Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Infertility Awareness Week

Infertility Awareness Week, 2014: A Catholic Perspective 

One in six couples will experience infertility at some point in their marriage. Infertility is medically defined as the inability to conceive after 12 cycles of “unprotected” intercourse or 6 cycles using “fertility-focused” intercourse. A couple who has never conceived has “primary infertility” and a couple who has conceived in the past but is unable to again has “secondary infertility”. Many couples who experience infertility have also experienced miscarriage or pregnancy loss.

This week, April 20 – 26, 2014 is National Infertility Awareness Week.

We, a group of Catholic women who have experienced infertility, would like to take a moment to share with you what the experience of infertility is like, share ways that you can be of support to a family member or friend, and share resources that are helpful.

If you are experiencing infertility, please know you are not alone. You are loved and prayed for and there are resources to help you with the spiritual, emotional, and medical aspects of this journey.</ span>

The Experience of Infertility

In the beginning of trying to conceive a child, there is much hope and anticipation; for some, even a small fear of “what if we get pregnant right away?” There is planning of how to tell your husband and when you’d announce to the rest of the family. It is a joyful time that for most couples results in a positive pregnancy test within the first few months. However, for one in six couples, the months go by without a positive test and the fears and doubts begin to creep in. At the 6th month of trying using fertility-focused intercourse (using Natural Family Planning), the couple knows something is wrong and is considered “infertile” by doctors who understand the charting of a woman’s pattern of fertility.  At the 9th month of trying, the month that, had they conceived that first month, a baby would have been arriving, is often the most painful of the early milestones. At the 12th month mark the couple “earns” the label from the mainstream medical community as “infertile”.

As the months go by, the hopes and dreams are replaced with fears, doubts, and the most invasive doctors’ appointments possible. As a Catholic couple faithful to the teachings of the Church, we are presented by secular doctors with options that are not options for us and are told things like “you’ll never have children” and “you have unexplained infertility”; by our Catholic doctors we are told to keep praying and to have hope as they roll up their sleeves and work hard to figure out the cause of our infertility, with each visit asking, “How are you and your husband doing with all of this?”

We find it hard to fit in. We have faith and values that are different than our secular culture, but our childlessness (primary infertility) or small family (secondary infertility) makes us blend in with the norm. We have faith and values that are in line with the teachings of our Church, but our daily life looks so much different than the others who share those values and that makes us stand out in a way that we would rather not. We are Catholic husbands and wives living out our vocation fully. Our openness to life does not come in the form of children; it takes on the form of a quiet “no” or “not yet” or “maybe never” from God each month as we slowly trod along. Our openness to and respect for life courageously resists the temptations presented to us by the secular artificial reproductive technology industry.

Often times our friends and family do not know what to say to us, and so they choose to not say anything. Our infertility stands like a great big elephant in the room that separates us from others. Most of the time, we don’t want to talk about it, especially not in public or in group settings because it is painful and we will often shed tears. We realize it is difficult and ask that you realize this difficulty as well. We will do our best to be patient and to explain our situation to those who genuinely would like to know, but please respect our privacy and the boundaries we establish, as not only is infertility painful, it is also very personal.

One of the hardest experiences of infertility is that it is cyclical. Each month we get our hopes up as we try; we know what our due date would be as soon as we ovulate; we know how we would share the news with our husband and when and how we would tell our parents. We spend two weeks walking a fine line between hope and realism, between dreaming and despairing. When our next cycle begins – with cramps and bleeding and tears – we often only have a day or two before we must begin taking the medications that are meant to help us conceive. There is little to no time to mourn the dream that is once again not achievable; no time to truly allow ourselves to heal from one disappointment before we must begin hoping and trying again. We do not get to pick what days our hormones will plummet or how the medications we are often taking will affect us. We do not get to pick the day that would be “best” for us for our next cycle to start. We are at the mercy of hope, and while that hope keeps us going it is also what leaves us in tears when it is not realized.

