2

Loved and Not Alone (pt. 2)

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Thank you, one thousand times over, to everyone who reached out to me after I wrote my last blog post (and the prequel to this little diddy– so go back and read it before you start on this one). Your words of hope and solidarity were so overwhelming for me that I wish now I had posted it sooner rather than held back in fear and heartache.

I promised you my story wasn’t over last time; there was a lot that got me to the point I could post about my fertility issues and I intend to keep my promise and share with you my more recent story.

After August I still struggled off and on with the general feelings of discontentment wrapped around my dysfunctional body but it began to die down significantly as I opened up to more and more people about my struggle which meant more and more people were praying for Patrick and me on this issue. But I think the number one thing that helped me begin to overcome my negative self talk was leading the student ministry at Central Christian Church‘s Glendale campus.

The Glendale campus is a LOT different demographically and culturally to the other four Central campuses located in the East Valley of the Phoenix Metro area. Glendale is in the West Valley– which, even if you aren’t from Phoenix, you know that there is always a sort of “rivalry” of lifestyle and demographic between east and west anything. The greater demographic of the area the campus is located in is middle to lower-middle class, blue collar workers, and Hispanic– again, a generalization of the area and not indicative of the entire population. I grew up East Valley, served/worked in East Valley youth programs, and I began to awe at a few of the girls that have attended our junior high program in Glendale.

IMG_5378_Glendale_web

Courtesy of Central Christian Church Creative Arts Department

Working at the Glendale campus was my first ever exposure to working with students who were living in a group home situation. They have always been girls, and each girl I encountered taught me something new about resilience and faith and beauty that I don’t believe I could have learned on my own. Some of their stories were so so tragic, some were filled with hope and longing, and some stories I never heard but I know were creating deep pain in their hearts and souls– but I would still see them every Sunday, smiles on their faces (usually) and new stories to share with me.

I never knew my heart could open so wide.

It was my interactions with them that really got me over the hump. I knew that if I couldn’t have a child of my own that I wanted to love ones like that– ones that, of no fault of their own, had been cast aside or experiencing pain and loss. I thought that, if I couldn’t have a child of my own, I could adopt/foster a young person who just needed someone to believe in them and love them.

Patrick and I are friends with a couple who have been doing this for years– their niche is babies with special needs– and it has been such a blessing to watch the two of them with every child that comes into their home. They adopted one of the little angels not too long ago and are just the cutest little family you ever did see. But it isn’t always that rosy; two of the kids, brothers, they had in their home for quite some time and were in the process of adopting when suddenly they were taken from them with little warning and placed with family that had crawled out of the woodwork. Patrick and I had watched how it devastated our couple friend and we wondered if that was ever something we could deal with (this was all prior to my even knowing about my fertility issues).

My relationship with the young ladies from the group home changed that for me but Patrick was still fearful of that pain.

While we were talking about what it might look like to start fostering, we were also talking about going to a fertility doctor recommended by my new GYN. We had decided that once we got back from my brother’s birthday trip that I would schedule an appointment and see what our options were.

I hadn’t cycled in awhile (which isn’t weird, remember) and my brother was turning 21 on this trip so, just to be safe, I took a pregnancy test– you know, in case by some MIRACLE, God had decided to open up my previously dusty and difficult womb– fully expecting a “Not Pregnant” to appear on the screen.

Not even the obligatory 2 minutes later…

“Pregnant”

SAY WHAT?!

So long story short, I discovered God had finally deemed me ready to have a child of my own on a trip, to Las Vegas, to celebrate my brother’s 21st birthday. Ain’t that somethin’?

IMG_0542

Courtesy of Central Christian Church Creative Arts Department

As of today, Mother’s Day, I am 13 weeks along. This time last year, Patrick was celebrating mother’s day for me even though I didn’t think I could ever be one and now here I sit today, 6 months away from being one.

