Sunday, July 20, 2014

C'mon In

So many of you have been SO incredibly sweet to ask how the house is coming. In case you missed it: WE BOUGHT A HOUSE!

Our Home (before it was our home)

And it was awesome and amazing and overwhelming. For three straight weeks all available minutes not spent working or sleeping were spent scraping popcorn ceilings and painting every surface available. After we moved in, things slowed down, but there was still SO much to do. I'm ashamed to admit that we lived for WEEKS out of boxes, I used my iPhone as a light in the bathroom to apply makeup, shave, etc... I was looking rough for far too long.

There is still a lot to do, but I hear that's the norm with home ownership... there is always a list of things needing to be fixed/updated. Regardless, I think I'm finally ready to welcome you inside.

Hello there friend, won't you please come in:

C'mon in!

Imagine with me that you, dear friend, have walked up the three well worn (read weathered and in need of repair) steps to my front porch. You, the good, dog-loving friend that you are, have knocked quietly at the door as you recognize that the doorbell is the bane of Sterling's existence. Won't you please come inside and visit our new home? Please ignore the barking: he's loud and ill-mannered, but he won't bite. He'll just sniff inappropriate places and lick any exposed skin... but we're friends, so you're okay with that sort of thing, right? We'll of course only meander through a few select rooms today as the others are not quite done (read works in progress disaster zones)

The view from the front door. One of the things I like the least about the
house is the lack of an "entry"… I hate walking directly into the living
room, but this seems to be a ranch thing, and as just about every house in
our price range was a ranch, I guess I'll learn to live with it… and like it.

The living room: I'd eventually like a sectional sofa and a tufted ottoman,
but umm, priorities are all… air conditioning units and babies first, you know?

"Dining room"- it's probably my least favorite space in the house as it
feels a bit awkward in placement, but it's functional and the table we
refinished fits just fine. I've ordered a runner for the table to bring in
some color to the space, which should brighten things up a bit!
Right side of the kitchen. The counter tops turned out great! If you look
closely you'll see some imperfections in the topcoat (which drives me
crazy!), but all in all, I'm very pleased! Total cost was about $65. The
cabinets were incredibly tedious, and again, there are imperfections, but
I love the kitchen SO much more with these than the old oak color.
(Erika- look, the moldy houseplant is still alive!!!)

The left side of the kitchen. In one of our gutsier moves, we decide to raise
one section of the cabinets in order to install a microwave over the stove.
Sam worked very hard on that part, and I'm really glad we went for it!
It clears up a lot of counter space and I like the visual interest of the
elevated cabinetry. Eventually I'd like to add some molding to the
cabinets which will really make me LOVE them!
Guest bathroom- I love how this room came together!
The only purchase was new towels, a shower curtain,
shelf supports for some old, crappy floating shelves
from college, and molding for the mirror.

This counter top is my favorite. I did slightly different
colors, and added some metallic paint… really nice! I
also love the molding around this mirror… all Sam!

Guest Bedroom- a little plain right now, but it'll perk up once we
start decorating! 

Master Bedroom- this room was a pretty bold move… dark blue accent
wall. I thought my mom was going to die when she saw it. I had faith that
it would look awesome because most of my paint colors were selected with
the help of my AMAZINGLY talented interior designer friend. I love how
it turned out. Once we get some personal touches, I think the room will
really come together. And we're saving a spot for a TV (no lectures about
TV in the bedroom)… maybe Sam's Christmas present!
Master Bathroom: I have big dreams for this room, but
in the mean time, I love the way this came together. I
think this might be my favorite paint color… very serene!

I think the colors came together really well in the master
bath… I love the creams, browns, and blues. And the
frame Sam built for the mirror really adds a nice touch!

Thank you so much for coming, and for being such a polite house guest! Thanks for not looking under the beds or in the closets! Now if you'd like, just for fun, we can take a look back and see where we started:

Kitchen on closing day

The plastic was to protect the floors/carpet from the
raining plaster that fell like globs of mud.
The aftermath of scraping popcorn ceilings
Master Bathroom before
The counter had a bad spot on it that the previous owner had tried to
patch… you'd never know it now. Plus the mirror looks a bazillion
times better now.
Guest Bathroom before… as you might guess, it was
always our intention to paint this room.

