Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The infertile Catholic

It’s hard to believe that I was writing this post, literally the Monday and Tuesday of the day we found out about baby C and the day we were chosen. It was infertility awareness week...

April 23, 2012
In honor of Infertility Awareness week, I wanted to take the time to write a little more in depth about my experience as an infertile Catholic. This past February at the Vatican, the Pontifical Academy for Life gathered together experts to discuss infertility, how it is diagnosed, how it can be treated, and how it impacts couples. In his remarks to the group, Pope Benedict XVI said, “I would like to remind the couples who are experiencing the condition of infertility, that their vocation to marriage is no less because of this. Spouses, for their own baptismal and marriage vocation, are called to cooperate with God in the creation of a new humanity.…There, where science has not yet found an answer, the answer that gives light comes from Christ.”
At my freshman ordination at college, the dean of students announced in an auditorium, “Look to your left and look to your right, your future mate may be in sight!” Perhaps it was an inauspicious beginning - my mom was on my right and my dad was on my left. :) I remember those years in college well, watching with some degree of envy, friend after friend find a great guy, date for a few years, get engaged and start planning her wedding before graduation. I remember longing for the day when I would meet my future husband. I watched many friends get married (I was a bridesmaid in three weddings) and even several years down the road, I began to watch those friends begin their families. At the time, I had studied to some degree, John Paul II’s Theology of the Body and was very aware of the church’s teachings on marriage and openness to life. It seemed everywhere I turned, friends were finishing up their “5-year-plan” while I longed for both a husband and children. 
When I finally met my husband, everything was perfect. I was 29 when we met, he was 35. He said it took 14 years to find me, but he understood why God made him wait.  I engraved the pocket watch I gave him on the eve of our wedding with this verse from Song of Solomon: “I found him whom my soul loves.”
While engaged, my husband and I talked often about wanting a large family. Ten kids, we said. Or even more, God willing. I can remember having friends and family talk to me about finding a job as the wedding - and my move- came closer. Some people were supportive of our desire to start a family right away. Others... I knew they wanted to roll their eyes. The “get to know each other first” mentality. Granted, you learn so much more about each other - and about yourself, once you are married and living daily life together, but still. I’ve always wanted a big family and so had my husband. Why should we wait? We were open to life and we wanted many children. And, somewhat pridefully, I expected them. My husband and I had both waited for marriage; surely God would reward us with, as the church teaches, the supreme gift of marriage. 
So, no, I wasn't looking for a job outside the home - I just wanted to be a wife and mother. Perhaps if I were a woman who desired and chose a career before children, being infertile would not have hurt so much. But, I’ve never been a career-minded woman. And I’m surrounded by women who are just like me... open to life and large families... only their wombs are fruitful. 
I went from the joy of a newlywed - finally feeling after being single so long as though I fit in among friends - to feeling very much alone. Initially, we would get together with friends and enjoy one another's company. When more children began to arrive, the invitations dwindled. Families tend to get together with families. I can’t completely cast the blame; I too have not always initiated contact. But, it was hard not to feel abandoned - first by God, and then by friends. And honestly, it became harder and harder to attend gatherings. I never failed to be greeted by women and their pregnant bellies. Or the new moms with their sweet little bundles.

In those few years there were invitations to baby showers... I’ve only been to one since I got married. It was heart-wrenching. I went, I smiled, I laughed, I congratulated one of my dearest friends in the world, the mom-to-be, and I played games. And truly, I was very happy for her. She was, and is, a beautiful friend, faithful Catholic and now, mother. But during that shower my heart felt like it was pulled in opposite directions and my smile masked tears I couldn't bear to let others see.

Children are the supreme gift of marriage. Why then, was God withholding them from us? 
The questions kept coming. Why her and not me? Why does she have 6... 10... 12 when I would just like one? Would I not be a good mother? Why have you given me this desire only to see it unfulfilled? Ironically, that which should bring so much joy - the blessing of children - should bring so many tears and suffering.
In Scripture, we see the pain of the barren: And Rachel, seeing herself without children, envied her sister, and said to her husband: Give me children, otherwise I shall die. (Gen. 30:1)
A few months into our marriage, I went to a Catholic physician’s office. I was seen by a nurse practitioner who simply told me I’d have to wait a year and would I like to go into their little prayer room? We weren’t taught anything about charting.
A year into our marriage, my husband and I attended an NFP class. Unlike most of the couples there - engaged and wanting to avoid a pregnancy - we were there aching to achieve one. Finally, after that year, I made another appointment with a doctor to begin testing. Eventually I switched from that first doctors office. It is a good practice, but their main goal from what I could see was that of a crisis pregnancy center. They weren’t all that interested in -or helpful to- a couple unable to conceive.
I found a wonderful and compassionate new doctor and we began testing. First - I had low hormones. We tried that therapy. Then we tried surgery to remove adhesions from my colectomy 6 years prior to getting married. And continued hormones. And ovulation stimulation therapy. Two more surgeries to remove even more adhesions. And finally, several series of ultrasounds which revealed luteinized unruptured follicle syndrome - even with the stimulation therapy.
To those of you who have been blessed with pregnancies and children - I say this:
Be grateful. You are so blessed. You get to look at children who look like you or who may be the image of your husband. They may have his eyes or his dimples. You are able to hold the sweet hand of a child who looks at you and says, “I love you, Mom.” You have bubble baths, and reading books together snuggled on the couch. You have toys scattered throughout your home.
Please don’t forget about your friends who are infertile. Maybe they will not be always able to attend a baptism, or shower or your child’s birthday party. But please leave that decision up to them. It hurts even more to be ignored and left out completely. 

