Friday, March 28, 2014

{Theme Thursday} Hear {7QTs}

Linking up - a day late - with Cari over at Clan Donaldson for Theme Thursday and Jen over at Conversion Diary for 7 Quick Takes.

I was all on-board with Cari when she said the prompt for Thursday was "word" over at the #holylens project.  I have no excuses of influenza either, I just have a hard time keeping track of the much so that I write the Mondays on my Creighton chart and then am gently chastised that there's not supposed to be anything "unnecessary" on the chart.

Well, thinking about "word" got me thinking about my word of the year.  I never really picked one in January.  I was in some serious grieving, and I thought perhaps the word should be "good-bye", but after this week, I think the word I needed to hear (see what I did there, oh yes you did, you're so witty you caught my not-so-subtle play) was "detachment".

I never would have gotten to this word without homeschooling.  Why?  I'll tell you, in 7 Quick Takes about why we homeschool:

{1}  For our family life. 

Hubby works a Tuesday-Saturday week.  When Little Bean was in 2nd grade and I had two babies under 1 in the house, we sent her to the local Catholic school.  Hubby and Little Bean rarely had any meaningful time together.  Sunday is a day we go to Mass together and visit extended family.

We either had to give up our visits with our extended family or homeschool so Little Bean could spend more time with Hubby (and we could all spend time as a family).  We chose to homeschool (again).

Ashley Jane Photography

{2}  For Little Bean's childhood.

She went to 3 y/o preschool and I was shocked by how fast the other kids were growing up.  No little girls should be having cat fights and complaining about their appearance in preschool.  Seriously.  No.

Others have found different solutions to the drama of small children together, we chose to bring Little Bean back home for 4 y/o preschool to "test out" homeschooling.  We love it.

I believe we are providing a solid education (LB's year of school confirmed that she's ahead of the curve) and our daughters have friends both within our neighborhood and within our homeschool community.  I am confident in my ability to advocate for my children and seek out their best education and path in life.  My goal is to get my children to Heaven.  They might also go to Harvard, but that's not the priority.  Good, kind, considerate people with a strong work ethic and strong morality...that's my definition of success.

Ashley Jane Photography

{3}  For Sibling Relationships.

Little Bean and Sweet Pea are very close.  They're also separated by 7 years.  Their relationship is beautiful, and while it would still be sweet and lovely were LB gone all day, the amount of time they spend together brings out qualities that might not otherwise be there.  Patience and compassion are stretched to new limits when SP is being a turkey, and SP is one of the most verbal toddlers I've ever been around.  It benefits both of them.

(4}  For Friends.

Weekday playdates - during the middle of the school day.  My favorites.  I love meeting my friends at the local children's museum, or visiting at each others houses for lunch and visiting.  Not only are SP and LB getting some great play time and building friendships, I am getting some great talk time and building/strengthening friendships as well.

{5}  For Community.

Our homeschool community is amazing.  I homeschool within this cocoon of sweet, wonderful families.  Families who brought me meals and celebrated with me when SP was born.  Families who brought me meals and mourned with me when we lost Mara.  And again when we lost Sweet Baby.

We go to Mass together, we celebrate holidays together, we learn together.  In my homeschool community, I've found beautiful pieces of past generations, where women mentored each other, brought each other meals and sharpened and inspired each others faith.  It's still happening today.  Just never where I would have found it without homeschooling.

{6}  For Me. 

I like being around my children.  I like being around them all day.  Sometimes I seek some alone time or time with friends when Hubby is home, but, I don't feel burdened by the presence of my children.  (Although I'm really looking forward to a couple years from now when LB can hold down the fort while I make a quick milk run!!)

I'm the kill-joy who is upset by those back-to-school commercials showing the happy parents dancing at the bus stops.  I know it's supposed to be an exaggerated joke, but I don't really think it's funny.  They're going to be gone so soon.  LB is already halfway out the door this summer when she turns 9.  I am so grateful that I have the option and ability to homeschool so that more of those hours between now and then can be accounted for in my presence.  I just love being with them.  They're some of the coolest people on the face of the planet, and someday, they're going to be living out on their own, and my turn will be up.  

