LORD says—the Holy One of Israel and your Creator:
“Do you question what I do for my children?
Do you give me orders about the work of my hands?
I am the one who made the earth and created people to live on it.
With my hands I stretched out the heavens. All the stars are at my command.
I will raise up Cyrus to fulfill my righteous purpose, and I will guide his actions.
He will restore my city and free my captive people—without seeking a reward!
I, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, have spoken!”

There is so much more to unpack from this passage, things I have discovered in the days since this moment in the darkness where I felt God revealing his new purpose (as vague as it is for now) for me.  And I hope I’ll get the chance to do a bit more of that as time allows in the days to come.

But for now, I DO hit post, and begin again on this journey to find… treasures in the dark.

Things Lost Along the Way, Endo Version

I sent my family ~ Hubby, kiddos and my parents ~ all to church this morning without me. It’s in that moment, when the door closes, and I’m not with them, that it hits me ~ now that I have all this healing time to think about such things ~ it hits me the things that I’ve lost while living with this disease called endometriosis.

Oh yes, it stole my fertility, and that right now, has been my focus of grief (I hope now and FINALLY…please God, let it be so!). And I know from all the counseling I’ve experienced with friends, family members and parishioners who have lost, that part of the process of grieving something or someone is recognizing fully what you’ve lost. It means making space for the accounting of what is lost along the way, what is lost in the finality of it all. Funerals are created to do this, to give people the starting point to recognize the magnitude of their loss and begin to deal with it all in order to make room for moving forward and living.

Hey, maybe I should have had a funeral for my uterus? Now that would be something. But I digress, because frankly this really isn’t about the loss of organs or functions. Although I’ve been strangely surprised by what it has taken to come to terms with the fact that part of me was indeed removed from my body, I know that as well is a part of the healing process, of coming to the point of accepting all that has happened.

No. This is more than the loss of my fertility, even though that has been a focus at times. No. It’s more than that.

It hit me a couple of Saturday nights ago, as I watched my kids leave the house with Hubby and the folks ~ they left me behind to rest (I had only been home two nights by then) ~ that this disease has taken more than just my fertility and the possibilities that come with that part of me. It hit me full force as they headed out to chase down the Olympic torch which was winding its way across our province (and came right through our city!), as they went out together without me to do something I had looked forward to for a really long time and wanted to experience, wanted my family to experience… as they headed out that door, it hit me that this disease took that experience from me.

And as the door clicked shut behind them and I was all alone ~ that night, and this morning as well ~ tears flowed.

What have I lost? 

Tears flowed and then and there, I realized I needed to make an accounting of all the losses, not in an act of feeling sorry for myself, but BECAUSE I need to move through the loss in order to move forward into the life on the other side. I must recognize the impact their reality has had on my life. I don’t expect anyone else to understand this need, but I am embracing it as a healthy part of grieving, a milestone so to speak, something to refer to if I need to to say You’ve lost but you ARE moving forward. 

What have I lost? What has this disease taken from me? 

Endo has taken so many experiences from me. There are many moments ~ even days ~ when I didn’t have the energy to emjoy what we were doing, but merely just enough to push through it, to endure. There have been alot of times when I have dealt with physical pain that zapped whatever extra energy I had. And even my awful mood swings… they could ruin a perfectly sunshiny, fun day because in spite of my best efforts, my emotions and inability to rise above it all got the best of me.

And it’s not just about Olympic Torch Relays, or laying on the couch on my eleventh anniversary (happy 11th Honey!!) unable to celebrate except accept a warm hug from Hubby several times through out the day. It’s not even about the big things. It’s about the small everyday experiences that have been lost along the way, in the fog of white-knuckling it through on those days (which I will add, has not been EVERY day) when I just had to work through how I felt physically to get done what needed to be done, when I had to put on that determined smile because I didn’t want this disease to beat me.

The loss from endo is all about not feeling up to going swimming on a Sunday afternoon with Hubby and the kiddos because I was just too tired.

It’s about dreading certain events that were happening in our life because I would be on my cycle during that time and know that it would be hard.