That is where I left off...
Writing from the viewpoint of an infertile Catholic who is now a mother still surprises me. My path to motherhood was not what I envisioned. But it was what God saw and planned. I don’t know why God had me wait so long, except that he wanted me to be C’s mother. It’s easy to see that now- when we are suffering, it’s much more difficult to gain such a perspective. I wouldn’t have him had I conceived, and that is something that breaks my heart to even consider now. All the tears, surgeries, hormone panels, drugs, and ultrasound series led me to the most beautiful and sweet baby boy.
I look at him now and wonder, what I did do to deserve him? I really was asked so little. So many others are more deserving than me - so many of you have been waiting longer. And my heart breaks for those of you still waiting. I know that my posts now bring pain to those waiting - and honestly, it’s why I’ve had a hard time writing. I hate that. I vividly remember what it felt like. And I constantly remind myself not to forget. My posts could be your CD1. I know I bypassed reading some blogs because of that. I do thank you so much for sharing in my joy when you are able. Please know that you remain in my prayers; very much so. 
And finally, to those of you still waiting... know that your suffering.. produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into (your) hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to (you). Romans 5:3-5 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

HWFD: Grilled Salmon with Avocado Salsa

Wowza. Another Pinterest find. This was a.ma.zing. :) I meant to take pictures of the process and our plates, but it was gone before I could blink! I LOVE salmon - and when we have it I always wait and get the wild caught when it's on sale. It's so much better for you and the flavor is so much better too.

Recipe source

I didn't grill it - I used my trusty stainless steel AllClad pan, drizzled with olive oil (enough to lightly coat the bottom of the pan).
I made about 1 pound of salmon, so I halved the seasonings part of the recipe, but I made the entire salsa recipe - ha! Avocado. Enough said.
I used half of a large jalapeno pepper for my "hot pepper" - it added just enough of a kick for me.

DH & I agreed it's totally company-worthy.... so... who's coming for dinner? ;)

Hope you all are having a great weekend!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Quick Takes

1) I'm so thankful for my DH... he's been working extra hours all week on a project. I am so blessed that he works so hard to provide for me and baby C!

2) 4-month-old hugs are the best. C started wrapping his arms around my neck last night. Amazing. :)

3) While doing laundry this afternoon I discovered a drip... coming out of the ceiling in our basement. Not good. I called the company who redid our kitchen a year ago - not knowing if they would do that type of work, but since we were existing customers, they arranged to have people come by in a few hours. Long story... but they fixed it and next week will come to repair the drywall and I'm sure we're looking at repainting too. The carpet was wet and they pulled it up... hopefully we won't have to replace that. Ahh... the joys of homeownership. It could have been worse though!

4) While we were on vacation, my sister V (the one who was married in June) asked how we would feel about C having a cousin... yup - she's expecting! I have so many emotions regarding this - yes, there is jealousy that it was so "easy". But the overriding emotion since then is joy - gratitude that she and T don't have to go through what DH & I did... thrill at the fact that C will have a cousin so close in age and joy that we will get to raise children together!!! She was so amazing about everything though - giving me a huge hug that really said more than any words she could have spoken. She - and the rest of my family - have lived infertility with me. They know the pain. And they are amazing. I really am so blessed. I would be so grateful if you would keep her and my new niece or nephew in your prayers. She's been feeling a good deal of morning-afternoon-and-evening sickness.

5) We got C one of those jumpers this week now that he's holding his head up pretty well. He was really getting excited tonight in it, and although he can't quite reach the floor, all his wiggling had him bouncing pretty well! Seriously. There is an adorable little boy in my kitchen. There are toys scattered throughout my home. I still have to pinch myself.

6) How do you all do laundry? I used to be a do-it-all-in-one-day kind of girl, but that doesn't happen now! I've started trying to do one load a day, which for the last week or so has been working well. It's reasonable to get one load in the washer, dried, folded and put away. Now if only I could figure out how to keep the kitchen clean...

