Summer Lesson #1 – Ditch the Plan

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Things never unfold like you think they will.

I feel like this has been the theme of my life. I don’t know why I just can’t get this. When will this reality actually sink in?

I’m about 2 and a half weeks into summer, and it has been everything I’ve planned, but nothing like I thought it would be.

Does that make sense?

I had my checklists and high hopes of what I wanted to get done this summer. Little by little, I’ve been planning, arranging, filling in my calendar with the ‘have-to’s’ and the ‘want-to’s’ – all of my activities to get organized, learn to cook, explore Long Island, make the most of this short summer.

Tried a few new recipes: check.

Shopped at the outlets: check.

Spent the day in Southampton, East Hampton, and Greenport: check.

Cleaned the bathroom and semi-straightened the office: check.

Started work on my curriculum project: check.

Time with friends and family: check.

Not bad for 2 and a half weeks.

Everything I’ve planned, but nothing like I thought it would be.

So, what did I think it would be?

Well, I guess I thought it would deliver a little more. A sense of satisfaction. Serenity. Contentment.

“It’s summer! I’m free! This is what I’ve been waiting for all year!”

But instead, I found myself, in the middle of all of this, in a funk.

Now, maybe, it’s just my typical clumsy-adjustment-to-a-new-routine funk.  Or maybe it’s my I’m-pumped-up-on-hormones funk. Or maybe it’s my task-driven-perfectionist-need-to-be-productive funk. Or maybe it’s my tired-of-this-infertility-plague funk.

Or maybe it’s none of those things.

I started to think and pray about this: “God, what is wrong with me? Where is this coming from? I can’t seem to push out of this.”

Clear as day, I heard this in my heart: “Katie, you expect too much…”

Um, that didn’t sit so well with me.  What did that even mean?

But as I stopped protesting and quieted down long enough for God to finish His sentence, He began to clarify what He meant. As much as I know the truth, I keep looking for things and experiences and people and plans to give me what they just cannot: Perfect joy. Perfect peace. Perfect contentment.

I keep expecting these things to give my heart what it needs. And they can’t. As good as they are, they can’t.

A perfect marriage (which doesn’t exist): Can’t.

A baby (a delicious as he/she will be): Can’t

Adventure and leisure and exploration: Can’t

Accomplishments: Can’t

Good times with friends and family: Can’t

These are all good things, but as far as being sources of joy and satisfaction and peace – they can’t give that because they aren’t the source.  They are temporary. They are flawed. They are impermanent. They will always come up short.

After this dialogue between me and God, two memories popped up in my mind. The first one was when I was in my late 20s sometime. I don’t remember much of the details, but I remember when this verse came to life to me: “In Your Presence is fullness of joy” (Ps. 16:11).  In other words, only by being with Him can we be perfectly happy. I don’t really remember what I was going through at the time – likely a bad break-up or some general discontentment with where my life was – but that verse set me free from looking for anything else but God to bring joy to me.

The second memory that came to me was when I drove the California coast by myself.  I was probably about 32 years old, and it was after God had been doing some incredible things in my relationship with Him.  I look back, and that season of my life was probably the most relaxed, content, happy, and peaceful I’ve ever had. Even to this day.

During that trip, I had 10 days to drive from San Diego to San Francisco.  I didn’t have a real itinerary; I just had some friends in various places along the way that I was hoping to get together with, and that was it.  I didn’t make a list of what to see or places to go. I had zero expectations. Whatever I did and got to see would be fine; it was more than I had ever seen or done in California anyway – so it would all be a plus, no matter how it ended up.

Well, that trip ended up being one of the best trips I have ever taken. So relaxing. So filled with wonder. So peaceful. What I got to see and do was better than anything I could have planned. And it taught me a huge lesson: sometimes it is good not to have an exhaustive plan. Not to have big expectations. Sometimes plans and expectations rob you of what actually unfolds – which is fantastic. But when that is held up against a plan or expectation, we miss out on the greatness of what we have actually just experienced and we aren’t grateful for it.

So, with these memories, I felt like God was saying to me, “Stop trying to micro-manage your summer. Make your lists and plans, but don’t be so attached to them. They won’t give you what you are looking for, anyway. Only I can do that. Make ME your plan this summer, and let Me handle the rest. You might be pleasantly surprised with what I come up with.”

And of course, it comes down to what it always comes down to with me: Giving up (the illusion of) control. Letting go. Trusting.

All my strong points, right?

It’s okay if I don’t cross off everything on my list this summer. It’s okay if I don’t get to see every nook on Long Island. It’s okay if my office isn’t perfectly organized by the time school starts in September. It’s okay if I don’t nail down this blog-thing by the end of August.

I need to stop expecting summer (and people and experiences and plans) to deliver what they can’t. They are limited and finite and imperfect. They can only deliver so much.

Only God can deliver what my heart really needs: Peace. Joy. Safety. Security. Satisfaction. Contentment. And it’s not that He gives those things. Those things are found only IN Him and WITH Him. “By His side are pleasures forever.” He cannot give them apart from Himself and His presence because they don’t exist anywhere else.

So, summer.

It’s still early enough for me to re-group. To re-adjust. To rework the plan.

