When certain holidays come around, I struggle with teaching my students about them in a way that honors those who experienced great pain while not trashing those who were victorious in their efforts to conquer. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, but I can’t help but think of all the people who’ve been pushed aside and displaced as a result of the appearance of colonists.
In my classroom, I spent a lot of time this month teaching my kids about various Native American tribes. We looked at maps of tribal territories, read stories from the Lakota and Blackfoot tribes, talked about (and built) various types of tipis, played “memory,” with home made Native American symbol cards, talked about foods that Native Americans ate (and sorted them into food groups), and learned a few words from different tribes. I wanted to honor Native Americans for who they are as people, outside of and apart from their relations with colonists. I wanted my students to learn about Native American cultures without making the native Americans into some sort of cliche art project.
My friend Shannon at The After Crafter enjoys crafting with her toddler, and in the spirit of Thanksgiving and honoring all things Native American, I asked if she could share her totem pole crafts here on Whole Heart. I really love that she researched both the meaning of totem poles and the symbolism of the various animals used in her totem pole as part of creating her project. Here is some of what she learned:
“I️ have always had a fascination with totem poles. They look so mystic, like they are patiently waiting to reveal a library of stories to anyone willing to listen. When my friend spoke to me about doing a craft commemorating Native Americans, I knew immediately this is what I would make. Here are some neat things I found out:
🍗Totem poles are sculptures carved into large trees by only SIX tribes of indigenous peoples of the Northwest coast of North America.
🍖The poles are carved and painted with figures or animals that represent families or clans, and are believed to have spiritual significance as a guardian or helper.
🥐 Every color used on the poles have meanings, as do the figures carved on the poles. The Symbols for every animal or spirit carved on the pole also have meaning and when combined on the pole, in sequence, constitute a story, legend or myth.
While planning my pole I decided to let my daughter choose the four animals we would make. Just for fun I looked up the meaning of each animal totem to see what our story would be.
🐇: Pour your energy into creative pursuits
Those with a rabbit totem are spontaneous and unpredictable. They have fast reflexes, and good coordination. They are gentle and nurturing yet also clever and quick witted.
🦉: Listen to your inner voice and watch for signs that will guide you forward. Use wisdom.
🐻: It’s only when you can say a clear no that you can say a clear yes. Both are just as important in defining what your boundaries are. Those with a bear totem have great confidence and are seen as an authority figure.
🐘: You already have all the tools you need to accomplish what you desire, just go for it. Elephant totems are highly intelligent. Family and loyalty are important.
Making our totem pole was really fun and a great learning experience. Make sure to comment below and tell us your totem experiences!”
As a teacher, I love learning and teaching about various cultures and finding ways to honor them without voiding the authenticity and meaning behind the art form. I am grateful for the various Native cultures and I hope to continue learning about them, not just during the Thanksgiving season!
This post is, as titled, about the first trimester of my pregnancy. There are pictures and lots of details. If you’re struggling with IF and not in a good place – please do yourself a favor and skip this post!
Each day, I wonder about whether or not it will be easy to conceive a second time. It was such a struggle to pinpoint our reproductive issues and to conceive our first child, it startles me to think that this may be the only pregnancy that I get to experience in my lifetime! It would be wonderful to be able to successfully deliver this child and then have three or four more children, but life does not always work out the way we hope. I don’t want to take any of this experience for granted, and I don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to cherish what I’ve been given in the present moment. To that end, at the risk of becoming one of those blogs, I thought I would do a little update at the end of each trimester as a way to keep a brief record of the different experiences of this pregnancy.
Week 4: How We Found Out
Regular readers already know that I had been prescribed 200mg of progesterone to be taken every other day post ovulation, in the form of an intramuscular shot. Although I had stopped using the sympto-thermal method (aka tracking my basal body temperature each morning), I decided to pick that back up again while on the progesterone. I knew beforehand that progesterone can mimic pregnancy, so when I began to feel certain pregnancy symptoms (shortness of breath, extreme fatigue, breast tenderness, etc) I chalked it up to the progesterone. My chart looked better than it had in years, and still, I refused to get my hopes up. I have known people to take progesterone supplements for many cycles before getting pregnant, why would mine work on the first try?
