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October 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.

Last year on this day, I remember reading some pregnancy loss blogs, thinking how heartbreaking it would be to lose a baby.  I even thought, “that could be us,” which I think is probably good, because it could be ANYONE.  Fifteen percent of all pregnancies end in miscarriage or stillbirth.  That’s a lot of heartache.

But still, when we found ourselves pregnant in December 2008, we felt unadulterated joy, not worry about loss statistics.  And when we hit the 12-week point, with two healthy ultrasounds, we rejoiced, again.  We felt so blessed.

And obviously, our story is not unique, and it is by no means the most heartbreaking story.  We were barely out of the first trimester when we went in for another routine appointment and the refreshing thump, thump, thump on the doppler was gone.  When the nursing student said, cheerfully, “oh, sometimes when they’re so little, they get away from you!” I smiled, weakly, but I thought, “Please, God, please, no.  Please have our baby be alive.”  But they rolled in the pathetic little ultrasound machine, and pulled up an image of our lifeless baby, swishing from side to side because of the ultrasound probe pressing against my stomach.

I did not know what it would feel like to lose a child, but in that moment, I joined the initiated.

Of course, our story did not end there, and most of it is in this blog, preserved for others who may have to go through it.  The genetic testing on the baby and the placenta showed that our pregnancy was not a normal pregnancy; it was a partial molar pregnancy, which carried a risk of cancer for me.  And though that sounds absolutely horrible, I will be honest and say that it is a mixed blessing:  on one hand, we knew that it was nothing *we* did that caused the baby’s demise (I included my husband in there), but that the baby was not viable.  On the other, we were required to wait for months to try to get pregnant again, and in the interim, I had to take weekly hCG tests to ensure that the placenta didn’t regrow like a tumor.  Every week, the tech would say, “another pregnancy test?” and every week, I’d say, “yep…” as though I were the crazy chick who needed weekly confirmations of my gestational status.

And I will be even more honest, and say that those months were some of the worst in my life, and some of the worst in our marriage.  The grief was palpable, and augmented by the fact that I had at least 5 friends due within 3 weeks of our due date in September 2009.  I withdrew from friends, and I withdrew from this blog.  I stopped asking about pregnancies.

Post-partum depression after miscarriage is very, very real, and very, very, debilitating.

He would be one month old today, had he only had the right number of chromosomes.  Our lives would be very, very different.

I say all of this not to be depressing, but to be honest.  I don’t think anyone realizes what it’s like to go through a miscarriage until they have been through it themselves.  It is difficult to know what to say, and words come out wrong.

So, in honor of today, I would like to share some thoughts about what to do, and what NOT to do, if you have a friend going through a miscarriage (and possibly infant loss, but I am not going to pretend I have any idea about that pain):

1)  Do send an email, a card, fruit, food, gifts.  If someone is very good at gardening, you might consider sending a plant, but if the person does not have a green thumb, consider that it might be additionally painful to give a plant in remembrance, only to have it die soon after.

2)  Do not say the following things:  “It’s probably better – you don’t want to raise a child with difficulties,” “You’re young, you can always have another,” or “Get over it”, or “It happens“.  All of these things were said to me, multiple times.  None of them helped, and in fact, most of them made it much, much worse.

3)  Do allow the person to talk about the baby, their pregnancy, or their due date.  Do share your own story of loss.

4)  Do acknowledge the person’s due date, even by saying, “I know how hard this time is for you, and I’m thinking/praying for you”.  That means more than anything else.

5)  Do not complain about:  not being able to drink alcoholic drinks while pregnant, not being able to sleep, vomiting due to pregnancy, lack of sleep in the first few months of having a baby home, being tired, having breastmilk problems, hurting because a baby is kicking you in the ribs, or being sick of maternity clothes to someone who has had a recent loss.  This is not to diminish the trauma of those things (well, except the drinking while pregnant.  Never complain about not being able to drink while pregnant.  Sorry, I am going to sound like a judgmental jerk for this, but you are pregnant, and this is your obligation to your baby.  No drinking.  No cigarettes.  Tough luck.  They will still be around in 8 months).  Sleepless nights, vomiting multiple times a day – those are tangible, and horrible, and stressful.  No question.  However, a person who has just lost a baby would probably give anything for the nausea, for the sleeplessness, for the inconveniences posed by the process of having a child.

6)  Do be honest about your pregnancies.  Do not leave a grieving friend in the dark in order to protect them.  It will simply hurt their feelings more than had they known about the pregnancy in the first place.

7)  Do offer to pray for someone.  Do offer to help in concrete, specific ways.  Do not say, “please let me know what I can do to help” because although that sounds wonderful, chances are, the person is in so much grief that she cannot identify what it is that she needs help with.

Today, on this day, we remember.  Please take a moment to reach out to those around you who have had a loss, and even join the campaign to light a candle at 7:00 tonight.

Blessings to all of you.

P.S.  I get a lot of emails asking about our progress, so just to update and leave this on a brighter note, we were cleared to try to conceive – meaning, I never developed cancer or regrowth – in August 2009, and I took the MCAT to try to get into medical school (which is funny in and of itself) in September 2009.  Right now we are waiting, praying, and asking the Lord to show us what He has planned for us and our family.

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I am really not supposed to be blogging right now, but usually if I blog, I am able to focus on what I am supposed to be doing shortly thereafter.  So here it goes.

My thoughts on God right now.

(If you are looking for articulate, holy thoughts on God during extreme pain and loss, I would forward you, immediately, to Angie Smith’s blog, Bring the Rain.  I have been reading Angie’s blog for months, prior to ever even becoming pregnant.  You will be blessed by reading her blog.  She is an incredible writer and an incredible believer and if I could write the way she writes about my own walk and faith, I would be, like, ecstatic.)

(I am saying that because you are probably going to be undewhelmed by what I am about to write.)

This is not very honorable, or admirable, but it is going to be honest.

I shared with you all our path to becoming pregnant.  I meant to password it on Wednesday, March 4th, but then I decided, once we learned our baby had died, that perhaps it would help you understand why this loss was just so painful for us.

I mean, if you read that far back, of course.

I am now going to share a little bit more.

I am embarrassed to say that when I hit the 12-week-pregnant mark, I began to get comfortable.  I posted things about baby names and such.  I even bought a maternity shirt (actually, 2) – because my stomach really could not accommodate anything I owned (starting at 10 weeks, but I resisted until 12).

Until that point, I held off getting too close to the baby (even though I was attached, despite my best efforts to keep my emotions in check) because I *knew* the risks.  I *knew* we had a risk of miscarrying.

But then, at 12 weeks, I settled in.

Because in my head, God and I had a deal.  (I told you I would not be impressive here.)  I mean, I wrote things about the possibility that the baby might not be okay – but in my head – my stupid, stupid, head, God and I – we had struck a deal.

I know, I know, who the hell am I to make a deal with God?

But we had a deal.  In my head, I had prayed and prayed – for two years! I had prayed – and I realize that two years is really not that long to God, but it is a long time to measly little me – “God, we really want to build our family.  Please please open the doors you want open, and close the doors you want to close”.

So when my hematocrit was high, I didn’t have multiple sclerosis or CNS lupus, we were facing a pay raise for DB in March, and everything – EVERYTHING – was falling into place, we decided God was opening a door.

And then, as I said in that post, we prayed for a baby if God wanted to grant us a biological child.

As I said in that post, we told God that we were open to HOWEVER it was that He wanted us to grow our family.  If God showed us a purple two-headed child, we would have adopted that child and advocated for that child and raised him/her to the very best of our weak, human abilities.

And, as I said in that post, God (miraculously) answered us.  We got pregnant.

And oh, my goodness, how we rejoiced.  Finally – a door open.  Finally – an answered prayer.

And, as I said in that post, I have no idea why God chooses to answer some prayers “yes”, some prayers, “no”, and some prayers, “later”.

I have no idea why He answered our prayer, “Here is a child, but s/he is only yours for 13 weeks.”

I have asked Him this every. single. day.  I do not understand.