The new plan is this:

1. Let God make the plan.

 

[Photo Credit: Wikimedia]

The REAL Cost of that 4th of July BBQ

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Nothing says, ‘Welcome to Summer’ like a 4th of July BBQ. Most years, my thoughts about the 4th of July range from where we are watching the fireworks to what we are eating to what sales I can take advantage of.

God bless America, right?

I’m not knocking these things; we are blessed to have the freedom to enjoy them. But I am guilty of these things being the first thing I think of when July 4th rolls around.

Eventually, I get around to remembering that it’s a day we celebrate the fight for America’s freedom. My thoughts might wander back to the Revolutionary War and the Declaration of Independence. I might sigh a quick prayer of thanks for living in the U.S.

But really, that doesn’t go far enough. Yes, our forefathers paid an enormous price for the life we enjoy – but they aren’t the only ones. In fact, people today are still paying.

A while back, I wrote about a project my class was doing this year as part of our school’s service-learning pilot. To keep it simple, my class was going to interview veterans and create a book telling their stories; the proceeds from the book would be donated to the Wounded Warrior Project. I could explain all the ways that this project would fulfill our learning objectives in English 11, but that’s not really my point. We’ll get to that.

Trying to find veterans who were willing to participate ended up being much more challenging than I thought. We needed 25 vets to interview, and I could not get any solid commitments. Finally, as we were getting close to the end of the year, I feared this project might be a bust. However, my adviser and I decided that we were just going to put a date on the calendar for the interviews, get the word out, and see what happened.

As we were planning, the event morphed and took on a life of its own. Instead of just being an informal get-together where the students would interview the veterans, we decided to make it a tribute program for the service-members, honoring them for their service and sacrifice.

Instead of just having a sterile room to meet in on a random Thursday night, we turned it into a celebration of heroes.

We decorated the room in red, white and blue. The students personally served hot hoer d’overs to the veterans, treating them like our honored guests. We had special music sung by our school’s music group. Another group of students created a tribute video. Other students volunteered to read personal letters and poems, expressing their gratitude. In fact, one international student from Korea read a special letter, in her beautiful broken English, from the perspective of someone who had personally benefited from American soldiers fighting for her country’s freedom. Another group of girls spent their weekends making gifts and favors as well as patriotic-themed desserts (thank you, Pinterest).

All of this was in addition to the interview time, which was the main part of the night. I have to admit…I was nervous about how this was going to come off. The day-of, we confirmed that we had our target number of vets – spanning from WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Desert Storm and those who served since 9/11 in Iraq and Afghanistan. We did a lot of prep in class – interview skills, historical background reviews, proper etiquette for interacting with veterans; we did as much as we could before the actual event to be ready, but at showtime, you just never know.

When it came time for these 16 and 17-year-old kids to step it up and have an adult conversation with a stranger – and actually lead the interview – all very mature tasks – I was praying nobody would embarrass themselves (or me).

Well, before my eyes, I saw my students – the mature, the shy, the silly, the knuckle-heads – transform into mature young men and women before my eyes; that night definitely ranks as one of my proudest teaching moments. Every student, I mean, every single student was fully engaged, fully present, fully participating. The room was alive with the lively yet warm interaction between the veterans and the students. The energy was palpable, and the buzz humming in the room was absolutely electric. Our kids were leaning in, making eye contact, laughing, smiling, looking interested – and not pretending, by the way – and, so were the veterans.

Even when we had to call time, the excited chatter between students and veterans continued on through dessert and lingered through the rest of the evening.

Suddenly, the cliches we hear – ‘fighting for freedom,’ ‘heroic sacrifices,’ ‘being in harm’s way’ – were all personified by these men (incidentally, we had only men come that night). These are men that we likely pass by every day – in the grocery store, at the gas station, in restaurants – yet we do not realize the greatness that just side-swiped us. Heroes. Ones who answered the call to preserve our freedom.

And in doing so, they were never the same again.

I think that was the revelation that became so profound to me. Our service-members sign up for a cause they believe in. They are willing to risk their lives to protect the freedoms we enjoy – everything we are able to enjoy which we would not be enjoying were it not for them. The ones who survive and make it home are the lucky ones. And we think, “They are alive. They made it. Now they can return to their families, their jobs, their lives.”

However, that is not the case for so, so many of them. Their experiences have changed them. Forever. Even after their tours are over.

Many times, they are not the same people they were before they left. Everyone on the homefront is going on with his American existence, but the service-members are different. They have been deeply affected, deeply changed by all they have encountered. We don’t realize that their sacrifice for our freedom is often a life-long sacrifice. They don’t just get to go back to ‘life-as-usual.’

True, some eventually will get there, but not without a lot of work on their part. Others have physical wounds and limitations that they deal with. Every. Single. Day. Still many have others internal scars that those observing on the outside would never see: PTSD. Depression. Anxiety. Damaged relationships and marriages. Flashbacks. Guilt. Survivor guilt. And some never assimilate.

A veteran is no longer the same person he was before he served. That person is gone, and now he is trying to adjust back into his old life as new person. Trying to find a new normal.

One of the comments I heard the most from the veterans after our event was how healing this night was for them. To feel honored. To feel respected. To have their stories heard in a positive light. Especially the Vietnam vets, who were vilified – not celebrated – for their sacrifices for freedom and loyalty to our country.

One veteran said that, for 20 years, he never spoke about his experiences in Vietnam. Never told anyone. Felt ashamed. Was called a baby-killer.

