Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Patience is...

“Patience is waiting. Not passively waiting. That is laziness. But to keep going when the going is hard and slow - that is patience.”

Wish I knew where this quote came from, but my friend that posted it only recalls hearing it somewhere. Wow. Does it hit home. Fits perfectly with the closing part of the talk I gave recently in Harrisburg as well. Patience and waiting....it's what Advent is all about...and our waiting for a child as well.

Blessings to you all!

(excerpt from "Hope for the Journey, given 12/11/2010)

Advent is a time of waiting and a season of hope. It is packed with moments that remind us of the journeys of so many who have experience barrenness before us. Dec 8th we celebrate the Immaculate Conception of our Lady, the long-awaited daughter of Anne and Joachim. Dec 9th we celebrate the Feast of St. Hannah and also Juan Diego, both united in their desire for a child. Dec 12th we celebrate Our Lady of Guadalupe, protectress of the unborn. The mass readings are packed with their stories. Last year even Fr. Bob noticed this and came up to me one morning after mass and said that he wanted me to know that he was praying for me…he had never realized how many references to pregnant women there were during Advent and how painful that must be. Oh my goodness…just to hear him say that and to recognize this was such a comfort to my soul. But it was true.

Last year I didn’t experience as much. Dave and had had several cycles where hopes were higher than normal, only to fall abruptly and crash lower. I’m ashamed to say that I found myself consumed with envy of the Blessed Virgin. Sure her life wasn’t easy, but at least she KNEW she was going to have a child in the near future. As the Advent prayers of the mass say, we look for him “whose coming is certain.” She was certain that a little one would enter her life in the near future. I didn’t have a little one in my life “whose coming was certain”. I didn’t have any promises. As the mass readings escalated in the excitement of the child who was to come, and we heard about the flurry of activity that preceded His birth, I fell more into sorrow and despair as my own life seemed to be going further down a road in the opposite direction of the season. The darkness of Advent became a very real reality to me and I struggled to find that light that pierced the darkness. All around me seemed to be filled with hope, and yet I was struggling to maintain any shred of hope. One of the greatest sources of pain for me was the empty manger in our crèche , as I was daily reminded that we were NOT expecting the long-awaited one in our life. And then one day I faced the realization that I was angry with Our Lady and envious of her. I was angry with her for seemingly flaunting her pregnancy in my face when my own heart was breaking and I was jealous of her for the joy that she had coming soon when she would get to hold her child. But I had missed the point. Advent reminds us that in the midst of the wait for God’s promises and prayers, we can have hope and we can trust. Our Lady neither flaunted her pregnancy nor did she turn a deaf ear to my pleas for her consolation. The image on the front of the handout is an icon that our parish had on holy cards last Advent. Father Bill encouraged me to look upon this image, as see my loving Mother, bearing the Christ child in her womb, with her arms raised and hands outstretched, was showing that she was bearing Him for us….for me. She did not wish to keep Him for herself, but rather she was bringing Him to those who would need Him most…for me. She bears the one who is to me and to each of us the greatest gift that we will ever receive. She bears Him for us.

Listen to the carols of Advent, read the promises in the book of Isaiah, listen to the cries of Israel as they wait for God’s promised Messiah to come. Come this coming Tuesday to hear Lessons and Carols at the parish. I have a feeling they will have a new and richer meaning for all of as we consider Israel’s wait for their child with the experiences that we have felt personally. Consider how long the world had had to wait for the conception of this child. How long had Israel awaited this promised little one? FAR longer than I have been waiting for the one I hope for in my womb. How painful was their wait? What suffering had they endured in the waiting? And yet just when it seemed that all was lost and hope was gone, God showed the world that He is faithful in keeping His promises. Here, at last, His spoken promise took flesh. The prayers of the mass in Advent “grant this through him whose coming is certain.” Those same words that had rubbed me raw earlier in Advent because I was upset that I DID NOT have someone whose coming was certain. ..now I saw those words in an entirely different light. No…I don’t have a baby in my life whose coming is certain. I am not promised a pregnancy. I am not promised physical motherhood. But Christ’s coming IS certain. HE will not fail to come. And this, not physical motherhood, has to be the source of our hope.

Advent is a season of hope in the promises of God. So it is fitting then that we would gather tonight to share with one another our longing for a children.…simultaneously we in darkened silence for, Jesus, the child of our universal longing. It is a time when heaven touches earth.

Let us continue to pray for the gift of a little life in our own and allow the hope of Christ to touch us. For who are we to underestimate the love, power and grace of God?

(if you would like a copy of the talk, just let me know and I'll try to get a copy out to you.)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Affect of infertility upon men

Infertility support is often criticized for being heavily focused on the woman's journey. Most medical treatments are focused on the woman, most support groups focus on the woman, even scriptures usually speak to the infertility from the woman's perspective. How have you seen infertility affect your husband? (or if you are a man, how does it affect you?) Does your husband talk about it? How does he grieve? What are the hardest parts of your infertility for him? What type of support does he look for? What type of support would he like?

Thanks all!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Stages of Grieving

Thank you so much to those of you who have commented on the questions I have been posting. I really would love to have your thoughts as the journey through this valley of tears is not mine alone... I am blessed to have the opportunity to help others see through out eyes and I appreciate those of you who are helping me do that. Thank you!

Today's questions have to do with the five stages of grief. They are commonly identified as:
1. Denial and Isolation
2. Anger
3. Bargaining
4. Depression
5. Acceptance

I'm not one to try and fit life into neat categories, but I think there is some truth to how we have seen these stages play out in our life. We have stayed in some stages awhile longer than others, while some we passed through rather quickly. While some individuals seem to want to push those going through infertility to "forget about it" and "move on" and get to Acceptance, we know that this is not possible and grieving and healing occurs differently at different times for each of us. How have you seen these stages of grief in your own journey? Where would you say you are at now? What has helped you to move forward? Has your spouse grieved differently? Have you found yourselves at two different stages (ie, one of you accepts and the other is still in anger)? If so, how have you handled this. Any other thoughts on the stages of grief associated with infertility?

Thanks for your thoughts!
Advent Blessings!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

Classic Script Wishes Christmas
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View the entire collection of cards.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Walking on eggshells?

Today's questions revolve around how those with children can or should interact with those going through infertility. I often get asked from friends how they should act around their friends dealing with infertility. What can they share? What should they not say? Is it okay to talk about their kids? How can a mother share vital parts of her life and her identity with her friend suffering with infertility? To share might hurt the friend, but not to share, is to withold a large part of herself and in a way dimish the authenticity of the relationship. How can a someone be respectful of a person/couple going through infertility and yet not walk on eggshells, worrying that something they say might be hurtful? What have you found to be helpful in your own relationships? How have you found this balance with your friends?

Looking forward to hearing your comments and thoughts!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

How can one support a friend with infertility?

Life continues on here. We are doing well, and keeping busy. The FertilityCare Center of Michiana continues to grow and thrive. So many people are hungry for FertilityCare, and to better know, understand and respect their fertility. It has been so richly rewarding to work with women and couples as a Creighton Model FertilityCare Practitioner. God is so good. He has allowed me to take my greatest pain and find ways to support and minister to others not in spite of my cross, but rather because of my cross.

In the next few weeks I am going to have two big opportunities to reach out to others sharing the same cross as us. On December 3rd, my husband and I will be speaking at "A Night of Hope for Those Touched by Infertility" held at St. Pius X Catholic Church in Granger, IN. The retreat runs from 7-9:30EST and we are looking forward to presenting our talk "In the Waiting". Then on Saturday, December 11th, I will present at a conference called "The Church and Infertility" in Harrisburg, PA. Together with Fr. Tad Pacholczyk and Dr. Mark Stegman we will look at the Church's teachings on Bioethics, In-Vitro Fertilization and Embryo Adoption, as well as how we can support those going through infertility. I have been asked to come share our personal story as well as to help others learn how they can support friends and family carrying this cross.

Please pray for me as I work to complete my talks. And this leads to my question today. I don't want this to be just be our (Dave's and mine) story. I feel that God has given me these opportunities to speak for all of us. To share with hundreds of people attending what it is like to experience infertility and how we can best support those going through infertility. Over the next few days I am going to post a question here on the blog and it would mean so much to me if you would give me your thoughts. Stay tuned, there will be more to follow....but for today:

How can one support a friend with infertility? (What are the BEST ways your friends, family, parish, priest, etc have supported you? What are some of the LEAST helpful things they have said/done?)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Next Chapter

Well...the next chapter has begun.

My absence from the blog has not been due to depression about infertility, difficulty dealing with our childlessness nor from a lack of things I wish to write on. Nope...none of those.