I remember emailing a picture of my chart to my mother, and telling her that if I were not on progesterone, I would strongly suspect pregnancy. I explained the chart to her and we were both excited that – at the very least – the chart was improving my cycles. The following day, I woke up feeling different. I’m not sure how to explain it, but something was off. My period had not started yet, my temperatures were still high, and I was tired of having to convince myself that I was not pregnant. I woke my husband and told him that I wanted to test, and as soon as the sun came up we went out to purchase the HPT. On the way home, I made a joke that if it was positive I would look a pinterest all day, and if it was negative, I would just do laundry and watch Netflix to bury my sorrows. He chuckled as we returned home and I went into the bathroom to take the test.
Suddenly a sense of hesitation washed over me. ‘This is stupid,’ I thought. ‘You won’t be pregnant and you’ll probably get your period in a few hours. You’re wasting your time and your money.’ I believed my negativity, and after taking the test I chickened out – not wanting to read it – and left it in the bathroom as I went to cook breakfast. After eating, I told my husband that I couldn’t go in and look at it. He had to do it. So he got up and went to look at the test, while I went to hide. When he found me, he held out the test and said,
“I guess you’ll be looking at pinterest all day.”
I’m not even going to try to describe what that moment felt like. We decided to nickname the baby Chocobo. My mother hates that nickname, but I got it from the Final Fantasy game series. There is an animal in the games called a ‘Chocobo’ that I always thought was so cute. In times past, I would say to friends, “Let’s go, Chocobo!” as a term of endearment. My husband liked the nickname as well, and we have even given nicknames to the nickname – chocobaby, chocs, chococo, chocoberry – we make them up as we go. I can understand why people think the name is not “cute,” but we like it and until we know the gender – it’s what we are sticking with!
Weeks 5-10: Medicine, Moving, and Morning Sickness
I was prescribed 200mg of Prometrium daily – a progesterone suppository that would keep me from miscarrying due to progesterone related issues in the first trimester. I was told to take the suppository every night until week 13. Let me tell you, suppositories are gross. They leak. They smell. And they keep babies alive. So I was happy to do whatever was necessary.
At the same time, my husband’s job promoted and relocated him to a different state. We lived in hotels for two weeks, which was pretty stressful for me. Living in a hotel in a different state where you don’t know anyone or anything about the area got lonely at times, and also meant no home-cooked food! All of the restaurant food I ate during those two weeks was getting to me. I was feeling lethargic and heavy. Between living in a hotel and taking these suppositories every day – I felt crowded, lethargic, and icky all the time. Thankfully, we found a place to live. I was able to start cooking again, and we were able to get all of our stuff out of our old home and into our new one.
I started experiencing more consistent pregnancy symptoms around week 7 or 8. I threw up quite a bit, got most of my nausea and “morning” sickness in the evenings, became intolerant of all dairy products, experienced extreme all-day exhaustion, and had trouble walking around or doing small household chores without getting out of breath or feeling faint/weak. Sleeping started to become a problem for me as well. I normally sleep on my stomach, and after week 6 or so that was no longer comfortable. I began sleeping on my back around week 7, but by week 9 – I had to start sleeping on my sides. I have never been comfortable sleeping on my side, and it has been tough to get a good night’s sleep. My shoulders, knees, and hips are often either very sore or completely numb as a result of how I have been sleeping. Still, I think that my symptoms are pretty mild compared to some of the things that I have heard others go through. I have made it a practice to express gratefulness and pray for an infertile friend every time I feel sick or uncomfortable, because I know that there are still so many women waiting to have these experiences. And, because I know what it feels like to be the woman reading about pregnancy discomforts and wishing for them.
During these weeks, I had my first two ultrasounds. One at week 7 and the other at week 9. At the week 9 ultrasound, the tech told us that we have a very active baby. I didn’t know babies began moving around so early, but apparently Chocobo was moving like crazy. We were actually able to record the movement on my phone, which was pretty neat. I can’t wait until I can actually feel the movements! I think seeing Chocobo on the screen and in these pictures really helped me to start getting it into my head that this is not some kind of amazing dream – this is actually happening! I feel so humbled and undeserving, other women have waited longer than I. Yet, I am so grateful for this gift.