He had been keeping those stories inside for 20 years. This was the first time he shared them openly.

To be honored and accepted…to be able to share without being condemned…to be treated like ‘kings’ (their words)…it did something to their hearts. Some of my contacts told me that, months later, they are still talking about it.

At one point in the night, I stood against the back wall and soaked it in. I knew I was witnessing a life-changing moment – in my student’s education, in the hearts of these brave men. In me, too.

So here’s my point: your 4th of July BBQ (and mine) didn’t just cost your expenses for the food, your expenditure of energy, hours of your day in preparation. That’s what it cost YOU. But it cost someone else a heck of a lot more for you to be able to enjoy that BBQ. And everything else American.

By all means, enjoy the BBQ. Watch the fireworks. Shop the sales. But please don’t do it without taking a moment to say a prayer of thanks for those who paid a high price so we can do all of those American things that we love. A prayer for those who are still paying a price even today: former service-members who still struggle on a daily basis and present service-members who are in danger right now fighting for our freedom.

Even better – thank one of them. Personally. Get involved. Make a donation. Teach gratitude to your kids from a young age; let them know that their good lives cost someone else a lot. Go to parades. Send care packages. Do something. We owe them for everything we as Americans love and enjoy.

Their sacrifices must never be forgotten.

[Photo Credit: Wikimedia]

Me vs. Infertility, IUI #4: Fail – and Done

Or the 2nd? Or 3rd? Or 4th?? That's funny, too.

Or the 2nd? Or 3rd? Or 4th?? That’s funny, too.

And that’s a wrap. Our IUI journey is done.

In spite of how good my eggs looked, there were other issues the day of my IUI that pretty much squashed any hopes of #4 working. Not impossible, but a long-shot.

I was close to tears while I was laying on the table after the NP told me. What in the world??? Why wasn’t this working out for us??? She suggested we make an appointment for a consult with the doctor because I had just one more IUI left that my insurance would cover. Maybe we should go a different route.

So, before we even knew if that IUI was successful, rather than lose time in the waiting, we were moving on to make another plan.

Well, we are breaking out the big guns. We are going for it.

IVF.

Even though we still had one more IUI covered, my RE felt it best to forego it and move directly to IVF. Right now, my body is responding incredibly to the meds; he said that I’m at least 5 years younger in my fertility age. He really doesn’t want me to be pumped up on hormones for more time than I need to be, so he feels it is better for us to move on to IVF now rather than go for the last IUI.

My RE began explaining the process, telling us what will happen, answering our questions (although interrupted several times by J’s interjections about the World Cup. My RE is Argentinian, by the way. Men! Can we focus, please?!?).

After pulling the conversation back to the subject at hand, my big question was, ‘When?’

‘Next cycle.’

What???

I definitely was not anticipating that. For some reason, I thought the process was months long…months of being on meds, months of injections, months of prepping your body. I didn’t know it could happen so quickly.

But it can. We are on for this cycle.

It’s crazy, because my husband and I didn’t really talk ahead of time about IVF. I think we both felt that we would cross that bridge when we came to it. In silent agreement, we both knew that we would do what was available to us, what our insurance covered (and thankfully, our insurance covers IVF); we would do what we could to make this happen. I always just felt like, ‘We’ll discuss it when we need to.’ I just didn’t think we would need to so soon.

I didn’t really have a lot of questions; you don’t know what you don’t know, I suppose. But I did know, however, that my most major concern would be left-over embryos (that’s a separate blogpost). He assured me that, at my age, it would be very unlikely that we would have embryos remaining when all was said and done.

So, I left the consult in a bit of a fog and waited out the two weeks. The first week, I was mostly distracted by the pain I was in. My ovaries were so hyper-stimulated that it hurt to sit, it hurt to stand, it hurt to walk, it hurt to bend over. Naturally, I freaked out, but Google assured me this was a common side effect which should disappear within a week. Which it did.

Just in time for my body to play tricks on me during the last week, as it always does, convincing me with just enough proof that I just might be pregnant. I refused to test, though. Any time I’ve tested, I’ve gotten a BFN and then got my period later that day. So, no – forget it; I was just going to wait it out.

Well, in spite of all my fake symptoms, AF arrived on Friday night, a few days early as my NP predicted it might, and just in time for the Baccalaureate Ceremony.

Ok, then. IVF it is.

I went in this morning, and my RE reviewed the plan: Start birth control today. I go in again Wednesday to go over the paperwork and all the legal aspects (what happens to the embryos if I die, if he dies, if we die, etc.). Next week, I go in for a ‘trial transfer’ – a practice-run so there are no surprises on the day-of.

In about 2 weeks, I start the injections. I’ll be on them for …I forget how long…a week or two. I do remember he said that the egg retrieval will be towards the end of the month…the last week in July. And then, egg transfer 3-5 days after that.

Based on that timeline, we leave on vacation the week after that, and it will be on vacation that we’ll find out if we are pregnant (for better or for worse, I suppose).

So, yeah. It’s IVF, then.

It’s a little surreal. I think I always hoped it wouldn’t and never really thought it would come to IVF. But lately, I just had that feeling. I just knew we were going to have to go the whole way through to IVF.

