Dwell in Me

Seeking God in the Every Day


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Asking, and Still Asking

Do you ever feel a little bit phony?

I’ve been riding a bit of an infertility roller coaster lately. I guess it’s been for the past few weeks, maybe even over a month. I am just so ready to be on the other side of this. So ready.

I think I’ve also reached a place where I think I’ve learned my lessons. Yes, I’ve been blessed in a number of ways by infertility, not least of which is getting connected to some absolutely wonderful men and women who are sitting in this boat with me–or who have been. I’ve grown closer to God and to my husband. I’ve seen intimacy increase in both relationships in ways I never expected. I know I’ve gained a new appreciation for what I’m missing, that I’ll be more joyful and slower to complain when things are tough in pregnancy or after. And I’ve benefited in some tangible ways: I eat better (or at least know better and try to), I’ve eliminated some potentially and actually harmful substances from my skin care routine. I’ve begun some new habits that will hopefully help my house run a bit smoother once I get them all down. And these are all things that will be good for my coming children.

I wouldn’t take it all back. Really I wouldn’t. I’m grateful, honest-to-goodness grateful for the journey that has led me here. But have I learned enough yet? Because I really, really am so ready to move on.

And the phoniness? It comes out on here sometimes, when I want to look like I have things more together than I really do. Mea culpa. Seriously. And I feel it when I’m with the people who don’t know. The ones who ask me, at my Bible study, “How are you?” with that look that says, “I know there’s something hurting you” or “Are you really okay?” or “No really, tell me, how are you?”

And I’m so grateful to have these women who ask me with depth. They know. I know some of them know. I’m 29, I’ve been married almost six years, I live in Texas, and I’m a stay at home wife. They know. But they don’t pry, they just keep asking, “How are you?” and meaning it.

And I keep deflecting. Like today, when I told a dear friend that, well, I have to get my house cleaned for DH’s grandparents who are coming to visit. I do need to do that, by the way. My house is a complete disaster. And I’m not exaggerating (though I really wish I was!). And I know why I’m not telling them, why I’m not exposing myself in that way and why we’re waiting. And I think we have some valid reasons not to tell, beyond just protecting ourselves. So I’m not actually rethinking that decision. Just, I guess, coming to terms with the feeling of phoniness that likes to sneak in.

And then, there’s God’s word. And I read it and I so want some of these things to be true for me specifically, but I don’t know how to take the promises specific to one person, or to one tribe, or to one time and place, and call them mine. I don’t know if they’re mine. And truthfully, the only thing that makes me want to say they are mine is because they line up so well with my will. But in my head I know that God’s will is best.*

And I’ll keep asking. And keep seeking. But I’m not yet claiming. I don’t know if I can, or should. So here I am, God, still waiting. Waiting to hear what your promises are to me. Hoping that, like infertility, having a child is a good gift you have in store for me. And waiting for this trial to end. Please let it end.

Sigh.

Keep on asking and it will be given to you; keep on seeking and you will find; keep on knocking [reverently] and [the door] will be opened to you. For everyone who keeps on asking receives; and he who keeps on seeking finds; and to him who keeps on knocking, [the door] will be opened.

Or what man is there of you, if his son asks him for a loaf of bread, will hand him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will hand him a serpent? If you then, evil as you are, know how to give good and advantageous gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven [perfect as He is] give good and advantageous things to those who keep on asking him!
(Matthew 7:7-11, AMP)

With family in town from now through Thanksgiving, I’m not sure how consistent I’ll be (they are staying with DH’s parents, or I know I wouldn’t be able to do much blogging). I’ve been feeling so overwhelmed lately–not by the blog, but by other things–and I am striving to find balance. So, if I’m quiet for oddly long periods, please don’t worry. I’ll be back. I might be back tomorrow. But I appreciate your patience.

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Awkward Infertility Conversations

About a month ago we started attending Sunday school at a new church in an effort to build community here in Katy. So we’ve been doing double duty. Early church at our church home, Sunday school at a church down the road. I know this is weird. But it works for us.