Weeks 11-13: ER Visit, Mother’s Day, and Stopping Progesterone
Everything went smoothly until week 11, when I went to the bathroom and saw that I was bleeding – a lot! To be honest, it wasn’t an overwhelming amount of blood, but it was bright red and way more blood than I felt comfortable with. I called my OB, whose office was closing, and was instructed that I could go to the ER. We sat in the ER for hours before finally being seen. On one hand I feared the worst, but on the other hand, I felt very calm and at peace. Whatever the outcome, I know that God is always sovereign, always faithful, and always in control. One of my favorite verses in the Bible says that “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” I thought about this verse while in the ER, and reminded myself that our child is God’s creation and God’s child – only loaned to us. Nothing would happen to Chocobo, except what God allowed, and I resolved to trust God’s sovereignty, even if our night ended in tragedy.
Thankfully though, everything was fine. Chocobo was moving around so much that the tech had trouble getting the heart rate. Choco finally sat still, with the exception of one of his/her arms moving back and forth across the screen. The tech joked that Chocobo was giving us a little wave. This was the second time that a tech told us we had a very active child on our hands. After seeing the tech, we met with a doctor who said that mine was the first perfect ultrasound he’d seen in the ER in three years!
I continued to bleed and spot on and off for the next few weeks, which still makes me nervous, but at my most recent appointment I was told that everything looks absolutely perfect, and that some women spot frequently during their pregnancies with no explanation and with nothing actually wrong. So, I am trying to take comfort in that.
We went home to celebrate Mother’s Day with our moms, and it was kind of surreal to realize that I am a mother, too. I started showing around week 10, and during the Mother’s Day weekend, I got a few comments about how I have “popped.”
By the time week 13 rolled around, we were headed back to another doctor’s appointment where I was told to stop the progesterone! As much as I hated those suppositories and was happy to ditch them, it definitely made me feel uneasy to not take the medicine! Especially as I have continued to have on and off brown spotting since week 11, I felt that stopping the progesterone might be a mistake. However, since I was told by 3 separate doctors to stop taking it, we stopped. I am hoping that the placenta will take over the way it is supposed to and produce enough progesterone for Chocobo to survive through the rest of this pregnancy!
One interesting fact about my pregnancy is that it has really given me more of a heart for adoption than I already had! I am so grateful and humbled to have gotten pregnant, and I wish that every child could be as loved – from the point of conception – as my child is. Since my own childhood I have wanted to adopt a child, but being pregnant has really deepened that desire. I want to give other children the chance to be cared for and celebrated the way Choco is blessed to be. I am trusting that God will allow us the safe delivery of this child, but regardless of the outcome of this pregnancy, I am so grateful that Chocobo is so loved, wanted, and cherished even now – before his or her arrival into the world.
If only all children in the world could be so fortunate.
Recently I was in a conversation in which someone asked what each person’s favorite scriptures for infertility were. I have plenty of favorite scriptures, but I passed on answering the question because I hadn’t ever thought about favorite infertility scriptures. In general, I don’t like taking scripture out of the context in which it was written and randomly applying it to my life! At the same time, I know that the Bible carries truths that can be used by anyone, in any situation, at any time. So I thought (not too) long and (not too) hard about the scriptures that have resonated with me the most through these last few years of infertility, and – if you are currently sinking in the gaping abyss that is barrenness – I hope that these several scriptures will encourage you, too!
“How long, Oh Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O Lord my God! Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death, and my enemy will say, “I have prevailed”; my foes will rejoice because I am shaken. But I trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, for He has dealt bountifully with me.”
When you have been trying to get pregnant for years, and women all around you seem to be able get pregnant simply by washing the dishes with their husbands, you start to wonder “How long shall my [infertility] be exalted over me?” This psalm reminds me of Rachel in Genesis, when she said to her husband, “Give me children, or I’ll die!” It can be that way, sometimes. And that’s normal. But this Psalm reminds us to trust in God’s steadfast love. No matter how badly you feel, God hasn’t forgotten you. And it reminds us to rejoice in His salvation. Ultimately, our lives are not about us. They are about Christ and His mission to restore our world. Whatever tragedies happen to me in this life seem so insignificant when I think of the fact that I will live eternally in a perfect world. And I’m grateful to Jesus for making that possible!