Side note: I'm super sorry that I disappeared following an "I'm depressed" announcement. Apparently saying that you battle depression and then dropping off your blog for a few weeks causes concern: lesson learned. I'm here: alive and well enough. So sorry if I scared anyone, and thanks for checking in!

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Struggle

I don't talk about it often, but I have periodically struggled with depression throughout my life. Middle school was the worst, by far. For a few years I was on various medications to assist me... most of them SSRIs. I don't know if the medications actually worked, the hours of therapy worked, growing up a bit worked, or if my brain just started regulating more normally, but I eventually left that period of depression behind. I honestly don't remember a lot about those days... I was in a sort of fog. That's how I describe it at least, a fog that kind of covers you, weighs on you, and dulls everything around you.

The depression has returned a time or two over the last 16 years. Every time it has returned, I've chosen to wait it out. I feel educated enough to know the signs of serious depression; I feel versed enough in the various treatment methods that I haven't sought medication or therapy for depression again. I have however needed medications for anxiety... that's another beast all together. I was diagnosed with Somatoform Disorder at 25 years old. Anxiety disorders plus infertility make for an interesting cocktail, let me tell you. I'm sure I'm a complete joy to live with. I'm not 100% confident in the diagnosis, as the diagnosis came amidst panic attacks that I haven't had since then, but I do have to admit that I fit many of the criteria even when I am "high functioning". Anxiety is really my beast... depression just comes and goes, in and out, throughout my life.

I can feel myself entering another period of depression. I told Sam so that he can "keep an eye out"... that's step one. You never walk depression alone. Someone has to know, so that if I'm unable to say that this has gone too far, someone else can. I don't think I'll get to that point by any means, I'm not really worried, but it's just wise to let someone know. Plus, it's good for him to know it's me, not him. That we (our marriage, our life) are good... it's simply my brain's inability to process serotonin and dopamine correctly.

That's important when dealing with depression... knowing the science. I think that's part of what has kept me from going deep as an adult. I don't get down on myself. I don't think of myself as weak, or lacking the joy of the Lord, or any of the 8 million things that can make me feel more crappy and pathetic about depression. My brain doesn't process neurotransmitters correctly all the time. It's not my fault, I may not like it, but it's no more my fault than my infertility.

Which brings me around to the trigger of my bout with depression: infertility and the mess it makes. The last time I was struggling with depression was almost 2 full years ago. It was a minor, brief episode, but it centered around the failed IUIs. The more the cycles failed, the farther I sunk. There were certainly other contributing factors... I was unemployed, my husband was gone all. the. time. and I was living with my in-laws or my mom during that time... kind of a perfect storm. My RE offered medication after my third failed IUI. I'm pretty sure she thought I was about to go down in a ball of flames; I knew that I wasn't, so I stayed off meds. I had been on medication for anxiety when I miscarried and I knew that going on antidepressants was a sure fire way to trigger a massive anxiety attack... I was still feeling semi-confident (somehow) that I'd get pregnant and I didn't want to risk another miscarriage on the admittedly small risk.

Since then, I've been pretty okay. Which is kind of surprising. I mean really, when you think about what infertility puts you through... it's kind of a miracle we're walking, talking, functioning humans. I am struggling now though. And I think that centers around inactivity and an empty bank account. I'm frustrated that we've finally chosen a path forward (more on that later), that I finally have a little bit of hope again, and yet we're stuck here, waiting on money. Money that doesn't grow on trees. It's odd really, that THIS would be the time for depression to creep back in. I mean there was a LOT of down time waiting for IVF. Then IVF failed. Then the FET failed. And yet through all of that I held it together. And now this.

Our financial woes center around the house, which in and of itself frustrates me. The house is beautiful and amazing and was NOT an over-investment on our part. We were under budget. We're not struggling to make payment, we're not in over our heads... it's not that. But as anyone can attest, moving costs money, furnishing costs money, renovating costs money... that was a dent, one that I was moderately prepared for... and then the AC unit died. Heaven help me, I was not prepared for that. Not prepared to enter a large hole of debt that we now have to climb out of (again). My financial mentor is in Costa Rica with far more important things going on than reading my blog, but I know if she was here, she'd tell me to "stop the bleed"... not one more thing gets purchased that I do not have the money for in the bank. NO credit cards. I'm working on it... the bleed has been slowed, we're just oozing right now.