I know this isn’t the case for everyone struggling with infertility, but for me–

It felt like God was waiting for me to realize that even if I couldn’t be the mother of my own flesh and blood I could be the mother of someone else’s flesh and blood. I still fully intend to follow up on that with God and foster/adopt a preteen/teen some day. I wasn’t given that call for no reason, I know that. I want them to feel loved and not alone as I have come to feel over the past 7 months.

Thank you EVERYONE who has walked with us through this very difficult journey– you all know who you are– and we are so blessed to call you our friends and family. Welcome to my mess.

13

Loved and Not Alone (pt.1)

I apologize, I began writing this post last August and couldn’t bring myself to finish it, but I am ready now, so here it is! If I inserted something more recently to the older part of my post it will look like [this]. So read on!

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Get ready to be candid with me for a moment…

A year ago today (give or take a few days either direction) is the day I unknowingly began a journey I never wanted to be on. A journey I never considered I would have to take. A journey full of pain, self-loathing, sorrow, and despair. For every step forward I’ve fought to achieve, I’ve been thrown back a few 100 yards on my butt where I would sit and cry for a moment then slowly pick myself back up and start all over again.

Some of you may know this pain, whether you have experienced it in the same way as me or not, and you understand how excruciatingly difficult it is to get back up after being knocked down…

so.

many.

times.

You know what it is like to doubt God’s plan, whether he really cares about you at all.

In August of last year[2014] I unintentionally stopped taking my birth control (BC). It was a miscommunication with the pharmacy and so on and suddenly I saw myself two weeks late on taking my next round of pills. I decided I would wait until I got my next period to start again. Patrick and I had discussed going off BC somewhere around December anyway so I didn’t think it would be a big deal if something happened earlier than that anyway.

August crept by…

…then September…

… next October…

… and suddenly I am very aware of the fact that something is wrong. No period in 3 months. Every test I take tells me it isn’t due to pregnancy. I scheduled an appointment with my GYN and prayed for the best (I am going to intentionally leave the name of my [FORMER] GYN out of this as I am NOT happy with the way my case has been handled by them and I don’t want to get in trouble for defamation or something…). A pelvic ultrasound and blood tests reveal a couple things:

  1. I’m not ovulating.
  2. My ovaries a ridden with cysts. [A more recent test indicates that it was not as serious as I was made to believe]
  3. My hormone levels are all out of whack.
  4. The lack of ovulation is not due to anything they can determine at this time.

Okay… so what do I do next? I began WebMD-ing things that could be wrong (bad move by the way– learn from me, don’t do it) and I had myself worked up into such a frenzy about it sleep was ridiculously difficult to achieve. I had myself believing I had Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (I’m still not convinced that isn’t what is wrong) [better doctor now, better explanations, pretty sure it wasn’t PCOS now] because everything my GYN told me seemed to point to it. Here is link to some of the WebMD articles I was reading to try to better understand what was happening to me.

[Okay, present day me talking here, PCOS is very serious stuff and I don’t want this post to, in anyway, diminish the real and raw pain that any woman, facing this issue, is wrestling. Just because it didn’t happen to be true in my case, which I discovered thanks to a much more competent and communicative doctor, doesn’t mean I don’t sympathize 100% with those looking at that diagnosis. My struggle is and was still real and I was grasping at answers– because even a crappy answer was still and answer– so I knew what I was fighting.]

At my next appointment with my GYN, they tell me they are pretty sure it is my hormone levels. One hormone is a little higher than the others and could be suppressing ovulation which in turn is preventing me from getting a period. To force my period, they want to put me back on BC again. By the time I am having this conversation with my GYN it is late December/ early January and this was the time Patrick and I had previously discussed taking me off BC and letting whatever happen. So, obviously, I wanted a different solution to my problem.

December and January [of 2015] were two of the hardest months of my life. Ladies who know my pain, didn’t it just tear you up inside that the one thing God created you to do, the one thing that sets you apart as a woman, was not something you could do? You were broken, and not just emotionally or spiritually, but physically…

I’ll tell you exactly what I thought.

