This is what it says on a Thanksgiving plate I bought after my first IVF cycle resulted in a negative result. I was pretty sad and didn't feel all that blessed. When I came across this plate I remember picking it up, setting it down, thinking about whether or not I was "blessed beyond measure". I ultimately decided to buy it because I determined that yes, I was blessed beyond measure. I had many other wonderful blessings in my life and that was what I focused on. And as I did so, I felt at peace and the pain of the negative IVF cycle lessened.
Clearly, this Thanksgiving, I feel "blessed beyond measure". To have my amazing son in my home is one of the greatest blessings I have ever received. He brings so much joy and happiness into my life.
As I have thought of those of you who might be struggling during this holiday season and who are not feeling very blessed my mind reflected on a church talk I have read recently. The talk is titled The Divine Gift of Gratitudeand was given by my church leader, President Monson. The following is the part I wanted to share with all of you. I especially like the story he shared about Gordon Green's family and the experience they had one Thanksgiving when they didn't feel they had much to be grateful for.
"A grateful heart, then, comes through expressing gratitude to our Heavenly Father for His blessings and to those around us for all that they bring into our lives. This requires conscious effort—at least until we have truly learned and cultivated an attitude of gratitude. Often we feel grateful and intend to express our thanks but forget to do so or just don’t get around to it. Someone has said that “feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”12
When we encounter challenges and problems in our lives, it is often difficult for us to focus on our blessings. However, if we reach deep enough and look hard enough, we will be able to feel and recognize just how much we have been given.
I share with you an account of one family which was able to find blessings in the midst of serious challenges. This is an account I read many years ago and have kept because of the message it conveys. It was written by Gordon Green and appeared in an American magazine over 50 years ago.
Gordon tells how he grew up on a farm in Canada, where he and his siblings had to hurry home from school while the other children played ball and went swimming. Their father, however, had the capacity to help them understand that their work amounted to something. This was especially true after harvesttime when the family celebrated Thanksgiving, for on that day their father gave them a great gift. He took an inventory of everything they had.
On Thanksgiving morning he would take them to the cellar with its barrels of apples, bins of beets, carrots packed in sand, and mountains of sacked potatoes as well as peas, corn, string beans, jellies, strawberries, and other preserves which filled their shelves. He had the children count everything carefully. Then they went out to the barn and figured how many tons of hay there were and how many bushels of grain in the granary. They counted the cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, and geese. Their father said he wanted to see how they stood, but they knew he really wanted them to realize on that feast day how richly God had blessed them and had smiled upon all their hours of work. Finally, when they sat down to the feast their mother had prepared, the blessings were something they felt.
Gordon indicated, however, that the Thanksgiving he remembered most thankfully was the year they seemed to have nothing for which to be grateful.
The year started off well: they had leftover hay, lots of seed, four litters of pigs, and their father had a little money set aside so that someday he could afford to buy a hay loader—a wonderful machine most farmers just dreamed of owning. It was also the year that electricity came to their town—although not to them because they couldn’t afford it.
One night when Gordon’s mother was doing her big wash, his father stepped in and took his turn over the washboard and asked his wife to rest and do her knitting. He said, “You spend more time doing the wash than sleeping. Do you think we should break down and get electricity?” Although elated at the prospect, she shed a tear or two as she thought of the hay loader that wouldn’t be bought.
So the electrical line went up their lane that year. Although it was nothing fancy, they acquired a washing machine that worked all day by itself and brilliant lightbulbs that dangled from each ceiling. There were no more lamps to fill with oil, no more wicks to cut, no more sooty chimneys to wash. The lamps went quietly off to the attic.
The coming of electricity to their farm was almost the last good thing that happened to them that year. Just as their crops were starting to come through the ground, the rains started. When the water finally receded, there wasn’t a plant left anywhere. They planted again, but more rains beat the crops into the earth. Their potatoes rotted in the mud. They sold a couple of cows and all the pigs and other livestock they had intended to keep, getting very low prices for them because everybody else had to do the same thing. All they harvested that year was a patch of turnips which had somehow weathered the storms.
