Stages 3 & 4 – Anger, Bargaining and Depression

The song above is very dear to me.  When there were times I couldn’t pray anything, I would pray for Jesus to hold me or help me.  I didn’t understand why I was where I was.  I still don’t. 

Anger was easy to feel, but I honestly didn’t spend much time being angry.  I did, however, bargain.  A lot.  I did not see it that way at the time though.  I felt very guilty because I thought that all of this was somehow my fault. My doing.  If I only prayed more. Studied more. Was more loving. A better friend, wife, sister, daughter, that things would change.  It’s not that I literally thought if I spent more time in prayer, I would suddenly conceive. But that somehow, I could garner God’s favor in these ways. 

I know. That sounds ridiculous. But it’s how I felt. So, legalism swept in and nearly took over my life. I became focused on the doing instead of on the being. On the actions instead of the relationship.  This was my form of bargaining.

In all of the doing and busyness, I only got farther away from God.  Farther away and more focused on myself. My feelings and wants. My needs and desires.  There is a place for expressing these things, don’t get me wrong, but when the focus gets out of balance, so does the walk.

My walk with Christ was out of balance.  This was not due to my circumstances. This was due to my choices. If I have learned anything during these last years, it is this. Circumstances do not HAVE to determine our walk with Christ. 

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

I cannot, like Paul, say that I delighted in my weaknesses and hardships.  No. It was ugly. But, this IS possible.  My life isn’t over! That’s the good news! Though I have “tried to be strong” in the past, this verse says clearly what we are to do.  “For when I AM WEAK, then I am strong!” (emphasis added by me.) 

So, in this time of struggle, at the end of my physical struggle with infertility, I will chose to take my weakness to Christ. In Him alone, when I allow him to hold me, then will I be strong.

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Pain & Guilt – Stage 2

This is my favorite song.  I clung to this song during my darkest hours.  When I felt like no one could possibly understand what I was feeling.  This song showed me someone did. 

 Pain and Guilt is where I have drifted in and out of for most of my journey.  Not one to quit, I press on with the endless medical tests.  I am now in my 30’s and I learn about endometriosis for the first time when a family member is diagnosed with it.  I had never heard of this condition before.  With all the tests, I thought the doctors were doing everything they could!

When I found out about endometriosis, I immediately began to research.  I read everything I could get my hands on.  I had every.single.symptom.  EVERY ONE.  Since it was time for my annual appointment with my OB/GYN, I asked him about it.  He told me I did NOT have endometriosis.  That my pain was from my colon.  And, I was wrong. Period.  I ASKED him to do surgery.  I learned in my research that the ONLY way to diagnose endo is by doing a laparoscopy.  It is impossible to see via scan, ultrasound or ANY other way.  He refused and basically told me I was crazy.  I was shocked.  I left.  And found another doctor.

When I met with the new doctor for the first time, I was a nervous wreck.  I’d been to so many, that I had no idea what to expect.  When I described my symptoms, including years of “undefined infertility” and that I suspected endometriosis, he recommended surgery.  I’d never been so relieved in my life. 

Not only did I have endo, I had stage 4 endometriosis that has since required a total of 4 abdominal surgeries.  But here is the thing.  After each surgery, I was told, that for the following months I would have increased fertility.  Hopes up!!

So, we would continue to try, and try and try and try and try. For years.  We had numerous tests. And the most frustrating part was we never got any answers.  Many people with endometriosis conceive.  We didn’t and the doctors have never been able to tell us why.  We have officially been diagnosed with “undefined infertility”.  How’s that for a non-answer?!?

So, we would be told to plan, and schedule and hope. Only to be disappointed.  Literally crushed emotionally every single month.  Month after month after month, year after year after year.  It begins to wear on me.  Both emotionally and spiritually. 

I began to stop hoping.  Stop wishing.  Stop praying.  I truly could not live with the constant disappointment.  And guilt.  Then, I got pregnant. 

I had suspected for days that I was pregnant.  But I was terrified to say it and I was terrified to take a pregnancy test.  I had literally taken dozens that had all been negative.  I finally shared my thoughts and fears with my loving and supportive husband. And on a Monday morning, took the test.  It was positive. A miracle. Wow.