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. May the name of the Lord be praised.”
A huge question that humanity has always asked is why bad things happen to good people. Job had just received the news that all of his children, servants, donkeys, sheep, and camels had been killed, stolen, and burned in ludicrous freak accidents and random invasions. He had literally lost everything he loved and everything he owned in one short afternoon. But Job was a good person. God Himself had referred to Job as “blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” The truth is, no one can escape tragedy. Even Jesus faced tragedy as He was crucified. And yet, Job’s response to his loss is that he is going to praise the Lord. I honestly can’t answer the question of why infertility happens to wonderful people who would make amazing parents, while those who do not want or respect their children are easily getting ‘knocked up’ all the time. But I love the example that Job sets. God’s way of doing things rarely makes sense to us. Nevertheless, He is an all-knowing God and He knows what He is doing. In the end, God restored Job to a position that was better than the one he’d had before. And whether in this life or the next, God will do that for us too.
2 Corinthians 4:16-17
“So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.”
When I think of all the different types of illnesses in the world – and specifically illnesses that relate to or cause infertility – I think about the body wasting away. I often feel like my own body is wasting away. I used to have so much more energy, I used to be able to stay up late at night, work long hours, play sports, and take long walks (or runs!) without getting tired. These days, I don’t get through half a day without a chest pain, or a muscle spasm, or an ache somewhere on my body. I feel sad for friends of mine whose younger years were filled with so many medical issues that they were unable to carry children and are now past the point of ability (or desire) to do so. I sometimes feel guilty for having hope that I will one day carry my own child, when it seems so unfair to those who’ve never had that opportunity. If I get pregnant, how would that make them feel? But, when we focus more on what we cannot see (our inner nature), we realize that we all have our challenges that can help strengthen us. And these “slight momentary afflictions” are not the end of our stories. The hardships we face as infertiles – and in life in general – are preparing for us an “eternal weight of glory,” if we can learn to have the right attitude. God will redeem our stories, regardless of whether or not they end in pregnancy. So, don’t lose heart.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God.”
Paul (the author of Corinthians) is the King of making sentences longer than they need to be, but this passage is simply a reminder that when we go through various challenges in our lives – we are supposed to use our experiences in order to help others who are going through the same thing. Our world is so heart-broken. There are so many people with so many different types of challenges and traumas – and we can’t do something about everything. But we can do something. At the heart of the gospel is the story of a God who suffers in order to lighten our burdens. And we can live out that example each day as we suffer on the behalf of others, using what we have suffered through as an opportunity to lighten the load of another person.
Our steps are made firm by the Lord, when He delights in our way; though we stumble, we shall not fall headlong, for the Lord holds us by the hand.”
It’s a lot of responsibility to think that, with everything you are going through already, you have to find the emotional energy to continue to trust and worship God, focus more on the whole of His story than on your personal pain, and tap into your sufferings in order to help someone else! Actually it’s impossible to be able to do all of that consistently. Sure, you’ll have your good days, but you will have bad days. You will have fits of extreme envy. You will be angry. You will feel spiritually dead. You will have pity parties. But if the Lord delights in your way, though you stumble, you will not fall headlong. He holds you by the hand. You don’t have to be perfect. He already is.
I hope that one or more of my favorite infertility verses has encouraged you in your journey to parenthood! Comment below or on Facebook to share your favorite infertility (or general hard-times) verses with me! I’d love to hear it!
If you’ve been trying to conceive for any extended length of time – and if others know about (or suspect) your struggle – it is guaranteed that you’ve heard some pretty crazy, insensitive, and downright insulting comments from others about your situation. Most of the time these commenters mean well. Yet, despite their good intentions, their comments come across as completely ignorant, and leave you in the awkward position of wondering how to respond. There are tons of articles on some of the most frequent infertility advice taboos, so I’m not going to get into those. Instead, I’m going to share a few of the craziest things my infertile friends have had said to them. I’m not generally a snarky or sarcastic person, but sometimes the things that come out of people’s mouths are horrifyingly amazing. Things like:
“You’re blessed, you can’t have a bunch of S#!**% kids!”
