Friday, October 30, 2009
I mentioned a few weeks ago that we were going to our college homecoming in Louisiana. We had a blast that weekend, and our team won, which is always a bonus!
Chuck & me
At the game with my birthday boy
Last weekend was the annual hot air balloon festival at NASA. Although we didn't attend, we can always see the balloons from our house. Chuck got up early that Saturday to go down the road and take a few photos.
A sky full of balloons
Later that day we went to the open house at Johnson Space Center. The coolest part is walking through Mission Control -- this is the first time since 9/11/2001 that they have opened it up to visitors. Here are a few pics inside:
Lastly, in the spirit of Halloween and college football, we carved a pumpkin with our school's logo on it.
I think it turned out so cute!
Happy Halloween from our house to yours!
Saturday, October 24, 2009
One that opposes, stands in the way of, or holds up progress;
A person or thing that opposes or hinders something;
Something immaterial that stands in the way and must be circumvented or surmounted.
What are the things that have kept you from realizing your dreams? Sometimes I think about the people or things or circumstances in my life, past and present, that have either made it harder or impossible to get where I want to be. I don't mean placing blame upon or harboring bitterness toward other people. Although it can be a person, I think most of the time (for me anyway) the obstacle is something that is largely out of our control.
Last weekend when we were at our college homecoming, we were walking through the student center when two older couples came up to us and asked us to take their picture. As it turned out, they were part of the class of '59 and were being honored for the 50th anniversary of their graduation. We stopped for a few minutes to chat with them, with the usual questions like what was your major, where do you live now, and what do you do. When one of the ladies heard that my husband works at NASA, she shared with us that she had always wanted to be an astronaut ever since she was a little girl. It was her dream to be the first woman in space! 50 years ago, however, when she entered college as a young woman with the desire to major in engineering, she faced an obstacle. She was asked, "Do you want to get married someday?" She hesitantly replied that she wasn't quite sure at that point, and was then told that her only options were to study to become a secretary, a teacher, or a nurse. They wouldn't allow a woman to major in engineering.
I wish I could tell you that the story ended with that nice lady overcoming that obstacle and fulfilling her dream. I wish I could say that she had changed the system and accomplished more than she had ever imagined. But we could tell by the disappointment in her voice that it hadn't turned out that way. Don't get me wrong; she didn't seem miserable or look like a woman who had never accomplished a thing. I want to believe that she found happiness and success in her life in other areas. I wish that we had gotten the rest of her story that day. I have thought about her many times since last weekend. I've found myself wondering what other avenues she might have pursued when that door was closed on her dream.
Sometimes having those obstacles and figuring out ways around them can be a good thing in the long run. Growing up poor, for example, was an obstacle in my life. Additionally, I was from a broken home with a father who didn't pay child support. As a child, I couldn't do anything to change that circumstance. As I got older I knew that I would have to work very hard to overcome it. I needed a way out and I pursued it with education. I wanted to go to college, but there would be no college fund or savings account provided for me. I needed scholarships and I needed grants, so I set out to achieve that. Trust me, there were still obstacles. Huge ones, in fact. People and circumstances got in the way. Some of them seemed impossible to get through at the time, but looking back now I appreciate it so much more because of the struggle and in spite of it. I never want to take for granted where I've been.
At this time in my life, my obstacles are infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss. I guess more specifically, the obstacle is my own body. It's terribly frustrating when something gets in the way of your dream. When that something is yourself, it can almost make you crazy. We don't want our big, life-changing decisions made for us! We don't want somebody or something to tell us we can't achieve our dreams. It's infuriating when it is out of our control, when all we want to do is have a baby, but our own bodies keep getting in the way.
Sometimes we can make it around those obstacles, and sometimes I think it's also great when we realize that we can choose another path (in this case, parenting through adoption or living childless and happy).
Right now I'm trying to overcome infertility, knowing that if it works, I'll have to face the possibility of another miscarriage. Those are my obstacles. I've been face-to-face with them before. I'm determined to find a way around, over, or through them.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
After more than a year-long absence during which we've been trying again for a pregnancy with no progress, we were pretty apprehensive about the appointment. Sometimes I think the anticipation is worse than the real thing. At the same time, we were both very ready to move forward.
