Tuesday, May 1, 2012

4 and 500

Today is just between two very important milestones on This Cross I Embrace.

April 25th, 2012 marked my 4 Year Anniversary.

And this post is #499. Just shy of 500.

Can that be right? FOUR years? And 500 posts?? And I haven't learned to shut up, yet?? ;)

With this milestone comes a heavy post to celebrate. There has been too much fluff on this blog for a while, now, and I do finally have some real, raw, emotion-ridden thoughts to share.

About infertility.

And about humility.

And about God.

I've made the statement on several occasions that I know God has given me the opportunity to suffer through infertility because He knew it would be the very best form of suffering for me. As a young girl who wanted to be nothing other than to be 'a good mother,' allowing me to grow closer to Him through this cross was exactly what my soul needed.

But more than anything else, it has taught me humility in a way I never knew possible.

Here are some little-known facts about TCIE:

From Kindergarten up through 12th grade, I was the top-ranking student of my class. (No, I'm not kidding.) Graduated Valedictorian with a final average of 96.1%

I entered a college that, at the time I was accepted, was ranked the #4 liberal arts school in the nation by the annual Pr.inceton Review. (I didn't get in to the #1 or #2 school, but another of our beloved IF bloggers did ;) )
(Unfortunately for my parents and me, the school has consistently ranked #1 most expensive tuition. It's a sad state of affairs when you realize you would have to work 2 years to be able to afford to send yourself to your own alma mater for 1.)
I started school in February, with a handful of other selected students (students that admissions felt had the ability to come in midway through the scholastic year and adjust well, and add some flair to the class) - and ended up graduating in 3 1/2 years. While in school, I lived and studied in Italy, speaking only Italian and fully immersing myself in the culture (for 6 months). I graduated cum laude.

I went into teaching, got my certificate to teach K-5, via an alternate route that did not require me to have majored in education. I began two different Master's programs, both of which didn't pan out into something I was passionate about, so I stopped both (one in special needs education and the other in education administration).

The reason I'm telling you all of this now is because I have learned that none of that matters. When it comes down to it, the accomplishment in my life that makes me the most proud is my marriage and how we have suffered through infertility, inadoption, and the plethora of other issues thrown at us over the past 6 years.

For many women, growth occurs in motherhood. There have been several articles and blog posts revolving around this idea, which we have all seen, how motherhood strips you of 'self' and requires from you so much more than you ever thought imaginable.

And I don't debate that. I see how beautifully motherhood has shaped so many of my dear friends, particularly those who struggled with infertility first.

But what I have noticed is that in my own life, the crosses that have been entrusted to me have been serving the same purpose.

Through these continuing crosses, I have practiced humility in my daily work and interactions with patients and clients. I have been better able to counsel others who are mothers, or who are struggling to become mothers. I have put others' needs ahead of my own, day-in and day-out. And I adore it. I adore sitting in an ultrasound room after someone's ultrasound and discussing the spiritual battle involved in desiring pregnancy, with women in all stages of life, with adoptive mothers, with biological mothers, with mothers who have miscarried, and with those who have never been mothers. I have gained insight that I know never would have been possible if my crosses had already been lifted.

On Catholic Radio last night, I heard an interview with an ex-football star whose wife battled breast cancer and eventually lost. They wrote a book together before she passed, in which they discuss the oh-so-human need to find the "next big blessing." I thought this was very reminiscent of the Old Testament Israelites being led out of Egypt (which I've talked about before), being pacified by a gigantic miracle one minute, back to complaining the next. We tend to forget all of our past and present blessings in the midst of suffering or in the midst of trauma. But more than that... we tend to not realize that the suffering IS part of a very big blessing in our lives.

All of those things I talked about from my past, as wonderful as they are, they are nothing because I was nothing when I accomplished them. I am still nothing. Without God, there is no "TCIE." Just fluff.

"For my power is made perfect in weakness." - St Paul

My weakness is my many crosses. And so I triumph that I am able to continue suffering to be made more and more weak... that in the end, I will be made strong through it.

This past weekend, I had a huge shock.