Then it was Thanksgiving again. Their mother said, “Maybe we’d better forget it this year. We haven’t even got a goose left.”
On Thanksgiving morning, however, Gordon’s father showed up with a jackrabbit and asked his wife to cook it. Grudgingly she started the job, indicating it would take a long time to cook that tough old thing. When it was finally on the table with some of the turnips that had survived, the children refused to eat. Gordon’s mother cried, and then his father did a strange thing. He went up to the attic, got an oil lamp, took it back to the table, and lighted it. He told the children to turn out the electric lights. When there was only the lamp again, they could hardly believe that it had been that dark before. They wondered how they had ever seen anything without the bright lights made possible by electricity.
The food was blessed, and everyone ate. When dinner was over, they all sat quietly. Wrote Gordon:
“In the humble dimness of the old lamp we were beginning to see clearly again. . . .
“It [was] a lovely meal. The jack rabbit tasted like turkey and the turnips were the mildest we could recall. . . .
“ . . . [Our] home . . . , for all its want, was so rich [to] us.”13
My brothers and sisters, to express gratitude is gracious and honorable, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live with gratitude ever in our hearts is to touch heaven."
It is hard to recognize our blessings when times are tough and life is challenging. That is why I liked the story about Gordon and his family. They had quite a challenging year, and didn't feel very grateful, but in the end they realized they had been blessed, and what a difference it made not only in their day, but their life. I am grateful to have joined this blogging community and am grateful we are able to help one another through the highs and lows we face as we try to grow our families one baby at a time.
Thanks for all of your great comments on my previous post. It really did give me some "food for thought".
You helped me rephrase how I can refer to my struggle with infertility.
Here are some phrases you helped me come up with.
I struggle with infertility.
I have been diagnosed with infertility.
I have a unicornuate uterus, don't ovulate, and have required the assistance of a RE to try to get pregnant. That sentence should raise some more questions. But that explanation might also forgo the "oh, just relax" solutions that seem to fly out of people's mouths.
Now that I have a child I wonder if I will get as many people asking me when I am going to have more kids. It seemed that since I didn't have any kids I was fair game for people constantly nosing around and being so concerned about my small family size.
I guess I will just have to wait and see. I hope so, I could use a little relief from that. But I'm sure eventually well meaning people will get tired of seeing my family of 3 and want to see 4 of us, until eventually I am on the other side of the coin where people all of a sudden feel as though I have too many children and probably would make it their business to tell me so. I don't think I will run into that problem, but you never know. At any rate, I already know that there is just no pleasing some people, so I'm not worried about that.
Oh, and I hadn't realized, out of some of the infertility is... sentences, she made an infertility manifesto. Go check it out. It's great.
Sometimes, it bothers me that when we are diagnosed with infertility the phrase that works best is, "I'm infertile." I have thought about this for a long time and wished for a better phrase. I can't think of any other medical diagnosis that when you receive it, you then become it. For example, do people say, "I'm breast cancer?", "I'm leukemia?", or "I'm kidney disease?" No. I guess some people say they're diabetic, but they can also say, "I have diabetes". And while I don't let infertility define me, sometime just the fact that when I tell people "I'm infertile" I feel like it has defined me. I know this is just semantics, but I wish there was a better phrase. I suppose if I start saying "I have infertility" maybe it would catch on, but probably not. At any rate, it would cause some confusion. And that is always fun to do with fertiles. Since adopting our child I have thought I might say, "I have overcome infertility", or "I'm an infertility survivor" like cancer survivors are able to say.
I don't know. It is just something I have thought about in the past, and again now in the present. What are your thoughts on this?
I was reminded of these thoughts I had because blogger Keiko at Hannah Wept, Sarah Laughed had a post where she wanted her readers to fill in the blank to the sentence: Infertility is...
It was interesting to read what others wrote. I added my own endings to the sentence. Here they are: my first thought was: infertility is exhausting second thought was infertility is not the winner. I beat it. I am an infertility survivor
and this sentence goes along with the 2nd thought.
infertility is not how I choose to define myself.
