400 and 26 [NIAW]

“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?” –Henry David Thoreau 

This past week’s series has been an invitation to look through the eyes of my infertility for a moment, as part of the NIAW (National Infertility Awareness Week). It seemed most fitting, then, to end this week by sharing a friend’s blog post that I’m told was inspired by this series. May I invite you to look through another set of beautiful eyes … 

Redwoods

Last week, I drove 400 miles to a Writer’s Conference in the Redwoods. Each mile would have been worth it for the sake of meeting just this one  new friend: Robynne Miller Feaveryear. Her heart is as big as her name, and our paths crossed before we knew it, as we have both experienced the sacredness of an empty womb amidst a full life.

We “met” through the exchange of manuscript samples – on the most holy of anniversaries. And upon meeting in real life, well, let’s just say there was a lot of laughter, a few tears, and I learned a lot about the prairie. Robynne is a Modern-Day Pioneer Mama who will teach you much more than just how to make your own laundry detergent, and still love ya even if you use Tide Pods like, ahem, someone.

So without further ado and in honor of the end of awareness week (but not of awareness), I introduce you to Robynne, mama to 31 littles, 26 of whom she never got to meet …

26.  Yes, that’s correct.  TwentySix

This huge, ridiculous, appalling number represents the babies I didn’t have.

Some people call them “miscarriages,” as if their precious little hearts never beat and their brains never sent miraculous waves of energy pulsing through their sweet, tiny bodies. But I can’t reduce them to “tissue” that was never meant to be.  They’re my children . . . even if I didn’t get the chance to raise them.

And I miss them all.  Deeply.

I’m not sure I’ll ever know the “why” behind such a large number of losses. I’m not sure I need to. 

Continue reading here …

Dancing in the Driveway [NIAW]

“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?” –Henry David Thoreau

This is a week-long series to invite you to look through the eyes of infertility for a moment, as part of the NIAW (National Infertility Awareness Week). This is not a series about the medical condition of Infertility – you can find facts here if interested.

Instead, this series is dedicated to the heart’s awakening to emptiness – and ultimately, to life. Even without an answer. Each day this week, I’ll be sharing a letter that I penned throughout this journey of infertility, as I tried to find words to describe the silent experience. Days filled with hope, cynicism, laughter, tears – and sometimes all at once.

One in eight couples are experiencing infertility right now – about 7.3 million. We are 1 in 8.

Wedding Run

Ten years ago, I was in the middle of full-swing-wedding-planning. We were only engaged for three months (I know, I KNOW!), so it was go-time from the minute that ring was placed on my finger.

There were no doubts. None. I count myself lucky in that regard, because doubt sneaks up on just about every decision I’ve ever made in my life, but I was spared that in the spousal department. It was simply the easiest decision I’d ever made.

I penned this letter to my Jason last year on our ninth wedding anniversary. It was a particularly painful summer as we’d just finished our last unsuccessful fertility treatment, my husband had just lost his job, and we were in the middle of a major home remodel. So umm, I was a little to the left of crazy.

Still, I married a celebrator. A man who is so good – so good – at pulling me out of my own head and helping me celebrate what we have, and we especially love celebrating having each other. As year ten approaches and someone in this marriage is a little less, ahem, crazy, we’re going BIG. We’re celebrating year ten ala Europe, and you’d better believe I’ll be blogging about that goodness.

As NIAW steers to an end, this letter is dedicated to beautiful relationships everywhere. I oh-so-hope that anyone experiencing unplanned unparenthood – or any sacred loss – can dig deep into the relationships they have and find much to celebrate even in the midst of crazy-town.

Dear J,

Nine years ago this morning I woke up as Mrs. Miller for the first time. 3,285 mornings later, waking up to you is still my very favorite part of the day.

There are so many things I didn’t know nine years ago. I didn’t know we would be cuddlers. I didn’t know I could love you more today than I did then.

I didn’t know how hard marriage could be. I didn’t know how bitter a look we could give one another. I didn’t know how we could bring healing to one another’s world.

I didn’t know that we’d dance so well – not the tango or salsa or real dancing – but the dances stolen in the driveway at midnight just because the moon is peaking through the mist.