Our faith is tested. We ask God “why?”, we yell at Him; we draw closer to God and we push Him away. Mass brings us to tears more often than not and the season of Advent brings us to our knees. The chorus of “Happy Mother’s Day” that surrounds us at Mass on the second Sunday in May will be almost more devastating than the blessing of mothers itself. We know that the Lord is trustworthy and that we can trust in Him; sometimes it is just a bigger task than we can achieve on our own.</ span>

  • Pray for us. Truly, it is the best thing that anyone can do.
  • Do not make assumptions about anything - not the size of a family or whether or not a couple knows what is morally acceptable to the Church. Most couples who experience infertility do so in silence and these assumptions only add to the pain. If you are genuinely interested, and not merely curious, begin a genuine friendship and discover the truth over time.
  • Do not offer advice such as “just relax," “you should adopt," “try this medical option or that medical option” – or really give any advice. Infertility is a symptom of an underlying medical problem; a medical problem that often involves complicated and invasive treatment to cure.
  • Do not assume that we will adopt. Adoption is a call and should be discerned by every married couple. Infertility does not automatically mean that a couple is meant to adopt.
  • Ask how we are doing and be willing to hear and be present for the “real” answer. Often times we answer, “OK” because that’s the easy, “safe” answer. Let us know that you are willing to walk through this the tough time with us. Frequently we just need someone who is willing to listen and give us a hug and let us know we are loved.
  •  Offer a Mass for us or give us a prayer card or medal to let us know you are praying for us. Just please refrain from telling us how we must pray this novena or ask for that saint’s intercession. Most likely we’ve prayed it and ask for the intercession daily. Please feel free to pray novenas and ask for intercession on our behalf.
  •  Be tolerant and patient. The medications we take can leave us at less than our best; we may not have the energy or ability to do much. Please also respect us when we say "no, thank you" to food or drinks. We may have restricted diets due to our medical conditions and/or medications.</ li>
  • Share the good news of your pregnancy privately (preferably in an email or card or letter and not via text, IM chat, phone call or in person) and as soon as possible. Please understand that we are truly filled with joy for you; any sadness we feel is because we have been reminded of our own pain and we often feel horrible guilt over it as well. Please be patient and kind if we don’t respond immediately, attend your baby shower or don’t “Like” all of your Facebook updates about your children. Again, it is really about us, not you.
  • Help steer group conversations away from pregnancy and parenting topics when we are around. We like to be able to interact in a conversation to which we can contribute meaningfully.
  • Do not ask when we are going to “start a family” (we started one the day we got married).
  • Do not ask which one of us is the “problem” – we are either fertile or infertile as a couple.
  • Do not say things like "I know you'll be parents some day," or "It will happen, I know it will!" Along the same lines, please do not tell us stories of a couple you know who struggled for years and went on to conceive or to "just adopt and then you'll get pregnant" (this one actually only happens a small percentage of the time). Only God knows what our future holds, please pray with us that we are able to graciously accept His will for our lives.
  • Do not pity us. Yes, we have much sorrow. Yes, we struggle. But, we place our faith in God, lean on the grace of our marriage, and trust that someday, whether here on earth or in heaven, we will see and understand God’s plan.


Bloggers who contributed to this article (those with an * have children after primary infertility or are experiencing secondary infertility. They are marked as such so that if you aren’t up for possibly seeing baby/child pictures today, you can meet them on a day when you are, but please do take the time to go and visit them.):

Sunday, April 20, 2014

WIWS Easter Edition

Happy Easter! He is risen! Alleluia!

Today was Ellie's first big outing to a very populated place (save a trip to the doctor's office). She's officially one month old and we're celebrating her one month birthday and Easter today with a big lunch, lots of yummy treats, and a small easter egg hunt. And in case you're wondering how a one month old does an Easter Egg Hunt...she doesn't. We'll just put some eggs around her while she does tummy time and call it good.

Outfit for Mass

Baby girl's first tutu. 

And now for the whole family:

Ellie: Carter's Sweater dress (hand me down from a friend)
Ruffly onsesie (another hand me down)
Me:  remarkably stretchy Calvin Klein dress I scored at Goodwill last year
Shirt: Ralph Lauren from Goodwill

Well that's all I have folks! Head to FLAP for more! 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Lenten Chaos

My Lent did not go the way that I planned. I had decided that I would do 40 bags as my penitential act for the season and that it would coincide perfectly with nest/getting the house ready for Ellie who was due just 4 days after Easter. My house was going to be so clean and decluttered just in time to welcome a little girl that would certainly clutter it right back up.

Well as I'm sure you're aware...that didn't work out. Ellie needed to come right smack dab in the middle of Lent and it really threw my plans for spiritual growth off.