Yes. This is actually something someone said. And it’s such a terrible thing to say that it’s almost comical. Almost. Aside from the fact that you’re trash talking your own children (which says a lot more about the tree than the apple – *wink, wink*), an infertile person would take your bad kids over no kids any.day.of.the.week. Maybe it’s just your parenting that sucks. Food for thought. I hate to break it to you, but if you think your kids are “crappy,” and want to slander them – a person with infertility is not going to be the most sympathetic ear. Unless you’re offering to let us adopt them.
“We like inviting you to hang out with us because you don’t have kids, so it’s easier to make plans.”
I am so happy that one of the biggest tragedies of my life works out well for your social schedule.
“At least now you know you can get pregnant!” – said to someone after a miscarriage.
“Yay! I can get pregnant but not actually have a baby! This is going to be so muchfun!!” Said no one. Ever.
All jokes aside, I do understand the basic sentiment behind this comment. But it completely invalidates the life of the child that was lost. Unborn children are not “tester babies” designed to discern whether or not a woman can get pregnant. These children are loved and yearned for. Their mothers begged God, cried over them, and physically ached for them before they ever came into existence. For the infertile community, the sleepless nights of parenthood begin long before a child enters the picture. A miscarriage is just as painful a loss as the death of a close friend or relative. If you’ve ever thought of saying something like this – do your friend a favor and keep it to yourself.
“Maybe the end of the world is coming and you’re one of the blessed ones that won’t have kids.”
Um. Okay. Moving on.
“Maybe you don’t want to be a mom badly enough.”
Most of us infertile people (who want children) spend so much time wanting to become parents that it consumes our thoughts and lives (admittedly unhealthy). We spend more money and time to become parents than our fertile counterparts with biological children. We become so engrossed in charting cervical mucus, planning intercourse, knowing our basal body temperatures, and stocking up on home pregnancy tests and ovulation predictor kits. We take fertility medicines, give ourselves shots and suppositories, have invasive surgeries, overhaul our diets and exercise routines, and avoid simple pleasures and conveniences like that fancy mojito or popping that excedrin for a headache, just in case. We will go through hell and high-water for these babies that we may never even have. We’ve never wanted anything more.
“Why don’t you just get a uterus transplant!?” (said to someone who does not have a uterus).
Great idea! I’ll get right on that! In the meantime, why don’t you educate yourself about MRKH and other causes of permanent infertility!
“God gave you infertility/God is punishing you/God wants to teach you a lesson.”
This is a horrible thing to say, especially in a world where there are so many cases of child abuse and neglect. I personally know a family in which the abusive father murdered his toddler son – the youngest of his four children! If infertility were simply God’s means of preventing bad or immature parents from having kids, why would He allow someone like that to have four children while there are countless wanna-be moms and dads who would give anything to love and cherish the gift of a child? It just doesn’t work that way. The Bible says that the Lord causes the sun to shine and the rain to pour on both the good and the bad (Matthew 5:45). If a person went into an oncologist’s office and told all the patients that their cancer was a punishment from God, given to them in order to teach them a lesson, no one would think that was motivational or enlightening. The same goes for infertility. Our bodies are broken as a result of the broken world in which we live. While there are times when God uses our troubles to spiritually mature us, God does not go around doling out diseases and bodily dysfunction for the sake of “teaching lessons.” More accurately, it is God’s kindness toward us that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4).
As a general rule, I hate to complain about something without offering ways to make said thing better. I know that infertility is an uncomfortable topic for all involved, which is often the reason that people say such awkward things! Stay tuned for Part 2, in which I will list some helpful things that you can say or do for an infertile friend!
What’s the craziest thing anyone’s ever said to you about your infertility?
After what has seemed like an eternity of having unexplained infertility, I am kind of relieved to have finally been given some solid clues as to what might be going on with my defective reproductive system.
My husband and I got married in 2008, and stopped using birth control in 2010. I felt like God was convicting me of my usage of birth control, and although I didn’t quite understand why He didn’t want me using it – I threw it out.
I thought for sure, after getting rid of my contraceptives, that I would get pregnant right away. At that time, I wanted to get pregnant and was open to it – but was also deathly afraid of what a child would mean for our finances and our (then) struggling marriage. Still, I knew that God had spoken to me about ditching the birth control – so I did it, thinking that I’d probably get pregnant soon and was eager to see how God would provide for us in the event that we had a child.
