I could almost feel God laughing when I wrote the following words in my recent post, “Where Have You Been?”:
When or if I get pregnant, it is because of years and years of work tearing down this ego Satan has built inside of me.
Seriously. Hollywood couldn’t have scripted a more hilarious thing to write literally within the days of the conception of my pregnancy.
(And boy – I mean literally. I’ve been charting my cycles with the Creighton method, and literally July 8th is around when ovulation happened.)
So, hey, wow. Let’s get this party started:
That quote was dead on. (TMI Alert!) Thanks to EMDR, I overcame my emotional blocks (one day at a time) and we started making love to completion in late May. We made love that way three times, and then I became pregnant. This is interesting to me on so many levels, because I thought we had physical conception problems for the past three years.
But the story starts a little earlier. In April of this year, I completed a Whole 30 (very strict no sugar, grains, dairy, or “Paleo” desserts). For the first time in 5 years, my thyroid numbers were within range of normal.
So, were we infertile until May, and then would have become pregnant regardless of whether it was to completion or not? Or have we been fertile this whole time, and it’s only since EMDR has been working in my heart that it was going to happen? Literally only God knows.
“Knowing I’m Pregnant” Week 1
Are you ready for this? My first reaction to my pregnancy was terror and panic. I cried. I had panic attacks for the first time in a long time. I shouted at my husband — through gasping sobs — “I don’t think I can do this.”
Is this any way to react to a miracle? Or, Lord help me, did Mary feel anything like this?
Looking back (er, looking at me now still), I can see there’s three parts to this reaction:
- Probably pretty normal: I’m not ready for this. I thought I had more time. This is a lot of change. Why not wait a few more days/weeks/years?
- Less normal but still normal: I’m a sick person. My body can’t possibly support a pregnancy, so this whole thing is doomed from the start. (This is what keeps me up at night the most, when I’m not crying about it).
- Even less normal, pretty wicked: I don’t want to do this. I want to be comfortable, and I was just about to achieve it with my dedication to health and fine-tuning my mental performance so I could make money with my business.
I really had shelved a baby. I was always afraid of it (my chronic health issues make me afraid of being sick, and let’s face it, being sick is basically the daily cross of being pregnant). But I also felt misty-eyed when I thought of not having children.
(Side note confession: If I weren’t Catholic and I didn’t understand deeply just how much of an abomination it is, I would totally have thought surrogacy was an option).
I was in this weird, Catholic-but-oddly-secular place where I got to have the satisfaction of “wanting kids” and the freedom of “not being able to have kids.” I was getting away with it. And then… suddenly… I wasn’t.
Pairing that sense of joyful disbelief (I already gave up on a baby, after all) with the sense that I was on this path to utter destruction (it starts with queasiness and exhaustion and ends by ripping your body apart), my brain was on overload. I cried most of the first week and scared my poor husband.
“Knowing I’m Pregnant” Week 2
OK, I lied a little bit in the first section. My first reaction to pregnancy was actually very practical: I called all my doctors and determined that I should drive to a city about an hour away to start bioidentical progesterone shots.
It was surreal — telling nurses I was pregnant, getting HCG and progesterone tests, and so on. Turns out I was so newly pregnant that they weren’t sure I was pregnant and it had to be confirmed with another blood test over the weekend. That’s part of my life now, getting stuck in the butt with a big needle on Mondays and Thursdays. So, let’s start that timeline, too.
As for week 2, I was less panicked, but still crying a lot. This is a good time to mention that we also moved. Nothing quite like ripping yourself out of your home for the past 3 years for a new, bigger home, that’s a little more expensive and not quite as nice. I’m sure half my stress comes from getting used to a new place, but wow, it all combines at night to make me feel like this otherworldly, terrorized, crazy lady.
Things got slowly better, though. During week 2, we bought some fun books about parenting and pregnancy. I had a few moments of actually being excited about this, and enjoying the prospect of being pregnant. What if this really could work out?
“Knowing I’m Pregnant” Week 3
This just about brings us up to date. We’ve told a few close friends (basically the support network I would want if we miscarry) and my anonymous Internet community (that’s you guys). Everyone else is going to wait until October 1st.
I get very, very sad sometimes, and I am struggling with depression. But that seems to be my main “pregnancy” symptom.