Here on the blog I don't normally talk about the specifics, the daily and monthly drudgery of trying to get pregnant while fearing what may happen when I do. I don't write too much about how the bathroom cabinet is stocked with home pregnancy tests, and how each month I hope for and sometimes expect to see those two lines. Month after month I also fear seeing a positive pregnancy test. I'm 0 for 6, which isn't a very good record. Sadly for me, and I know for many of you, positive tests don't always result in a successful pregnancy. In fact, the two lines haven't represented the end of a struggle, but the beginning. Despite my track record, I still test almost every month, hoping to see a positive result. Even though I'm scared of it, I hope each time that it will be the exception and the one that sticks.
This month was no different. Of course, I hoped that I would get a positive test before going to the doctor's appointment. A good friend even sent me an e-mail to say that she was praying for exactly that. She didn't know that the timing would have been just right! I was disappointed, though, when about two hours before our appointment time the dreaded monthly visitor showed up.
It was a dreary and cloudy day yesterday, and by the time we made it downtown to the office, my mood matched the weather. Fortunately we didn't have to wait long before our names were called. We met with our doctor in his office and he dove right in, seeking to identify any changes or problems that he needed to address. We didn't talk about the future or where this is all going, which was actually a relief for me at the time. I'm much more of a day-to-day kind of thinker and problem-solver, and I get overwhelmed with the big picture sometimes. Simply put, he ordered specific tests on both of us based on a couple of concerns that we brought up. After we get those lab results in, we'll go from there. I know that may seem anti-climactic, but for us it feels great to have a next step. Just one. That's all we need for now.
Chuck and I are both pleased with how the appointment went and we're feeling more motivated to jump back into this. We know that we're in good hands with Dr. G and we are so grateful to have the support of our family and friends, including you! We truly felt your love and prayers yesterday, and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
I've seen this little questionnaire on other blogs before and I thought I'd fill it out in honor of Chuck's birthday.
Here are some Q&As all about my husband:
♥ What are your middle names?
Mine is Rae, after my dad. His is Louis, which was his grandfather's middle name.
♥How long have you been together?
13 years total. Married for 11.
♥ How long did you know each other before you started dating?
About 4 months.
♥ Who asked who out?
He asked me.
♥ Who made the first move?
He did. I consider the "first move" the night he played with my hair while we were watching a movie. :)
♥ How old are each of you?
I'm 32. He is 34 today!
♥ Did you go to the same school?
High school, no. College, yes.
♥ Are you from the same home town?
♥ Who is the smartest?
Oh, he is. I truly believe that he can do or figure out just about anything.
♥ Who majored in what?
I majored in Family, Infancy, and Early Childhood Education (with a minor in journalism). He majored in Electrical Engineering.
♥ Who is the most sensitive?
I am, but he can be very sensitive when necessary.
♥ Where do you eat out most as a couple?
Our favorite restaurant is Lupe Tortilla.
♥ Where is the furthest you two have traveled together as a couple?
Prince Edward Island, Canada, for a wonderful vacation in 2006.
♥ Who has the worst temper?
Neither of us has a very short fuse, but I'd have to say mine is probably worse.
♥ How many children do you want?
I think you know the answer to this. We'd love to have ANY.
♥ Who does the cooking?
We both do.
♥ Who is more social?
Definitely me. He's pretty quiet in a group.
♥ Who is the neat-freak?
Oh, I am! Thankfully, he's not very messy.
♥ Who is the most stubborn?
I would probably say he is and he would probably say I am. :)
♥ Who wakes up earlier?
♥ Where was your first date?
We went to dinner and a movie (Toy Story). It was January, 1996.
♥ Who has the bigger family?
When it comes to extended family, I do. He has a total of only 5 first cousins. I have 13.
♥ Do you get flowers often?
Usually about 3 times a year or more. The "just because" ones are my favorite.
♥ How do you spend the holidays?
We always divide it evenly between families, and we are usually never at home. I have hosted Thanksgiving at our house before, but this year will be my first to host Christmas with his family at our house!
♥ Who is more jealous?
I honestly don't know how to answer this one. I guess I am. I like to tease him about former girlfriends, but it's all in good fun. :)
♥ How long did it take to get serious?
I'd say about 6 months. We had "the talk" after about 3 months, and then we spent the summer vacation from school apart. After that we were much more serious.
♥ Who eats more?
He does, but I'm not ashamed to say that I'm a girl with an appetite.
♥ What do you do for a living?
He is a software engineer at NASA. I'm a homemaker.
♥ Who does the laundry?
♥ Who’s better with the computer?
He is. Definitely.
♥ Who drives when you are together?
I HATE to drive. He likes to drive. This arrangement works out nicely!
♥ What is "your" song?