I didn’t know anyone could know me better than I know myself. Like knowing what I wished I had ordered for breakfast as I look longingly at your plate, and you nudge a fork towards me. Or like that time you packed a book for me to read on vacation so that when I exclaimed, “Dang, I forgot to bring a book”, you were right there. Like knowing my favorite tea. Like the grin and grip of trusting my driving.

I didn’t know that we would explore the world. That my love for airports and cultural foods and all things related to a passport would be shared. That a spirit of adventure would root deeply in us both. That we would sell everything and then buy it back again. That the gleam in your eye – the one that comes on the verge of adventure – would be so alluring.

I also had no idea the storms we’d be asked to weather. The tears we would cry. The nights of deep and dark pain that would penetrate our souls. The losses we’d be asked to bear.

There’s something about those stormy days, though, that make it all the sweeter to hold your hand on the sunny ones like today. There’s something so much richer to clinging to one another when we’ve been through days where it’s all we had to cling to. There is a grace in knowing that this anchor holds. That our relationship isn’t determined by the number of sunny days versus dark days. That our love isn’t circumstantial. That loss, while real, doesn’t define us. That our friendship outweighs our fears.

I’ve been given a rich life with you, my love. I’m thankful every day, but particularly today, day number 3,286.

 

Welcoming Baby (when it’s not yours) [NIAW]

“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?” –Henry David Thoreau

This is a week-long series to invite you to look through the eyes of infertility for a moment, as part of the NIAW (National Infertility Awareness Week). This is not a series about the medical condition of Infertility – you can find facts here if interested. 

Instead, this series is dedicated to the heart’s awakening to emptiness – and ultimately, to life. Even without an answer. Each day this week, I’ll be sharing a letter that I penned throughout this journey of infertility, as I tried to find words to describe the silent experience. Days filled with hope, cynicism, laughter, tears – and sometimes all at once.

One in eight couples are experiencing infertility right now – about 7.3 million. We are 1 in 8.

IMG_4179

More than 200 babies have been born to our social circle since we first started trying. That means I’ve had, umm, a lot of practice in “the reaction” to pregnancy announcements, births, baby showers and first birthdays. I’ve cried, laughed, cursed, whimpered, scowled, celebrated, jumped, squealed and hid. Let me be clear: all the littles that fill our lives are SUCH a gift – it’s just that their arrival sometimes provides shock waves.

Truth told, it’s not always a friend’s first child that stops me in my tracks, but when they start popping out number two or even three, well, that’s a bit disorienting. It’s easy to feel like your feet are stuck in quick-sand while people are running laps around you.

But one of the sweetest announcements I ever received was from a friend who had also dealt with nearly a decade of infertility. A lot of people tell you “it will happen someday”, but in truth the odds are severely against that – chances of an infertile couple conceiving go DOWN each year, not up. With all the different emotions that can flood your mind when another pregnancy is announced, I think there’s also this heightened sense of awareness for the TTC (trying to conceive) community. Because you know what a miracle one little embryo is. Especially to someone who’s been told it would never happen.

This is a letter I penned years ago in celebration of one such miracle.

Dear Shan,

Ah my friend, today you have crossed into a new world.   Today, the day you gave birth to your beautiful baby boy, you are entering the-land-of-the-newborn. I hear it is a beautiful but sometimes terrifying place.

As you start this new journey, the first thing I want to say is “thank you”. Thank you for being my guide through the desert of infertility for so long. You spoke words to me that were exactly what I needed to hear. You knew when to stay silent. You let me rant, rave, cry, and nervously giggle when the emotions were all jumbled.

Thank you for sharing your heart so freely, because it helped me find my own. You gave me freedom and courage to be honest about this journey. I know you won’t ever forget your own nine-year journey through infertility, because it’s so much more than a physical journey, but not everyone is willing to share it, and you were. And that has meant the world to me.

And second, I want to say DRINK UP! You will always remember the desert, but you don’t live there anymore. So drink, drink, DRINK … drink in the smell of your baby. Drink in the magic of ten little perfect fingers and toes. Drink in the baby meows and coos and cuddles. Drink in the cutest chubbiest cheeks this side of the Mississippi. Okay, both sides of the Mississippi. Drink in the midnight feedings when it’s just you and him while the rest of the world sleeps. Drink in the attention and the oggling. Drink in the wonder that God opened your womb.

