All I Want for Christmas is a Baby

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Christmas is hard for the infertile Liz. When my family asks me what I want for Christmas all I want to say is, “a baby”. Not all of me finds it difficult, just the part of me that slips into my sorrow every now and then. It happens less often now, but my sorrow is a like a stalking tiger; it has the ability to sneak up on me without being seen and then take me down with very little warning.

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Most of the time I am able to live my life without fear of this sorrow, but come Christmas time, the fear seems to multiply. Christmas is the beginning of the end of the year celebrations. Every day brings me one step closer to a complete year of failure; every new year reminds me that it has been another whole year of infertility. Every year I think, “This is my year, this is the year I will become a mother.” And every additional year that goes by I feel like a forgotten failure of a fool.

Christmas is also a wonderful reminder of the birth of our savior Jesus Christ! Which is wonderful, don’t get me wrong, I thank God every single day for the birth of his son, because without Him I am nothing. However, let’s look at the Christmas season from the perspective of an infertile woman. First, you need to think like an infertile woman.ea8560965bbb5aea90fa40f7848852c1

Imagine you have spent your entire life wanting to become a mom, and then you got married to an amazing man and suddenly there is this additional piece of you that desperately desires to watch him become a dad as well. But then you find out that your body won’t allow that to happen and although you were the first of all your friends to get married, they are now all having babies, seemingly without trouble. And although you know it’s a lie, you can’t help but feel like everything is your fault, because it is your body that is not functioning properly. So you spend years trying to figure out how to fix it, only to realize that no matter what you try, you can’t control it. But you don’t give up hope, because God can perform miracles so you keep on going, but you get daily reminders of your struggle to become pregnant. Here are some of those reminders:

Wake-Up: many women who are trying to conceive must take their basal body temperature before even getting out of bed. Why? It’s one way to track ovulation. So upon waking you are immediately reminded of your struggle (BTW, I never did this because it doesn’t work for women with PCOS.) Also, infertile women track their cervical mucus at this time as well, which I did do.

Breakfast: This may seem morbid, but I have this reoccurring dream about making breakfast and each egg I crack open is a dead human fetus. Every time I make eggs I am reminded of this dream and my fear that my human eggs and potential children are wasting away with every day I age. The biological clock thing sucks ass.

Coffee: If I am past ovulation and could potentially have a fertilized egg currently making its way through my fallopian tubes, I take notice of everything I eat and drink. Could this harm a baby? No caffeine, no sushi, no painkillers, no alcohol, etc. Coffee is my daily reminder of these restrictions.

Workout: If I am past ovulation and could potentially have a fertilized egg currently trying to attach itself to the fluffy lining of my uterus, I take special notice of the workouts I do. No high impact or contact sports (this isn’t so relevant now that I’m not playing street hockey or skiing).

Bloating, fatigue, headache, sore breasts, cramping, spotting, nausea, flem, etc.: If you have ever researched early symptoms of pregnancy than you have probably seen this list of words. If you have ever researched symptoms of PMS you have probably seen this list of words. If you have ever researched daily symptoms of PCOS you have probably seen this list of words. What does that mean? I spend every single day wondering if every yawn, nauseous feeling, cramp, etc. is an early symptom of pregnancy and remembering that with my body, it could be anything. My body is a CONSTANT and UNRELENTING reminder of my failure to be a mother. I know that sounds dramatic, but it is the reality of my brain and the brain of many infertile women. It is not healthy, and I have come a long way with therapy and Celebrate Recovery, however, this lie continues to haunt me daily.

Seeing baby pictures on facebook: I want baby…

Visiting Family: I want baby…

Pregnancy announcements: I want baby…

Baby aisles in grocery stores: I want baby…

Commercials: I want baby…

Sayings like “stop being such a baby…”: I want baby…

FB statuses wherein parents joke about giving away their grumpy child: Give me your grumpy baby…

Ok, so now that you have a very small idea of what an infertile woman’s brain is like, let’s talk about Christmas.

The mailbox is full of beautiful Christmas cards filled with beautiful pictures of beautiful families full of children. I love them though, please don’t stop sending them to me, I treasure them, even though every one of them sends a small dagger through my heart, reminding me of what I desperately long for. But it would hurt even more not to receive them.

Then there is the shopping for gifts: I always find myself fantasizing about what I would be buying my children if they existed. Dean and I spend hours shopping for gifts for our nieces and nephews, and it is the highlight of my Christmas shopping, but it is also a reminder that we don’t get to buy gifts for our own children.