See, I felt like we had a deal.  We were open to anything he wanted to throw at us.  In return, he should close some doors, or open others, or whatEVer – but to open a door, then slam it shut?  And take my blood along with it?

OUCH.

So I have really, really, really been struggling with God.  I know He knows what it is like to lose a child.  Obviously He knows.  I know He knows our pain.  I know He is crying with us.  I know He is all-powerful and He created mountains and He created the world (I mean this in an scientific way – sorry, but I do not believe He did it in 7 days…maybe He did it in the equivalent of 7 God-days, but anyway) – He is GOD.  He is, like, the AUTHOR and PERFECTOR and EVERYTHING of our world.  Our UNIVERSE.

But why, why, why, WHY did He have to answer our prayer in this way?!?

I don’t know.

And I told DB that I am really struggling with this.  I mean, my faith in God has sustained me through a lot.  God hasn’t always answered my prayers in the way I’d like Him to.  (I think, on a very cerebral level, that if God always answers our prayers and gives us everything we want, in exactly the way we want it, and our faith never wavers, it must not be a very real faith.)  I have struggled, and I’ve cried, but I’ve never come to *this* depth in my relationship with Him.  And in “depth”, I mean, “this much questioning and this much doubting”.

Anyway, so I said to DB, “I just don’t understand why [get ready to roll your eyes] God DIDN’T HOLD UP HIS END OF THE BARGAIN.”

If there is ever a more prideful, sinful question than that, I would like to hear it.  Please.

And thankfully, I have a husband who does not look at me in horror when I ask things like that.

He said, “Isn’t it great that God doesn’t say that to us?”

And I teared up.

I mean, think about it.

If God acted like me, He would probably have thrown His hands in the air and say to His people, “I give up!  I gave you my SON, and you start wars, and you commit sin…after sin…after sin.  You throw it back in my face!”

“I”m through with you!”

But He doesn’t.

I don’t know much, but I know that.

I know how weird this might sound to you if you are not a believer.  I did not grow up Christian – I grew up (for the most part) Jewish.  (If you’d like to hear me babble about that, you are welcome to email me.)  And I am one of the most pathetic speakers of “Christianese” that I know.  You know, that kind of language that flows freely about God’s grace, and His love, and His power. Other people are really good at it.  I can forward some links if you’d like to read them.

But what I do know – and this is not Christianese – is that God is present in our lives, and God is still speaking, and although I am LOST – totally LOST – and grasping at strings, and praying for peace, and praying for direction, and wondering, really, WHAT this really means – that God still cares.

And even though I probably hardly ever hold up *my* end of the bargain, God is bigger than any “bargain” I could have thought I made with Him.

I am not that great at explaining my faith to other people.  I know a lot of you reading this are probably either thinking that I am insane (which, probably I am), or that I am a crappy Christian (see previous parenthetical expression) or that I am hurting (I definitely am).  But this – here – is where I am, spiritually.

I am pretty sure that God is still out there, crying with us.  And I really pray that He is not totally horrified that I thought *we* had a deal.

And I know that he is being the very best Father our child could ever have, to a child we love so very, very, very much.

“Be still, and know that I am God” – Psalm 46:10

P.S.  I do not know why I have two categories for this type of topic:  “God” and “Faith”.  What is the difference?

Sometimes I’m okay.  I laugh.  We have people over.  We hang out.  I’m okay.

Then I’m not okay.  I cry – a lot.  Over things like no toner in the printer, or the dishes in the sink.  I’m waiting for the annoyance over the fact that we have no floor.  (No, we never got a floor.  It was SO IMPORTANT to me on Tuesday, March 3rd, that we find someone to help us install a floor over the very…classy plywood look of our subfloor.  I no longer care that our floor is a subfloor, or that GreatStuff oozes out of every crack in the subfloor (courtesy of DB, sometime during that week prior to Wednesday).)

I have an exam to take on Tuesday.  In biology.  Yes, undergrad bio.  I am taking it for pre-med requirements.

For my mental health, I cannot fail this exam.  At the rate I am going, I am going to not only fail it, I will be failing it in the sub-10% range (I will be clear:  I missed two weeks of class before taking Unisom/B6 for all-damn-day puking, and then did not catch up).  I cannot look at a piece of paper with bio information on it without bursting into tears.

For my mental health, I also cannot drop this class yet.  Not yet.  I cannot have failure characterize every. single. aspect. of my life yet.

I am also taking physics.  Our baby caused me to puke incessantly and totally fail the physics final for the fall semester, which meant I got a really bad grade in physics.  Which, honestly, I did not care about because I figured I would be a mother.  And there would be good, worthy, physical evidence of my 3 months of vomiting.

Except that evidence died.

So right now, no, I’m not doing okay.  I guess I am not being the person I really would like to be, which is someone who trusts God that He needed my baby more than I did, someone who is strong, someone who can move on past this and see hope and a future.  Someone who does not let hormones – and I will be the first to say hormones are totally effing with my head – HORMONES dictate my emotions, my hope, my faith.

Right now, I am having a really tough time finding HOPE and FAITH and it is killing me.  I normally love that verse in Hebrews – “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (11:1).

But right now, hope is escaping me.

But I have this other verse in my head, too:

“…in all these things we are more conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:37-39

And I just keep thinking that death…does not separate us from God’s love…

And then I think all sorts of things that are not very healthy and not very admirable and frankly should not be written here because oh, yeah, my ego cannot handle reading what I write when I am in the depths – depths! – of depression.

I loved this baby with everything I had, and more.  And I miss her – or him – it is killing me that I do not know whether the baby was a he or a she – I miss her so, so, so, so much.  I miss rubbing my hands on my stomach and thinking that in a week or two, I might be able to feel her kick.  I miss my dog rubbing his head on my stomach.  (No kidding.  It was odd.)

It is effing with my head to have the physical reminders of this pregnancy everywhere – I puked yesterday morning, and almost once a day, if not more.  My sinuses are still completely plugged (a lovely side effect of pregnancy that I didn’t know about until I experienced it).  My boobs are huge.  My waist is still expanded, to make room for something to grow inside.  Some days, I can go back to my pre-pregnancy showering routine (which is wasteful and totally indulgent – I absolutely love showers) and some days, like yesterday, I realize that the hormones are still pumping and I am about to puke with the heat of the shower.

The reminders are EVERYWHERE.

For those who asked, no, date night did not happen.  So sad.  I locked myself out of my house (wearing sweats, a massive sweatshirt, and Crocs) because I went to pick up a box of Girl Scout cookies from my porch.

So I’m sitting on my steps, eating Tagalongs, in 30* weather, (bleeding), thinking about really, how yesterday could have been better.

I had a friend heading in to visit anyway, so when she got to my place, we headed to Starbux to wait for DB to get home.

By the time he got home, I was ex.haus.ted.  That S-bucks trip required more energy/effort than anything I have done in the last 9 days.

So we ordered Indian (like from India) food.

But it wasn’t that good.  Actually, it was really painfully hot because there was a mix-up.

And then I got a really upset stomach.

So basically, the night sucked, thanks for asking 🙂

Tonight we were going to try round 2, but we went for a walk – fresh air does a person good, right? – and I walked the equivalent of 1 NYC block (the street block, not the avenue – let’s be honest about my patheticness here) – and I could barely stand up.

So…we are having taco night, round 2, and renting a chick flick.  (If you have seen a good chick flick recently, and you are, like me, online at 8:00 on a Saturday night, shoot me a comment or something.)

I have no great summary sentence on this one.  I am just really struggling.  I have a post in my head about God, and pride, and I am debating whether to actually publish it, but maybe in a few days.  Or tomorrow.

I am tired.

Although writing this out made me feel better.  (Sorry if it was really depressing.)

Adapted for my own selfish uses, 1 Samuel 27.

Recently it has come to my attention that in the midst of the complaints and funny stories about vomiting, and hot dogs, and late-night peeing, I’ve perhaps misrepresented the journey to parenthood for us – how we’ve gotten here, how it wasn’t a walk in the park, and how, above all, we feel truly, deeply, and completely undeservedly, blessed.