True to form with infertility, it’s been an exhausting roller-coaster, one that never lets you get off even though you are done with the ride. Everything has been so emotionally heightened: the hopes, the crash, the waiting, the let-down. On top of that, the hormone injections have completely wreaked havoc on my emotions. There have been lots of tears over the past few days…some legitimate, some just the result of an over-taxed hormonal system. It didn’t take much.

I wish it wasn’t this way; I wish it didn’t have to be this way. We all wish a lot of things were different, don’t we?

But they’re not; it is this way. And honestly, I am so grateful we even have the ability to go down this road. For a lot of couples, the road ends here. I’m grateful there is more road ahead for us to travel, even if it wasn’t the one I would have chosen.

So, yeah. IVF.

Game on.

Now It’s OFFICIALLY Summer

imageFor the rest of the northern hemisphere, summer began last weekend. For me? Today. And it was glorious.

Today was our school’s graduation, and my last official ‘duty’ before being off for the summer. And let me tell you, I relish every. single. second.

This was the second year that a few friends and I went to lunch after graduation to kick-off our official start to summer. I remember last year when we were out to lunch, my friend said, “Right now, this moment, is the very best moment of the whole summer.” My other friends and I were a little confused. Don’t get me wrong – I love my friends – but lunch after graduation was as good as it was going to get? Really?

She went on. “Right now, we still have the whole entire summer in front of us. None of it has passed yet. As of right now, today, we still have the whole thing.”

And that is what I was thinking today. It was a picture-perfect Long Island day. Eighty degrees, sunny, breezy, and no humidity (which NEVER happens). We had lunch outside, walked around town and shopped, ate ice cream, and I got home just as my husband was about to go mountain-biking. I tagged along, and we hit our favorite trail – a gorgeous 13-mile loop – finishing up just as dusk was rolling in.

It felt so good. All of it. Every second. Being free from the insanity that is my life 10 months a year. Spending a breezy afternoon with my girls. Taking the anti-lazy ride with my husband (it’s been 2 years since we have ridden, and man, I felt – and am feeling – every bit of it). Just so good.

I know the rest of the world thinks teachers have it so easy because we get the summer off. And believe me, I am fully aware of the fact that this is a HUGE perk. Enormous.

But truly [insert soapbox here], it is IMPERATIVE for teachers to have this kind of disconnect to get re-charged. Let me tell you, by the end of the year, we are WORN. OUT. Done. I’m not saying people in other occupations don’t get worn out and that they wouldn’t benefit from a long break. I think everyone does and everyone would, quite honestly. But, I’m not gonna lie, I love this part of my job.

[For the record, I didn't always have summer breaks. At our school, we don't get paid through the summer, like public school teachers do. So, every summer for the past 11 years, I have had 2-3 part time jobs. And I would go back to work in the fall just about as tired as when I left.

Finally, two years ago, I decided to suck it up and save during the year to have my summers off. It gets tight financially during the year, but it is so worth it. Best decision I ever made. Well, maybe not THE best - but it's up there.]

So…

Summer.

Of course, there’s a list. Several lists. Wouldn’t be summer without a list.

There’s the ‘gotta get done’ around the house list:
Painting the fence. Sprucing up the landscaping. Organizing the office. Painting the bedroom. Painting the kitchen (maybe). (If I get motivated). Boring. But necessary.

There’s the fun list: Ok. Long Island has this thing called the Fun Book. It comes out around Memorial Day with our local newspaper, and it’s pretty much the Bible of everything to do on Long Island (I even know some people that will steal it from people’s driveways to get their hands on it!) All that to say, I am working my way through the Fun Book to get my Summer Bucket List going. I mean, people come to Long Island to vacation; certainly, I can take advantage of some of that.

There’s the work list: Yeah, there will be some school stuff; I’m not totally free. I will be writing some curriculum for our Bible Department. I don’t mind that terribly because I love writing and I love the Bible. And I’m getting paid.

There’s the goal list:
I NEED to get better at cooking. I mean, NEED to. Crockpot, healthy, easy, 7-ingredients-or-less, clean-eating – all of it.

I need to get healthier. Do I even need to say this? Eat better, exercise more, blah, blah, blah. This is a given.

Amp up my Bible reading. Spend some intentional, diligent time in intercessory prayer for some specific issues. (I probably should have listed this one first, as, truly, this one is priority).

Amp up my blogging. I went from that NaBloPoMo in March, where I posted every day to blogging maybe once a week – sometimes more, mostly less. I’d like to get more consistent this summer and find a happy medium. Also, I’m coming up on my one-year blogging anniversary next week, so I’d like to re-invent this a bit.

Catch up on some reading. As English Department Chair, I’m fairly (and shamefully) remiss in my working knowledge of various literary classics. I really need to chip away at that ‘must-read’ list.

Other goals? Nah. I’m good.

And there’s yard sales: No list, just yard sales. I’m not sure what category that falls into, but it is definitely happening this summer.

So, that’s my (tentative) summer.

The only downside for me is just how fast it is going to go.

But no talk of that today. It is, after all, the very best day of the whole summer.

“Fertile as a 30-Year-Old”

This is what my RE said to me at my appointment on Friday. After 7 days of injections, he said I was very fertile, ‘fertile as a 30-year-old.’

What??? Unbelievable.