And then, for at least a month leading up to Christmas, everything in church is related to the Christmas story. It’s a beautiful story, but it involves pregnancy, and not just any pregnancy, but a virgin pregnancy. 1e79da0ca09e924ffe9082ae4780ab7c

It also involves the story of a woman named Elizabeth who was barren, and then in her old age conceived a son who was to prepare the way for Jesus. So, every time someone brings up the Christmas story I am reminded of the beautiful gift of pregnancy. The gift that I have begged for and not received.

Most people look at this story and say, “See! God is faithful, Elizabeth conceived! She was barren and he gave her a child.” But what they don’t see is that even though Elizabeth and Zechariah (her husband) were upright in the law and were good people, they were beyond child bearing years when they had their son. Although this says “MIRACLE” to most, to people like me this says, “Even though you are following the Lord you’re going to have to wait for years and years and years and years until you’re a mom. And then when you are a mom everyone is going to think you are the grandmother. And you won’t be able to keep up with your kid because you will be old and fragile. And you won’t be able to lose the baby weight because your metabolism will be so incredibly slow. And you will be heartbroken for all the years leading up to your pregnancy, and you will still be jealous of the other women, because even though you have a son your son doesn’t have siblings. And you won’t become a grandmother because your only son will be murdered.” So it totally baffles me when Elizabeth (although pregnant herself) sees her cousin Mary, a virgin, and says, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”

How can she even say that? Did she really mean it? I consider Dean and I to be in a form of pregnancy ourselves as we wait to be matched in adoption, but recently when I found out a couple, both of whom I love dearly, was pregnant once again, do you know what I said? “What the hell?!” I didn’t say this TO them, I said it at home. And then I raged, literally, raged.

I yelled at God and told him to stop messing me with. I told him I was done being forgotten. “Why is it so easy for some and yet seemingly impossible for us?” “Why don’t you love me as much as you love them?” “What did I do wrong?!” “Why are you doing this? They have so many, and we have none! Is this what you mean when you say the rich will become richer and the poor will become poorer?” I got so angry that my husband actually told me to stop. And then I got even more angry and told him I wouldn’t stop feeling what I feel and if he doesn’t like it he better take it up with God. Yea, I was raging. I’m not proud of it. In fact, later I found myself apologizing to my Lord and asking Him to forgive my unbelief and my anger.

Do you know what God said to me?

“You are never forgotten to me, my child. I love you dearly just as I love your friends dearly. It is not your time and it pains me to tell you so. But I will never abandon you, and I won’t shy away from your hurt or anger. I won’t tell you to stop. I can take anything you throw at me. I am here. I love you. I am.”

You see, it’s easy for us to forget the years of heartbreak Elizabeth endured before she conceived John the Baptist. We see the outcome, we see God’s purpose in it all and so we say, “Well, she had to wait that long to conceive the child that God had planned for them, and not just them, but the world. Her waiting had a purpose.” But what about those years leading up to it and even after John’s birth? How did Elizabeth find the strength to keep going? How did Elizabeth find it in herself to rejoice when her cousin was pregnant without even having intercourse? How did all those years of heartbreak suddenly shatter when she walked into Mary’s presence?

I don’t know the answer, I mean, I know the “church” answer: “Jesus”. And I truly believe that to be true, Jesus was present there. Jesus’ fetal presence made John the Baptist leap in the womb and Elizabeth could not help rejoicing. That makes sense to me, but how can I allow the presence of Jesus in others to override my heartbreak? How can I allow God’s will to become so fully my will that my heartbreak is bearable and doesn’t harm others, but can actually bless others?

When I find out, I’ll let you know. I think it is only something I can learn through trusting in the Lord, and to do that, I have to let go of what I so desperately want. I’m stuck, because I’ll let go if it gets me what I want, but I can’t let go because if I’m letting go only to get what I want then I’m not actually letting go at all. Uggghhh. I guess all I can do right now is pray, and if you find the desire to pray with and for me, please do.

Hi Jesus, I need you. I need you desperately. I need to see you everywhere, and in everyone. I need to feel you in the depths of my soul filling me with your love. I need you to override my fear, anger, and jealousy. I need you to be my only desire. I need you, I need you, I need you. Please, help me to believe you when you say you will never abandon me. Please, help me to bring you all of my burdens, anger, and grief. Please be with me in my jealous moments and protect others from the sting of my pain and my sword of a tongue. Thank you for being there for me, thank you for loving me, thank you for saving me from me.

Amen.

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Potential Match, Ass Volcano, and Unrealistic Expectations

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We received an email from the adoption agency informing us there was a woman who wanted to place her 18 month old son up for adoption. And the agency wanted to know if we would be open to having our profile shown.