I was at my friend's wedding, a beautiful young lady I have the pleasure of working with at one of the NaPro Centers. While at the church before the Mass, I saw tons of familiar faces (it was like a Who's Who of the AAFCP). Shortly before the processional began, I heard someone call my name in a sharp whisper. When I turned around, I saw my old college best friend and ex-Maid of Honor, sitting directly two rows behind me. Shock of a lifetime, considering I have not seen this woman in 6 years since my wedding day.

I won't bore you with details. Suffice to say, we had a falling out, some very hurtful things were said that took me a long time to forgive, but I was not able to re-open that friendship. I did not continue correspondence, but did receive several letters and Christmas cards. The last I knew she had 2 kids, 1 that was born right around the time my honeymoon baby should have been born... and another about 1.5yrs later.

Well here she was, with another year-old baby in her arms, both of us with looks of "What the...!" written all over our faces.

As it turns out, she had been a charting client of my friend who was getting married.

I can't even begin to tell you how coincidental that is.

God created this encounter for a reason. If only for this:

After "catching up" with my old friend and her husband, and inevitably sharing the oh-so delicate information that every infertile woman just can't wait to tell their ex-best friend, I received not much more than this as a response: "Well, what does that even really mean? I mean, it's not like a permanent thing, right?"

I realized, after discussing the topic a little more, and Mr TCIE singing my praises of how many couples I have helped all because of my cross (I love him!), that motherhood has not done for her what unwanted childlessness has done for me. I did notice a softness to her that was lacking in college and afterwards... a softness no doubt brought through mothering 3 children under 5, along with some other personal crosses she did share with me in a means of reaching out and identifying with us (which was actually quite nice). But Mr TCIE probably put words to it best, as he talked to me on our way home from the wedding. He said that it's amazing how God works - because He gave us exactly the cross we needed, and he gave them the cross they needed. He was able to identify in my old friend a sense of longing, a sense of envy over all that I was doing in my career. He reminded me of how she had often said she felt her college degree was being "wasted" and that she just didn't feel like she was putting her education and experience to use. Meanwhile, all I ever used to talk about was motherhood :) I didn't care if my college degree hung in a dusty picture frame in a closet the rest of my years, as long as I got to be a stay-at-home Mom.

But, as Mr TCIE concluded, God knew better.

He allowed me to not get what I wanted so much, in order to get what I needed so much. Humility.
And I believe he's doing the same thing through my friend.

While we may look at each other and long for certain aspects of the other's life, I know in my heart I am where He wants me to be. And truly, nothing could bring me more joy, more obedience, more selflessness than knowing that and living that, every day of my life.

Becoming a mother would have brought me too much happiness to truly feel the sufferings that many mothers feel - not being able to breastfeed, losing sleep and personal hygiene, not being able to have MORE children, etc. I'm not saying it would have been all rainbows and roses all the time, but I know it wouldn't have made me the person I am today.

Of course, should God choose to lift the cross of childlessness anytime soon, I would not protest :) If He wills it, I will be obedient. No matter what.

For those of you still struggling with childlessness, please take this to heart. Please stop what you're doing and take this moment to thank God for THIS blessing. Thank Him for allowing YOU to be the vehicle He works through to be a spiritual mother to others. Thank Him for allowing you more time to become weak, more time to be humbled. This is YOUR TIME. Use it. And use it wisely.

Each and every one of you was prayed for at the St Gianna Feast Day Mass. God will provide you with what you need - trust in Him.


barbie said...

We seem to think similar thoughts at similar times....I was just writing a blog in my head about this because of a chat I had while visiting Grant's sister in Alabama. I will write it out soon, be on the look out.

Thank you for this beautiful post. Happy Anniversary and happy 500th post, don't you dare stop anytime soon! Love you.

Kaitlin @ More Like Mary said...

This is really beautiful.

doctorgianna said...

Thanks for sharing:)

All in His Perfect Timing said...

Congrats on the soon to be 500th post!!! I always love to read what you say!
It really helps me to read that God gives us different crosses at the right time. Thank you for illustrating that through you and your friends' story ... it gives me peace knowing He is in control no matter what I think I want.

Donna said...

Wow! What an amazing, thoughtful, God inspired post! I am ever so awed by the wisdom you find in your situation and that you share with all of us. What a blessing that is. I am grateful to be able to read all you have to day.