We were elated.  We called our parents. And our Pastor. And the doctor, of course. We found out that I was 7 weeks along, due June 11, 2007. I had never been so elated.

Late that night, I began to feel the familiar pain of cramping.  At first, I brushed it off, then was concerned.  By Tuesday morning, I was in the emergency room, having a miscarriage.  There was nothing they could do.  I sobbed like I had never cried before.  I questioned God that day like I never had before.  My grief was as low as it had ever been.  Our best friends came, my mom came (from 1000 miles away), my dad, our pastors, but really all I remember is sobbing. 

For months, I was a walking zombie.  I had no emotion.  I had always been a smiling, outgoing, enthusiastic, loud person.  Now, nothing.  Just  . . . . . . . . . .  there.  I didn’t even realize how dramatic the change was. 

For those of you that have never been through this, let me offer you one piece of advice.  A miscarriage is a REAL loss.  It is life changing loss.  It will always be with me. Always. PLEASE be sensitive to that.  The Sunday after my miscarriage, I had a woman walk up to me at church.  This is what she said to me.  “I’m sorry about your miscarriage.  You’ll get pregnant again.  No worries.  I went to the best baby shower a couple months ago where the lady had a miscarriage and got pregnant again right away! It was so great!!!”  She then described the baby shower in detail for 10 minutes.  Yes, this really happened.  Knife to my heart.  The LAST thing I wanted to hear about was a BABY SHOWER.  Don’t promise something you have no control over.  They might conceive again, but that doesn’t undo this loss. 

What CAN you do for someone in this situation? In the pain and grief of infertility? Pray. Encourage.  Bring flowers. Or, better yet, a meal.  For NO reason. Just because. Invite them out to dinner.  If you have children, get the grandparents to babysit and take them out for an evening.  It’s a very lonely feeling to be the only couple in your circle of friends without children.  Trust me.

Don’t ask personal questions about when they are going to have kids, or what they have tried.  Don’t give advice on what worked for you, your sister, your neighbor, or your friend’s mother’s cousin. But most important don’t ignore them!! Do ask how they are doing. Do ask how they are feeling and what (if anything) you can do to help. It means so much just to know you care.

Infertility is considered a silent epidemic because no one wants to talk about it.  I never wanted to talk about it.  But, now that my journey is nearly over, I realize that there are so many other people that are suffering in silence too.  And if they aren’t, they know someone who is. And, they want to help, but have no idea how. 

Although it does not feel like it at times, I promise this verse is true. Psalm 30:5 “Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.”

Shock & Denial – Stage 1 of grieving infertility

doctor's hand holding stethascope WITH TEXT

The question about grief I have asked myself the most is, “How can I MISS someone I NEVER HAD?!?!”  I denied there was anything TO grieve for a very long time.  Well, I suppose I should start at the beginning.

When we had been married 6 months, I began to have more serious issues with my cycle.  I’d actually had issues since I was 14 years old, but the birth control medications the doctors had put me on caused more problems than they solved.  So, we prayed.  We were deeply in debt, I was a full time college student, we had one car, and commuted 30 minutes each way to work and school.  It was NOT good timing to start a family, but I couldn’t take the medication anymore.  So, we decided to trust God and I went off the medicine.

For about the first year or so, I was relieved each month I wasn’t pregnant.  Even typing that sentence now feels absurd.  But it is true.  I felt like Hannah when God closed her womb.  If you are unfamiliar with her story you can read all about her in 1 Samuel 1.  Verse 5 (speaking of her husband) says, “And though he loved Hannah, he would give her only one choice portion because the Lord had given her no children.”  Later in verse 19 it is recorded, “the Lord remembered her plea” and Hannah conceived a son.  I saw myself as the Hannah in the first verse.  But when God’s timing was right, he would remember my prayers and I would conceive.  You may see this as either naïve or faith.  I’m not sure if it wasn’t a little bit of both.

