Saturday, May 31, 2008

Joy in spite of the lack of control

I might have winced when the young couple seated before me, late in our long pre-marital counseling session, confidently asserted how many children they are going to have and exactly when. Perhaps it didn't help that I share a name with the bride and that, at that moment, I had given up our over three year struggle to conceive and didn't know that we would ever have a child. (And yes, singular, because though I once declared in pre-marital counseling that we would likely birth two and possibly adopt two, that had been "the plan" since childhood afterall, I had come to a place of just wanting ONE. Please Lord, one.) But my wincing wasn't just about our story, it was about all the stories I've heard over the past several years. Have you ever noticed that until you experience something you don't especially notice it, but once you've experienced it it is everywhere? Rather like when you're trying to buy a house, you notice "for sale" signs everywhere you look. Well, I don't mean that I now saw infertility everywhere, I saw fertility everywhere, and, in particular, the lack of control that accompanies fertility for ALL WOMEN. I started to notice that the pain of women who conceive too easily is a close cousin to the pain of women who struggle to conceive. I started to notice how many people all around me had suffered miscarriages or had frightening complications with pregnancies. Where I once had "plans" about my own fertility, if I've learned anything over the past several years it is that it is all a great mystery over which none of us has any meaningful control and somehow I wanted this eager young couple to know that too. It may have been a protective impulse. It may have been a projection. I was gentle. I just said a few words about holding our dreams lightly and realizing matters of fertility are a great mystery. They seemed to understand. They didn't seem overly troubled. But later I wondered if I had said too much.

They're getting married today. I am in a motel room because the wedding is over an hour away and I knew that staying up here would not only save gas it would save energy- something I need as I near the end of this first trimester and say goodbye to a congregation I've grown to love. They chose a lovely outdoor location for their ceremony, probably about a year and a half ago. There are plans that the bride will approach the ceremony by boat with her father. She has been fretting for, oh, about a year and a half, about the possibility of rain. I know another bride who shares her name who fretted for a year and a half about the possibility of rain on her lovely outdoor wedding plans. And the weather today... down pour. Maybe it will let up by 2, but it has been raining for hours. They already modified their plans to an only sort of outdoor arrangement, but they were holding out hope for the boat. For goodness sake, they're getting married at a boat museum. There needs to be a boat. But... it might not happen. Already a lesson about things we can't control. And I picture myself in the upstairs room of the lodge at the camp where we got married, looking out the window as the rain started and stopped and started and stopped and as men in tuxes, my groom among them moved chairs inside and outside, inside and outside again. And there I was in my gorgeous dress, feeling helpless and useless and, for a moment, forlorn. I don't know where today's bride is at the moment, but I suspect she's getting her hair done and wondering how to keep it just so. I suspect she's putting on special undergarments and a stunning dress. And I suspect she might be a touch forlorn as the rain pounds down.

I am only here, officiating at this wedding, because the other clergy connections the family has fell through, and the grandmother of the bride is a member of the congregation I serve. I don't know the grandmother all that well though I got to know her better this past year because she faced a frightening diagnosis and I spent quite a bit of time at her bedside with her daughter (the mother of the bride) beside me, as we helped her discern the best course of action. This grandmother is one tough cookie. She lost her husband suddenly years ago and she made a point of soldiering on, not leaning on her daughters, one a few hours away, one a few states away, for anything. She kept up her big house. And took care of everything. And was proud of staying in control of her life for so long. So, in the moment that she faced surgery and treatments, and her daughter wanted her to come home with her (the daughter happened to be a nurse with a doctor who specializes in exactly the treatment her mother needed), she struggled mightily to let go and let herself be cared for. She came through her surgery and treatments. She is back in her own home, basically on her own again. She is at her granddaughter's wedding, something that seemed only a vague possibility the day of the diagnosis.

