Monday, December 19, 2016

On Choosing to Quit

As we're staring down the calendar at a new year, it's a time of reflection on our choices, a time to evaluate where we are and what's working.

We've been a homeschooling family for most of our parenting years.

As our oldest entered sixth grade this year, we made the choice to transition from homeschooling to our local parochial school.

Our four year old is also in preschool there three mornings a week.




LB had been asking for a while to go to traditional school, and SP LOVES her preschool.  So much so, she told me she was very sad when I made her stop going after PK3 (otherwise known as Summer Break).

But the deciding factor for going back to school this year was me.  I need some breathing room.  I need to not feel like I'm failing to do ALL THE THINGS constantly.  I need time to work from home without that precarious balancing act of childcare hanging around my neck.

I needed to stop trying to do it all, all at once, without a break.

For over ten years, I've worked sporadically from home as an Instructional Designer, developing online training and tests for companies who would rather hire that out than keep someone on staff.  I've balanced working from home and homeschooling through the younger grades, but as schooling became increasingly complex, I constantly felt like I was behind on grading, not following up enough, or just generally not doing enough.

I felt a lot of peace about making the decision, but I also felt that stereotypical, "we're not doing the most involved thing we possibly can so we're probably failing".  Because isn't that the message we get from all the worst parenting gurus?  Do all the things and do them my way or you're the worst.

This school year has solidly reinforced what I've known to be true for a long time.  We're all doing our best, and it's going to look different for everyone. 

My best for this year might be different from my best for next year.  And it for sure looks different than last year.

Going back to traditional school has taken the entire burden of LB's education off my shoulders.  I still find myself grading homework most evenings, or reviewing upcoming assignments, but all the mental space of planning and organizing it has been freed. 

Choosing to quit the homeschool life has had some downsides - can you say early bird wakeup calls? Mornings will probably always be rough for me, but we're making it.  I can't put the school week on hold when life starts to be too much.  I can't time the school day around our family life.  It all happens on their schedule. 

Still, the hour+ I spend shuttling people back and forth, the early mornings (which my husband helps with A LOT), the homework assignments, the extra committee meetings, it's all been working out.

It's been a positive shift to have a more rigid structure in our day, and the downtime it's afforded me has allowed me more time to work on my Etsy store, as well as my Instructional Design business, meaning my husband was able to move to a position with fewer hours last month.

Although the thought of sending SP off five days a week next year still gives me pause, and I'll never rule out homeschooling completely, in all I've learned that sometimes, quitting is the very best choice after all.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Walking Beside You

Walking in the door, I set down my purse and stare at the pile of papers I still need to sort. Later, later I will.

First, a moment here with you. To share the hardness and joy of this special path God has me walking.

How could I have known I would stand in this place?  It's so humbling and so heartbreaking all at once. Humbling in the blessings constantly raining down on me, heartbreaking for those few most precious drops falling just out of reach.

When I found out I was pregnant last month, I had this imagery of sitting at the feet of God in overwhelming gratitude at a blessing beyond understanding. When we gave that baby back to God less than two weeks later, I was humbled in a different way, by different blessings.

I feel more profoundly wrapped in love and grace than I've ever experienced. It's still a hard and heart wrenching path, but I'm in awe of the love and kindness poured out in front of me.

Just when I thought I was coming to a place in life where I had something more to teach, something more to give, I'm reminded of what a blessing it is to be a gracious receiver.

Every sorrow refines my soul, and the suffering burns compassion into my heart.

As I look into the face of another mother awaiting the day she will meet or see once more the face of her child in heaven, I see her more clearly than before. My sorrow can speak to hers, "I know you sister, I see you. I wait with you."

This road of life is hard, and suffering will meet us along the way. Take heart, sister, you do not walk alone.

For more reflections from women on varying stages and places in their fertility journey, I invite you to join us at Waiting in the Word. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Made for Heaven

This month is Pregnancy Loss Awareness.  On October 1st, all the memes and Facebook posts started showing up.  While I was reading them, I was laying on my couch, binge watching on Hulu and miscarrying a baby.

On September 22nd, I took a pregnancy test and hopped in the shower before I read it.  After a quick shower, I took a cursory glance at it before pitching what I assumed would be yet another negative test.  The faint positive that appeared jolted me, surprised me, and caused me to exclaim, "Oh my God!"  I'm an "oh my goodness-don't-take-the-name-in-vain" kind of gal, so the shock value was definitely high.

The next few days were doctor's phone calls, blood draws, and scheduling additional testing.  35 and previous pregnancy loss adds up to a lot of early testing.