SO relieved that my body is responding well. I started on Gonadotropins on CD#3, 225mg for 4 days; then, they lowered my dose to 150mg for the next 3 days. He told me not to take a dose on Friday (6.13) and to take my hCG trigger on Saturday at 7pm. He scheduled IUI#4 on Monday (today).

“Don’t go having triplets, now,” he said to me.

Well, that certainly is not the plan, but beggars can’t be choosers.

Fertile as a 30-year-old. Crazy.

I know that doesn’t mean #4 is a sure thing, but it definitely gives one reason to hope.

I was feeling good after the appointment, going into the weekend, but I was nervous about the trigger shot. The other injections were the pen injections, and once I got the hang of it, they were easy enough.

The hCG injections…well, that’s a little more complicated..syringes, mixing the right amount, switching needles… Incidentally, at 7pm on Saturday, I wasn’t going to be in comfort of my own home but in Binghamton, at our school’s baseball state championship game (which we won, by the way – first time ever).

I was planning to ride up with a friend, and I told her that if I went, she would need to give me my shot (I can’t stick myself). Her eyes got huge, but then she sort of warmed up to the idea: if this round worked, she would have played a part in our success. She liked that. I did, too.

So, I put my meds on ice, and we took the trip upstate. I was antsy through the game until it was show-time (mine, not theirs). For some reason, I felt so shady about all of this! We decided to do the shot in her car (a tiny VW bug, by the way) rather than the public bathroom. I didn’t want to draw any attention and have to explain – needles and syringes, shooting up in the bathroom at my school’s championship game!

We went to the car and read the instructions, and I’m so glad she was there. I was clueless – didn’t even know how to draw up the solutions with the syringe to mix it with the medication. Somehow, we managed to come up with the right dosage, although I do think a little of the water solution dribbled out before we mixed it.

For better or for worse, hoping we did everything right, she gave me my shot right in the stomach. Then, I realized at that I had no alcohol wipes, no hand sanitizer, no bandaids. We did the best we could with water to clean up. The injection site looks OK. A little bruised, a little sore, but it doesn’t look infected.

Sheesh. So shady.

So right now, I am outside of McDonalds, waiting for my time to go back for the procedure. I ‘dropped off’ at 7am, should be in by 8, done by 8:30 and ready for 2nd period by 9:00.

Normally, I might sit this school day out, but it is the last day of classes for us, and there are reviews for 11th grade, last goodbyes with my 12th grade Bible class, and the ‘Canyon of Heroes Parade’ for our baseball team. We can dress-down in school colors, the sun is shining, and the kids should be in good moods. Didn’t want to miss this one.

Here’s hoping this is a big day for for all concerned.

Prayers appreciated and fingers crossed.

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[Photo Credit: Wikimedia]

Me vs. Infertility: IUI#3 – Fail Again (But With Hope)

imageSomewhere in between writing finals, getting my kids ready for the English Regents, and tying up all the other loose-ends in my departments, IUI#3 was a bust.  But as life would have it, my existence has been just busy enough that #3 didn’t crush me.

For some reason, I was prepared for the fail. I’m not a real intuitive person by nature, but this time around, I just had a feeling it wouldn’t be a success. It wasn’t pessimism or an evil foreboding, but when I got my period, I wasn’t surprised.

It wasn’t that I didn’t want to get my hopes up; it was more that I was just trying not to think about it either way. I spent a great deal of energy this cycle trying not to symptom-spot, trying not to obsess, trying not to over-analyze – and that was a success (Figures).  Getting my period was a bummer, no doubt, but it was a ‘sigh,’ a lot little bit of swearing in my head, and on to 6th period.

I never want to get used to the ‘fail’ – but sometimes, I just feel like I’m getting used to it.

The new game plan is that we are moving on from Clomid to injections.  My insurance covers 6 IUIs lifetime, and we’ve got 2 left (For one cycle, we had tandem procedures, and the insurance counted them separately). I began the injections on Friday night, CD3, and I go in tomorrow to check the progress.  They are giving me Gonadotropin injections, 225mg, for 8 days,and an hCG trigger (new for me).

I have to say, the initial experience was slightly traumatic for me. I truly have no complaints concerning my RE’s office, but I wish they would have talked me through this one a little more.

Before my appointment, I got a call from the pharmacy company needing my insurance info. Oh, so we are changing the plan? News to me.

The pharmacy company called me back and told me that the total came to $37.  Seemed fine. What did I know?

The next day at the Dr.’s office, they asked how it went with the pharmacy.  I assumed fine.  The nurse asked how much it ended up costing me.

“Thirty-seven dollars. Is that good?”

“Good? Well, out-of-pocket, each injection costs $1000. You are getting 8.”

Mmmm, yeah, I’d say that’s good.

The appointment was just cut and dry – the NP told me we were switching it up and moving on to injections.  She gave me the website to look at the video for the meds and sent me on my way.  (This was where I wish she had talked me through this a little.)  But, you don’t know what you don’t know.

I was feeling a little uncertain about all of this when I got to school, and I was able to talk to my friend Nicole who had been through fertility treatments.  When I told her about our next step, she was impressed.  Her RE never went that route with her; it wasn’t until she went to a special clinic did they talk about injections.

OK. So I was feeling better.

