[Mommyhood Monday] The Story of Harry, Part III

In The Story of Harry Part I and Part II, we shared the back story on our fertility story.  Basically, I heard I may not be able to have kids, told Matt when we started dating, he was really awesome, we got married, eventually started trying to get pregnant and found it not coming so easily. We moved back to Texas from Vancouver, slowed life down a bit and pondered our options.

In Part II, I mentioned that fertility treatments were not an option for us.  To expand upon that a bit: as a couple, we were lucky that this was a required pre-marital topic of conversation.  Since my fertility was questionable, we talked about what would happen if we couldn’t get pregnant.  As I mentioned in Part I, in the 10+ years I had been given to consider my fertility I came to the conclusion that if I couldn’t get pregnant, then I was 100% called to adopt.  Did I want a sweet, soft baby with baby smells and baby sounds?  Of course I did.  But could I pay thousands and thousands of dollars for a baby that may not happen when there are children out there in need of love and a home?  I personally could not.  And neither could Matt.  And that was nice, to be on the same page.

Now this is a highly personal choice for every person and couple.  If I had not had years to ponder the possibilities, I know how quickly I would have continued to explore every other option.  In this day and age, we women are made to believe that we can do everything and we can do it whenever we want.  At a young age we are pointed to birth control in an effort to “control” our bodies and their natural functions (for our personal convenience or to mask the symptoms of other health irregularities).  Then, we go off of this medicine and expect quick results when we want it to do what we’ve told it not to do for a while.   And THEN we’re pointed to take more drugs and pay more money to get it to do that.  For every single person that’s experienced it, in any fashion, it’s sincerely tragic when it doesn’t happen.  For some, it calls you to question your womanhood and what you have to offer your spouse.  This was something I had always battled.   This is why Matt’s comment in Part I was so epic, “this world will not be deprived of a beautiful mom…perhaps only of beautiful babies.”  Throughout this time he reminded me of this, constantly.  So while we consider fertility to be a blessing…we also had to consider infertility to be a blessing.  All roads still led to a family and plenty of babies out there want one, too.  That was our personal choice.

So as we found ourselves home in Austin, we laid low and began to look toward adoption.  Because I turned down a job offer upon arrival in an effort to rest for a bit, my schedule was far less demanding than when we lived in Vancouver.  Now I was taking care of my nephews (my sister liked to refer to me as her “lady in waiting” in those days) and we were staying in, sleeping more, doing less.   Matt quit drinking caffeine and alcohol and boosted his Vitamin C, taking some of Dr. Shannon’s advice as a last-ditch effort, but I moved on from the daily tasks of charting and monitoring.

I was also fighting the urge to become bitter.  Accepting that God’s in charge doesn’t automatically prepare you for the emotions of His plan.   Embracing the idea of adoption was incredibly easy, but releasing myself from the idea of being pregnant certainly was not.  There were only three instances where I allowed myself to be vulnerable with close friends…to tell them how hard of a time I was having with our fertility test results.  Every single one of them found out they were pregnant within a matter of days.  For each of them I was thrilled and so truly happy.  That part came easy.  But facing a very likely reality that we would never get to experience this gift of biological parenthood, that was heartbreaking.  I didn’t let myself cry over it until I heard a pregnant couple complain about the inconveniences of morning sickness and food cravings.  That was too much for me.  I could be genuinely happy for you, but I was not in a place to sympathize with your pregnancy symptoms.  I excused myself and cried in the restaurant bathroom for 15 minutes.  That was my emotional low.

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Can I just say that the Infertility scene in the “Up” life sequence made me “ugly cry”?  Still does. 

Then in early April (four months since we’d moved back), I suddenly grew very lazy.  I had super low energy and felt a little queasy.  I wrote it off but then tried to count back to my most recent cycle and couldn’t.  I was going to dismiss it for a few days more but then remembered that my dear Diana mentioned me wearing an A-line bridesmaid dress for her August wedding.  Since she was going to pull the trigger on that pretty soon, I went to the grocery store for my sister and picked up a test (without telling her).  I went back to her house and took it.

Positive.

Back in Vancouver, a sweet nurse friend gave me about a couple dozen pregnancy tests when she found out we were “trying”.  I had gone through them during our efforts and taking them became a very sad experience.  I would wait until I was 5, 6, up to 10 days late…all negative.  This “positive” was hard-earned*.

I walked out of the bathroom, stunned, and showed my sister.  She had me turn around and take the other test in the box.  Another positive.  I panicked…”I’m on sabbatical…who will hire a pregnant woman…we’re not prepared for this!”  My sister reminded me of the logic that had carried Matt and me through so much, “everything happens according to a plan and you’re not in charge.”  Clearly.

