Sunday, August 5, 2012

An Open Letter to My Pregnant Facebook Friends

Dear Facebook Moms-to-Be,

I'm really excited for you. I truly am. Nothing quite matches that feeling of expecting a child, of knowing that a little person is growing inside of you and preparing for that moment when he or she enters the world and irrevocably changes your family for the better.

I loved seeing your announcement, that wonderful post that let the world know that in just a few short months that little bean in your ultrasound picture will be with you and in our lives as well.  I look forward to the pictures that you'll post right after labor. (Though PLEASE don't post during labor.  Maybe I'm old fashioned but I feel like those hours of hard work and labor don't need to include wifi breaks.  They should be private and treasured between you and whoever is helping you out! Wait until you're done and then open up your laptop again.)

I'm sure I'll click on pictures of your baby as he or she grows up and maybe even the occasional video, too.  After all, I love posting pictures of my own child and it's wonderful to see kids growing up, achieving all their firsts and seeing how they change you, my friends, along the way.

But here's the deal.  There are women, lots of them, who cannot experience what you are experiencing.  They have prayed and cried and waited, many for years, and have never seen that little stick turn blue. Or maybe they've seen it turn blue one too many times and never ended up holding that little child in their arms.  Possibly they've undergone painful procedures and tests, have had to change their diets and inject drugs in public bathroom stalls and endured insane mood swings to attempt to get their bodies to cooperate with the whole pregnancy thing.  They've likely read one too many stories about women who chose an abortion rather than give that child up for adoption to women like them who have yearned for a baby for years.  Maybe, like me, they've had the opportunity to have one child and experience pregnancy only to turn around and have any future pregnancies denied them due to the hazy diagnosis of "unexplained secondary infertility."

Whatever the case, facebook can be a hard place.  I want to rejoice with those who rejoice. I really do click on your announcements and though I usually experience a concurrent surge of grief and jealousy, I am excited for this new little life that will enter yours.

What is very difficult for many of us who struggle with infertility is those many posts that complain. That complain of pregnancy weight gain. That speak of fatigue because of a little fetus doing flips during the night.  That daily update us on how hard pregnancy is and how they hope they won't be pregnant again any time soon.    

Because many of us would give anything to have pregnancy weight gain. Or to be kept up at night from a kicking baby.  To have to even think about the idea of fearing another pregnancy too soon.

Do I think you should never complain? Certainly not.  Did I complain when my ankles were swollen and during that awkward period when I grew from "flat belly" to "chubby" but before I hit "baby bump"? Sure. But I didn't complain about it to hundreds of people. Those were the things I talked about with my husband or my mom or a close friend who I knew didn't struggle with infertility at the time.  The immediate world didn't need to know about it and I had already known several friends who had had trouble getting pregnant and had learned at least a little about the arts of discretion and sensitivity in this area.

So, please hear this plea from a gracious and loving standpoint and from someone who has made her own insensitive mistakes along the way.  We are excited for you and will come to (and sometimes host!) your baby showers.  We are usually grateful to hear about your pregnancy via email or phone before you post on facebook if we know you well enough to deserve such a heads up- it helps us prepare for the big announcement that will inevitably incur hundreds of likes and comments, as well it should.  We do want to know. We do want to rejoice.

But know, too, that it often hurts. Sometimes just a little bit deep down or sometimes it hits us on a tough day, when our miscarriages or stillbirths or our unfulfilled longings for pregnancy or our broken adoptions are just right at the surface.  And we don't want to rob you of your joy - that wouldn't be fair or loving of us. But I would love it if when you sought to share your complaints you sometimes, just sometimes, took pause to think of doing it in a way that reflects that you have mourned with those of us who've mourned and that you know we're out there.  And that maybe you value us more than you value a few "likes" on a status that is maybe not so necessary to post.

We live in a world where we're told to do anything we please and the effect on others be damned.  I hope that, at least in my own little facebook world, we can live as though that's not true. Aware of how we affect the people in our lives, choosing to put others ahead of ourselves, making choices that honor God and love people well, rather than just choosing the action that gets the most response from people.  My hope is that those of you who have never been affected by infertility, who haven't even know someone who struggles with it, will know just a little more of how you can support those of us who have had lives enmeshed with this struggle.  There are probably more of us in your life than you are actually aware. 

And my hope, too, is that you WILL keep posting those adorable pics of your babies.  On my good days, they give me hope, they remind me of what's to come and they allow me to rejoice with you.  And that rejoicing always reverberates through my own soul, helping me to wait more patiently and love more exuberantly while I do. 

Thanks for listening,

Carolyn 

Friday, August 3, 2012

School Supplies

I love office supply stores. I really do. I could wander aimlessly through the aisles for hours, dreaming about organizational systems, getting lost in the hundreds of colors of paper I could buy, twirling on office chairs and marveling at the things that have been invented to help streamline processes in our day that we never dreamed needed streamlining. I love the vibe of potential creativity that leaps off the shelves.