Rather, I have just been plaid ol' busy. Super busy. There are so many things I wanted to write on, to share with you, but I just haven't had time. So this is my attempt to fill you in on the many many blessings we have experienced in the past months. I know I'll barely skim the surface.

I determined awhile back not to define myself by our infertility...not to get stuck "in the waiting", but vowed to go out and do something productive. To live my life for God, to offer Him all that I am, just as I am in this moment, to do with me what He wills. I believe with all of my heart that He has something very special planned for each of us that only we can accomplish. He has created us for this time and this season and this purpose to fill a specific role. Our job is to pray, be attentive and to respond in love and obedience when He calls.

Starting last September I began to see a picture forming of something God was calling me to do. I had no idea how that one day in September (see my blog post from that day) would change my life. But over the last year as I have continued to pray and discern, I realize that I have been put in a special place to help share with others the power, beauty and truth of Catholic sexual teaching. To teach women about their bodies, how they were created to function and how there are better ways of healing than many options most in the medical profession are giving us. To this end, I have worked over the last year with other medical professionals associated with the Creighton Model in founding a local affiliate of the FertilityCare Centers of America. It has been a ton of work, but the fruit is starting to come. Just this past Thursday (the Feast of St. Padre Pio), our Center received it's approval for affiliation with our national organization. That same day, we found out that an event we are sponsoring in November will be co-sponsored by both our Diocese and also the Notre Dame Fund to Protect Human Life. AND on that same day, we began discussions with adminstrators of our local hospital about the possiblities of bringing a NaPro OB/GYN practice in. Amazing things are happening and we continue to pray. (Check out our new website at www.fccmichiana.org. We're especially excited about the "Upcoming Events" page!)

Yes, I've been busy. Yes, I may be too busy. And yes, what I am doing still relates to infertility, but I no longer feel defined by my cross. Instead I am feeling that the suffering has a purpose. If we didn't go through this way of the cross, I wouldn't have the motivation to do what I am doing, and I wouldn't know first-hand what it feels like to be in this valley of tears. But now, I feel a freedom in living and I feel more "alive" than I've felt in a long long time. It feels good. This must be what Jesus means when He promises to take away our suffering and replace it with his peace that surpasses all understanding. I am thankful.

And so tomorrow, I start yet another new chapter as I head to Omaha, Nebraska to train as a FertilityCare Practitioner at the Pope Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction. Soon I will be trained and certified to teach the Creighton Model FertilityCare System. I am excited to have the experience, and am looking forward to the learning, but know that the 10 days will be challenging not only intellectually but emotionally. In addition to learning things I've always wanted to learn such as embryology, and anatomy and physiology, we will also be studying the various types of abortion, how they are done, and the way they affect the baby and could possibly affect the mother (physically and emotionally). As if reading the procedures step by step and seeing the pictures isn't hard enough on most people, for those of us unable to have a child, I think there is an added layer of sadness and pain. Please keep me in your prayers as I begin these studies. That I will be diligent and centered...that this may all be for the glory of God!

I pray for you all regularly and thank you for the many prayers you offer up for our behalf.

St. Therese of Liseux, pray for us.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Let us hold unwaveringly....

Therefore, brothers, since through the blood of Jesus we have confidence of entrance into the sanctuary by the new and living way he opened for us through the veil, that is, his flesh, and since we have "a great priest over the house of God," let us approach with a sincere heart and in absolute trust, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water. Let us hold unwaveringly to our confession that gives us hope, for he who made the promise is trustworthy.

Hebrews 10:19-23

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Complete Surrender

This is my goal! To be as relaxed and surrendered as this little fellow!
When my soul has reach this state, I'll know I'm doing okay. :)
Trusting God and resting in Him....
...only then will nothing disturb my peace.

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28

Monday, August 16, 2010

God alone suffices

Let nothing disturb thee;
Let nothing dismay thee;
All things pass; God never changes.
Patience attains all that it strives for.
He who has God finds he lacks nothing:
God alone suffices.

~St. Teresa of Avila

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Putting your trust in Him...

Whatever your difficulty, you have two options, you can worry and assume that Jesus no longer cares, or you can resist fear, putting your trust in him. When you feel like panicking, confess your need for God and then trust him to care for you.

Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Quiet! Be stil!" The wind ceased and there was great calm. Then he asked them, "Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?" They were filled with great awe and said to one another, "Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?" ~ Mark 4:38-41

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


You either control your desires or you let your desires control you. -JPII

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Complete and Perfect in God's All-Seeing Eyes

"Things were in God's plan which I had not planned at all. I am coming to the living faith and conviction that - from God's point of view - there is no chance, and that the whole of my life, down to every detail, has been mapped out in God's divine providence and makes complete and perfect sense in God's all-seeing eyes." - St. Edith Stein

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Hoping in God alone

"I feel a great desire to abandon myself with greater trust to the Divine Mercy and to place my hope in God alone."
~ St. Padre Pio di Pietralcina

Thursday, July 29, 2010

One year since surgery

Wow...It's been awhile. I have been absent from my blogging for quite awhile, but I have held each and every one of you in my thoughts and prayers during my "absence". I realized a need to step away for awhile, to spend time in prayer, and re-evaluating my activities, commitments and direction. It has been difficult at times, but incredibly fruitful. I had gotten to the point of focusing on our infertility so much that everything in my life was viewed through that lens. I had gotten to the point on focusing so much on the 1 thing that I didn't have that I missed the 99 blessings I did. It was time to step back.

But today, marking the 1 year anniversary since my surgery, seems like a good time to come back. Reading my post regarding the surgery from last year was an interesting experience for me today. That incredible peace that I felt post-surgery that day has come and gone and come and gone...and come...and.... But looking at that post reminds me of the peace (you know, that peace that surpasses all understanding? ) that the Holy Spirit gave me post-surgery and the calm assurance I had that all would be well. That I didn't need to worry. All was progressing according to His plan. I still believe that, but when I look at my own plan, the answer's a bit mixed. Are we where I'd hoped we would be? No, not quite...since we still do not have a little one to share our life with. However, as I have had time to reflect I see the many ways that our lives have been blessed in the last year. My health has improved GREATLY. We are still seeing signs of improvement and continue to have hope. Our marriage is stronger as we have spent more time focusing on each other and enjoying each other rather than fretting about our childlessness. We have learned more on how to adjust my workload so as to reduce my stress and make me an overall healthier human being (and nicer to be around too!!!). And finally the incredible things happening in our Diocese in relation to Creighton/NaPro and also infertility support are nothing short of miraculous. It seems that in my darkest hours when I have barely been able to hang on to hope and have asked God to please make something beautiful out of this cross....He has been. I'm sure I will share more in the coming weeks on the events and happenings in our neck of the woods, but in the meantime, I want to say "hi" to all of you. It feels good to be back and I'm looking forward to talking to many of you soon.

Today, I celebrate one day ago today, when Dr. Parker did my surgery. I say "celebrate" because I am so thankful that we have access to wonderful doctors like him and have the availability of NaPro and also because of the ways my life has been blessed in the past year.
We may not yet have the baby our hearts desire, but in God's timing, He will make all things beautiful according to His plan!

God bless!

"Everyone chases after happiness, not noticing that happiness is right at their heels." ~ Bertolt Brecht

And to QueenKimie who posted a comment to my post on July 25th last year, please know that I am praying for you and am "here" for you if you have any questions. Thank you for your insightful comments! God bless you!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

What you CAN do....

"Never let what you can't do interfere with what you can do." ~ Anonymous

Just a thought for our day. I think often in this journey through infertility we are so focused on what we can't do (conceive and carry a child to term)...we lose track of what we can do. So many things are out of our control, but there are even more that we do have the ability to change/accomplish. My challenge to myself and to anyone interested. Make a list of the things you CAN do. Foster a spirit of gratitude. Thank God for the blessings He has given you. Change the world as a witness to His merciful love!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Gianna Center Outreach - June 17th

Anyone in the NYC area????
I just got this email from Dr. Mielnik and wanted to pass this on in case any of you were able to make it. If you do go, please let me know how it is!

~ ~ ~

Hello Everyone,

Thursday, June 17, we will hold the first of what will become a monthly outreach for couples struggling with infertility and recurrent miscarriage.
The evening will include Adoration, Confession, Mass & Catholic support group for couples struggling with infertility, as well as a presentation on the NaProTechnology approach to treating infertility for couples seeking more information about this alternative.
Mass will be held at St. Catherine of Sienna Parish, 411 East 68th Street, New York, NY. The event begins at 6 pm.
Schedule of Events
6:00 pm Adoration and Confession in the Main Church
6:25 pm Litany and Prayer to Saint Gianna Beretta Molla
6:35 pm Mass
7:15 pm Support Group in Conference Room 1
7:15 pm The NaProTechnology Approach to Treating Infertility: Presentation by Dr. Mielnik in Conference Room 2
Please share this information with your contacts and anyone struggling with a diagnosis of infertility or recurrent miscarriage.