I am relieved to say that I was so afraid of throwing up, and I haven’t yet! I get queasy easily, and the most appealing things to eat are mostly off-limits to me (carbs and sugar mostly, and I’m at risk for gestational diabetes so I started tracking that carefully).
I’m also exhausted a lot easier than ever before (and that’s saying something — I was already working 10-15 hour weeks to accommodate my lowered energy!). Making food for my husband and I is so far off my radar. We’ve been eating more to-go food and prepared food than ever before, and my counselor gave me the green light to not feel bad about it. We still eat very clean foods (we eat a Paleo/Whole 30 template), but cheese and gluten-free packaged treats have been sneaking into it.
Your Gift to Me: Fear Venting
I hate to bog you guys down with my fears, which are less real to you, but WOW if that’s not what I need to do!
I’ve been pulling away from friends and activities because I hate to cry in front of people without a solution in hand. Then there’s trying to think of something to say to people who don’t know I’m pregnant yet. I’ll work on this, but in the mean time I hope you’ll forgive me for walking through the deepest, darkest part of my heart right now:
- What if we miscarry? This is a real risk for everyone who gets pregnant. The rates vary, but it could be as high as 25%. I felt a lot better once I learned that in many cases it’s simply unavoidable: it’s because the baby isn’t viable for some chromosomal reason, and it has to go. But I still fear this greatly, not just the loss but also the physical pain of uterine contractions. I’ve had very bad period pains before — to the point of getting hot/cold sweats, shaking, and thinking I was going to pass out — and I’m afraid I won’t be able to handle the pain of a miscarriage.
- What if we miscarry and I have to do this again? The idea of starting over at O with a pregnancy makes me cold to my bones. Honestly, part of my thoughts (that I can’t control) is that this is it, this is my shot, and if something goes wrong I’ll find a way to not have to do it again, like not having sex every again. I can’t explain this thought process, but it’s all based in fear, which means it’s not from God. I need to work on this.
- What if I can’t work? I work for myself as a freelance writer. My income depends on me 1) finding clients, 2) writing for clients. Pregnancy craziness affects concentration and energy, which affects both those things. I am terrified I won’t be able to focus and then I won’t be able to make enough money to 1) cover the next few months of bills, 2) cover a maternity leave, 3) cover our taxes for last year and this year. I pray for a financial miracle every night (if that’s God’s will for us… otherwise I pray to be brave through all of this).
- How do I maintain my friendships? My friends are almost all split between single women who crave a husband and a home life, and married women who are struggling to conceive. They have all been so gracious to me. But inside my head all I can think is that they want me to hush up and be grateful for the wonderful things I have in my life. And hey, I can’t argue with that, I should be grateful! But how do you deny your fears and discomforts to embrace only the positive? At my core I feel fear and discomfort with my new home and my pregnancy. I’ll pray to God to let me release them.
Well, there you go. Thank you so much for reading. I don’t want to dwell on my fears — my hope is that by sharing them with you, I can release them and focus on being excited to be a mother, grateful for the ability to be pregnant and the pregnancy itself, and closer to God by being closer to the miracle of life.
I don’t think it will feel real until I see a heartbeat at 12 weeks, but getting up 4 times a night to pee feels real enough for now!
Time to turn the mic to you: If you’ve been pregnant, what were the first few weeks like? If you’re struggling with infertility, do you forgive me for being terrified?
When I look back on the changes in my life in the past two months, it feels like it’s a different person writing. That’s only a testament to the amazing change that can be wrought in your heart when God, the Holy Spirit, and counseling work together.
I’ve worked a lot, traveled a bit, and been in counseling almost every week. Here are some themes that are playing out in my life and bringing me closer to God:
“You are more than what you do”
I have a tendency toward false idols (I think we all do). Work is a big one. Because I’m good at it and it rewards me with money, I tend to pour all of my time, thought, and energy into it in order to avoid harder things like being present to my husband, putting myself out there for my friends (new and old), and being available to God.
Right now, my business is in a slow growth state, which gives me a lot of time to reflect and feel fear. More than ever before, though, I’ve been trying to stick with mantras like, “It’s all in God’s hands,” and “What happens will happen.” I’m still very afraid, but I also feel a bit of anesthesia from a fear that would usually be wringing my guts out. I’ve prayed for peace from God (and the ability to stop seeing money as security) and I can feel God working in me.
