September 29, 2015

On Incomplete Families (W&F VI)

Throughout this series, I've been thinking about my friends who feel their families are in some way "incomplete." That is, the family they long for or once had or almost had is not their current reality. There's a loss, a lack, an absence that stays with them.

This is true for almost all of us, in one way or another. Maybe an adult parent or sibling has died. Maybe there is estrangement that can't be overcome. Maybe we've experienced a miscarriage, stillbirth, or very early death. Maybe a divorce, or a widowing. Maybe there is simply the lack of a partner.

We live in a world of loss, imperfection, and incompletion. We long for what we do not have. We grieve what we once held.

This is not something we can remedy. But it is something we can give space for, something we can recognize and maybe assume, and treat gently. 

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I've loved the conversations that I have had both on and offline because of this series. Thank you all, once again, for participating! I've been encouraged, challenged, stretched. And I've been reminded of two fundamental realities:

  1.  We each have family stories and burdens and heartaches, and there is no fruit gained in comparing our lack to another's perceived richness. I am reminded that comparison is the enemy.
  2. We cannot prescribe what life ought to look like, for ourselves or for another. We can't know all the factors. But we can give freedom, choose grace, support and encourage - with others, and with our own selves.

As we wrap up, I want to share two stories I received about living with lack and loss; in both situations, the absence of children. I want to say thank you to both of the women who've shared so vulnerably. These are our neighbours, our church friends, our colleagues. These are the stories we often don't hear.

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It has been just around 4 years that I have been married now. They have been some of the most raw, real, painful, joyful, growth filled years of my life... 

Having been diagnosed with PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome), I hadn't expected that after my first year of marriage, I would be looking at the pee stick, thinking "it this for real?" and then doing the pee test again to make sure that I wasn't just seeing things or that the stick didn't make a mistake. It felt amazing. I couldn't believe it. I wasn't expecting anything, and there it was, on 2 sticks, 2 positive readings. My mind started to rapidly expand, thinking about how drastically my life would change in less than a year, whether it was a boy or a girl, what I would need physically and spiritually to raise this baby, and if my husband and I were actually ready for this little one. There were definitely moments of fear in with the joy in that moment.

Unfortunately, this moment didn't last long. I went back into the doctors to get a blood test to confirm the pregnancy. What is used to help monitor your pregnancy is called bHCG levels, which when pregnant, should double around every 2 days. Mine were not following this pattern. I remember the anxiety of having to get blood tests in the early morning for the next 2 weeks prior to going to work, to see what my bHCG levels were doing. Within a week, they plateaued, and the following week, my bHCG levels decreased. Though I was hopeful throughout it all, that somehow it would make it through the first trimester, the bHCG numbers didn't lie. It was going to be imminent miscarriage. Around 3 weeks later, I had my miscarriage. 

It was strange to think that only a few weeks before, I was pregnant, rejoicing for new life, excited for a new chapter of my life to begin, in complete disbelief that this was happening to me after knowing my chances, to feeling like nothing. Though I hadn't been expecting a pregnancy at all, when it had happened, and then left, it left me at a loss of words, it had left me with this nothing feeling. I hadn't expected to feel this crippled from this, but it had, because the moment that the miscarriage happened, it was the moment I had realized how much I wanted for that little one to stay and live, how much I wanted to be a mom, how much I loved him/her, and the deep sadness that came the moment after it happened. I was in disbelief that I had been pregnant with life growing inside of me, and then was in equal disbelief to have lost it all in a moment, and so quickly. I was shocked to experience how quickly I went from being pregnant to not pregnant. 

Things looked different for awhile, as I was grieving the miscarriage, and wondered why this had happened, and whether I had done something wrong. I poured through forums and sites about miscarriages and why they happen, and learned how common it is. Not that it gave me any reassurance or lessened how I had felt, but it helped me to see that I wasn't an outlier. 

My second pregnancy happened exactly a year later. By this time, I had started to hone in on my health, and felt that I had made gains. Unfortunately, this second one had a similar beginning and end to my first one. For my first miscarriage, I had opened up to family and several friends through my pregnancy journey, though it was within 3 months, and had asked for prayer support in that time. For this second one though, I didn't share with many others about it. 

When my third pregnancy and miscarriage happened another year later, aside from family and one close friend that knew, I didn't share about it, though the lack of speaking about it did not make any of the following miscarriages become any less significant, or any less painful. The only thing that had changed throughout each pregnancy and miscarriage was greater trust in God and Him know what was best, as well as assure me that my pregnancies were not by accident or coincidence, but that they were possible, and made actual. 