My delivery was scheduled for 7-11pm. I tried to relax, but I was antsy.  It was a beautiful night, and J. and I made a fire in the backyard…but my ears were listening for every car that drove by.  Finally, at 10:45pm, the delivery guy arrived. 10:45pm!  Who delivers drugs at that hour???  (Legally, I mean.)

I went to the front door, and a Nigerian guy strolled up to my door, apologizing profusely, and handed me a big brown bag full of the goods. The whole things just felt shady to me.

I brought them inside, dumped them on my bed, and I could slowly feel my freak-out coming on.  I had no idea what to do with any of it…what order I was supposed to take them, which ones were for what…I didn’t even know the names of what I was taking.  I went to the website the NP gave me, but the video wouldn’t play on my iPad or my laptop without installing Flowplayer. Flowplayer? Really?  What even is that?

I tried to install it, but it wasn’t working, and I didn’t have the mental energy to figure it out.

At this point, J. is telling me to call the doctor and get his a$$ out of bed to help me, to call my ER triage nurse friend because she would know what to do, to call the hospital…I just wanted to cry. I felt so unprepared. This was $8000 worth of meds – I couldn’t screw this up!

I sent J. back outside, took a few deep breaths. OK. I’m a teacher. I’m smart. I can read the directions and figure this out.

And that’s what I did.  About 10 minutes later, I called J. back in to come and stick me (I couldn’t bring myself to do the actual injection).

Well, we think we did it right, and I guess tomorrow, we’ll know.

I’m feeling kind of ambivalent about all of this.  Not sure if it is my defense mechanisms or not, but I just have this ‘feeling’ that this won’t work and I’m going to have to go down the IVF road. That I am going to have to play this out to the end. I have no basis for this – just a feeling.

I get these ‘feelings’ about things sometimes, but like I said, I’m not very intuitive; I’m right just about as often as I’m wrong.

Case in point: the past 3 days in a row, I kept seeing/hearing things or someone would say something to me about twins. I don’t know that it means anything, but something like that can turn into a ‘feeling’ for me. So, that’s what I mean – my hunches are unreliable.

I think I do better when I just try to stay level, not think too much about it, try not to figure it out. Ambivalence.

There is one thing,however, that I am not ambivalent about; in fact, I am very convinced of it. It still comes back to this word: hope.

Here’s how it happened this time: On Thursdays, I meet with our senior prayer team before school.  I got my period on Wednesday, and I felt like I should share my situation with this group and have them pray for me.  At school, I’m pretty private about my infertility issues; some teachers know, but if students had caught wind of anything, it couldn’t have been much at all – and it certainly wasn’t from me.

Still, I wasn’t sure if God really put it on my heart, but in a situation like this, I would rather obey what I believed to be God than end up disobeying God. It was a fairly low-risk scenario, so I went with it without giving it too much thought.

So, at the prayer meeting, I briefly shared with them and asked if they would include me in their prayers.  They all prayed very sincere and touching prayers for me, but one in particular caught my ear:

“Lord, I pray that Mrs. Landry would know that there is hope. I believe that You gave me that word – hope – for her. So I pray that Mrs. Landry would have hope.”

Hope.

There it was again.

After we finished, I showed her my necklace.

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Even when I’m tempted to, even when I want to, I can’t escape hope.

I don’t know what this cycle will bring. I don’t know if the injections will work; I don’t know if this cycle will be it . I don’t know if we will have to go all the way to IVF. I don’t know if twins are in the picture.

But I’m getting to the place where the particulars don’t matter that much. There’s hope. “Faith is the substance of things hoped for…”

If I could sum it up in a sentence, it’s this: I have this feeling that it’s not me holding onto Hope; it’s more like Hope holding on to me.

[Photo Credit: The Trevor Project]

Thoughts on a ‘Should-Have-Been’ Due Date

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This Friday would have been my due-date. And yes, I’m going to go there: it should have been my due date.

I can’t help but notice how different it is for me this time around. Just about a year ago was my due-date for #1.  And honestly, I don’t really remember processing it at all.  I think, at that time, I was at peace with my first miscarriage. I realized, while sad, it happens sometimes.  I think I was okay because I didn’t think it would happen again.

This time around, I’ve been very cognizant of milestones. Of dates. Of events.

On Mother’s Day: “I would have been 2 weeks away from holding my little one in my arms.”

While planting flowers and doing yardwork: “I would have been too pregnant to be doing this right now.”

At my assorted school events earlier this month: “I would have been fat and waddling around; I would have been needing to take it easy.”

Seeing the pregnant lady at my aunt’s graduation over the weekend: “Wow, she’s really pregnant. About to burst. That would have been me.”

Would-have-beens. Should-have-beens.

Instead of wrapping up things at work and making sure my hospital bag is packed, I’m going in for my 3rd IUI tomorrow.  It’s not lost on me: “I shouldn’t have to be doing this. I should be getting ready to welcome my baby.”

Should-have-been. I know. It’s dangerous to go there. Who even has a right to say what ‘should be’?  I’m not God; I have no right to even speak about ‘should.’

But still, it creeps up in my heart.  It shouldn’t be this hard to have a baby. And while I’m not a basket-case and I’m coping pretty well, there is still a background sadness that I carry with me. For what should have been.

My good friend saw me this morning at worked and asked how I was doing.

‘Okay,’ I said, as I usually do.

Being her usual, observant self, she said, ‘You’re not okay.’  