Ania said...

You're right, if we were given everything we wanted all the time, when we wanted it, we'd be spoiled and unable to be sensitive to the sufferings of others. While I can't say I embrace this cross as well as you, I'm learning to see the good that its brought.

Sew said...

Love you!

Blessed said...

Wow! 4 years and nearing your 500th post. Your blog has been a blessing!

Our crosses are shaping us in ways we could never have imagined. My perspective of motherhood would never have been the same if not for the cross of IF. IF has taught me so much - what a blessing children are, never to take things for granted in life, and how good suffering is for our souls.

Rebecca said...

Thank-you for being the hands and feet of Jesus to me today (and words too :)). Between my most recenty whining post and a few other things I was really starting to lose sight of all of this and all of the blessings of my life.

I pray every day that this cross is lifted from you, and while I wish you'd never had a moment of this pain, I am and will be grateful forever that you've shared your journey with me. To be able to call you "friend" is something I can never be thankful for enough.

Hebrews 11:1 said...

I feel like I never have anything eloquent to say in your comments, but it's only because basically every post you write makes me speechless!! I promise I really am quite good with words. :)

You blow me away, every time. It sounds trite and cliche to say you are an incredible person, but you really, really are. I'm not kidding or exaggerating when I say that through you, I feel like I'm getting to know a future saint! You're the most amazing person I don't know. :) And a Yankee fan to boot. :)

You have been, and continue to be, a huge blessing in my life. And please, don't ever, ever shut up. :)

Endless Strength said...

I'm kind of new here, and I'm not IF, but read several blogs of women who have shared their struggles.

I really love what you wrote here and only in the last 3 or 4 years have I really understood how humility plays into a Life in Christ. I like to call Humility, my Pet-Virtue. It's the one where I feel all the other virtues spring from, really and the one in which I am in constant need of growth.

Thank you for sharing. Happy Blog-versary.

My Heart Exults said...

This was the most beautiful post.

Perfect Power in Weakness said...

What a beautiful reflection. Thanks for sharing how you've grown in your faith and spiritual maturity.

airing the chapel said...

There are just a few of us in this community accepting childlessness so I very much appreciate what you wrote. I see the blessings in accepting this cross every day and hopefully the mothers who read your post will take to heart the wonderful spiritual message you presented.

I used to take it personally the posts that suggested or down-right said women can only reach their spiritual growth through motherhood. I never found that argument theologically sound and I think it separates Catholic women who should come together.

God has a use for all of us, unique talents to serve His Kingdom on earth. We don't have to go to an Ivy League college, be married, or be a stay-at-home mom to achieve what God wants for us.

Thank you for being a voice that supports that idea, that we are all equal in Christ.

Julie said...

As I your amazing words in this post, I kept thinking to myself "I really wish I had read this or figured this out during my 9 years of childlessness that started out our marriage"...then as I read more of your post I came to realize that although those 9 years were the darkest of my life and I barely survived (I HAD NO ONE IN MY LIFE, REAL OR ONLINE FOR SUPPORT) the hardest cross I have ever carried. God had a reason for me carrying it alone. I won't know His reasons in this life, but I trust that He wanted what was best for me.
I really see your sanctity shining for Christ in this amazing post. God Bless you!!!

the misfit said...

I think it's possible that God allows some of us to carry crosses not BECAUSE they're hand-picked as what we need, but in SPITE of the fact that they are harmful. That blessings may come out of them I do not doubt, but sickness is evil and I will always believe that God allows evil, but does not will it. I'm not disputing, of course, that infertility has borne ENORMOUS fruits in your life. But I believe that, had you had children, God would have provided you with the graces to attain holiness in that life as well. Likewise, if I say that God is absent because I can't have a child, I'm being ridiculous - His grace is still available to me. And suffering is, to be sure, a unique source of grace, where other sorts of blessings are not. (Blessings that don't involve suffering are always suspect in my book...but then, I'm acquainted with a fairly mean God.)