But essentially, I'm frustrated and sad. It's beyond annoying/frustrating/depressing that our family requires BIG MONEY to build itself. The lack of movement, the lack of focus, the inability to pull the trigger and go for it is opening up time and space for depression to slink back in. And slink in it has... again, it's a lot like fog. I didn't wake up depressed. Depression kind of oozes into your life, rolling like billows of fog. It's not like I have a permanent rain cloud hanging over my head. I'm happy at times, I laugh, I still enjoy things... the fog just kind of dampens and dulls everything a bit and it requires more time/effort to be happy, laugh, enjoy.

I say all of this not to garner sympathy. Our financial situation is our own, and I'm well aware that we aren't the only ones struggling financially. And I'm not trying to win the Sad Olympics or anything... infertility and depression can go hand in hand. I'm not the first and I won't be the last to struggle with depression along this winding, bumpy, dusty road of infertility. And that's really my point entirely... If you have struggled or are struggling with depression, you're not alone.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

THAT Person

I've often wondered why infertility is a part of my life. When you've tried for three plus years to get pregnant, you have a lot of time to muse. At various times I've wondered about EVERY possibility: population control, a test of faith, a lesson in patience, to prevent some future catastrophe... the brain can go WILD with the options and all that time to wonder. Lately, I've wondered if I'm slated to be that friend... you know the one you go to when X happens. For me, the X, is pregnancy loss or infertility diagnosis.

Hannah's story in the Bible has often been a place of refuge for me in the past few years. I feel like I can really understand her story in ways that I can't really grasp Ruth's or Mary's, you know? First of all, she was so distraught over her situation she wept... I definitely get that. There has been much weeping in the last few years. Secondly, people thought she was crazy (like drunk crazy) and didn't understand her sorrow. I've certainly had conversations and questions over the years which have further proven to me that until you've walked this road, you'll never understand. I get what it feels like to be misunderstood. I get what it feels like when people point out all the other blessings in your life and tell you to be happy (while holding their third child). I understand Hannh's sorrow and her pain. I haven't felt her joy yet, but I imagine my prayer of thanksgiving would be similar.

There's one part of Hannah's story that always gets me... "the Lord had closed her womb." I've often wondered if that's simply Old Testament code for infertile or if it's more literal. Did the Lord literally, intentionally, and specifically close Hannah's womb? Was she a lovely, happy, fertile woman, able to pop out 6-10 babies in her lifetime except for the small detail that the Lord said "no". You can see why this would bug me, I'm sure. I've often wondered why in the world the Lord would prevent Hannah from having a child for so long. Obviously there was a plan, but the details and rationale aren't really spelled out in the text. I find myself pretty peeved about the situation on Hannah's behalf. Now sure, the argument could be made that Samuel had to come along at that exact moment for the plan to come to fruition, but arguments like that just rub me the wrong way sometimes. God is God, and He's all powerful... it could have been both. Hannah could have been fertile, happy, AND have had Samuel at that exact moment in time. 

So why give Hannah a small, but powerful role in the story? Why give a minor character, a woman no less, a voice in the Old Testament? I like to think that the Lord knew that thousands of years later, other women with crappy wombs and broken eggs would take comfort in her story. I wonder if Hannah, even within her lifetime, became that go to person. When women from neighboring areas struggled to conceive, did they turn to Hannah for hope, for empathy, for a friend?

I certainly don't think this is the only reason for my infertility or my miscarraiges, and I'm not equating myself with Hannah, but I'm starting to wonder if infertility is a part of my life so that I can be that person for others. You see, when miscarriages occur, people think of me. It doesn't matter if we're related, best friends, old friends, or haven't spoken in 10 years, people reach out looking for advice, for hope, for a shoulder to cry on, for someone who understands. When people get the dreaded "infertile" diagnosis, they come to me. They want help, they want the secret to not murdering their peppy, optimistic husbands, they want advice on dealing with the annoying questions. I'm that person when this type of thing happens.

