My Grown-Up Christmas List

It used to be that I REFUSED to put up my tree or ANY kind of Christmas decoration until the day after Thanksgiving.  Actually, it was ON Thanksgiving.

After I’d eaten (and then napped), on went the Christmas music, out came the decorations, and down went the Frothy Eggnog.  (Yes, I said Frothy.  It’s eggnog, rum and ice all mixed in a blender.)

I’d start with the Christmas village, and then moved forward with the rest of the decorations.  I’ve ALWAYS had an obsession with Christmas villages.  I LOVE them!

I love to sit and look down at them and imagine all the goings-on that are happening in the tiny little town.

Children giggling in bed until all hours.  Peeking down the stairs when they hear the floors creak.  Waking up before the sun to beg mom and dad to let them check out their stockings and open presents.

About 10 years ago or so, I found little ceramic houses.  I bought one thinking it would be good to help pass the time and little did I know that 10 years later I would still be collecting them and painting them one-by-one.

One painstaking, detail-oriented, OCD-in-full-effect house at a time.  Here’s a sneak-peek at a few of them!

They all start out like this!

They all start out like this!

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And then I add the details!

And then I add the details!

And then I add glitter for snooooow!

And then I add glitter for snooooow!

I think of those little houses like us.  Blank as can be, and then God fills in all the tiny little details – right down to the number of hairs on our head.

I found that when I got out on my own, my traditions changed.

My husband and I started our own traditions 7 years ago – it all started with a tree.  And it hasn’t changed since.  (It almost ended with a tree too, but that’s a WHOLE other story!)

The holidays have been kind of rough the last couple years.  I’ve always looked forward to the holidays with children.  While it’s not at all impossible for adults to enjoy Christmas without kids (side note: people who think it is are on my list of people I don’t want to hear comments from.  ever.)  I had just always dreamed about wrapping presents and filling stockings for our kids.  I had even hoped I would be able to do a creative, fun pregnancy announcement for the holidays!  But the last couple years, I haven’t much wanted to participate.

This year…  this year is different.  There’s a new sense of cautious optimism.  A tentative joy.  A watchful hope.

J and I have been ensconced in the process of adoption…  mountains of paperwork and doctor’s appointments and reference letters and background checks.  It’s seriously a LOT of work!

Part of all the paperwork are a LARGE list of questions that J and I have to answer separately.  Questions about the other.  Questions about ourselves.

Me being COMPLETELY OCD couldn’t just leave the answers in our own handwriting – noooooooo.  I had to type them up and then highlight my name in pink and his in blue for our respective answers.  (DON’T JUDGE.)

I answered my questions on my own and had J do the same.  As I was reading through his answers and typing them out – through tears – I realized something.

INFERTILITY SUCKS.  But if it weren’t for this trial, and for the amazing blessing we are preparing to receive, we would probably have never asked each other a lot of the questions.

  • Describe your personality
  • Describe your spouse’s personality
  • What’s your biggest strength/weakness?
  • What’s your spouse’s biggest strength/weakness?
  • What makes your marriage strong?
  • Describe your happiest/worst childhood memory

How many of you can tell me what your spouse’s favorite childhood memory is?

It sure does wake something up inside of you when you hear your biggest strength and weakness in someone else’s voice.  And it certainly does something to your self-esteem when you see yourself through someone else’s eyes.

I try SO HARD to be grateful for every situation we face.  Some days I fail.  Other days I fail MISERABLY.  Other days, I can almost feel the silver lining.  But I am SO GRATEFUL that I was able to learn those things!!

This year, as I was decorating our tree, the song “My Grown-Up Christmas List” sang by Michael Bublé came on.  And as he sang about wishing for no more lives torn apart, no war, time healing all hearts, everyone having a friend and love never ending, I wanted to write my own lyrics to the song, but my rhyming skills are SERIOUSLY lacking.

As I’ve grown older, my list has gotten smaller.  I’d like to say that the things I want can’t be bought, but as we all in the infertility world know, unfortunately they really CAN put a price on a child.

But they can’t put a price on happiness.

And after I finish my Grown-Up Christmas List, I won’t be sitting on any laps to tell what it is…  No, I’ll be reading it on my knees. 

Father’s & Their Days

Where do I start?!

Life has been QUITE the whirlwind lately.

We have FINALLY finished painting!!!  The whole house got a fresh coat of paint from the ceilings to the base boards, we have new carpets in the bedrooms and hubby is currently working on redoing the deck, adding a pergola and building a fire pit.  I even added some feminine touches to the front and back yards with flowers and new mulch.  Go me!

We.  Are.  EXHAUSTED!  But we are content.

It’s funny how infertility can permeate your mindset.  People are always telling us “When you’re not thinking about it, that’s when it will happen”,  when what they REALLY need to be telling us is HOW to not think about it!

The last month or so has been so insanely busy that there have literally been times that I have had to remind myself to breathe.  Not to mention all the times I had to remind myself that murdering your spouse is illegal (especially if you get caught).