Fast forward 3 or 4 years, and still no babies and no pregnancies.  Now I am the sobbing Hannah on my knees in the temple so upset I am mistaken for being drunk. (1 Samuel 1:12-14), well at least the sobbing part.  I’m now on at least my third OB/GYN doctor by now.  My cycles are getting worse, but no one can figure out why.  I begin a 5 year run of countless tests.  I am diagnosed with everything from gall bladder issues, to IBS, to Crohn’s Disease, to “it all being in my head.”

It is at this point that I think I moved from Shock & Denial to Pain & Guilt.  I could no longer deny SOMETHING was wrong.  After 8 years of what doctor’s classify as “not trying to prevent pregnancy” and/or “actively trying to conceive,” we should have gotten pregnant by now. Several times.  Even without “trying”.

More to come tomorrow.

Image courtesy of [smokedsalmon] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

7 Stages of Grief…. Infertilty style

Sad woman from free digital photos dot net

I had no idea the effect of simply writing what I was feeling 2 days ago would have on me.  I have never been much of a writer, let alone about something so deeply personal.  But, it was very cathartic.  I was thinking about my post in relation to the traditional seven stages of grief.  Here they are according to recover-from-grief.com:

  1. Shock & Denial
  2. Pain & Guilt
  3. Anger & Bargaining
  4. Depression & Reflection
  5. The Upward Turn
  6. Reconstruction & Working through
  7. Acceptance & Hope

As I pondered each of these, I realized that I had gone through each step many times in these past 18 years.  Sometimes monthly.  Especially after my miscarriage.

So, over the next 2 weeks, as part of my pledge to embrace my grief, I will be doing a series on what these 7 steps have looked like in my life in regards to infertility and hopefully in the lives of others as well.

If you know someone who is going through infertility, encourage them to read these.  I hope they will be a blessing.

In Christ.

Image courtesy of [stockimages] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Grief is an odd thing…

I’ve been feeling down for the past few days, and I honestly could not figure out why.  We missed church Sunday.  Again. 3 was up all.night.long and we were all completely exhausted.  He hasn’t transitioned to a new church well.  But that’s a post for another day. 

I always struggle with depression more when we miss church.  But this week it has been more.  Deeper.  Different.  I knew I needed to spend more time in the Word, but didn’t. I knew I needed to eat better, but didn’t.  I knew I needed to exercise, but didn’t. Honestly, I just didn’t care. If you’ve never struggled with depression, this may sound odd to you. I understand.  It used to sound odd to me too.  Depression isn’t (always) about sadness.  It isn’t about a lack of gratitude.  It isn’t about not being happy.  For me, it’s apathy.  I know there are things, like diet, exercise and especially time with Jesus that make a big difference.  But I can’t do any of them.  I just can’t.

Then, I stumbled upon a blog post that brought my grief back to the surface again.  Proverbs 30:15a-16 (NLT) says, “There are three things that are never satisfied— no, four that never say, “Enough!”: the grave, the barren womb, the thirsty desert, the blazing fire.”  Wow. This is very true. My womb has been barren all 18 years of our marriage.  Except for one 7 week stretch, when I was pregnant.  Then miscarried. Now, I am 2 weeks away from a total hysterectomy. 14 days.

I thought I had dealt with the emotions surrounding this decision. I knew they would resurface. But, I didn’t think it would come BEFORE the surgery and in such a debilitating way.  The barren womb is never satisfied.  Even though I am a mom. Even though I don’t really feel like the surgery is taking away my fertility.  I truly don’t feel like I ever had it. Not really.  But here I am, grieving. 

I think I am grieving what I think SHOULD have been.  Or, at least what COULD have been.  I always wanted to be a mother.  ALWAYS. I always wanted a big family.  My husband and I have 3 and 5 siblings respectively and my best friend has always been my sister.  We are just over 2 years apart in age, and still very close.  I wanted all that for my kids.  But, instead, we have one son.  Who is now 5. Even if/when we do another infant adoption, he will be an only child because of the age difference. I grieve that for him. I grieve that over my 20’s I was so focused on what I was MISSING that I wasn’t at all thankful for what I HAD! I grieve that I still feel physical and emotional pain every time I see a pregnant woman or a breastfeeding mom. Every.time.