And not going to other events, important things, for the same reason.

This disease has affected my ability to invest in certain relationships, ones I long to give energy too, but I just can’t because I hurt, or I’m tired or I just don’t have any cope left. I’m sure there are people who see me as standoffish ~ and I am far from it when I am feeling like myself ~ or controlled in my feelings, when in fact, I am making every effort to control so I don’t lash out or cry at every turn, or make mountains out of molehills. I have put on that controlled front in an attempt to salvage relationships that might be damaged had I expressed what I was feeling on my worst days. That’s the reality. And I miss my warm, relaxed loving self on those days, and I cry myself to sleep with regret for having to put so much energy into getting through rather than just being.

My loss encompasses things like being short with my kids when they didn’t deserve it. All because I wasn’t feeling well, or felt like I was barely hanging in there.

It embraces all the times I pasted a smile on my face and dug deep even when I was feeling nowhere like myself in that moment, but did it because I had a job to do.

This disease has stolen my energy and focus for so long, fighting to get through each cycle, surgeries, ultrasounds, cysts, doctor appointments, decisions about treatment, medication… all that but the loss of energy for daily life and doing the things I’ve wanted to do…that is a huge loss.

That may be the biggest loss of all. There I said it. The biggest loss I have experienced from this disease just may not have been my fertility after all. That is huge no matter what. But it may not be the biggest loss in the end. Not having the energy, or rather, expending so much of my energy just coping with life rather than living is a much bigger deal.

I wonder what I could have accomplished in my life if I hadn’t been fighting this disease this whole time. Would I have been a better pastor? Or wife? Or mother? Or daughter? Or sister? Or aunt? Would I have suffered near the amount of time being depressed if it weren’t for this disease? Would we be in the same tight financial position if I hadn’t had to deal with this? After all, maybe I would have been able to cope better with life, and work more to earn some money, if this disease hadn’t been part of my focus?

And if I hadn’t had to spend so much energy coping, maybe our dream of bringing more children into our family through foster care might have happened. Or maybe we might have been able to last in two previous ministry assignments. Or maybe… well, I could play that game all day, the what ifs…it won’t do any good.

But…

It does do me good (I HOPE!) to say out loud in the writing sense of it all… there are tangible yet indefinite losses associated with my disease. This hysterectomy may bring about the beginning of physical healing for me, but I must~have said out loud that there has been loss related to this disease. I must… have as of this moment… said it outloud.

THERE ARE MANY LOSSES associated with this disease. And the worst isn’t my fertility. The worst is the stealing of my joy, my regretful inability at times to be grateful that I’m alive, the constant revisiting of things I must move through. The circular cry of “why” and “I don’t deserve this” that expend so much but are so hard to recover from. Then there’s the getting lost in the grief so much you can’t see the blessings. And again, regretting that THAT is the way I’ve lived at time. And the longing to just be done with it, but being stuck because it’s overwhelming. I don’t want to be stuck. I want to move through it.

Yes. I want to move through. I want to live. I HAVE A GREAT LIFE. I am a child of God ~ and my God lets me wrestle with him about these things, and I am certain I will continue to do that, but I know I am a child of THE God who desires His very best for me, who blesses even when we don’t deserve, who cries at our losses, especially these kind, the kind that happen when the imperfections of the world invade our life and we haven’t done anything to invite them. And I can say once and again and finally, that I know God has walked with me, that He knows about these losses, that He doesn’t like them either, that He grieves when His children grieve. And I hang onto that… although it’s embarrassing really how many times I have shaken my fist at God and said “YOU did this to me and I want YOU to fix me!” only that isn’t the point but rather, MY OWN DREAMS that needed fixing.

I wanted certain things certain ways. I have come to believe that God did too. But it didn’t happen that way and because I live in a world where loss exists as a part of life, this is my loss… and what am I going to do with the aftermath? Am I going to move forward and live and get healthy and be the strong woman of God I was created to be? Am I going to allow this loss to make me even stronger, more compassionate, more fully alive than ever before? Oh God, let it be so! I pray it is so.