Sex as mutual self-giving
At the time of this writing, the past two times we’ve made love has been to completion. It feels so weird and amazing (and TMI) to write that, but it’s an important part of my story. It’s also one that I want people to know about. When or if I get pregnant, it is because of years and years of work tearing down this ego Satan has built inside of me.
I want to be clear it’s all by the grace of God and that the only way forward was to get out of my own way and give everything to Him. Which, ironically, sounds a lot like what I was afraid of in the first place (giving everything up). So it’s all an amazingly intertwined spiritual pretzel.
I still worry I’m not having sex enough or that I won’t be able to have it to completion enough (or each time), but part of the work I’m doing has been to turn off my brain. I am enough. What I’m doing is enough. And I should never dwell on not being enough, just as I should never stop trying to improve myself and my spiritual condition… the beauty of the Both/And Catholicism!
I still wonder if other women go through this. It’s not something people bring up in polite company too often, so it’s hard to get a sense of how normal this is, but if I keep chugging away with my story I hope I can find others or help someone dealing with the same thing.
What does “OK” mean?
So many things affect how I think I’m doing. My health, my bank account, my mood, how much I’ve accomplished in a given day. But God tells us only one thing matters: I’ve had to keep reminding myself that I will be the best-version-of-myself no matter how the future finds me based on my spiritual health, not my physical health, possessions, or mind.
What does OK mean to you? Getting into a certain college? Getting a certain salary? Dating a certain person? Imagine how much stress would fall away from us if we focused on the only thing that matters: how quickly and easily we express our love for God. When that’s all that matters to us, we stop fighting those great things because they don’t look the way they think they should, and we leave room for God to do great things in our lives.
There’s so much more, but that’s enough of a check-in for now (and I hope to be back more regularly starting now). I’d love to hear how you all are doing and what you’re reading!
“I don’t know if I love you, but if I don’t, I know I want to.”
After more than a year of dating, that’s the closest I’d come to having the boyfriend I’d been sleeping with say he loved me. It was a hot summer night, and he was dropping me off at my house after we spent the day together.
You’d think this — in addition to his serious addiction to pornography — would have been enough of a “Get the heck outta there!” warning to back away, but for some reason it didn’t register.
Instead, I wandered inside my house in a daze, wondering what it meant that my boyfriend really wanted to love me. He wanted to (he was good), which meant he couldn’t (because I was bad?), which meant I was unlovable (really bad, then?).
I’m not here to relive sad memories. I’m hoping that hearing this story might show you what could be going on in the life of someone you know. Picture your daughter, or your niece, or your best female friend as a 16-year-old and replay this scene in your head (and believe me, it’s possible. Kids are having sex as early as fifth grade now, and if they aren’t having sex they know someone who is or they’re talking about it). Looking at it now, it’s despicable. It’s ludicrous.
I wish I had a clear answer about what would have turned my path back then. M parents raised me in a Catholic church and I was half-involved with youth activities. But some perfect storm of emotional vulnerability and insecurity left me wide open for the influence of a cute boy who wanted to hang out with me.
What can you do for that person in your life now? I don’t know. Anything I wish my brothers had done (find this guy and beat him up, demand that we stop seeing each other, reveal everything to my parents) would have been very painful and awkward at the time. But I wonder how much it would have helped to have a strong relationship with someone who would have given me the tough feedback I needed to hear.
Here’s a small selection of things I didn’t know then that I know now:
If someone doesn’t love you enough to want you to have a beautiful life and a strong marriage, why do you think they love you enough to be worthy of sleeping with them?
If you have to “do things” in order to keep a friendship or a relationship, you’re better off without that relationship.
As I learned in reflecting on Strange Gods, I don’t pretend it was up to someone else to “save me” from these bad decisions. I moved forward in this relationship because I had no relationship with God. At the time, it felt like it was John or bust. And then a sort of Nightingale Effect settled in and I began to deeply love the one-sided relationship I was having.
So that’s where I’d start. If you’re concerned about a loved one or you want to be a part of the team that prevents these kinds of things from happening, start with God. Start with relationship. And start right now.