(This is a really, really long post.  It gets really personal.  If you only read one thing on this blog, you should understand this.)

There is simply no easy way to become a parent.  There are harder ways, and more expensive ways, and faster ways, and slower ways, and there are ways that are marked with more trials than others, but at the end, with *any* method of growing a family, there is loss, there is pain, there is suffering, and there is expense.  If children could simply fall out of the sky, there could be a painless way to grow a family.  But there simply, simply, is not.

I think about this literally all of the time.  Literally.  I think about how incredibly blessed we are, that we are able to start this process with a natural conception (because it is, perhaps, the easiest of the three routes here – not easy) – because we surely did not expect it.  We feel very blessed.  We feel very fortunate.  And we are very, very, very acutely aware that there are thousands – millions – of families that are not so fortunate. Perhaps we will not be so fortunate to have a living child at the end – we are not so foolish to think that the next 6 months will be smooth sailing – but we feel very, very, very blessed to have gotten this far.

For us, adoption and natural conception were two equally acceptable ways of growing a family.  We were very open to either option.  For us, and I want this to be clear – for OUR situation, for US – assisted reproduction techniques were never an option.

That doesn’t mean I see children who are added to our family through biology and through adoption as exactly the same.  I don’t.  I used to, and perhaps this is part of my own growth that I have come to see them as different, but the two – adopted and biological – are simply not the same.  With a biological child, I will need to answer to them why Mommy and Daddy risked what we knew about our genes to create them – and I will have the (uncomfortable, perhaps) answers.  I will know every step of this child’s existence intimately.  The child will have the experience – I do not know if this is a gift – of not being questioned every day we are in public.  And when we announced that we were pregnant to our families, this child will have had the benefit – and of this, I am very sure – the benefit of everyone knowing *just* how to react.  “OH, how wonderful!” – they have said.

For our adopted child, we will not have the gift of information.  For sure, we will need to be able to look him or her (sticking with him from here out for brevity) in the eye and be able to say, without a flicker of hesitation, that we did *everything* we could to ensure that his biological mother and father wanted him to live with us, Rachel and DB, here, in America.  Perhaps we will have an open adoption – that we hope very much – so that we can help with those answers.  But I am cautious, even now, about how this child will be received in our family, and how we can maintain birth order when we want to adopt so close together.  I am cautious because we started with adoption, and when we announced that, there was excitement, but there was not the same excitement.  I am cautious because I’ve read an email from one of our family members to a friend of mine who is an adoptive parent, and it was something that I shuddered with horror reading.

How can I protect my child from *those* attitudes?  How can I ensure that my children see themselves as siblings, as equal in our love and equally protected by their parents?

So no, they are not equivalent.  As I said, we see these options as equally palatable (bad word, sorry) in growing our family, but I see them each as presenting their own challenges.  Perhaps as we actually become parents, my anxieties about all of it will dissipate.

Perhaps.  Although knowing myself, it is doubtful.

No, what I really wanted to write about was that we truly – truly, truly – feel deeply blessed.  This is something I wrote in a protected post, but I am not sure who actually read it.  So here it is, in an unprotected (for the next few weeks) post:

For most of my life, I did not think it was possible for me to bear biological children.

In college, I was told that I had some antibodies that recognized my own tissue as hostile, and created cardiac problems in an unborn infant (this is still true).

In graduate school, I was told – by a student health radiologist, no less – that my uterus was heart-shaped, possibly had a septum, and was not capable of supporting a conceived life, without invasive reconstructive surgery (this turned out not to be true).

Following that, my student health OB/GYN told me that there is no way she would recommend a conception, given the risks of any potential pregnancy (this turned out to be questionably valuable advice).

The summer after I graduated from graduate school, I went to Vietnam, and as part of my work with the UN, visited an orphanage outside of Da Nang.

I fell in love with a child there.  He was a child that had a father who couldn’t afford to keep him at home, but visited him often, so he was not freed for international adoption – but he stole my heart. I think he was 8.  Or 10.

He definitely wasn’t an infant.  And he definitely, definitely, definitely needed a mommy or a daddy that lived with him all the time.  He was 8, or 10, but he was young.

Did I mention how he stole my heart?

A few months later, I moved to this city.  That fall, when I was hemorrhaging so heavily that we considered going to the ER, even without adequate health insurance to cover it – I was advised – ON THE PHONE, no less – to get a hysterectomy.  By a male GYN.

About a year later, I found out that I had adenomyosis, which are tumor-like growths in the lining of my uterus.  (Similar to endometriosis, but the growths stay in the lining of the uterus.)  The only proven treatment for this is a hysterectomy, and finally, finally, finally, I cried.

And cried.

And cried.

Because it wasn’t that I wanted so much to become pregnant.  I had already started the process of researching adoption agencies.  (It was also in this period that we realized our significant autism risk, which simply compounded our belief that we were called to adopt.)

It wasn’t even that I planned to become pregnant.  When we started dating, I told DB about my antibodies, and my apparently defective uterus, and he simply said, “I don’t love you for your uterus.  I love you for YOU”.

I do really love my husband.

But for some reason, the latest nail in the coffin – the adenomyosis, plus the antibodies that had only increased in strength (and therefore clinical relevance) – crushed me.  Perhaps it was the growing realization that I was a graduate student, in growing amounts of student debt, and my husband worked for the government, and there was no possible way for us to reasonably afford an adoption and successfully raise the child.

I felt like there was really no way out.  That we would remain childless forever.  Perhaps I was overly dramatic (and obviously, hindsight is showing that I was) but that was how I felt at that time.

I struggled.  Friends (upon friends, upon friends) became pregnant, easily, and gave birth to healthy babies.  Other friends had friends who “just adopted from [fill in the blank rogue country – Guatemala, whatever], and *they* are so happy – why don’t YOU do that?!?” – and I just wanted to avoid everyone.  I was tired of the questions, “When are YOU having kids?!?”

Healthy?  No.  But with every cute baby face, and every cute baby belly, I was sinking.  And sinking. It became really hard for me to celebrate other people’s joy.

I had a friend whose pregnancy was accidental, and she was devastated.  Up until the birth of her child, she was trying to figure out how she could possibly love this child.

It took everything I had to be able to relate.  I really couldn’t relate.  I really wanted to say, “Hey!  Wake UP!  There are lots of us that would KILL for a baby! Any baby!  Pick yourself up!  Get happy!  What the hell is your problem?!?!?”  (I didn’t.  Don’t worry.  And she is now very bonded to her child after a tough road.)

It was during this time that we started our bid to adopt from Vietnam, and then realized that what had happened in the last shutdown was still happening, and we took a step back.  That part has been amply documented on this blog.

We had a doctor who suggested that a Mirena IUD would thin the lining of my uterus, strip the adenomyosis, and hopefully staunch the excessive flow of blood (that was causing me to be extremely anemic and need blood transfusions and iron infusions that I turned out to be allergic to).  We never intended to use this as a way to be able to conceive – really, the goal was simply to avoid the need for iron infusions and prevent severe anemia and blood loss – but when adoption looked like we could not stomach moving forward, we reconsidered conceiving.

Right when we made that decision, I had a stroke-like incident, and a follow-up MRI in the ER revealed a brain lesion.

This fall was horrendous.  We were devastated.  On one hand, if it was lupus, the end-game would be psychosis and death.  Pregnancy could hasten that, and I did not think *any* agency – international or domestic – would be eager to allow us to adopt a child.

On the other hand, if it was multiple sclerosis, we might have been able to conceive, but the doors would be slammed shut to adopt.  (And I didn’t think conception was really the greatest option, given the exigent circumstances.)

After six months of intense anxiety, it turned out to be…nothing.

We removed the IUD.

We started trying to conceive immediately.

We had about a window of three months before my iron levels got too low and I would no longer be able to support a pregnancy.

If we failed after three months, I was going to have another IUD implanted – so that I could keep my iron levels as high as possible, to stay healthy to be an actual parent.  Of something other than a pet.