And that’s where I am… praying and once again, as always, hoping and trusting that the fullest healing, the fullest reconciling of these losses are yet to come. That is where I am.

Praying.

Trusting.

Hoping.

Living.

Grieving.

Dreaming.

Still Positive After All These Years.

I’ve come a long way in making peace with the infertility that has affected my life for so many years. A long ways. I still don’t like it one bit, but I am no longer angry about the hand I was dealt. If nothing else, my experience these last nearly 10 years of “trying” to bring children into our family (and for me, even before that the years of single life felt alot like being “infertile” due to marital status…that is how much I longed to be a mother) has given me such a different perspective on things like compassion for others, the basic human need to know and be known, to tell our stories and be heard. I can no longer assume I know where someone is coming from. There’s always something more behind their words. It’s my place to listen and let them be heard.

I’ve also learned that diligence and determination won’t always get me what I want, but almost always what I NEED. There is a difference between those two. I thought things would be one way. They aren’t. They are another. And I live blessed. It doesn’t mean that I’m glad I am infertile like I hear so many mothers through adoption say. They’re glad because their infertility seemingly “brought” their children to them. I won’t go there. My infertility has been a part of my journey to my beautiful babes, but I give credit to ttheir other mothers for the fact my children are on this earth. I give their other mothers credit for the choice they made on behalf of their children to place them in my family. My infertility, as I have said before, has little to do with being a parent. It is part of how I see myself as a woman but not as a mother.

And further, I’ve also discovered and this is probably the most lasting effect of my whole experience of infertility and its associated losses is just how fickle grief really is. The losses I’ve felt have been very real to me… the loss of the dream of a life being a certain way, when things haven’t worked out as I planned, and for me the very real loss of a child through miscarriage. There are times when I’ve been able to convince myself, not that I was never pregnant, but that really, in the end I had much less to grieve because my baby was gone from me so soon. I never heard a heartbeat. Or saw her little bean body on an ultrasound. All these things have at times tricked me into believing that maybe my grief was unnecessary, or made up, or overblown. To me often, it feels like there is no longer any tangible evidence that I lost a child. Do I even have anything to grieve?

And the other loss, that of life being a certain way, and for me, that included experiencing the joys (and not so fun stuff) of pregnancy, of being a part of God creating someone in that way, and knowing I was the one who brought my children in the world, knowing I was their only mother, all these things have added up to being at times, larger than the reality of the blessings in my life. It’s really hard work to grieve “what might’ve been”. It is really hard work at times, to ‘take what comes. And be grateful’.

All of the above, honestly, is a grand digression to what I experienced last night which is the real reason for this writing. And I just wrote all this so far put this experience in perspective, for me or for anyone who might read.

I was doing last night what has become my life right now… packing. We are definitely making progress, in spite of the mounting weariness. We will get moved one way or the other that is for sure. And last night, AuntieDude blessed me by coming over and taking the kids to her house after she got off work. They were there for four hours and what a blessed amount of packing I got done!!!

So I was here, all alone, busting through the basement… toys, baby gear, Hubby’s work clothes, books…. and then there was the box. There. On top of the old fridge.

It’s Jamie-Noel’s box. The fact that it was on top of the old fridge in the basement and not somewhere sacred like my bedstand should be an indication of how far along I’ve moved in grieving my infertility and loss. There it was, her box, and without thinking I opened it. And immediately the tears (and as much of a sappy emotional person I am, yesterday was not really that kind of day, honest!!!) flowed.

There was the card from my Mom and Dad that came with the beautiful Thanksgiving arrangement they sent us after we told them that after all this time, we were finally pregnant. That card says, God bless you. It’s a miracle. Psalm 139… With Love, Mom and Dad. And then another little card from them, that I recall being attached to a just as beautiful winter arrangement a short month later that reads simply… I’m so sorry. We are praying. Romans 8:28. With Love, Mom and Dad. 