Don’t hold back. And don’t apologize. Not to me, not to anyone else still wandering their desert. Don’t hide your babe from us. Because we need to drink him in too … even if my story isn’t your story, I need to drink from the well of promise and hope that this baby boy represents. I need to hold him and cuddle him and laugh at all the adorb things that he inherited from you.

And I might need to cry. I might need to cry because I don’t get to keep him, because I don’t get to see my husband’s eyes in his. And because you are now entering a world that I might never relate to, never really understand. I will listen, and nod, and even chime in my overblown opinion from time to time, but probably won’t understand. Tell me about it anyways.

And I might need to brag, to celebrate that I don’t have to wake up every two hours. To sigh in relief because I’m not juggling life with a newborn. To go on and on about my trip to the Caribbean in this carefree childless life I lead.

Each moment – laughing, crying, bragging with you through this new chapter – is a tiny sip, a tiny dip into the well that reminds me that this sacred journey is not arbitrary and that for some, it’s not forever.

I LOVE YOU. So much. I’m SO excited for you and I’m already in love with his little face. So many new things lie ahead. So DRINK, savor, and celebrate my friend, for you are doubly blessed as God has trusted you with a desert and now, an overflowing oasis.

 

Unplanned Unparenthood

Loss comes in all shapes and sizes.  Mine has come in the form of unexplained infertility.  Last year, I wrote this letter to a friend as I began a journey inward:  a journey into and through my loss. A journey of looking loss in the face and daring it to have something for me.   

This week, I’ll be sharing what I’m learning.  For all those that have faced a future different than what they’d planned, Thursday night will be an important conversation:  Join us for Unplanned Unparenthood and spread the word!  

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Dear Alli,

Your eyes stopped me in my tracks.  Your eyes hold ache.  An ache I know.  An ache I never ever wanted to know.  And my heart breaks in knowing you are now holding this pain too.  Your eyes woke me up to the almost sacred union of infertility.  We know what many women don’t know.  Won’t know.  Can’t know.  The sisterhood of the empty womb.  Not quite as sexy as traveling pants, but what are we gonna do?

We know what it’s like to spend our first few months trying, giggling with our husbands because, well, trying can be quite fun.

We know what it’s like when it stops being fun. When you have to bust out the thermometer, and the calendar, and seventh grade biology books.

We know what it’s like to experience a slow surprise when, month by month, you realize that everyone else’s normal may not be your normal.

We know what it’s like to hit the one-year mark and gasp.

We know what it’s like to literally ache from emptiness.

We know what numb feels like.

I hate knowing these things.  And I know you do, too.

You are on month 20.  I’m on month 50.  Yes, five-zero.  I probably represent your worst fear.  Between us is another thirty months of disappointment.  After just six months of trying, I was so scared that I’d still be sitting here years later.

And here I am.

Fears do come true.  Infertility makes you face that head on.

I hope your fears don’t come true.  I hope your story of infertility ends this month with a pregnancy test.  But if in thirty months you’re still waiting, I want you to know…

That thirty months later you won’t cry as often.

That thirty months later your life will be full, even if your womb still isn’t.

That thirty months later your marriage can be stronger, and more beautiful, than you’d ever imagined.

That maybe you’ll be asked to love an orphan.  That maybe your longing will teach you about theirs.  That maybe you’ll learn how to love by choice instead of by birth.

That maybe you won’t parent at all.  And you’ll learn to celebrate that path, too.

But I guess the reason I’m writing isn’t really to comfort you or scare you or even challenge you.  I’m writing you because I’m just learning how to talk about this.  I’m just learning that we need to talk about this.

Maybe there are things to gain through loss.

Maybe there are gifts and miracles and promises we haven’t understood or discovered before.

Maybe there’s a freedom we can’t even envision.

I’m ready to find out.  And by “ready”, I mean totally terrified.  But let’s go, step by step, and see what there is to see on this unplanned path.