This entire time, I had been praying to God, fervently.  My prayer varied, but it was essentially something along the lines of, “Please, God, we want to be good parents.  Please open the doors that You want opened and close the doors that You’re going to close and comfort us through this process – please, please, please, please”.

The night we conceived Little Squirt, we prayed, again.  And this is really personal, but we did.  We prayed, fervently, “Please, God, we are open to any route you want to make us parents, but please, if you want us to be biological parents, please please grant us this child and protect him/her.”

Two weeks later, I peed on a stick and found out that I am not, actually, the type of person whose hCG fails to make that second pee stick line.

We have no idea what to make of this.  We know that the Bible says “Ask, and you shall receive”, and we both fervently believe that this is one of the most warped (by people, for their own purposes) phrases in the Bible.  We believe that we do not know what makes some prayers obviously answered and some prayers answered “later” and some, seemingly, not answered.  We do believe that God is all-knowing, all-seeing, and He uses all things for His good….but that sounds cheap, really, or just too easy – in some situations.  I know that.  It does.

We know that countless, countless couples have prayed more fervent prayers, are better Christians*, for certain better witnesses**, will be better parents*** – who have prayed these prayers, and come up with nothing – no child, no options. Who struggle, and cry, and wait, and who put money down with rogue adoption agencies or pay fees to adopt, only to have foreign governments inexplicably shut its doors to international adoption.  Who have babies make it to term, and are born still.

As I said, we have no idea about the outcome of this pregnancy and we try very hard to assume nothing, although we are hopeful.  We continue to pray and we continue to rejoice, but we continue to petition God on behalf of the thousands of other parents struggling to expand their families, too.

We feel so unworthy.

We feel like it is a miracle, and we celebrate every. single. minute. that I continue to be pregnant.

No, it is not glamorous.  Yes, I’ve puked more than some others, and yes, I’ve puked in every appliance in our house and several buckets.  But as I said, not one way of becoming a parent is devoid of pain, heartache, or loss.  And not one way of becoming a parent is any less blessed, or miraculous.

We choose to celebrate our every single minute, and we will continue to choose that path with our next child (who will be adopted) and we hope that everyone – our friends, family, and those close to us – will join us.

In celebrating, as responsibly and ethically and thoughtfully as we can.

Because there is so, so, so, so much to celebrate and wonder.

*I hate that phrase

**This phrase is better

***Of this, I have no doubt

I am pretty sure I’ve used that title before.  I am also pretty sure it won’t be the last time I use it.

This is BAD, y’all.  This procrastination.  It is really, really bad right now.

I woke up this morning intent on studying.  See, I missed my physics final (yes, undergraduate physics.  No, I didn’t take it the first time around.  I had a far more varied palate of classes back then) due to intratable vomiting.  It was also on Inauguration Day, but really – I was vomiting.  Intractably.  And so I missed it.

And it just so happens that when you miss a final at this school, they have Very Strict Guidelines about how to make it up – and my makeup final is on Saturday.

You would think I would have studied by this point for a final on Saturday, right?

You know, I would think I would have studied at this point, too.

The truth is, I sat with the papers in front of me…and I stared at the computer.

I emailed people.  (Some of you received those emails.)

I would say those emails were even FUNNY at points, and one was so funny that I might actually post it.

Cause I am a funny person, sometimes.

But honestly?  I did not study.

And believe me when I say it is not because I am good at physics, because trust me – I suck at physics.

Like I redefine sucking.

(OK, not that bad, but…)

What is my problem?

Part of me thinks it is a question of motivation.  I am a little preoccupied, you know.  I eat every hour or so (today’s total?  It’s kind of funny, actually – 1.5 bagels, a lot of cream cheese and some peanut butter, a lot of grapes, two kiwis, and a bowl of pasta, and I have not had dinner yet) (and yes, HALLELUJAH!  It has all stayed down!!!  There was one close call but HEE HEE!  It’s all in me!) (The close call was with showering…damn shower).  And many, many, many of those emails were about whether gecko baby will be a girl or a boy, and obviously, THAT is Very Important to discuss at 9 weeks.

Obviously.

It might be a question of ambivalence.  See, if I fail this exam, I will not be able to apply to med school.  This decision will be made for me, by me, but in a totally passive way.

Not that I do not want to attend med school, but I am just…not so sure.  I have this baby growing inside me, and s/he is making me think.  A lot.

Except that how strange is it that this is happening, given that this was the PLAN?  The PLAN was to apply to med school with a CHILD.  Because there is child care on site at this particular med school, and it will take me approximately five years to complete from the time of gecko child’s birth, which, in my honest opinion, is pretty much perfect.

(Then there is residency, which gives me a stomach ache to think about, so let’s not go there.  I mean, I am going there in my head right now, and it will be a moot point if I do not do well in physics.)

So I called (in my total procrastination) a nursing school today.  Because (oh, yes, there is a because) a) I like nurses, a lot, and b) you do not need to take physics to go to nursing school.  Which is really making me happy now.

The guy was kind of a jerk (can I say that? He really really was) and made me not want to attend his nursing school.

Which is probably a good thing, because I was —-><—– that close to not taking this final!  And although I have gotten some really crappy grades before, I have never actually failed a class.

THAT would be TRAGIC.

No, I think the main problem here is that I am just battling Evil.  Satan, if you will.  (Please go with me here.)  Seriously.  I do not think God wants me to be sitting on my butt thinking about whether the ancient Chinese gender prediction chart is really accurate, and I do not think God wants me to be thinking about whether I should be going to med school in two years (although that guy?  That Christian parenting guy?  He would like me to think that God does not want me to go to med school…).  Perhaps that is true – God really has an opinion about this – but frankly, I do not believe God has an opinion about this, similar to the way I decided that God really did not have an opinion about whether I went to one graduate school or another for my Ph.D., or whether I eat grapes or chocolate cake for dinner.

At least, my God does not really care that much about these things.

My God cares about whether I believe in Him.  Whether I am a good witness to His gospel. Whether I glorify Him in the things that I do, in the things that I say, in the ways I interact with people on the street and with my husband and with my dog and my cat.  In the ways that I care for my body, now that there is a raspberry-sized life inside.  I mean, I fail…a LOT.  But I try.  And I think that’s what Jesus cares about.

I know this is really foreign to a lot of you.  It is my prayer that this does not sound nearly as insane to you as it might have sounded to me many years ago, and you are WELCOME to email me if you would like to talk about this.  (Although I might take until Saturday afternoon to write you back.)

I read on someone’s facebook list of 25 things (I LOVE those things, by the way – if those were physics I would be getting 100%)(but you should really click on that link, because it is a really funny article from Time) a statement that really made me think.  She wrote (and I am not going to list who it is), “Jesus did not die on the cross so that I could procrastinate my life away.” (Or something to that effect.  I am doing a good job and not actually GOING BACK TO FACEBOOK so I am going to have to paraphrase.)

Now, that is an interesting way of putting it.

Because do I really think Jesus died on the cross so that I could take physics?  I mean, yes and no.  Again, I do not think God really wants me to take physics, per se, but as I said, I think God wants me to glorify Him in the things that I do.

I am pretty sure I am not glorifying Him by procrastinating all day.

So here it is:  my little pledge to my teeny-tiny readership:  I am going to study from here until Saturday.  The only time I am going to look at my email is when I have finished a test.  (OMGoodness that is going to be REALLY REALLY HARD.)

You know what is playing in the background now?  Gabriel and the Vagabond.  If you have not heard it, it is a phenomenal song.

It always makes me think.

P.S.  You can still comment and, you know, make me super excited to read my email.  Cloth diapering anyone?  Ha!

You will be impressed to know that I held back SEVERAL parenthetical observations throughout to try to stay on topic for this post.  I know I failed a few times, but still.  That deserves a shout-out, no?

And now…for something totally different.

Last week was an amazing week for our country.  We inaugurated a new president, a president who looks nothing like his predecessors.  People danced in the streets.

Our new president got very busy very quickly, signing executive orders right and left.  One such order was as exciting for many of us as it was predictable:  he overturned the Mexico City Policy, aka the Global Gag Rule.  I have been asked to write about this, so I’ll give it my best shot (keep in mind – I am still recovering from my three weeks of puking, so be kind in your dissent and be very effusive with any praise.  Hee hee).

