A Safe Place

It might not look like it, but this is my very first post on this blog. I imported a few  old posts from another blogging platform that I was using, so although it might look like I’ve been around here for a while, this is indeed a fresh start for me!

My old blog was making me uncomfortable for 2 reasons.

1)Through the years, various prying eyes began to read my old blog: family, old friends, acquaintances etc. It felt a little bit like people were stalking me from afar, watching my ups and downs without actually having to participate in my life. People from our old church, who began treating me like an outcast because I didn’t fit nicely with their family-centric ideals, still read my blog. They read all about our health trials over the last year and never once reached out or offered a helping hand. That angered and irritated me to no end. So starting a new blog helped me feel like I was putting an end to the voyeurism. I get that blogging is public and literally anyone can read this blog, but I look forward to the relative privacy and anonymity I have here.

2)My old blog documented much of our 6+ year infertility journey. Consequently, many other infertility bloggers found me and started to follow along. That was all fine and good until my husband David and I decided in 2013 that we would not be pursuing any more infertility treatments after hearing a call from the Lord. That decision left us in the wilderness of childlessness, where we remain today. None of the people who followed my old blog could relate. The infertility community that I knew pretty much left me high and dry. I got a few judgy comments, weird emails, a few sideways glances from “real life” people who disagreed or thought we simply gave up. My blog began to feel like a place I needed to defend.

So eventually I decided to jump ship and start a new blog.

What I really want for this space is the freedom to talk about, wrestle with and understand what it means to be a Christian who is childless (not-by-choice). To be a Christian woman that does not fit into a category, mold, expectation or standard. I needed a place to hash things out without feeling at risk or judged, looked down upon or argued with. I think this can be that safe place.

I also have a sneaking suspicion that there might just be one or two other Christians out there that also feel like misfits in the Church. I know there are people who don’t feel like their life measures up with the Christian standard and I would really like to connect with them. Maybe there’s even another sweet couple in this world who doesn’t have children, are quasi-content with their childless state and aren’t in the active pursuit of parenthood. My hope is that us misfits who are wandering around the Kingdom of God might bump into each other. Sort of a “if you build it, they will come” kind of a hope. 🙂  I hope they find me here and connect with me.

And since there’s usually way more on my mind than identity issues related to infertility and being childless, I’ll also use this blog to continue documenting life. From trips we take to interesting hikes and fun weekends we have, I want to keep a record of that stuff. I love being able to look back and remember places we’ve been! Now that I’m in Seminary, I also have a lot of theological stuff floating around in my brain so I’m sure some of that will work its way into this blog as well.

All in all, I’m happy to have this new place. I hope it remains safe and maybe attracts a few like-minded souls.

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The Quiet Side Of Infertility

My friend Caroline was putting together a post for National Infertility Awareness Week and she asked me to contribute a short little snippet describing what I wish more people knew about infertility. This got the wheels turning. I spent a long while thinking about this. Probably too long. I have never really participated in NIAW, but this year I felt like I had something to say.  I wanted to share something that would be impactful….both to the infertility community and to those who do not struggle with infertility. I wrote Caroline an email back so answer her question and I said:

“Sometimes infertility is quiet. It doesn’t always look like hormones and injections, IVF, doctor appointments and charting your next steps. Sometimes it is just quiet prayers, faithful hope and a patient longsuffering.”

After sending that over to her, I thought…”man, I could really expand on that. Maybe I’ll just write a little post about what I mean. Maybe it would help someone else.” The theme of NAIW this year is #startasking. So I thought I would start a dialogue for anyone who wants to start asking a questions about what the other, the less obvious side, of infertility looks like.

It’s so easy to equate infertility with the endless striving for motherhood. From HSGs to charting and ultrasounds, negative pregnancy tests to Clomid and injections, IUIs and 2nd opinions…I’ve been on that side of infertility. I’ve been on the side on infertility where every moment of my life was consumed with how to get pregnant. “Maybe if we try this drug…maybe if we see this doctor…maybe if I memorize this verse or pray this prayer…maybe if my faith were just a little bit bigger…” I camped on that side of infertility for a long time. Years.

But now I’m on a different end of the infertility spectrum now. 