In a lot of ways, it's an honor. An honor that people would turn to me, an honor that they think of me, and honor that they trust me. It's also a burden, one that I gladly bear, but a burden none the less. As you might imagine, the circles that I'm a member of deal with pregnancy loss more than "normal". But I often feel like a bad luck charm, like women around me are destined to lose their children. On any given day, someone is blogging about the loss of a pregnancy. That's tough. Some days it feels like we're all destined to stay here, in this pit forever. Some days it feels like all of our babies will die. Add in the real life friends who turn to me in these moments and some days, it's overwhelming... some days I feel like I eat, breathe, and sleep pregnancy loss. It's my whole world. Some days, my only thought upon waking up is that I hope no one's baby dies today... literally. Last week I had four different friends in the process of losing a pregnancy. Between real life and the blog world, some days it feels like a miracle if I make it through a week without terrible news. Some days I'm just walking in a perpetual state of sadness, of mourning, of sorrow so far down deep in my soul for the loss that surrounds me.

Last week started off with the news from Suzanne that her FET transfer had failed. I can't explain the sadness I felt with this one. I was prepared for the news. Suzanne had faithfully updated me throughout her two week wait. I knew the chances were slim as she was testing daily, but sometimes, it's the friend's job to hold on to hope because you can't hope for yourself any longer. I've been there. I get that, so I was holding onto hope. My heart broke when she confirmed the negative beta. Anger and frustration at the Lord rose up while tears fell down my face as I stood in my kitchen questioning The Plan and His ways. The week before had been filled with similarly terrible news. Twenty five year-old women shouldn't lose their first pregnancy. I know because it happened to me. It feels wrong every time it happens, and this one was particularly hard. When my precious friend shared her news with me, the memories came rushing back... the joy at that (deceitful) little stick of good news, the confusion over the beta numbers, the fear, the sadness, the mourning. 

Sometimes the sadness is deep. There's my own sadness, which in and of itself is enough to swallow me up some days. And then there's the burden of mutual sorrow, of bearing up alongside of a friend, or carrying a little piece of their pain... the burden of abiding with that person through the valley. When your world is filled with infertility and pregnancy loss, it can feel like you simply live in the valley awaiting the next person to need you. But maybe this is the reason, or at least a part of it. Maybe I'm where I am, maybe I've experienced what I have so that I can have empathy rather than sympathy. Maybe infertility and pregnancy loss are a part of my story so that I can say, "I've been there".

Unfortunately, I'm not great at offering support, particularly for first time pregnancy loss. Not because I don't care, but because it's hard to put myself in her shoes... my own shoes have traveled a lot farther and it's nearly impossible to unwalk those miles. My first loss was almost three years ago... time and infertility have changed me. And while the emotions are still there, it's hard for me to put myself back there in Augusta, Ga at the age of 25 when that precious digital test read "pregnant" and I believed everything was right with the world. It's hard to remember a time when I didn't know what I know now. It's hard to remember that I was hysterical over the loss. It's hard to remember that my falling hCG numbers still didn't indicate a miscarriage to me. I was waiting on a miracle. It's hard to remember that thoughts like "just stitch my cervix closed so it can't come out" circled through my head even while the blood spilled out. It's hard to remove the knowledge that I now have, the experience that I now have, the protective shell that I've developed since then. The world I live in is FULL of pregnancy loss. Filled to the absolute brim and spilling over. It's hard to remember a time when I felt like the only person in the world who had suffered like this. I'm sure my friends occasionally need less head knowledge and more heart. Less statistics and more stories. I'm sure they often just want someone to cry with them. I could do that; I really could. But here's the thing, if I start, I may never stop. Because the tears I cry aren't just for her baby, but for my babies, and for all of my friends' babies... and that's a lot of tears. 

But like I said, maybe this is my role, maybe this is my purpose. If so, I'm thankful to at least have a purpose. If I could wave a magic wand and end pregnancy loss all together, believe me I would. If I could end all of that pain for you and for me, I would do it in a heartbeat. But since I can't, since my magic wand is broken, all I can say is that I'm here. If you've never lost a pregnancy, I pray your day never comes. I pray you're one of the lucky ones, but if it does, I'll be here. If the horrendous diagnosis of infertility is ever whispered your direction, I'm here. I've been through both. It's an honor and a privilege to stand alongside of you in your darkest moment. This is part of the reason I'm thankful that I'm public with my story, so that other women never think they are alone in their pain. I think many of my infertility and repeat pregnancy loss sisters would agree: the pain is unfathomable, the fear is overwhelming, the sadness is all encompassing, but a friend, someone to understand and say "I've been there" can make all the difference. So if it ever happens, don't suffer alone. Find that person in your life.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Room