Your turn: Where do you think bad decisions come from in the teenage years?
PS Wrote this post to the Casting Crowns channel. My husband loves them! What do you think?
This isn’t your typical dysfunctional family post (though I have plenty of those). Instead, this is a post dedicated to all of the hard-working, beautiful-but-you-don’t-see-it, self-sacrificing Catholic Moms out there. And I have just one message for you:
You are God’s gift to your children. Act like it.
I don’t mean this in a mean, scolding way. Because moms of all ages and of all family sizes need our support and encouragement over everything else.
I only mean this to help you see that no matter who you are or what your flaws are, God has decided that you are the absolute best parent possible for your children.
So no matter what you think you’re bad at or what you think you’ll regret later… it’s so, so worth it now to stop and reflect on whether or not what you’re teaching your children accurately reflects God’s plan for your life… and God’s definition of godly men and woman.
My mother is a beautiful and lively mother of four. But there’s just one thing — she grew up in a family that was cruel to her about her looks and in a city and state that is particularly superficial. As long as I can remember, she has been negative and critical about her body — even when she looked absolutely beautiful to me, my father, and my brothers.
I am 31, and this week I spent my EMDR counseling session processing a lot of the messages I received about my body through how my mom perceived her body.
Her small comments about how “Everything would look better on her if she were thinner,” and her exclamations that we delete every photo of her that she didn’t find flattering (and guess how many photos she found to be flattering?) were a few pieces of a million-part puzzle that taught me how to measure the worth and beauty of my own body.
Growing up, this quickly transitioned to a fear that her daughter might be fat, so she put a lot of emphasis on what it meant to be a lady and how ladies shouldn’t have too big an appetite (while my brothers were free to hork seconds and thirds at every meal).
And then, you know what, I got fat.
All I felt when I looked at my mom, my food, or my body was pressure. Everything I ate, said, and wore spoke to me about whether or not I was the ideal, normal woman. And as a girl child destined to be 6 foot tall, there wasn’t much I could do to avoid being bigger than most people (and being out-sized at all your normal clothes providers).
Body image aside, the real damage here (and the real power Catholic moms of the world have) is understanding what it means to be a woman. A biblical woman. A Catholic woman.
Because pant size somehow doesn’t come up in the bible. Neither does plastic surgery or height or the ability to have children. None of these things define our womanhood. You know what does (and what was a refreshing realization late last night?)? Our hearts.
Our hearts! A womanly heart. Not a womanly size 12, a womanly svelte-looking arm, or a perfectly crafted face of make-up. A woman is measured by her godliness, her desire to dress herself in good works, and her fear for the Lord.
… and so many families (including my own) didn’t pass that message along.
A woman’s husband has every right to take pleasure in her God-given good looks, but the rest of us (including her father and mother and family members) should be working hard to see what’s in her heart and cultivate a peaceable, tender nature in her soul.
And those are the very things we destroy when we exclusively focus on outward appearance, physical size, and attractiveness.
If the only message your daughter or son ever gets about womanhood is the best way to figure out if she’s hot or not, then you’re setting her up for her own bad decisions and counseling sessions 30 years from now and you’re depriving her of the peace and love that flows from our God.
There’s your message for today: before you consider yourself in the mirror (or look at your overweight or otherwise imperfect child), try to look beyond the surface to see what you see in your and your child’s heart.
PS If you want to figure out what it means to be a godly woman and how you can have an impact on how your children see their femininity in God, What Christians Want to Know has a great Top-10 post.
It’s just incredible that a month has passed since I wrote about my niece-in-law. After the initial upset and bringing it up in my own counseling sessions, it hasn’t popped up again as a significant thing outside of praying for the whole family during bible study. I guess a part of me thinks that suffering within my husband’s family should be a bigger deal for us, but it’s difficult to keep that sensitivity when you’re building boundaries within a dysfunctional family. This is a prime opportunity for, “Let go, let God,” as God works on both my husband’s family and my husband and myself.
Within counseling, there have definitely been some breakthroughs for me. I go about once per week and each session is emotional and draining. Last week we focused more on career issues I am having and some confidence and authority problems I’ve had since my bad teaching experience. After one session, a lot of my anxiety around my current business just dissolved! So, I am officially a convert of EDMR style therapy.