I don’t mean that I am done with infertility. No. Infertility is still very much with me. I still have a uterine fibroid and poor egg quality. I still only have one fallopian tube, which is likely blocked now. I still have a cyst on my brain that affects hormone regulation. I still am not pregnant. Infertility may stick with me for many years to come. It’s like a monkey on my back that won’t jump off no matter how many bananas I tried to throw. So when I say that I’m on the “other side” of infertility, it doesn’t mean that infertility is no longer a part of my life, my prayers or that it doesn’t occupy any space in my heart.  

What I mean, is that I’m on the quieter side of infertility now. The side that is no longer striving, trying, planning or researching. The side where actively pursuing medical treatments is over and you’re done trying to fix what is wrong, or maybe you realize you can’t fix what is wrong, like in our case. Not many people ever make it to this side. Often, IVF, surrogacy, surprise pregnancies or adoption enter the scene and this side of infertility remains a dark unknown that people are glad to pass right by. 

Since many people avoid this place, either intentionally or because God supernaturally intervenes on their behalf, there are consequently very few people on this side of infertilityIt’s like a secret land that no one really knows about. It’s scary at first, you don’t really know what’s over on this side. Like…. what actually happens when you get off the infertility treatment crazy train? Is it so dark that you can’t see? Is it just utterly hopeless? Do you feel stagnant since you’re no longer actively pursuing something? Do you just wander around aimlessly hoping for a baby to drop out of the sky? Are you just forever lost at sea? I get it. I asked all of those questions too when we made the decision to stop actively pursuing medical treatment.

It’s an interesting place to be, especially when there are so few who have gone before you. There’s not exactly a guide for this stage. To my knowledge, there isn’t a book or step-by-step directions on how to navigate these waters we have found ourselves in.  

To be honest, the quiet side of infertility is very peaceful. You can hear yourself think and the Lord speak. You’re in a place with new views and horizons. You can travel and not worry about ruining a cycle. You can stop stabbing yourself with needles and taking crazy pills (looking at you, Clomid). Your head space is a little clearer because you’re no longer obsessed with trying to fix what is wrong. You also have a little extra time and money since you’re not blindly throwing them away into the pit of fertility treatments.

I’m here to tell you it’s really not a scary place. It’s just not. 

Are there still sad days and despairing nights? Yep. Do you still mourn the loss of a dream not yet realized? Yes. Are friendships strained because you don’t fit in? Definitely. But this is also a place of opportunity for strength and incredible growth. It’s a rich land that is full of potential, which I am just now beginning to lean into.

Ultimately, this is a place of deep dependence on Jesus. He helps keep me keep my head up when the world wants me to second guess the path I’m on. It’s so easy to question this side of infertility. To wonder if we really continue to hear God correctly. To feel insecure and left behind. It’s so easy to crumble under the pressure to conform to society’s standards, the infertility community’s common bonds, the Christian community’s expectations.

It takes a lot of obedience, courage, strength, hope, faith, prayer, perspective, peace and humility to stay here. But knowing that we are firmly walking in alignment with God’s will for our life is a beautiful thing. Even if it’s hard and doesn’t look like what everyone else is doing, both within and outside of the infertility community.

So, if you’re thinking about stopping fertility treatments, or if you’re not comfortable moving forward with more, or if the funds have run dry, or if you feel the Lord leading you to simply rest and trust in Him…I’m here to tell you, it’s ok to do that. You don’t have to dive head first into things you’re not comfortable with or don’t feel called to. You don’t have to keep putting your body through hell. You don’t have to justify your decision or explain yourself. You don’t have to worry that you are “giving up.” 


Being on the quiet side of infertility is perfectly fine. There aren’t many of us on this side, and it takes a lot of guts and prayer to make it here and stay here. But if you do make it, you’re in good company and you can rest assured that the Lord will never leave you or forsake you as you trust in Him for His perfect plan.

Boundaries

For the first 3-4 years of our infertility journey, I happily joined baby showers, birthday parties and even regularly attended a weekly play dates where friends would bring their kiddos over to each other’s homes. Babies would play, moms (and myself) would chat and drink coffee. Maybe those things just didn’t bother me much back then, or maybe they did and I just denied the pain. I enjoyed celebrating with friends and immersing myself in a world that I believed I would soon join.

Somewhere along the way, the pain started to increase significantly. Maybe it was after we lost our baby. Maybe it was when we stopped having an “official” plan with fertility treatments and started to drift out into the wilderness of “no man’s land.”