7) DH and I own a share in a cow. For real. I'm going to make a go at making C's formula. After reading success stories and watching a video that made it look relatively easy, I signed up - bought the share in the cow today (that's what you have to do in VA to buy raw milk) - and tomorrow we'll pick up our first gallon. I have to wait a day or two until I can get the whey, but hopefully in a day or two I'll be able to start making it in the evenings. I'll keep you posted!

Happy weekend, everyone! :)

ps: Apparently you can also make ice cream from raw milk. Since I don't tolerate dairy well - and since many people who can't have "regular" dairy tolerate raw milk just fine... I just may be looking to get that ice cream freezer I've had my eye on since I got married! :)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

You are my I Love You book

Do any of you have this book for your little ones?

You can find it on Amazon

I just love the words: 

You are my I love you

Author: Maryann K Cusimano
I am your parent you are my child
I am your quiet place, you are my wild
I am your calm face, you are my giggle
I am your wait, you are my wiggle
I am your audience, you are my clown
I am your London Bridge, you are my falling down
I am your Carrot Sticks, you are my licorice
I am your dandelion, you are my first wish
I am your water wings, you are my deep
I am your open arms, you are my running leap
I am your way home, you are my new path
I am your dry towel, you are my wet bath
I am your dinner you are my chocolate cake
I am your bedtime, you are my wide awake
I am your finish line, you are my race
I am your praying hands, you are my saving grace
I am your favourite book, you are my new lines
I am your nightlight, you are my sunshine
I am your lullaby, you are my peek-a-boo

I am your kiss goodnight, you are my I love you.
My sister shared it with me, shortly after we were officially waiting at our agency. Now I love reading it to C! I also bought a copy of it as a board book, cut it up, framed and hung several of the pages on the wall above his dresser. I was originally going to frame a different book, but this one just describes our days perfectly! :) Especially those first few weeks when at 2 AM he was definitely my "wide awake"! :-)

I got the frames at Michael's when they were 40% off. Rather than getting matting (which would have been $15-60 for each frame, I just put dark brown scrapbook paper to match the furniture behind each page of the book. That was much more reasonable at just over $1! :) 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Our adoption story, Part III

DH and I hurried out of the church and quickly got in the car - both terrified that the birthmother had changed her mind. I called our SW... I think I was holding my breath from the time DH noticed the missed calls until she cheerfully answered the phone and asked if we would agree to 2 visits per year. That was it?!?! I started breathing again and answered that two visits were no problem at all and we'd be happy to arrange for that.

We were supposed to meet two other SWs from the agency at the hospital, as well as C's birthmother at 10 am. It was a few minutes after 9 and we decided to drive over to get a parking spot in the shade if we could and eat some breakfast. The chicken from the night before (I wasn't hungry at all really!) and a couple of bananas we had snagged from T's kitchen. While waiting in the parking lot, I finally got in touch with a few more friends. One is a dear friend of many years and she had been praying so hard for us. I told her I was sorry to call so early... and she said no problem, she was getting ready for class (she's a professor), but when she saw that it was me, she picked up right away. I told her... she started crying as soon as I said... "we're sitting in a parking lot of a hospital right now... waiting to meet our son!" I asked for more prayers as we were meeting his birthmother and over the 10 day waiting period. It was one of the best phone calls I made, other than to family. She moved to the DC area literally the day after I got my first email from DH. We met for brunch the morning she left PA and I told her about him and even then she said I was excited about him. :)

After eating, DH and I made our way to the hospital entrance (we were still early) but wanted to make sure we weren't late... as we have a tendency to be! After waiting a few minutes - butterflies in my stomach don't even begin to describe it, I saw the two SW's come in... talking to C's birthmother. I got up... looked at her, and I already had tears in my eyes. She looked at me with tears as well and I just gave her a huge hug. I've mentioned before that she just whispered "thank you"... her words were ones of gratitude and love. I really can't explain the depth of emotion... even now. It still makes me tear up and I can still hear her voice. I honestly wondered how on earth she could be thanking me - when she was giving me the best gift I've ever been given, next to DH.

We walked upstairs.... she showed us a few photos on her phone that she had taken after he was born. She wanted to spend a bit more time with him on her own while we signed the paperwork. Unfortunately for her, C hadn't been circumcised yet, so she ended up joining us again shortly after she went back as the doctors took care of that. It did give us the opportunity to talk more though, and I am so grateful for that time. She was very easy to talk to and told us stories of growing up with her brothers  and there were so many stories similar to those DH had told me about growing up with his 3 brothers. It was just very, very special.

Finally, around 11:30 or noon (I think), we were allowed back to meet C! All of us walked back to the nursery as they wheeled him out in his basinet. He was not particularly happy - and definitely very hungry! We went to a private room at the end of the hallway. C's birthmother prepared the bottle, picked him up and handed him to me.

First feeding - totally in love as soon as I saw him.