*The details of “why” the mother wanted to place her child, although very important, are not of any consequence to this story and are not mine to share. I say this to draw attention to a very real and important thing to remember when conversing with families that include adoptees. The birth mother or first mother’s story is private and is a part of the adoptee’s history. It is therefore up to the adoptee to decide whether he/she will share that information. As an adoptive parent I will share that information with my child through the years as I see fit, I will not share that information with family, friends, etc. because it is not mine to share. Dean and I will gladly share our part of the adoption story, but please do not take it personally when we say “we can’t share that information”. We hope our child will embrace all parts of his/her story and family; and gladly share it with others, without shame or fear, but ultimately it is up to our child to decide what he/she discloses. Just some food for thought.*

Ok, back to my story:

So we receive this email and my first reaction was, “18 MONTHS?!?!?!?!” It was not what I was expecting. I was expecting a newborn. All my daydreams about that frantic, last minute trip to Target involved buying tiny onesies, formula, a baby carrier, booties, a crib and burp cloths. I didn’t for a second picture baby food, shoes, a high chair, a toddler car seat and a toddler bed with railings. I wanted to witness our child’s first crawl, first laugh, first gurgle, first step, first words.

My second thought was, “Nuh uh *shakes head* no way, I’m not ready, I can’t do this, why did I think I could raise a kid? Nope, I can’t do this. No, this isn’t the kid…nope, not ready.”

I sat in that last thought for a while, resolving that this simply wasn’t the child God had planned for us, because God’s plan should line up with my expectations…wait….uh oh. Damn. There it was again: my expectations derailing me. You see, I have this issue, it’s one of the reasons why I attend Celebrate Recovery, a 12 step Christ-centered Recovery group for life’s hurts, habits, and hang-ups. My issue is rooted in expectation.

It’s funny, there are tons of bible verses about expectation.

Philippians 1:20 “As it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.”
Romans 8:19 “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.”
Hebrews 4:16 “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Psalm 62:5 “Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him.”
Luke 12:40 You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.”

But those expectations aren’t bad. Those are good expectations; hopeful expectations. My expectations aren’t always bad or unreasonable, but often over dramatic and a little romantic. Ok, ok, most of the time they are totally unrealistic. I have unrealistic expectations for myself, for my husband, for my family, for my church, and the list goes on. And when my unrealistic expectations aren’t met I become disappointed, angry, resentful, and in search of something or someone to blame. I know, I know, this girl’s got some issssssuuuuees.

Here’s an example:

Several years ago I went to Kenya on a mission trip.  As the days of our trip came to an end, I started to picture my journey home. We would land in DC at 8pm and Dean would be waiting for me right outside of customs. He would run towards me out of pure joy, for he missed me dearly and couldn’t wait to hold me close. We would hug and kiss and he would lift me off my feet and spin me around. Then he would help me with my bags and we would walk, hand in hand, to the car which would have a delicious Frappuccino in the cup holder and large leafy salad waiting on my seat (the two foods I missed the most while away).

Do I even need to tell you that this didn’t happen? Let me tell you what did happen:

Our team’s flight out of Kenya was slightly delayed due to an explosion and a fire in the duty free section of the airport 12 days prior to our departure. IMG_6101

I had been severely sick for the duration of our stay in Kenya and was a whopping 10lbs. lighter after 12 days of barely eating and non-stop, extremely explosive, diarrhea. Needless to say, the plane ride was interesting, although, every time I needed a bathroom, one was open, praise the Lord!  We arrived in Amsterdam but before we could prepare to rush off the plane to try and catch our flight to DC the stewardess informed us that our flight to DC was cancelled and they were splitting our team up onto different flights out of Amsterdam. I would not be meeting Dean at 8pm. I soon found out that my flight was the earliest to leave the next morning, but the last to arrive in DC, because I had a 6 hour layover in Detroit. Other members of our team would be having layovers in Rome and Paris.

Upon hearing this news I sank to the floor and managed to say the F word about seven times in succession, thereby causing our 80 year old pastor to stare at me in a dumb-founded-state I have NEVER witnessed him in before.

Now, I just want to remind you that I was still suffering from extremely explosive diarrhea. Our team waited 45 minutes for a shuttle to take us to our hotel. Shuttles came and went, but our team remained on the side of the road, waiting for a shuttle that could hold us all. Meanwhile, deep in my bowls an acidic, lava like substance was beginning to churn and bubble; I was going to erupt at any moment. We finally made it onto a shuttle just as the sweat began to bead on pour from my forehead.