Women’s Bible studies began to equal tears. Baby showers meant an entire weekend of tears. Even lighthearted birthday parties, painting parties or happy hour meant tears. Any women’s gathering I went to, my heart was assaulted by women who unintentionally spent 3 hours talking about babies, pregnancy, parenting, nap schedules and teething. No matter the context, I always felt like a girl on the outside looking in.

I’m not sure exactly when the boundaries started to go up, but they went up and they went up high. I intentionally had to distance myself from certain friends. I intentionally had to leave certain groups just to keep my heart from collapsing on a weekly basis (I’m looking at you, BSF!). My heart needed a little protecting and at the risk of losing friendships and isolating myself from certain people, I chose to protect it. In the process, I learned that boundaries are a really great thing.

Since these boundaries have been in place, I’ve been in a much healthier place emotionally. The boundaries have given me freedom. Freedom to say no, to do what I want, to excuse myself from unnecessary pain. The boundaries have promoted my well-being and helped me identify the relationships that I really want to invest in instead of feeling burdened to take part in everything I’m invited to.

While I think my boundaries will stay firmly in place for the foreseeable future in regards to things like play dates, all women Bible studies and baby showers. I do think it’s wise to reevaluate boundaries as time goes on.

For instance, our new small group. It is a wonderfully diverse place that is life-giving, enjoyable and nurturing. We have been welcomed with open arms and I can’t help but want to dive right into life with these people. The group is made up of singles, young couples, older married (ha! I love that David and I now fit into this category) couples, families with older kids….and a precious young couple who just invited us all over to their house for a gender reveal party next week.

            …………..long pause….blink….blink….lips pursed…..half smile….blink……blink…………

This couple is very kind and sweet. They genuinely want to celebrate with their church family. It’s not a “hey look at us” kind of thing. It’s more like a “hey, would you all like to maybe come over to play some Monopoly, drink some decaf coffee and celebrate together?” sort of thing. And while I admit part of my heart had a knee-jerk reaction that wanted to say  “Ummm…yeah no… kthxbai!” and run out the door, there was another part of me that said “what if?” What if it was a fun night with our small group? What if it didn’t hurt (or at least as badly as I think it could)? What if not going would be missing out on a big part of their life right now? What if I get to eat a delicious piece of cake with pink or blue frosting?  Mmmm cake…. 😉

I still haven’t made up my mind. I have 6 more days to think it over. But I am realizing that the beautiful thing about self-generated boundaries is that you always have the ability to change the height and perimeter. They are dynamic and exist to serve you in whatever way you need at the time. And sometimes those needs change. Sometimes it’s good to add a latch to the gate and let someone in, or leave for a day or two. Sometimes you need to lower the height of the hedge to get a better view of the territory that surrounds you. And one day, maybe you even dismantle the boundaries altogether when the coast is clear. But until then, boundaries are intended to be healthy form of self-protection, not iron walls that you can’t get beyond.

Firmly Rooted

It’s interesting to me how easily our identities can be gobbled up by motherhood and pursuit of it. I have friends who have lost all sense of “self” because they have so wholeheartedly devoted themselves to being a mom. They take a step back years down the road and have no earthly clue who they are anymore. And then myself…I have devoted so many years, so much energy, money, time, emotion, tears and prayers into becoming a mom. And when I took a step back I realized that somewhere along the way, I too had lost a sense of who I am

For a long while, I felt like a mangled mess sitting in the aftermath of an infertility tornado that had cleared a path straight through my identity. Infertility chewed me up and spit me out. The aftermath of that destruction had become a place of isolation and loneliness and I found myself sitting among the rubble trying to figure out which way was up.

The hardest part of that aftermath was I feeling like such an outsider. A misfit. I would look around and all I saw were people doing something different than I was doing. It made me deeply uncomfortable to not align with the world around me. I mean, I’ve always fit in. Ever since I was a child, I have always done the same things as my friends, gone with the flow, been in the same life stage as my peer group. I’ve blended in quite well until recently.

My inability to blend in anymore made me realize just how much I’ve looked to the world around me for validation. I looked to friends, family, Facebook, bloggers, church, women in line at Target, people on TV, other photographers and society for acceptance. I drew a huge amount of affirmation from the infertility community, but after a while I started feeling like an outsider even there. I have sought after affirmation, approval and my identity from the world for far too long. Is it any wonder I felt lonely and lost when I kept looking for validation in invalid places? 

God in His grace and goodness, gently reminded me that I need to stop looking at the world, and start looking to Him for my identity.