I have always wanted children – both biological and adopted. And I have, from the time I was 7 years old, felt a call to motherhood on my life. But it was during my first year off of birth control that my desire for motherhood grew exponentially. One month, I was two weeks late for my period and had convinced myself that I was pregnant. I waited as long as possible to test for pregnancy and was absolutely devastated when the test read negative. My first BFN (of many). I cried in a way that is totally out of character for me, and it hit me that my lifelong desire to become a mother had reached heights that I had not known were possible. We continued to spend the rest of 2010 and 2011 not trying and not preventing. And every month, my hopes were crushed at the beginning of each new cycle.
In 2012, my husband and I finally agreed to begin trying. Our marriage, at this point, had grown very strong and he felt ready to do more than just “not prevent.” This was music to my ears. Perhaps, I thought, the reason we haven’t become pregnant yet is because our marriage was weak and we weren’t on the same page.
I naively believed that I would be holding a baby in my arms within the year. I began reading everything I could find on getting pregnant. I joined TTC (trying to concieve)websites, bought prenatal vitamins, and started charting my basal body temperature to pinpoint ovulation. And again, each month was a failed attempt. Failure after failure after failure, as the months grew into years.
It didn’t help that I studied children in school and was working with children each day for a living. Over the years, my prayers went from “Please God, let me get pregnant this time!” to “Okay God, let me get pregnant, but help me to still be grateful even if I’m not pregnant this time,” to “God, help me learn to deal appropriately with childlessness,” and finally to “Whatever you want God, let it be and help me to accept it.”
I finally accepted the possibility of infertility, and went to a doctor in 2013. She was incredibly rude. She brushed off everything I had to say, rushed me through the consultation, and shooed me out of her office with the advice to “just keep trying.” I didn’t have the guts to see another doctor until early 2014. She was a bit more helpful. She ran two blood tests and ordered an HSG (hysterosalpignogram), but in the end she diagnosed me with unexplained infertility and said there was nothing more she could do for me but send me to a fertility treatment center for IUI or IVF.
I wasn’t ready to give up on the idea that I should be able to get pregnant naturally, and I happened to meet some women who told me about NaPro – a system that I could use to find the underlying cause of my infertility. I looked it up and found a Fertility Care Practitioner who helped me learn a new method of charting and of fertility awareness. It is through this program that I have finally been given what seems to be the reason for my infertility – endometriosis.
Endometriosis is a condition in which the endometrial lining that normally grows inside of the uterus begins to grow outside of the uterus. I don’t have an official diagnosis, because that can only be made through a laparoscopy, but during a recent physical exam, my NaPro physician said that she felt what is likely endometriosis in my pelvic area.
On one hand, it’s bad news. I don’t know how severe it is, it’s a disease that can only be managed – never cured, and more than likely I will need surgery to remove whatever tissue build up is going on in my abdominopelvic cavity. On the other hand, it’s good news. It means there’s something to fix. It also explains other unresolved health problems that I have had for years, and for which I have not been able to pinpoint a cause.
Honestly, I entered 2015 in low spirits. For the past (nearly) 5 years I have waited, and hoped, and prayed to (what has often seemed like) a wall. I have watched friends get married after me and grow their families before me. I have started my period while at baby showers. I have received convincing – but false – prophecies about getting pregnant. I have watched friends’ babies grow. I have gone to work as a preschool teacher, day in and day out, with smiles on my face and welts on my heart from the emotional beatings I’ve been taking these past 5 years. I had begun planning a life without biological children.
So, though it may seem like bad news – this potential of having endometriosis gives me so much hope. I feel like we have made some progress toward expanding our biological family.
My next appointment is in February. And I don’t know what will happen from here on out, but I am just so grateful to God that I finally have something to work on.
Perhaps I will actually get a turn to love my own child.
For most of my life, I have thought of self-denial as denying myself things that are pleasurable, but not spiritually beneficial for me. My first experience with self-denial came as a pre-teenager, when my mother wouldn’t let me listen to the type of music I wanted to listen to. Her explanation was that it caused me to become desensitized to a value system that was not Biblical. She did the same with movies and TV shows, telling my sisters and me what we could and couldn’t watch based on whether or not it (as she would say)”glorified sin.”