{7}  For Faith.

Over the years, I've attended some women's studies in our homeschool group.  They have been so inspirational in how I live my daily life, interact with my husband and children, and express my faith to the world at large.

One of the things that has been profoundly impactful of late is practicing a spirit of detachment.  To let go of my own fears and anxieties to go out and be gift to the world.  The Holy Spirit is working in me through homeschooling, and the community we've built through it.  My ears have been opened so I could hear that word that I needed.  Especially this year.  We're still reeling in some ways over our grief, in others, we're moving forward.

I believe detachment will be a key piece in that puzzle this year.  Practicing a firm trust in God's will and laying down my wailing and gnashing of teeth over each bump in the roller coaster of finding a way to build back up a relationship with Sweet Baby and her new family.  Detachment.  That was the word I needed to hear.  The practice I need for the next steps in my journey.  A word I found through prayerful reflection with other holy women.  A gift of homeschooling.  Just one of the many gifts.

That beautiful, restful little ear, ready to hear God's word

I know not everyone is able to homeschool.  I know not everyone wants to homeschool.  I know not every family is called to homeschool.  I am so grateful that our family is able.  I feel called to raise my children this way.  Some days, I'd definitely like to send them all out the door.  We take that decision one year at a time, and we're open to that answer changing.  We're open to our children having different schooling needs.  In every day though, I feel the decision for me to work less and be present more has served our children better than the bigger house and nicer clothes we've had to pass up.

Thanks for stopping by and reading how homeschooling has blessed our lives.

And a bonus take - happy 36th birthday today to Hubby!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Spiritual Warfare and Fertility

As I mentioned last week, I'm taking the next steps forward in Creighton to determine possible causes of low fertility.

The running theory, based on my charts, is that there may be a low-grade infection in the mix, causing enough irritation to prevent implantation and successful having of the babies.

There's also some indication that maybe a prescription strength daily dose of B6 to promote fertility would not be amiss.

So, that's what's been happening since Wednesday.  Well, tomorrow I'm supposed to begin every-other-day blood draws.  I've had my blood drawn tons of times and, while it's not my favorite thing, it's one of those things I'm pretty resigned to doing without much fuss.  The actual blood drawing part of it doesn't bother me. 

However, I have some unusual orders from the doctor's office.  I have to get my blood drawn and spun down into the serum portion, then I have to get it back from them, take it home and put it in my deep freeze until all the samples have been collected, at which time, I can drive them the 2 hours back to the doctor's office.  (There are only a handful of places in the country that can do the actual testing at the rigor needed for reliable results.)

Now, I have doctor's orders, and I have specific directions, but I HATE standing out or being different in any way, especially as relates to things where others have more authority over the situation (such as a person drawing my blood not thinking it's a good idea to hand it back over to a lay person, even with orders).  I don't like causing a fuss and I have to be fairly provoked before that part of my temperament that will run you over like a steam roller's there, but she's just so unpleasant, I'd just as soon you didn't meet her. 

Tomorrow the blood draws begin, and today I really should stop by the lab to make sure they understand the instructions and have no questions that need to be settled with the doctor's office before they can proceed.

Knowing that I'm faced with this task that causes me anxiety and is high on my list of unpleasant things today (we cleaned the whole house today and it's not even registering on the list, so to each their own list of freak-outs and unpleasantness, I suppose), I woke up anxious.

The first thoughts in my mind this morning were, two is a good number.  We should just stop trying to have kids and life would be so much easier.  We wouldn't need to expand the attic into a bedroom this summer, no more doctor's appointments and no fighting for something that the world doesn't even seem to value.....I can just stop fighting.  Wouldn't that be nice?  Wouldn't that be fun?  To just have two girls and be able to travel, Hubby could work less, it would be great. 

Then, in a moment where it felt like time to call the whole thing off, it struck me, this is the voice of evil.  This is temptation.  This is an easier, less joy-filled, more self-centered way to live......and it sounds so da*n inviting.  It doesn't require anything from me.  Nothing scary or worrying, no wondering, it's an empowerment of self that sounds so tantalizing.  I will grab back the control of the uncontrollable by simply doing nothing.   As the tempestuous child flings their hands up and leaves, so too will I. 