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A giant claw with sharp talons gripped and twisted my insides and every bump on the road threatened an accidental erruption of the bowels that contained the sulfuric lava of Ass Volcano. I don’t think my teammates ever understood just how much danger they were in during the bus ride to the hotel. We are talking a near miss of a second Pompeii-like eruption. It was during this moment that the verse “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13)” came into play. I was literally praying that I would not crap my pants.

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This was not how my journey home was supposed to happen…

We made it to the hotel and I sprinted to a bathroom, taking out anyone who was in my way.

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The bathroom was pretty full, due to the fact that all the other people on our flight were also sent to this hotel, but that didn’t last long. The bathroom cleared out within 20 seconds of my entrance. I was literally in the stall laughing out of joy that I had made it without crapping myself, crying because of the pain and embarrassment, and loudly crapping my brains out because I just didn’t have it in me to try and hide what was happening in my stall. And that sequence repeated itself for about 45 minutes.kristen-bell-laughs-then-cries-about-it

There is no doubt in my mind that every woman in that bathroom was FREAKED OUT.

Well, we eventually made it home 19 hours later than our expected arrival, and although Dean didn’t run to me and spin me around, and we didn’t walk to the car hand in hand, he did pick me up right at the arrivals door with his car. We didn’t have to walk to get the car, thank God because I was exhausted. He did get out of the car and help me with my bags and hug me and give me a kiss. And although there wasn’t a Frappuccino and a leafy salad on my seat, there was a bottle of Gatorade and a sleeve of saltine crackers, and Lord knows that’s all my stomach could handle anyway.

So why the heck did I tell you this story? Well, for one, I just wanted an excuse to tell you about Ass Volcano because it happens to be one of my funniest memories. And, two, because expectations have a way of disappointing us. When I finally had a chance to look back at the experience without the expectation of a flawless and romantic homecoming, I realized there was a lot of cool stuff in there. I saw the “I Amsterdam” Sign. IMG_6141I thanked God for our shuttle driver, because he wasn’t even the shuttle driver for our hotel, he just saw us waiting out there and picked us up and drove us to our hotel, he literally saved my team from Ass Volcano. I realized God really cares about every little detail of my life, like provision of toilets and the strength to keep the flood gates closed until I was safely situated on a toilet.  I realized that my husband is amazing and although he isn’t someone to show giant signs of affection, he shows his love in other ways, like saltines and Gatorade. I realized that even though my flight was the last to arrive home, we were the only flight that didn’t have lost luggage so we were the first to leave the airport in DC.

You see, when I let go of my expectations I am open to enjoying more, seeing more, experiencing more, etc. So, back to this 18 month old boy, Dean and I talked about it. He was ready to go, I was apprehensive, scared, and unsure. But the more we talked, the more I was ready. The more I expressed my fear, the better and more prepared I felt. And then it hit me, this little boy’s name, I can’t tell you his name, but I can tell you what it means: Brave.

Ten months ago I dreamt of a boy named Casey (you can read more about that here), our boy, our little Casey boy, and although this current boy’s name was not Casey, it meant the same thing: Brave. This was my time to be brave, to let go of expectations, and let God take control. This was my time to place my life in his hands and trust. This was my chance to let go of my expectations for myself as a mom (Liz, you WILL make mistakes); and start trusting that God will provide me with the grace and forgiveness when I severely mess up. This was my chance to stop fearing the fact that I have missed out on so many sacred moments: pregnancy, birth, naming, first words, first steps, etc. and start focusing on what I could provide for this child: love, a home, family, and a connection to Jesus.

I slipped back into fear and expectation when I thought about my $500 nonrefundable deposit for yoga teacher training that is supposed to start in January. “I was supposed to become certified before the kid came into our house, so I wouldn’t be super stressed out!” and “Oh crap, I can’t get that money back”. But I quickly renounced those thoughts and returned to Christ.

“I got this Elizabeth, trust me.”

Turns out He did have it all along. This little brave boy wasn’t meant to be ours, his mother decided to try to parent once more. I am glad and sad at the same time. I pray that she finds a support system to help her, but I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that this feels a lot like when I received a call from the fertility clinic telling me I’m not pregnant. I dared to dream and I am disappointed, and yet it has brought me peace. This brave boy was not what I expected, and although he is not MY brave boy, I felt like he could have been and that makes me happy. And this has given me and Dean the opportunity to let go of expectations and fear, and trust God.

Oh, and my dear Scout, wherever you are, I’m praying for you and your first mom, be brave you two, because you won’t have to do this by yourself for much longer.