Do you have infertility or are you infertile? Maybe I am splitting hairs semantically, but I do think it matters at least mentally and how you view yourself and the particular brand of infertility you are fighting against.
I realized I never showed you pictures of the nursery. My brother did an amazing job in pulling everything together. I love our little guy's room. We of course decided to go with a monkey, zany, fun theme, so he can enjoy this room for many years.
This hangs above his crib. My brother came up with the amazing idea of having a monkey vine for all of the monkeys to hang from.
I like the dog hooks under the mirror on the edge of the photo.
I also like the barrel of monkeys we have hanging from the ceiling fan.
I have also put some monster vinyls decals on the wall by the chair that match the pillow and fill the space nicely.
this is his changing pad on top of his dresser, with more monkeys to look at.
Not a stellar picture of us, but I wanted to show the cool light we have in the room and the finger puppets behind my husband. I collect them and like to keep a few in my bag when a kid is restless and needs something fun to play with. My brother came up with this fun way to display them all.
A close up on some of the finger puppets.
It is such a fun room to spend time in. I love how it turned out.
Today me and my little guy went to the mall to do a bit of shopping and run some errands. At our first stop, we made a detour to go into a children's clothing store because they had a huge sale sign up. And we found some nice clothes all for $2.99 or less. I love a good bargain.
Anyhow, we were standing in line to pay for the items when the lady behind me said, "how old is your baby?" I told her hold old he was, To which she said, "You gave birth to him, and you look that good already?" I replied, "I didn't give birth to him, he's adopted." She was nice and said, something like, "well he is a beautiful boy and has a beautiful mom" and then as I was leaving she said, "you did give birth to him." I didn't really understand that. Because I didn't, and I don't feel like I needed to. Whatever.
At our last stop of the day, my little guy was getting hungry, and he had already eaten all of his food, so we were just stopping super quick in this store and then I was heading home to get him more food. (yes, I will have to bring more next time). But so I was holding him to console him and finish burping him and the lady in front of me in line said, "Woah, you are skinny, how old is that baby?" Before I could respond, she also said, "Is he yours? I mean, maybe you are the mom's sister" I cooly replied, "No, he's mine, I'm his mom." Then she said, "Well, you sure are skinny, some of us have at least 10 lbs we need to lose". I didn't really have anything more to say to her. I didn't feel like telling her that my little bundle of joy was adopted. Then after she left, my little guy was getting a bit fussy and I told the lady checking us out that he was hungry and I needed to hurry home to get him some more food. This lady then said, "you are not...(then she pointed to her breast)?" I said, "nope" and left it at that. Adults say and do the darndest things. Fun times.
I don't feel the need to explain everything to everyone. I am sure I learned that through my years of infertility. I do enjoy it when people tell me I look really good when they see how little my baby is. Usually I just smile, say thanks, and enjoy the accolades.
Hmm, little guy? Is it too early to teach you some baby sign language? The books say not to start until you are 6 months, but how about we start now?
Actually, he has some signs of his own, the problem is when we have used them all up and he just stares at me just like he is doing now.
Some of his signs are:
He head butts me or tries to be a boxer when he's hungry--it's pretty funny. He will also suck on his pacifier when he is hungry, otherwise he wants nothing to do with it. So sometimes I will test him with it. He grunts and kicks his legs when he is working on filling his diaper or trying to get rid of some gas. And he gives me cute sleepy grins (I love those) and yawns when he is tired.
Sometimes he does all of that at the same time. I tell him that not many guys are great multi taskers, so there is no need to try to do it all at once. He will also suck on his pacifier when he is hungry, otherwise he wants nothing to do with it. So sometimes I will check to see if he is hungry by having him suck on his pacifier. The only problem is that sometimes when I try he is too busy trying to poop and will act like he isn't hungry only to fuss about it a few minutes later. Boys, I tell you, they are hard to figure out.
I think right now my little guy is working on a poop. How do I know? Easy, I heard him fart.