So, what now? Instead of pretending like I don’t feel the way I do, or pushing it down, I’ve decided to live with my grief for the next 14 days.  Live with it.  Embrace it.  Walk through it.  Somehow, I still have to cook dinner, do the dishes, play cars (again!) with my wonderful gift from God.  I will choose to feel the grief and still be thankful.  Feel the pain and still move forward.  Feel the disappointments and still get things ready for my 6 week recovery.  I will because I must.  I will because “Greater is HE that is in me than he that is in the world.” 

Feet off the Floor

3 doesn’t take naps anymore. I know. It’s a sad day!

BUT, I still NEED that time when he used to nap!!! What to do?? I saw lots of ideas for a “quiet time”, but knew this would be a battle with 3. It sounds too much like nap time. And, as he tells me quite vocally, “I don’t WANT to take a nap!!”

When I read the term “Feet off the Floor” time (I don’t remember where), it instantly clicked with me! The rules are simple. You can play quietly with anything listed on your chart, as long as you are “feet off the floor.” No running around, no jumping on the bed, etc. You may NOT leave your room for any reason except to use the bathroom (he went 4 times in an hour the 1st day! LOL).

And, do you know what??? He LOVES it!! Having a rough morning, I just have to threaten to replace Feet off the Floor with a nap, and he changes his tune. If he doesn’t (like today), he takes a nap.

I made a simple chart using pictures of his toys I thought he could play quietly with and hung it in his room. His choices are: trains, cars, Mr. Potato Head, Legos, Reading, Puzzles and SLEEPING. (I doubt he will choose to sleep, but it’s on there anyway!!)  Your child might need different choices!

Overall, I love it too. I still get one hour of uninterrupted time and he still gets some quiet down time he needs!

Wisdom from Mater

Hubby had a business trip this week and 3 and I decided to tag along. Swimming in the hotel pool, eating sweets for breakfast, lounging around all day playing, etc… Sounded like a great plan.

However, I forgot one very important thing. 3 does not deal with change well. In fact, he thrives on routine, order, and familiar surroundings. So, as you can imagine, this week did not go exactly as planned. Instead there was fit throwing, crying and lots of snuggling. And movies. Well, one movie over and over again.

3 has been OBSESSED with Cars 2 since getting it for his Gotcha Day. We have probably seen it hundreds dozens of times. (I know there is controversy about the overall message, but I digress…)

There is a point at the end of the movie (spoiler alert!) where Mater says, “It was you leaking oil at the party in Japan not me.” Sir Axelrod responds, “Electric cars don’t use oil, you twit!” Then Mater says something that has been rolling around in my mind all week. He says, “Then you’re faking it. You didn’t switch to no electric engine.”

Tonight the Lord showed me why those words have stuck in my mind (in Mater’s voice, no less!). Matthew 7:16 says, “And you shall know them by their fruit.” It is much the same thing. Mater KNEW Sir Axelrod was faking because there was EVIDENCE.

I pretend sometimes (like when planning this trip) that everything is completely fine and 3 will not struggle a bit. But the EVIDENCE says otherwise.

More importantly, what does my fruit from this week say about me as a mother and Christ follower? Did I always respond with patience
and snuggles? No. In fact, I was so frustrated one day I sent 3 with Daddy to the park and I sulked in the hotel room alone. Although there is nothing wrong with needing alone time, trust me, my attitude was bad. Very stinky fruit.

If my primary goal is to model Christ to 3 and teach him His ways, I cannot choose stinky fruit. Will I make mistakes? Obviously! But I need to be more intentional about recognizing what fruit I am setting before my son and others.

How do I do that? First, I need to make sure I am digging into the Word daily. I have neglected being at all consistent in that these last few weeks. Second, prayer over 3 and his Daddy, but also over my own struggles and weaknesses. Thirdly, I need to plan better. I should have planned the days of this trip better, especially breakfast foods.

Thankfully, our God is gracious and His mercies are new every morning.