Over the last few years, I've read as fellow bloggers lamented the pain of the unused bedroom. I thought I understood... I mean it's not like I had a nursery or kid room to decorate either, I thought I understood the pain... I was wrong. The unused bedroom is haunting.*

We went house hunting for the second time with our realtor (and friend) the day after the negative beta from the FET. It was pretty fortunate timing really. For one, I was forced to get up and get out of bed on a day I would have chosen to eat my weight in Ben & Jerry's. Secondly, the recent failure of the FET reminded me that our family will most likely cost thousands upon thousands of dollars; we need margin in our budget. If that first beta had been a good strong number, I can see how I might have argued for stretching breaking the "do not cross line". But as the reminder of our infertility was fresh in my mind, I was looking for under budget... top priority

I write all of that to say, I didn't go into this house with images of a nursery in my head. Sure, I'm always hoping we'll bring a baby home, but I wasn't imagining kids playing in the front yard the day we picked our house. Rather, I was looking for a home that we liked, that fulfilled at least half of our wish list (we are big dreamers), and that a social worker wouldn't run away screaming from a home study in the future. But there's something about the permanence of owning your own home that makes the room call to you. Maybe it has nothing to do with who owns the property... I think it's probably all about knowing that we will live in that house for years. We've never really had that before. We've been married for four years and this is our fifth move, things were never permanent enough to imagine a nursery. I mean, obviously if we had had a baby at any of the previous places, we would have created a room for the baby, but none of those places had a room for the baby. There's a difference. Now, there's the master, the guest bedroom, and THE room. 

I jokingly asked Sam which room would be the nursery... You know, we wouldn't want to set up a guest room only to get pregnant and be forced to move it all around (the horror). He gave a rational explanation that had nothing to do with a nursery and everything to do with the guest bedroom... again, not thinking about nurseries at all. But now that we've said it, now that the rooms have names, the room haunts me. I can't walk in without thinking about it: this would be his/her room. My child has laid claim to a room in a house I've only slept in for five nights, and he/she hasn't even been conceived.

I did something I haven't done in years... I logged on to Pinterest and looked at my Board O' Nursery Dreams. Ughhhh... the pain, the horror. I have absolutely no idea where this need came from, but I just had to check... I think it was the picking of paint colors. If I learned anything from my mom growing up, it's that paint colors have to blend from one room to the next (she was a bit ridiculous in her zealousness).... I think I just wanted to imagine the blend. The sad news is that nursery bedding changes on the fly... I don't think one single piece of carefully chosen bedding is still available today. Pottery Barn's designers do not await the infertile woman, no, no, they have to change it so that each. and. every. kid. in the house of six under the age of seven can have a different crib/quilt/sheet/blankie/shower-towel-wrap-thing. By the time a child fills that room, today's trends will be old news, and everything I pinned circa 2011 will be history. And that's okay... Lord knows the designers do a fabulous job of making me need ALL. THE. THINGS. If I feel this way when I don't even have a baby, I'm pretty sure I'll be able to find something I like enough to create a nursery, I mean, if I'm forced to.

I don't really know what to do with the room. My heart wants to keep it 100% empty... a way of saying this is yours, we're waiting for you, come fill this space. My head says that's too sad and miserable. And dumb... why not use the space for now? If and when there actually is a small human to fill that room, we can move things around again, right? No shame in saying while we're waiting we're going to use what is ours. I can't decide.

Meanwhile, if you come by our happy home, I'll be more that excited to show off the master bedroom, and hopefully I'll get that guest bedroom put together soon, but that other one, the one with the door closed... don't ask. It's either filled with storage (boring) or it's empty. Either way, it's a time capsule of sorts... the Lord willing, we'll unseal it some day.

*I completely recognize that my haunting is much less severe than others... my room is empty, which is far less painful than an actual nursery, created for a particular someone, but remains empty. That is a pain  I still can't imagine. My heart breaks for you if you have one of those rooms.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Have Mercy

I'm still here, in body at least. I lost my mind somewhere along the line with this house renovation. I use the term "renovation" lightly as we're not actually removing or installing anything.... same floors, same walls, same cabinets. It's really more accurate to describe it as a facelift, buy boy oh boy, do I have new appreciation for people who actually renovate. This is A LOT of work!