And I knew he was sleepy, now he is finally falling asleep, but I will end up waking him up when I change him. Which will probably make him remember that he is hungry also. This post is starting to sound like the children's book, "When you give a mouse a cookie." Only my book will be called, "When you change your child's diaper."
My child has an insatiable appetite and is currently in one of his baby growth spurts which makes him want to eat even more. So, I guess I need to stop typing and continue this vicious cycle we have found ourselves in all day. I was hoping to go to bed at 7 pm right after I fed him. Well, here we are a few diaper changes and snacks later still awake at 9:30 pm. I guess I will "sleep when the baby sleeps" (the sage advice everyone loves to give a new mom) since I can't when he's awake :D Slight problem with that is--he won't sleep.
Oh, and lest I forget to mention. When this child finally falls asleep, he will wake up as soon as I put him down. So, maybe I will ask him to try to put me to bed instead. And then he can stay up and get his nighttime bottles ready and do some of his baby laundry. I think it would be a win win for everyone involved.
Good night to someone. I am afraid it won't be me or my baby anytime soon. :D
** 10 pm update: baby is asleep, in bed, and I am headed that way in just a few minutes after I get the bottles made. ** I don't think my baby knew what he wanted. That's where I come in. I get to help him out or patiently wait until he figures it out for himself. He had a few more sips of milk, small dirty diaper, big burp, some soft lullaby music with a little more cuddle time with his mom, and that did it for him. That was all he needed. I'm glad I could be there for him.
A few weeks ago I received a question from a reader. The question is listed below. I have thought about it a bit and I will do my best to answer this well thought out and sincere question. I will try to illustrate how I came to embrace adoption through a story. If anyone else has some advice or insight, feel free to share it. I must also say that I like the nickname "Mrs. Joy"; that made me smile and brought me joy.
Hi Mrs. Joy :)I have been following your sweet story, and feel blessed to have a glimpse in to your life. My husband feels like he is being prompted to adopt, so we are heading that way, but I am still struggling with the thought of not being pregnant, and actually giving birth to my baby. You said you had come to terms w/ it, was there something that helped you move past that feeling? I would really appreciate any advise, you are certianly a great example! Thanks!!! ~Haley
To rephrase and summarize the question, it was: How did I come to terms with not being pregnant and actually giving birth to my child?
I think it was a process over time. I don't know that it was any one thing.
At some point early on in our infertility and realizing that having a baby was not going to be as easy as we had hoped I happened to walk past the store "Motherhood Maternity" while in the mall. At the point I had a breakdown. I sat down on a bench and felt sorry for myself. I don't know if I outright cried, but I wanted too. I was angry and felt justified in my anger at my body, God, and those that easily become pregnant and just waltz into a store to buy maternity clothes. All I wanted was to wear maternity clothes. I wanted to get pregnant and have a baby. Was that too much to ask?
I had always been open to adoption and as time went on with the infertility treatments not working out I began to realize that adoption might really be something we might be involved in. As time went on I realized this focus of "wearing maternity clothes" was a bit myopic. Time and the sheer fact that infertility treatment after infertility treatment failed led us to seriously consider adoption. When I found out I had a unicornuate uterus I learned that bedrest, preterm labor and c-section were likely in my future due to this diagnosis. I had to give up the idea I had that I would have a natural unmedicated delivery, let alone carry a baby to term. Trying to have twins via IVF was out of the question. For me, these small bits of information helped me begin the process of accepting the fact that I would have to give up what little control I thought I had in this reproductive process.
I realized there was more than one way to have children. One would require maternity clothes, morning sickness, hormone fluctuations, ultrasounds to hear the heartbeat and learn the gender of the baby, registering for baby shower items, etc. The other would require any length of waiting period, allowing someone else complete control over choosing us as parents, scrutiny from social workers, travel to any part of the US to meet birthparents and our child, a completely different way of announcing to friends and family of being matched, and of meeting our child for the first time, an intense amount of stress and joy in short spans of time, building relationships with people you never dreamed of, etc.