Without consciously doing it, I have been taking a break from the sexual side of my issues. Within few EDMR sessions I definitely saw improvement in my desire to have sex and my anxiety around sex itself, but I still have the sperm issue.
I am so, so grateful that EDMR seems to work just like glue solvent where you don’t really feel huge changes but things just seem to be less charged, less painful, and less of a big deal. It hasn’t happened yet, but I have it in mind that that’s what will happen with my main problem (ejaculation) and one day it just won’t be a big deal that my husband and I complete the sex act together.
A girl can hope.
Until then, my health is giving me more than enough to contend with, and I’ve been feeling way more peaceful about the idea of being childless. God asks us to give up our plans for our lives, and I have been really feeling peaceful about that process lately, even though I put up more of a fight last year. When I look at the blessings in my life, I can see that it is more than enough to warrant a long, happy, and fruitful existence with or without children.
And honestly, I want to poll some more women on this subject. I really don’t see myself as carrying a child or being pregnant, despite coming from a large family and large families coming from my brothers. When I look in the mirror, I just don’t see or feel that process to be aligned with my path. I guess there are always surprises, but I wonder how many other women really felt like they *knew* they would or would not be pregnant in their life, or got pregnant after feeling distinctly that it was not something they would experience. (Outside of the whole secular “I just don’t want to be a mother” sentiment, of course).
That’s all for now! I have a feeling I’ll be digging into the sexual side of things again soon and that my brain just needed a break from the intense reading I was doing at the start of the year. I also have a dear friend coming over for dinner tonight and, if the mood is right, I may share my story with her so we can grow even closer.
She was with me before, during, and after the abusive relationship occurred, so I will be very curious to hear her thoughts on it. She is also not Christian, so that spin on it will be interesting, too. And, to not be too selfish about it, I wonder if this will inspire to share some of her own wounds from that time period, because I think we were both suffering with sexual relationships and emotional abuse and not talking about it.
God bless you all, and keep me in your prayers if you have an empty spot on your list!
PS Catholic Twitter is seriously hilarious. Join us!
My husband is on the phone with his sister right now, trying to convince her that she has the right to tell her two daughters “No.”
In this case, it’s about the mother finding prescription drugs and a pipe in 17-year-old Kid A’s purse (“No, you cannot work at that bar anymore.”) and finding out that 15-year-old Kid B is having sex with her older boyfriend (“No, you cannot see that boy anymore”).
I want to give my sister-in-law some credit; she is an alcoholic and we suspect that she was sexually molested as a child. She is also married to an alcoholic who is dying of liver failure, but who won’t stop drinking. She has a household full of challenges, and I am sure it is easier to feel powerless than it is to feel powerful when she faces what she faces every day.
This time, my husband’s weird family dynamics hit me right where it hurts.
If you’re following along with my own drama, you know that I engaged in a sexual relationship with an older guy at 15 and it’s lead to countless problems in my current (married and Catholic) love life.
Because of the growing drama over the last few years, we haven’t seen the nieces much. The last I really remember hanging out with them we played a care-free game of basketball. And now we’re watching — what feels like helplessly — as they both grow up in all the wrong ways.
I know it’s not all about me, but learning that my 15-year-old niece in law is having sex with her older boyfriend (and that her older sister was given condoms by her mother) activates a lot of anxiety for me.
It’s hard to describe the feelings that come up from this perspective, watching the cycle repeat itself with someone we watched grow up.
This struggle is only unfolding now, but here are some things to keep in mind to lower your blood pressure if you ever find yourself in a situation like this one:
1. You could say everything right, and this still might be meant to be.
My husband and I both want to be life-changers. But even if we gave a 100 percent, primo, amazing speech about Catholicism and premarital sex and anti-drug use…. it still might be out of our hands. You have to do everything you reasonably can, but then you HAVE to let go and let God.
2. Stress is thinking you’re in control; peace is knowing God’s in control.
Thanks to Scott Hahn’s Facebook feed for this one:
But honestly, I really struggle with this because I know what the consequences of my niece’s sexual activity could be. I want to save her from all of this pain and what’s to come, but I have to accept that it’s not my right to do that. God will find a lesson in here for her, and he will make this right because that’s what he does. The rest is up to her and God.