And all the cards from friends and family after word got around about our loss. These cards reminded me that for all the hardships of ministry and of living our infertilty experience literally in front of God and everybody, there were many blessings and kindnesses that come from being their pastor. Not all, but most, just plain loved us. For no other reason than they believed God had brought us to them. And looking back I realize how much our loss was their loss even though it irked me at the time because all I felt was that I was living this while they all went on with their lives, and their demands for who I should be and what I should do. They loved, in their way, and blessed us in our time of grief.

And so many women came out of the woodwork, sharing their stories of loss as well. Hubby’s 80 year old missionary aunt sent us a letter speaking her losses… I ache with you in you in your loss. I know how it feels for B and I lost a baby when I was four months pregnant. It really hurts… but God’s grace is always sufficient. You can’t build it up, but it is there when you need it. Thanks for sharing the heartache with me. Now you have a treasure in heaven. Sometimes it is hard to understand when people say “God makes no mistakes”. But someday we will understand (not that it will matter then). Don’t clutter your mind with “why”. There is no sensible answer to it all this side of Heaven. 

And then there’s a note handed to me through the offering plate in an envelope marked “For Pastor Tammy Only”. It was given to me by someone I hardly knew at all, mostly because she didn’t seem to want any friendship. It was almost a friend of a friend kind of relationship as her sister was my closest friend so we got thrown in the same circle at times. I didn’t know her much but this little note, a worn piece of paper obviously well loved, carried lots by her, meant the world to me. It was a poem, I later found out, handed to her the same way by one of her nurses who cared for her during one of the seven miscarriages she had between her first and second child. And at the time, it touched my profoundly that she would give me this piece of paper, something that meant so much to her. And last night, it touched me again, brought me back to that place almost six years ago, just as if it had happened yesterday. And the tears flowed as I read. It says this…

Just Those Few Weeks
For those few weeks 
I had you to myself.
And that seems too short a time
To be changed so profoundly.

In those few weeks
I came to know you…
and to love you.
You came to trust me with your life.
Oh, what a life I had planned for you!

Just those few weeks.
It wasn’t enough time to convince others 
how special and important you were.
How odd, a truly unique person has recently died
and no one is mourning the passing.

Just a mere few weeks
and no “normal” person would cry all night
over a tiny, unfinished baby,
or get depressed and withdraw day after endless day.
No one would, so why am I?

You were just those few weeks my little one…
you darted in and out of my life too quickly.
But it seems that’s all the time you needed 
to make my life so much richer
and give me a small glimpse of eternity. 

By Susan Erling (c) 1984

After reading through the cards, and pulling out the dead flowers, there it was, sitting in the bottom. The lone pregnancy test I took back then. And after all these years, as my little lost baby would be six this Saturday had she been born to earth, there it was, still positive. And the tears flowed again for it confirmed that my baby was real and I dare not convince myself otherwise, or say “oh that’s a long time ago. She doesn’t matter now”. Because she does. She was my child. I loved her then and I love her now and even though she was here for what seemed like a blink of an eye she was still very real, and my child. And at times, even though my spirit is not pricked with grief as often at all, the sadness remains. And well, no use denying it. Because a positive pregnancy test and tears that still come easily are the marks of the realness of her, my first child, who would be six.

I put the box away having exhausted the tears. I snapped out of the moment not even knowing how long I had been standing there. I got back to packing again and as usually happens, when my hands are busy, my head is working things over. And the thought hit me…. she just may be the third child I am missing. I always dreamed of three children, and well, I have been blessed with three, one in heaven and two gorgeous miracles here on earth. I know that our life would most probably be so very different had Jamie made it to earth. She may have been an only child. And we most likely wouldn’t have moved to adoption as soon as we did which would mean we would have missed Bug. And probably Si too. And I’m not even going to go through the mental calisthenics to decipher what all that means at all except to say life would have been different.

And I am so blessed by life as it is now. So as I packed Bug’s little ride-on elephant next to Si’s enormous pile of blocks all I could think of was what Hubby’s Aunt said… His grace is sufficient. It is enough. I don’t have to figure the rest of it out now or ever.

I so want to live grateful whatever comes. I pray this sacred moment, standing beside the big freezer amid myriads of boxes is yet another healing step in doing just that.

And remembering you too, Jamie… someday we’ll see you.. someday… and we miss you.

