Unboxing Ephesians 5:21-33

My husband and I are currently attending a minister and spouse marriage retreat. I won’t say which retreat or where it is, as the rest of the retreat has been fantastic and the last thing I want to do is bad-mouth the retreat or the good people facilitating it.

As expected with most Christian marriage and/or women’s retreats I’ve attended, one of the sessions was on Ephesians 5, verses 21-33 (please take a moment to read it now if you are not familiar with the passage already). To their credit it, they included verse 21; most sessions I’ve attended start with verse 22. Also as expected, the leader took this rich, liberating, culturally subversive passage of Scripture and deflated it, folded it, and pounded it down until it fit neatly into the box we tend to label “Prescription for Marital Gender Roles”.

I usually sit through these sessions full of nervous energy, impulsively tapping my foot and biting my tongue, resenting the anemic presentation of a passage that is anything but!

Not today.

I sat quietly and listened calmly. I know the script by now. I jotted down notes. I admit that I giggled to myself while writing down this one…

“Proof texting: based on verse 29, men should be doing all the cooking.”

After all, the verse describes men “feeding” the body, just as Christ cares for the church. 😋

After the main part of the session, we split into small groups by gender. The leader of the session happened to be leading my group. And I mentally high-fived God.

We trudged our way through the questions… giving mostly flat, predictable answers to the mostly flat, predictable questions on the page. The divorcees in the group also imparted their somber, cautionary wisdom. At 35, it was evident that I was the youngest woman in the group, so I initially hesitated to share what was on my mind regarding the verses and the teaching presented on them.

As we were going around the circle answering the last question on the page (regarding “headship”), the leader asked, “Any final thoughts?” This is when the distinct burning-in-my-soul was roused and signaled that the time for biting my tongue was finally over. I drew a prayerful breath and spoke the following (as closely as I can quote myself after the fact):

“Yes, I have thoughts… I think we would be remiss if we walked away from this session without appreciating what this text is REALLY about. What do we know about first century Greco-Roman culture?”

(At this point, I was already wishing I could interrupt myself to consult with Google because I wasn’t even certain “Greco-Roman” was the right term, but I forged on…)

“I can tell you one thing for sure, women were typically treated worse than 2nd-class citizens. It was a deeply patriarchal culture. Men ruled. Women submitted. Paul wasn’t saying anything new by saying that women will submit to and respect their husbands. That was a given in that culture (which, in itself, is not necessarily a bad thing). But what he says next was OUTRAGEOUS and scandalous and offensive: Paul dares to insist that men LOVE their wives! And not just any old love, but they should imitate Jesus Christ’s love for the church. SACRIFICIAL, SELFLESS, UNCONDITIONAL, CHERISHING LOVE. In Ephesians 5, God absolutely turns convention on its head! God was telling the men, through Paul, to crucify their privilege as men in that extremely male-dominated culture, to submit themselves in love to their wives. A faaaaaaar more demanding, will-yielding submission than the women were subject to (in case anyone is keeping score on which gender is called to greater submission. *Ahem*.). If we insist on applying this passage as a prescription for male/female marital roles, so be it, but we must not fail to see the bigger picture of this passage… that marriage is close to God’s heart; that God saw fit to reach a holy hand deep down into the muck and mire of overwhelming patriarchy that gripped society then (and in many places yet today) to pull us up, out, and away from it. Why do we in the church so often choose to remain in the muck and mire? Why do we focus so much energy on wifely submission and less on mutual submission in the context of marriage AND in the context of our faith communities? Ladies, there is so much more here for us and for our marriages. Let us embrace what Ephesians 5 is really all about!”

*

I feel compelled to document the experience here because what I witnessed today was a room full of women considerably older than myself who have had one narrow interpretation of this passage drilled into their minds and hearts their entire lives as Christians. I am not saying the interpretation that is typically taught is *totally* wrong or bad, but there is more to it; it is, at best, incomplete. And that incompleteness has done harm over the decades.

The simple, unpolished explanation I offered above was just that–simple and unpolished–and yet, by God’s grace, I believe it added something important that was missing from the discussion.

There is still more that could be said about these verses, and said far better than I can articulate on my own, especially “off-the-cuff” as I did today. I want to pray more, discuss more, read more, and learn more about this and countless other passages in our Bible.

But I am glad I spoke up. I am glad the other women appreciated my humble effort to shed light on what can be a powder keg of a topic, and that they received it along with the rest of the teaching presented today. My prayer is for this discussion to continue, and that we (the church) will hold dear what it has to offer all of us, women and men alike.

So They’re Remaking MacGyver

Since my main source of news is my Facebook feed (I know), the first I saw about a MacGyver remake was from a friend’s post:

It’s true… a remake of a favorite 80s/90s show has a special way of making make me feel old. Yet I also expected to be pleased with this news; the more MacGyver the better, right? Instead, I found myself shaking my head. Upon reflecting on this response, it turns out I have 3 mediocre and self-centered reasons for doing so:

1) I am pretty sure Angus MacGyver/Richard Dean Anderson was my first crush. The 30+ year age difference didn’t pose an obstacle to 7-year-old me and I was certain I would marry either him or one of the Duke brothers.

Really, CBS… why mess with perfection?

Ironically, the man I actually did marry has little use for duct tape and only uses paper clips strictly for in-office purposes as intended.

I’ve made my peace.

2) One of my very few retro-nerdy-ish things that I totally OWN will be mainstreamed and will no longer be retro-nerdy-ish in the least. That is, the fact that I daily replace the verb “made” with “MacGyvered” when referring to makeshift anything. I admit, using the term is the same as giving myself a high-five for resourcefulness on the fly. Since I lack the genius and absurdly adventurous circumstances of the real MacGyver, most of my “MacGyvereds” take place in the context of interacting with my 3-year-old:

-“Here. I MacGyvered an indoor run-away-helium-balloon-catching-device.” (tape sticky-side-out secured to the top of a broom handle)

-“Let’s get the bird poop off that slide with a MacGyvered wet wipe.” (spit on a napkin)

-“Again, Sweetie, we are on a road trip and Mommy doesn’t have peanut butter, jelly, or bread in the car… so I MacGyvered this for you.” (an applesauce pouch squeezed into a cup into which she can dunk gas station nutter butter cookies)

3) Streaming-spoiled kids these days won’t know the unsavory option of having to either negotiate a later bedtime on a school night in order to catch the latest episode or beg a parent to record it on VHS. The former was nearly impossible in my house. The latter was usually doable, though well-intentioned attempts at skipping commercials often left transitions between scenes choppy and confusing at best.

Oh well.

I will probably still give the new MacGyver a try. How about you?

 

 

Mother’s Day “After” Infertility

IMG_5114.JPGWhile in the throes of infertility, I dreaded Mother’s Day. Jared and I usually skipped church and used it as an excuse to binge on junk food, self-pity, and Netflix (before streaming was a thing, we’d head over to Hollywood Video and let ourselves go wild, which meant renting, like, FOUR DVDs in one go).