The first class we visited turned out to be doing a parenting module (seriously?), but the second week we found a great fit. And now it’s been about a month and we’re already feeling more connected than we felt after a year without Sunday school. Crazy.

I’m really quite close-mouthed about infertility. I don’t know that I would be if it weren’t so important to DH that we don’t really tell people. Especially while so much is still up in the air. And I can’t blame him for wanting this to be private. It is a deeply private and personal struggle and it’s hard to open up to people who often don’t understand. 

The Sunday school does this thing called “dinners of six” every quarter. It’s an opportunity for three couples to share a meal together and fellowship. A way for people to get to know each other better in the event that they haven’t already developed friendships outside of class. So we signed up to go and enjoyed a great meal and, well, interesting fellowship Friday night.

The hosts are parents of a seven-month old. He’s adorable and about the same age as our godson. The other couple who came is expecting. And there we were. The longest married (we beat the hosts by two months) and the furthest from becoming parents.

This was not a problem until shortly after we sat down to dinner. The boys kind of talked together and so did the girls. The other couple who was there already knew our hosts pretty well, so DH and I were kind of in the spotlight. The hostess asked a bunch of questions. In her defense, she was trying to get to know us better. I don’t think she anticipated what was going to happen. And I did okay.

Hostess: Do you and [DH] want to have children?

Me: Yes.

Hostess: How many?

Me: I guess we’ll see.

Hostess: What’s your timeline?

[And here’s where I gave myself away]

Me: Sometimes things aren’t that straightforward.

[In my opinion, and I could be wrong, the appropriate response to this is “oh” and a polite change of subject.]

Hostess: Oh. Are you having trouble?

[Am I going to lie to my new Sunday school friends?]

Me: Yes.

Hostess: How bad?

Me: We’re seeing doctors.

Ultimately I shared that we’re expecting to undergo more invasive fertility treatments this winter.

She asked whether I’d had any hormone problems or weird periods or anything. I answered her questions as best I could while trying not to give everything away. [At one point she straight up said: “What’s your diagnosis?” I said, “I can’t tell you that.” She took it well and apologized for asking.] She said she had PCOS and endometriosis and was told she’d never have children before she became pregnant. That she understood. That her sister-in-law had undergone several cycles of IVF resulting in her two nieces, with two more eggs frozen for their next round. The other woman at the table spoke eloquently about the miscarriage she’d suffered prior to her current pregnancy and the continual nagging fear she has that something will happen to this baby, too (she’s 15 weeks). 

I have mixed feelings about this conversation. I would prefer to share about our infertility struggles on my terms and with the people I want to tell. I mean, most of the people in our small group (which has been meeting for about six months) don’t even know what we’re going through. But it was interesting to see that both of these women, who appear to be fertile without any question, have had their own infertility/miscarriage experiences, fears, and difficulties.

I know infertility is said to affect one in eight couples in the United States (or sometimes one in six, depending on what you read). But it usually doesn’t feel that common. Friday night’s conversation revealed that it is really more common than what we see. We hide it–most of us, anyway–for our own protection, out of self-preservation. Both of these women understood a part of what we’re going through. Neither had needed fertility treatments, but neither said those stupid things we all hate to hear: just believe, just adopt, God has a plan, and so forth.

Being open and talking about this–even though I wouldn’t have chosen to bring it up–did build intimacy with this woman quickly. She really is sweet and has a heart for people. She wants to be in fellowship in a deep way–even if that means taking conversations where social norms would dictate that they shouldn’t go.

Also, I like the idea that once I have a child, to the world I’ll be just your average fertile person. Some people will know what it took to get there, but most people won’t. I hope I can still comfort people then who are where I am now. But I also look forward to the normalcy that might come with being a parent. I look forward to being able to have mommy talks, to compare notes with the other parents, to learn from them and contribute to what they know. 

I like feeling like there’s a light at the end of this tunnel.


