Lenten Journey: Day 1, Heal

Image result for lenten photo a day 2017 rethink

Last year for Lent I wrote a little bit everyday about a given topic and related it to my walk with Christ. Instead of spending time on social media, I spent time writing, praying, and reflecting. I will take time this year as well to write about a topic a day. I found the practice to be healing and introspective. Over the next few weeks, I hope to stay true to the spirit of freewriting by not editing or revising much.

MARCH 1: HEAL

Twenty sixteen was a year of grief. I hope 2017 will be a year of healing.

What grief do I need healing from? First of all, the grief of the intangible: infertility. I’m still wrestling with the reality that infertility unfortunately brings upon its sufferers. And I don’t think suffer is too strong of a word. Second of all, I need healing for the loss of loved ones – most recently my grandmother, almost a year ago now. Her death was sudden and heartbreaking, and I went through many weeks of reading and pondering all I could about grief, death, what our bodies actually go through when they die, and the hope we have in an afterlife.

A good portion of my healing so far has occurred through a practice of introspection and disconnection from things that bring me, well, grief. To put it plainly, I’ve deleted my Facebook once and for all. I’ve taken many steps back from social media in order to quit the comparison game. I’ve given myself permission to take back my time and head space. It’s been quite revolutionary.

Another portion of my healing, surprisingly, has been working with children. Exposure therapy, if you will. In August I was hired to teach elementary ESOL. I had never taught elementary in my life. I’d been an paraprofessional in first grade, but really had no idea about the #elementarylife. Funny enough, my office is situated in the hallway with the youngest children in our school – pre-K and preschool. Some days this has been rough, to see their adorable selves carrying their huge backpacks, thinking about if we had had a child when we started trying, he or she would be getting to that age. However, overall it’s been a wonderful experience. I never lack hugs or smiles…. but maybe I lack patience at times. ūüėČ

And finally a third portion of my healing has been my yoga practice. I never thought I’d become a ‘yogini’, but I found a local yoga studio that’s just fantastic. I’ve been going about 3 times per week for about a month. The strength I’ve built is surprising… I keep joking that one day I’ll be able to do a legit pushup. Seriously, I’ve begun to love my body again instead of feeling so betrayed.

Running is always a part of healing for me… it’s also a part of celebration, of determination, of courage. It keeps me centered and gives me time to meditate and pray and appreciate the world around me. And for all these things I’m grateful.

Finding our voices

Every time I get the inspiration or urge to write, something stops me. It’s almost like a paralysis, but it’s completely intangible. I imagine it’s a bit like being under anesthesia, able to feel but unable to speak. Actually, that’s exactly what it is.

Two years of hopefulness followed by hopelessness ad nauseum can really render someone speechless. Screaming on the inside but unable to formulate shapes with the mouth and vibrations with the vocal chords.

There’s so much to say and nothing at all. Some days I feel like an old woman, content to sit in the silence, meditating or pondering the rays of light that come through the window. I move slow, think slower, and hours can go by with nothing more than a few sentences loosely parsed together.

I’m trying to find my place in the world. I feel like part of my soul is missing some of the time. At almost 31, I’m established in my career but not necessarily because this was my goal. I fell into career success. Great, right? Kind of.

Nevertheless, every day in my care are 20 children, ages 5 to 10, all learning English and finding their place in the world, too. They’ve been my focus of whatever maternal instinct has survived this descent. I cherish their smiles and hugs, and their insightful and goofy anecdotes about life. I help them write, putting the words on the page. And in helping them find their voices, I’m finding mine too.

 

What not to say to someone struggling with infertility.

It’s Infertility Awareness Week, April 24-30. Judging by the uncomfortable interaction I had last night at, of all places, a church softball game, cyberspace could use a little awareness.

For those of you who read my initial ‘coming out’ post in October, you’d know that by now, April 2016, we’ve been trying to conceive for two years. Not two weeks. Not two months. Two¬†years. It’s been a hell of a ride, and I mean that literally.

About a year ago I started looking into getting testing done to see what was going on. Long story short, we’re ‘fine,’ which translates into a diagnosis called ‘unexplained infertility.’ The truth is that there is still so much more doctors and researchers have yet to discover about the process of conceiving that there aren’t even tests for a lot of possible conditions.

We did two rounds of fertility treatment and suffice it to say, they didn’t work. The resulting imbalance of hormones sent me into a depressive tailspin, and finally I’m coming out of the fog of the past two years of alternating hopefulness and hopelessness.

Many of you know that I’ve dealt with depression and anxiety in the past. About ten years ago I finally went to see a counselor and I was on medication and received counseling for a couple years. I was able to quit therapy and haven’t been back on it since. Not during a deployment, not during any number of military separations, not even after my grandparents died. I found other ways to cope, and came out of those incidents stronger than before.

Despite all other hardships, infertility has been the most difficult, heartwrenching hardship I’ve gone through. Because of the risk to my mental health, which I’ve worked so hard to preserve and maintain over the past ten years, and also because of the cost (our insurance doesn’t cover infertility), we decided to not move forward with more treatment or testing.

I’ve come to terms with this decision, and we know it’s the best thing for us. As soon as an outside force starts to mess with the happiness of my marriage and/or my mental health, it has to go.¬† It’s a decision that we are comfortable with, and we don’t feel a need to seek out input from more doctors, or endure more invasive testing and treatment.

Now, back to the uncomfortable conversation last night. Might I encourage people to ‘think before they speak,’ especially about something so personal as fertility and the decision to have (or not to have) children. Below are things that are not helpful to say to someone struggling with infertility,¬†especially if you’ve only known them for five minutes.

“I’ve heard that people can get pregnant if they just stop stressing about it.”

Would you say something like this to someone going through cancer treatment? That if they stop stressing, the cancer will go away? Even pneumonia or, as silly as it sounds, a sinus infection? Infertility is categorized as a disease and requires its own specific diagnostic and treatment procedures, just as any other disease or illness does. The ‘problem’ with us may not even have a name yet.

“Well, maybe it’ll just happen someday! You never know. Maybe years down the line.”

Female fertility starts declining beginning at age 30. Even so, for a couple trying for two years, the chance per cycle of becoming pregnant is a mere 4%. So I highly doubt it will happen years down the line naturally. Because science. And biology. Also, we are not open to becoming first-time parents later in life.

“Maybe it wasn’t meant to be. Maybe you’re supposed to just be a big part of other kids’ lives.”

We are already a big part of other kids’ lives. Whether it was ‘meant to be’ or not is between God and myself.

“My [insert female relation here] says she never wants kids of her own, but she might adopt someday.”

Last I checked, if a couple adopts, those children become theirs. Adoption is an expensive, drawn out process with a heartwrenching wait of its own. I’m not exactly hankering to put myself through that right now when I’m grieving and healing from two years of disappointment.

Please think before you ask a man or woman¬†about his or her (in)fertility. Please think before you ask about someone’s intentions to have children¬†at all, and refrain from giving unsolicited advice. It is a very personal matter, and one that requires more education.

And if you find yourself asking, just listen. Provide a shoulder to cry on, an attentive ear, a nonjudgmental glance.

(This post is also very helpful for more information.)