3. Boundaries protect you from yourself.
The impulse to help is powerful, and sometimes we can’t control it when it comes to our families. Thankfully, my husband and I are well-versed in the Boundaries book and we know to evaluate our behavior from a biblical perspective.
In this situation, we’ve tried to reach out to our nieces several times and they don’t respond or engage (to the extent that one of them blocked me on Twitter several years ago).
We can try to stay in touch and let them know we’re here for them if they ever want to talk about things, but we can’t drive over to their house, pick them up, and take them to a convent. It’s out of our hands, and God made it that way so that we all would have free will to choose him. My husband and I need to find peace with that.
I’m sure there’s more to learn from this situation, but I’m exhausted and stressed out about the whole thing (especially considering I was in counseling for my own sexual relationship as a 15-year-old this afternoon!!).
What would you do in this situation? Have you dealt with a similar experience?
I’m rereading CS Lewis’s Screwtape Letters and then this forehead-slap-worthy “Trend” came across the screen of my Twitter account:
And I just…. can’t even.
This is such obvious secular nonsense.
How in the world does it being 2016 mean that emotionally broken and damaged people should make up rules about how they treat other people and their own bodies?
Yeah, this is going to be a great year. For treating your body like it’s separate from your mind or your emotions? For pretending sex doesn’t mean anything and it’s fine to get off on other people? For getting drunk and ignoring all the warning signs in your life? ( & this is just according to the trailer I couldn’t look away from during the previews of another movie.)
Please tell me there is going to be a cultural whiplash against this movie… please tell me this is not the height of comedy, entertainment, or “women’s rights.” Please tell me that those who see this movie will be so turned off by it that it changes their life for the better!
I could cut it off here and leave this as a rant, but I’d rather make a tiny push toward making the world a better place. I’d like to take your “It’s 2016 — Make your own rules!” and replace it with these amazing lessons about sex from Simcha Fisher in her NC Register Post, “So What SHOULD We Tell Our Kids About Sex?”:
- Love is a gift of self.
- We speak with our bodies.
- Sex is about babies, among other things.
- The world lies to you.
- Sex forms bonds.
- Chastity is a positive.
- It’s possible to ruin sex for yourself.
- Sex is beautiful and mysterious.
- Premarital sex hurts you both, even if you marry the person you had it with.
- But all is never lost if you’ve gone too far.
I strongly encourage you to click over and read the full article. Like Fisher’s book, “The Sinner’s Guide to NFP” (which is about WAY MORE than NFP), it’s worth reading twice and sharing with everyone you know who has kids!
I’ve never had a photographic memory.
That said, I have two degrees (one a Master’s), I work for myself, and I’ve been known to give some thoughtful advice.
But lately… yeah, lately I feel that kind of going down the tube as my chronic health issues flare into some kind of psychological snowstorm that leaves me feeling a bit less like this:
And a bit more like this:
This all came out in counseling yesterday, and it was really intense. I went down a path of feeling fear for my decline in health.
Not because I’m tired a lot of the time and on a careful meal plan (which I am and have been for a long time). But because after a lifetime on counting on my brain, my mind, and my intellect…. I kind of feel that going, too.
I still feel pretty “with it.” But it’s little things like not being able to remember what I want to say in conversation, or having a tough time rephrasing what I’ve read recently.
Over the years, I’ve always been able to rely on my brain. No matter what was happening, at some point, some how, I would think of a solution and everything would be okay. The idea that my brain might not be there for me, that I might not be able to think my way out of a problem is uncomfortable.
So once I tried to dig a little deeper into that idea, I realized (of course) that it’s a deeper spiritual problem: my rational mind has always been on my team since the beginning. And the rest of “me” has always failed me.
- My emotions failed me when they lead me to endure an abusive sexual relationship for 3 years and then into sexual relationships with the men I dated after that.
- My body failed me 1st when I was overweight as a child, 2nd when I developed autoimmunity, causing me to gain 100+ lbs and struggle with fertility, food intolerances, and chronic fatigue, and 3rd when I panic at the thought of semen entering my body, which, you know, makes it kind of hard to get pregnant.