I don't really have a right to argue with you on here, I guess, but I think we have to remember that there are people for whom infertility (like other sorts of crosses) is not a source of greater grace holiness and strength than a different path would have been - for some people, infertility is BARELY survivable (as for some addiction, serious illness, the loss of loved ones, failed marriages, physical trauma, mental illness, and other sufferings make them LESS than they could have been, and in a good world would have been). Here's the deal as I see it - God grades everyone on a curve. Someone who has a steeper hill to climb is going to get a lot more credit for the same apparent progress. This is true even if no one else can tell that the ground under one's feet is sloped. Some of the people He credits very highly will be lucky to make an inch of progress in an entire life. They won't be emotionally and mentally healthy, joyful, and full of obvious virtue; they'll be BARELY surviving, but where a person with no faith would have DRAMATICALLY failed to survive. Their openness to grace, in other words, may have given them a miraculously good outcome in comparison to the natural tendency of their circumstances - but not an objectively good outcome. I would reference here the Monk of the Towering Rage; virtue is not always what it appears to be.

In short, I don't aspire to your virtues in this process (or at all), and while I recognize the shortcomings in my approach to this and many other things, I truly believe I've got no moment to seize. If I keep getting up in the morning just 5% better than I am now, all the angels in heaven should be weeping tears of joy at so great an achievement. Sometimes a cross just flattens you - for good.

Sorry - AGAIN - for the novella.

St. Rita's Roses said...

Just beautiful~ I keep saying the same thing to you- I really do admire you for all the effort/love/support/kindness you give others in helpling them achieve pregnancy! I do not know how you do it~ it must be from the grace you receive from Him. God Bless you and ur DH.

the misfit said...

So one of the drawbacks of the Name/URL method is that you can't delete your prior comments. But, I'd like to retract mine. First of all, if I want to go into an extended rant on this (or any) topic, I need to do so on my own blog. Second, you are not presenting your experience as normative (save perhaps for the closing exhortation, which obviously you mean with all good will); I'm just choosing to read it that way. And downers abound - it won't stop me writing a post on this, of course - but positive spiritual accounts of this dismal process are so rare. God bless you for your insight and the light you shine on the lives of each of us. And delete my prior comment, if you would be so good.

Amy @ This Cross I Embrace said...

Would you mind if I keep it? I didn't, and I still don't, take offense to anything in it, and I think it presents a very logical and very real approach to childlessness/crosses that is important for others to read. While it may not be the "take-home" message of this particular gal and this particular post, I have felt that way before, and I'm sure you're not the only one who feels that way now. You always present your thoughts truthfully and articulately... and obviously I'm jealous you got into my #1 school choice ;P I'm gonna leave all your past and future comments because I love ya and nothing you say will make me not love ya.

CS said...

Great post, TCIE! You are really inspirational. My heart breaks when you say you would happily leave your degree in the closet and be a SAHM - me too! Even though you have/are making your peace with childlessness, I still pray for you to have a child added to your family.

JellyBelly said...

I so get this post! I was also an overachiever in school and I accomplished every academic goal that I set for myself -- with the exception of being valedictorian, but the girl that was chosen was really well-spoken and a good friend, so I didn't mind too much.

I would give all of those accomplishment, as well as my professional ones, in a heartbeat, so I could be a SAHM. Since I was a little girl I knew that I was meant to be a mother, which is a hard thing to reconcile since we've struggled with IF for so long.

Again, a beautiful post. It was like you were in my head, but WAY more eloquent!

Happy blogoversary!

Angelique said...

It truly is awe-inspiring to read your faith-filled post. You have been given an amazing gift in your faith and perspective, and an even greater gift in your ability to relay it so eloquently. Thank you so much for sharing this. Happy bloganniversary on behalf of all the hearts you have touched. :o)

Grace in my Heart said...

Beautiful post, straight from the heart. You continue to be in my prayers.

Shannon said...

This is beautiful, dear one.... continued prayers coming your way.

mrsblondies said...

Your posts are so beautiful. I wish I could express myself as beautifully as you do.

Hafsa said...

This is such a beautiful post. Love your writing.

Beth said...

You freakin rock :)

Janine said...

Thanks for this post, I thank God that I stumbled across it today. I can relate to a lot of what you said and am thankful to have a new perspective on how to cope with our 2.5 years of infertility.

God's blessings to you!