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Out of My Head, into My Heart

I’m not a very emotional person–at least compared to other women I know. I live my life through my head. It’s hard–so hard–for me to get things into my heart.

I think sometimes this means I’m not a very compassionate person. I struggle with sympathy, not to mention empathy.

People talk about feeling someone’s pain so deep that it feels like it’s their pain. Or seeing something beautiful and just feeling this little twinge of emotion that flows up like something real and tangible.

Not me.

Like a white-washed tomb–my heart felt empty and unmoved inside this body.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires

One of the biggest struggles I’ve had through infertility is convincing my heart that what I believe in my head is true. I’ve called this the head knowledge-gut faith disconnect.

And one of the biggest blessings of infertility is that my heart seems to be working better. Like infertility is the hammer that has broken my heart open and at the same time knocked down the walls I’d built around it. The feeling is coming back, empathy and compassion are slowly seeping in. Not perfect, but gradually coming to life within me.

Outside Recoleta Cemetery,  Buenos Aires

That opening up makes me hurt more. Opening up lets in the good with the bad, the pain with the joy, the heartache with the peace. And it is what enables me to trust that what God says is true, that God is who he says he is. That God is everything to me. These weren’t possible with my hardened, sealed up heart.

So today, my heart is aching. Aching for one of my only “real life” friends who is dealing with this infertility mess. Her embryo didn’t make it in her first IVF transfer.

And she says she is struggling with this same head knowledge-gut faith disconnect right now.

Praying for her today. For her faith and trust in God. For peace and strength. And for beauty in the pain of death.

And thanking God that he has used infertility for my good and his glory. That I can be there for my friend because of where I’ve been and where I’m going.

I may have picked a different road in life. But God knew where I needed to be today and how to get me here.


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Going Home

I’m leaving tomorrow to go home–to St. Louis–for Thanksgiving.

I was home in May. That was before we found out our infertility diagnosis, but after we’d been TTC for 9 months. When we first started trying, DH was back in school and I was our sole breadwinner. (Let’s just say that as a freelancer, I don’t win very much bread!) DH’s mom had been pretty clear a few months before that she didn’t think we had any business procreating until he was out of school because “parenting is more than a 40-hour a week job” and we wouldn’t have much money. (Yes, that really upset me. IF has, surprisingly, really mended that relationship somehow.) So, anyway, I called my mom before we started trying to find out if my parents would also be ticked if we got pregnant. She laughed and told me they’d be delighted. I also expressly told her not to tell a soul, not even my dad. Of course, I thought we’d be pregnant within the next month or two and I wanted it to be a surprise when I told everyone.

So, in May, I was surprised to find out that most of my family (I mean, from siblings to aunts and grandparents) knew we were trying. When I confronted my mom about it, she said she had to tell people because it was taking so long and we needed their prayers.

DH and I were furious. And when we found out we were infertile, we were even more upset. I think partly because it’s possible we’ll end up adopting, and I don’ t really like the idea that my family will see our adopted children and whisper to each other, “You know, they didn’t plan on adopting,” or “they tried to have their own kids, but it didn’t work.” I know those things are true, but it doesn’t mean I want everyone (especially any future adopted children) to know that our family represents some kind of plan B  in action.

But, there’s a short-term upside to this. I am heading home tomorrow with the expectation that no one will pester me with the dreaded “when are you going to have kids?” And, as an added bonus, there aren’t any babies in my family yet. Until this summer, DH and I were the only ones married out of all the cousins. One of my cousins married this summer, but I think (hope?) they’ll wait a little while before they try for kiddos.

I know I’m super lucky in this and that many of you may be dreading those holiday gatherings. I wish you all the best and will be thinking of you over the next week and through December that you would be able to take joy in your family time (or lack thereof!) regardless of your situation.


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Say Something–Even If It’s the ‘Wrong’ Thing

One of the most difficult things about infertility is the sense of isolation that goes with it. As much as I truly appreciate having this blog and the blogs I follow to remind me that I’m not alone, I find myself wishing I could open up more with people I know well and trust. So, the to-tell-or-not dilemma keeps popping up.