Okay, don't laugh. We really don't have a mushy, sentimental love song. But one of the very first times we ever spoke to each other was on a fall retreat with the campus organization where we met. I heard him playing the song "Shine" by Collective Soul on the guitar and struck up a conversation. It was love at first sight. (It wasn't really, but we both still grin when we hear the song!)
Happy, happy birthday to the love of my life. I wouldn't rather experience all these ups and downs with anyone else!
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Today, October 15th, is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. While I think it is important to have a day set aside to remember and to spread awareness, I know that we all remember our babies every single day.
Over the last eight years, my heart has been divided into six tiny pieces.
I remember every time I see an ultrasound picture or a pregnant woman. I remember with every Christmas, New Year, Easter, Thanksgiving, and Halloween. I remember every time my nephews start a new year of school. I remember on any given day, when I realize how quiet the house is when I'm alone. And I remember every time my heart is broken when I hear about a friend going through this same pain.
It doesn't take much to remind me of the six babies that I've lost to early miscarriage. But the most solid, tangible reminder is the tree that grows in our backyard. We planted the small Bradford Pear in 2002, a few weeks after our first miscarriage.
The tree serves as a reminder in many ways. It reminds us of that first loss, right after we bought this house with the spacious back yard. Every few months we plant flowers around the base of the tree, in memory of that first baby and each of the ones that followed. We never planted any other trees there. This tree reminds us of each loss.
Each year when the seasons change, the leaves change color and eventually fall.
The tree stands completely bare for a few months, but every spring, without fail, there is new life. There are buds and tiny white flowers and bright green new leaves.
Above all, there is growth. When I look back at pictures, I'm always amazed by how much the tree has grown over the years. We don't always notice it because we see it every day, but little by little it has grown taller and stronger. We, too, have grown stronger little by little.
Last month, my husband spent an afternoon working on the flower bed. He removed the old bricks, measured and cut some wooden beams, and expanded the area, adding new soil and flowers. He had been sick all week and he came back inside exhausted and drenched with sweat, but I could tell by the look on his face that it was a labor of love.
Our tree reminds us of so many things: life, death, love, loss, grief, faith, hope, renewal, strength, growth, and God's provision. Each time we look at it, we remember.
Every day, we remember.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
My family is, shall we say, unconventional. I know that in today's world there are probably lots of other families like mine out there. But the fact is, I really don't personally know many.
My dad married his first wife when he was quite young. They had three children together, two boys and one girl. After they divorced, he married two more times but had no children. (I never met wives #2 or 3.) My mom was his fourth wife, and together they had my sister and me. With his fifth and current wife, my dad has one son.
In addition, my mom also remarried after my parents' divorce. She has one son with my stepdad. That makes me one of seven children between my two parents combined.
Most people who know me find this confusing, and I can see why. I have 4 half-brothers, 1 half-sister, and 1 full sister. When I was growing up, most of my friends were perplexed when I mentioned my other siblings besides the two that lived at my house. My friends never really met the other siblings, and probably only ever saw them in person at my graduation and my wedding. But they were and still are a part of my life.
My dad's 3 oldest children always lived with their mom. They did often come to visit us when my parents were married. We saw our sister most often. She and my mom were very close and she loved playing with my sister, Connie, and me. She was a young teenager when we were toddlers. We don't see each other as often as we'd like, but we keep in touch regularly with phone calls and text messages. She has two grown daughters now who are both married with their own children! Yes, this makes me a great-aunt. I've never been quite as close with my 3 half-brothers on my dad's side as I am with my half-sister.
On my mom's side, though, it was different. My mom and stepdad had my youngest brother when I was almost 10 years old. Connie and I were so excited to have a baby in the house! The three of us grew up together, but my brother was only 8 years old when I left for college. Sometimes I think I've kept him frozen at that age in my mind. It is so hard for me to believe that today he is 23!
This weekend we will go to Louisiana, as we do every October, to celebrate our family birthdays this month. My little brother, my husband, and my sister's husband all have birthdays this month. Included in our party every year is my sister's ex-boyfriend, who is just like part of the family. We have celebrated together this way every year for as long as I can remember. Yes, this is a bit unconventional, too! He celebrates with us each October and will be there this weekend with his girlfriend, who seems to fit right in as well.
We had hoped to see all of our siblings this weekend. There was supposed to be a birthday party for my oldest brother's 50th, but we just found out that he has the flu. It is disappointing because we rarely celebrate holidays or birthdays with that side of the family.