But speaking of positives, it seems to me now more than in a very long time, my heart is fuller than full, even through the tears, I can say that. Thanks be for that.

When Pain Is What It Is.

Here I was, all set today to finally pull myself up and talk about the good things that adoption has brought to my life. It is Adoption Awareness Month after all. It’s hard though to do that, because I feel so much like walking on eggshells because so many are grieving their losses in adoption right now. And I respect that. Acknowledge that.

I have been enjoying the posts of many parents who speak so eloquently about the children they are blessed to parent because of adoption. So I was going to have a celebratory post about my children. That was the plan anyway. So let me say this first… (and I will celebrate more fully in another post on another day soon!) I love my kids. And I am blessed to be their Mommy even as their Second Mother. They are still my kids. No doubt about that. And I am honored to be called their mother. It is a privilege to know these two people that have rocked my world. I love you Bug and Si! And today, I stand up and say that I’m not embarrassed or sad that you came to our family through adoption. I would not give up my journey to get here for anything if it meant that I would not have met these two amazing people. My life is changed because of knowing them.

But then there’s this. I don’t know if I am going to express myself very well at all right now. I’m just plain sad and and hurt and I just need to speak about this. I do alot of reading. I do alot of reading of blogs, alot of them related to the struggles, pain, journeys and thoughts of those what are a part of adoption, whether it be someone who was adopted, someone who has placed/relinquished/surrendered/lost a child to adoption or someone who wants to or has adopted a child into their family.

I started reading blogs and message boards mostly out of curiosity, to find out what others who see adoption from a different experience are thinking about. It is a truly enlightening experience, one that I recommend to anyone considering adoption. We can learn from each other. But I also started reading partly out of determiniation too, because, for the most part, the hopes we had of having a truly open adoption aren’t there because the other parents of my kids aren’t ready/willing/able to have a relationship or if I’m really facing the truth never were willing to have a relationship to begin with. So I went searching, hoping to find resources and stories from people who have different perspectives than me on adoption, wanting desperately to understand better what a person who was adopted goes through so that if at all possible, I can help my children on their journey, help them have what they need to become whole and healthy people on the earth, and help make up for some of the loss they suffered when their other parents made the decision to place them for adoption. And I also want to hear from those who have relinquished children, to hopefully help me understand what the other parents of my kids were going through and hopefully, along the way, gain more understanding about the issues related to adoption and be more compassionate about the people who were struggling in their lives because of adoption.

Since I’ve been having a hard time working through some of my own issues right now, I was working equally hard to stay away from the stuff that hurts my heart, even when it is not intended to. I’m just having a really hard time right now with a whole bunch of stuff so I went into protection mode. I have to say that being a parent through adoption involves a long journey of developing a thick skin, especially if you are willing to let yourself see the WHOLE picture of adoption, and to feel the sadness with those who have lost so much. I have seen how some can feel adoption is wonderful, all easy and all hunky-dorey because they don’t know this stuff. I can see how they would want to live there. But I can’t. That’s not reality.

And in the last couple of days I’ve been hit with some pretty hard reality and it has left me shaking. My struggle is this…

As much as I’m willing to listen and learn from the pain and sorrow of others, I just wish there was some willingness to acknowledge that pain is what it is, for whoever is feeling it. I struggle so, because as I deal with some very real grief over my infertility experience, others whose pain is unimaginable to me, some whose pain I readily acknowledge as being real and overwhelming because of what they’ve lost, aren’t willing to have the same compassion on my struggles.

As a parent through adoption who has suffered from infertility, I am constantly asked to set aside my struggle because someone else’s is more relevant and real at least in the bigger picture everyone wants to see. I am constantly asked to listen and learn and understand what my choice to be open to the possibility of adoption, to consider the possibility of adopting so that I could be a parent, has done to them (becomes sometimes it feels that way, by default we all have caused the pain).

Granted, all they feel has to do with their very REAL experience of loss in a very REAL situation very personal to them, but I struggle. I struggle because the pain and loss I feel over my very REAL experience of loss in a very REAL situation is minimized. Always minimized. Or at least it feels that way. The very thing I NEVER, EVER want to do to anyone else is done to me. I read. I learn. I discover. I acknowledge.