Thanks and God bless.


Anne Mielnik, MD

Friday, April 30, 2010

Doctors of Gianna Center talk with Fr. Benedict Groeschel

Don't miss Dr. Anne Mielnik and Dr. Kyle Beiter (The Gianna Center, Manhattan) on Sunday Night Live with Fr. Benedict Groeschel this Sunday, May 2 at 7 pm.

Please say a prayer for them as they discuss the need for renewal in Catholic healthcare and the challenges facing Catholic healthcare providers in America today.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Let us hold unwaveringly...

Let us hold unwaveringly to our confession that gives us hope, for he who made the promise is trustworthy.
~ Hebrews 10:23

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Lord Gives and He Takes Away. Blessed be His Name

Father, we abandon ourselves into your hands, to send a child ... or not ... as you see fit. You by whom the Word was made flesh, send us a miracle, if this is what you desire. Or lead us to her/him, if that be your will. We do not ask for guarantees; no parent can. Only light enough for the very next step. We do not ask for a perfect child, nor can we promise to be perfect parents. Whatever you choose for us, whatever you desire we abandon ourselves to your perfect will. We are ready to offer our daily "yes," until that perfect will be revealed in us. And until, at last perfected, we bear witness to the work of redemption you began in Eden. We love you, Lord, and offer ourselves to you, wholly and without reservation. We surrender ourselves, moment by moment, knowing that this is only the first small step of a lifetime of surrender, so that we may be made more perfect in love. That we might imitate, on earth as in heaven, the redemptive love, the adoptive love, the selfless love, with which you first loved us.
- Author Unknown

Since the day that we were notified about the baby/babies over a month ago (March 15), we have prayed this prayer. It has been a beautiful gift to us (courtesy of Hannah's Tears) as we surrender our hopes and dreams to Our Lord. To give our daily "fiat", our "yes" to whatever lies ahead. In the past weeks our lives have changed so much. Most everything revolved around the baby/babies and meeting the birthmother (scheduled for Sunday, April 18th). Suddenly our priorities had shifted. Out went the plans for home renovation, saving for the adoption costs was more important. Travel plans were altered, as we would need to be home with the little one(s) at that time. Seeing couples with babies was no longer a painful experience, but one rather of forshadowing and our excitement grew. We found that are hearts were growing bigger, to expand to fit the little one(s) growing in the womb of the birthmother. While it was her womb that was expanding, our hearts were keeping step. I even got online to get updates on what "my baby" was doing at this week in pregnancy (a somewhat bittersweet experience I have to say, as it was not really "my baby" yet, not was it my womb). I breathed in wonder as I learned the little one was the size of a grape, could respond to light, then grew to be the size of an avocado....no wonder my heart hurt, it was expanding rapidly. And I also learned that during this week I "could expect to gain five pounds and be more tired." That made me laugh...yes, I probably had gained five pounds and I was a bit more sleepy, but I think it had more to do with the gluttoneous eating of the Octave of Easter and less to do with a baby in someone else's womb. Nonetheless, our lives were changing rapidly and for a moment I got a first-hand glimpse of what it means to be "on the other side." No our infertility was not lifted, but for four beautiful wonderful weeks we had the hope of a little one coming into our lives.

All of that ended Wednesday.

Late Wednesday, we received word that our birthmother has changed her mind and would not be going through with the adoption. Dave and I knew all along that this was a possibility, but she had seemed very confident in the communications we had exchanged and so we had decided to start sharing the news with our family, friends, etc. We are, of course, saddened, but are trusting in God's plan. From the very beginning we said that if we were just "here" to support the birthmother for this stretch of her journey and to support her and let her know she had options, then that would be okay. Of course it would be hard and we would be sad, but it would be okay.Of course we are sad, but we do have peace about the way things have turned out. It's hard, but we trust.

The last few days have been quite difficult as we experience this miscarriage of the heart and begin the grieving process for the baby/babies we never knew. I didn't cry for the first day. I was away on business and had seven hours to think about it on my own before I could tell Dave the news. By the time I got home, it was late, I told him, we took a few deep breathes and went to bed. I still hadn't cried. It was only Thursday morning, when I woke up that the tears came...and they came...and they came. They just wouldn't stop. It wasn't the utter despair that I know all too well from the infertility journey, but rather it was an incredible sadness. A true and powerful surrender to God...of letting go of my plans and accepting His. At first I felt guitly for crying, as if this somehow proved that I did not trust Him or accept His will in this, but through prayer, I realized this was not the case. It was okay to cry. Tears were good...they were holy...a letting go....a trustful surrender to God in and of themselves. We know that we will both grieve and recover at different times and in different ways and we thank you for your prayers. Please also continue to pray for the birthmother and the baby/babies that we have grown to love. We continue to keep hope and trust that Our loving Savior has something beautiful in mind for us and our family. We know it. We trust it.

Today has already been better. We are at peace. This little one/these little ones, will always have a special place in our hearts, but we can move forward knowing that God is in control, and this is just as He has planned it. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be His name.

God bless you.

Blessed Be His Name
(Tree 63)

Blessed be your name
In the land that is plentiful
Where the streams of abundance flow
Blessed be your name

Blessed be your name
When I'm found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed be your name

Every blessing you pour out,I turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say...

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be your glorious name

Blessed be your name
When the sun's shining down on me
When the world's all as it should be
Blessed be your name

Blessed be your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there's pain in the offering
Blessed be your name

Every blessing you pour out,
I turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say...

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be your glorious name

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say Lord,
Blessed be your name

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Just what the doctor ordered

(continued from yesterday...)

The next few weeks were a time of joy and hope. Our hearts had conceived and were growing to love this baby/babies already. This was also when we went on vacation and finally, for the first time since our honeymoon, had time for just the two of us. Our friend's parents graciously let us stay with them in their home near the beach in North Carolina, and it was just what the doctor ordered. A time to get away from it all. I turned off my phone and stayed off of email the entire week. It was heaven. During that time Dave and I got to just enjoy each other. Time at the beach reading Two Towers to eachother, time to explore the area, sleep in and time just to be present to eachother. It was just a lovely time.

I hadn't realized how much the strain of infertility had caused me to overlook the gift I have in my husband. While on vacation I also read Dr. Greg Popcak's recent book "Holy Sex! A Catholic Guide to Toe-Curling, Mind-Blowing, Infallible Loving." When they say that this book is like St. Thomas Acquinas meets Dr. Ruth...they aren't kidding. I couldn't believe all that was included in this book. Everything from the meaning of sex and the scripture tradition of it, to an entire chapter on positions and how to orchestrate them according to the stages of a woman's cycle (Pre-Peak, Peak, Post-Peak) so as to experience the greatest intimacy and pleasure. I mean seriously!!! Someone has written on how to time the sexual encounter to correspond with a woman's fertility cycle to achieve maximum intimacy and pleasure? You have to be kidding me! This was Natural Family Planning at it's finest hour! :) :) :) But it wasn't the Christian Kamasutra aspects that affected me most, rather it was the focus on the intimacy and bonding that comes with a proper understanding of non-contracepting sex within marriage. Seriously, you have to read this book! Even if you think you won't agree with it, read it. Then let's talk. I think you just might be suprised. I know it will change your life in some way.

For me, my life was changed in that I realized that the desire for a baby was blinding me to the gift of Dave and was creating an impediment to marital intimacy (emotionally, psychologically, etc). Just as contraception rejects the life-giving love of sex, objectifies the spouse and says to the spouse, "I love all of you, but not your fertility," so equally does the neverending attempt to conceive run the risk of using the spouse as an object just the same. In this case, one runs the risk of objectifying the spouse as a means to getting what you want...a baby. The unitive aspects and authentic intimacy are marginalized...and many times couples fall into the trap of qualifying their relations as "successful" or "non-succesful" based on whether or not they conceive. Whoa! Stop the presses. This is just as much objectification as contraception in my opinion. You are still using the spouse for your own selfish pleasure. You may not intend to (just as most couples contracepting don't realize the ways they are objectifying their spouse), but you still are...even if it is mutual objectification. Ouch. I think this is one of the most hidden side-effects of infertility. If you think couples aren't talking about their infertility in the first place, try getting them to talk about how it affects their sexual life with their spouse. Nope...nada. Not going to get it. Not going to go "there." But oh well, I just went "there." I think it needs to be discussed and I have no problem doing it. Anyway, I have a feeling that many of you reading this know exactly what I mean.