She doesn't come to church all that often and she wasn't there last week so she hadn't heard my news, from me anyhow. So, as we waited for groomsmen to arrive last night I asked her if she had heard my big news. She looked at me like I was silly "You're leaving!" I knew she had heard that news; I had visited her to discuss it. "Yes," I said, "but not that news. I'm pregnant." Her face brightened. "You are?! That's wonderful!" And then she said "You know, my husband and I waited eight years before we ever conceived. And when we finally did it was a total shock. And then we had three children." I did some math in my head, I could only count two from all the stories I had heard. "We lost the first, the one we conceived after eight years." "Oh, I'm sorry," I said, "How far along were you?" She winced. "Seven months." Waves of grief rippled between us. "Yes, that was terrible, terribly hard." I don't think she said much more, but in that moment I think we both knew that being her at her granddaughter's wedding would have seemed improbable at so many points in her journey for so many reasons. She smiled again and congratulated me and then the rehearsal began.

Six years ago, though I had a moment of being forlorn in the face of my helplessness, I found more thrilling joy than I had ever known when the wedding that did not go according to plan actually happened. I pray that this bride and this groom might be released for joy whatever this day, and their lives might bring.

Friday, May 30, 2008

last week of the first trimester

Yesterday we turned the corner into week 13. Now simple math would suggest that last week, with week 12, we hit the second trimester. But... apparently there's a difference between pregnancy dating and gestational dating. So... next Thursday... six days away... when I'm in Wooster transitioning from reunion with closest and dearest college friends to singing with an alumni choir and wondering who I will bump into... I will enter the second trimester officially.

Last night the congregation put on a spaghetti dinner to say goodbye to Kevin and me. As I took a quick rest before changing into nicer clothes for the evening I got to thinking about the blue dress I bought for my college graduation- 10 years ago. I wondered if it would still fit. It did. Now, I probably weighed about what I do now when I graduated from college and this is one of those dresses with a string in the back so it is adjustable, but still... when our church treasurer complimented me on the dress and I told her its history she said... "I can't believe you're not showing at all yet."

Yeah. I kind of can't either. Several people on Sunday commented that my breasts are larger and I think they are, but my bras still fit so it is not exactly dramatic. I had my mom take a look at my belly on Sunday. She thinks it looks firmer. I think it looks just like the round pad of fat I've always had.

My clothes all still fit. I still wear belts with my jeans, even pulling them to the last hole.

I know it is normal for it to take awhile to show with your first pregnancy, but... I'm eager to show.

Especially because Rebecca, fabulouso seminary roommate, just sent me two paper boxes FULL of beautiful maternity clothes. People joked when Rebecca and I were paired as roommates our first year that the housing office at McCormick had taken to housing by phenotype. We're close to the same height and build- or at least we are sometimes. I have a picture of Rebecca, Beth (another good friend), and I up on the wall in my office and people often think Rebecca is my sister. She is just a bit shorter than me and now substantially thinner than me. She's done a beautiful job losing weight and maintaining her weight loss, but still... you know how there are some people who can pass on clothes to you and they will almost always work out? Rebecca and I have that sort of relationship. And she is a fabulous shopper, I am not. So... this is a GREAT gift.

I just wonder when I'll ever wear them.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Totally Public

So yesterday was the day. I announced our pregnancy in worship. My mom and dad were there to see me fight back tears as I shared our joyful news and to hear the congregation explode in applause. I told two people earlier in the week on the phone and they immediately started crying. One of them was in church to hear the announcement again and he still had tears in his eyes after the service.

So, the cat's out of the bag. If you want to tell people and you've been holding back. Go right ahead.

I think I'll go post an update on facebook now.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

A Good Conversation

I spoke with the head of my fellowship program this morning and he said that he and my advisor talked about my pregnancy all day yesterday and are both eager to help me make this work. He assured me my advisor would be in touch with me soon and he gave me all sorts of advice about ways to lighten my load and space things out and traps grad students fall into that suck up all their time. I was aware that both of these men have two year old children and I thought that maybe this would work to my advantage. Indeed it did. He said "Both Paul and I are at a perfect place in life to help you at this time. Paul said yesterday, 'If this happened three or four years ago I don't know that I would have been so understanding.' And I concurred." Well, Alleluia!