Wouldn't it feel good to let go of this heartbreaking fight?  Wouldn't you just like to rest?  STOP.  My children are worth fighting for, future ones included. 

Today is one of those days I'm thankful for small graces, like finding The Spicy Catholic talking about what a blessing Creighton was in identifying some issues as she looks forward to the second trimester with her third.  Little things like that can help turn the internal battle that rages on in me. 

I just needed to see a small glimpse of possibility today....that someone else fought and won.  I am battle weary, just as I near this next rise, unsure if I'll find victory on the other side.

This is the beauty of our online community.  A recent community started up on FB called The Catholic Brew.  I've found quite a few new bloggers through it, and am reminded of how much we have in each other.  Sometimes just a word, a prayer, a shared idea, is enough to help your comrade in arms through the next siege.

That struggle this morning also gave me a sudden thought - there must be something fruitful coming from this Creighton.  Something wonderful (baby, marital closeness, increased prayer life) is coming from this, otherwise, why the attack?  He's never bothered me much when I've been worried about paint colors and landscape projects.  Now, though, now I'm turning my energy to life....and death doesn't seem to care much for it.  Something is going to happen, something is happening.  I have more firmly dug my feet into prayer, sacrifice and suffering and whether the blessing is visible or not, the lines have been drawn more deeply, yet again.  I stand for life.

I know for some, the battle within might be finding the voice of prudence to delay another child.  For some, this might not even be the spiritual battleground.  In all of the different daily struggles, I'm so thankful for the variety of faith-filled women I share with in the blogosphere.  I am so thankful that we are a supportive and uplifting people, whether it's sharing the excitement of a new baby or lifting up someone who's in a bad moment.

Thank you all for joining me in prayer, for your love and support.  As I anxiously walk this path (attempting my best to lay down the anxiety), you are remembered in prayer. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

{Theme Thursday} Rich

Linking up with Clan Donaldson for Theme Thursday and Instagramming along with #holylens over at Surviving Our Blessings.

The theme today is rich.  This morning, as I fed my girls sausage, certified-cruelty-free eggs and whole milk, I looked around and realized this is what rich would mean to most of the world.  Forget the whole 99% campaign - to most of the world, we are the 1% - and it is oh so easy for me to forget that truth.  Thank you God for all my riches, even if I'm not rich by American standards, I know that I have an earthly wealth beyond many.  Next time I inwardly (or outwardly) complain about the price of filling up my operable vehicles or the size of my heated and air-conditioned house with running water, I'm sorry in advance.

My girls, getting plenty of protein in a comfortable home #rich

Yesterday was also the much-anxiety-inducing doctor's appointment - the first in my Creighton NaPro Technology fertility appointments.  I was sure my charting was going to show some massive problem....but, to my surprise, the doctor looked pretty good.  Ugh, not what I wanted to hear.  I wanted there to be some obvious anomaly.  Not so, not so.  I'm a little disheartened this morning.

Only a little though.  Based on my charting and symptoms, I was fairly sure I would be prescribed progesterone....nope, not so.  Instead, the doctor prescribed an antibiotic and B6.  There is some indication that there may be an underlying low-grade infection.  This infection might be irritating my uterus enough that I'm not getting pregnant.  Perhaps that would explain the three spontaneous conceptions....maybe I was between infections.  Regardless, the next step is a round of 10 days of antibiotics for Hubby and's a team effort.  The next prescription was for a time-released B6 supplement.  This is supposed to increase symptoms of fertility, supporting conception.  As the doctor put it, "can't hurt, might help".

As I drove home last night, the thought occurred to me that I really don't care if I'm a victim of the placebo effect.  Maybe just taking these medications will have some bearing on my stress or our hopefulness and *boom* a baby!  I'm totally okay with it being all in my head if that's what gets us another little person.