We’ll start with a point-blank assessment of my opinion, so we can all be very clear up front:

I applauded the President’s moves on EVERY single one of his executive orders, because I applaud EVERY executive order that champions human life from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death.

I applauded his order to close the prison camp at Gitmo, because I strongly, staunchly believe in the value of our constitutional rights – even for the most hardened, most despicable of criminals.  I believe that if we have a sustainable case against any given terrorist, that person can be prosecuted in an appropriate court of law, accorded due process. Think about it this way:  if someone suddenly invaded the U.S., kidnapped *you*, and brought *you* back to an off-shore military base, with absolutely no end in sight, would it make you *more* or *less* likely to want to wage war on the country that kidnapped you in the first place?

Exactly.

I celebrated the executive order that eliminated torture.  Frankly, I find it hard to believe *any* confession obtained through coercive methods, and torture is an absolutely abhorrent method of procuring a confession.  Think about it again:  If *you* were being fake-drowned, or hung naked with Rottweilers snarling at your nether regions, would you seriously tell the truth?  Or would you say *anything*, just to get those damn dogs away from you?

I am not too proud to say I’d pretty much cry uncle.  Immediately.  And I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one like that.

And I was excited, but not surprised, that President Obama overturned the Global Gag Rule.  YOU might be surprised that I was excited about this.  So let’s simply review what the GGR actually is:

In 1984, then-President Reagan signed an executive order to suspend federal funding for any U.S. organization  operating overseas with an arm that discussed, supported, or mentioned abortions in ANY country.  Lest you wonder, it was entirely political (don’t you think he wanted the votes from the Christian conservative base?).  It was certainly not to save the lives of unborn children.  In essence, those same organizations refused to stop their activities (which were primarily focused on PREVENTING pregnancies, rather than ENDING them) and they were forced to solicit funds from other countries.

In 1993, in his second day in office, President Clinton overturned the ban, stating that organizations should be able to receive federal funding for the family-planning work they did.

In 2001, on his second day in office, President Bush reinstated the ban.  (Are you noticing a political trend here?)

In 2003, President Bush ran into a slight problem:  he wanted to implement HIV/AIDS programs, but the organizations that delivered the HIV/AIDS treatments were the same organizations that were blacklisted by the Mexico City policy.  He partially overturned the ban.

And in 2009, President Obama, in what was a largely predictable move, overturned the ban entirely.

So why is it that I think it is a great thing?

First of all, I believe that this ban actually increases the number of abortions in the countries where funding for family planning services is reduced.  When there are fewer ways for women to prevent pregnancy – either through education on their fertility cycles, birth control pills, condoms, or even sterilization, women are more likely to get pregnant when they do not want to be pregnant.

Moreover, and perhaps this is something that is woefully missing from the American discourse on the topic, Americans tend to view things through their own, distorted, American lenses.  Here in America, we go to the grocery store and we have the option of 18 different types of potato chips to buy:  expensive ones, cheap ones, generic ones, organic ones.  If we get into a medical crisis, we can head over to our local emergency room and get at least basic medical care, even without health insurance.  We have luxuries that those in developing countries cannot fathom.

More than that, however, WOMEN in America have the rights that are simply unfathomable in many developing countries.  We have the right to articulate our needs.  We have the right to articulate the terms and conditions of our sexual relationships.  When those rights are not respected, we have a legal system that can prosecute offenders and advocate on our behalf.  This is not to say it is ALWAYS the case, but the system is in place.

This is not the case in many resource-poor countries.

Women often have no ability to negotiate the terms of their sexual contacts, even within marriage.  There are often situations when their spouse has been engaging in unprotected sex with other women, but he comes home and refuses to use a condom in sexual contact with her.

Women have no defense against the scourge of AIDS, and they often do not have the resources to support the children they already have.  Adding another child to the mix is simply unfathomable.

My point is this:  the organizations denied funding under the Mexico City policy are often providing valuable, righteous, services.  They are providing support and funding to women in the most desperate of situations.

When the U.S. withholds funding for political, not moral, reasons, those organizations simply look elsewhere for funding, or make do with less.  And the victims in this situation?  Are women, who seek more dangerous methods for controlling their fertility in instances when the more traditional routes have failed.  At their worst, these dangerous methods can kill women, leaving other children motherless. In many, if not most, countries, HIV/AIDS treatment is delivered through the same organizations as the family planning organizations, leaving women with no options for HIV/AIDS treatment – often for a virus they contracted through absolutely no fault of their own.  The victims there?  The women, who will most likely die, and their children, who may have contracted the virus themselves and will most certainly become the heads of their very, very young households.

The U.S.  is a wealthy, privileged country.  We have no idea how privileged we are until we examine the situation elsewhere, and realize that many of our political stances are simply the product of what is actually an entitled position.

It simply makes no sense.

Above all, when I think of this, I think of this Bible verse, which I decided to take from the Message because it really boils it down:

34-36“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:

I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.’

37-40“Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’

Now, this may seem like an odd verse to use, since it is often employed by the National Right to Life crowd.  But why don’t we think about it this way: who, exactly, ARE the least of these?  The mother, dying of a virus she contracted through her committed relationship with her spouse?  Her children, who are hungry and clammoring for food, when there simply isn’t enough to go around?  And the unborn, who truly should never have been conceived?  These organizations help to PREVENT pregnancy.  Shouldn’t it be every woman’s right to control her fertility?

And moreover, how do we know what we’d do, if we were HIV+, poor, and pregnant with our 10th child?  Until we’ve walked in her shoes, how do we know the best decision?  To presume that we do know is entirely entitled and short-sighted.  I know what I would like to think I would do – but I do *not* know what I would *have* to do.

Life is precious from conception to natural (not famine-inflicted, or disease-afflicted) death.  It is not only precious from conception to birth.  The moment we begin to celebrate life, and ensure that life is valued and cherished and supported from viable birth until death, is the moment we can begin to have petty political arguments about the morality of funds overseas.

Until then, I choose to celebrate every decision that values the marginalized.

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The other night, DB and I were watching Lou Dobbs on CNN. At the end of the show, he has these reader comments splayed across the TV, and one comment really struck me. Some woman stated (and this is REALLY paraphrased – I tried to find it online and it’s impossible) something to the effect of, “Thanks to the abysmal policies of [someone – either Congress or GWB], we have nothing to be thankful for this holiday.”

So I said I paraphrased, but that middle phrase was a direct quote. Nothing to be thankful for. Seriously?!? Is that woman serious?

In this country, even in the midst of an economic crisis, we have so much to be thankful for. We have rights, and freedoms, and a Constitution that is (mostly) respected. We have (mostly) clean water, and social programs. We have laws that require really sick people to obtain minimal care in emergency rooms. We have faith.

I mean, if you’re homeless and unemployed, at least we have this.

There’s a homeless guy in our neighborhood that takes our water – we have a faucet outside of our house, and he comes over every morning with a bottle and fills it up with our water. In the beginning of this little ritual, I was really bothered by this. He was on OUR land, and stealing OUR water, and because he was there so frequently, even Little was used to his presence – which really made me uncomfortable.

Then, I realized that it was really dumb that I was so concerned. It’s WATER, for Pete’s sake. And the guy is thirsty. He probably doesn’t have anything else, but at least he has a bottle of water. Clean, potable, free water. If that’s the least we can do…

(You may be wondering what type of neighborhood we live in. We really do live in a nice neighborhood. It’s just an urban neighborhood.)

DB and I have so much to be thankful for, way, way, way above and beyond the basic things I could think of to list above. (I started to do the daily posts but got a little sidetracked…it was not intentional.) We have an amazing family and amazing friends. We have each other, and although occasionally we get irritated with each other, we have an incredibly rich and blessed marriage and we are so thankful for that. We have a roof over our heads and we are not facing foreclosure, or anything remotely close to that. (One of us has) a reliable, predictable job that pays a living wage (ok, a lot more than that, but this is one of my personal political hotbutton topics so I had to throw it in there) and we can even go out and eat in a restaurant if we so choose! (On the issue of jobs, I am working on the whole reliable aspect of mine…but I have a job that pays a living wage, nonetheless.) We have a puppy and a cat and we are working on the little human. We have a faith that sustains us and our marriage, and we have a God Who loves us unconditionally.