This is SO the right place for me.

And I spent a bit of time today on the phone with my insurance company trying to figure out what is and is not covered and it was looking more and more like a hospital birth might be my only option, but... I've been swapping e-mails all day with students at Vanderbilt now and students that are on their way to Vanderbilt. And one of the current students offered to help us newbies in any way so I asked if she knew anything about birth centers or home birth midwives in the Nashville area and she wrote back to say that she had a good friend in the nursing program at Vandy who might be able to help out. That friend replied quickly and connected me to an instructor of hers who responded by saying:

i know plenty of
out-of-hospital birth providers in this town, and would love the
opportunity to help a mom find one. looking forward to it!
enjoy your summer, and keep in touch :)


Course the insurance won't cover a home birth... can I afford it anyhow? We'll see.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Tears of Relief

I didn't cry when I heard the heart beat. But I started to cry, joyful tears, when I opened my e-mail midday today.

Hi, Sarah -

Congratulations! And hallelujah. This is very good news. It will create some extra challenges, but you're taking all the right steps. Both Paul and I are eager to help you find ways to hold all this together. I have every confidence that we can make it all work.

I think we'll do better to talk by phone. Why don't you give me a call at the office tomorrow morning? The number is below. If tomorrow won't work, please suggest another day that might. I look forward to talking more soon.

I hope the first trimester is proving bearable, that the work of saying goodbye is going well, and that you and your husband have a few spare minutes to delight in and anticipate all that is happening.


God is so good. I'll call tomorrow- hopefully after sleeping very late.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

the news for now

So, the appointment was fine. All my test results were good or clear from the first appointment- the eight vials of blood yielded all good news. The baby's heart rate was 160 which led the midwife to say "It's a girl!" Then she chuckled and said "Just kidding. We'll check the parts later." "We don't want to know," I said. "Oh, how nice," she said. But honestly my heart skipped a beat when she said "It's a girl!" Yes, I will be happy either way, but... I have a leaning. I have to be honest. She also gave us the name and contact information of a nurse midwife group at Vanderbilt, the University I'll be attending. We will have two more appointments with this group, including the big mid-pregnancy ultrasound. And then we'll move.

I sent an e-mail to that group tonight inquiring about whether they're accepting new patients, whether they'd take a patient somewhere mid-pregnancy (20 some weeks), and whether they participate in home births or have a birth center option. I am skeptical. Vanderbilt has a med school and a major hospital. I'm guessing they're hospital birth folks. But I also asked if they don't practice either home births or birth center births if they could refer me to a reputable practice that does. I'm not entirely opposed to hospital birth, but if I can have another option I will be THRILLED. So... we'll see.

I also sent the official notification e-mail to Vanderbilt tonight. I'm super nervous about that. This is what I wrote- to the head of the theology department, who will be my advisor probably, and to the head of my fellowship program. Maybe it is too self-disclosive, but it is me, and it is sent. So it'll have to do.

Dear Paul and Ted,

I am in the midst of ministry wrap up- three more worship services to lead, two more sermons to write and preach, lots of goodbye gatherings, and a long to-do list of church and personal tasks. I'm very much looking forward to beginning my studies at Vanderbilt, but it is almost hard to imagine that I'll be on the other side of all this transition by mid-July! I pray that the semester is wrapping up or has wrapped up well for both of you and that you are anticipating some blessings in the upcoming summer. Paul, I'm wondering how your leave plans have worked out for next year. Will you be gone for the whole year or just the second semester?

My primary reason for writing is that I have some news to share. It is news that I share with a bit of anxiety. First, a bit of context- My husband and I were actively trying to conceive on and off for the better part of three and a half years. What started as a joyful journey of hope and expectation became a dark valley of pain and grief. We worked for over a year with a fertility specialist and never once conceived. The day that I found out that I got into Vanderbilt, we quit trying. And exactly two months to that day I found out that I was six weeks pregnant. I am now nearing the end of my first trimester and am due on December 4th.