Based on countless conversations with others experiencing infertility over the years, I know I am not the only one.

I vividly remember the phrase that would enviously run through my mind every year on Mother’s Day: “When you have a child, everyday is Mother’s Day.

In other words, one day a year, my normally mature, grown-up self would devolve into a tantruming child, internally wailing, “It’s not fair! They get to have children AND a special day to celebrate the fact that they have children!?”

And it really didn’t feel fair. And it really did hurt. Deeply.

This was a dark time, Friends. My Beast loved Mother’s Day, which made it the day I loved to hate.

Never mind that I was (and still am) beyond blessed to have all of my grandmothers and mothers (my mom, stepmom, and mom-in-law) alive and well and only a phone call away. I look back at my Mother’s Day boycotts and shake my head at how lost I was in my envy and entitlement… I made the day about ME when I had every reason to make it about THEM. They still got cards in the mail, but I withdrew from truly celebrating these amazing women, and so many others, because of my own pain. I gave up the whole day to wallow. Infertility hurts and there is a time and place to properly tend to those wounds, but I realize now that Mother’s Day was not the right time to do that.

Thankfully, our society is becoming more sensitive to the woes of infertility. A quick scan of my Facebook feed confirms this as nary a Mother’s Day post is shared without also lovingly acknowledging those who long to be mothers. This is beautiful. I remember a time when this was not the case; infertility was hardly acknowledged on Mother’s Day even just a few years ago.

And yet…

While I still count myself among the infertile (having never carried any of our 4 babies to term), my arms are no longer empty, thanks to our daughter’s wonderful birthmama who chose us back in 2012. I am a mother… no longer aching, no longer grieving like I once did.

I am a mother. I am a mother with a 3-year-old child.

She is 3. SO VERY THREE.

She is the light of my eyes. The joy of my heart. I see Jesus in her precious face. And that giggle of hers! This child is brilliant, curious, ridiculously gorgeous, hilarious, full of life, and adored to the ends of the earth. She is everything I ever dreamed and more.

And yet…

Even with the most amazing child in the world… I am tired. I have mama-worries that never seem to end. I struggle to keep up with house and meals and the many things that takes us out of the house, too. About 8 times a day, I think, “How do mamas with MULTIPLE children do it?!” (Seriously… HOW?) Life has thrown a whole lot at us over the years, but motherhood has brought me to the end of myself in ways I never experienced before. I pour myself out, into motherhood. It is hard and wonderful. Sacred and mundane. And something I have learned along the way is this:

Mother’s Day is a MUST.

Our pastor put it so well this morning. He said, “You can mess up a lot of things in this life, but don’t mess up Mother’s Day.” I wanted to shout “AMEN!” But our church is kind of conservative, so I settled for a giddy mock-clap in my pew and a whispered “amen” instead.

We ALL owe it to our mothers (or whoever filled the mother role in your life) to make this day special for them. To do it all the way. To enjoy it as the happy day that it is. Those of us who are mothers, we owe it to ourselves! Please, let’s never apologize for our expectations and celebrations on this day. It is perfectly acceptable to take ONE DAY a year to honor motherhood… the flesh-and-blood-and-sweat-and-tears-and-laughter-and-poop-and-boogers-and-snuggles-and-drama-and-one-million-words-and-decisions-everyday-and-exhaustion-and-dragged-out-bedtimes-and-boo-boos-and (this list could go on forever, and she is only 3)… all of IT that is motherhood.

I know. Some of you reading this are still in the worst of it. Your arms are empty and you don’t know if you will ever hold your child. I have not forgotten you and I have not forgotten that *feeling* that is unique to Mother’s Day. Infertility has left its scars on me, too. My heart truly goes out to you today. I remember…

Yet I am going to ask you to gather the strength and the grace to not withdraw, to not hold back. I boldly ask this of you because, partly due to the struggles of infertility, I have some assurance that you already live in a profound state of strength and grace everyday.

You can do this.

CELEBRATE your mama or one of the many mothers that surround you and love you. Commit yourself to taming The Beast  for at least few hours on Mother’s Day. Wallow if you need to, but please don’t draw the darkness in around yourself all day long like I did for 6 Mother’s Days. Even in the midst of your pain and loss, I encourage you to embrace this day. Embrace what makes motherhood good, embrace what makes motherhood something you deeply desire, embrace what you received from your own mother. Make this day yours, AND theirs, in a new way by letting the light back into it. Let that light shine bright, let it wash over you, nourish you, and renew your spirit. My friend, I challenge you to reclaim this glorious celebration.

Happy Mother’s Day to us all!

My First Cookbook

What I am about to share started as a Facebook post, then I realized there is a whole story here, so decided to spare everyone the mega-post and make it a blog post instead.

You’re welcome, Facebook friends.

My daughter (age 3) and I read a Laura Numeroff/Felicia Bond treasure this morning, If You Give a Moose a Muffin. It is not as widely known as their Mouse book, but I assure you it is just as adorable and fun.

If you read a toddler a book about muffins… she’s going to ask for some actual muffins to go with it.

As usual, I grabbed my iPhone to look up a recipe while she pulled a chair up to the counter and climbed on. Then I put down the phone and, instead, grabbed this:

Cookbook

The 1981 Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book.

And my very first cookbook.

It’s nothing fancy. No agenda, no celebrity chefs, no fad diet recipes, no gimmicks. Just your average, run-of-the-mill cookbook from the early 80’s.

Let’s rewind to 2001. I was twenty-years-old and living in a converted garage apartment with two wonderful roommates in Bemidji, Minnesota. I had moved the 400 miles from Norway, Michigan to Bemidji two years earlier to attend Oak Hills Christian College, which is where I met my roommates, along with countless other awesome people, and spent the formative years of my young adulthood.

Side note: If you are unfamiliar with Bemidji or Norway (MI), get crackin’ on Google because both are stunningly beautiful towns, each with a lot to offer. And are, obviously, both very dear to my heart.

Anyway…

During the years I lived in Bemidji, I dated a man who happens to be a Palestinian Arab. Thanks to him, I got to enjoy many invitations into people’s homes where they would want to hear all about his life, about growing up in the West Bank, etc. I was more than happy to tag along, especially when dinner was involved. Ha!

One evening, we visited the home of a lovely couple who were both in their late sixties. Both of them had been northern Minnesotans all their lives. To this day, when I listen to “Tales from Lake Wobegon” on NPR, I am immediately transported back to the eat-in kitchen of their split-level home on the lake. Garrison Keillor’s fictional hometown took on a nail-on-the-head anthropological splendor as I sat in their presence. I mean this in the most respectful, kind, and literal way possible.

We had just enjoyed a delicious meal of “wild rice hot dish” followed by a tumbler towering with warm butterscotch pudding topped with freshly whipped cream for dessert. Butterscotch usually does zilch for me as I strongly favor all things chocolate. But this pudding was ridiculously yummy; I had to consciously keep my eyes from blissfully rolling into the back of my head with every bite… so I inquired about the recipe.