When we purchased the house, we had very limited things we thought needed to be changed. Most notable were a bubble gum pink bathroom and a very violet spare bedroom. Other than that, we thought the house was pretty cute. The one major project that we knew right off the bat that we simply had to tackle was the popcorn ceiling. I abhor the stuff. Sam watched YouTube videos for days about removing the vile mess, and once he felt like he was a professional, we tackled it. It was 20 times worse than I imagined. It was disgusting, back-breaking, tedious work and I've literally been thinking evil thoughts towards whomever invented that mess. Ughhh. I could kill him.

We thought that the ceilings would be the worst project of all by far, and really the only "project" so to speak because painting two small rooms doesn't seem like much of a project. But projects seem to have a way of multiplying. When we arrived at the home after closing, we discovered that the previous home owner was very fond of hanging things via anchors. You don't really notice how many things people hang on the walls until there are GIANT holes all over the walls. And obviously, when you don't know the paint color, and you have FOURTEEN holes to patch in one corner of a bedroom, it becomes apparent that you will be repainting that room. Slowly but surely, we have come to one reason or another why Every. Single. Room. need to be repainted. I kid you not, we are done with seven of the eight rooms… soooo close, yet so, so far.

In addition, I didn't really like the cabinets… I decided to paint them, which led to buying new nobs, spray painting the hinges, and painting the countertops. Yep, you read that right. Yesterday I had big plans for relaxing by the pool for at least an hour, instead we spent multiple hours fixing a project that went disastrously wrong.

What the finished product should have looked like.

And what it actually looked like.
The first photo there is the finished product after painting and sealing. The second one, however, is the remnants of the paint, primer, and sealant when things go horribly, horribly wrong. We used this miracle product that was supposed to be the equivalent to 50 coats of polyurethane in one application. Apparently, it's a testy chemistry concoction, and I was never all that good at chemistry.  When the science experiment goes wrong, it goes very, very wrong. We woke up Monday morning to two sections of counter that were beautiful: nice and hard, but one section was a sticky, goopy mess. We immediately tuned to Google and discovered that if it's not dry is 6-8 hours, it never, ever, will be. We tried removing just the top layer of goop, but alas, no success. Eventually we scraped the whole thing down to the laminate so that I could start all over. Lucky for both my husband and mom (who graciously spent 5 days working with me), I handled it like a champ. I did not cry, which was really saying something as we've been working 14-16 hour days for weeks now. Sleep deprivation and catastrophic delays do not typically result in my best side.

Speaking of catastrophes: our AC unit died. Mmm, hm. Dead, like dead, dead. Two weeks after purchasing the house, the repair man pronounced it dead, may it rest in peace. Truthfully, we knew that the unit was old, as in, original to the house. We were warned that it didn't have much life left. We were hoping to get through Summer, inefficient or not, and maybe through Winter too. No such luck. Winter I could maybe handle, but not Summer, have mercy, but no. I was simply not made to sweat. You'll be impressed to know that I did not cry upon hearing this news either. It is what it is. The saddest part isn't the cost, but rather the delay to Project Bring Home Baby. But what can you do? My big girl panties are firmly in place... on we march.

We've got 74 hours until we have to be out of the rental. At this point, I'll be happy when we have a working bathroom with a light, toilet, and sink all in one place. Hopefully that will come sooner rather than later and I can post some photos of our work. In the mean time, think of me, and when you do, imagine me with unwashed hair (thank you, dry shampoo), paint in my hair, on my legs, under my nails, and a nice sweaty sheen as I scrub, sand, and paint in a house without air conditioning.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Are You There God? It's Me, Amanda.

Judy Blume has become a fixture in American households because of her book Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. Sure, it's a book about an adolescent girl dealing with puberty, but it's also the story of a young woman learning how to talk with God... even trying to figure out who God is... and maybe most importantly, if He's listening. I think girl, boy, 10, 25, 50, or 90 we can all relate to that. Is there a God? And if there is, does He care about us? Does He hear when we pray?

I've admitted before that infertility has, at times, dealt my faith a blow or two. Not so much that I doubt the existence of God. No, I fully believe in God. My struggles have most often centered around prayer. I've obviously prayed and prayed for a child, for a miraculous natural conception, for a successful treatment... I've prayed for a child in every way I can think of. When you've prayed for one thing for so long, I think it's only natural to wonder if you're doing it right. I will certainly admit that I've questioned prayer and its role in my relationship with the Lord. I've wondered things like: Is He ignoring my requests? Denying my requests? Can prayer change His mind? Should I want to change the mind of God? Does praying change anything (other than me)?