Yes, "Holy Sex!" hit home in so many ways, and I believe it has already made me a better wife. I'm not just talking about passion and physical things (no, not even I am going to go "there"), but I mean in the self-donative, looking-to-serve and bring-out-the-best-in-the-other type of way. Even if I am not willing or able to meet all of Dave's needs (spiritual, physical, intellectual, emotional, etc), I certainly am more aware of them. Thank you Dr. Popcak for reminding me that the success of marriage and of sex does not depend on conception. I needed the wake-up.

Other than the profound affect my reading had upon me, it was just wonderful to get away from the stress of life. To sleep in as late as we wanted. Not to hurry anywhere. Not to feel torn in a million different directions. Not to always feel late and harried. Not to be strung out. I had time to take care of me. To attend to my needs and in doing so, learned to recognize things that my body has probably been trying to tell me for years. I need a break.

This is the same thing Dr. Parker had said in late February. He said I needed to destress and simplify life. Vacation gave me a chance to do that and to reflect on how I could continue to do it once I returned home. The result? One of the most beautiful months of charting we've ever seen. I can actually see a tangible difference in my cycle with the decrease in stress. Now, I'm not saying, destress and you'll conceive...but I certainly can see first-hand now, how stress is most likely playing a factor in our infertility. This has inspired me to do better. Just seeing the improvement has been a boost. And today Dr. Parker called and said that my Peak + 7 levels looked pretty good and it showed that I had ovulated. That is now three cycles of ovulation since last July. I never thought I'd say this, but "Yippee!" It's amazing what a bit of rest and "Holy Sex!" can do....just what the doctor ordered.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Make Me a Channel of Your Peace

My time in Steubenville was incredible (as it always is). Even though we weren't there for long, it was just great to see old friends. Because the FertilityCare Conference was in Weirton, WV, my friend and I stayed with the Franciscan Sisters, TOR in their mission house in downtown Steubenville. I had met several of them during my time working for the FUS Study Abroad Program in Gaming, Austria (where I met Dave) and it is always such a blessing to spend time with them. And to sleep in the same house as the Eucharist was awesome. Just to know that I could toddle down the stairs in my jammies to spend time with our Lord was amazing. To rise at o'dark thirty for morning prayer with the sisters was equally wonderful. And to have a holy hour in the presence of Our Lord...ah, I love some aspects of religious life! The Holy Spirit took that time to lead me to a beautiful scripture that has continued to inspire me.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” ~ Romans 15:15

This really had been my focus through Lent. I had finally had enough with the sorrow and sadness. I just couldn't take it anymore and had told God, "Look, I'll carry this cross [of infertility] for as long as you want me to, but I'm sick of being sad about it. Please give me a spirit of joy." Now as I look back I can see how He was faithful in bringing this about in my spirit since then. In the midst of Lent, a season of penance, my heart was filled with joy (even in the midst of human sorrow at times)...but filled with true joy and peace in believing. This had been a long time coming. It was such a relief and welcome experience. And this scripture from the Holy Spirit was like a kiss on my head from God the Father. Thank you.

Equally inspiring was a conversation that I had with a wonderful Franciscan, TOR priest who used to be Dave's spiritual director at FUS. Even though I have only recently gotten to know him, he has been such a blessing to us. (He was actually the priest that blessed my engagement ring as we traveled to Steubenville the day after our engagement to share the news with our friends). Anyway, each time I've met with Fr he has spoken words of prophecy into our lives. It's really kind of crazy. This time, we met for coffee in the student center on campus (keep in mind this man is a Vice President at FUS and thus perhaps the first miracle was that he even had time to meet!). Anyway, we talked for awhile and he point-blank asked me, "so are you happy?" Wow, talk about a loaded question. I thought for awhile and then said "yes." I explained that while life was not easy, God was faithful and I was experiencing a joy in the midst of human sorrow that I didn't know could exist. He then reached into the pocket of his habit and pulled out a holy card. He said he didn't know what, but he felt that he needed to give this to me. It was a holy card of St. Francis with the Prayer of St. Francis on the back. He told me that Dave and I were to pray this prayer together and unite ourselves to the Sacred Heart of Jesus through the intercession of St. Francis. Not really feeling an immediate draw to do this, I just smiled and said okay. But little did I know how much that holy card would change me. Even as the weekend went on, and before I was back home with Dave, I began praying the prayer. And when I saw praying, I mean PRAYING...not just reading. Really PRAYING and meditating on what the words say.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury,pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen

My jaw dropped as the meaning in my life sunk in. Adoption and foster care. This was a call to adoption and foster care. Bringing love where there might have been hatred. Bringing forgiveness where an injury had occurred. Bringing faith where doubt and uncertainty resided. Bringing hope where one had despaired. Being a light in the darkness. Helping bring joy to a situation where sadness existed. As I moved to the next portion of the prayer, I felt the call grow stronger. In opening myself up to foster care and adoption, I would be seeking to console more than to be consoled myself. I would work to be understanding of another's situation more than hoping people would understand mine. I would put myself out there to love another being more than worrying about being loved in return. And certainly in giving of ourselves we would receive, we would learn to forgive and one would hope that through the experience we would grow into holier individuals and be born into eternal life. The meaning of the prayer that I had heard SO MANY times before, seemed to jump off of the prayer card and smack me in the face. I couldn't wait to get home to tell Dave.

Imagine my surprise then, when I got home Sunday and this same prayer just started popping up everywhere. My sponsored God-daughter in Columbia sent me a card with a picture of St. Francis and the prayer...in cleaning my office, I found two small stained glass windows with the prayer of St. Francis on them...and my devotion to the prayer just kept growing. By Monday morning, I found myself wishing aloud that I had some way that I could take the prayer with me because I wanted it nearby to pray throughout the day and felt it might be a bit strange carrying around a holy card in front me all day (d'ya think?). Imagine my utter shock when that very night, a friend of mine came up to me after Women of Grace and handed me a bracelet saying, "Here, I feel that I'm supposed to loan you this for the next month while I'm gone." Yes, you guessed it, it is the prayer of St. Francis on a Mobius bracelet. I couldn't believe it. I just looked up to heaven and wanted to say to God, "Okay, look, I get it. You can call off the hounds now!". :) But inside my heart was rejoicing. Whereas the thought of adoption and foster care and previously only filled me with angst and concern, there was now joy at the thought of either and I felt that God would sustain and honor us in this path.

But wait...there's more. That same day, Monday, March 15th, God provided us our first opportunity to see if we really had experienced a true conversion of heart and were ready to be channels of His peace. That morning, I received an email from a friend with the title "Are you ready for a baby yet?" I couldn't believe how fast Our Lord was working. It had been 72 hours since I had given my fiat (Luke 1:38), and opened my heart to the idea of adoption. And now here we were with a concrete offer. A young mother, wanting a Catholic/Christian family for her baby due in September...oh, and the nurse/mid-wife thought she had heard two heartbeats. Dave and I were ecstatic!!! A possible double blessing....twins!!! In the blink of an eye, our lives changed. We were on the phone with adoption lawyers, getting information about home studies, consulting with our accountant regarding the financial side, and verifying insurance coverage with our carrier. It was a whirlwind, and our hearts rejoiced! Oh....and the birthmother's name? Yeah...it is Francis. Go figure. :)

(stayed tuned for more tomorrow)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Reflections on Lent - "In the Waiting"

As I mentioned yesterday, I was much more looking forward to Lent than I had been to Advent. And as I said, I think this was because I could more easily identify with Lent. Whereas Advent is to a time of joy and hope, Lent is a time of being the desert for 40 days, conquering despair and enduring affliction….now THIS was something familiar to me. I think it’s a common experience for most of us IF folks right? Not to be “oh poor me-ish”, but sometimes on this journey it has seemed that Good Friday might as well be my Feast Day (to reference Fr. Corapi’s “The Passion of Christ Applied to Your Life”…AWESOME talk by the way, available for cheap download at www.lighthousecatholicmedia.com). I was actually really looking forward to Lent because it reflected what my experience of life has been for the past several years. As much at it pains me to admit this, I was excited that the rest of the Christian world would, for 40 days, be experiencing what I go through on a daily basis year round…a lot of sacrifice, denial of pleasures, suffering, barreness, dryness, longing, etc. Now, I completely realize that there are others out there who have it far worse off than I do and I’m again, not saying I was justified in thinking this way, I’m merely being honest about where I was at at the beginning of Lent. I was overjoyed that the rest of the Christian world would be unified with me in sacrificial living. That they too would have to do without something that was special to them and be forced to live without comforts for a time. Oh man, I can’t believe I’m admitting this.