I wish I could remember our hostess’s first name (though I do remember their last name). When I asked for the recipe, she gently took me by the hand and led me to the kitchen sink. Next to it was her well-loved copy of the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. She flipped to the butterscotch pudding recipe and laid it before me on the counter. Then, with an air of one about to impart the sagest of sage wisdom and with the hushed voice of a secret-teller, she started, “Honey, this is the only cookbook you will ever need. Any Better Homes and Garden cookbook will do… I can promise you that.”

A couple weeks later, I was browsing a yard sale and came across the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook that is pictured above. It wasn’t the same one she had, but, as she pointed out, any BH&G cookbook would do. So I paid a dime for it (I remember because the masking tape price tag remained intact until about five years ago) and it officially became the very first cookbook I ever owned.

Though I have acquired many more cookbooks over the years, she was right. This probably is the only one I would ever need… of all the cookbooks I own, none of them have gotten near the use this one has. All of my most oft-repeated and entirely-from-memory recipes have come from this book. As a brand new adult living far away from my mama, usually broke and with meager kitchen wares, I taught myself to cook from this book.

Today, as I paged to the index and guided my daughter’s tiny finger along until we found “M” for muffins, the lump in my throat shouldn’t have caught me completely by surprise, but it did.

Shoulder-to-shoulder in the kitchen with my little one, poring over a recipe from my very first cookbook. A book that is falling apart from use and was already “old” when I bought it. A book that was written long before any of us concerned ourselves with chia seeds, einkorn flour, and coconut sugar (all of which were adaptions we made today), a book that was written before GM crops, as we know them, ever existed. Before allrecipes.com. Before carbs were a dirty word. Before so much of what impacts our cooking habits today.

It’s strange… the ordinary things that surface as most-treasured possessions over the years, those tangible pieces of our history breathing life anew into the stories and memories that shape us. It wasn’t until I opened the cookbook with my daughter today (who, up until this point, only knew of recipes existing on a screen) that the history of this book came whirring up in my mind and gained any kind of importance for me. In a moment, it went from being just another cookbook in the jammed-full cookbook cabinet to being THE ONE. Just like *that*… This will be the one I save for her. This will be her first cookbook, too. This will be the one that I mark notes and dates in, our very own kitchen autobiography. This will be the one that she reaches for when she wants to make something that reminds her of home and her mama.

Muffins

Oh, and the muffins turned out scrumptiously. As always, from my trusty cookbook.

Miscarriage: A Brief Testimony

Last April, I was asked to share my testimony regarding miscarriage and “how God met me there” during a special service of remembrance (specifically for those who had experienced the death of a child during pregnancy or early infancy) hosted by Wilmore United Methodist Church here in Kentucky. I thought it was a wonderful way for a church to support grieving families and I was honored to be a part of it. Today, Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day (October 15), seems like an appropriate day to share that testimony again, which you will see below. I end three of the paragraphs with the phrase, “He is” because this is a testimony of then and now. I am still walking with God on this path and he is still healing, guiding, and loving me every step of the way.

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

All four of my pregnancies ended in miscarriage. There was little intentional grieving with the first three, so the fourth loss, which occurred in 2010 during the 13th week of pregnancy, left me physically, spiritually, and emotionally broken. God, in his mercy, met me in my grief.

And, perhaps for the first time, truly, I met God.

When I was heartbroken and lonely, God comforted me. He whispered songs over me, which I still readily recall today. He tenderly turned my heart toward his people who loved me and restored my strength through their kind words, their prayers, their hugs, their food, and their friendship.

When I was angry, God listened, embraced me in my tantrumed state, and (through the counsel of my husband) reassured me that he was more than capable of handling my big, raw emotions. And He is.

When I was a wanderer lost deep in the rocky dessert of envy and yearning, God found me, held out his hand, and said, “I am the good shepherd, I am all you need.” And He is.

Through God’s gentle healing, my womb—which I once disdained as one who had been repeatedly betrayed—I now regard as a beautiful and sacred space where my four precious babies quietly lived and died, deeply loved and wanted.

Miscarriage often renders to those of us who experience it a heightened awareness of the thin veil between life and death as we’ve experienced both so intimately, in body and in heart. I once feared the thinness of the veil, now I marvel at it.

Sometimes the veil seems not thin enough.

Miscarrying my babies placed me on a path where I am constantly – vividly – reminded of God as my loving father and the source of all life. And He is.

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

Please remember to pause and light at candle tonight at 7:00 p.m. (all time zones) to participate in the annual Wave of Light. I’ll be remembering my babies and your babies, too. ♡

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Quilling is a wonderful hobby I picked up back in 2007, promptly after Jared left for his first deployment with the Army to Iraq. I was student teaching full-time and staying with my parents, but I still had a lot of time left at the end of the day and a lot of worries heavily weighing on my mind.

I went to get a haircut one dreary January afternoon and, among the few Christmas decorations that remained in the shop, a small dove caught my eye. It was gilded with gold leaf, absolutely stunning. I remember asking out loud to no one in particular, “What is this craft?” And a voice in my head (weird, I know, but just go with it… I did.) responded, “I think that’s quilling.” Mind you, I had never heard of or seen quilling before this moment, at least not according to my conscious memory. So I decided to go with the voice in my head and Googled “quilling.” Sure enough, that’s what it was. I was hooked. That night, I bought a whopping $30 in supplies (which got me everything I needed to get started and then some… money goes long way in this hobby, which is one of its many benefits).

This was the first “big” project I completed a couple weeks later and the only piece I have never parted with:

produce

Before we brought home our baby girl in 2012, I did a lot of quilling. Elaborate custom orders, gifts, quilling just for fun, Etsy orders, etc. I always had a quilling project going. Quilling has a rich heritage and is especially popular in Europe, but there is a North American Quilling Guild as well, which I was a member of for years. Some serious talent in that crowd!

The best part for me is that quilling helped get me through both of my husband’s deployments and a host of other transitions since 2007. Busy hands tend to keep my spirit light and my worries at bay. I know many can relate to that…

I do not quill as much in this current season of life; however, I always find time as Christmas approaches. In fact, I find the desire to quill irresistible this time of year.  Last year, I decided to put that quilling to good use and offered some of it for sale. The response was fantastic, so I’m doing it again this year. Between now and December 1st, I’ll be taking orders for these tiny quilled Nativity keepsakes. $12, shipped, $10 without shipping local orders. Though they are handmade entirely out of paper (sealed with a matte finish), they are quite sturdy and will be a wonderful addition to your Christmas (or everyday) decor for many years to come. If you would like to order one (or more), feel free to email me at TwirledPeace@gmail.com or look for me on Facebook at Twirled Peace: Quilled Creations and I’d be happy to share more details with you about how you can get a quilled Nativity of your very own.