I think just about everyone has prayed for something at one time or another and failed to see or hear a response. This is certainly not specific to infertility... these questions and musings were floating around in my head long before I'd ever heard the word Clomid. But I guess infertility, for me, has been the first thing that I've continuously prayed over for months upon months upon months, and yet all I hear is stone cold silence. After all this time, I've begun to preface every prayer with, "You already know this, but..." or "I've already asked for this, but..." or "You're going to do what you want anyway, but..." It feels as if the words have all been said in every way that they can be said, and yet, here I sit. Is He listening? Does my opinion matter? Will anything I say change His plans?

And it's certainly not just prayers for myself. It's prayers for others too. I cried and begged and fell on my knees when I heard about Suzanne's miracle last summer. I bargained and pleaded and begged, but Suzanne still lost that miracle. And Holly, oh Holly. We all cried out with a giant shout, "SAVE THEM!" We knew it was unlikely and we didn't care. As a community, we prayed for something to be done, but Jude and Brinly both entered Heaven despite our requests.  At the end of circumstances like that, when prayers go unanswered, I think it's only natural to wonder if prayer is actually making any difference. Are we just wasting our words?

And what about cancer, and disease, and death? I think most people would say that cancer or some other terrible disease has affected someone they love. There's been someone that we asked for the Lord to spare. There's been a family member or a friend that we begged God to give more time. We've all tried to bargain with God. When that person is healed, when we hear that coveted "cured" or "cancer free," we swear that God is good and that prayer works. But when things go differently, when little boys die from brain tumors, when our mothers die from breast cancer, when we sit night after night by the bed of a loved one, it can seem as if God is intentionally ignoring us. What harm could come from sparing a child's life? Why would He not want to perform a miracle?

It should be really apparent from the above, that I don't have the answers.... not by a long shot. I've read scriptures and at one time or another tried just about every approach. I've gone the way of Jacob: I've prayed, and cried, and wailed and told God that I'm not moving, I'm not letting go until He's blessed me. I've mirrored the prayers of Jesus: I've asked the Lord to change His mind, but ultimately agreed that His ways are higher than mine. I've asked for more faith… admitting that I am week and my faith is insufficient. In opposition, I've declared that I at least have faith as small as a mustard seed... claiming the power to move mountains. I've said it all in every way that it can be said.

I guess you could sum up my current thoughts on prayer like this:
He is God and I am not. I can ask, but I've asked before, so I'll probably get the same answer (or lack of answer). And that's okay, because He is God and I am not. It doesn't detract from His goodness or His power. It simply means that He's not a genie. I don't have to agree with it or understand it because I do believe that His ways are not my ways (obviously) and that His ultimate goal is to shine a great big spotlight on Himself… that doesn't make Him a jerk or a narcissist. It's His right as God. 
Okay, so I do think that most of that is true, but what about all the verses like "Pray without ceasing" (1 Thess 5:17) or "let your requests be made known to God" (Phil 4:6)? The Bible is full of exhortations to pray. I can't deny that at all. Why would God demand that I pray, particularly if He's going to continue doing whatever it is He's doing no matter what? I had too many questions, so I started reading a book, Prayer: Does it Make a Difference? several months ago. I've enjoyed it (despite being a slow read) because the author, Philip Yancey, comes right out of the gate and says prayer has been a stumbling block in his own faith for years... if you can admit that within the Christian community, especially as a writer and speaker, then you're my kind of guy. I haven't finished the book yet, but I wanted to share some of the things I've learned or bits that helped clarify things for me.

Pray for others: Jesus spent little time praying for himself, rather His prayers centered around the people he encountered.

Prayer has changed the actions of God: Yancey says that there are four separate times in the Old Testament that prayer changed God's actions.

Prayer + Action: Prayer does not negate the need for action. Jesus spent long hours in prayer AND long hours meeting human needs. Likewise, praying doesn't remove our burden to act.

Unanswered Prayers: Jesus, though fully God, experienced the human aspect of prayer… He too had unanswered prayers.