As I scheduled tests, I had a hard time getting excited by the pregnancy and new life growing.  Every time I went to the bathroom, I was waiting for spotting to start, for something to go wrong.  I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop.  After all this waiting, how could dreams finally be coming true?

In the midst of struggling to find excitement, I had this moment of pure clarity staring at myself in the mirror.  No matter what happened with the pregnancy, there was a new soul.  A complete, unique soul and person who would exist for all of eternity NO MATTER WHAT.

After about a week, I finally started allowing myself to hope a little more that this baby wouldn't be just for heaven.  As my pants started to feel a little tighter, I added items to the secret Amazon shopping list.  I started to plan and dream again.

Including a dream so vivid, I saw the face of my baby as I delivered him.  Bright blue eyes and a bald head with faint glimmers of peachy red hair.  Rounder than SP's face and pinker than LB's.  A little boy uniquely himself.

On my second hcg draw, the numbers didn't do what they should, so more testing was indicated. 

Just as I was starting to not check for spotting every time I used the bathroom, the spotting started.  On Friday, September 30th, I had some light spotting and as I realized what was happening, I sobbed and said many many many f-bombs.  I called Hubby and tried to stay calm as I left multiple messages on the doctor's voicemail.

The spotting stopped, and the nurse instructed me to continue on with the hcg draw planned for the next morning, as well as gave me worst case scenario instructions.

On the day I was headed in to do the next draw, the miscarriage started.  Testing that day showed that my hcg was in fact dropping rapidly.

I went home under directions of what worrying signs to watch for and rested all weekend. 

When the bleeding first started Saturday morning, I cried out for a miracle.  I prayed for intercession, I told the baby he was wanted and he was welcome.  But, I also told him I forgave him if he wasn't strong enough to stay.

About an hour later, the bleeding increased and the process of miscarrying was in full effect.

That night I sat on the floor of my shower sobbing and cursing God until the hot water ran out.  I said every angry, bitter word inside me and left the shower feeling lighter and spent.

I waited all weekend for painful cramping and contractions.  They never came.  Some slight discomfort was relieved by a little medicine, but for the most part, it was physically painless.  A small miracle and grace in the middle of a hard weekend.

As the weekend progressed, I reached out to many friends asking for prayers.  And as I did, I felt myself wrapped in grace so tangible as to be beyond understanding. 

I had expected to be so overwrought that I would have a hard time functioning in daily life; instead, I found myself a little tired, but able to manage without much struggle. 

I found myself not wanting to pass on the news because it seemed to upset others more than it upset me.  Almost like the whole enormity of what I'd been through was so big, I would need time to absorb it. 

Or maybe, as I told my mom, we've been through so much that it didn't hit high enough on the Richter Scale to be traumatic. 

I think the best explanation is that we've been buoyed in prayers.  I've seen blessings and grace everywhere.  The way my husband and I walked through this together versus how we managed after Mara was like a terrible and wonderful milestone of how we've grown. 

The last few days, I've noticed myself easily irritated, and while part of that may be hormones realigning, I think it's the grief starting to poke through the cracks.

I'm sure it's not actually true, but it seems every commercial is pregnancy tests, formula or diapers lately, and if my Kindle doesn't stop showing that baby car seat as the start screen ad, I'm going to lose it. 

I was supposed to have a baby for my 36th birthday.  And now I'm not.  I was going to buy a new stroller, but there's no need for that now.  I saw the bag of cloth diapers in SP's closet that I was daydreaming about putting on a tiny little bottom, but now I'm not.

So much of what is lost in a miscarriage is the dreams.  Still, I feel a surety that another baby is coming.  Not to replace the one we lost, but as his or her own unique and wonderful person. 

This pregnancy proved the surgery was successful, at least in part.  We're another step down the road on our journey.  We're hopeful that next time, it will be a baby we get to hold.

Until then, here are the few photos I have to mark the life of Francis Therese, named after the feast days we celebrated in the midst of his loss.

Four days before we lost Francis - I'm so glad I took this - and took the moment to celebrate his life

From the weekend on the couch

Turning back off the pregnancy setting was one of the worst parts

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Hope in a Hopeless Place

Something crazy happened tonight. 

There's been a lot of construction around our new house. A. Lot. The main road in and out of our neighborhood has been under construction since well before our move and recently, the progress on the road has caused it to take longer to get down the hill. One of those worse before it's better kind of situations. 

This evening, I sat in traffic, waiting for my turn to creep down the hill and my thoughts were brewing darkly. 