Plus, it’s totally an excuse for me to do something Christmasy in October. 🙂

IMG_6305 IMG_5672

How We Survive Hotel Living with a Toddler and a Puppy

Our family–my husband, toddler daughter, puppy, and myself–have moved to a new town for my husband’s job and we are waiting for the loan to close on our home. In the meantime, we are making our temporary home in a local budget hotel. The number 1 question I’ve gotten lately is some variation of, “How on earth are you surviving in a hotel room with a toddler and a puppy?!” I also know other families may find themselves in a similar situation… having to stay in a hotel room for an extended period of time for whatever reason, so I figured a blog post was in order.

Besides confirming my suspicion that our family would never survive living in one of those understandably-trendy “tiny homes,” hotel living hasn’t been too bad. Here is the rundown: We have a standard room with 2 queen beds on the 2nd floor near the elevator, a tiny fridge and microwave are included. The only sink is located inside the bathroom. The room also includes a low chest of 4 drawers, 1 television, 1 window, 1 night stand (which has one drawer and a small storage area underneath), a small dining-style table and 2 chairs, a tiny closet area with a hanging bar for clothes (no door), and a folding luggage rack. A huge bonus is that the hotel was recently renovated and now has hardwood floors! There is a small area of carpet between the beds, and tile in the bathroom, but everywhere else is hardwood flooring. I was impressed as it is much easier to keep clean and also looks better overall. We moved into our little room nearly a full month ago.

So, how are we surviving?

First, we made friends with the staff. Not just because we want them to do things for us as guests of the hotel (though that is inevitable), and not just because we want them to have grace with us when other patrons call the front desk and complain about the screaming toddler next door (ahem, not that I would know anything about that), but because they’re super nice people and it’s always nice to make new friends. It has made our stay more pleasant and makes them happier to have us hanging around.

Second, we inquired about a weekly rate. When we first made our reservation, we got our military discount, but the rep didn’t mention a weekly rate even though we were reserving the room for a month and it was not cheap (even here at a “budget” hotel, $75/night adds up). It didn’t occur to me to ask for a cheaper rate until I noticed another hotel deal online that mentioned a weekly rate… sure enough, all I had to do was ask and they took off an additional $20/night off our already-discounted rate! We also made sure to sign up for the hotel rewards program. We will be getting about 5 free nights out of this stay, though we can’t apply those free nights to our current reservation. We’ll make use of them eventually, especially when family comes in from out of town.

“Kitchen”

My kitchen area is located between one of the beds and the wall with the window on it. I have it further partitioned off from the rest of the room with the dog’s kennel and a box of random stuff – this is necessary to keep the dog and child out while I am working since everything is basically out in the open and within their reach, so things can get chaotic pretty quickly when they join me in that space.

While packing, I thought about hotel living the way I would think about camping (except with a microwave and fridge instead of a fire and cooler). I brought bare minimum essentials, including dishes and silverware since it is my desire to limit the waste from disposable products. Also, I brought our VitaMix blender and our Berkey water filtration system. The blender has helped to guarantee at least one nutrition-packed meal per day for our daughter, who loves smoothies. Most of what I keep in the fridge and “pantry” (a large canvas bag that I keep next to the fridge) are smoothie, salad, and sandwich ingredients. Our eating is definitely “off” since we are eating at restaurants a little more often (though not as often as one might expect living in a hotel, which is intentional) and using a microwave for all of my cooking, an appliance I haven’t personally owned in years and I am being reminded why. Food just doesn’t taste as good to me when it comes out of the microwave,  but it has been a blessing here in the hotel. IMG_9653_2 The hotel provides a hot breakfast, but it is not the kind of food I want my family eating 7 days a week, so we enjoy the hotel breakfast about 1 day out of the week and eat in our room the other days. Cereal is easy to do in the room, though we have smoothies most mornings.

Some things I brought and discovered I don’t need: Food storage containers (they are too bulky in the fridge, so I’ve been using baggies or plastic wrap when needing to store food out of its original package); electric tea kettle (the hotel provides coffee and hot water in the lobby); canned tuna fish (I know this is very specific, but I was thinking it would be a quick, easy protein source we could use, but I absolutely despise the smell and the potential mess created from opening and draining it. Lunch meat, grass-fed beef sticks, pre-cooked grilled chicken breast, etc. have all been much more practical for us here).

I use a small section of the table for food prep, but we generally eat sitting on one of the beds (our daughter puts her plate on the chest of drawers or uses her closed toy bin as a table) since our table is typically full of stuff and there isn’t much we can do about that given the very limited surfaces and storage in the room. IMG_9656_2 I use a dishpan I bought from the dollar store for dishes. Dirty dishes go in the bin; once per day, I take the bin to the bathroom and fill it with hot soapy water and wash the dishes in the bin and set the clean dishes on a dish towel on the bathroom counter (one of two Norwex towels I brought – they are the best and give me much more peace of mind than if I were to use a towel provided by the hotel). Once the bin is emptied of dirty dishes, I wash out the bin, lay the 2nd dish towel in the bottom, and place the dishes back into the bin to air dry. I have placed 3M adhesive hooks on the fridge for drying the dish towels when not in use. I’ve actually placed hooks in a few places around the room. Obviously, the hotel room is designed for a maximum stay of a couple nights at a time, not for “living” in, and there is only one tiny towel bar in the bathroom, so the hooks have been a big help. IMG_9647_2

Living and Sleeping Areas

We basically live on the beds, which means the linens get dirtied and need to be changed more often than at home. Thank God for an understanding housekeeping staff! Once a week, I leave them a nice tip, get all of us out of the room for the morning, and let them have at it. When sheets need to be changed between housekeeping visits, I simply go down to the front desk and exchange our sheets for clean ones and change the beds myself. We brought one of our air purifiers from home, which we often do even for short hotel stays. It makes me a little crazy that I can’t open windows in hotels, so the purifier helps. I also brought cleaning supplies from home, including a small vacuum cleaner and steam mop for the floors. With a toddler, everything ends up on the floor, including her, so I wanted it to be as clean as possible. I steamed the mattresses and the chairs as well when we moved in. The housekeeping staff here is wonderful and it is one of the cleanest hotels I’ve ever stayed in; however, I still clean and re-clean the room constantly for my own peace of mind (and we’ve all seen the black light demos on 20/20 – ewww!).