I am broken, defective, insufficient. I’m letting my husband down, he would be such a good father and I can’t give that to him. I’m not good enough for him anymore, maybe I should give him an out, set him free so he can find someone who will give him children. I hate myself for the defective monster I am.

Some of you read that and think I am being dramatic and that my identity was WAY to wrapped up in this issue [I’M reading this right now thinking the exact same thing!]– you would be right. Some of you think I should get over it, let it go, or just adopt if I want to have children — you are also right.

Some of you read this and relate so deeply that you may be crying with me. Maybe some of you have been afraid or unable to express your real feelings on this– or haven’t told anybody yet because then it becomes REAL.

[Present day me again. The reality is it is already REAL. Just because you are having trouble admitting it to yourself doesn’t mean it isn’t still your truth. And isn’t life so much better lived in communion with others? Mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, sister, brother, spouse, aunt, uncle, friends… We were given these people so we were not alone when we hit difficult times like this. This may be hard for some of you to hear– it was for me in some ways– but you NEED people. You need people to lean on and, yeah, that means running the risk of getting hurt further because you’ve made yourself emotional vulnerable but no relationship is worth anything if it doesn’t carry a little bit of vulnerability risk to it. Genesis 2:18-22 tells us God knew it was not good for us to be alone and that is why he created Eve for Adam. The same is true for you– it is not good for you to be alone.]

I’ve come a long way since December and January [again, of last year]; I am coping better and I don’t randomly cry throughout the day anymore. I have accepted that I am not broken or defective and that my husband still loves me. I am voicing my pain in healthy non-destructive ways and can even bring myself to be happy for the plethora of friends that are now popping out their own little bundles of joy.

But it is a journey, not a race to the finish.

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That is where I ended 8 months ago, plus my present day addendums, and I sounded like I was getting to a better place– which is true, but not the whole story.

I still wept on occasion, and in fact I cried as I typed away at the above which is why I couldn’t finish– that and I wanted it to be perfect. I wanted to perfectly explain my pain so my readers would fully understand.

I realize now that it isn’t worth it to try and make it perfect because someone somewhere is not going to understand and is going to judge. What is important is that I got it out of my system and onto paper (or the web, as it were).

I’d like to finish my story now, up to where I am currently, but I need more time to write it. I am in a much better place (for real this time) but also still very fearful of my future. In the meantime, if you are struggling against infertility I hope you realize you are not alone and you are loved.

0

Six Flags with a Side of Insomnia

04 May 2010, Sumatra, Indonesia --- Children board a crowded Indonesian school bus --- Image by © Greg Dale/National Geographic Creative/Corbis

04 May 2010, Sumatra, Indonesia — Children board a crowded Indonesian school bus — Image by © Greg Dale/National Geographic Creative/Corbis

The above picture, clearly, is not one of the trip but I looked at it and thought, “this is exactly how I feel when we take these trips.” I only WISH we could strap some of the kids to the top– how fantastic would that be? I originally started this post back in October of 2014 right after the last trip and didn’t finish. I began writing to tell a particular story about my bus riding experience on the way home from this event.

Which I will now continue…

The last couple of years in October I have participated in a trip that most normal, reasonable people would never/should never go on — a theme park turnaround trip. I am an adult, I cannot handle these kinds of adventures anymore, and yet I’ve done it– three times to be exact; 2 a.m. on a charter bus with 50+ students and other out-of-their-minds adults followed by five other buses of the same. Our pilgrimage takes us to Six Flags Magic Mountain in Southern Cali every year, where we arrive at about 10 a.m., stay until 11:30 p.m., and make the trip back home arriving at the church at 7:30 a.m. What little sleep you get, is pock-marked with screaming teens who are filled with excitement, broken down buses (oh yes), pinched nerves, and periodic bus driver stops at which point kids will want to rush off the bus to run into whatever convenience store is nearby to purchase RIDICULOUS souvenirs. Save your money for the park crazy kid!!!