My surgery in early August is healed, and there's now the potential that we may conceive. In fact, earlier this week, I was feeling really hopeful that maybe this would be *the* month. 

I allowed myself to daydream about the stroller I've wanted for ten years and never gotten that I've promised myself I will splurge on if there's a next time. 

I've thought about what it would be like to tell family and friends. How we could surprise them. What joy it would be.

I've prayed for the intercession of our beloved late priest Fr Logan to bring us a miracle. He loved my husband so much, thought he was so funny. He called me the rose between two thorns when I sang with my dad and another parishioner at healing masses. 

He prayed over me at those same masses when I was pregnant with SP and struggling with complications. I brought him dinner once a week for the months following one of his surgeries.  He was the priest at my first communion, and there when LB made hers as well. 

He was woven in a special way into our lives, and it was him I turned to in intercession this month when the inflammation that has plagued me and been non-responsive to all medications and unknown in cause to all testing remained between me and fertility. 

And, for a bit, I felt hopeful. But, as I've crept closer to the start of a new cycle, closer to what experience has taught me will be a hard reality, I've lost hope. 

It was this lost and hopeless feeling that centered in my thoughts as I sat in traffic waiting.  

The dark thoughts were reigning supreme and I was feeling so done. So over finding a way to have any shred of hope left. 

As some traffic slowly made its way up the hill, I glanced over at a car waiting to turn into traffic. And my heart leapt in my chest with a moment of ecstasy. There, in that car waiting ten feet from me, was my lost girl, my SB, sitting in a car with her dad. She looked good. She looked happy. 

I never knew I could hold so much joy and sorrow simultaneously in my soul. She looks good. Somewhere out there, my baby looks happy. 

What's more, there's this fear I've carried deep down in my soul that I wouldn't know her if I saw her. I haven't seen her in over two years, and I feared she would change so much before I ever saw her again that I wouldn't know her even if I saw her. But, I did know her. 

I'm not sure what to make of all those feelings that were swirling inside me when I looked up and added the feelings of seeing SB to the mix. Perhaps the takeaway is even the most hopeless moment can be redeemed. 

Or maybe it was just a moment of straight gift sewn into a hard season of life. 

In the end, I'm struggling to let the joy win out. But I'll take the tears and sorrow. It was worth it just to have that momentary glimpse and knowledge that she's okay. Just a girl, talking to her daddy in the car. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Sitting with Uncertainty

Our Little House of Dreams has been for sale for about three months now. We've moved on to our idyllic house in the glen, but yet, our little house sits. 

When we moved, we made the decision to find a forever home without the pressure of an impending sale on our current home. Also, with 800 sq ft and four people, trust me when I say it shows much better without us!

We spent 10 years in our old house, fixing it up and pouring out time, energy and love into it. We spent years paying off all of our student loans, car loans and the like, and then saving up a separate down payment for the new house, as well as a cushion for carrying two houses for a time. 

Along the path to closing on our new home, we had so many moments of blessing and reassurance that we were doing the right thing, that we had calculated our decisions and all would be well. 

When we finally moved, I spent most days at the old house, cleaning, painting, perfecting every surface because surely(!)  someone would fall immediately in love with our special little place of only the walls were soothing tones. 

After two weeks of backbreaking labor l, the house went on the market and I eagerly awaited the news that someone loved it as much as we had. 

I prayed the novena to St Joseph, confident that any minute I would hear the good news. 

And yet, nothing. Very few people have shown interest, and we've had a few silly reasons for passing (a la House Hunters) on the few that have appreciated it. 

Today I went over a tucked St Joseph into the cupboards. 


Not for good luck or an assured sale, but as a reminder and dedication that this house is under his guard. 

We have entrusted this sale to St Joseph. We have done all the prudent things to make a sale successful, and now, we wait. And as much as I struggle with being in control, and as much as its a drag writing out two mortgage payments and two utility bills, I feel a peace over this. 

I feel confident that God has this in hand and St Joseph has my back. When I prayed that novena, I prayed that the exact right person who would be blessed by our house would find it.  

I want someone who feels about our little yellow house how we did. I want someone to wake up, look out at the sun rising over that giant fenced in yard and smile, like I did so many mornings. 

I want someone to smile as they pass an open window at lunchtime or in the evening, because you can hear the bells ringing from the nearby church. Many a day I stood in my garden and heard those bells and felt a connection to all the generations past who stopped their work to pray. 