So with time and this realization, it really wasn't that difficult for me to "come to terms" with adoption as a means of growing our family. Sometimes, yes, I would have a tinge of sadness if I thought, I wonder what my biological child would've looked like? Or if I was feeling anxious or unsure of myself I would think, "why do I think I can be a good mother? or, "what if the child I adopt doesn't like me"? It was one thing to take on the responsibility of bringing a biological child into the world, but to raise and parent an adoptive child made me really put pressure on me to think about whether or not I was up to the task of being a good mother. I think these questions and feelings are normal and important to recognize. It is important to acknowledge the loss that is is to lose the dream of becoming pregnant and carrying your child. I always recognized it as a unique and beautiful thing that I hoped to experience, so it while it was hard to set that dream aside, once I realized I had replaced it with another one just as beautiful and unique I was more than okay with adoption. I was excited about the possibilities and joy the child we would adopt would bring into our family.
I think having an open adoption was also nice in the fact that I know who my child will look like. I really enjoyed getting to know my son's birth parents. I know their personalities, traits, and physical characteristics. My son gets his amazing good looks from his birthparents. I will be able to tell him that and tell him what they look like and other things about them. That gives me peace and hope that my son will be able to "come to terms" with any "loss" he might feel with adoption.
I think time and just the realization that if I wanted children, and I did, that this was the way it could happen, and probably the only way it would happen. I read stories and articles about adoption and I saw it as something miraculous and amazing. I realized that not many people have the opportunity to adopt a child, and that I was lucky to be able to have this unique experience. And unique and amazing it has been.
I think serious consideration of adoption is just a natural progression that occurs if having a child biologically is just not feasible. It doesn't mean the child I adopt is loved any less, or that I am sorry we turned to adoption to grow our family. I truly hope my child will know that. I also hope society and people will realize that too. I am so grateful to have adopted our child, it has been a great experience.
The night or two before we left to go see our child in the hospital and finalize the adoption I had to go to the mall. I went to the side I never go to, and saw a certain store, you guessed it, Motherhood Maternity. I hadn't seen the store since that time years ago, and as my mind reflected back on how devastated I was at the time, this time all I could do was laugh. As far as I was concerned, I would never enter that store, and that was perfectly fine with me. I had other things to do, I had to hurry and find the item I was looking for and then hurry home to finish everything else I was occupied with for the adoption. That was a great feeling.
To get to this place here are some other things that helped:
Blogging and writing in my journal helped me organize my thoughts and feelings. Reading scriptures and uplifting talks by church leaders helped me feel at peace with my infertility and not be upset with my body's inability to become pregnant. Praying about what direction to take helped. Exercising helped. Good friends and family helped. Humor and laughing about infertility helped. Focusing on others and trying to help them helped.
My advice to you is to be patient with yourself. Let yourself take the time you need to be okay with not being pregnant and having a biological child so you can give yourself fully to the adoption process and your child that you adopt.
I just spilled a bunch of formula while I was trying to screw on the lid while holding my little guy who was rooting around frantically to get some in his mouth.
I knocked it off the counter and watched it spill all over the floor.
For a split second I thought, "oh my, what a mess, and here is one more thing to do before I go to bed."
But, then I thought, "well, I'm glad I didn't mop the floor today" and then I just laughed, smiled, and thought, this is a great problem to have. I am grateful to have a mess of formula to mop off my floor.
I was excited to find out that November is National Adoption Month, with Nov 20th being the specific day in that month to celebrate adoption.
I am so grateful for adoption and that in enabled me to have our beautiful baby in our home. I just love him so much. I am so grateful to his great birthparents. They are wonderful people and we are happy to have them in our lives as well.
I was looking at a website about National Adoption Month and it had some good ideas about how to celebrate it. I thought I would share those with you.
--celebrate your child's heritage through food, stories, culture, etc
--blog about it (done)
--sent a thank you letter to your adoption agency
--develop a family tradition
--get together with other members of the adoption triad and learn their stories. (I think that would be interesting. I know some people who are adopted and I would love to hear their stories)
--make a family tree
--scrapbook. (I really need to do that)
--watch a movie about adoption.