As I wrote here, I still don’t feel I know anyone here in Houston well enough to share this part of our life. Prior to last week, we had told my bridesmaids, our parents, and DH’s grandparents (I wrote about that one here).

Before we came to Houston, DH and I had a really amazing group of friends in DC. When we met, none of us had children. Now we’re the only ones who don’t. I miss them terribly. And I’ve been feeling lonely and isolated, I think in large part because I miss the community we left behind. And while I’ve tried to keep in touch, I feel like it’s hard to have a genuine conversation without telling close friends what we’re going through (even vaguely). I am tired of faking it and pretending everything is so great in our lives when there are many days that I struggle with the burden of infertility.

DH and I talked and decided it was time to tell our closest friends in DC. He sent an email to a selective group of people last week to ask for their prayers. He wrote that we are hoping to be able to do infertility treatments in the spring. And (I learned later) my dear husband, who loves me and wants me to be happy, specifically asked the ladies if they would email or call me to help lift my spirits. It was a wonderful gesture and I was excited to hear from my friends, who I miss anyway, and to know they were supporting us through this.

Well, there is a positive side to telling people. One of my dear friends in DC called immediately after she got the email. She just listened. She didn’t offer any platitudes and she agreed that it sucked. She really said all the right things and made me so happy that we told our friends. Another friend, who lives abroad now, emailed to set up a time that she could call me to talk. What a huge gesture!

And there’s a negative side to telling people. We got the expected, “you can just adopt,” from one friend. I’m okay with that. It’s a well-meaning response even if it isn’t particularly well informed or helpful. But a lot of my friends haven’t even responded. It makes me feel like maybe I was overvaluing those friendships.

I talked to my MIL about this, and she pointed out that perhaps they just don’t know what to say. I can understand that. If you’re reading this and you know someone who is grieving or sick or in pain in some way and you care about that person, it’s okay if you don’t know what to say. Say you are thinking of them. Say it sucks that they are going through this. Tell them you’ll pray for them or that you’re sorry this is happening. Shoot, tell them you don’t know what to say. But I would encourage you to say something. Even if it is the “wrong” thing, saying something will let your friend know that you acknowledge her hurt. That you care about her well-being.

I’ve heard it said before that in times of crisis you find out who your real friends are. I’m not sure I wanted to know.

PS I realize this post makes it sound like I’ve been really down lately. And, well, I have and I haven’t. I can say honestly that I’ve been feeling so grateful for the many blessings in my life, that this journey has helped bring me closer to God than I’ve been in years, and that I’ve learned a lot. I can also say that IF hasn’t been as all consuming lately as it was at first. I think the loneliness would be an issue even if we weren’t dealing with IF. And I think maybe I need to spend more time in the sunlight (literally). But on balance, I’m really doing okay.


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Telling People

On the whole, DH and I agree that we don’t want everybody to know we’re dealing with infertility. Partly this is because we don’t want all the unsolicited but well-meaning advice fertile people tend to give when they find out you’re infertile. Advice like “just adopt” or even, “I had to use clomid; it’s no big deal.” (Yes, someone did say that to me. How I wish that were even an option for us!)

Partly it’s because we don’t want people we care about tiptoeing around us when they find out they’re pregnant. One of my best friends, who started TTC a couple months before we did and who knew we were TTC, had her first baby in December and is already expecting her second (a surprise) in January. Even before she knew we had received actual news that we were infertile, she opted not to tell us her news until she was more than four months along. She said she was hoping I would call to tell her we were expecting before she had to tell me she was. I appreciate the concern, but it doesn’t make me feel any better when being infertile already leaves me feeling left out.

Lately, DH’s mom has been pushing us to tell his family. I’m not sure exactly why that is so important to her, but we considered it and have decided we are okay with his grandparents knowing that we’re probably doing infertility treatments next year. We decided not to tell his cousins because we don’t want them to change their behavior (one is pregnant and the other has a 1-year-old). And we decided that we don’t want to say when we’re starting or give any other specific info on timing because if it works, I want to tell the family when I’m ready, not have them calling me to find out two weeks after our treatments. And I don’t want to have to report on every failed attempt, either.

