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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Out of the Mouths of Babes

I'm sure if you have children you're used to hearing surprisingly insightful things come out of their mouths from time to time. I often have these "wow moments" with my sweet nephews, now ages 7 and 5. Recently the younger one left an impression on me that I can't forget about.

Both of the boys are accustomed to saying prayers before bed and before meals. The 5-year-old especially will be the first to speak up if someone takes a bite and has forgotten to ask the blessing! He prays sweet little prayers that include each family member and all of their illnesses and hurts. A few weeks ago when they were staying at our house I noticed he was still praying for God to help my mom's back 8 months after her surgery. I know it is not uncommon for him to mention us in his prayers. But I was so touched after my sister told me that when he prays aloud at home he always prays that I will have a baby.

Here's the part that gets me. I have heard that child pray dozens of times and I have never heard him say that.

I love that there is something in his 5-year-old-brain that says, "I won't mention this in front of them. I'll just keep it between me and God." When he is with us he just leaves that part out. It's like his little secret with God. I know he's never been told to do that. Obviously I would have been very touched to ever hear that prayer come out of his mouth. But I'm even more affected by his discretion. Kids aren't clueless. I know that he and his brother both recognize that they've got several cousins on their dad's side. I'm sure they've noticed that on their mom's side they are the only children. I appreciate that unlike most adults they don't feel compelled to ask us about that.

One of the many things I grieve about is that my children won't get to grow up with my sister's children. My nephews seem so big to me now, and it seems like forever ago that we had a baby in the family. I hope that my future children will develop a special relationship with their older cousins, just as I was in awe of my cousin Tony who was about 6 years older and seemed like the coolest guy I knew.

It's amazing what we can learn from a child. And I think it's pretty neat to have secrets that only God and I know.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Single? This One's For You.

It seems like out of all of the kinds of people I talk to about my infertility, the ones I most often can relate to are single people. Maybe this sounds funny if you noticed that I'm 31 and have been married for 10 years. If so, you've figured out (even if your math skills are as basic as mine) that I got married at the young age of 21. I was, however, no stranger to being single. I never really dated at all until my freshman year of college, when I met this great guy I ended up marrying.

So, let me explain exactly why I feel I can relate to many of my single friends. Specifically, I mean those single friends who are wishing for a mate and perhaps don't feel like a "spring chicken." Maybe you get those questions from someone you just met, or that high school friend you haven't seen in 15 years, or that well-meaning aunt at a family reunion. You know, "So, are you married yet?" "Are you dating anyone?" And of course they all know just the person for you, right? Just the right easy answer to your dilemma. Ugh, and I shouldn't even mention Valentine's Day.

Let me add here that I don't think that every single person should get married! I also don't believe every married couple must have children. I'm specifically talking about those of us who want to and are ready to move on to that next stage of life. You're beyond college age, you've been to dozens of your friends' weddings (and probably served in about 8 or 9 of them), and you really want to get married.

Or you're like me and you've been married for quite a while and you're more than ready to add some kids to your family. I'm not saying it's exactly the same thing, because obviously it's not. I can't totally relate to a single person who has waited for a very long time to be married. But I know what it's like to wait. And I know what it's like to want to move forward and to feel like it is completely out of your hands to do so. I don't want to tell you all those things you're tired of hearing: that it will happen when you're not expecting it (although it might), or that there's somebody out there waiting for you (which sounds a little stalker-ish).

All I want to tell you is what I've been trying to do, which is to enjoy life in the waiting. I don't want to let it pass by and look back on that time with only regrets. Unfortunately, I spent several years just overcome with regret and anger and sadness. I felt like those were wasted years. Instead, I've started trying to do some of those things I always wanted to do "someday." You know, spontaneous things that will probably be harder (or impossible) to do once I have little ones. Now, when I look back on my years before children, I admit I'll remember the sadness, but that's not all. I'll also rememer all of the awesome memories I made with my family and friends.

Single friends, I love you! I'm sorry for the times I've been insensitive about your situation. I just want you to know that I like you just the way you are, and you are a complete person to me even if you never get married. But if marriage is what you desire, I'll pray that you find your somebody!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Spa Weekend

When I say that infertility affects nearly every aspect of my daily life, I really do mean it! I long for those innocent days early in my marriage before we started trying to have kids. I could have normal, healthy friendships and wasn't all that scared to meet new people. I couldn't wait for my friends to become parents so we could sit around and talk about kids instead of cute things their pets did!

