INFERTILITY: A LONELY AND HEAVY CROSS

Some stories are harder to put down in words. This is one of them.

There’s no pretty way of saying it. It’s dreadfully personal, but God’s been pulling at the strings of my heart to share this story. I want to raise awareness, and shed light on infertility. It’s still a taboo topic, and can feel like a very lonely cross to bear, and yet it’s estimated that one in ten women deal with infertility. In the midst of NFP awareness week, it feels fitting to finally sit down and share my journey through the murky waters of charting biomarkers, and the light it has shed on my health issues.

I’ve always had irregular cycles. Being very athletic in my teenage years, doctors brushed my concerns aside, or simply offered the pill as a band aid to deal with symptoms to what was a very real problem. It’s taken thirteen years for a doctor to listen. I am still dealing with the anger of years of no diagnosis, incredible amounts of pain, and being brushed off by practitioners. Asking grace to forgive and move on has not been an easy feat, and I’m still struggling to do so.

This past year I got engaged to a wonderful man, and in preparing for marriage, we decided we would use a fertility awareness method (also known as FAM or NFP; Natural Family Planning) to track our windows of fertility and infertility. This isn’t your grandparent’s rhythm method. There are many NFP methods, but we practice the Creighton Model Fertility Care.

The effectiveness of the Creighton Model System has been extensively studied and a meta-analysis of the system incorporating the data from five separate studies into a composite which includes 1,876 couples over 17,130 couple months of use has been published. These studies all utilizing life-table analysis and an objective assessment of pregnancies, reported the range of the method-effectiveness to avoid pregnancy at the 12th ordinal month to be 98.7 to 99.8 (with the five-study composite 99.5). The use-effectiveness to avoid pregnancy for the same time period ranged from 94.6 to 97.9 and was shown to continually improve over the 14 years of the studies (the five-study composite was 96.8) (Table 15-28) [i]

creighton

I’ve included this information because the most common remark I receive when I speak of using NFP is “I guess you’re planning on having a large family then”. That’s a faulty assumption. NFP gets a bad rep because of user error, and pharmaceutical propaganda. You see, NFP costs next to nothing. It also is safe. There are no medical side effects to practicing NFP, unlike many contraceptives out there. NFP can also serve to diagnose and detect fertility problems. It did for me.

While I am still working with a wonderful doctor, running blood tests in different phases of my cycle, and just recently undergoing an ultrasound to try and find the cause of my symptoms, I do know that I have anovulatory cycles. I’m still undergoing tests to determine the cause of these cycles, and the cure may be simple, or there may be none, but I know I have cried more times than I care to count over this cross.

I have felt like less of a woman. I have felt broken. My body isn’t working the way it is meant to, and it’s terribly humbling. I want to be a mother one day, and always thought achieving pregnancy would be easy. I was scared to death by teachers and doctors, being told how it’s so EASY to get pregnant and you have to be careful (because in our society pregnancy is viewed as a disease). Never once did someone tell me getting pregnant could be hard. Never once did someone prepare me for the terrible ache and longing for a child.

I have been faced with a two way path: despair or trust God. I choose to trust Him.

I have seen His goodness in this cross. I have felt the grace carrying me through surrendering my desire for a family, and knowing it may not be as easy to achieve, or look the way I have dreamed. I feel peace, and I know it’s of the Comforter. I have had so many wonderful women open up to me, bearing their hearts and sharing in this cross. It’s been quiet conversations over coffee or inside the walls of our homes, but I want these conversations to be heard. I want to be part of a community where we uphold and love women; a community that doesn’t abandon them in their hurt. Suffering is not without meaning. Its end goal is communion. I have a foretaste of the heavenly banquet when I choose to suffer with joy. May we always remember that we are not alone in our crosses. No matter how heavy they may be, God is always knocking at the door of our hearts, seeking to be in communion with us.

[i] Effectiveness of the System; [http://www.creightonmodel.com/effectiveness.htm]

LET THEM EAT CAKE (and how turning 25 makes me feel entitled to monologue on God and beauty)

I’m a sucker for Marie-Antoinette. I still remember walking the grounds of Versailles and exploring where this young Austrian woman came to be Queen of France. My fascination is rooted in a heart moved by beauty. Sure, the opulence was extreme, and led to her demise. No question there. Yet, there is still something to be said for a heart that is seeking beauty.

So often I am satisfied with what is average. Our hearts are restless until we rest in true and perfect beauty. We’re broken and we seek joy in beauty in all the wrong places, but when you find it in the One who makes all things new, all things beautiful… your life will never be the same.