Our daughter’s favorite play areas are either on the chest of drawers (right next to the TV) or on the hardwood floor right in front of the drawers. For this reason, we needed to block the space under the chest of drawers where we were constantly losing toys. Towels work well for this. IMG_9646 All of our daughter’s toys fit into one bin. We also bought her a small plastic step stool, which she uses constantly to sit on, to reach the sink, etc. Her drawing supplies sit out on the table and we brought another dishpan just for her books. I either have an extra awesome child or have somehow come up with a magical combination of toys and activities (I’m leaning toward the former) because she has done wonderfully hanging out in this little room even when I feel like a caged animal some days with all this rain. My husband usually has our one car at work with him, so our out-of-hotel options are very limited most days. On nice days, we take a walk and make sure we get out to the hotel pool. Pillows and blankets have been great for forts, creating a temporary reading nook, and all the other things my toddler comes up with to do with pillows and blankets – it’s an everyday thing lately. Another sanity saver has been cable TV, especially since the wi-fi here at the hotel is life-suckingly slow and unreliable (it only connects about 50% of the time). Like many mamas, I drastically limit my daughter’s screen time at home, but at the hotel, I’ve been pretty lax about it. I even watch an episode of my favorite show, The King of Queens, everyday (even though I own the entire series on DVD). I also let her use the iPad for games, which is usually reserved for long car trips. I eat quantities of chocolate that are usually reserved for… Valentine’s Day or Fat Tuesday. We are making due. I will worry about technology and TV-detox (and sugar-detox) once we are moved into the new house. IMG_9648    IMG_9649_2IMG_9680_2     IMG_9678 It’s been tricky having all of us sleep and live in one room because our daughter is usually asleep by 7:00. She is in one bed (complete with bed rails from home) and, naturally, my husband and I (and the puppy) are in the other. Once she is asleep, we pretty much just sit up in our bed with our laptops, assuming wi-fi is working, or the Kindle app on our phones to do some reading.  Sometimes I turn on the TV, but adjust the “brightness” and “backlight” via the TV menu so that both are very low (we also have the TV screen tilted away from her bed), this seems to keep the TV from disturbing our little sleeper. That and keeping the volume low, of course. We’ve been impressed with what she can sleep through, so in more recent days, we’ve actually begun to have actual conversations after she is asleep as well. Hooray!

Our dog is small and has always used a pad indoors for her potty. This is not ideal in a hotel room for obvious reasons, and we are constantly changing her pad, but it has also been helpful to have her trained this way since it would be a huge inconvenience for me to load up the dog and the toddler 5+ times per day to take her outside. Not to mention that it has been an unusually wet and rainy summer here in Kentucky. The way our room is arranged has also been nice for the dog to get some play time… it’s almost like a long hallway in front of the beds and she likes to chase her toys there or maniacally jump from bed to bed nonstop until she is worn out. 2-3 days per week, we take her to the local doggie day care where she can get her wiggles out and interact with other dogs and people. She loves it and so do we. The hotel is really cool with dogs. There isn’t even an extra charge to have her here with us. If we are leaving the room for just a couple hours or less, she stays in her kennel in the room and is quiet (we’ve tested this ourselves, just to be sure). If we are going to be gone longer than a couple hours, we simply bring her to the day care, a convenience I definitely do not take for granted!

IMG_9420_2 Bathroom

We only had one bathroom in our previous house, so this has not been an adjustment for us, though having just one sink has been rough, especially when it comes to kitchen stuff. I didn’t hold back on bringing all our essential oils and other remedies since 1) I wouldn’t want them sitting in a hot storage unit anyway and 2) anything can happen in the course of a month and it’s nice to be prepared.

We keep our laundry bag under the sink and take it out to the laundromat about once a week. We didn’t have a washer or dryer at our previous home either, so again, not much change for us there, though I know it would be an adjustment for most people. The hotel does have coin laundry machines, but they do not work well. The front desk staff has allowed me to use the housekeeping laundry area (they’ve offered when they see me headed out to do laundry – so nice!), but I don’t want to depend on that every week.

For some reason, we go through waaaaay more bath towels, hand towels, and wash cloths here at the hotel than we ever would at home, so I make a trip down to the front desk every few days to make the exchange. Housekeeping must have noticed because the last couple weeks they’ve been in our room, they have left us a huge stack. God bless them!

So, there you have it. A kind-of nutshell of how we are surviving hotel living with a toddler and a puppy.

Have you ever had to stay in a hotel for an extended period of time with little ones? I’d love to hear your tips and advice. 🙂

Infertility’s a Beast, Part 2: Tame It

In my previous post about The Infertility Beast, I introduced you to the 5 heads of my personal Beast: Betrayal; Entitlement; Envy; Grief; Immortality. (Side note: I capitalize the heads of The Beast because they are meant to be names, i.e., proper nouns.) In this post, I am going to talk about taming The Beast. Why not just “slay” (i.e., destroy, kill, obliterate) The Beast and be done with it, you ask? Well… it’s tricky. I often wonder if it’s even possible to slay The Beast. Some people assume having a baby is the answer to slaying The Beast, but I emphatically disagree.

I mean… who expects a teeny baby to slay a snarling beast anyway?!

And isn’t that pretty much what we are doing when we assume having a baby will quiet our Beast? Don’t fall for the lie. Beast-taming is a job for a grown adult, likely with the help of other grown adults. Even if I were able to somehow maintain a full-term pregnancy and give birth to a healthy child (that ship has sailed, but hypothetically speaking…), I suspect The Beast would still be there. Only, maybe it wouldn’t be my Infertility Beast anymore. Maybe it would become my “Insecurity Beast” or my “Inadequacy Beast” or my “Inartistic Beast” or any other kind of Beast that manifests in the midst of our greatest fears and discontentment.

Yes, this makes The Beast something that nearly everyone – not just those of us experiencing infertility – must contend with, but we will stick to the matter at hand for now.

No matter how many heads The Beast has or how powerful it is, it was most likely born out of those two aforementioned things: fear and discontentment. There are volumes written on each of these human conditions, by serious smartypants types, so consider this post my humble $.02 (two cents) on the matter and please be sure to read more from other sources as you can. But, even in the face of the inevitable fears and discontentments of this life, YOU can tame your Beast. By “tame,” I mean that you can reverse the power that has shifted to The Beast and put yourself back in charge, thereby quieting The Beast and restoring a sense of peace in your life. Sounds pretty awesome, eh? More on that in a moment. First, a glimpse:

The last Monday of my fourth and final pregnancy, week 13, lying on an exam table in the women’s care clinic with a gel-slicked doppler pushed up against my belly, I was nervous and needed a distraction, so I chose to focus on the poster directly above me on the ceiling, which featured butterflies. Six butterflies. One for each color of the rainbow except for my favorite color since toddlerhood, yellow. No yellow butterfly.

No yellow butterfly and no heartbeat.

But wait… that sound… 143 bpm (beats per minute). “There!” exclaimed the young nurse, optimistically.

The midwife frowned, shook her head, and gestured toward me, “That’s her.”

The pace of my own frantic heartbeat betrayed the stillness of my body and my countenance as I silently stared at the ceiling poster.

Then an ultrasound on an ancient machine confirmed no heartbeat. A second ultrasound at a different clinic (where my midwife also worked, which had more advanced ultrasound machines) confirmed for the final time, no heartbeat.

The ultrasound tech reminded me of a sweet high school friend I hadn’t seen in 10 years, which was God’s gift to me in that moment. As she helped me sit up, the midwife gently explained to Jared (my husband) and me what to expect if the miscarriage is completed at home. She warned the experience would be different – more painful, higher chance of complications – than our first 3 miscarriages since this one was considered a second trimester loss. And in case it didn’t complete in the next 72 hours, a D&C was scheduled.