No, I wasn’t. I told her about tomorrow. I told her about Friday.  I told her how my life is lived in 2-week blocks: from cycle-day-1 to ovulation to the 2-week-wait; every 2 weeks, I can eat turkey and drink coffee and have a decent work-out. I told her how tiring this roller coaster is: every menstrual cycle coming with a twin cycle of hope-possibility-fear-disappointment-perseverance-hope….

She did what any good friend would do: she cried with me, hugged me, told me how sorry she was I had to go through this, and she prayed for me.

She said one thing in her prayer that really struck me: she prayed that I would ‘look to the future and not get stuck in the present.’  That really caught my attention because usually, we are instructed to do the opposite: focus on today and don’t look too much to the future. But I understood what she meant.

Right now, the present hurts. It sometimes feels hopeless. Like it will never change.  But hope looks to the future; hope believes that things can and will change.  That things won’t always be like this.

So I’m trying – to live in the present and have hope for the future. I’m managing, I suppose. Some days, I’m doing better than managing; some days  - worse.

Instead of packing my hospital bags this Friday, I’ll be packing bags that will carry something a little different than all the baby gear: My bathing suit. Sunscreen. Flip-flops. Summer clothes (that are too tight, by the way, thanks to this damn Clomid).

A generous friend invited me and a few girls from work to a house she rented on Anna Maria Island in Florida. And she paid for my plane ticket, too.

When I think about it, I’m touched by God’s care for me. He knew Friday would be hard. He knew that being home in my normal enviroment would only make me dwell on what should-have-been.

I’ll miss J., for sure, but I won’t lie. There is something carefree and healing about escaping with the girls in a house on the beach. Doesn’t make up for not having a baby, but if I have to be anywhere, Anna Maria Island is not a bad alternative. Takes the sting out a little.

Part of me doesn’t want to think about it or remember what Friday is. Another part of me doesn’t want to forget.

In what I think is a fair compromise (at least that is what I tell J), I bought something to remind me but not crush me. (And if we are talking about ‘should-have-beens,’ I ‘should have been’ getting a Mother’s Day present this year, anyway.)

Another friend of mine had an Origami Owl party, and trying to respect the budget, I had no intention of buying anything.  Then, suddenly, it hit me that this really would be the perfect way to remember and at the same time, hold on to hope.

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The gold November stone is for Baby #1; the pink October stone is for Baby #2. And ‘hope’ is – well, it’s my word from God for this year – and I don’t want to forget that, either.

So I’ll bring #1 and #2 with me into IUI#3 tomorrow. I’ll bring them with me to the beach on Anna Maria Island this weekend.  I’ll bring them with me always.

And, I’ll bring ‘hope.’ Because hope is there, too.

Me vs. Infertility: IUI#2 – Fail

imageSigh.

This was a tough blow.  Everything looked so much better this time around. The timing was better (last time, the IUI was a day late because they’re closed on Sundays); our numbers were better. I really thought this might have been it. I really thought so.

Sometimes, I just don’t get it. I mean, there are MILLIONS of swimmers. It only takes one. How does it not happen???

This one had me fooled.  It wasn’t the symptoms that fooled me; it was the lack of symptoms.  Last time, I felt like I was pregnant. All the symptoms. But I wasn’t.

This time, I had none of the symptoms -just a little moodiness, which isn’t typical PMS for me -  so I thought that must be a good sign.

And there was no sign of my period (I have been like clockwork since my miscarriage and D&C).  Not the day it was due. Not the day after it was due.  I felt panic every time I went to the bathroom, but still no sign.   Every minute that it hadn’t come was a minute closer I was to being in the clear. Like maybe I really was pregnant.

I took two pregnancy tests – both were negative.  Maybe I implanted late and there wasn’t enough hormones in my urine yet? I knew when I ovulated – but still, my period was late.  This is what happened when I was pregnant the last time. No period. Negative tests. I got a positive a week later.

I thought, for sure, this was the same thing.  Two days late.

But the next day, there she was.

I was crushed.  This one hit me hard.  I have been pretty positive and upbeat for the past few weeks. Even the past few months. Rallying in hope and not letting myself get discouraged. I don’t think I have even cried about my unpregnant status since the last time I cried about my miscarriage – months ago.

But this time, there was a lot of tears.  It was one of those days where I was hoping I would make it out of the building without anyone seeing me. Hoping no one would randomly pop into my classroom during a free period.  Driving home with my sunglasses on.

J. could see it on my face immediately when he got home. He knew.

So here we are. Two IUIs down.

Sometimes, it’s really hard to hold to hope.  Each month just feels defeating. Demoralizing. It’s hard to pick yourself back up and get your feet planted on hope again.

But that’s really what we have to do. Each month. Each day.  Just remind ourselves that we still have hope. Just because it didn’t happen this month doesn’t mean it won’t happen.

And I really have to remind myself of that.  That is immediately where my mind goes after each disappointment: “This is never going to happen!”

That just isn’t the truth. And logically, that isn’t even reasonable.

So, today, I’m still fighting. The fight feels a little harder today. It felt hard during NIAW. It felt hard when I got my period. It felt hard on Mother’s Day.