So we told my MIL she could let her parents and DH’s other grandparents know but that we weren’t really interested in calling out of the blue to say, “Hi, how are you? We’re infertile.” We told her to be vague; that she could say we were dealing with infertility and would have to do medical treatments but we didn’t want her to go into details about why we were struggling. We told her to tell them to feel free to call us if they had any questions.

So she did. She told her parents on Sunday. They immediately expressed sorrow and wondered what, exactly, was wrong. Since we told my MIL not to get into specifics, she didn’t.

When they called later that evening to tell me they were sorry and that they’d be praying for us, DH’s grandma told me about the marvelous PBS documentary on Louise Brown, the first “test tube baby.” She told me a great analogy about how sometimes in life we come against a brick wall. And maybe we can’t get through it, but we may be able to go over it or under it or even around it. Either way, we hope that in the end we’ll get to the other side of it. And she told me about a song that was popular when she was growing up that she thought I might find comforting. She was very nice and I think I’m glad she knows (in a general sense) what we’re going through, and I’m glad they are praying for us. But she didn’t ask me any questions, so I didn’t feel pressured to go into details.

A lot of the assumptions people make about infertility–about whose body is at fault, that it’s because we “waited too long,” that it’s a result of STDs or other youthful indiscretions–really bug me. But at this point our privacy about the details is more important to us than addressing those assumptions. Maybe when we get to the other side of this brick wall (if we ever do) we can talk about it more openly and even change someone’s perspective. In the meantime, I’m glad DH’s grandparents are being supportive. And I’m also glad we’ve been protective about who we tell.


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The Secret Life of Infertiles

We moved into our house in June, and we’re just now starting to get to know people in our community. We joined a great church and found a small group of young married couples. Since we’re in Texas, it seems like everyone has kids pretty early. Most of the couples in our group have been married right around a year and the next closest couple has been married three years. One couple got married in February and is already expecting their first child. Needless to say, DH and I feel a bit old to be young and married with no kids, and we’ll have been married five years this December. Of course, we’re not old; I’m 28 and he’s 27, but I guess we’re behind schedule by Texas standards.

I feel I get asked all the time why we don’t have kids yet or when we’ll have children. I find such questions infuriating. It’s so personal anyway, and, frankly, you never know if the person you’re asking has been trying–as we have–for some time. DH jokes that next time someone asks we should point out how personal the question is by responding with something like, “I don’t know when we’ll have children, but do you want to be in the room when we conceive?” I’m not at all sure I could pull that one off, but it at least makes me smile when I think of it.

Of course, when it comes down to it, we do want to have children. We’re over a year into TTC and I thought I’d be a mom by now. The hard part is knowing when to share that and when to keep it in. When we first started TTC, we told my mom and three of my good friends. Now that we know we won’t be able to conceive without medical assistance or a miracle, I kind of wish no one knew we had been trying in the first place.

Today I had my first friend-date since we moved; I met up with a woman from our small group and we had coffee together at Starbucks. We sat outside and chatted for a couple of hours, and it was lovely to have someone to talk to. She didn’t ask the dreaded question, but we’re at that stage in life where having children seems the next logical step. I know in the past, many of the things I said today would have been peppered with “when we have kids.” Now they’re “if we have kids.” And I guess I kind of made it sound like I was indifferent either way, like, maybe we’ll decide to, maybe we won’t. I didn’t mean to do that, but I have trouble knowing how to have a normal, honest conversation about life and plans without throwing our infertility out there. And I’m not ready to let just anyone know about our infertility. Maybe someday, but not yet.

I hope my new friend didn’t find my comments too out of place or odd. She probably didn’t.  I’m probably just overly conscious of this giant part of my life that is undisclosed. I’m not good at having secrets, but I’m also not ready to share.