He opened his beautiful eyes and just stared at me as soon as I got that bottle in his mouth! He was very alert - more alert than I anticipated.

I just stared and stared. I could hardly believe I was looking at my SON!!!! I know we talked a little bit more, but I have no idea what we said! Shortly after I fed him, I handed him to DH to hold. What an amazing feeling... watching my husband become a father. There are just no words.

We talked a bit longer with the social worker, and finally C's birthmother had to leave. She commented that she felt so much better about her decision having met us. She held him one last time, and I could see the tears she was fighting. Again, I know C will be so blessed to know her decision was one of love. And I am more grateful than I ever thought I would be, that she wants to keep in touch.

Shortly after she left, we took some more photos as the text messages started pouring in from our families demanding to see him!

 First family photo!

We needed to wait for a while to get all the papers ready for him to be discharged and we continued to talk to the SWs. A very sweet nurse came in with his discharge papers, a ton of supplies - including formula that he was currently eating - and lots of reading material on taking care of a newborn! 

Then... it was time. We picked the Daddy loves me outfit for him to wear home... changed him and took this final photo of him in his little bassinet. 

We put him in his carseat, and walked out with the SW's - they checked that we had him securely in the car, and we were off. And I wondered... is that it? Part of me couldn't believe that someone wasn't coming after us to stop us! We stopped at Panera to get a quick lunch. T stopped by to pick up his house key (he still brags that he was the first to get to see C!) and we headed home. C slept the entire way! Every time he started to make little noises and we started getting ready to stop somewhere, he fell back asleep. We drove the entire way home -  I was on the phone for a lot of it talking to various family members and it wasn't until we were about to get off the highway, a mile or 2 from the house that he woke up. And he was definitely hungry. VERY hungry!! As we drove up to our house, I noticed that someone had balloons flying outside their door. As we got closer, I realized it was our house!!

Well... our neighbors now knew! :)  We got him in the house as fast as we could and got a bottle prepared. I fed him while DH called a few friends to let them know we were home and could they please come over to help us move our desk to the garage and to assemble C's crib. I... well... I got to hold C. :) He slept while I called sisters and parents and friends to let them know we were home!!

Talking excitedly to someone in my family! I don't remember who now!

DH holding C. 

As you can see, he went through many outfit changes that first day and night at home. :) Mom and Dad have gotten a little more proficient at changing diapers and attaching them well. Actually, that proficiency came with a little advice from my sister, the postpartum nurse... to "aim down." :-D

Our first few days at home with C were just incredible. That first night, C slept in his crib, with the door to his room open. He woke frequently, about every 1-2 hours, at which point, yes, his clothes were soaked and so were his diapers! A friend of a friend had donated a ton of baby boy clothes, and it was a good thing we had them - we couldn't have gotten through that first night without them!

Those first fews days were a whirlwind... trading off with DH so we could both get to daily mass, feeding, forgetting to eat ourselves, holding him, reading the Baby Book!!, calling our former pastor to ask him to celebrate C's baptism, visits from a few dear friends (they brought a boppy chair and a bassinet for us to borrow). It was so much nicer to have C in our room next to me. And a visit that first weekend from my parents and two sisters. I just tried to soak it all in. All the joy in the world was wrapped in my beautiful 6 pound bundle.

I still can't believe it's real... that he's really here. Thank you to all of you who have prayed for and continue to pray for DH & me. God has answered our prayers and we are blessed beyond words.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. 
As high as the heavens are above the earth, 
so are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts. 
Isaiah 55:8-9

Thursday, August 9, 2012

What we've been up to :)

Sheesh! It's been a while! With all the traveling this summer, I almost feel like I need another vacation. :) It's good to be home. I have no plans to go anywhere for at least a month, maybe 2! 

We enjoyed a lovely 2 weeks away - first with DH's family, then with my family at the lake. C was a real trooper - no problems with all the driving (6-7 hours to Ohio, 3 hours to the lake, and 6-7 hours to get home (with a stop in Pittsburgh overnight to break up that drive). I even have a break from teaching these next 2 weeks - most students are on vacation, with the exception of my one adult who had a lesson last night. But, here are some photos from our trips...

C enjoyed his first few rides in his stroller - with the exception of one time at the lake, when I ended up carrying him for a while, while DH pushed the empty stroller, haha. :)

The lake is always relaxing and perfect for naps...

We got in a lot of waterskiing and rides on the jet ski :)

C got ready for his first dip in the lake...

He wasn't sure what to think at first...

I'm so glad he will be able to enjoy this family tradition year after year! 

His bathtub was a little small... but it worked...

He loved the attention from his cousins, especially L - she was born the month DH & I were married!

Naptime continued to be popular...

 and we loved watching the sunsets each night...

Just having the whole family together is the best!

We hope you are having a wonderful summer too!!
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