--mentor kids "aging out" of the foster system
--write in your journal about your adoption experience (that was my idea)
--invite the media to cover your adoption event. (first I need to come up with an adoption event. Any ideas?)
--attend an adoption support group.
--talk to your kids about adoption. (that could apply to those who are adopted and those who aren't--to increase awareness)
--make a lifebook for or with your child
--donate items to family child services.
--send a letter or gift to birthparents (my idea)
I would like to do some of these things to celebrate our child's adoption.
I love sock monkey hat weather. There were some ups and downs today, so being able to be out and about with this little guy in his awesome sock monkey hat made my day. Every time I looked at him I would just break out into a grin. Doesn't he looks so good in it? There is nothing more I can say than that. I will let the pictures do the talking. I figured laundry folding could wait awhile longer, I wanted to post these pictures for all of you to see.
my wise sock monkey on Halloween.
Hooray for sock monkey hat weather!
Rebecca, thank you for the wonderful gift of your friendship and the cool sock monkey hat for my little guy!
Lately, I have been in a bit of a quandary as to trying to decide where I belong in this blogging world. I made it to the other side! I came out of this ordeal with a baby in my arms and now I want to continue blogging about the joy he has brought me. But I worry that in doing so I will hurt and cause pain to those of you who are my dear friends in cyberspace. It could be that many of you who used to read my blog no longer do, and that’s okay. I understand how hard it can be to feel happy that someone else has a child, but to feel so sad that you still don’t.
I feel that in many ways infertility helped me to learn to find joy in the day to day of life. I am a much more confidant person and happy person now than I was when I was in the throes of focusing on what I didn’t have and how infertility was cheating me out of a happy life.
You may read this and say, oh that’s easy to say now that she has a baby, but honestly, the day before I got the call that we had been chosen by our child’s birth parents I was doing a triathlon training bike/run and as I ran I thought, “I am happy. I have found joy.” And I am so glad I had that feeling and experience before I received the news about our adoption. This was what I was ultimately working towards. This was something I could control. I couldn’t control when a baby would come, I couldn’t force myself to become pregnant, and I certainly couldn’t force a birth mother of father to choose me to parent his or her child. I could only control my outlook on life and my attitude.
So in many ways I feel like I no longer belong here. But at the same time I feel as though I do. I have learned so much and just because I will talk about parenting it is through the prism of infertility and adoption. And also through the prism of finding the joy in the highs and lows of this new adventure.
I want to tell you of the thrill and confusion it was to fill out my child’s medical record as I tried to figure out where I was supposed to sign and put my info. I was now the mom and the parent, not the patient. At the doctor’s office when they are ready to see him, they call us by his name, not mine. It is such a confusing and joyful moment in my life.
So as you see, I am not sure if I fit into this new mommy world either. I have a completely different outlook and perspective than the vast majority of these other amazing moms. I love my pile of baby laundry. Although it is growing steeper and steeper by the day and I don’t know if I will ever get around to folding it. I just dig in the pile to find something cute and we get up and go. I love my messy house. I will take the sleep deprivation that comes with this new job any day. Sure, I will admit, at 1:30 am I had a sleep deprivation moment and wasn’t the happier camper in the world, but then I remembered how lucky I was and that immediately cured my frustration at my screaming child. So because I am so happy to experience these seemingly terrible portions of motherhood I kind of feel like a foreigner in this new world. But that’s okay. And so, I think if I can continue to blog about the happiness of parenthood, maybe it could also help those who are beaten down and tired of the day to day grind of it all. And I don't want to become beaten down by the day to day difficulties that do come with parenthood. I am enjoying this new pair of rose colored glasses I have and don't want to take them off.
I don’t know. Ultimately, I just want those of you that I care about in this blogging world to not be hurt as I talk about my newfound joy of motherhood.
And I am sorry to admit it, but I am probably now a very annoying person for an infertile person to see on FB. I post a lot of pics of my little guy for my friends and family to see. I tried not to do too many, but they all love him and want to see him, so how can I not?