I now have a new understanding of "Sarah laughed." I snorted a disbelieving laugh when I heard the news, "Now, Lord???" (And wouldn't it figure that my text for my final Sunday, picked months ago, is the anunciation of Isaac!) I did not plan things this way- at all. My hope was that I would have a toddler or school aged child when returning to grad school, not a baby bump and a due date. But, I believe with all my heart that God has called me to further studies AND that God has called me to motherhood so, one way or another I am trusting things will work out.

My understanding is that the semester doesn't end until December 22nd and that the new semester begins January 7th. Is that correct? I was wondering if it would be possible to get syllabi in advance and perhaps set up early deadlines for myself so that I can be done by late November to allow some semblance of a maternity leave. Might that be possible? Do you have other thoughts about how I can navigate these dual realities?

I am also wondering about the nature of the health insurance that I receive with admission. I will likely pay to continue my Board of Pensions coverage just to ensure that my husband will be covered, but should he get a job with benefits I might not. Would my insurance cover pregnancy, birth, and then the baby? Or would I need other insurance for the baby?

I wasn't sure exactly with whom to share this, but I thought the head of the department and the head of theology and practice was a good place to begin. If I need to speak to others, please let me know.

I pray we can work something out.

Peace be with you both,

Monday, May 19, 2008

we heard it...

...and it was pretty cool.

but it didn't blow me away.

does that make me strange?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

heartbeat tomorrow?

We have our second prenatal appointment tomorrow. We should be able to hear the heart beat.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

11 weeks today

Getting closer and closer to the second trimester.

And no headaches or nausea the last few days.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Warning, you might not want to read this post.

I think I "told" three people yesterday that nausea wasn't really an issue for me anymore.

And then I rushed to the hospital to see someone before they headed into emergency surgery, squeezing this in before having to meet up with a teenager at a coffee house. I had had a splitting sinus headache all day (despite having rested well and having consumed a fair bit of water and having used the neti pot repeatedly) and finally heard back from the triage nurse at my ob/midwives office and she said I could not take the sudafed sinus headache that I have in my house, but I could use sudafed and tylenol. I had planned to pick up sudafed (challenging in a rural context these days...) and then go see the teenager, but the hospital visit crowded things so Kev agreed to pick up the meds for me. (Apparently he had to leave his name and driver's license number with the pharmacist in order to get the med that used to be given out like candy from my college's health center.) He also agreed to pick me up at the hospital and ferry me to the coffee house. He greeted me at the hospital with the sudafed (I had already taken the tylenol earlier) and a large glass of water. When I got in the car I realized I was feeling nauseous. "Great," I thought. But the headache was terrible, and the pills are so small, I had to try. But shortly after taking the first tiny pill the salivation kicked into over drive and Kev handed me an empty bag from the drug store and I hurled into it. That makes time number three for vomiting this pregnancy. Only this time I actually had something in my stomach to hurl. And... a bit of it missed the bag. GROSS.

I cleaned up as best I could and zipped up my fleece and went to meet the teen. I smelled like vomit. I ended up having Kev bring a change of shirt and jacket to the coffee shop before I went back to the hospital to be with the waiting family.

I guess this is practice for when the kid pukes all over me at an inopportune time, right?


Sunday, May 11, 2008


K just started my day with a Mother's Day gift.

Totally unexpected.

Thanks, dear one.

Funny That

I was thinking last night, "Wow. I'm not having a lot of pregnancy symptoms. It has been a long time since the last doctor's appt. Hmm... that could be concerning."

Then I looked over at the bathroom scale, which I haven't mounted for quite some time.

And I got on it.

I appear to be up 5 pounds or so... and... I WAS HAPPY ABOUT THAT.