It really is very difficult for me, as a married woman in her thirties, to be childless. Everywhere I go and with everyone I meet, the topic is going to come up. My husband and I went out of town recently to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. We decided to pamper ourselves a bit and take advantage of the hotel's spa treatments. He got a massage (his first one ever!) and I couldn't wait for my facial. The lady was very professional and very nice. I was feeling so nice and relaxed there on the table as she was applying all those yummy-scented exfoliates to my face. I actually had a thought that it would be so wonderful if I could get through the session without having to talk about not having kids.

I was almost in the clear. I had about five minutes left. Then, with my face totally covered in hot towels and my arms being slathered in lotion, it happened. The nice lady said, "How many children do you have?" I felt my relaxed muscles once again become tense. I mumbled from underneath my towel mask, "None." It didn't end there. She wanted to know why; was it our choice? I guess I had made the mistake of telling her we were there to celebrate ten years of marriage. It would seem strange that we aren't parents. She had just spent 30 minutes in a room with my husband, but not once had the topic of having children come up then.

I wasn't angry with the spa lady. I just hate that I can't enjoy a nice weekend away without being reminded of The Thing. The Infertility. That's what I mean about it being around every day and in every activity. I can't call up a friend and excitedly say, "Guess what?!" She'll think I'm going to tell her I'm finally having a baby. Nope, I just scored some cool concert tickets. Oh well. And no e-mails can go out from us with the subject, "Good News!" Twelve people will write back and say, "For a minute there I thought you were going to say you're pregnant."

In a recent discussion with a friend I was talking about how cool it would be if any time I'm asked about having children, I could just hand the person a business card referring them to this blog! That would save me from a few awkward situations, but of course I'm kidding. I know that people were made to interact with each other, and I actually do enjoy talking to other people. It does become difficult when the subject is something so personal to me and so heartbreaking. It's really hard to talk about it every day. I guess in some ways it helps too. I'm sure it's better than keeping it all bottled up.

It would definitely make it easier if I could talk about it only when I felt strong enough to do it. Too bad I can't set the terms of conversations before they start! "OK, before my facial begins today, allow me to set the terms of our small talk. You may discuss the weather, the NBA playoffs (only if you're not a Lakers fan), 80s rock music, and scrapbooking. I will not be answering questions at this time about reproduction. Carry on."

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Mother's Day

I love my mom! I honestly think I have one of the coolest moms on the planet. Somehow she found that perfect balance between being a mother and a friend when I was growing up. I never wanted to do anything to disappoint her, yet I was never afraid to ask or tell her anything. I think that's unique. Although she gets my love and respect every day, I think it's great to have a day set aside each May to honor her. I'm also a big card-sender. Every year for Mother's Day I send out cards to my mom, my mother-in-law, my two grandmothers and my husband's two grandmothers, my precious great-aunt, and one of my dearest friends whom I love "like a mom." That's a lot of cards, but I consider it a joy to honor these special women in my life.

As much as I love doing those things, it is still a bit hard for me each year when Mother's Day comes around. But I don't want to boycott Mother's Day! No, I'm not a mom, so what I do to handle the holiday is focus on the reasons I DO have to celebrate moms. I make it a point every year to have plans for Mother's Day weekend. I don't want to be at home. I want to spend that time with my family.

I often feel misunderstood about this holiday. You see, my husband and I decided a few years back to "not be around" when it gets here. I love that he understands where I'm coming from and is very cooperative. We have a lot of local friends whose parents live here too. That's not the case for my husband and me. Our parents are back home in Louisiana. So we travel.

The point of writing this is to say that I've learned what I can handle and what I can't. For example, I can't walk into my church on Mother's Day Sunday where all of my friends will be surrounded by their moms and/or their children and I will have neither. Actually, if I'm being honest, what happens is that I get a phone call a few days before asking me if I'll work in the nursery that day. Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but it feels like they don't want to ask any moms to miss out on the special service honoring them so they choose me. It seriously happens every year. No, I don't want to leave them short-handed, but trust me, I put in my time as a volunteer nursery worker during the year! I'm not available to help on Mother's Day because I'm choosing to spend the day with my mother. It's just that simple.

I was talking with a friend recently about this subject. She finds it hard to attend church services on Mother's Day, too, after her mother unexpectedly died a few years ago. I've said this before, but I am constantly reminded that we just don't know where someone might be hurting. I don't think it's right to judge someone for missing church because of a personal reason. Sure, ideally the church would be the first place for a hurting person to go! And I still believe that. But I have learned that the church is made up of imperfect people (including myself). Sometimes I think we could stand to have a little more mercy and a little less criticism.

I love Mother's Day because I love moms! I want to be one someday real soon. Until then, I just need to enjoy the freedom to celebrate it in a way that makes me feel good inside - like honoring my mom.