I turned to Jared and blankly stated, “Screw it. I’m getting ice cream.”

Mercifully, there was a Graeter’s store across the street. In an effort to preserve this pregnancy, I had sworn off delicious sugar and all manner of unhealthy foods. But there was no way I was going to endure another miscarriage without ice cream.

In the wee hours of Thursday morning, the day the D&C was scheduled, many of my midwife’s warnings were soundly confirmed as I delivered at home. I found myself whispering praises to God, a surprise to my own ears; thankful I was able to miscarry in the comfort of my home instead of on an operation table. Thankful I could have a moment with just the two of us… “Hello and good-bye for now, Little One.”

* * * * *

There were 3 ways I considered tackling this post about how to tame The Beast. My first thought was to discuss taming each of the 5 heads separately. The second idea was to take a domain approach, loosely placing each of the 5 heads into a personal wellness domain as follows:

Physical domain –> Betrayal
Social domain –> Envy
Intellectual domain –> Entitlement
Emotional domain –> Grief
Spiritual domain –> Immortality.

Unfortunately, though I fancied myself quite clever on this one, I realized both of the first 2 ideas were only specific to taming MY Beast and might not necessarily work across the board. So, we are going with the third idea: General rules for taming The Beast.

1.) Know your Beast.
I hope you’ve read about my Beast and its 5 heads in the previous post. If you haven’t yet taken the time to identify and get to know your own Beast, you may want to do that now. It may help to get a sheet of paper and jot down the answers to the following questions: How many heads does your Beast have and what are their names? How long have you known your Beast? How do you know when The Beast is striking (i.e., how does The Beast impact your daily life)? How do you respond when it strikes? Perhaps you could ask someone close to you who has your deepest trust if they have ever spotted your Beast and ask what they have observed about it and how they see it impacting you.

Bottom line: Take a good, long, honest look at your Beast so you really know what you’re dealing with moving forward.

2.) Stop Feeding The Beast
The Beast finds plenty to eat without you even trying, so avoiding deliberate feeding is best. It’s all in your response to The Beast. Success usually comes in the form of giving yourself an extra dose of grace and exercising self-care. For example, the Betrayal head feeds on shame and self-disgust. You saw in the story above how I responded to Betrayal… I ate ice cream. I ate a LOT of ice cream and other junk over the next few months, enough to gain 25 pounds (!), apparently trying to punish my body. It backfired. Not only was I still infertile, but I started to despise the way I looked, too. This was all Beast food. The summer following my final miscarriage, after some good grief counseling among other things, I committed to doing something big and something good for my body; I concurrently did the Beachbody P90X workout program and The Maker’s Diet. Well, most of it anyway. I only lost 12 pounds over the course of about 9 weeks of solid commitment, but I emerged healthier, stronger, and more ready than ever to face down The Beast.

Bottom line: Self-care in response to Betrayal put that head in its place like nothing else could, and kept me from feeding The Beast further. To this day, if I get too off track with self-care (in any domain, but especially the physical), Betrayal rears its head. You’ll see self-care is a common theme throughout all aspects of taming The Beast. What kind of things does your Beast feed on? How can you respond to The Beast in order to avoid feeding it? In what ways can self-care help you tame your Beast?

3.) Chop Off the Entitlement Head
I dreaded addressing Entitlement because I know how super-sensitive I used to be about it and I have no doubt others reading this might be as well. Please stick with me, even if it stings. Of all the different heads we Sisters on the infertility path might experience with our Beasts, this is probably the most common one I’ve seen. Also the most destructive. Entitlement tends to strike hardest toward the beginning of the infertility journey, when reality is starting to settle in. This is partly due to the fact that our society makes reproduction an entitlement of adulthood – having children is seen as an inherent right. Though the topic of whether or not biological reproduction is, indeed, a “right” is a hairy one, I don’t mind sharing that I personally no longer claim it as a right. The point is that society undeniably feeds our sense of reproductive entitlement from the get-go, so infertility (which usually feeds the perception of a right being violated or denied) easily puts that sense of entitlement into high gear and often takes it to a very unhealthy place, which is a feast for the Beast (see #2 above). Please go back and read about my Entitlement head for a refresher.

All the talk about “taming The Beast” does not apply to Entitlement. Entitlement cannot be tamed. I repeat: ENTITLEMENT CANNOT BE TAMED. Besides adding to your personal misery, likely without you even realizing it because it often goes unspoken and is also adept at puffing up your ego, Entitlement objectifies babies by degrading them to something earned or deserved based on personal merit of some kind. It makes them a “right” to be obtained or a prize to be won in the fertility game. It sounds ugly and wrong because it IS ugly and wrong. It will take discipline – it will require you to face your fears and your discontentments honestly and boldly. It will require a different level of humility and surrender than we are comfortable with in our society. It may even require you to reframe your sense of identity and your entire perspective, but Entitlement can be slain. Hear this: Once you are freed from Entitlement, it is a game-changer. Your whole perspective on infertility and life in general will absolutely be transformed for the better. And taming The Beast without the Entitlement head is practically a breeze.

While this isn’t a 12-step program, the first step is admitting that you have a problem. Only you know if Entitlement has you in its jaws, but there is a good chance that if it doesn’t now, it has at one time or another. Only you can determine what kind of response will slay Entitlement. Here is what worked for me: I found that Entitlement simply could not survive in an environment of genuine gratitude and delight. I once had a friend struggling with severe depression tell me that I was one of the most joyful people she knew. This caught me off guard as it was barely a year after the miscarriage and I had become aware that Entitlement was still a struggle for me. Not long after that, an acquaintance slipped a note in to my mailbox simply to say that my smile encourages her and that “I glow with contagious joy.” Again, I was like… Huh? Me?! But those words encouraged me and gave me hope that I was going to be victorious in the battle. The light was starting to shine through the clouds, freedom was within reach. I post quotes and Scriptures around my home (my favorite place is inside cabinet doors that I open often) that inspire me and remind me of who I am in Christ. I make an effort to welcome a gift-perspective daily (Jared recently blogged about gift-perspective as a Christian, feel free to check it out). I found my talent anew and I practice it. I spend time in nature where I feel extra close to my Creator. I take self-care in all domains seriously (i.e., physically, intellectually, emotionally, socially, spiritually). I foster meaningful relationships (more on that in #4 below). Jared and I, openly and often, reflected on what motivated us to become parents. We rooted out anything that was selfish or not of pure love toward potential future children and rejected it outright. This helped us make the decision to close the door on biological reproduction permanently. I’m not suggesting this is the right choice for everyone, but it was absolutely the right choice for us and, now several years later, we have only been blessed by that decision and have no regrets. Most importantly, I eventually renewed my identity as a child of God through Jesus Christ and have stayed deeply grounded in that identity. That is when Entitlement took its last gasp. That is where my joy comes from and it is untouchable.