Expectations of Prayer: Prayer is like sex: both are intimate and over-glamorized relationships. We are led to believe that we should be in the stratosphere in sex and in prayer, but in reality most people are unsatisfied with both.

Despite reading this book, I still don't have it all figured out... not by a long shot. I'm still wrestling. If "God works for the good of those who love him," then I'm still trying to understand how a child isn't good for us. I'm still working through my feelings. I'm still trying to find a way forward even if my prayers are never answered. My prayer life has a ways to go for sure. I still find myself saying "are you there God? It's me, and I need you." But the following excerpt from the book is something that struck me while reading and that I continue to cling to. I hope it gives you peace and hope in your prayers as well.

Even when we do not know what we ought to pray for, or how to pray, that Spirit intercedes for us: 'And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will'. Christ's Spirit is praying within us even when we lack both the wisdom and the words for prayer. Although we may not know God's will on a given issue, the Spirit within us surely does. In other words, our most immature prayers have an inbuilt self-corrective. Though we feel ignorant in our prayers, the Spirit does not. Though we feel exhausted and confused the Spirit does not. Though we feel lacking in faith, the Spirit does not. God is not so far off that we need to raise our voices to be heard. We need only groan.

Likewise, I was recently reminded that God is at work despite my lack of faith. Though I am struggling with prayer, others around me are not, and they are interceding on my behalf. When I am weak, The Lord is orchestrating strength in my life. Not only does the Holy Spirit groan with me, but others speak the words when I cannot... that is a beautiful thing, my friends. To those of you who have lifted Sam and I in prayer over the years, thank you for standing in the gap.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Now that THAT'S Over

Whew! Glad that's over. I was not looking forward to this Mother's Day at all, like at all. In the past, Mother's Day has been mostly okay. I've never had a day where I just cried all day or felt so miserable that I actually had reason to dread the day, but I was. I was really, really dreading it. I woke up Sunday morning thinking, "I really don't want to do this." This being go to church, smile, say "Happy Mother's Day" 2.4 billion times, and hug other people's kids. But I'm the class leader of the best, most awesome, coolest little two year olds three year olds I know, so skipping and calling out on such a big day was not an option.

Thankfully, it wasn't all that bad. I did have a small breakdown while getting ready. The sadness just overwhelmed me while applying eyeshadow, which is obviously a really awful moment for tears. I wasn't sad for me, I was sad for my babies. Five. That's how many babies I've lost. Now granted, I've never seen a heartbeat flutter on the ultrasound screen, I've never heard the thump/chug sound. Hell, I've never even made it to the third beta, but there have been five embryos with a little bit of me inside of them... they were my babies... and now they're dead. I was simply overwhelmed with sadness that my babies keep dying. I felt like the ultimate failure as a mom. My eggs are most likely to blame. It is my contribution to them that's killing them... at least that's how it felt in that moment. Not only do I not have the ability to provide for them and care for them like a mother should, but I am the reason they die... in other words, I'm killing my babies. Really happy, cheerful thoughts for 7:30am on Mother's Day.

I finally pulled myself together, cleaned the goop and tear tracks from under my eyes, and decided further worry with eye makeup was just dumb... it was obviously going to be one of those days. But you know what, that was the end of it. It was really the last moment of "woe is me" for the day. So a little piece of advice: if by chance Mother's Day is your personal form of torture, buy a house three days before.Yep, It's a sure fire way to be waaayyyyyy  too busy to even know what day of the week it is, let alone the specifics of the holiday calendar. After serving at church, we hightailed it out of there and headed to our home away from home (aka Home Depot) and the rest of the day was a blur. There were a few moments in which I thought of friends who were probably having a rough day, but for the most part, I was covered in putty, dust, paint and simply far too busy to wallow in self pity.

So hooray for that! Mother's Day 2014 is over and it's 362 days until the next one. And in the mean time, I've got 2.3459 billion things to do at our new house! (hopefully, those things will be done in 17 days, rather than 362 because that's how long we have to move) Without further adieu, the Greavu home.

Hooray! Moments after signing our names 10,000 times! It's official!
I promise to show pictures once we're a bit more settled. Currently, there's a cloud of dust so thick you can hardly see your feet. It's doing wonderful things for my lungs, let me tell you. If I'm missing in action over the next few weeks 17 days just know that I love you all bunches but I'm hard at work doing home ownery things like scraping popcorn ceilings and painting cabinets.