I loved my House of Dreams hard. I cried when we left. The first morning I woke up in our new house, I felt blessing and grace as I felt this certainty in my soul that this new house was where I should be. 

I slipped into life here like a favorite moccasin, comfortable and formed to me as only years of use could manage. I woke up that first morning knowing I was where I was meant to be. 

That certainty has never left. Through months of waiting on our little house to sell, through feedback on all the flaws of the house we spent so many happy years and have so much love for, the peace remains. 

For me, uncertainty is usually a traumatic place to rest. The biggest thorn in my infertility is the not knowing, the uncertainty on how this will all resolve. So, I know this peace can only be from God. 

The little house will sell when it does. Maybe it'll sell tomorrow, maybe we'll find ourselves landlords for a time. Maybe this house is just waiting for the right new owner and we'll land somewhere in between. 

Whichever way the path goes, I'm trying not to feel the irritation and angst of the double bills. I'm trying to rest in this peace and remember, all my resources belong first to God, and if this is the way they should be allotted for now, the updates and new purchases can wait. 

Obedience is hard. Sometimes yield on to God's will means waiting, which is the very hardest thing of all for me. 

So, off St Joseph went to my little House of Dreams, to remind me he's got this and I am not in control beyond my own actions. 

Where are you waiting in your life?  How can I lift you up in my own wait?

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Going Under the Laser

I've been working with a NaPro doctor for a couple years now. 

I've had panels of blood draws, glucose tests, thyroid tests, diet changes. 

I've recently even lost about 35 (!) pounds. 

However, on June 5th, I turned 35, and the volume on my internal clock has become less like listening to the end of an egg timer and more like standing inside Big Ben at midnight. 

Added to that, I've been having some pains I'd like to have investigated, so, I made the trek back down to my doctor. 

When I met with her, she told me I've done the medical side and what remained is the (gulp) surgical side. 

My next best course of treatment is exploratory laparoscopy. They'll put me under, make a few small incisions and poke around looking for cysts, fibroids, endometriosis, anything that could explain this unexplained infertility and pains. 

Since my doctor told me ago, I've been living with varying levels of anxiety. From full blown panic to a low grade hum in the background. 

Now, it's time for surgery. Tomorrow (Wednesday) morning, I'll be getting up bright and early for my husband to drive us down to the surgical center two hours away, sitting in prep for two hours, and then having surgery for however long it takes to fix or repair as best she can whatever is going on inside. 

I've run the full gambit of worst case scenarios. There's a little echo on my ears of the doctor telling me that, as with any surgery, there's a risk of death.  However unlikely, the words are spinning on repeat in the back of my head. 

There's also a niggling fear over why I've been having pains. Cysts? Fibroids? Something worse?

In all likelihood, I'll be uncomfortable for a few days and hopefully have more answers than before. I've been put under general anesthesia a few times and it's always been fine. 

As I was reflecting on it all, it occurred to me that my husband really has the worst end of this. I'm going to go to sleep and it'll all be over when I wake up. My husband, on the other hand, has to watch them wheel me away, wait as they do surgery and then wait to be let into the recovery room. 

Waiting is harder than doing. At least it always has been for me. 

So tomorrow, please keep my husband in your prayers as he waits. 

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Today You Are Five

Today, Sweet Baby turns five. I should be buying her kindergarten uniform, brand new crayons, a backpack with matching lunch box, her favorite toys, a new bike.  But, I'm not.

We haven't seen our sweet girl in two years. It's now been as long without her as we had with her.  How could it be? I lifetime ago and the blink of an eye. 

Today will be one of the hard days. But, two and a half years later, the hard days are further apart and fewer.  On Tuesday, I cried in the shower. I cried for our broken world and a broken foster care system. I cried for her father's choice to cut us out of her life six months after she transitioned to him. But mostly I cried because I want to hug her, see her, hold her. Tell her that I never stopped loving her. 

Never. Yesterday, today and forever. 

I dream of a day I will see her again. A day where I give her the precious baby clothes she wore that I've saved. Where I can show her the photo albums from her earliest days with us. Show her that her picture hangs on our wall. 

Because she is a part of our story, as much as we are a part of hers. 

The gift of time is slowly learning that there is still more story. Our lives have more chapters to be written. For so long, I lingered on the final pages with her. 

Today, I honor her birthday by living fully in this new chapter. In this new home, leaving behind the little house where we shared our lives with her. 

Moving on to new adventures and dreams. All the while, thanking God for the 5 lb little miracle that came into our lives five years ago. 

Happy birthday sweet girl. I love you.