Tuesday, April 26, 2016

I Should Have Been Devastated: Unexplained Peace with Our Infertility

I'm not the "bare my soul" type of blogger, so I wasn't sure whether I should even share this or not.  I couldn't quite put my finger on what I wanted to say or exactly what I thought about what happened.  And I certainly didn't want to come off as bragging because trust me, I'm not.  But after following Laura Kelly Fanucci's story and reading her latest update,* I felt a gentle nudge to share what happened to me a few weeks ago with my surgery:

We've struggled with infertility for all of our almost 9 years of marriage.  I've had one diagnosis after another and surgery after surgery for my stage 4 endometriosis.  We've had many tear-filled discussions about having kids - bio and adopted.  We went through the roller coaster of discerning if God was calling us to adopt and then eventually adopting our 3 beautiful children.  And for all of it - even the "bad" stuff - we are so grateful.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: infertility is a blessing and a cross.  And some days it feels more like one than the other.  It wouldn't matter if my kids were all adopted, all bio, or a mixture of both - my infertility still stings:

J asks me all the time, "Mommy, I want a sister!  Can I pleeeeeease have a sister?!"

How I wish I could "give" my children the gift of many siblings!**  My husband has 6, and I have 5 siblings.  What a joy it is to be in a big family!  We wanted the same for our family.  But my body can't or won't.  My body is broken...barren.  This is our cross.

But after my surgery a few weeks ago, I received a very unexpected consolation in the midst of our suffering. 

My endometriosis is very severe and involves other organs, in particular my large intestine.  I needed to have surgery because of the extreme pain it was causing me in this area (my third surgery since 2009).  Going into the surgery, we knew there would be a chance I may lose a small part of my large intestine.  We knew that, and we were prepared for it.

However, my pain "in general" was nonexistent compared to right before my last surgery in 2013, so I thought (or more like really, really hoped) that my endometriosis had only returned just a little bit and only on the large intestine.  But the doctor warned us this might not be the case so to be prepared.  And depending on what they found when they opened me up, I may have anywhere from a 2 to 6 week recovery.

So surgery day arrives.  I'm only a little nervous.  I'm mostly missing the kids.  Then, God sets me at ease with this first little consolation:

In our prayers, we had asked for the intercession of St. Thérèse of Lisieux.  When we get into the surgery prep area, I'm introduced to my nurse - Teresa.  I literally lost it right there when they said her name.  I'm crying my eyes out and all the nurses think I'm scared of doctors and needles.  But I was overwhelmed by the peace I felt.  I literally felt God was there and everything was going to be just fine.  It just welled up and burst out of me.

So I'm wheeled back for my surgery feeling completely free of fear.

Then, I'm waking up.  In and out of it again and again.  Slowly regaining full consciousness.  And then Jim tells me the weird news and the bad news:

First, there was no endo on my intestine.  None.  And let me tell you, that pain I felt the months before - it was real and in exactly the same place as before my other surgery in 2013.  It was literally the entire reason I had this surgery.  So the doctor says it was referred pain, or it's actually inside my intestine.  So we'll have to see what the next few months bring.  If I continue having the pain, it'll be another medical procedure and/or surgery.

Second, the endo was very severe again.  One of the worst cases my doctor has ever seen.  (Don't you just love hearing that?!)  It was everywhere again.  I just didn't have the pain this time. 

And because of the severity of my endo, I had to lose my right ovary.  The endo had completely encased and consumed it.  My ovary had to go.  We had no idea this was even a possibility, so we were not prepared for this news.  And to add to it, there was some endo on my left ovary that my doctor couldn't remove.  So he told us that our chances of ever becoming pregnant were very slim.

When Jim told me all of this news, I was shocked.  But that was it.  I didn't cry.  I didn't feel self-pity.  I wasn't upset or angry.  I was just ok with it all.  I felt at peace.

I should've been devastated.
The pain might not be gone.
I might have to have another surgery and definitely lose part of my intestine.
And the worst part - my right ovary is gone and my left ovary is diseased.
We will most likely never have a large family.

But I felt at peace.  I still do.  When I think about what all has been lost during this surgery, I can't even make myself upset about it. 

And it doesn't make sense.  I've been down this road before.  More than once.  I've received bad news - really bad news - at doctor's appointments and after surgeries, pre- and post-kids.  And every single time, I have been so upset, sobbed, and grieved my barrenness (for days, weeks, and even months).

I keep asking myself: Why not this time?  Why have I been given this peace?

The answer I keep coming up with is: I don't know.

I definitely don't deserve this gift of peace, but I am so incredibly grateful for it.

I don't know how long this peace will last.  I can't say that I won't grieve the children I'll never have in the future.  I can't say I won't shed any more tears over my infertility.  I can't say it won't be painfully bittersweet to hear another pregnancy announcement or see another bump update.

But I do know in my heart, that for reasons unknown, God gave me this one reprieve, this one consolation, this sweet taste of peace in the storm.

And this peace has helped me to truly see the bigger picture of our infertility journey:

There is beauty in the miracles and in the suffering of the Cross.  Because God is there in both.

Our infertility journey has caused us great emotional pain and spiritual suffering since we cannot have our desired family size due to my broken and barren body.  But through this anguish and brokenness, we have been given us so much peace and joy because we have strengthened our marriage and relationship with God, and of course, we now have our beautiful children through the blessing of adoption! 

That is why I'll (always try very hard to be) grateful for all of it, the good and the bad, the joy and the painBecause the beauty of our Redemption came through the spilling of His Blood. 

"I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:9

God isn't just in the joy and the peace.  He is on the Cross too.  It's His story, my story, and yours.  Praise be to God.

P.S.  Thanks again for all of your prayers for me!  I specifically asked you to pray for peace for me, and it was most definitely answered.  Please continue your prayers for us and know that you are in ours!

*Please read Laura's story, especially her update.  They lost pre-term twin girls recently, and there story and witness is incredible.  She can say it much better than I ever could.

**I know God is the true Giver of life and that a woman cannot "give" children to her husband or family.  I only used the word "give" because that is how it truly feels in your heart when you're suffering from infertility.  Oh, the half-truths that run through your mind when you're suffering.

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