My own experience of Lent was ridiculously fruitful. My sacrifice to drink nothing but water was one of the most radical and yet fruitful sacrifices I have ever chosen. I had absolutely no idea how much I had come to depend on the comforts of the world in the midst of my suffering, but I was aware that this water-only gig was going to be difficult. Let’s put it this way…on Fat Tuesday, I had something like 5 cups of coffee and 6 Cokes, as well as a sleeve of Girl Scout Cookies, 2 bowls of popcorn and a deep-dish Meat Lover’s with extra cheese pizza. Now there’s a way to enter Lent with a bang. Good grief. Needless to say, my first day of Lent, Ash Wednesday, was a LOUD wake-up call to how dependant I had become upon the pleasures of the world. Caffeine-withdrawal-headache aside, I was miserable. At every spiritual pain, every emotional ache from infertility, I would instinctively turn to food/drink. Each time I would find myself tempted to despair…I headed for food/drink. When the PMS got bad….I just wanted my food/drink. This Lenten sacrifice got right to the core of one of my biggest spiritual issues. Instead of heading to the arms of my Abba Father when things got rough…I sent to the kitchen or the Sonic Drive Thru. Pathetic. But I was resolute to stay strong, and with God’s grace I did. No excuses. Deal with the headache. Fight the urge to give in to temptation. Stay strong, repent and turn to God. This was one of the most fruitful Lents of my life. Praise God! Not only did I lose 8 POUNDS in just the FIRST WEEK of Lent, but I became more spiritually fit and was able to fend of the Evil One with prayer instead of dulling my senses and pain through food/drink. Wow. What a difference.

Simultaneously, Dave and I were using Lent to determine where we were being called to go on our journey through infertility. Did we feel called to continue NaPro treatment? Did we feel called to take a break? Did we feel called to adopt? To foster care? These were the topics we were discerning throughout Lent. A meeting with my OBGYN and review of our charts in late February showed us enough signs of progress that we knew we wanted to continue NaPro treatment, but we also knew that we needed a reprieve…a break from the hard core “trying to conceive” (TTC). We would still do everything that the doctor was recommending, but simultaneously we would work on enjoying our marriage more and would work to make the TTC less of the focus of our life. This decision was affirmed by my OBGYN who gave us a beautiful mini-homily on the meaning of Lent and simplification and ridding life of the excess, de-stressing and returning to the heart of Christ. Wow. I love NaPro docs!

In the middle of March, I headed to Steubenville and West Virginia for the weekend. Every time I head to Franciscan University I make it sort of a mini-pilgrimage and I take a certain intention with me in my heart. This trip it was the question, “where do we go from here? What is the next step on our journey?” I attended a FertilityCare Conference in West Virginia and got to hear Dr. Hilgers speak a few times and speak to this incredible man. It was a mileston for me. Seriously, I felt like the hemorrhaging woman from the scriptures..”if I could only touch the hem of his suit jacket, I shall be healed!! (I know, I’m crazy). Additionally, I got to hear awesome speakers such as Sr. Renee (Ethicist from Pope Paul VI Institute) who told me that she sensed the Lord was calling me to become a FertilityCare practitioner, Dr. Greg Popcak (author of “Holy Sex!: A Catholic-Guide to Toe-Curling, Mind-Blowing, Infallible Loving”) who really challenged me to focus on my marriage and not our infertility, and a couple who shared their journey to adoption which reminded me that sometimes the wait is long, but anything can happen.

The couple that spoke about adoption really struck me. Normally I get annoyed by the adoption talk at infertility gatherings. As if the implication is that somehow adopting will make everything better. I don’t think so. And after all, adoption is not for everyone (contrary to public opinion and the confidence of prognosticators who think adoption will get you pregnant, “cause it always happens that way.”). But this time, I was surprised to find that the woman giving the adoption talk was the one I had spotted as a VERY pregnant conference attendee earlier in the day. So of course when I saw her I assumed that this was the “adopt and then you’ll get pregnant” talk. How judgmental of me. It’s amazing how we can look at someone and quickly determine that we know their story. I should know better by now. Anyway, imagine my surprise when this couple shares from their heart about their 5 year struggle with infertility, surgeries with Dr. Hilgers, etc. Then they talk about adopting their daughter, getting pregnant, miscarrying and having another two years of infertility before this pregnancy (which is almost full-term). Wow. What a story. Seven years of infertility. In some ways, this story was very hard for me to hear. Trying to imagine another FIVE YEARS more of this in our lives…I don’t know if I have the strength to do it. Yet, in other ways, I found it encouraging because it showed me that anything is possible. God doesn’t always work on our time (actually does He ever?), and sometimes we are tempted to give up, but then along comes a miracle. Seven years…SEVEN years…are you getting this? SEVEN entire years…that’s 2,555 days…that’s 3,679,200 minutes that this couple wondered if their time would ever come….and then POW! In the blink of an eye, when all seemed lost…a little one. This really made me ponder what I’m doing “in the waiting.” Am I making good use of the time that God has given me? Or am I just treading water until I get what I want? If I never got it would I be upset at the way I’ve spent my time? I think this is part of the reason I was reflecting on Karey’s post “from the other side” recently. I’m doing a lot of soul searching on how I’m living “in the waiting.” It’s far to easy to define ourselves by the struggle, to orient our lives around our Creighton charts and desires. But what about orienting our lives around what God desires from us? (and not pouting about it?) That is where I am really getting convicted lately. So Lent was a wonderful time to consider all of this. What am I doing “in the waiting”? Because “the waiting” might just be here awhile longer….in fact, what I’ve seen as “the waiting” might actually be the real thing…the gift of my life here on earth. I sure don’t want to waste it. Perhaps instead of being “in the waiting” for a baby, I need to start thinking in terms of the here and now and what I will be doing “in the waiting” for heaven. Something to ponder.
In honor of my musings on “the waiting”, I wanted to share with you another song that has profoundly affected my spiritual journey through infertility and the many daily crosses of life. It’s John Waller’s “While I’m Waiting”. I hope it blesses you too!

I'm waiting
I'm waiting on You, Lord
And I am hopeful
I'm waiting on You, Lord
Though it is painful
But patiently, I will wait

I will move ahead, bold and confident
Taking every step in obedience
While I'm waiting I will serve You
While I'm waiting I will worship
While I'm waiting I will not faint
I'll be running the race
Even while I wait

I'm waiting
I'm waiting on You, Lord
And I am peaceful
I'm waiting on You, Lord
Though it's not easy
But faithfully, I will wait
Yes, I will wait
I will serve You while I'm waiting
I will worship while I'm waiting
I will serve You while I'm waiting
I will worship while I'm waiting
I will serve you while I'm waiting
I will worship while I'm waiting on You, Lord

Tomorrow I’ll share a few more reflections from Lent and then start to catch you up on what’ we’ve been up to lately.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Reflections on the liturgical seasons

Did anyone else find themselves looking forward to Lent? I sure did. As Ash Wednesday approached, my excitement only grew. I found this somewhat strange and tried to figure out why I would be more excited for Lent than I had been for Advent. After praying about this and contemplating the liturgical seasons and my reactions to them I realized it had everything to do with how they mirrored my own experiences in life at the time. To better understand, I had to step back and take a look at what Advent had been like.

Advent 2009 was a difficult time. A time of several cycles where hopes were high, only to fall abruptly. I found myself envious of the Blessed Virgin. Sure her life wasn’t easy, but at least she KNEW she was going to have a child in the near future. As the Advent prayers of the mass say, we look for him “whose coming is certain.” She was certain that a little one would enter her life in the near future. I didn’t have a little one in my life “whose coming was certain”. I didn’t have any promises. As the mass readings escalated in the excitement of the child who was to come, and we heard about the flurry of activity that preceded His birth, I fell more into sorrow and despair as my own life seemed to be going further down a road in the opposite direction of the season. The darkness of Advent became a very real reality to me and I struggled to find that light that pierced the darkness. All around me seemed to be filled with hope, and yet I was struggling to maintain any shred of hope. One of the greatest sources of pain for me was the empty manger in our crèche , as I was daily reminded that we were NOT expecting the long-awaited one in our life. And then one day I realized that I had gotten to the point of being upset with and envying Our Lady. I was angry with her for flaunting her pregnancy in my face (in the scriptures) and I was jealous of her and what she had before her. (yes, clearly I’m aware that I was not thinking of all that was before her in her life with Christ, but did I ever claim to be thinking sanely and rationally at this point?). I tried to find solace in the mass, but got tired of going to mass every day to hear about pregnant women of the bible. Even our pastor noticed this trend and came up to me one morning after mass and said that he wanted me to know that he was praying for me…he had never realized how many references to pregnant women there were during Advent and how painful that must be. Oh my goodness…just to hear him say that and to recognize this was such a comfort to my soul. But it was true…there are so many stories of barren women conceiving during Advent. (Sat, Dec 19th: Judges 13:2-7, 24-25 Manoah’s wife who was barren and yet bore Samson ~ Tues Dec 22th: Samuel 1:24-28 Hannah presenting Samuel to the Lord ~ Wed, Dec 23rd: Luke 1:57-66 Elizabeth giving birth to John)