I texted Matt, “Call me ASAP.”  He called me, out of breath, “Are you…?”  Apparently, unlike me,  Matt had not stopped counting the days.  He had been suspicious before I even thought it an option but didn’t bring it up for fear of dashed hopes. Such a faithful man.

We were pregnant.  We were going to have a baby.  There were many challenges to face and come through, but the seemingly impossible had become possible.  Through no rhyme or reason but solely through the grace of God (though we do strongly believe He did some work through Dr. Shannon).

I will always remember my very first doctor’s visit, specifically when my doctor did the dating sonogram and I saw our baby for the very first time.  I cried and mentioned to her how ever since my diagnosis at 17, I had prepared myself for this to never happen.  She responded with, “It’s maddening what some doctors put young girls through…you didn’t need to go through that for so long.  There’s so much we don’t know.”  I’m pretty sure she thought I was crazy when I told her that I was thankful for it.

And I am.  How else would Matt and I have tackled such critical conversations early on?  My questionable fertility led us to better habits, an incredibly healthier diet, and, most importantly, a surrender to the Lord’s plan for us.  The word “control” finds ways to sneak itself into the lives of the most faithful and we were certainly no exception.  Even in our boasts of obedience to His will and our acceptance of His plan, we were still blindsided.   How sweet is that! (And how foolish is boasting?)  Now our hearts have been opened to adoption and the calling still remains.   This is not to be written off, it is not to be tossed aside or forgotten.  But we got to start our family with Harry.

Look at me, making progress in Harry’s story!  The next one is the last of this series and it’s the motherload…his Birth Story.  (Only 14 months later!)

Peace and Blessings to you as you start the week…make it a meaningful one!

*I am highly sensitive to the fact that our “hard-earned” positive is still laughable compared to the thousands and thousands of couples who go through longer periods of fertility woes, miscarriages, and those who never receive the positive test result.  I very much believe that the journey for each couple is different, not to be weighed against each other or competed against.  We received a beautiful gift and however any future gifts should present themselves (biologically or by other means), our lessons learned were to never assume where God’s plan is taking us and, no matter where it leads, to never stop counting our blessings.

12:51AM – A Moment

The Story of Harry Part III has taken me a while.  It’s been started about 3 times but I haven’t been able to get it to a place where I’m happy to post it.  It is not meant for brilliance or anything, but it’s still part of Harry’s story.  So it’s special to me.

Much to my dismay, it’s not getting published tonight.  Instead, I am sitting here with a babe that has fallen back asleep in my arms.  And I will do anything I can to prolong the moment.

The mornings may be blurry, the nights may be broken, but there is little chance that you’ve ever heard me complain about lack of sleep since H has been born.  I love these moments.  He’s almost 11 months old (AHH) and with his mean teeth waking him up these recent nights, I soak in the time.  During the day I am generally multitasking.  I make it a point to not be on my phone while feeding Harry and the TV is usually off when he’s awake.  But with my ADHD nature, my mind is a few different places.  I’m working, I’m sending emails while he plays with his blocks, I’m on the phone with a client while he blissfully crashes through board books (could I be any luckier?).  Though I have been blessed with the ability to work from home and be with him most of the week, I’m still working.  Though my eyes are always on him, I’m still divided.

But in the early morning hours, I’m hopelessly devoted.  I didn’t sign up for sleep when we prayed and prayed (and prayed some more) for a babe.  I signed up for these moments, when he’s heavy with warmth, breathing sweet breaths, and filled with dreams.

Thanks to the love affair H has with his crib, he rarely falls asleep elsewhere.  Especially not in our arms.  So tonight,I’m recording in words how special this moment is to me, and I’m off to soak in as many as he’ll let me.

Peace be with you and yours.

[Mommyhood Monday] The Story of Harry, Part II

It’s not Monday, it’s Tuesday.  Busted. Grace please?

In Part I of Harry’s Story, I left off at the part where I met Matt and was quickly swooned by his acceptance of fertility question marks and his willingness to journey through God’s plan with me.

Matt and I met Christmas 2006, began dating in 2007 and grew serious later that year.  We were engaged in March of 2008 and married in February of 2009.  It was shortly after our engagement that I began taking my temperature every morning and following the charting procedures for Natural Family Planning (NFP).  Now some people assume that our decision to use NFP* was based on me being Catholic and that we entertained no other option.  Others assume we wanted babies from the start.  But the truth is that we weighed several other options and did not want to get pregnant right away.  NFP was simply the only choice we could personally move forward with clear eyes and full hearts (can’t lose, right?).

*If you want to know more about our decision to use NFP, I am happy to share.

The factors that led to our decision to delay pregnancy were the same of most newlywed couples.  After a long-distance engagement, we wanted a bit of time together.  Matt was in the thick of grad school and we were living in Vancouver, Canada for at least a couple of years.