But if you had asked me where I was in my cycle during any of that time, I would have been able to tell you.  While there was no timing intercourse or charting temps or testing for ovulation, I knew right where I was.  And not because I was paying any attention to it, but just because I’ve gotten so “in tune” with my body.

Believe me, before all of this infertility mumbo jumbo, I was ALWAYS caught off guard when that time of the month would roll around.  Of course, before I was on some of the meds I’m on, it was more like once every 3 months.  Oh, blissful ignorance.

I was just commenting on a friend’s blog today that it’s so easy to get caught in thinking “maybe if I distract myself with [insert activity here], I’ll get pregnant.”  So we tuck that hope away and immerse ourselves, all the while trying to tune out that little niggling that says “HEY YOU!  I’m ovulating here!  Are you gonna do something about it?!”

J & I said goodbye to our old apartment and christened our new home – a couple times (sorry M-I-L and all you Sensitive Sally’s!) – and just genuinely enjoyed each other’s company once we got past the most stressful parts of moving and new homeownership.

I’d be lying if I said that the little seedling of hope that had been sprouting in my heart wasn’t devastated when Aunt Flow faithfully arrived the day before Father’s Day.

Father’s Day.  Another one of those holidays that brings mixed emotions.

It would have been nice to give J an extra special Father’s Day gift this year.  But alas, he’s just stuck with me – again.

Father’s Day is a kinda touchy holiday to begin with for me.  It was hard for me to feel like I had a father for the most part growing up.

My biological dad was, in all my childish naivety, my hero.  The man who I didn’t really know, but could do no wrong in my eyes.  He lived 3,000 miles away while I was growing up, so it was easy to keep him on a pedestal.

There was the man my mother was married to when I was in my 20’s, who was awesome.  Soft-spoken yet firm.  He had to step in to a tough position.  And he did so with grace.  Even though they aren’t married anymore, I will forever be grateful to him for the role that he played in my life.

And then, there’s the man that was there for all the years in between.  My anything-but-step father.

We had a rocky relationship while I was growing up.  I’d say the responsibility for that is spread pretty evenly.  I wasn’t his “real” daughter and I had a father that I was always searching for ways to get closer to.  I felt like he had his family, and I was just kinda … there.  His responsibility, but not really his.

He always worked hard – and worked us harder sometimes, it seemed – and provided well.  Him and my mother owned a business and they kept us kids busy stuffing statements and licking envelopes.  I don’t remember them being around a whole lot when we were younger.  There were quite a few nannies and babysitters and I recall MANY times that I was home with my siblings as the babysitter as well.

As a child, it felt like they didn’t want to be around us.  But now, looking through my adult eyes (thank goodness for those, huh?), I can see that most of the time spent away was in an effort to provide.

The times that I remember them being around were always crazy.  Like the cross-country trip to Pennsylvania in my dad’s ’66 Lincoln Continental with suicide doors (exactly like the car in The Matrix) with our tent trailer attached.  Yup.  4 kids, 2 adults and the feeling like we would NEVER get out of the car again!  We did see a LOT of cool stuff on the way there and back, and some of those memories are BEYOND priceless.

Today, the relationship I have with my then stepfather is extremely different.  When I was in my early 20’s, we had a LONG (occasionally loud) conversation about the past, put it behind us, moved on and he bears the prestigious title of ‘Dad’.  In fact, his back yard – the backyard of my childhood home – is where J & I got married.

He still works very hard.  And provides very well.  We may not always see eye-to-eye and I may not always agree with where he stands on some things, but we know each other well enough to not overstep the boundaries or expect the other to come around to our way of thinking through anything beyond their own idea.

He’s opinionated, but understanding.  Traditional, but open-minded.  Has high expectations, but easily forgives.

I remember J meeting my dad for the first time.  We had gone to Birmingham, Alabama to help him flip a house and then when we got home, J promptly broke up with me.  After shattering my heart and then deciding he’d messed up and wanted to be with me, I told him it wasn’t just me that he would have to ask forgiveness from now.  So he wrote my dad a letter.  (Don’t tell anyone, but I have both letters – J’s & dad’s response – saved in my email!)  If I had any doubt that J was the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, it was removed after reading that letter.

And I remember being SHOCKED at my dad’s reply.  Not just because it was absolutely perfect and forgiving and just what J needed to hear, but because he said some things in it about me that I never even realized he thought about me.  It’s always an eye-opener when you get a chance to see yourself through someone else’s eyes.

I am so grateful that we have been able to overcome what started out so rough and forge a path that is all our own.  I am blessed that I have someone that I can call anytime I need advice or encouragement – or even to be talked out of something.

At a time in my life when it seems other people are dropping like flies through the trials, it is really nice to have someone so consistent to rely on.  Even if we don’t talk for a couple months at a time, when we do – after the obligatory ribbing – we can pick right up where we left off.  For that, I say from the very bottom of my heart, THANK YOU.