Bottom Line: Entitlement is the easiest part of the Beast to hold on to, sometimes unknowingly, but it is also the most destructive. It cannot be tamed. Cut off Entitlement and be transformed for the better! Is Entitlement one of the heads on your Beast? What will help you defeat Entitlement once and for all?

4.) Connect, Connect, Connect
One thing The Beast loves to do is isolate you because The Beast apparently knows we were all made by our Creator explicitly for meaningful relationships, so it will do everything in its power to restrict that in your life.* It’s The Beast’s classic move – keeping you feeling alone on the path so that it can make itself your main companion. Creepy, right? Some alone time, unplugged and disconnected from the world, is healthy and needed, but too much can lead to indulgent forms of wallowing that can easily carry you away to the dark places you do not want to go. Being on the infertility path is just plain hard on all of your most important relationships. Without deliberate care, those relationships will start to show the battle wounds pretty quickly. Even if you and your spouse are currently in a good place with each other, I would still recommend talking with a trusted counselor. I have personally participated in one-on-one counseling and Jared and I have also done marital counseling. Both were extremely helpful. So helpful that I can’t imagine walking this path without a good counselor. Counselors are very familiar with The Beast, they’ve been well trained in Beast-taming, and the right counselor will empower you exponentially as you face your Beast (they may not call it The Beast, but it’s the same idea). They are also pros at helping clients with anything and everything to do with relationships. The sad reality is that GOOD counselors are not always plentiful, especially in rural areas. I know this from personal experience. If this is the case for you, maybe finding a counselor open to working with you over video chat or other online means is a good option. Counseling is an act of strength, wisdom, and beautiful self-care. Regardless of whether you decide to pursue a counseling relationship, be intentional about maintaining the health of your relationships, especially your relationship with your spouse and others who are closest to you.

Another important way to connect is by finding at least one other friend who is also on the path. Preferably a friend who is also well aware of her own Beast. In the first week following my fourth miscarriage, I had returned to full-time graduate classes and was not doing well emotionally. Another classmate, a stranger to me at the time, noticed and reached out to me by saying, “Me, too” in an email. We have been friends ever since. I can’t quite describe how much of a lifeline that was to me… it made such a difference. Since then, I have become a “Me, too” friend to many Sisters on the path. We might not live in the same community or talk as often as we’d like, but we understand each other and we share a special bond that I deeply cherish. That very first “Me, too” friend inspired me to facilitate a local chapter of Share, which is a national infant and pregnancy loss support organization. If you haven’t yet, I would encourage you to seek an infertility and/or pregnancy loss support group in your area and get involved. You will find support on your journey in a way nothing and no one else can provide and also, even if just by your presence (if you don’t feel you have the strength to do more at this time), engage in the precious task of supporting others in their journey. Even in your pain, even when The Beast is snarling, even when you are at your lowest, most of us Sisters have so much to give and gain from a support group setting.

Bottom line: Relationships are everything. Don’t let The Beast isolate you! Reach out, connect with others, passionately guard the health of your closest relationships, find your “Me, too” friend and don’t shrink away from the opportunity to be a “Me, too” friend to others. Maintaining strong relationships is the major key to taming your Beast. Who is your “Me, too” friend? Do you know someone who could use a “Me, too” friend? What can you do to guard the well-being of your relationships with those you love throughout the hardest parts of the journey?

Go forth and tame your Beast!

*Talking about the idea that we are all made by God for loving, meaningful relationship is one of my passions, but I know the concept might sound a little obscure for some people as it borders on “Christianese.” Forgive me, please. I hope to write more on this in the future. In the meantime, if you’d like to discuss this further, or anything I’ve written here, please don’t hesitate to contact me at TwirledPeace@gmail.com

Infertility’s a Beast, Part 1: An Introduction

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Here’s something I’ve never stated “publicly” on social media or elsewhere:

I am infertile.

There. I said it.

Four pregnancies, zero babies. Yes, multiple pregnancy losses (2 or more) is a form of infertility. Yes, I am aware that we are blessed to have even experienced the thrill of a positive home pregnancy test, which some people feel may disqualify us from the fellowship of those experiencing infertility, but I count myself among the ranks anyway. My husband and I were married in 2004. Our first pregnancy ended at 6 weeks in 2006. Second pregnancy ended at 9 weeks in 2008. Third pregnancy ended at 11 weeks in 2010. My fourth and final pregnancy ended at 13 weeks, also in 2010. See the pattern there? Every pregnancy lasted a couple weeks longer than the one before. Just long enough to spark hope, just long enough to inspire a “Maybe this time…” And just long enough to make the fall longer and harder than the one before– physically, emotionally, and spiritually. No one chooses miscarriage and having experienced multiple consecutive miscarriages doesn’t make me special at all, but I make no apologies for the very specific path it has set me on and for the notable growth that has resulted in my life because of it.

There are volumes –VOLUMES–that could be written regarding my personal story with miscarriage and everything that goes with it. You, Sister, who are on this same path know exactly what I am talking about. The stories that achingly bubble over in your soul, but are so often hushed by a society rapt with babies and birth and fertility. Not to mention the grief gatekeepers (“But it’s not like you ever held the baby…”) and countless other things that silence the mother with ever-empty arms. There is all of that, and more, but this post will be focused on just a snippet, one teeny-tiny tip on the massive ice burg that is the infertility aspect of miscarriage. Some of you reading this know that I hold a master’s degree in pastoral counseling, but I am not sharing any of this as a counselor or expert of any kind, but as a woman living with infertility who has experienced recurrent miscarriages. A woman who has gone to grief counseling, read the books, facilitated pregnancy loss support groups, nearly destroyed a marriage with my pain and denial and did the hard work to pick up the pieces again, laid face down on the floor to cry and plead for my baby’s life, given up hope at the beginning of a pregnancy only to let it rise and fall again a million times in a matter of weeks, doubled over in the agony of labor to deliver someone tiny, unformed, loved and precious, I’ve given God the cold shoulder, I’ve embraced God anew, I’ve witnessed beauty come from these ashes–unspeakable beauty, and so much more that is simply indescribable or too close to my heart to release to strangers’ eyes. I don’t have it all figured out, but I’ve been on this path for most of a decade, and have begun to wonder if I might have something to offer back to the infertility community, since they have given so much to me.

So in this post, I will introduce you to The Infertility Beast… though you may find that you’ve already met. The topic of infertility alone could also fill volumes, and it has. Search for infertility books on Amazon… thousands. So I honestly don’t know if I am offering anything new here, but it is what I have to offer. Also, I am a devoted Christian, so there will be overtly faith-based ideas presented below. If that isn’t your thing, please bear with me, you might still find something that you can relate to.

Here we go…

The Beast–we Sisters likely all have one. Mine has 5 heads. Sometimes 3 are active. Sometimes 1, sometimes none! The combination of active heads varies. Your Beast might have entirely different heads than mine, and more of them, or less. All the heads kind of interact and play off each other in different ways, thus the “5-headed beast” vs. 5 separate beasts. The Beast can be slumbering one second and pouncing on you the next. Eating out of your hand one second and chomping that same hand off in the next. You get the idea. The Beast is vicious and unpredictable, but it can be tamed. Below, I will introduce you to my Infertility Beast and save more explanation (including how I have learned to tame it) for later post.