We are safe, warm, and healthy.

We are incredibly blessed beyond measure.

It saddens me greatly that there are those in our country who see politics as such a potent force that they have *nothing* to be thankful for – that they feel so strongly about this that they write to a news show, and that the news show thinks this is a good thing to show everyone else.

No, we have so much to be thankful for. And we should be thankful for these things the other 364 days of the year, too.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all! Peace and blessings this holiday season.

P.S. I just took this picture the other day, and I absolutely love it. It’s a picture of DB and Little playing ball. They play this crazy version of keep-away, and it’s so cute. You can see Little checking DB out of the corner of his eye to plan his next move with the ball (it’s bright orange, can’t miss it).

I am so thankful for these moments.

animals-november_081122_560

down in my heart.

Where?

Down in my heart!

We taught English in Cambodia last year and this was one of the songs that our (adult) students adored.  They also loved to play musical chair-body-parts, where you stop the music and call out a body part and they have to put the body part on the chair.  I have video.  It’s awesome.  But I can’t post it, cause that would be a breech of…something.  I just wouldn’t feel right about it.  But those early mornings (class started at, like 5:45 or something….yes, am) were awesome with the body parts musical chairs.

That is so not the point of my post.

Yesterday was the weirdest day.  I woke up, and I felt like I’d been run over by a Mack truck (only I bet people HAVE been run over by a Mack truck, and probably the results were worse than what I was feeling, so I feel like perhaps I am diminishing their experience) – and I realized that both the dog AND DB were gone, which was suspect.  Imagine my joy at having a husband that would take out the dog, even though I have nowhere to be – just so I can sleep later to feel better?  Yes.  I love him.

So after sleeping for 12 hours (maybe more, who knows) (yes, I know those of you with kids are envious.  I will also say that I am pretty sure if I was that sick with kids, DB would have taken a sick day to watch the kid(s) so I could have slept, too.  Really, I am not embarrassed about my 12 hours), I woke up, and I found out that that FBI agent had been killed, and that was really sobering.

And then I went to class.

At the school where I left my doctoral program in public health.  (I have to take a class there to finish a master’s degree – it’s a class doctoral students don’t normally take.)

To truly have an understanding of my situation, you would need to read this, this, and this (2nd half of post), and those might not even do it for you.  But let’s just say that I really lamented this decision, and many people were not supportive of the decision.  I left after 4 years of pain and agony at this program, 1 year of full-time work, and 1 year of cultivating some friendships with the people in my cohort.  And at the end of the year, I decided that I absolutely. did. not. want. to. finish.

The rationale behind this is all amply described in that other post (if you’re really interested).

So last night, I’m in this class, which is, incidentally, a Very Agonizing Class for me because I’ve already TAKEN it.  At another school.  And it’s required for me to get a master’s degree (my accidental masters, just to get SOMETHING out of the doctoral work), and it’s required that I take it AT THIS SCHOOL, which just goes to the heart of why I am a little frustrated with this school, but whatever.  So I decide in the middle of the lecture that I Really Need A Snack, and while I was standing at the vending machine (filled with Fake Healthy Snacks – the kind that taste like cardboard and make the public health people feel like we are making ourselves healthier, when in reality they are just grossness) debating what Fake Healthy Snack to buy (I picked some Snackwells cookies – which were gross.  Although I used to like them.  I am so evolved now on my food opinions…if I’m going to eat crap, I really want to eat Real Crap, not fake stand-in crap.  For dinner, I ate Doritos and yogurt.  Hey, dude, it’s protein, ok?) OK – so I was standing there, debating, and my old colleagues came up, super excited that I was there.

“RACHEL!!!!!  You’re BACK!”  – which always is very good for my self-esteem.  Because I am not that cool, so when people get excited about me, I think, “hey!  They think I’m cool!”  – don’t we all think this?  Because now I will feel like a total loser.

And here is where I am going to purposely insert an aside.  I’ve often wondered in the last few months whether this decision – the decision to abandon my plan to get a doctorate in public health – was a bad one.  I mean, in the beginning, yeah, it was all joyous and exciting and I was Walking On Air, but then the reality hit:  I have a lame job, and after being expected to think critically in doctoral-level coursework, I am now taking…undergraduate biology and physics, and being expected to regurgitate facts.  And oh, did I mention my lame job?  Society isn’t exactly awed by what I’m doing right now.

And if I’m honest, I will say that it is ALL about what society thinks that impacts how I see myself, which is just WRONG and I feel incredible guilt about that, but it’s true.  I would love to be able to say, “I feel that God spoke to me and said, ‘Rachel, leave your doctoral program now'”, but I’d be lying.  I don’t disparage people’s experiences of that – at ALL – but I feel in my situation that God could have used me with a doctorate in public health and God would have celebrated my departure from the program.  I don’t think that God really CARED one way or another whether I left my program – what I believe is that He CARED how I used my skills.  Which really puts the burden back on me, right – the burden to live for Him?  This is the spiritual version of lemonade making from lemons.

So I’ve often wondered, “Was that the right decision?  Is that the most God-honoring decision?”  – and my posts over the last few months have been about things like careers and motherhood, and depression over my pathetic lack of job, etc.

And then we had last night.

And my friends came up to me.

And I said, “How are things going here?!?” – and they said, “[qualifying*] exam…blah blah blah…oral exam…blah blah blah…oh I am so stressed…things are OKAY….dissertation…”

And I thought, Oh, I am so, so, so, so, so, so, so happy!  I don’t need to do those things!  I am free of this place!  This totally oppressive, humiliating (not humbling – that is different – no, this place was hellacious) place!  I AM FREE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Joy.  Unadulterated joy.

(And I told them that.  I don’t think they were nearly so excited as I was to find out that I had achieved some sort of freakish nirvana.)

(Although I did emphasize to them that if we were to switch places, they would not be nearly so happy, because that program is right for them.  And it is not right for me.)

(That didn’t really help much.)

It was a totally redeeming experience.

What I am thankful for:  The balls to make a humongous decision that was right for me, and that everyone else discouraged.  I think everyone should do this at least once in their lifetimes.  It is totally liberating.

*AKA comprehensive exam, or comps.  Different schools call them different things.  My school doesn’t use either of these terms.

**You will need a password for the third post.  Let me know if you need it.

I guess I need to sign up for that thing where you write a post every day.  I haven’t missed a day yet, which is weird because I’m kind of waiting to run out of things to say.  It never ends, the constant drivel in my head!

Today was a busy day, actually.  I had a meeting at our church to discuss some of the missions work we’re involved with, and then I had to work.  Both were blog-worthy events.  The missions stuff I will post about in a protected post, because it’s a specific partnership with a major relief organization, working on a major health issue in Asia.  I’m excited because it’s a great way to use my interests and passions in ways that will directly improve people’s lives….well, Lord willing.  So when you see that post, let me know if you’re interested and I will shoot you the PW.

Then I had to drive out to someone’s house to interview them for a research project on autism spectrum disorders.  I work in a bunch of different studies; this one is on older adolescents and young adults in their transition from the service world in schools to the adult service world.  That’s not really relevant, though:  the relevant part is that although I’ve been doing this for three years, now, there are always interviews where I leave the person’s house and I think to myself, “YEAH!  I could do that!  What an amazing family!  Having a kid won the spectrum is challenging, but TOTALLY POSSIBLE”…and there are interviews where I leave the person’s house thinking that I really could never be in their position, that ohmygoshhowcouldIEVERthinkIcoulddothat and WOWITISSOHARD and PHEWTHANKHEAVENSIAMOUTOFTHATHOUSE.  Which, obviously, is not the best thing I could be thinking, but there are just some families with really, really, really limited resources, really, really, really limited kids, and lives in which everything is a major struggle.   And there are some families with really limited resources, really limited kids, and really rich lives.  And there is every iteration in between (on any dimension of that sentence:  unlimited resources, very capable-but-socially-challenged-kids…etc).