X2 and Tatsu

Easily the best two rides and Six Flags Magic Mountain– or at least they are my favs!

Before I continue on to rant about the horrid experience, please be aware that I wouldn’t go on this trip if some part of me didn’t absolutely love it. I love getting to hangout with teens in a relaxed, no pressure environment where we are just having fun and making memories. I love roller coasters! They are the best things ever! I love bonding with the other leaders on the trip over crazy things whatever group of teens we were tasked with engaging with did while waiting in line or, better yet, during Fright Fest when all the scary monsters came out. It is a blast of a trip! Here is a photo with the two 7th grade girls I got the privilege of tagging along with all day. They were awesome, which made the trip even more awesome.

Tatsu: Six Flags Magic Mountain

Getting ready to ride Tatsu, front row, at Six Flags Magic Mountain.

So believe me when I say, my trip home destroyed almost all of those awesome positive memories that were made in the 12 hours prior. My husband is also a leader with the students and has attended the last two trips with me– last year, he was my seat buddy. This past trip, however, we were required to split as we had an odd number of girls and boys– we can’t have any “purpling” happening (PINK + BLUE = PURPLE… I hope that makes sense…). Anyway I got to sit next to this girl from a campus of our church that I don’t normally attend so I didn’t know her, which was fine because I have no problem sitting next to students I don’t know; just means I get the opportunity to meet someone new.

Using my keen perception skills, I deduced that my seat buddy was “odd”. The kind of odd where she wants so badly to be friends with the other girls having giggly conversations around us but is too socially awkward for them to really give her much attention. I felt bad for my seat buddy and did my best to talk to her and find out more about her and make sure the girls around us (most of whom I did actually know) included her in conversation; selfishly, I also did this so I could sleep because boy did my seat buddy want to talk. So the ride to Six Flags was pleasant enough; I got a chance to sleep, she was happily conversing with the other girls, all was well.

The day in the park was had, we sluggishly made our way back to the buses (which is an ordeal in itself! Do you know how far the buses have to park away from the actual entrance to the park?!), and collapsed in our seats. This is where the “fun” began. I lead a life (small) group of freshmen girls and several of them were on the bus with me. One had ended up being a “third wheel” and was sitting with someone she didn’t know and wanted to sit with me on the way home. I told her she was more than welcome to if my current seat buddy would trade her…

This girl WOULD NOT BUDGE. Which is fine, it was her seat and I wasn’t going to force her to move, but she really had no evident reason for staying in her seat. All the girls she chatted with on the way there were already getting ready to sleep the whole way home and she still would have had an aisle seat, if that was her desire. So I had to tell my life group girl she would have to stay where she was. Was I peeved? I would be lying if I said no. Did I respect the fact my seat buddy didn’t want to move? Sure I did. Now, what happens next is fuzzy because, A) I was tired and B) it was 7 months ago that it happened.

The next 8 hours were torture for me and, I can only assume, for her as well. At some point, not sure when because I was dozing in and out of consciousness, my seat buddy began to whimper.

Why is she doing that? (I feel a little bad for this next thought–) Maybe if I continue to pretend to sleep she’ll stop.

Shortly, the whimpering was accompanied by rocking– forward and back, forward and back– additionally the whimpering grew in volume.

Why?! Why, why, why, WHY?!

The whimpering grew even louder and the rocking more violent.

I cannot be the only one hearing this right now. Please just go to sleep… I beg of you!

My seat buddy busts out her phone and makes a call, I assume it is to a parent but I can only hear one side of the conversation:

“…I can’t, everyone is asleep… I can’t, it hurts…” and the conversation continues like that for a few minutes until she hangs up. She gets quiet for a little while and I begin to be relieved.

Okay maybe talking to mom/dad helped and she will be fine now… ugh my leg hurts…

Then it started again.

Oh no…

It grows in intensity until she is violently rocking back and forth again.

No no no… ugh, I can’t take this anymore, I have to move my leg…

I moved and she took that as a sign that I now wanted to talk:

Seat Buddy: “I have to go to the bathroom.”