Let’s talk Beast noggins (listed alphabetically).

Head 1: Betrayal

“Just give your womb to God and he will give you the desire of you heart.” -Advice given to me from a well-meaning evangelical mother of 7 in response to me sharing the news of a recent miscarriage with her when she inquired why my husband and I didn’t have any children.

*Raise your hand if you have ever gotten to have THAT awkward conversation with a total stranger.* Me, too.

To understate it, miscarriages can be rough–all the first trimester misery that abruptly ends death, followed by even more intense misery. The hormones, the bleeding, the doctor’s visits and blood draws, the the pain (emotional and physical). I don’t know about you, Sister, but none of my miscarriages felt like “a late period.” They were all much worse than that, even the earliest one. And when it happens over and over (and over and over) again, you kind of just look at your body in the mirror or, like me, wildly grab a handful of flesh from your mid-section and yell, “What the HECK, Body? Get it together!” But, sometimes, no amount of natural hormone balancing and eating the right things and exercising and praying and giving your womb to God is going to make an iota of difference. Your body just isn’t going to cooperate and, after doing all the right things for so long, you can’t help but feel betrayed by your own body.

When the Betrayal head strikes, it will keep you in that place of feeling betrayed, or bring it up if you have somehow managed not to think about it for awhile. It will introduce general distrust toward your body, it will keep you from liking your body and appreciating it, it will have you wishing you had another body. The Betrayal head will also lunge at you with other kinds of betrayal, sometimes it’s triggered by conversations like the one I quoted above… maybe you feel God let you down. Betrayed by a faith that promises the fulfillment of desires.

Head 2: Entitlement

The Entitlement head, perhaps the shrewdest of all the heads, had me in its jaws for a good while… After all, first comes love (Christian love, abstinent, and let’s call it courting), then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage.

Of course, the baby will come because we did everything “right” and now God is eager to bless our union with children. Right?

The Entitlement head won’t snap and snarl at you like Envy will (see below), though Entitlement and Envy do share other things in common. Oh no, Entitlement will nuzzle up to you and whisper all sorts of pleasing things about you in to your ear. All the reasons why you DESERVE a baby. And, especially now that you’ve endured the absolute hell of recurrent miscarriages, how you’ve EARNED that baby. It’ll affirm all the reasons why your miscarriages were so UNFAIR. When it is being particularly vicious, it may even tell you all the reasons why certain other people don’t deserve a baby as much as you do. And you find yourself drawn in by agreement, by the smack of authenticity to it all. Entitlement says all the right things and delicately scoops you into its jaws, practically cradling you there as it slowly, numbingly, devours your humility and your perspective.

Sisters, I am telling you right now, Entitlement cannot be tamed; it must be destroyed before it destroys you. Lop that sucker right off and do not look back. Ridding yourself of entitlement is possibly the most important step in taming The Beast. More on that in a future post…

Head 3: Envy

The pregnancy announcements, the baby shower invites, the dimpled cherub in the cart ahead of you in the check-out line… we’ve all been there. THAT feeling in the pit of your stomach, the tightness or tingling in the throat, the well-rehearsed, cheery-on-the-outside-but-weary-(or-devastated)-on-the-inside smile and “Congratulations!” The genuine interest paired with concurrent internal cringing when your girlfriends get talking about birth stories or baby spacing or complaints about pregnancy or newborn-induced lack of sleep or — probably the most cringe-inducing of all — gender selection methods. *Shudder* The Envy head strikes fast and often and is probably the most predictable of all the heads. Which is little consolation, really, because it still gets you every freaking time.

Head 4: Grief

Disclaimer: When I refer to “grief” in this section, I am not speaking of the “grieving process” or the healthy aspects of grief that are necessary and helpful–I am talking about The Beast, and grief is definitely one of the heads on my beast. Maybe there is a better name for it (feel free to make suggestions), but Grief is what works for now.

The head called Grief sometimes acts as a gatekeeper and it also acts in extremes… one moment smugly denying you “the right” to properly grieve your baby (or babies) lost to miscarriage, helping you stuff your feelings and “get over it,” the next moment unleashing a deluge of pain and sorrow and tears that threaten to overtake you. The Grief head will constantly compare your loss to the losses of others that seem so much more significant and grief-worthy. For example, anyone who has experienced the tragedy of burying a child who lived outside of the womb for any length of time. Grief will sometimes recruit the people in your life to do the dirty work of pointing this out to you as well… It will silence you, isolate you, create anxiety and doubt, and chip away at any sense of hope or dignity.

Here’s the thing we need to remember: the grief of miscarriage and infertility is different. It really can’t be compared to other kinds of grief and loss. It isn’t more or less than other kinds of losses, it’s just… totally and completely different. Sister, I know YOU understand, but it still hurts when others don’t get that, doesn’t it?

When the Grief head is striking, it can also play with your mind. You may even start to question if you were ever really pregnant… especially those of us familiar with early losses and were never able to see or hear a heartbeat or any other “concrete” evidence of our babies’ existence. And yet, Grief will also wake you with a start in the middle of the night because you swear you hear a baby crying. It happens… Sister, you are not crazy. The Grief head just wants you to think you are.

Head 5: Immortality

During my first worldviews class in college, I remember reading Socrates’ philosophy of childbearing and immortality. He explained that, in childbearing, we are actually fulfilling a desire for immortality; having children is a way of ensuring a piece of ourselves lives on. It makes sense, albeit this may prove a somewhat self-centered and vain motivation to procreate. Think about it. Even the wide-eyed, naive, 18-year-old me, brand new to the adult world and also new to Socratic philosophy knew the whole notion felt… off, and kind of icky. I determined then that I would not worship the fertility gods at the altar of immortality, no matter how “natural” it may seem. So, having done my homework on this one years before I was introduced to The Beast, I thought I could outsmart that sneaky Immortality head and steer clear of it pretty easily. Yet, following the fourth miscarriage and our choice to 100% close the door on biological reproduction (a story for another time, perhaps), the Immortality head was the first to strike.

There you have it. An introduction to my story and an introduction to my 5-headed infertility beast. How many and what kind of heads does your own Beast have?

Image credit: http://uo.stratics.com/content/ml/creatures.shtml

Oregon Fail

This post about those born in the late 70s/early 80s recently made rounds on social media. It is a pleasant read and most of it was dead-on accurate for me… and apparently for many others, given how many times it showed up on my news feed.

But here’s the thing: I was born in the very early 80’s and I’ve never played Oregon Trail. Never. Not once. Totally could have since it was on all the school computers, pretty much all of my friends played it, and I have always loved learning and reading about pioneer life (fiction and non-fiction), BUT I never had an iota of desire to play the game.

So… there ya go.

Any other early-80s babies out there manage to dodge the collective Oregon Trail phase of our youth?