The mother I interviewed today was of the former ilk:  everything was a major struggle, the affected child was in her (!! yes, a girl*) mid-twenties (essentially nonverbal, living in a residential facility with some significant behavior issues), and the older daughter presented Mom with her own share of challenges, including two unintended pregnancies and an extended matriculation to attain a bachelors degree, hampered by finances and children.  Mom herself worked multiple full-time jobs and was not particularly enamoured with her husband.  Although she told me before I drove out to her house that she had very little time available for the interview (it normally takes 3 hours, and she told me she had no more than 2 available) she talked for about 45 minutes after the interview was over about her family, her stresses, and the challenges of her daughters’ limitations.

Normally, when I leave an interview like that, I breathe a sigh of relief that it’s not me.  I pray for the family – for their healing, for them to feel peace in the midst of all of the chaos – but I remind myself often that I have that luxury to be able to pray for peace and healing, to be able to walk away.  With our situation, I feel like anything short of that is awfully entitled on my part; we could be in those shoes, too.

But something struck me in the middle of that interview – a peaceful something – I’d call it God.  I looked at the 4-year old grandchild sitting, coloring pictures and asking for crayons in full, complete, and appropriate sentences with appropriate eye contact, hands held loosely at her side.  She looked about as typical as any other four-year old – even though her aunt is the individual affected by autism.  I thought, hey – that’s almost the same genetic risk we have – and it made me feel a little bit better.

And then it hit me, as we discussed finances and pregnancies and why my interviewee thought that marriage was the worst possible thing in the world, with children a close second (and knots forming in my stomach as she spoke):  it’s all about perspective.  Not my perspective.  Her perspective.  That’s the difference between the families with limited children and limited resources – not the differences in their abilities, although I’m quite certain they would say that; frankly, there is virtually no difference in the children’s abilities or the family’s resources.  It’s the differences in the outlooks, the expectations, the celebrations.

And on that note, I didn’t sigh with relief as I left the house.  Instead, I simply said my prayer for the family, thanked God for my ability to walk away from stress when she was unable to do so, and then prayed for the perspective to handle whatever He throws our way with grace, humility, and love.

DB often thinks this job is a nightmare for us, given our situation and my sometimes limited ability to implement appropriate boundaries in the process of this counter-transference.  However, it is days like today that I feel the job is a gift and a window into lives that I am blessed to try to understand.

(I will follow this post with some other thoughts on this topic later.  I understand that this is a hot-button topic on something that everyone feels very strongly about, and by no means am I trying to diminish the struggles of families raising children on the spectrum.)

*in the distribution of autism spectrum disorders, boys outnumber girls, 4:1, which makes it hard to recruit girls for studies (in fact, the other studies I work in do not enroll girls, with the exception of the little guys (toddler ages).  Given this girl’s very limited skills, I wondered about Rett’s syndrome, but it is not my question to ask.

There is nothing like people coming over to stop the procrastination binge.

We (DB and I) are starting our very own small group (church small group – aka Bible study) tonight.  And we are serving dinner.  I do not know how this seemed like a good idea to me – ?? – I don’t cook!  At all!  And because it starts at 7, I can’t rely on DB, either!

So we decided to blatantly copy the burritos that our friends made for us on Sunday night – that way, if we have picky eaters, they can just eat whatever they want, right?  Right.  So I found a good mexican rice recipe (it looks good, at least, and 176 other people thought it was yummy, too) and now I am looking for a black bean recipe.  Anyone?  Ideas?  Our friends put black beans, some water, some red pepper, garlic, onion, and cumin in a pot and simmered it.  We can’t use onions.  So ideas?  Help?

And in a side funny thing, the recipe for the rice (which I will admit is a little over the top, but I love rice, and if this works, I am going to be the happiest person ever) (and if it sucks, I am going to make white rice) – the recipe calls for jalapeños.  Just to reiterate how inept I am, I trucked out to buy said jalapenos in the grocery store yesterday.  Why the heck do they put all of the small greenish produce together?!?  There were jalapenos, some little tomatillo peppers (I have no idea if that’s what they’re called), and a billion other small, green peppery things all together, with only very vague labelling.  How cruel!  So I bought what looked like the picture for jalapenos – the problem being that there were 4 good options that looked like the picture, but they were all distinctly different peppers.  So either we will kill our poor new small group members with spice, or it will turn out okay…chances are, 176 people aren’t wrong, so if the rice sucks, it’s probably due to me (or my addition of fake jalapenos).

Speaking of which, can anyone tell me the difference between green chiles and jalapenos?  They aren’t the same, are they?

This should be interesting, this group.  So far it is not much of a group – we have only one other couple.  (We figure it’s like Field of Dreams – if you build it, they will come.)  The other couple is about as different from us politically as it is possible to be.  You might think this shouldn’t matter, and I am praying that it won’t.  I have a tendency to run my mouth when it is not appropriate….go figure.  I struggle with keeping my mouth shut when people assume things about me:  if they assume my political beliefs from our personal choices, they assume my religion from my last name…I hate assumptions.  It is one of my biggest pet peeves, but it’s to the point where I need to learn that often the assumptions I get worked up about are not worth getting worked up over.  What does it matter if someone thinks I don’t believe in evolution?  What does it matter if someone believes I voted for John McCain?  Or that I’m Republican, simply because I’m Christian?

But it does matter – to me, it really does. I think it matters because one of the things that drives me MOST crazy is the notion that all Christians should be Republican, because I feel a little bit like it is a judgement – if I DIDN’T vote Republican, I am a “bad Christian” – and my concept of “bad Christian” is that no human can judge whether someone is a “good” or “bad” Christian – God, and God alone, that can read people’s hearts.  But then, in a remarkable demonstration of hypocrisy (which upsets me that I am like this, because I really hate hypocrites), I kind of judge Christian Republicans, too.  I take issue with the notions that it is Christian to hate or condemn (as in gay marriage), Christian to support an unjustified war (as in Iraq), Christian to support the life of a very narrow population over a broader population (the unborn over the unborn and born, including mothers and those who are sick and could benefit from stem cell research), Christian to deny support for poor families.

It matters because I have come to see the Republican party as callously playing on the single-issue voters of the Christian right to advance their own, non-Biblical agenda, and it angers me to no end.  Where in the Bible does it say we need a small government?  Nowhere.  I mean, it doesn’t say that the government should necessarily engage in supporting the poor, either (my understanding is that the closest it comes is when Jesus says, “give to God what is God’s, and give to Cesar what is Cesar’s” (Matt. 22:21)- meaning, pay appropriate tithes and appropriate taxes – but the use of those taxes is not necessarily defined.  My personal belief system is that the government should (financially) support life EVERYwhere – but I wouldn’t dispute that it could be argued the other way, either.

What I DO dispute is that the needs of the unborn – even the ones that will never become viable (ie, frozen embryos in fertility clinics) always trump the needs of the born.

I really didn’t mean to write so much.  Let’s hope that by writing that, I will be more likely to have friendly, apolitical conversations with our new friends.  I really want to be friends with them.  Please God, if politics come up in conversation, please help me be a good witness to the way liberal politics can also advance your kingdom.  (Also, please do not cause them to question You because of my cooking.)

Little is getting groomed, which means the cat is exceptionally warm and cuddly.  She is always extremely thrilled when he’s not around.  It’s funny – if she’s nearby when we yell at Little, she’ll join in, hissing and swatting at him to reiterate our points.  They’re like…well, siblings.  Only honestly, I get it that they are animals, and not our actual children. (Really, I do.)

Oh, and my political opinions notwithstanding, a good black bean recipe that is easy would be humongously appreciated!

In church today (yes, we went. It was a good day) the pastor preached on this passage. I was going to write about my (oh-so-deep) thoughts on it, but I thought it would just be better to post it as is.