Me: “Okay, then go.” (we were in the front of the bus, the bathroom was in the back)

Seat Buddy: “But I have this rash on the inside of my leg and every time I move it hurts really bad.”

Then why are you rocking?! 

Me: “Then hold it and stop moving around so much. ”

Seat Buddy: “But I really have to go.”

Me: “Then go.”

Seat Buddy: “But it hurts to move and I am afraid of tripping over peoples feet.”

Me: “Then sit still and hold it. Would you like me to try to contact the nurse to come look at you at our next stop? I can’t do anything for you right now.”

Seat Buddy: “Okay.”

Me: “Alright I’m texting her now”

I text our nurse, who is on another bus, who tries to ask me questions about her condition but my seat buddy has now tuned me out and won’t respond. I took this to mean maybe she was okay and I could try to sleep again.

Wrong.

“Hun, you have two choices. 1) Toughen up, deal with the pain, and walk to the back of the bus and use the bathroom. 2) Sit here, quietly, and hold it until we get home (which was like 4 more hours away). Personally, I think going to the bathroom is your best option in the long run.”

FINALLY she gets up and goes to the bathroom.

Praise Jesus!

When she comes back we enter into a pseudo calm where she is still whimpering and rocking but not nearly as bad anymore. Then the buses all stop to give our drivers a quick break and the nurse boards our bus.

Nurse: “Hey Valerie, how is she doing?”

Me: “I’m not sure, she finally went to the bathroom but she was still in pain a moment ago.”

Nurse: “What is her name?”

Oh crap…

Me: “Umm… I know she told me before the trip started, but that was 24 hours ago and I don’t remember.”

Nurse: “That’s okay.” *Turns attention to Seat Buddy* “Hey sweetie, how are you doing? Where does it hurt?”

Seat Buddy: *Unresponsive*

Oooooo! After all she has put me through she had better wake up and answer the nurse’s questions.

Nurse: “Sweetie?” *Shaking Seat Buddy gently*

Oh she is definitely playing dead. Oh I could kill her, I really could…

Nurse: *Talking to me* “Okay, well without being able to see what is happening I don’t know what to do. Here is something to ease her pain, if and when she wakes back up.”

Me: “Okay thanks.”

Nurse leaves, buses begin moving again… and so does my seat buddy.

I straight up did not feel bad for ignoring her this time. I had done all I could to help her, I had not slept a wink past the first hour on the road home and I was just fed up. At this moment, I could not have hated anyone more than I hated her.

When the trip was done, and most of the kids had been picked up and several of the leaders gone home, one of our pastors, who’d been on my bus, asked me what in the world was going on.

Ah ha! I KNEW I could not be the only person experiencing this girls crazy antics. But eeevvveryone kept quiet and let me deal with it alone. Even my husband, who was in the row in front of me with his seat buddy, offered no help (granted, he had his own fun little issues to deal with).

Reflecting back on this story I realize I learned a few things:

1 – My compassion levels are not where they should be; ESPECIALLY when I am tired. Is this bad? Yes, probably. I was their to be a leader for these students and when one was “in trouble” I tried to shirk my responsibility– unsuccessfully.

2 – The only way I will ever share a bus seat with a student again is if I get to pick the student I am riding with. I.e. one of my life group girls.

3 – No matter how hard I, or others try, none of us can be exactly like Jesus to all people all the time…especially when sleep deprived. I need Jesus in my life just as much as the students do and I am not above getting into selfish internal hissy fits when I don’t get my way– and I know I am not the only adult who feels this way.

Point is… I’d still go on this trip again.

Because I am nuts and possibly a glutton for punishment.

Even though the trip home was awful, the relational time was worth it and I know it was important to those two girls in the photo above. I do it for them, I do it for Jesus, and I do very little of it for myself.

Welcome to my mess, and praise the Lord I can be reborn from it.

Tell me… do you have a crazy story from a trip with teens? I’d love to hear it!