So much of my life I have saught beauty in things of the world that did not satisfy. I find myself now, on my birthday, reflecting how blessed I am to know the source of life; the bread that satisfies; the well that never runs dry: Corpus Christi. I also question why armed with this knowledge, I still stumble and turn to worldly things in hopes of happiness, but I have hope, because the more I seek Him, the less I stumble. I’m far from perfect, but His grace abounds. He more than makes up for what I lack. The more I seek to find the beauty my heart longs for in Him, the more I am aware of His constant presence.

It is well with my soul. I’m blessed I got to celebrate my birthdat this year on the solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. Happy feast day, and may your hearts be filled with His beauty, goodness, and truth!

Well enough musings, time to go and eat some birthday cake! xoxo

GETTING HIT BY BRICKS

This weekend I felt as though bricks were being hurled at me. Many little melt downs occurred, and I was scared looking to the future, but you know what? I was thinking an awful lot about myself and what I was feeling. Life is so much more than our hurt feelings. We are breathed into this world and offered a chance to love and receive love. There is still a rubble of bricks remaining from this weekend’s stoning of my spirit, but they landed around a beautiful garden and I saw that my favourite flowers were in bloom. So I went and cut some to adorn the dining table.

That little moment in the garden called me to grace; getting soaked by the rain which always soothes my soul, having the cat run up to me and purr at my feet as I lean over and clip off daffodils to form a bouquet.

It called me to look for all the ways that I am loved, and to seek to return that love.

Today, I am choosing to keep my gaze on love, and all the ways it manifests itself in my ordinary and simple life, because love is magic. It transforms and renews. It gives the heart a new pair of eyes. I am entrusting you, dear reader, to seek that same magic. Keep your heart open to love.

THE FULLNESS OF GOD’S LOVE (and how I found Him in my mailbox today)

I had such a heavy heart this morning all throughout this afternoon. Some health issues regarding my fertility had me frozen in fear and anxiety, but a ray of hope was carrying me through: every morning I start my day by spending some time reading my Bible and my devotional.

This morning convicted me of the great need in my life to let God love me. Not only love me during my morning prayer time, but all throughout the day, come what may.

Boy did it “come what may” today, and yet I knew I could get through it because of His grace. I was glad I had resolved the night before to go to Mass after work. Usually this doesn’t work out for me, because I constantly work later than I am meant to. This is self inflicted, and really unhealthy.

My spiritual director has been encouraging me to be bold, and entrust my “urgent” and incomplete tasks to God at the end of the day; especially at home as to ensure I get 7-8 hours of sleep.

Mass was of course the most beautiful way to be with God and let Him love me, and yet, though my yoke was lightened, I still walked out feeling heavy hearted. I cast my fears unto Him on my way home, willing to trust His plans, and knowing that He knows the desires of my heart.

The fullness of His grace was in my mailbox. I was too blind to see Him in the most precious and holy Eucharist, but Jesus runs after my heart without any reserve.

Shortly after getting engaged, I wrote a letter to Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, asking for his prayers for my upcoming wedding. I was certain the letter had gotten lost in the mail, or would be read by some nun who would write my name on some crazy long intentions list, and proceed to shred my letter. Gosh, as I write this I’m floored by my lack of hope and my cynicism. God prooved me wrong.

In my mailbox was a letter sent on behalf of His Holiness Benedict XVI. He assured me of his prayers and his blessing, and also enclosed two beautiful rosaries for me and my fiancé. My heart was overfilled with God’s love and the assurance of His personal and passionate love for me.

If you do one thing today, let it be a small prayer of thanksgiving for a personal way in which God has shown you His love. If you are willing to open your eyes, you may even find it in the most unlikely of places, such as a mailbox.

WEDNESDAY MORNING

A look at my Wednesday morning: cutest puppy husky on my walk to Mass; beautiful street art; cutest baby in the pew in front of me during Mass; Jesus; communion; hot chocolate and breakfast burrito, courtesy of my Beau.

Something Josiah told me when I asked him what he was most looking forward to today: “This is it. My morning Mass date with you is the highlight”. I still struggle to accept love, but he teaches me each day the truth of my worth, and with every day, I grow closer to acknowledging my infinite dignity as a daughter of Christ.

I hope you know how good you are and how so very loved you are. If there isn’t someone who’s told you out loud today, take it from me:

You are good. You are loved.

No matter what.

IMG_7665[1]