Yet.

When it comes down to it, what I have experienced in my life that brought me to this point in my life, where I am blessed to be a parent, yes, but along with parenting a child who becomes an adult who was adopted, I am constantly having to check the pain I carry at the door of this world because in the end, it doesn’t matter or couldn’t possibly hurt like I think it does. Yes. I’m infertile. No. I didn’t let my infertility stop my hope of becoming a parent. And then, on top of that, I’m asked to re-check who I am allowed to be at least in the eyes of others (because I have no doubt who I am in the eyes of my children) in the relationship with my children. No. I am not their only mother. I must acknowledge the reality of their other heritage, their other family. Yes. I am open to hearing the regret their other mothers express, that they wish the child they chose to place in my family wasn’t mine after all. No. I can’t possibly understand loss because I’ve never had to choose to relinquish a child. No, I haven’t had to do that. I would never, ever want to face the real and heartbreaking lifelong sadness that so many Moms who relinquished/lost their children in adoption have to face. And I would never, ever want to minimize the pain they had when making the decision, when letting go of their child, and for every day since. I would never do that. And I’ll keep reading and hearing about their stories, and struggles every day if I have to in order to remind me of what the other parents of my children lost when they made the decision to place their children in my family.

But here’s all I want, and maybe it’s too much to ask. I don’t expect anyone to accept that my pain that comes from my infertility exists or that it is real or ongoing or anything. I am parenting which in the end, was my hope fulfilled and I am blessed to be parenting. But parenting does not, and never will, cover or completely heal the losses I have experienced in my life (infertility or otherwise…). I would never want it to. After all, that would mean that I am partly expecting my children to fulfill something in me that couldn’t be fulfilled. That would be wrong on so many levels for them and for me. They are not the fulfillment of my dreams. They are children who I am privileged to parent and for whom I am responsible to help grow into a young man and a young woman who know who they are, who have worked through and are working through all the issues related to life as it was handed to them, and who are able to contribute fully to life in this world. That’s my job. I don’t expect anything from them in return.

But what I do hope is this.. that maybe somewhere all the way, there might be a point where someone might acknowledge that pain, however it comes to us, and whatever it does to us, is real based on the experience we have. Not to assume they know what I’m feeling. Or how my life now has resolved any of it. Or what that pain is at its most basic existence for me.

I don’t expect them to care, or even to understand… Lord knows I would never, ever want anyone to experience the pain I have not only in my heart from lost experiences that I have dreamed of my whole life, but also the pain I carry in my body because of the very illness that is the reason for my infertility, an illness I didn’t bring on myself, didn’t choose for myself, but limits my ability even at times, to cope with the whole of life as it is. Parenting didn’t solve everything for me, emotional or otherwise. Because of my infertility and my inability to be a part of some very natural and healing experiences we as women were created to have as a part of pregnancy and childbirth, I am at higher risk for breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer among other things. Because of the abnormal ways that my hormones swing each month I am at higher risk for depression and anxiety disorders not to mention early menopause. Because of the pain I carry in my pelvis day in and day out, I am limited in the activities I am able to do. All these things, although unrelated to parenting still limit my ability to “get over” my infertility as so many expect me to do now that I have finally reached the “goal” of parenting. I face it every day, this thing. Every day. With my body, I can’t ignore it. I have to face it. And sometimes it still hurts me.

Because this journey to parenthood for me in the end, had little to do with biology which is what so many believe or want to believe that those of us who grieve our barrenness are really steamed about. No, I am perfectly content at this point in my life (haven’t always been but… ahh… another post) to be a family of strangers, people from four families come together to love and care for each other for a lifetime. And I will always and forever honor the women that brought us together, that gave us life, not only my mother and Hubby’s mother, but even more, the first mothers of my children.

