Wednesday, March 19, 2014

I Made Her Cry

Hanging on the wall in my NaPro office, right outside the ultrasound room, is a poem I wrote for Sew several years ago, The Barren Tree.

The Barren Tree
When God created the barren tree,
I wonder, what was the plan to be?
For this broken monstrosity may stand tall,
but really casts no shadow at all.

Nor does it yield any leaves or fruit,
no life comes forth but from its root.
Leafless, lifeless, dry, and thin,
the Barren Tree just doesn't fit in.

Yet, amongst the fertile trees of green,
the barren one is clearly seen-
The only tree without any dressing,
in its deficiency shines forth its blessing.
Strong and sturdy, tall and proud,
the Barren Tree stands apart from the crowd.
While its branches reach outward and upward to God,
it seems to be praying, giving thanks to its God.
For it has been chosen for wondrous things,
it knows what importance its presentation brings.
And so with its presence, it sets an example,
which its green, fertile neighbors never can trample.
Knowing that it is fulfilling God's will,
its strength fuels its perseverance in standing tall and still.
And it's then that I no longer question God's plan,
because as I reflect on the woman I am 
I see my soul in the strength of that tree...
and I realize, the Barren Tree is me.

In the beginning of my work with Creighton Model clients and ultrasound patients, I would very candidly share about my experiences with infertility.  Without delving into too much detail, I would give the information where I saw that it could benefit someone in their stage of life, be it infertility, single life, premenopause, or avoiding pregnancy.  Today, I usually only disclose the information if and when it is asked of me, except in cases of infertility clients who are greatly suffering.  And so, it does surprise me when I get sneak-attacked by my own infertility when I least expect it!  And that's what happened yesterday.

I was having a follow-up Creighton Model session with a woman I've been teaching for about a year, now.  She is a lovely 30-something, currently spacing pregnancy, and comes with a lot of emotional baggage of her own.  She asked me right at the beginning of our meeting:
"I saw that poem in the front of the office, about the barren tree... I read it last time I was here, and just noticed the initials at the bottom are A.S.  Did you write that?"
"Yes, I did."
"Oh!  {pause of silence and contemplation}  When?"
"Umm... I think several years ago, maybe 2009?"
"{another long pause}  Oh... do you mind if I ask... do you, have you... are you able to have any children?"
{matter-of-fact-ly, and with a jovial tone of voice} Well, I haven't been able to up until this point, but I'm not going to say it'll never happen."
"And so, you do this work and you deal with others all day who are charting, and... {voice trailed off}"
"Oh, it's been such a blessing!  I only got into this line of work because of my own infertility.  I really enjoy it, and have met some truly amazing people."

It was at that point that I noticed she had reached for the tissue box in our consult room, and was wiping away tears in her eyes and on her cheek.
And my first reaction was, Oh no, what did I say??!  It was only when she began to talk again that I realized why she was crying.
"Well, I just... you've been so important in my life, and I really think of you as a great friend to me.  I'm very thankful you do this.  I'll be praying for you..."

I am very much a "In the Moment" type of person.  I react quickly, respond quickly, and move along to the next thing.  But processing?  Processing takes me a bit longer.  (I think that's the Melancholic in me.)  It hit me in the moment that she was crying because of me.  Not because of anything I said, but just because of me - my situation, that she had been ignorant of until that moment.  It touched me that she said what she did, and that she was moved to tears, even, but in the moment, I responded with an assurance that I'm ok, that it's ok, and that God has a beautiful plan for me.
Now, in processing it all after the fact, I wonder just how sad my story must seem to those who hear it for the first time.  I know there were definitely moments in my infertility journey when I believed I had the absolute worst of every possible problem, and there was no doubt in my mind that my story was not only sad, but also hopeless, desperate, and isolated.  No one needed to cry for me to convince me I was a sad, sad case - because chances were, I was already crying on the inside.  But yesterday was different.  I wasn't sad outwardly.  I wasn't sad inwardly.  And even after our dialogue, I only became mildly sad for her, in her discovery of my past pain and suffering.  
Yet, the truth is that it is a sadness.  To hear about someone you know and respect has been going through a pain you cannot even identify with, but can imagine - and then to hear them discuss it so nonchalantly (and I think the real shocker came when I told her I think I wrote the poem in 2009) - that is a real sadness.  Not just for her, but for me.  And I acknowledge the pain and the suffering of my past, and I continue to live in the sorrow today.  But maybe, just maybe, her tears weren't just for the discovery of my infertility.  Maybe her tears had more to do with the person she saw in front of her yesterday.  The woman who could speak nonchalantly about such a heavy cross.  The woman who hadn't thought it pertinent enough to discuss her cross with someone whose cross was so different and so much heavier in many ways.  Maybe it was that woman, the woman I continue to work on daily, that stirred the emotion of yesterday.
And I rejoice in that thought.  To God be all the glory, I am only the vessel who finally learned to empty herself to make room for the riches from above.

(Stay tuned for GAPS prep work in the TCIE kitchen!)


Kat said...

Beautiful! I love how your work and what you've gone through are so uniquely intertwined.

Sew said...

I love the poem and the pic hangs in my laundry room!

E said...

Oh wow. So much can come out from those follow ups. During our IF, I had this friend that called me to see how I was doing with IF and just started crying because she felt like she didn't appreciate her own children and I couldn't have any. It was boggling to me at the time. So that tree, even though it feels like part of the forest, does stand out because of its out stretched limbs to God endlessly. Like you. Prayers my friend!

WheelbarrowRider said...

I love that poem. And if I were in that office crying, it wouldn't have been because I was sad for you or your situation exactly. I can't speak for her, but I would have cried over the beauty of the situation. The gift of self in what you do. The same as I cried over the beauty of an infertile friend snipping the tags off maternity clothes she had bought and saved for years so that I could wear them. Such a selfless beautiful act. Like what you do.

JellyBelly said...

You are such an inspiration to me, on so many levels. Your friendship has carried me through so much of this awful journey, I can imagine how much you touched this particular client.

I am blessed to call you friend!!

All in His Perfect Timing said...

I have no words.
What a beautiful poem (loved it when I first read it) - and what an inspiration you are to others ... being God's vessel. <3

Rebecca said...

I keep trying to leave a comment, but nothing is coming out right.

My heart is smiling and I'm giving you a great big virtual hug.

Faith makes things possible said...

Beautiful post.

Mike Brummond said...

What a beautiful poem!

Casey said...

I have a hard time imagining how our infertility story may effect others outside our immediate family. It's such an awkward thing, most people won't bring it up. Even our families generally sidestep it (probably out of a desire not to cause further pain to us), and I don't think they've even shown any outward sadness about our IF. So to me, your patient's sympathy amd compassion is a beautiful thing. More of that sort of thing might help reduce the feelings of isolation so many of us feel.

God does have a beautiful plan for you, and you are living in it. It brings me joy and consolation to know that God brings some good out of the suckiness of IF, so that even though we are physically barren, our sufferings aren't barren and fruitless too. Like the way you have been so important to that patient, which would never have happened if God hadn't inspired you to become a Napro practitioner as a result of your IF. Truly something beautiful.