But thank God for confession and for the grace of the Sacrament. Somehow realizing that I was jealous of Our Lady woke me up to the fact that things had gotten out of hand (d’ya think?). Going to confession, I poured out my heart to our pastor and received forgiveness for my jealousy and anger. But aside from forgiveness and grace, the greatest gift I received was my penance. It was a prayer card with an icon of Our Lady expecting the Christ Child. Father said that this image, with her bearing the Christ child in her womb, with her arms raised and hands outstretched, was showing that she was bearing Him for us….for me. She did not wish to keep Him for herself, but rather she was bringing Him to those who would need Him most…for me. I don’t know why this had such a profound effect upon me…grace perhaps…but it did. And on the back of the prayer card, these words were written:

“Eternal Father, In the psalms of David, In the words of the prophets, In the dream of Joseph, your promise is spoken. At last, in the womb of the Virgin Mary, your Word takes flesh. Teach us to welcome Jesus, the promised Emmanuel, and to preach the good news of his coming, that every age may know him as the source of redemption and grace. Grant this through him whose coming is Certain, whose day draws near: your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit. God for ever and ever. Amen.”

This knocked me on my rear end spiritually. “At last, in the womb of the Virgin Mary, your Word takes flesh.” “AT LAST”…..suddenly I was struck by how long the world had had to wait for the conception of this child. How long had Israel awaited this promised little one? FAR longer than I have been waiting for the one I hope for in my womb. How painful was their wait? What suffering had they endured in the waiting? And yet just when it seemed that all was lost and hope was gone, God showed the world that He is faithful in keeping His promises. Here, at last, His spoken promise took flesh. Wow. This hit me hard. And the second aspect that struck me with this prayer was “grant this through him whose coming is certain.” Those same words that had rubbed me raw earlier in Advent because I was upset that I DID NOT have someone whose coming was certain. ..now I saw those words in an entirely different light. No…I don’t have a baby in my life whose coming is certain. I am not promised a pregnancy. I am not promised physical motherhood. But Christ’s coming IS certain. HE will not fail to come. And this, not physical motherhood, has to be the source of my hope.

With this refreshment of grace and peace that came in acceptance and understanding, I was able to fully enjoy midnight mass. My heart was at peace, and I was able to celebrate with Our Lady the birth of the child that she carried and brought to the world for us…for me. As I prayed in Thanksgiving after receiving the Eucharist, I heard the Lord speak to my heart, “You are with child.” I was startled. Was I pregnant? Was this my Annunciation? I was post-peak and in the waiting, so perhaps it was? Or was this merely Our Lord telling me that the Christ Child was brought into the world for me and was now with me? Only time would reveal that I was not biologically with child. A week and a half later I realized that I was not biologically with child and again I was tempted to anger with God for having “lied” to me. Oh Suzy….Suzy…when will you ever learn? God’s promises far exceed our greatest expectations. That night, when the Christ Child was born…He, whose coming was certain, came into the world. God does keep His promises. Gloria in Excelsis Deo!

(okay...so that background reflection on Advent took a bit longer than I thought. I'll spare you all reading more and will post on Lent tomorrow. Stay tuned!)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

An Evening of Hope! - April 25, 2010

Hope you can make it! If you plan to come, let me know. :)

Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer. ROM 12:12

An Evening of Hope

Supported by the Diocese of Fort Wayne – South Bend Office of Family Life

Spiritual nourishment and support for childless couples
carrying the cross of subfertility or infertility

DATE: Sunday, April 25, 2010
TIME: 4:00 pm Opening Mass (will fulfill Sunday obligation)
8:00 pm Closing Prayer

PLACE: St. Patrick Catholic Church, Arcola
12305 Arcola Rd 46818

Dinner will be provided.

Cost: FREE
Free will donations accepted to cover retreat expenses.

Celebrant: Rev. Ronald Rieder, OFM Cap.
Pastor, SS Peter and Paul Catholic Church, Huntington

Rev. Andrew Curry
Assoc. Pastor, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church

Suzy & Dave Younger
Co-Founder, The Apostolate of Hannah’s Tears

Register by April 20, 2010
by calling Beth Ann 260.745.4044 or e-mailing
Please leave your name, contact information and number attending.

Special thanks to:
Diocese of Fort Wayne - South Bend Office of Family Life
FertilityCare™ Specialist of Northeast Indiana & Friends
Knights of Columbus Council 13971, St. Patrick Arcola

Friday, March 26, 2010

A glimpse from "the other side"

I often wonder how I will react if and when that day comes when I am on "the other side." You know...if the day comes when we either give birth to a baby or receive one in love through adoption or foster care. I think about that a lot, especially when I'm trying to sift through my thoughts and emotions at this stage in the journey (8 months post surgery and no conception). Would I look back at this time in the valley of tears and wonder why I had been so sad? Would I feel frustrated that I had wasted so much time worrying about conceiving? Would I be embarassed by the numerous emotional outbreaks and tantrums when I felt that life wasn't fair? Or would I be proud of me and the way I held up under the pressure and sorrow? What would I be happy with the way I had carried this cross? The answer is, I just don't know. I'm not there yet. What I do know is that I'm doing the best I can. I think we all are, aren't we? We're doing our best to make it day by day, and that's all anyone can ask of us. This entire journey is a growing process...and even if we would never have chosen it for ourselves, I would imagine that most of us have learned things along the way, and have grown stronger and holier (which is what really counts!!). But still, every so often, I come back to the question, if I were on "the other side" what would I say to me now? What advice would I give?

Karey (AllYouWhoHope) had a beautiful reflective post on just this topic recently and I wanted to share it here as well because she provides that insight from the "others side" that I have been curious to know. After adopting her baby girl Clara, Karey talks about what she would say to her former self. You can read the post it it's entirety here, but here are the parts that touched me so deeply.

I wish I would have had more of an opportunity to really reflect on all that has happened. There is just so much. So many angles I need to reflect upon. So much gratitude. So much love for baby Clara. For all of you.I wish I could get it all down and out of my head. There is just so much I want to say. I still want to write down the entire story of how all this happened. I want to talk about my complete joy of becoming a mother and how it is everything I dreamed it would be and more. How it was worth the battle it took to get here. I want to talk about how it has changed my struggle with infertility. I want to write to those who are considering adoption but wondering if it will fill the void in their hearts left by their inability to conceive. I will hopefully get to some of that in the days to come...

...The other thing I often reflect on is my former self. Boy, do I want to hug her. I'm not ashamed of the way I reacted to my infertility in the past, before the adoption. I always used to say that if I ever became a mother, that I wouldn't regret my actions, and I don't. I did the best I could. It was the hardest thing I have ever had to endure. It was as if someone was holding my head under water and I was fighting for air every. single. day.I don't have to tell all of you about that. But my point is that just because I am arguably on "the other side" now, that doesn't mean that I am going to be hard on my former self. Just the opposite, actually. That person I used to be tried hard. She fought. She hung on and endured some pretty rough crap. She didn't know if it would ever end. She assumed it wouldn't.My heart breaks for her and I tear up just thinking about it, and about all of you who are still fighting. It's so easy for me to say, "hang on! Your time will come!" So I won't. I didn't want to hear it then, and you might not want to hear it now. I will just keep praying for all of you every day, that your time is just around the corner. I want all of you to be as happy as I am. I wish I could make it happen for every single one of you.In adoration today, Clara's first time, I came across a passage that summed up my feelings exactly. I loved it as soon as I started reading it and it just got better and better as it went on. Then, I read in the notes that the psalmist was recently delivered from suffering himself. How fitting. I especially like this part near the end:

When the just cry out, the LORD hears and rescues them from all distress.The LORD is close to the brokenhearted, saves those whose spirit is crushed.Many are the troubles of the just, but the LORD delivers from them all.God watches over all their bones; not a one shall be broken.

The thought of God watching over all our bones comforts me. He is watching over every single one of us, even those of us whose ovaries don't work. And, like this psalmist, I want to tell my former self, and all of you, to hold on and trust in the Lord. He is close to the brokenhearted and saves those whose spirit is crushed.