It’s not about biology. Nope. All along I was told that was it. That is why I am so sad. So many want to believe that for me because that means that my not being over it is harmful somehow, that I don’t love my children, whom I would die for on any given day, enough. It’s not about that. It’s about the experience. And I really didn’t realize until a recent discussion on a support board I have frequented for many years following the loss of my first child to miscarriage. The discussion was about breastfeeding. Breastfeeding. A basic mothering function. And I didn’t get to experience it. I didn’t ever realize how much this hurt until this discussion turned into a “you didn’t try hard enough…you are not a good mother because you didn’t breastfeed scenario”. All of a sudden, yet again, I feel like I’m not enough of a mother, that somehow I’m not all my kids need right now, because I was unable to give my child the nourishment that comes natural. And it didn’t have anything to do with the lack of compassion coming from the person who indirectly said it as much as it had to do with the responses to her, about how she didn’t have to even care about who might be listening because the feelings of others didn’t matter as much as her freedom to express her own feelings and thoughts.

No one cared for the poor, infertile girl. No one probably even noticed. After all, I was parenting wasn’t I? I got my dream right? Well… that really hurt me. But on a more basic level than I ever imagined it would. It threw me into the deepest funk I have been in since I lost my baby Jamie-Noel and realized I would most likely never get the opportunity to experience pregnancy and childbirth like everybody else. This little, really minor discussion about breastfeeding a few weeks ago… years after I thought I had grieved the basic loss of my fertility, and many months/years after becoming a parent… hit me square in the face and set me reeling in a way that I have never experienced before in my life.

It hit me right then and there that it was over… and I would have to face the facts. I would never, ever experience that natural bond that comes when you birth a child. I would never experience seeing my child’s face on an ultrasound, or hearing her heartbeat for the first time. I would never experience the wonder of what that little flutter of a person moving inside of me might feel like. Or the kicks keeping me up at night. I would never experience the joy that others have as your belly gets bigger, people doting on you, celebrating the little person that is growing inside. I would never experience the pain of childbirth and how just that experience alone, you and baby working together to achieve life, bonds two people for life, regardless of whether they are separated then or later. I would never experience the sheer joy that many, most mothers feel when they see the face of their child for the first time and hold their child in their arms all slimy and beautiful. I would never experience the celebration of birth the way others do, knowing full well that this is their child, no questions, no one will take her away, no one cares what you say or how you feel. I would never experience what it felt like to be able to express sheer joy at the birth of your child. Or not be embarrassed or questioned when buying baby things. And I would never experience the natural process of nourishment that is breastfeeding. Never. There are so many other things… but this post is so long already.

And the hardest part for me, harder than all of it, is the sheer loss I feel from not being able, even for a moment, know what it feels like to be a part of God’s plan for the world, to bring a child here, a child he decided needed to be created for a special purpose, that He decided would be my child to raise. That’s part of what I believe I was created to be. And I don’t get to be that. Ever. Never.

And I’m sorry, but no one can tell me that I was infertile ~ that I should get over it because it doesn’t matter anymore ~ so that I could be Momma to Bug and Si. Yes, it is a privilege to be their parents, and I feel so blessed and believe me I never forget the sheer magnitude of what it means to have the responsibility of being their parents at the request of another. I never forget. But just like I don’t believe, will ever believe, that these children were conceived to be my children… they were not!… I cannot believe that God caused my infertility as a “gift” (what?!?!?!?) so that I would be free to parent them when their other parents, by their own choice, decided they would be in our family. THat’s the most ridiculous scenario ever (and I can hardly believe that there are people out there who believe that!) Somehow, however, it all worked out, and I am blessed for it, and thanking God for his mercies in helping us live each day, but I don’t believe it to be pre-ordained or any of that crap.

So parenting aside, I’m still infertile. And at least right now, I’m not okay with it. I’m grieving. I’m sad. I feel a deep sense of loss at what I’ve lost. And even though I don’t expect anyone to care, I would hope that my pain and loss would be acknowledged for what it is. Or at least ignored, not compared as not being as bad especially when it isn’t a part of someone’s life experience. I will acknowledge yours… see yours… be sad with you, and never, ever minimize it. Will you see mine? Not feel it. Not even care that I have it. Just see it as real.