Christ is the Beginning and End, my Creator, Sustainer, Redeemer and my Complete Joy. He is the Source of all that I am and ever will be. And He has created me to walk a unique path, to live a life that maybe doesn’t look like everyone else’s. And you know what? I’m learning to not only embrace this truth, but give myself permission to get excited about it. Instead of feeling self conscious about my inability to blend in anymore with the world around me, I’m reveling in my ability to break away from the patterns of this world and follow a path of discovering who I am in the Lord. Maybe it sounds a bit cliche, but honestly few things seem as important to me these days as having an identity that is firmly rooted in Jesus.

The Wilderness

I haven’t written about infertility in a long while. But I have things on my heart and time on my hands, so here we go. David and I struggled with infertility for 3 years – then I suffered a ruptured ectopic pregnancy which was taken from me before it took my life – then that has been followed by another almost 3 years of infertility. We do not feel called to adopt (yet), we do not feel called to foster (yet) and we do not feel called to (or safe) pursuing fertility treatments anymore. The only thing that feels right in our hearts is waiting upon the Lord and enjoying our life together as husband and wife. We’ve been waiting for quite a long time with no answer in sight other than to stay in the place where we are.

I frequently feel as if I’m walking on a path in the wilderness. A path that has not been walked on by someone in a very long time.

For the past year, I’ve held on to this picture of traveling in the wilderness. I love word pictures. I love when I can conjure up a scene, a mental allegory of sorts, because it helps me to keep pressing on when reality seems harsh. I really believe God gave me this image of the wilderness. I first encountered it one day as I was driving deep into the woods for a photoshoot. I had just hung up the phone with my last 2 friends who called to announce they were pregnant (yep, they told me at the same time. Band-Aid approach, I guess?). It was now official, all of my friends in their 20s and 30s were either pregnant, currently giving birth or had a complete family. I felt utterly alone. It was in this moment that I felt God whisper, “It’s just you and me now Beck. Get ready for a wilderness experience. You’re going to learn the meaning of ‘Jesus alone is enough’. It’s going to be hard, but it’s going to be good.”

Let me tell you about this wilderness path that I’m on. It’s overgrown, covered in mud and fallen tree branches. Completely unmaintained. It’s so faint at times that I frequently lose the path altogether and find myself just bushwhacking in hopes of eventually catching sight of it again. I trip over roots and stumble daily as I try to make my way along.

This path is lonely and isolating. I look around desperately hoping to catch sight of another fellow traveler. Occasionally I see someone off in the distance, but they’re on their own path and heading in the opposite direction. They might throw their hand up and wave as they continue on, as if to say “I see you there friend, but my eyes are fixed on the destination ahead of me and I don’t have time to stop and chat.” Yes, this wilderness can be lonely. It’s often just me and the trees. Just me and the stars at night. Just me and God traveling this broad piece of land.

This wilderness is also vast, lush, beautiful, holy, inspiring. There is majesty in this wilderness and intimacy with God like I’ve never known before. There is healing here. Deep healing. There is discovery and peace, a sense of calm and trust that I don’t think I’ve ever known before. God didn’t bring us out here to just dump us off and leave. He is with us every step of the way. And like all cross-country travelers, we have been outfitted with the best survival gear, a trusty compass and a healthy sense of adventure (oh how different things would look if I kicked my feet in rebellion every step of the way!). God has given us everything we need to get through this wild land.

The fact that we are in uncharted territory undoubtedly means that others will not understand the journey we are on. Some people may think things got too hard, that David and I just gave up. Some believe we’ve closed ourselves off to the idea of parenthood, that we’ve simply walked away. But that’s not true. We are simply being obedient to God’s calling on our life right now. We have diligently followed God’s voice every step of the way over the last 5+ years. And at this moment, He just happens to be calling us into a place that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense at first glance. A place that is unfamiliar, unknown and doesn’t look like what everyone else is doing.

It’s frustrating for sure. It’s hard to be misunderstood or judged. It’s hard to go against the current and do something that virtually no one else in your peer group is doing. It’s tempting to question God’s plan and wonder if He really knows what He is doing. It’s sad watching friends live the life you thought you were going to live. It’s painful and confusing, disruptive and often feels endless. It’s just plain hard sometimes.