The next more aggressive step I signed on for is a hormone profile.  I really have mixed feelings about this one.  I think I need progesterone......for PMS if nothing else.  However, what if the hormone profile shows that it's all in my head.  I'm super accomplished at hypochondria.  What if there's nothing there?  No answer?  Circling back around to question everything all over again.

One of the most troubling parts of infertility/low fertility is that I doubt myself, I doubt my wholeness.  What if there's no medical diagnosis because it's just me and I'm about to be dismissed as cuckoo yet again?  Looking for answers after 7 years of struggling has brought me to a place that holds a lot of the old desperation I thought I'd let go of.  I'm not a fan of revisiting it.

One of the thoughts I had as I was trying to fall asleep last night was, "what if we discover something so wrong with me that there is no explanation for the miracles of our girls?"  Really, what if that's the story.  As much as I hope and pray for more children, that thought was a reminder of how much I've truly been blessed in the sweet girls I have.

Dwija was kind to remind me that really and truly, evil attacks what is good, and me looking for answers and fighting to bring more souls into this world to know, love and serve God....that's the pinnacle of good.  So, the war within will rage on.  Voices of doubt will creep into every step, every moment.  Taking vitamins and antibiotics will feel futile at times.  Charting will feel laborious.

But I can attack back.  I can pray, fast and work for good.  Starting on Tuesday, I'll be having my blood drawn every other day for the better part of a month to complete the hormone profile.  I will silence the voices of fear and doubt by doing.  If nothing is identified, that's not defeat, that's one step closer to the answer, it's one problem ruled out.

In this fight, there is one tool, one weapon that has been my comfort and shield.  Your prayers and love.  As I sat in the doctor's waiting room, my anxiety was at an 8/10.  I was nearly physically ill with worry.  I threw a little post on Facebook about how I was feeling anxious.  You answered with love and prayers.  So, today, as I fight the rebellion within my heart to chart diligently and take all the prescribed pills, I know I am rich in you.  Your intercessions are so welcomed and appreciated.  You cannot know just how much it means every time one of you comments that you're praying.  Seriously.  In those moments when I remember to be a better person, I offer my anxieties and waiting up for you.  Because we all have crosses, but carrying them in unity eases the journey.

I'm rich in your friendship and prayers
For a take on the beauty of our unity this Lent, check out my Three Reasons: Lent Edition.

Three Reasons: Lent Edition

Linking up with the lovely Micaela over at California to Korea for Three Reasons I Love Lent

The Three Reasons is one of my favorite link-ups and I've been so delinquent in posting, but I've been rolling around my Lenten reasons for a while now.

Feel free to right click and copy the image URL if you'd like to add this photo to your post.

{1} Unity

Lent is a time we are reminded of who we are through suffering (fasting/abstaining), and we do it together.  This is more than a New Year's resolution or a fad diet.....this is us a community of believers, laying down something to refine our souls.  And we're all sharing in this time, at the same time, together.  That's beautiful.  Imagine the grace that must pour down during this time of year.  Never is there a time throughout the liturgical calendar when we, as Catholics, are so very unified.  It's worth the suffering.

{2} Intentionality

Faith life is one of those things that can easily get put behind all the corporal needs and wants of life.  It's so easy to forget we're on a journey with a final destination while we're thinking about home improvement projects, our children's education and any other number of worthwhile ventures.  Lent draws us back.  It centers us.  Just like the beautiful picture above (from Micaela) of the candle's journey, we journey intentionally back to the center of our faith, Christ resurrected.

{3}  Thinning of the veil

I think in large part due to the unity and intentionality I feel this time of year, I also feel much closer to the spiritual world.  The veil is stretched thin and we can feel much more readily the presence of the Holy Spirit...especially as we journey through Lent to Easter to Pentecost.  Our spiritual side becomes more sensitive, as we deny our physical side and tune our mental side to the spiritual. 

As a child, I hated Lent.  It was a time of drudgery for me.  As an adult, I'm still not a 100% fan of the whole no-meat...but mostly, because it causes me to plan better to feed my family on Fridays.  Now, this time of year is more about refinement and purification, an invitation to take the next step.  In the wisdom and beauty of the Church, they know we're not able to operate at such a fever-pitch all year round and tend to stray, but this time of year is a call back to our good habits, to lay down our vices and to engage more fully in the richness of our faith. 