Now I could get into the next part with great detail but I’ll keep it a little close to the cuff.  Basically, we had a very early pregnancy “scare” (that word is important) that had us all in a fuss.  “We’re not ready!  We have a timeline!  How could God do this!?”

It was that last part that stopped us in our tracks.   I mean, did you guys read Part I of this story where I had to tell Matt that I might not be able to have babies?  How far we had strayed!  Me, with my incredible perspective and questionable fertility, had allowed myself to get so wrapped up in a timeline that, for even a quick moment, I “feared” pregnancy.

We weren’t pregnant.  And though our planned timeline was safe our hearts were softened to the idea.  We continued to postpone pregnancy for the next few months.   Then I was offered a job…my dream job involving international travel and event planning and career growth to the max.  They requested that we stay in Vancouver for at least 3 years and after plenty of conversation, we agreed to those terms.  I was THISCLOSE to signing the dotted line when I casually asked about “family growth”.  Though an employer cannot legally state a preference it was said, in no uncertain terms, that they preferred for those 3 years to be uninterrupted.

So now I was staring my PCOS in the face.  If you recall from Part I, the clock works against you with PCOS and delaying another 3 years meant that 1) the timeline was being forced by us and 2) the fertility window would keep closing.  So I rescinded my verbal agreement and told them that they would be better suited finding someone else.  They pressed for more explanation and finally I told them that I couldn’t guarantee I wouldn’t get pregnant for three years.  They weren’t too happy and I’ll never forget the tone of their voice when they said, and I quote, “you are turning down a great opportunity because you want to be a mommy someday?”  Well, when you put it that way…yep.

So then, with perspective again refreshed, we began actually trying.  Six months into trying, a laughable amount of time compared to so many couples, I began to speak with a doctor about it.  He chuckled, told us to try for six more months and then we’d run tests.

In the first six months I read Dr. Marilyn Shannon’s book, “Fertility, Cycles, and Nutrition.”  We received a copy in our NFP course and let me just say that if I am ever lucky enough to meet Dr. Shannon, she won’t be ready for the amount of love and giddiness I will exude. This is what got me to examine our diet and our supplements.  We cut out high fructose corn syrup, aspartame, and most processed foods.  I began taking a prenatal and we kept in shape.  We felt great but still weren’t pregnant.  So we ran the tests.

Our results showed two strikes.  Not just one for my PCOS, but one for Matt as well.  Two strikes and a less than 3% chance of ever getting pregnant.  I got a second opinion and the results were confirmed.

This time our perspective didn’t fail us.  We were tired, a bit beat down, and emotionally drained but we knew that this wasn’t a battle for us to fight.  Our hearts had been preparing for this for years.  We made the decision to move back to Texas and take a break.  No more charting, no more counting days and taking temperature.  Fertility treatments were not an option.  We just wanted to surround ourselves with family and friends back home and start to save for adoption.

So we moved back to Texas.  I was in a bit of a “mourning state” so I turned down a job, took a sabbatical, and worked for my sister as a nanny to my two nephews.

I know this is a lot of back story and that is definitely why it’s not entitled, “Harry’s BIRTH Story”.  But my intention here was also to document our journey.  Perhaps it also sheds a little bit of light on why I am Mom-arazzi with our babe…I am in a constant state of wonder that this little miracle is actually ours.  That and he’s really cute and fun.

Next Monday, Part III.  If it makes you feel better, I will commit to there only being IV parts.  Call it the “Lost” treatment…the light at the end of the storytelling tunnel is near!

Peace and Blessings friends.

Summer Awkwardness

Without any warning, I took a break this summer.  Our marriage needed some TLC, my babe always deserves my attention, and we had a lot going on.  We had a long summer – filled with the completion of a thesis(!), work, the birth of our incredibly precious and beautiful niece (our very first!), and Harry’s Baptism.

Harry’s Baptism was such a sweet occasion and he is one lucky babe to have our dear friends Melissa and Matt as his Godparents.  He rocked a bonnet and kept a good face the entire time.  Let’s face it, this kid is only unhappy if we mess with his sleep schedule or we don’t give him enough food.  He’s his father’s son.

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The picture above failed to capture H in his bonnet, which means you’re totally missing out.

Truth be told, this summer was a difficult one.  Harry is the happiest babe we could have ever prayed for and he is our sunshine and delight every single day.  But I’m pretty sure that with a few different factors, I managed to slip into a low place that I’m just beginning to emerge from.  A place that had me going to bed super late and sleeping less, watching way too much TV (Confession: I finished the entire series of Felicity in a little over a week…that’s EIGHTY-FOUR episodes…not proud), and being fairly anti-social.

The emotions of becoming a mom are so fascinating to me.  The biggest effect was awkwardness.  I’ve always had awkwardness as a part of my make-up but wow, it has multiplied over the past 10 months.  I can be in a room full of people I know or a room of strangers, both of which never phased me before, and I want to just run home and work on a project or finally start The West Wing (let’s face it, I’m overdue).