So, when we were handed a bright yellow kindergarten supply list at orientation this week, I practically salivated. Finally, after years of having no purpose to enjoy the back-to-school section of Target, here we were.  A nice, orderly list of what my son would need to start his academic career off right. It looked just like what I probably brought to kindergarten back in 1984.  Crayons, #2 pencils, bookbag, glue, scissors, folders, jump drive...oh wait, I'm  pretty sure that last one didn't even exist back then nor did the possibility of a classroom of kindergarteners even having use of a computer   but hey, I guess times do change in 28 years, right? It is still beyond me to know what he'll need it for, but purchase it we did.

I spent a joyful afternoon (go ahead and judge me now) labeling all of our purchases with my electronic labeler, a device which with I would rather give away my microwave rather than part. There is something so nerdily satisfying about a nice, neat label on an unscratched and unsoiled object, even with the knowledge that after probably 2 hours in a kindergarten classroom all of the crayons will be broken, there will be marker stains on the lunchbox, the folders will be dog-eared and that little purple jump drive will probably already be missing, having been unwittingly flushed down the toilet or crammed in some kid's ear. 

So here we are. Three weeks away from kindergarten having survived a process more complicated than some experience to get to college. There are nerves abounding. There are some last minute skills to hone, not least of which is getting the poor child to remember how to spell "Ogrosky." Half the adults I know can't spell it after years of knowing me.  The smell of crayons and freshly sharpened pencils is in the air, if not the scent of fall quite yet. Time will tell how my child fares on his first day- will he throw up like his mother did? (True story, I'm sad to say.) I hope for his sake that his first day is a smidge less dramatic.

For now, we'll keep practicing our last name and pray for his teachers and new friends-to-be.  And gaze at our superhero-saturated school supplies probably once a day, dreaming dreams of how they'll be used and all the exciting new things he'll experience during this major life transition.   Kindergarten, here we come.


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Learning to Like the Road

I remember the way I felt when I first got my driver's license. Driving home after that nerve-wracking test drive with a stranger and his clipboard, I felt victorious. The open road was before me.  I would head home, drop off my mom and then head to pick up some friends and grab a slurpee at 7-11. In my town, there wasn't a lot else one could do with a new driver's license but that blue raspberry slurpee tasted so good.

I'm sure the fun of being in the driver's seat lasted for at least a few months, but for as far back as I can remember I have been more than happy to be in the passenger seat. One of the best perks of being married has been that my husband absolutely loves to drive and so I can spend hours next to him, reading my book, entertaining the child or just falling in and out of a motion-induced stupor.  

However, this past week my son and I took a trip up to NY. Weeks before, I scoured the web looking for reasonable flights to no avail. So, we packed up the car, stocked it full of magic tree house audio books(to which my son is completely addicted) and a few movies thrown in for good measure, set the garmin for Scarsdale and hit the road. During the first hour I probably looked at the clock every 4 minutes. Maybe even every 3 minutes. And I kept thinking (and heavily sighing) to myself, "this is going to take forever!" I was dreading the car ride. Dreading being behind the wheel without someone to which to hand it off. Dreading the amount of time we'd waste trying to get to where we were going.

At this point, Josh was happily listening to his story about dinosaurs and I was hit with one of those moments. You know, the kind when you feel like God directly intervenes and just says "take a deep breath and try praying, why don't you?!" Right. Sometimes I am so discouraged by how long it can take me to realize that this should be the first step in problem solving and not the last. So, I began to pray. To just sit in the presence of God. I-85 is a good road for this. Little traffic and almost nothing at which to look. The child was happily absorbed in his book and so with little interruption I just rested. And somewhere, in the midst of that rest, I began to be hopeful. Hopeful that this trip, this long car ride I had been dreading for months, could be enjoyable in itself. That, for once, I could enjoy where I am rather than focus on where I am heading.

And somewhere in the realization that I might actually enjoy the ride to NY came this deep knowledge that this is usually how I operate. Finding it so hard to enjoy where I am, to live in the now and not constantly looking to what is next. Maybe it's the planner in me that makes it hard to focus on enjoying the road when the destination seems to be the important element in the journey.  And maybe all the waiting I've had to do in the past three years with no discernable destination point has made it even harder to enjoy the process when I DO know where I'm heading with something.  Probably it's yet another form of control. What a shock.

So, sitting there behind the wheel, I relinquished that need to "get there." I stopped looking at the clock every 3 minutes. I stopped staring at the miles slowly decreasing on the gps. And I found myself smiling. Relaxed in a way I have never been on a car ride before. Enjoying the rare chance to sit quietly for hours at a time and not consider that a wasted morning. Still looking forward in a joyful and expectant way to the friends and family I would soon see, but being able to just like the road. To cherish the time with my son who will, in three short weeks, start kindergarten. To savor the quiet monotony of the interstate. To not, for once, be in a rush to get somewhere.

The unexpected side effect to this epiphany was the state of my soul. Rather than arriving full of stress and angst, rather than dreading traffic or being frustrated at potty stops, I just found myself with a big smile on my face.  More patient with my son, more calm on the road, generous toward the other drivers and infinitely more full of energy when we did arrive at our destination. 

It's yet another indication of God's love for me that at a time in our life when we are still waiting, still journeying in several areas, that God would so helpfully and graciously intervene with such a powerful lesson that I am confident will reverberate down through all the roads ahead but, most importantly, help me on this road I currently travel.