But honestly, I must admit that I often find myself kind of loving it out here in the wilderness. I guess over time as I realized we may be here for a while, I decided to at least try and find the silver lining. Despite the isolation and lack of knowing where we are going or when this path will end, it sure is a beautiful place to roam. I love that God has created our story to be so unique that I am hard-pressed to find others like us on this path. I love that He drawn close to me, provided for me and picks me up when I fall (which is often). I love how much I’ve learned about His character and the Spirit inspired insight I’ve gained. I love the peace and healing I’ve found out here. I love walking hand in hand with David along the way. We try our best to enjoy our life to the fullest right now and that is beautiful. I love that our story isn’t over, we just have to keep walking a little ways further.
 

Fishing Widow

For almost a month straight, David has been invited to go on fishing trips with various buddies. Me being the selfless and wonderful wife I am (if I do say so myself!), happily agreed that he should go. Fishing is good for his soul. Even if he doesn’t catch a fish all day, there’s something about being on the river with a fly rod in his hand that is cathartic for him. And there’s definitely something about hanging out with his buddies that’s good for him. So I’m all for him fishing. He comes home tired but happy and ready to face the week ahead. Go fish, I tell him. Go catch those fishies!

But somewhere along the line I realized that weeks upon weeks of him being gone on fishing trips, while healthy for him, wasn’t exactly healthy for me. I’m an introvert by nature, happy to spend time alone. But we all have our limits and spending 4 weekends in a row at home alone wasn’t exactly good for me.

Can I just take a little sidestep here for a sec? A side effect of infertility that no one told me about was how it can completely change friendships. While all your friends are busy raising children, fighting for sleep and having playdates, you are….not doing any of that. Many of my friends aren’t exactly in a position to take an entire weekend off from raising their children so they can have brunch, go for a hike and get manicures with me. Ya know? In fact, some of them have stopped being my friend all together because I’m not a mom. I actually had a “friend” tell me once that she didn’t know how to be my friend anymore because I didn’t have children. Like, whatever would we talk about if we didn’t talk about our children? *gasp* Whatever would we do if we weren’t at the park with our babies? *gasp*

Don’t get me wrong. I have plenty of beautiful friends with children who I see on a regular basis. They are so good to me and I know they would be there for me if I needed them. It’s just not always the easiest thing for them to drop everything they’re doing at the last minute so they can come play with me. Mix that with my Cabin in the Woods Syndrome, and it just gets ugly sometimes. But I am learning to do a better job at reaching out to my friends. I have a lot to choose from, but it’s up to me to let them know when I’m in need of a friend. And I’m feeling extra grateful for my faithful friends who won’t leave my side, even though my life looks different from theirs.

Anyways, when David got invited on another fishing trip in Wyoming last weekend, we both thought it would be best for me to come along too. He knew that me being a fishing widow for another weekend probably wasn’t what the doctor ordered. I’m thankful for an amazing husband who wants to take care of my heart as much as I want to take care of his.  And I’m thankful for guy friends who don’t mind a girl tagging along on their fishing trip. 😉

 We saw like a dozen bald eagles as we floated in our raft down the river. They were so big and so cool! I didn’t see this many when I was in Alaska, they were everywhere in Wyoming. So amazing! 

Watercolors

Yesterday as David and I sat on our front porch talking, he asked me how I was doing with the approach of Mother’s Day. To be honest, I didn’t know how to respond. I guess I still don’t. The best way I could put it into words is that I just feel quiet.

Quiet is really the best way to describe it. My feelings are on level that is so deep, that there really aren’t words to describe them. Just… quiet.

I’m not distraught, bitter or upset, far from it. I’m not even sure I would consider myself sad today. But I’m not exactly frolicking in fields of wildflowers either (actually, that would be impossible today considering it’s snowing at the moment). I’m somewhere in between, and much further below the surface.

If I could describe the way I feel in a visual form, I think it would be a watercolor painting. It’s right there in front of you. There is clearly a painting there.. It’ beautiful and real, but to try and describe it in great detail would prove difficult. You can see there are layers, blending, different gradients of color and varying degrees of saturation. It’s obvious there was a lot of time and effort that went into the painting. But if you were to try and describe this painting to someone who could not see it, you would most certainly fall short. To try and pinpoint where one color fades into another, or where one brush stroke blends with another is impossible to discern. There’s to much complexity to describe. And yet, the image is so simple.

That’s kind of how I feel in general about Mother’s Day and our journey up to this point. There has been so much that has happened, so many years that have gone by, so many layers….I fall short at being able to describe it anymore.