The pastor talked a lot about fasting – the literal interpretation of this. But I guess I found my mind wander to the parts that I highlighted below. I thought a lot about how this affects our politics, and what it means to let our votes demonstrate our spiritual beliefs. And, in fact, the pastor did briefly address poverty as a political concern at the end of his sermon (he referenced coming weeks, so I assume it will come up again.)

What do you all think?

P.S.  I do realize that this is probably extremely foreign to 95% of those who read this blog.  It is a predecessor of something that I am going to write eventually.  Regardless of personal beliefs, I think it is interesting to consider.

Zachariah, chapter 7:

1 In the fourth year of King Darius, the word of the LORD came to Zechariah on the fourth day of the ninth month, the month of Kislev. 2 The people of Bethel had sent Sharezer and Regem-Melech, together with their men, to entreat the LORD 3 by asking the priests of the house of the LORD Almighty and the prophets, “Should I mourn and fast in the fifth month, as I have done for so many years?”

4 Then the word of the LORD Almighty came to me: 5 “Ask all the people of the land and the priests, ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months for the past seventy years, was it really for me that you fasted? 6 And when you were eating and drinking, were you not just feasting for yourselves? 7 Are these not the words the LORD proclaimed through the earlier prophets when Jerusalem and its surrounding towns were at rest and prosperous, and the Negev and the western foothills were settled?’ ”

8 And the word of the LORD came again to Zechariah: 9 “This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. 10 Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.’

11But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and stopped up their ears. 12 They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the LORD Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the LORD Almighty was very angry.

13 ” ‘When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen,’ says the LORD Almighty. 14 ‘I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations, where they were strangers. The land was left so desolate behind them that no one could come or go. This is how they made the pleasant land desolate.’ “

So I am totally going to overshare here. I thought about it last night, and I actually know most of you IRL, so I don’t really care. Plus I REALLY don’t care if some random person reads this, because HI RANDOM PERSON 🙂 feel free to delurk.

Let’s talk about babies.

Actually, I was going to publish this other talk about babies – the accidental kind – and how we go about processing these accidents in our society, and how I think that this conversation is totally inappropriate and that really, if the conservatives in our country wanted to fix the abortion rate in our country, they could at least start to deal with the very Real and Pressing issues of things like, oh, I don’t know, FEEDING the hungry kids in our country (because did you know? Poor women disproportionately seek abortions in this country – and there is evidence to indicate that this is due to a lack of instrumental support), or the very real double standard that exists between manipulation of life that we intentionally create (IVF) and the manipulation of life we didn’t intend to create (abortion).

I really hate double standards. I feel like this is the King Double Standard.

And…here is the kicker…I believe that God probably agrees with me. (Do I sound like George Bush yet? Hee hee.)

All of this to say that I am ardently pro-choice, but if we get pregnant, we aren’t even going to have a test for Trisomy 21 (Down’s syndrome), because WHY. Our kid is pretty screwed anyway. We are only testing (and oh, boy, are we testing) for the things we can fix with surgery or medication. But termination, as they say? Not an option.

For us.

But no, I wanted to overshare about our situation. (I’ll get back to that other argument in a coming post. It’s partially written. I just wanted to say something relevant to what I’ve been mentioning recently, but now I’m MOVING ON!)

HERE IS A NOTE: IF YOU ARE MY FAMILY OR YOU ARE UNCOMFORTABLE DISCUSSING OUR SEX LIFE, STOP HERE!

(The adoption stuff is at the bottom.)

If any of you have read my blog, you might remember the crazy story that I overshared (here) where I had a severe anaphylactic reaction to intravenous iron. It was very scary, blah blah blah, and I started this campaign to improve my apparently intransigent anemia by eating red meat. For a vegetarian, I will say, it was a LOT of red meat. And because I am really, really, really sensitive to food textures, it was only the pre-digested (ground) version, only very pretentious quality (because I cannot STAND having fat or grizzle or whatever those hard things are in my soft meat…eww eww ewwwwww) and because I am a little bit obsessed with exposures that haven’t been evaluated in the study of what causes autism, meat with no hormones or antibiotics added. And every time I got a bite of meat with fat in it, I would gag (as quietly as possible) and then stop eating.

(And then it would take me a few weeks to get back on the wagon.)

This last year or so of meat-eating has been quite a challenge, we’ll say. Although DB thinks it’s funny that we eat bar food as a nutritious meal.

Oh, and also, I don’t interact with it. DB has to handle all meat (mostly because I am scary. Fifteen years of vegetarianism leaves one rather stupid about meat safety – although now I am smarter, but just repulsed). So this whole meat thing is not the most awesome lifestyle, except…

TODAY…

FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER IN MY ENTIRE LIFE…

I…AM…NOT…ANEMIC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

In fact, my IRON STORES ARE HIGH!!!!!!!!! (HIGH! Like higher than expected! This is unheard-of for me!)

I can’t quite emphasize the amount of joy here enough.

You know how a lot of women are anemic?

OK, I was not that kind of anemic. I was need-blood-transfusion, schedule-iron-infusion-even-though-we-know-you’re-deathly-allergic-to-it, anemic. Totally idiopathic-although-maybe-it’s-related-to-your-extraordinary-ability-to-manufacture
-autoantibodies anemic.

So I. am. PSYCHED.

My rheumatologist, who also demonstrated an uncharacteristic amount of happiness when we met (she was absolutely thrilled, and I must say, she is not the most emotive person in the world), said that if there is ever a time for us to consider conceiving, now would be it. So we have a fairly short window of time that my body will be in a position to support a pregnancy (my iron stores will plummet shortly…although I will keep on my bar-food-diet to hopefully prevent that). So now…we have some decisions to make!!

YIPPEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Now some of you are my male friends (and my brothers! and father!) and if you are horrified by this post, all I can say is..the heading is “oversharing”.

Enough said. 🙂

Some of you are undoubtedly wondering about adoption, and even though this post is totally long, I want to say…we are still adopting. Adoption has always been our Plan A, and attempting to conceive a biological child was our Plan B. However, I am obsessed with ethics, and there is a lot of tumult occurring in the international adoption world. We really wanted to adopt from Vietnam, which is obviously not going to happen, and it was quite an adjustment to mourn the loss of that opportunity. We moved on to Kyrgyzstan, and I have to say, so much about the Kyrgyzstan program made me so incredibly excited to adopt from there. The program was small (when we started looking at it) with only four agencies working there (now I think there are 12 or so). The community of adopting parents is unbelievably supportive, which is, frankly, a breath of fresh air compared with the Vietnam group. We could see ourselves supporting/being very involved with the country in the long term, which was important to us. But with China tightening up, Vietnam closing, and Guatemala closing, families searching for a program found Kyrgyzstan, and there are now waitlists a mile long (for some agencies, the waitlist to APPLY is 1 year!). The one agency that does not have a waitlist has another program that DB and I feel uncomfortable supporting (because our adoption fees do go to support all of the programs in the agency), so we refuse to use that agency.

All of that to say: although IA is always a gamble, and we know that, we are going to wait a few months (more) to see how things shake out with Vietnam closing, because there are a lot of families who lost a lot in this process scrambling for ways to recoup their losses and locate their children.

And…we are still adopting. Stay tuned as to where. We’re exploring a lot of possibilities, all of which we’re really excited about.

FYI

This blog represents my personal views of a wide variety of topics. Aside from my connection through marriage, I am absolutely in no way affiliated with, informed by, or directed by the FBI, and, as such, the FBI bears no responsibility or affiliation with this blog.

Because I am not affiliated with the FBI, all information in this blog is second-hand information, and is therefore subject to inaccuracies. (Of course, I would never publish something that I believed to be a lie; however, there is always a chance that I will inadvertently misrepresent something.)

Finally, despite what you might expect given my husband's occupation, I am what most people would call a "(flaming, or insert other word) liberal". I gleefully mock the policies and practices of the USG that I consider worthy of mocking. In doing so, I am exercising a fundamental Constitutional freedom. Of course, you are always welcome to disagree (and exercise your Constitutional rights).

I welcome comments and emails.

Thanks!

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