Thank you Karey for this glimpse from "the other side"! It was just what I needed to hear. It acknowledged the depth of our suffering [someone holding our heads under water and we are fighting for air every. single. day] and validated us in the way we carry the cross...that while we may not always carrying it willingly or with beauty we do the best we can [We try hard. we fight. We hang on and endure some pretty rough crap]. And finally, her post reminds those of us still childless, that infertility is not an end. It feels like it sometimes [we don't know if it will ever end...we assume that it won't], but our physical barenness could be lifted at anytime and we do not know the plans that God has for us. Thank you Karey, for providing the insights and the comforting words that I too might share with my former self if I someday were on "the other side."

For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare, not for woe! plans to give you a future full of hope. ~ Jeremiah 29:11

Monday, March 22, 2010

Carrying the Cross of Infertility in Marriage - Our talk at the Marriage and Family Conference

Wow. What a weekend! The Inaugural Marriage & Family Life conference went so well! We were supposed to have 17 people in our session and ended up with 26.…almost all couples going through infertility. What we shared seemed to really hit home with them as well, as there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. Some attendees couldn't even make eye contact with us, but instead sat through the talk with their eyes fixed upwards. From my perspective as a speaker, it was a very touching experience. Husbands holding their wives hands, holding them close…women crying into the chests of their husbands….and then afterwards, women who were strangers going up to each other with tear-stained faces saying “I don’t know you, but I just want to hug you, we’re on this journey too.” And the husbands giving each other man-hugs and saying “Hey man, we’re on this road too, we’re praying for you.” Wow! I felt so blessed to even witness this outpouring of support for eachother. This is what the body of Christ is about. Encouraging one another in hope. And then after the talk, a woman came up to me and said that she and her husband had come from Indianapolis to attend because of my blog and seeing the conference information here. Wow! So I haven’t been blogging to an empty cyber-space, you are all really out there and we are getting to meet eachother. :) lol.

For anyone that is interested, I have an audio version of our talk that I would be happy to share with you. It is about 50 minutes long. I am working to trying to figure out how to post it here (anyone know?) but in the meantime, just email me at syounger@hannahstears.org and I will be happy to send it to you. I have never recorded myself at a speaking engagement before and thus have never had the opportunity to go back and re-consider things that I've said. This time I have had that opportunity and while I have found some things that I would change for the next time I do it (April 25th at St. Patrick's Catholic Church, Arcola, email gramstutoring@yahoo.com if you want to attend), I thought went pretty well. There was only one stick foot-in-mouth moment if you will. For some reason beyond my understanding I mention that my friends and family were not supportive of us in this journey. Even as the words were coming out of my mouth I knew that was not the case and in the audio you hear me correct myself. As I have reflected on what I said versus what I meant, I think what I was trying to express was that many of us on this journey are the only ones we know going through infertility. No one in our family has been affected by it, and none of our friends either. For this reason, although they try to support us as best they can, we still yearn for someone who truly does "get it". This was what I was trying to get at when I boldly stated that "our friends weren't helpful and your family certainly didn't help." Oh jeez...nice...really nice. So just to set the record straight, our friends and family HAVE been supportive as best they know how, and through this blog, Hannah's Tears and our opporutnities to share our story, we have been blessed to know many others of you on this journey. We are thankful to all for their support, love and encouragement. I can boldly state that you all certainly have been a help and comfort to us. :) (Guess this is the danger of public speaking right?) Also, at the end of the talk, there is a song that we played...click here if you'd like to hear the song. It's also the one I posted about a few weeks ago in "Our God is in Control.")

Anyway, if you'd like to have the talk, just email me at syounger@hannahstears.org and I'll send it to you. If you do listen to it, please feel free to share your feedback with me. I would love to know what your found helpful, what you think I could add and if there is anything you would leave out. We are always open to ideas...we are journeying this road together. Blessings everyone!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Infertility and Reproductive Technologies: A Guide for Catholics Pamphlet

Infertility and Reproductive Technologies: A Guide for Catholics Pamphlet
by Steve Bozza

The discovery of infertility by a married couple can be a very trying and difficult experience. Most couples enter marriage with the dream of raising a family, and this hope can quickly turn into heartbreak. Modern science offers an array of options—some are morally acceptable, but others fail to preserve the dignity of the couple and the child. So, what are Catholic couples to do? If you or someone you know is struggling with infertility, this pamphlet is an indispensable resource. You will learn about the most common options, whether they are in accord with the teachings of the Catholic Church, and why it matters. But this is much more than a mere checklist of options. This pamphlet offers every infertile couple grace for their journey, a renewed sense of hope about their marriage, and fresh optimism concerning the future of their family.This item usually leaves the warehouse within 3 business days. Click here for more information about shipping.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Our God Is In Control

Every now and then a song shows up in my life and sweeps me off of my feet. It is as if the singer is singing straight to my heart. Rare is it that an entire album has this effect. But Steven Curtis Chapman's new album "Beauty Will Rise" has earned this rare honor. I downloaded it yesterday and listened to it on my iPod for the entire 8 hours I was cleaning the office out.

Beauty Will Rise is a collection of 12 new and profound songs from Steven Curtis Chapman. Created in the past 18 months in the walk through the darkness of the loss of his daughter Maria, and while God continues to meet him there on the journey. Part lament, part praise, part grief, part hope, part wrestling, part pondering; these tracks resonate as Steven’s personal Psalms. It is a desperately hopeful, raw, personal, and honest recording. And this is precisely the reason that I love it. In my own journey along this way of the cross, I too lament, praise, grieve, hope, wrestle & ponder. Steven's words and music are the cry of my own heart and I would think that of anyone else who suffers going through infertility, miscarriage, stillbirth, the loss of a child, or any other cross. He truly has a God-given gift.

While each song is fantastic, one has, in my mind, become the Theme Song of our journey. The music is authentic, the words ring so true. I hope you enjoy it as well.

Our God Is In Control
By: Steven Curtis Chapman
(click here to listen)

This is not how it should be
This is not how it could be
But this is how it is
And our God is in control

This is not how it will be
When we finally will see
We'll see with our own eyes
He was always in control

And we'll sing holy, holy, holy is our God
And we will finally really understand what it means
So we'll sing holy, holy, holy is our God
While we're waiting for that day

This is not where we planned to be
When we started this journey
But this is where we are
And our God is in control

Though this first taste is bitter
There will be sweetness forever
When we finally taste and see
That our God is in control

And we'll sing holy, holy, holy is our God
And we will finally really understand what it means
So we'll sing holy, holy, holy is our God
While we're waiting for that day
We're waiting for that day
We'll keep on waiting for that day
And we will rise...

Our God is in control (Holy, holy, holy...Holy, holy, holy)
Our God is in control (Holy, holy, holy)
Our God is in control (Holy, holy, holy)

Repent and Turn Towards God

Lent is about turning one's self towards Christ...detaching from the world and cleaving to Christ. Detachment...ah yes...detachment. Today single-handedly showed me how much stuff I still need to detach from. I spent the entire day cleaning out our office, going through box after box of "stuff". This all-important, could-not-be-thrown-out "stuff" that we have moved with us (in the same un-gone-through boxes) from Indianapolis, to Pennsylvania, to Indiana and then into our new house. It's just sick. We are captive to our stuff. I never really realized how much it weighs us down until this week. I am again leading Women of Grace at our parish and there is a beautiful lesson this week on Addictions to Stuff. One passage really convicted me... "Many good Christian women have attics, closets, basements, and garages full of "treasures" they most likely will never use. If they gave their excess to the poor before moths and rust destroyed it, they would be storing treasure in heaven. As it is, they are storing up condemnation." Ouch.

So needless to say, after having read this and having been convicted...it has been a busy week. I have determined to tackle the house room by room with the focus of fostering a spirit of generosity and eliminate the vice of hording. I have already tackeled our bedroom and closets and came up with at least four bags of clothes to give away. And today, I spent close to 8 hours sorting in just the office...and I'm not even done yet! Yikes.

What is the point of me sharing this with all of you? Well, it's more than just a confession of a woman dealing with pleonexia and loving the comforts of the world. Rather, it's really to share the joy with you that I have found this Lent. I had not realized how much I had detached from God and attached to the world. Regaining the 30 pounds I had lost last year should have been my first indication right? But seriously, it has been only through this Lent and my commitment to drinking only water and eating a PCOS appropriate diet that I realized the extent of my inordinate attachment to food...how much I was seeking comfort not in God, but in food. And as I have cleaned and sorted out the rooms in my house this week, it has made me realize that I have sought so many comforts of the world...and that it's now high time to clean and sort the "rooms" of my spiritual house. It's time to return to the basics. To simplicity. To a Christ-centered and balanced life. And as I do, a spirit of joy and freedom is growing within me. It's time to detach from "stuff" and choose Christ.