It’s all just compounded, and my heart is heavier than it’s been in a while over this. I just feel so tired – tired of trying to stay positive. Tired of feeling like a Debbie-Downer. Tired of feeling like I need to boycott Facebook for what might set me off. Tired of avoiding pregnant women and friends with babies because I just don’t want to talk about it – or hear about it. Tired of being a bad friend.

Lately, I feel like I just can’t escape it. It’s all around me. There’s no where to go.

Sometimes, I feel like this battle is stealing my soul from me. Sucking my life from me. Changing me.

However, in spite of all this, we’re not giving up. We are still fighting. We’ll try again this month.

I know God has a plan. I know God has a reason for His timing. I know, on the other side of this, what I’m feeling now will seem ‘light and momentary.’

But tonight, it’s hard.

I suppose that’s just the typical journey of infertility: lots of really, really, hard days followed by one little life that makes it all worth it.

So, for that, we don’t give up. We fight. We hold onto hope.

Time to Kill

time

This never happens to me. Not ever.

Having a few unallocated moments in my day. Time to kill.

But here I am, at my desk at work…the kids are all gone.  I have to be back here tonight for our Senior Symposium, where some seniors are presenting their thesis papers.  The boys’ baseball team has their last home game in about an hour.  I’m caught up on my grading (that NEVER happens), my lesson plans for the week are done, nothing especially pressing for me to do between now and 7pm and tomorrow morning.

So, I’m reading blogs, catching up on commenting, thinking about my week.

It’s May. We have 28 days of classes left. It actually is starting to feel like spring.

I’m running through my mental to-do list for this week…

...go to the bank and resolve the security breach with my ATM card….

…buy half-and-half on sale at Handy Pantry…

…get ready for our 11th veterans’ service-learning project this Thursday night…

…book our hotel for our vacation this summer….

…call the library about Season 4 of Downton Abbey...

…research prices for installation for an air conditioner and dishwasher…

But other than that, it is eerily quiet inside my brain now.  Not quite sure what to make of it.  I have that nagging feeling that I am forgetting something major. A phone call I was supposed to make? A bill I was supposed to pay? A deadline I am supposed to meet?

It’s quiet. One might say, ‘peaceful.’  I don’t know if I would say that, but I’ll take quiet. Even for just a few minutes.

It’s too nice out to sit at my desk.  I told myself, after our brutal winter, I would not waste one day of being outside in beautiful weather when I have the chance.

So whatever it is I fear I’m forgetting, it will have to wait to be remembered.

[Photo Credit: Youoptimist.com via Pinterest]

The Other Reason I Wasn’t Blogging Last Week

imageI didn’t lie. Yes, I really was preoccupied with Downton Abbey (got through Season 3, by the way. Ugh. Crushing).

And yes, I was still climbing out from underneath a mound of 11th grade thesis papers.

But there was another reason I didn’t really blog last week:

NIAW.

For those of you who aren’t members of the club (and count your blessings if you aren’t), NIAW is National Infertility Awareness Week.

Let me put out a disclaimer here. First, I am grateful for the heart behind that week. I am grateful for their slogan ‘Resolve to Know More.’ I am grateful for all they did to raise awareness in the rest of the world that is out of the loop on this issue.

But honestly? I didn’t want to know more. I know all too well. I know too much.

I spend a great deal of energy trying to forget that infertility is a reality in my life. I didn’t want to be reminded of it every where I turned.

I did read some great articles by some of my blog friends. I was even invited to write articles for WhattoExpect.com and FertilityAuthority.com. But after a day or two, it was all just too much for me.

I found that it wasn’t helping me to be reading about infertility everywhere I looked. Actually, it was depressing me.

And it was hard for me to even read some of the regular blogs I follow. I didn’t want to read about successful IVFs or IUIs. Or pregnancy updates. Or surprise BFPs. Or crushing BFNs. Or miscarriages. Or more delays and complications.

I didn’t want to read about anybody’s good news. I didn’t want to read about anybody’s bad news. I didn’t want to read about the actual odds of conceiving when you are my age and in my situation. I didn’t want to ‘know more.’

It wasn’t helping.

All it was making me do was focus on looking at things with my natural eyes, not my spiritual eyes. All I could see was pregnancies happening for everyone else and not me. All I could see was problems others were having, so why should I believe it would happen for me, then?

In short, all I could see was infertility. And what I couldn’t see was God.

I couldn’t see that there is always hope with God. I couldn’t see that nothing is impossible with Him. I couldn’t see that He has a perfect time for our family to come into existence.

I couldn’t see any of that.

So I took a step back last week. And I’ll be honest – I didn’t feel a ton better. It was still hard. Downton Abbey helped, but my heart was still heavy. Now, I know this is part of the ups and downs of infertility, and I guess NIAW coincided with a ‘down’ moment. Or maybe caused it. Who knows.

Anyway, my point is that we all have our ways of coping with infertility. Some people feel better talking about it all the time; I feel better not talking about it all the time.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the sisterhood and support and conversations and comradeship I’ve found among other women struggling with this. It’s been an anchor to me in many dark moments. It’s just that, last week, it was just a little too much. I wasn’t dealing so well, and I just wanted to forget all of this.

And I really think we all just need to do whatever it is that helps. Sometimes talking about it or reading about it or commenting on it helps. Sometimes it doesn’t. And it’s all fine.

Whatever brings hope, courage, peace, strength just to get through another day – or minute- do that.

[Photo Credit: C. Jill Reed]