Fortunately God doesn't need to work around what we plan. I always knew that becoming a mother would change my outlook on life, on myself, on what's important but I had no idea the changes that would occur so deeply and so quickly. The entire experience of her birth humbled me in such a way I'm still working to process it all.

And even though it was nothing like I planned it has been one of my most spiritually fruitful Lenten seasons. I've thought more about God's love and His sacred Passion in the past 4 weeks than I probably have my whole life. I've offered my suffering up with His on the cross. I've literally given my body to be cut open to ensure the safe arrival of my daughter. I have come to better know what unconditional and truly sacrificial love is. A love that I thought I understood from the graces we've received through marriage but have found we've only begun to learn what that kind of love means.

I have never felt more connected with our Holy Mother either. Every late night feeding or "Why won't she just quit crying and just sleep for like 1 minute!!" freak out I think of our Blessed Mother comforting Jesus and again do my best to join my suffering with hers. What a gift Jesus gave us when He looked down from the cross and bestowed her as mother to us all!

Of course, it hasn't all been sufferings and trials but it's much easier to focus on the hard times and how to emulate our Blessed Mother during them than it is when she's peacefully sleeping. Though contemplating the human aspect of Mary and imagining how she reacted when Jesus first smiled, or made a silly face. Thinking about how I call for Steven "Quick!! Look!!" and imagining her calling for Joseph in a similar way. It warms my heart to think of those intimate family moments they shared.

This definitely isn't the Lent I planned on having but I'm so thankful for the chaos.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

New Mom Five Favorites

1. Hands free pumping bra: AKA God's gift to pumping moms. These things are ridiculously expensive for what they are (sports bra with holes in it) but they are so worth it! Pumping went from being the most frustrating part of my day to tolerable. I mean I still don't love pumping but at least if Ellie's crying and Jack's barking and I'm thirsty I can at least attempt to put out some fires.

2. Moby: Worth its weight in gold!! We were told not to try too much "training" with Ellie about being held vs sleeping because as a preemie she just isn't there yet. So we hold her a lot, it saves her energy so she can focus on growing and eating when she needs to. Unfortunately that made getting anything else done a real pain. Well thanks to the Moby I can do all my important things like eating kettle chips while browsing imgur without ever having to put her down. (And occasionally I'll get some laundry folded.)
She normally does better with it than this.
3. Gumdrop pacifier: I don't know if it's just because that's what she was used to in the hospital but she LOVES this pacifier. She spits out a Soothie most of the time but can't get enough of the gumdrop. I think maybe having the cut out for her nose makes it more comfortable. I honestly don't know nor do I really care as it keeps her content (and helps her digest her food. Booyah!)
Basically my everyday attire.
4. Robes: Oh my gosh I love a robe. I have two big warm fluffy ones that I've been rocking lately. They make for easy pumping/nursing access and they're super comfy. Plus they aren't tight or form fitting which is nice for my post partum self conscious self.
5. All the food: Seriously...I can't quit eating. Between pumping and just being awake a few extra hours each day I am hangry roughly 90% of the time I'm awake. I went to Aldi and Price Chopper this weekend so that I could stock my pantry with all my favorite snacks and meals (read kettle chips, Chips Ahoy, and some baby carrots to make myself feel a little healthier). I am constantly snacking on something. I guess I'm just jealous of Ellie's every 3 hour eating schedule. :)

So that's what I know. All the things I thought I'd love (boppy, swaddlers, sleep sacks) have been nice but definitely not as nice as giving me the ability to pump, pacify Ellie, eat kettle chips, and wear basically a big fleece blanket at the same time all day long.

Head to Hallie's for more favorites!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Love at first sight?

I remember reading posts from people about how as soon as they saw that second line on a pregnancy test their entire life changed. They were overwhelmed with love for the tiny little person growing inside of them. Their prolife beliefs convictions were further impressed on their hearts and they grew leaps and bounds in their faith life because they could finally understand the unconditional live that God has for each of us.

Well it didn't happen like that for me. We were trying to get pregnant for a bit so it's not like a positive pregnancy test was an unexpected shock for us. Instead we were desperate to see one, anxious to know we would be parents but still when I saw it I didn't get "that feeling." When I first heard her heartbeat...nothing. When I first saw her on the ultrasound and saw her little hands and toes and nose and even saw her heart beat...nada. When I first felt those little kicks and jabs...nope.