When I heard the scripture where Jesus said that his followers must “deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow [him],” I naturally (and rightly) assumed it meant that a person who wanted to follow Jesus must repent of their misdeeds, stop living according to their feelings and desires, and strive to live according to the standards that Christ laid out for us. That sounds legit, right?
But I am learning that self-denial does not always mean a rejection of fun but spiritually damaging habits. Sometimes, the self-denial that Christ asks of us is much more costly.
I normally don’t get a chance to attend church on Sunday, but today, by some random twist of events, I did. One of the songs we sang this morning was a pretty popular hymn called “It is well with my soul.” The story behind the song is equally well-known. The author (Horatio Spafford) wrote this song, after a string of tragedies in which he lost his son to scarlet fever, lost his wealth in the Chicago fire, and then lost his four daughters in a ship accident.
“Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say: it is well. It is well with my soul.”
I’ve sung this song a million times, but today it actually meant something. I am beginning to accept my “lot” as an infertile. Of course, it makes me tremendously sad to think that I may never bear children. I daresay I am battling an increasingly severe depression. I am living through what I see as the death of a life that I have always hoped for. But God has deigned this to be, so I must deny myself, take up my cross, and follow Him – whatever my lot.
When I think now of self-denial, I think not just of the trivial pleasures that some of us have such a hard time giving up. I think not just of doing the right thing, even when you feel like doing the wrong thing. I think of giving up your entire life – your plans, your ideas, your hopes, your goals – letting God destroy you for the greater good of His purposes. Self-denial is about giving up control.
I still have a long way to go. Infertility is the thorn in my side that will be a cause of heaviness and grief until I either have children, or die. But I know that my life is not about me or my plans – so I will deny myself, and I will take up my cross, and I will follow Him.
And I hope I will eventually be able to say, like Horatio, that it is well with my soul.
Every October that passes without a child is another year that’s gone by since my husband and I began trying to concieve. There are so many lectures, songs, and scriptures that encourage us to worship You through the most difficult times of our lives. And although I’ve matured a lot during this process, I can’t say that I always handle my struggle to have children in the most spiritually mature way. In theory, it sounds like a great idea to worship You despite my challenges. On a day like today, when I’m home alone cleaning my apartment or working on a blog post, I can listen to all the uplifting music I want. I can post scripture verses all over my house. I can avoid looking at Facebook or Instagram where I am sure to see pictures of everyone’s children or pregnancy announcements. I can pray prayers of thanksgiving for as long as I have the time. It’s so easy to do that.
But eventually I have to leave home. And when I do, simple, everyday tasks become harsh reminders that I cannot produce children. My body is broken, indefinitely. And I have no way of knowing whether or not it will heal. Only You know. That’s when it gets hard.
Seeing the love and pride my students’ parents have for their children is hard. I may never get the chance to experience those feelings for my own child. And yet, I know You’ve called me to continue working with children. Fighting with insurance about expensive medical prodecures that aren’t considered “necessary” is hard. Why can’t they see that I am only trying to get my body to do what You created it to be able to do? And, if You created it to be able to function in this way, why won’t it? Answering the “Why don’t you have kids yet?” question, and rebounding from the “You should be glad you don’t have kids…” comment is hard. A trip to the store or a walk around my neighborhood and seeing all of the expecting mothers and young families is hard.
Watching my husband play with our friends’ kids, knowing that it’s my body’s fault that he doesn’t have his own kids to play with. That’s hard. He may never get the chance to become a father, because of me. I have robbed him.
In theory, I am supposed to have a worshipful attitude during times like these. But in practice, those are trigger moments for me. Those are moments that throw me into deep holes out of which it may take several days to climb. Then, once I get out, I am often immediately faced with another such trigger moment. It’s a hopeless, relentless, never-ending, life-consuming cycle.
But this is the path down which You are leading me.
I don’t want you to think I am being ungrateful. Some people my age have lost their husbands. I know others who are facing terminal illnesses. I know people who have slept on park benches at night. I thank you everyday that I haven’t had to face those things, yet. And if Job could agree to trust you despite losing everyone he loved and everything he owned, I can surely follow his example and do the same.