We're very much looking forward to our traditional birthday celebration this weekend! I know it is an unconventional family, but it's the only one I've ever known. Sure, I sometimes wish it could be a little less complicated. But I love my family!
My little brother and me in 2008
Thursday, October 1, 2009
As so many of you who live with infertility and/or miscarriage know, sometimes there are very sad days. Of course, that is true about life in general and for people in lots and lots of different situations. I appreciate having this blog to vent some of those feelings that I have during particularly frustrating or sad days. I would even say that sometimes there are simply sad moments that come up during otherwise normal or pleasant days. I use this blog to write about those little moments or big moments, and I know that very often the subject and the tone of the posts you read here are sad.
But one of the things that I want you to know is this: I'm not always sad.
If you don't already know me in real life, I want to tell you that there is a much, much lighter side of me! I do have a lot of joy in my life and I'm grateful for so many blessings. Yes, this has been the hardest experience of my life. It has definitely changed me, in some ways good and in some ways not so good. It truly is a paradox sometimes. For the most part, my experience with recurrent miscarriage has made me far more cautious about opening up to people. It is really hard for me to let others in and share the really hard stuff. At the same time, I wear my heart on my sleeve much more now than I ever used to. Having a blog has helped me work out some of those feelings that are hard to describe when I am faced with questions in person. It's much easier to work it all out from the safety of my living room, moving words and sentences around and putting them in the right order before I officially put them out there.
When I made the decision to start a blog about infertility, I knew that it would most likely only show part of the whole picture, although I do try hard to present (above all) an honest picture of this daily struggle. My hope is that it is a true reflection of the ups and the downs. It sure is nice to have friends who care and understand when I am feeling down, and I'm always overwhelmed and touched by the response. Sometimes I wish that I wrote a blog not about infertility, but about something, anything, happier. But I realize that I probably never would have felt compelled to do this, to reach out like this, without an experience like this one. It's one of those strange "good things" that has come out of it I guess.
And something else I've discovered is this: Sometimes I need a kick in the pants. Okay, I've known this about myself for a while. I know that sometimes I freak out and I close up and go into hermit mode. I need some encouragement or a friendly nudge in the right direction.
A few weeks ago I confessed to you that I hadn't been to see my fertility specialist in well over a year. I was too afraid to make the call for an appointment. You see, in the years before I started this blog, we were very active and involved with doctors and labs and charting cycles and all of that stuff. I know that isn't a side of our experience that you've really seen here. It just so happened that by the time I started writing about it, we were already almost 7 years into trying to have a baby. At that time we had just started seeing a new doctor. We were hopeful about having our fertility struggles looked at with fresh and very capable eyes. Dr. G ordered several new tests and did surgery in January of 2008 to clean up some scar tissue and mild endometriosis that I had. He told us to try again for a pregnancy. We didn't usually have to try for very long. But this time it has been different. Many, many months have passed, but in a way it is like new territory for us. My husband and I have been through a lot together over the years, but we have never felt like we were taking a passive role in our fertility.
Most of this blog has been about waiting. I know that doesn't look very active sometimes, but it never felt like we had given up. Sometimes even waiting can be a very active process! Admittedly, though, I was in a rut. I had let fear take over. I knew that we weren't seeing any progress or any change and I wasn't okay with that anymore. But I was afraid to pick it all back up and pursue it again. After my last post, several of you (along with my family) have encouraged me to get over that fear, and more importantly, not to give up on my dream of having a baby.
Yesterday, I made the call. I almost talked myself out of it, especially after the receptionist told me that the next available appointment with Dr. G was in JANUARY. I paused, and she said she could transfer me to the nurse to see what we could work out. She transferred the call and I got the answering service. I left my long and rambling message and waited for them to call me back. When the call came I was beyond relieved to discover that it wasn't the nightmare nurse that I've dealt with so many times before. Instead, on the other end of the phone was a kind and helpful nurse who was incredibly patient with me and who listened to what I had to say. She wasn't the least bit condescending or rude. (Can you tell I've been burned before?) I explained that we'd been trying on our own -- as the doctor ordered -- for over a year and that we were ready to come in and have a talk about it. So, she set us up for October 21st. I took a deep breath, wiped a few tears, and hung up the phone. Then I called my mom, who had been gently nudging me as well.
Although I do feel relieved about finally having an appointment, I still don't know what will happen and I'm still nervous about moving forward. There are no guarantees, except that I'll go in that day with my dear husband by my side and we'll both be clinging to our Lord.
And this time, as a bonus, I know that I'll also have you in my corner, cheering me on. And I can't thank you enough.