Indulging our intellect.

I love academic conferences. They’re kind of the place where all the best and brightest and nerdiest meet. We’re brought together in one place once a year, simultaneously sharing all the awesome and original ideas swimming through our heads. Academic conferences are a place where you can be your BA nerdy self and instead of being ostracized, people love it. It’s fantastic. They are also a place where you can get refilled and refreshed about the work that maybe you started out loving in an idealized dreamland, but then it became rote, lonely, and busy.

I also love the opportunity to explore new cities. To be honest, I wasn’t thrilled with the choice of Pittsburgh for the International Writing Centers Association (IWCA) conference. I mean, I’d never been there, and I really didn’t know exactly where it was… I knew it was kind of close to Ohio and beyond that, I just waved my hand and said, It’s… over there, two time zones away.

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Pittsburgh has turned out to be great, and as I walk around to dinner or to get coffee, or to view the sunset over the rivers (yes, that’s plural, like, more than one river), the air has the scent of a quickly approaching fall and sweet sweet humidity. Let it be known I have a love-hate relationship with humidity since it destroyed my curls today. However, I have no shame. I went right back up to my room after the keynote speech and redid those darn curls on my stick-straight hair. While inhaling coffee.

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Academic conferences seem to stop time. There’s something about exploring a new city for a few days with absolutely no responsibility. My husband just returned from quite possibly his last Army trip ever, but I am still relishing the few more days I have to sleep completely taking up the whole bed and using as many blankets as I want. (Princess and the Pea, anyone?)

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More than just learning more about our fields of research and practice, academic conferences allow us just to be. To indulge in freeing our minds without the worries of immediate replies to student emails, or the constant call of essay grading. To remember that yes, we do know a thing or two about teaching and writing and all the lovely things we studied in grad school, and we practice them well.

For me, these opportunities are beyond invaluable. In a time in my life when circumstances are up in the air (hello, we are soon to be a veteran and his spouse) or out of my control, these opportunities give me a sense of purpose and validation. They stoke that fire that was kindled so long ago to be a teacher-researcher-scholar. And after the last session of the day, I will breathe in every cool humid breath of air as I go for a run along the riverfront.

Hope never hurts.

The journey of infertility, at least for me, is not a test for my body to do biologically what it’s designed to do. I know that sounds counterintuitive. It’s a test of faith, much like other journeys we all go through.

I’m not making light of this journey. It’s difficult. It’s uncertain (especially if your diagnosis is “unexplained infertility”.. so scientific, right?). It’s lonely. When you get right down to it, it’s a stripped-to-the-bone roller coaster of elation, hope, disappointment, and depression.

In the year and a half we’ve been dealing with this journey, I’ve experienced all of those emotions. This summer was especially difficult. The baby announcements and family pictures posted by friends and family just did not relent. Even after cutting down my time on social media, I still felt the sting of comparison just thinking about how I did not have something that I, we, desperately want.

So I pushed it down. I threw my hands up in the face of hope and actually told my husband that we should just not have kids. Maybe that would be easier. Maybe that would be less painful. Then I could continue in my profession with few interruptions. Because DINK (double income no kids). Right, because money and trips and careers and things would fill in the gap in my heart for biological children, a perfect alchemy of genes from my husband and me.

Looking back on the long, hot, seemingly hopeless and emotional summer, I realize I wanted to not have kids so I could spare myself and my husband from the pain that is lost hope. I was tired of keeping my circle of family and friends updated, and wading through their comments, all well meaning, but just a real-life reminder of the place I was in. I was tired of being vulnerable, of being on the verge of tears more often than not, of pouring my heart out during worship and prayer times. I was rife with grief about asking over and over. Even though we continued to be faithful in attending church, I found myself pulling back and not wanting to get close to people because of the possibility of having to talk about this.

After vacation, I posted this entry, privately, and started really getting serious about training for a half marathon. I started back to work, no different physically than when I left in May. But something changed in my heart. I had that desire again for my own children, and I had the wherewithal to keep going. God has started to heal my heart.

In late July, my parents came to visit and towed a U-Haul carrying my most precious worldly possession: my great-grandmother’s piano. I started playing a little, and my hands flew over the keys as if we’d never been apart. That was part of the healing. I started playing keys and singing alto on the worship team at my church, and there I’ve been discovering more healing.

I’ve been able to talk to a few more people about this journey, and for once I don’t stiffen with offense with people ask me, So, do you guys want kids? Instead, I answer truthfully that Yes, we do. We’ve been trying for awhile and nothing yet. But we have hope.

More often than not, people have a similar story. Maybe they were never able to have their own children. Maybe they are suffering from secondary infertility. Maybe they’re considering the long arduous road to fostering or adoption.

This journey that the enemy has tagged to steal, kill, and destroy our hearts and hope actually can be a bright spot in the world for people with like circumstances to come together and support each other. And that’s why I’m “coming out” with our infertility. Not because I want pity or accolades or any of that. But because there’s no reason for it to be secret. It’s not shameful; we did nothing wrong. It’s an unfortunate circumstance, but in the midst of it I’ve found peace and hope and contentment, and I want others to know that they can, too.

I won’t lie: I have wished that when I finally shared this, I would be pregnant and therefore have “overcome” infertility. I’ve been waiting to get some family pictures done (none since 2009) until I have a “baby makes three” announcement to show off as a physical reminder of our love.

Life goes on. We keep praying and hoping and pursuing answers to the “unexplained.” We cry, we grieve the children that we actually may never bear biologically. There is one thing that is for sure: I will come out of this journey with my faith intact. The loss of hope, the wound of depression, the panic of anxiety, none of these things will take away my faith in an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving God, who through it all, refines us to make us more like Christ.

And that is the mercy for every mile of the journey.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety upon Him, because he cares for you.

I Peter 5:6-7