Even as we were in the OR and I first heard her cry or when they brought her to me for the first time...nothing. I mean I was happy and relieved that she was ok but I certainly wasn't overcome with emotion, stricken by the fact that I just fell unconditionally in love with this new little person. There was no Barney Stinson moment for my Ellie.

Not exactly how it went for me...

That really bothered me at first and I felt like I had to compensate in front of the nurses at the hospital so they would think I actually loved my daughter. Don't get me wrong, I do love my daughter...very much. It just took a little bit for me. My transition to being a mother has been more like a bringing a pot of water to a boil as opposed to turning on a gas grill. I love her and I love her more each day but it wasn't something that just happened instantaneously and that's how I thought it was supposed to happen. That's how I've seen other mothers react when I delivered their baby. But surely I'm not the only one who has seen their baby for the first time and not felt that immediate click?

I feel like I'm living in a state of disbelief...that I'll wake up from this dream and it'll be July before we ever got a positive pregnancy test. I honestly cannot believe that I have a daughter and that they let ME take her home to take care of her and raise her. Surely that is so absurd that it has to be a dream, right? As crazy as it is to trust us to raise this perfect, innocent, beautiful little girl I'm so excited to do it (and terrified, lots of terrified).

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

We're home!!

We got to come home on Friday! My mom came up for the weekend and helped us get a ton of the things done that we had meant to have done by the time she was born. (Ya know...things like having her pack and play set up, having diapers, carseats installed, a semblance of a nursery, really ambitious stuff). She even brought a ton of food for the freezer (which space in there is becoming a hot commodity as I apparently pump enough to feed a village). Plus we had two visits with the home health nurse over the weekend and Ellie is doing so well. She's already surpassed her birth weight (by over an ounce)! She's a whooping 5lb 7.7oz now. Anyways, we had a busy weekend but today is my first day at home with just her and I'm excited and terrified. It'll be nice to learn our schedule but man...what if I need help?!? She's a very intimidating 12 day old baby. Anyways, here are a few pictures from the first few days at home!

"Waving" bye to the hospital!

Leaving the hospital

She wasn't too sure about leaving.

Introducing the dogs.
They weren't too impressed.


Napping with dad.
Modeling her adorable outfit from Mandi 
She survived her first bath and only looks moderately scarred.

Thank you all for your continued prayers and for the unbelievable outpouring of support we've received. I came home from the hospital to so many packages and cards from all over the place from you all that I cried my postpartum eyes out (for the millionth time). Shocking, I know.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Update on Ellie

Ellie was born Thursday night via an urgent c-section due to...a lot of issues. I'll try and hash them out later if I get around to writing a birth story. Anyways, because she was only 35 weeks old and had meconium (poop) in her fluid when we ruptured, we (doctors included) were all pretty worried about how she would do on the outside.

Well Miss Elle has shown us all a thing or two. She's skinny and had problems holding her temperature at first so she needed to be in the special needs nursery in an incubator for the first few days but she never had to go to the NICU like we thought she may. She graduated from the special needs nursery on Sunday and has officially got to room in with us since then because she's been able to maintain her temperature.

She is so over the nursery!
As you can see though she has a tube going down her nose. Feeding is another issue she has because she's premature. She doesn't have enough fat on her to keep her warm or to be able to expend energy to eat so she's been eating via NG tube since birth as it takes almost no energy on her part to do. We did start breastfeeding (just to get her use to it) Friday morning but it takes a lot of energy for her to nurse so we were only able to do every other feed at the breast. Yesterday was a big day though as she got to start bottles. They don't want to discharge us if she's still requiring NG feeds so a bottle is the bridge. She rotates her feeds getting them from the breast, the bottle, then the NG tube and has been doing really well with them. Yesterday she got 3 bottles and she was able to take the entire feed from the second two bottles. HUGE step! She also nurses really well considering she's so young. She latched the first day and has been getting more and more coordinated with her sucking everyday! Baby girl knows how to eat! (She gets that from me.) 

It doesn't hurt that I have been a milk making machine. I'm serious, I think I could win a prize in the county fair at this rate. They had to bring me my own fridge for my room because I was making too much milk for their nursery fridge and crowding out all the other mom's milk. It's crazy.
Otherwise she appears to be completely healthy and we are praising God for that. We were prepared for the worst healthwise but have been blessed with a beautiful, healthy daughter. We so appreciate the prayers you all have said on our behalf and I'm certain they played a huge part in how healthy she is. Thank you so much.

Ellie says thanks! 

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