I hear this is not abnormal for new moms.  I joked with my sister that I should start an “Awkward Mom Happy Hour” where we just practice being sociable again.  There would be topics we are not allowed to talk about: poop, sleep patterns, milk supply, baby food, and baby milestones being on the banned list.  But, in order for that Happy Hour idea to work, I’d have to schedule another Mommy Happy Hour that focuses on that list.  If I’ve learned anything about community these past several months, it’s that all moms need other moms to discuss these pivotal child-rearing topics.  Maybe I’m not joking anymore?

So we’re back.  This little blog post is dedicated to my lovely Kate who demanded an update.  Apparently leaving Harry’s Birth Story unfinished was just plain rude. My apologies. Part II coming on Monday!

[Mommyhood Monday] The Story of Harry, Part I

Harry’s story goes back about ten years.  Yep, ten long years.

When I was a little girl (I promise the story doesn’t stay here for very long), I wanted to be a teacher and a mommy.  When I graduated from high school, I was headed to UT Austin as an education major with a long-term boyfriend.  Almost there…?  Nope. (Phew.)

That summer, I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Disease – chronic cysts on the ovaries.  Over time, PCOS can greatly lessen a woman’s chances of getting pregnant.  After several months of ultrasounds and painkillers, I was put on birth control in order to “preserve my fertility.”  Though I know this is a common practice for women on PCOS, I had no desire to be on The Pill.  My struggle was both health related and spiritual.  I didn’t like the idea of hormones being put into my body to manipulate it and more importantly, I struggled with how me taking birth control was me trying to manipulate God’s plan for me.  After about 6 months, I kicked it to the curb.

The next several years were spent trying to not think about it.  I wasn’t close to getting married, or sexually active, so I told myself to just trust in His plan.  I allowed myself to think through the options in the case of fertility struggles.

I processed through fertility treatments.  Since being a mommy starts with being pregnant, I wondered how necessary this was for me.  Of course I wanted it.  But why?  Because this was the only way to have a baby or because I had it set in my mind what being a mommy looked like?  I started to look around and though I knew it would be hard; I also took a look at the foster system in the US.  I looked at all the kids without a stable home or family unit.  I even looked at how many parents wait for a baby versus the number of older kids stuck in the foster care system.  It’s appalling.  Again, I TOTALLY understand why couples go through fertility treatments and why people wait for a baby to adopt, but I wondered if I was being called to be a mommy to those other kids, to the ones nobody else wanted.

I didn’t come to any conclusions on this, I just processed.  After all, I wasn’t close to getting married.

Then I met Matt.  Our story will come later but you must know, it isn’t easy to tell this to a guy you’re interested in.  How do you bring that up?  “I love your hair like that! Oh, FYI…I’ve been told I may not be able to have babies.  Which movie are we going to see tonight?”  It actually ended up being forced out.  See every once in a while I’d get weepy over all of it.  I may have been blessed with perspective, but not without hormones.  Every so often I would have the pains that were associated with a ruptured cyst, reminding me of it all.  One night, about a month into dating, I felt such pains and on came the emotions.  Matt was there and it all came tumbling out.  As I closed my eyes, waiting for an awkward, “oh well…that’s really upsetting”, I instead got this: “this world will not be deprived of a beautiful mom…perhaps only of beautiful babies.” Um…that was unexpected.  And wonderful.

So I married him.  Not right away, that comes later.  But I pushed the fertility thoughts out of my mind.  They were not yet relevant and my future Baby Daddy was on board for whatever God’s plan was for me, now us.

Oh and in case you’re wondering, I was a semester away from being a certified teacher before I switched majors.  Yep, I like to make a plan and then change things at the last moment.  You’ll see that happen again.

Part I ends with a photo of how Matt and I ultimately decided to handle fertility in our marriage.  More of that next Monday.

Manic Monday

Today wasn’t supposed to be manic.  Today was supposed to be a great start to a busy week after a restful and productive weekend.

Alas.

You can fill in the blanks – life gets in the way and our focus was called elsewhere. Because of this I do not have my planned Monday post that reveals, in a witty and charming way, all the brainstorming I’ve done.  I trust you weren’t holding your breath (if I wasn’t against using smiley faces in my posts there’s be a winky face here).

We count our blessings a lot in our household.  Somewhere along the way I learned to count louder and harder as times got rough.  I’m thankful for that because truly, perspective is a precious gift.

Here’s my most precious gift – swinging for the first time yesterday.

I want to see life through his eyes.  But I also want to eat his chubby little fingers for dinner because they’re so precious.

Can’t always get what you want (thanks, Mick…nice job on SNL, btw).

May your week be filled with challenges and triumphs in perspective.  If you should find yourself falling short, head to a playground.  I’m sure we’ll see you there!