Me & Dad

My bio dad is still in my life as well.  We talk occasionally and I’m grateful for him, as well.  In fact, the two of them even shared the privilege of walking me down the aisle and giving me away.  I know, not very traditional, but I felt it was fitting.

So, while Father’s Day was tough for the obvious, present reasons, it was also filled with thoughts of years gone by and memories that are still to be made…

Aside

MTHFR & Me

Where do I even start?  This last week has been torture.  I despise waiting…  ESPECIALLY when it’s the kind of waiting that is wrought with anticipation.  Remember that insanely LARGE amount of blood that I had drawn a couple of weeks ago?  Well, I finally got the results of that.  I don’t fully understand what it means just yet, but I am digging as deep as I can to learn, so bear with me as I try to explain it…

confused

I was diagnosed with a compound heterozygous MTHFR mutation.  (No, It’s not an abbreviation for a dirty word, although it’s VERY fitting!)  I had some additional blood work done today to find out whether I will need to be referred to a hematologist or simply be treated by Family Care Dr.  There isn’t much information on it yet, as it’s still something that’s being studied.  One of the simplest blogs I’ve read that helps explain it is by Kate Powe, titled “From Infertility to Depression to Cancer.  Why you need to get to know MTHFR”  where she breaks it down into kind of an MTHFR for Dummies!  One way she describes it is – it’s a mutation of a gene who’s “role is to produce an enzyme that converts folate into the body’s bioactive form, methylfolate.”  She says “If you happen to have this genetic hiccup, it results in a defective MTHFR enzyme which leads to a substantial reduction of the enzyme’s function …  The impact that a faulty MTHFR gene can have on the entire body is so far-reaching, it’s considered to be linked to a host of chronic diseases, including: cardiovascular disease, clotting disorders and thromboembolism, congenital defects, recurrent miscarriage, neural tube defects, infertility, chronic fatigue, multiple sclerosis, migraine, anxiety, ADD, autism, cancer, diabetes, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar and addictions.”  (italics by me)

There are a couple of spots on a certain strand of DNA that this gene can mutate/copy.  Position 677 & 1298.  There are a few different ways that it can copy also.  Heterozygous means there is 1 copy of either the 677 or 1298 mutation from one parent plus a normal gene from the other, homozygous means there are 2 copies of the 677 & 1298 mutation, one from each parent.  Compound heterozygous (me) means you have one copy of the 677 mutation from one parent and one copy of the 1298 mutation from the other parent.

As it relates to pregnancy, it can cause blood clots, miscarriage, neural tube defects, pre-eclampsia, placental abruption, Down Syndrome, just to name a few.

frazzled

Ok, enough of the science mumbo-jumbo…  what does it all MEAN?!  From what I can understand, it means that with this mutation  (side note: every time I hear that word I think of X-men)  my body can’t process certain things the way that it’s supposed to which increases my risk of risk of a variety of cancers, heart problems & all kinds of other stuff that makes it sound like the speed talking portion of the side effects on a medicine commercial!

So, as you can see, it’s a LOT to take in.  My head is spinning and my brain is on information overload!  Prayers for answers have not gone unheard, it’s just not what I was expecting – AT ALL!  Since it’s something that’s in my DNA, it can’t be “fixed” (yet) but it seems fairly treatable.  It seems through diet and lifestyle changes, the levels that this mutation throws off can be balanced, and therefore the side effects lessened.  I will be taking a low-dose (81mg) aspirin every day, and while TTC will be needing to take extra folate.  If I can get pregnant again,  it seems I will need to take – either by injection or pill – a blood thinner so as to decrease the chance of clots that may result in another miscarriage.  It really does explain a LOT of the chronic illnesses and such that I’ve dealt with throughout my life!

sick lady

We still have so much more to learn and honestly, it terrifies me.  But we’ve fought so hard to get where we are, that it would make NO SENSE to roll over and give up now!

In other news, with my period being the absolute latest its EVER been (7 days!) and being in some severe pain over the weekend, I had some blood work and an ultrasound done today that confirmed that not only am I NOT pregnant but I have yet another cyst on my left ovary.  After a complete level 4 breakdown in the OB’s office – which I feel bad about cuz they’re so used to helping women that are pregnant, that they don’t quite know what to do with one that can’t get there – I dried my tears long enough to make it home and collapse in a heap.  I started the medication that I am supposed to take for 5 days in order to bring on my period in about two weeks, only to discover that it only took one pill in order to make my aunt arrive.

This last week has been torture…  But answers are slowly coming.  I’ve felt so discouraged and broken.  Just when I feel like my heart might be mending, something comes along and shatters it just a little bit more.  I KNOW that God knows.  I know that He has a plan.  I know that I’m PROBABLY stronger than I feel… but dang it all if I don’t just feel so beat up lately.  I’m gonna pull myself up by the bootstraps and learn about what our options are for conceiving and exactly what the relationship will be for MTHFR & me.

waitingfaith