Part 3: Infertility and The Person You Are Becoming

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This is Part Three in a series on infertility. Click here to read Part One. Click here to read Part Two.

“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’

‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.

‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’

‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’

‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

—Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

At the beginning, I got really good at counting to nine.

I was living in the future, skip counting ahead of everyone else, calculating the moment that I could potentially become a mother. October plus nine equaled July. November became August. I knew it was dangerous addition, but it was too tempting not to count it out on my fingers. (Can you imagine, by next summer, we could be parents!)  January passed. Then February. I was getting discouraged—already feeling the twinges of hope and disappointment. But I had faith that it would happen. Every plan I’d ever made had come true. Why wouldn’t this one?

[Read more…]

Spotlight On: Women

Today is International Women’s Day, and all around the world, people are celebrating the achievements made for and by women over the years. I was so thankful to take part in today by sharing the story of Nashville’s own Jordan Duncan, and her work with FashionABLE and African Leadership to make a difference in the lives of African women with the Tennessean. If you haven’t seen the story, go check it out!

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I want to celebrate the women in my life too.

I’m thankful for my mother, the woman who made me woman. The mother of my physical and spiritual self.

International Women's Day, Mom

For my sisters, the women who yelled when I stole their make-up, but cried with me when I first had my heart broken—the women I call when I don’t know what to do with this recipe, or that friend, or that piece of furniture. The women I called and said, “I’ve met the guy I’m going to marry.” The women who are mothers, and make me want to mother, too.

America.

I’m thankful for the woman whose daughter was my first friend. With small hands and lives ahead, we clasped together, walked the yellow brick road, always knowing we both could be Dorothy and make it to Emerald City. But the journey is harrowing, full of song and laughter and tears and evil and good. We are friends, and we were friends, and we will be friends forever.

And for the women who were my teachers – the ones who challenged me, and taught me to read and write and push through things I didn’t understand. The ones who let me cry in their classrooms because I felt alone, or homesick for a home I’d left behind.

And for the other girls who walked through some of the darkest valleys, and pimpliest days, and most confusion together while at West Point. The ones who walked up the up stairs, and down the down stairs, and wore pajamas on the last day of school. To the girls who wrote me notes, and read mine, too. To the girls who wrapped a locker, and told a secret. To the ones who practiced testifying against a man who nearly wrecked our lives. To the ones who helped me seek God. The women, who then longed desperately for love from each other, from our parents, from those boys down the street in Lee Area.

For the women I met in China. For  the way they showed me love, though our lives are separated by waters and continents and time zones and an entire hemisphere. For the quiet presence of a mango on my desk during my loneliest days, far from home—and the sweet, soft hand of the Chinese roommate who placed it there. For the conversations in moonlight about Jesus. For the taste of sour chicken on my tongue, and the warmth of steaming soup rising to my face. For the sound of dumplings sizzling on a dorm room pot.

I consider  the women who counseled me through heartbreak and four years of confusion and self-reflection while in Greenville. The women who rode buses with me across states to the base of the Rocky Mountains. The women who baked cookies and watched trashy TV, and cried when he told me he didn’t love me. The women who told me truth and shared deep fears, and walked through exams and fountains, and miles and aisles with me. The ones who stood by my side in blue, while I wore white.

For the mother-in-law who accepted me, open arms into her family. Who treats me like a friend, not like an intruder.

For the woman who taught me to write, and told me not to be afraid of it. And who fills me with wine and fun on nights when things aren’t perfect (which is most nights).

I have been served and cared for and prayed for by the women in Nashville. By women who walk with integrity, and do work they are passionate about, and set an example of loving husbands with intentional fervor. For teaching me about sex on a canvas, and gratitude, and purpose.

For these women.

And for the ones to come.

Thriving in all Circumstances: One Thousand Gifts

I don’t know how my sister, Leigh does it. She’s a mother to three children under 6, wife to a military husband who’s been on three combat tours, and a certified Crossfit instructor who had the privilege of training George W. Bush (okay, so maybe they just worked out in the same gym one day, but still, that’s pretty cool).

In these busy times, Leigh and I don’t get to talk as often as I would like, but if there’s anything she’s good at, it’s remembering birthdays and always sending a thoughtful gift to celebrate. (I really wish I was better at that).

This year, when I turned twenty-six, she sent me a book.

One Thousand Gifts

So when Leigh told me to read this book, and when she subsequently wrote a blog post that brought me to tears—I paid attention. I started reading.

What I found in Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts, was a challenge to live with gratitude. Not for what could be, what I feel like ought to be, but for what already is.

This is hard. My natural state is to be complaining, wishing, wanting, needing. While cooking dinner the other night, I found myself frustrated with the pants I was wearing, itching my legs. I was angry at the simmering beef that was cooking too quickly—it burned before I could finish chopping the onion to add. There were breakfast dishes still in the sink, and crud on the floor—that ugly tile that I want to demolish anyway—and before I knew it, I was just angry. At dinner. At life. At the fact that everything is hard, dinner is never easy to make, and the house will never be clean.

And then I think about my sister. And about how she has twice the family that I have, and twice the dishes and twice the laundry and that means she has twice the frustration and anger, doesn’t it? If life is already this hard to manage—I wondered, how will I ever be a mother without becoming an alcoholic, rageaholic, shopaholic, or divorcee? How is it even possible?  In her reaction to this book, Leigh wrote words that cut to my soul.

“My heart claws for something, ANYTHING to make this motherhood journey more graceful, clear, predictable, and if possible, that I remain largely undisrupted. Regrettably, there is always more. More laundry, more groceries, more dishes, more clutter. More spit-spray on that bathroom mirror. All this endless hassle-work when our souls are screaming for rest, solace, order.  (When you think about it, everything under the sun constantly moves toward disorder, and we can only do so much to subdue the process.)”

I feel that way. And it’s just me and Patrick. And I feel that way.

How do I ward off depression and frustration and thirty more years of “this is not enough?” Voskamp eloquently explains that there is only one response that will make any difference. It’s the response of King David and Daniel and Jesus and Ruth and anyone who’s ever been called close to God. The response is gratitude.

The dare is simple. Write down 1,000 things you are grateful for that are right here in  your every day life. Purposefully, carefully chronicle the gifts that already exist here and now. Leigh shared the start of her list here. She said the practice has changed her life. And I deeply want it to change mine, too.

So here I go.

  • sugar crystals like glass shards on a ginger cookie
  • red haunches stoic in a bay window
  • sun bathing an orange velvet chair
  • cream swirling through black coffee, spoon led
  • bitter, fragrant fresh cinnamon
  • a pregnant blank page and blinking cursor
  • rushing drips of his morning shower
  • smell of warm rain on grass
  • sore muscles from work in earth

The beautiful thing about gratitude is that it focuses my eyes on details that every single day I let pass me by. As a writer, I need this discipline to be observant. As a woman, I need this discipline to be grateful. As I human, I think I need this discipline to survive without becoming bitter, angry, and hardened.

Thank you, Leigh, for this book. Thank you Ann, for writing it. Thank you God for giving us words and “pens as eyes,” and people to share the gifts we find like hidden secrets, whispers of heaven on earth.

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So grab a pen. Ann dared Leigh. Leigh dared me. Now I dare you.