My husband, throughout each pregnancy and miscarriage, has really been amazing, loving, and very caring. In the times that I was in tears, he was there which was more than enough. He is not one to waste his words, and knows when it is best to not say anything at all. 

4+ years later, here I am, 3 miscarriages later, still hopeful and knowing that God has not left me, nor forsaken me, and I continue to trust in God more than ever now. I don't think anyone wishes for miscarriages to happen in their life, but after having gone through it, I would not ask for the memory of them to be taken away either, as each miscarriage has taught me personally and shown me more about God, about myself, in whom I place my identity in, and how deep God's love is for me and for us. I would definitely not be the person that I am today. 


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My husband and I have been trying for 2.5 years to get pregnant. The last year of trying has been really stressful at the fertility clinic. Fertility drugs, hormones, super early mornings....coupled with friends and family getting pregnant by accident, or with their 2nd....led to a several mental breakdowns, usually the first 2 days I get my period. I just keep thinking to myself, getting pregnant shouldn't be this hard....

The doctor says my choices now are artificial insemination and if that doesn't work, IVF. Both right now are out of pocket and decently pricey. Also, I declined some potential interesting job offers from recruiters because I wanted this year to really keep a low stress level to see if I can get pregnant.

I feel like so many things hinge on if we have a kid or not: housing, career, jobs. If there's no kid, we don't need a bigger place, would stay in the city, have more freedom to travel, take jobs that make less money or work less, or work a worldwide job with more travel. If there is a kid, I kind of want that house with a backyard, not too far from my brother's house so that our kids can grow up together, be closer to family, make more money so we can afford things, but still spend time with children as they grow up.

To be honest, if I end up not being able to have children, I would be fine with that.....it's just being in limbo, and trying for so long is a pain in the butt. Especially when people (not close) ask when it's your turn to have kids. If they were close they would know not to ask; if they are not close they don't know how hurtful that question can be. I shrug most of the time and change the subject...that's the quickest way to shut down the topic. I find telling the truth gives strangers the right to give me advice/pity like, "Oh it'll happen to you...when it does it'll be the best thing in your life!" and that just makes me want to punch them.

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I hope this won't be the end of the conversation (I'm sure it won't), but that as we take these stories, and the whole of this series, we'll keep sharing our lives in honesty and vulnerability; and that we'll receive others' stories in the same way.

And maybe sometime in the future, we'll pick it up again here! 

September 14, 2015

Careers & Motherhood: Are They Totally Incompatible? (W&F V)

When I wrote about the possibility of infertility, many of you said I was courageous for sharing my story. I'm grateful, and, as always, encouraged by your responses and kind words.

But can I be honest? This topic is way more scary to me.

It's scary because my fertility is something I have no control over - there is no shame for me in that, no regrets or if-onlys.

But my choices about career-building are exactly that - choices. I have agency in these decisions, and that agency opens me up to errors, fear, judgment, and so much more.

And where I stand - not quite a year into marriage, with two terms left in my masters degree, it's all a tangled bundle of thoughts and feelings and desires and uncertainty, and internal pressure, and offhand comments, and impossibility.

It's impossible to do it perfectly.

It's impossible to have everything I want.

It's impossible to defend my decisions to the world.



This creates a great deal of inner turmoil for me. It isn't simply about what others expect of me, though that certainly weighs in, but about what I want, what I think will fulfill me, what I'm capable of. And I don't have answers to those things. Can I be a mother and work full-time? I don't know. I don't doubt it's possible for all, or even many, women. But I doubt it for myself.

For me, the choice to try to become a mother means setting aside the possibility of a traditional career. It might happen down the road, but it might not. I don't see how, at this point, I can confidently say, "I'll do both!"


There is a part of me that feels I owe it to my foremothers, my sisters around the world, and myself, to build a career before a family. It's a door that's open to me, and it's not one that is/has been open to all women.

And of course, there is my age-old fear of not living up to my potential. This is the root fear.


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I read an article in The Atlantic this past week about a man who chose to be the "lead parent" in his quite academic family. I recommend it (it's a long one).


--

I don't think there's an easy answer to this. I think the hard part is that I have to navigate it, as we each do, without being able to guarantee anything, and with the knowledge that the world we live in is full of judgement, and I cannot let others' expectations make my decisions for me.

I'm so thankful that my partner is 100% supportive, that he believes in my capabilities in all areas of life, and that whatever we do, we do together.

I don't have much more to say on this - all my thoughts are other peoples' stories. The friends who are going for both, the friends who have chosen one over the other, the friends still deciding and re-deciding how they want to shape their lives. I'd rather let you tell your own stories (hint, hint)! And have a dialogue.