This Lent, for every person in some way offended or hurt by the Church, I pray for their hearts.  I pray they may know our unconditional love and find in the Church the welcoming home laid out for them.  All of them.  The Church is Christ's bride, the visible, real vehicle of our ultimate happiness with Him someday in heaven.  Come home.  The structure is meant to free you, not to bind you.  We love you, come home.

Even with small children, we try to go to the Easter Vigil each year.  Because I want to remember, and I want my children to know that joy of coming home.  Let us not be the older son, chastising the father for his love of the prodigal son, let us remember, we too are prodigal, and are offered that same love.

Prayers for a holy Lent and joyous Easter.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

{Theme Thursday} Answer

This week, Theme Thursday over at Clan Donaldson is linking up with the #holylens project by Abbey.

Today, as you can see, is Answer.  I started my morning by writing an answer to some long-overdue correspondence.

My other big task of the morning has been filling out intake forms for a FertilityCare appointment next Wednesday....and that's where the real story is today.

Hubby and I are in the process of learning the Creighton Model of Natural Family Planning.  Because of its specificity and scientific rigidity, it's been used in many instances with great success to overcome fertility issues. 

I haven't talked about how Creighton is going much lately, but I'm feeling called to be very honest about where I am right now.  Maybe you or someone you know is somewhere similar and this sharing will help....or maybe the vent will prepare me to move past my struggles.

With secondary infertility, there isn't much burden to chart or follow any particular system.  Babies are heart-breakingly few and far between in these parts, but there's also not a lot of effort required either. 

Having unexplained fertility problems for 7 years now, I've been out of practice with charting.  Creighton requires an investment in your mental space that I wasn't quite prepared for.  Observing mucus before and after each bathroom break?  Still seems a little OCD to me, but I'm trying to be a good student.  That there's science backing up all this excessiveness does make it at least tolerable to keep track....mostly.  But really, I'm in a silent revolt over charting.

The revolt makes absolutely no sense.  The charting has already picked up some biomarkers that suggest underlying issues, so I'm not doubting it works, but it feels like such a chore.  Really, can't I just go to the bathroom in peace without every trip being a constant vigil for signs of fertility?  No? Well, then I'm going to whine and complain in my head constantly until it seems like such a burden I'd rather just give up.  *Well, hello voice of evil sowing seeds of discontent when it's not easy.*

I'm struggling with Creighton.  I truly believe it will hold the answers to what the heck is going on with me; to why I can have two spontaneous pregnancies in 9 years, but concentrated efforts seem to have no effect.  And I think that's partly the key to my struggle.

I am terrified.  Terrified it won't work because it really is my Obi Wan Kenobi, but more, I'm terrified that it will work; that my life is about to change drastically.  That, dare to hope, I might be standing on the precipice about to dive head-first into what we've always wanted:  a large family. 

Who will I be with more children?  Who will I be when infertility is no longer a part of me?  Can I do it?  Am I brave enough to find out?

It took me two weeks from the time I got the doctor's phone number to placing the call.  My appointment is next Wednesday at 3:00pm Central Time.  My anxiety on a scale of 1 to 10 is hovering right around an 8 over this appointment.

Having read through typical procedures, I'm thinking there's a high likelihood I'll be doing exploratory surgery in the near future to check that my remaining fallopian tube is free of blockages, perhaps a check for endometriosis and perhaps even a 14-day blood profile.  These physical aspects are equally terrifying.  I don't wanna.

But, more than I don't want to do it; more than I'm anxious over the future; more than I worry that health insurance won't want to cover the costs and we'll be punching a hole in our savings; I need an answer.

Why aren't there more faces on this wall?  April 17th will mark 10 years of marriage for Hubby and I.  What is going on?  Why hasn't our openness resulted in a van-load?

I'm terrified to know.  Terrified something won't work.  Terrified something will.  Just really struggling in general with being (perhaps) so close to knowing.

It's time to find an answer.