Not so long ago that would have been horrifying... but... I know that 5 or so pounds in the first trimester is normal and healthy and I'm in my 10th week so I'm nearing the end of the first trimester. I took weight gain as a comforting sign and let the anxiety go.

eta- my weight wasn't up quite so much this morning. which is even better news. : )

Thursday, May 8, 2008

a few memories from along the way here

I was soaking in the tub the other day (temp less than 100 for sure- it is not easy, but I'm getting used to it) and random memories from the three plus years of trying to conceive kept floating to the surface of my consciousness.

Shortly before Thanksgiving in 2006 we were working with the doctor who earned the blog name Dr. Night. We had given up on clomid (an oral ovulation stimulant) months before because in two cycles of it my body reacted counterproductively by thinning my uterine lining. Upon giving up we ordered boxes and boxes of injectible hormones, the heavy duty stuff that is supposed to make your ovaries work over time and not trigger unhelpful (for the sake of fertility) side effects (forget the emotional side effects, the bruising...) Dr. Night was confident that with the boost to my system from these big guns, I'd be pregnant in no time.

I swallowed hard at the thought of this step. I'm not phobic of needles, but... I really, really don't like them. Thank God Kev was not intimidated. He learned the proper method of prepping and injecting and was ready to go. However, life being what it is, with our planned trip to Germany, and maybe with General Assembly awhile before besides... the meds sat in the fridge for a long time. It was fall before we finally got started with them. It may have even been November before everything in life and body cooperated to allow us to begin this step. When you're using injectible hormones you need to be closely moderated less a cyst start to form and grow out of control and so that they can give you another shot to stimulate the release of an egg or eggs right on time. This means ultrasounds and bloodwork practically every other day. And though our local hospital has the equipment, they don't turn results around fast enough which meant driving either 40 minutes north or an hour and a half southeast for a 15 minute appt. Obviously, we opted for 40 minutes north as often as possible.

Just one time at the hospital north of here I had a most memorable tech perform the ultrasound. She was prepping the equipment when she asked "Is this your first pregnancy?" My hackles went up, the defensive, protective thoughts kicked in, "Doesn't she know what she's doing? There's no baby in there. What an insensitive question?" My face showed my discomfort. Maybe I spat out "I'm not pregnant." I almost think I didn't though. I think she saw my pain on my face and responded "By that I mean, WILL this be your first pregnancy? You've got to speak it, Sarah." I relaxed. "Yes, it will be." We had a comfortable conversation there on out. The fact that my ovaries weren't responding to the hormones was not a source of distress that day. The information I got from her was far more valuable.

In the nearly two years since I have not always been able to speak it. Many of you know that more than once I have spoken negative possibilities into the universe- "It will NEVER happen."

Soaking in the tub the other day I smiled as I remembered her question and thought "Yes, this IS my first pregnancy." And I WILL be welcoming a child into the world. Wherever you are, kind tech, I'm speaking it now.

Monday, May 5, 2008

a funny moment

So I'm supposed to fly to Louisville next week for leadership training for the General Assembly in June. I am to be a committee assistant at the Assembly and the committee I am to assist is fairly unusual so I do need the training. But after my experience at interim training last week... an excruciating exercise in trying to keep my eyes open... I was a bit nervous about whether this travel was wise. So I called my friend who invited me to take on this responsibility and shared the news of the pregnancy with him, to his delight. I think we'll be able to work out my participation allowing breaks for rest, so it is all good.

In any case, I was telling Kevin all about this tonight and he became greatly distressed at the realization that our baby will be exposed to Robert's Rules of Order in utero. He rubbed my lower back as he pouted and cooed.

"Hon, that was pretty inevitable."

"No, it wasn't," he spat out.

"Yes, it was. Any child in MY utero..."

"But no... you're leaving Presbyterian parish ministry behind, you'll be in school..."

"But I'll still be a presbyter..."

"You won't go. You'll be a student."

"O.K. whatever, I still say-inevitable."

He pouted some more.

Ah, the unknown dreams we harbor for our children.