How did it get this far? I'm like that proverbial frog in boiling water. Had the water been boiling when I was placed in, I would have immediately jumped out. But instead, the water has gradually heated to the boiling point and I, not noticing, have remained, not seeing the reality of the situation. I think the pain of this way of the cross just hurt too much. If I'm being honest, I know that I've turned to food and the comforts of "stuff" to dull the pain...to fill the void in my life and create that (even momentary) sense of happiness that I (pridefully) determined that God was not going to grant me. Lent has given me the opportunity to repent and turn towards Him...and in doing so, I have realized that I have been so focused on the one thing lacking, the hole in my life, that I have missed seeing He who makes me whole. The same thing goes for how I've related to my husband. I've been so consumed with pursuing the hole in my life, that I've missed cherishing the one on earth who makes me whole. As my attachment to food and "stuff" is waning, the joy of God in my heart and the joy of being with husband and cherishing him is increasing exponentially. Thank you, Jesus.

Thank you, Jesus, for giving us Lent. A time of turning to you. Please give me the clarity to see the places in my life where I have substituted things and "stuff" where there should be only you. Give me the strength and the grace to turn these vices into virtue. Forgive me for reasons that I turned from you and chose them in the first place. May your grace enlighten and sustain me as I seek your holy face. Create in me a new heart...and let it be yours. Amen.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Creighton & NaPro Open House - March 21, 2010

Here's what I've been up to lately! If you're in the area or know people who are (especially Doctors and Medical Professionals) please spread the word! Thanks.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Marriage & Family Conference - March 20, 2010 - Notre Dame Conference Center

At long last, I have information that I am able to share regarding the Diocesean Marriage & Family Conference!!! I am so excited.

This is the conference that the Holy Spirit put on my heart last June. In August, the major pieces started falling into place. Originally I had thought it would be something done at the parish level. But as I prayed before the Blessed Sacrament, I realized it was much bigger than what I thought--it was meant to have the full support of the Bishop. In September, I spoke with Bishop D'Arcy for the first time at the Bioethics Conference and things started rolling. Then in November, we learned that we would be getting a new Bishop, and in my Nov 14th post, I asked that you all "please pray for our new Bishop, whoever he may be. That the Holy Spirit would inspire the selection and that he too would have a heart for fertility/infertility and be willing to work with me/us to make the conference and future plans a reality." God is faithful. Our new Bishop, Bishop Kevin Rhoades, is the Chair-elect of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth and as it turns out, seems to be knowledgable and supportive of NaPro Technology. The Diocesean Office of Family Life has been wonderful to work with and although they originally said that we wouldn't be able to do the conference this year due to budget concerns and the change of Bishops, I received an email on December 5 saying:

"...since we last spoke, Fred and I have decided that, despite having a new bishop and no money in the budget, we are going to plow ahead and host a diocesan marriage and family conference this Spring! It will take place at the Center for Continuing Education at Notre Dame on Saturday, March 20, and we booked Janet Smith for one of the main talks as well as the talk at the dinner banquet. In your honor, we have given Janet's main talk the title of "Life-Giving Love" which will present the Church's vision in this whole area and why NFP and NaPro is consistent with this vision and why contraception and IVF contradict it. Of course, we hope to have Bishop Rhoades give the other main talk, since he is not only our new ordinary but the chairman-elect of the USCCB Committee on Marriage and Family!"

Included in the email was the full schedule and list of workshop sessions including one workshop in each session geared for couples experiencing infertility. Dave and I were asked to conduct a morning workshop on dealing with infertility as a Catholic couple, including letting people know about concrete resources such as NaProTecnology and Hannah's Tears. There would also be an afternoon workshop on infertility featuring a basic introduction to NaProTechnology.

So in the end, things have turned out exactly as the Holy Spirit instructed me that they would. And things have far surpassed my imagination. It's amazing to see His provision through all of this. I am so excited and am very much looking forward to sharing the power, beauty and truth of Catholic teaching with those in attendance.

Please pray for us as we prepare and lead up to March 20th, that we all presenters would be able to present the teachings in such a way that, as Pope Benedict recently urged the Bishops, "they are recognized for the message of hope that they are". It is a true honor to be able to participate in this and we are looking forward to presenting with many others, among them Bishop Rhoades and Dr. Janet Smith. :)

Below is the Conference Description. I do hope you can make it!

Diocesean Marriage & Family Conference
Saturday, March 20, 2010
Click here to register!

Conference Description
It's easy to lose sight of the "big picture" in the day-to-day business of raising a family and making a marriage work. This inaugural diocesan conference aims to deepen the understanding of marriage and family life as a vocation from God and encourage an appreciation of its many dimensions. Through a combination of plenary sessions and workshops, this conference will explore the Church's rich vision of marriage and family life as it relates to topics such as the theology of the body, communication and intimacy, financial stewardship, responsible parenthood, dealing with infertility, and raising teens. A series of workshops also will be presented in Spanish. This conference is for adults of all ages and circumstances; married couples, couples preparing for marriage, single parents, college students, clergy, pastoral ministers and anyone else interested in enriching their understanding of the vocation of marriage and family life.

9:00 AM Registration and Continental Breakfast

10:00 AM Welcome Fred & Lisa Everett

Plenary Session One: The Vocation of Marriage Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades

10:50 AM Break

11:15 AM Workshop Session One
* Introduction to the Theology of the Body Lisa Marino
* Dealing with Infertility in Marriage Dave & Suzy Younger
* Marriage & Finances: Setting a Solid Foundation Harry Verhiley
* Parenting Teenagers in the Virtues Cindy Black
* La Vocación al Matrimonio

12:05 PM Lunch

12:55 PM Plenary Session Two: Life-Giving Love Prof. Janet E. Smith

2:00 PM Break

2:25 PM Workshop Session Two
* Building a Culture of Life through the Theology of the Body Tom & Mary Akre
* NaProTechnology: New Hope for Couples with Infertility Brad Ferrari, MD & Mary Ramsey, PA
* Communication & Intimacy in Marriage Lisa Everett
* Challenges in the First Years of Marriage John & Monica Sikorski
* La Teología del Cuerpo Margarita Rodriguez

3:15 PM Break

3:40 PM Workshop Session Three
* Theology of the Body: What the Pope Couldn't Say Fr. Bob Lengerich
* Spiritual Parenthood Bill & Elizabeth Kirk
* Communication & Intimacy in Marriage Lisa Everett
* Pearls of Wisdom: What 46 Years of Marriage Have Taught Us Dan & Annette Stobierski
* Comunicación en el Matrimonio Fred Everett

4:30 PM Day Conference Concludes

5:00 PM Mass at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart Bishop John M. D Arcy

6:15 PM Social with cash bar opens

7:00 PM Banquet & Talk by Prof. Smith: Seeking Holiness in Marriage & Family Life

You may register online or by mail or FAX. The registration fee of $35 per person for the day conference includes conference materials, continental breakfast, a boxed lunch and afternoon snacks. The evening banquet is an additional $25 per person. Please indicate your workshop preferences in order to assist in guaranteeing proper room space. College or graduate students are welcome to attend any of the plenary or workshop sessions at no cost.

Meal Preference & Dietary Restrictions
For the banquet, you have a choice of oven roasted garlic herb pork loin or Greek cheese and spinach stuffed chicken breast which should be indicated at registration. Also, please indicate if you have special dietary restrictions.

Payment Options
Registration and credit card information will be transmitted through secure and encrypted channels. For more information, you may call the center at (574) 631-6691.

About the Main Speakers
Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades was appointed the Ninth Bishop of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend on November 14, 2009, by Pope Benedict XVI, and installed on January 13, 2010, in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne. Bishop Rhoades serves as Chair of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Task Force on Health Care, and is the Chair-elect of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth. He is a member of the USCCB Subcommittee on the Catechism, the Board of Trustees of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the Board of Trustees of Mount Saint Mary s University, and the Episcopal Advisory Board of the Theology of the Body Institute.

Prof. Janet E. Smith holds the Father Michael J. McGivney Chair of Life Ethics at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit. She is the author of Humanae Vitae: A Generation Later and editor of Why Humanae Vitae Was Right: A Reader. She has two new books; Life Issues, Medical Choices, Questions and Answers for Catholics and The Right to Privacy. She speaks internationally on the Catholic teachings on sexuality and bioethics. She is serving a second term as a consultor to the Pontifical Council on the Family. Over a million copies of her talk, Contraception: Why Not have been distributed on tape or CD.