Endometriosis: My Story

Endometriosis WeekBanner2016As March 3-9 is Worldwide Endometriosis Awareness Week, I’m doing my part to shed light on the cause. I’m still offering Tomato Pie readers my novel Don’t You Forget About Me at the low, low price of 99 cents for the duration of Endo Week.  I also wanted to give you a chance to check out my story, which is hosted over at Franciscan Mom’s blog:


 

I sat next to my husband in yet another pleather office chair.  Yet another reproductive endocrinologist sat across from us.  A supposedly clever cartoon was framed on the wall behind her.  The bubble-letter caption read “Test Tube Babies!”  The illustration was of a giant test tube overflowing with chubby, giggling, diaper-clad (note:  100% Caucasian) babies, climbing out of some kind of bubbly fluid sloshing around at the bottom of the tube.

The results of a few blood tests were sprawled on the desk between us. The doctor had just offered three separate “treatment options.”

I sighed.  “I don’t want to do anything that won’t actually heal whatever problem I have—and you don’t even know what that is.  I want to heal my body more than I want to get pregnant.”

“Well, the Pill will force your hormones—“

“We’ve already been through this, haven’t we?  Will the Pill actually heal anything?”

She gave me a patronizing grimace.  “But I can’t prescribe the testosterone blockers unless you’re on—“

I shook my head.  “I said I’m not comfortable with that.”

It was now her turn to pause, then sigh.  “Then I’m sorry.  There’s nothing we can do for you.”

She wasn’t the first one to say that to us.  She wouldn’t be the last…


That’s not how it ends! Click here to read the rest of A Murder Mystery and a Medical Mystery!

Meanwhile, don’t you forget to get your copy of Don’t You Forget About Me at the low, low price of 99 cents for the duration of Endo Week.  Spread the word!

DYFAMmar16IG

NFP Week: Meet Rhonda Ortiz, Captive Panda

Don’t forget the Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show Selfie Scavenger Hunt!

Not only is this week the Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show and Catholic Writers Conference Live, but it’s also National Natural Family Planning Awareness Week.  I’ll be away at the show/conference, but I’m hosting postings from a few fellow members of the Captive Panda Club: those of us follow Church teaching on fertility but who nevertheless bust that super-fertile Catholic stereotype and get and stay pregnant as often as your average captive panda. The Captive Panda Club: Subfertile Catholics talk Natural Family Planning During NFP Week

Today’s guest blogger is Rhonda Ortiz.

RhondaOrtiz

Let’s hear from her about her journey as a Catholic living with subfertility.

Hey there! I’m Rhonda Ortiz. I’m a 34-year-old Catholic convert, wife, and mother of three. Other than chasing after kids, I spend my days writing and working as a freelance graphic designer. I’m also the founding editor of Real Housekeeping, an online magazine with over twenty contributors (and counting!).

Life in the Captive Panda Club…

When Jared and I were first married, we assumed we’d be Good Catholics and beget enough kids to field a football team. I had just graduated college and had no firm career plans—I was just waiting for the blessed arrival of a bundle of joy to keep me busy and happy.

That didn’t happen. At first, we assumed it was just a matter of time. After a year, Jared suggested that I see a doctor. That was a last thing I wanted to do. Like the proverbial ostrich, I stuck my head in the sand. If I didn’t learn what was wrong, nothing would be wrong. Right?

I spent five frustrated years wondering, if I wasn’t destined to be a mom, what the heck was I going to do with my life. My thoughts ran wild through the rat nest that was my head, making this and that set of plans, seeking…something. Anything!

Compounding my quest for daily purpose was the fact that my job at the time—teaching math at a Catholic school—wasn’t the best fit for me. And yet I couldn’t see myself doing anything except teach.

I finally agreed to see a doctor and learned that I had endometriosis. I had my first laparoscopic surgery to remove endometrium in June 2007.

We assumed I would be pregnant right away, but that also didn’t happen.

Fast forward to December 2009. My husband was studying for his doctoral comprehensive exams. I was in the middle of (a yet-undiagnosed) major bipolar mood swing which not only impeded my work but made me unbearable to live with. Yet somewhere in there was time and impetus for intimacy.

And then the miracle happened. On Christmas Eve, I discovered I was pregnant.

We learned after the fact that four different people, in four different states and with no communication between them, had felt inspired by the Holy Spirit to pray for us at Mass on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.

Those of you who are good with NFP can do the math yourselves: this was my peak day.

Our first son, Benedict, was born the following September. Our second, Miriam, was conceived a few months after my second surgery and was born in October 2013. And in May we welcomed our third, Joseph, who is our first “Surprise!” baby. Given our previous subfertility, we were shocked, to say the least.

Regarding how the experience of subfertility is different from infertility…

They are both difficult to deal with and accept. I suppose one difference I see between the two is that, with subfertility, we have to discern how much medical intervention we’re going to allow in order to conceive again. We know now that I can have children; the question of,  “Am I going to have yet another surgery?” is compounded with our prudential discernment about having more kids.

On NFP and health, marriage, and life…

NFP has taught me the truth of the phrase, “Knowledge is Power.” Facing my fears and going to the doctor has taught me that it’s better to know, because in knowing I can do something about it. Now I have options. Now I can make decisions.

This lesson has impacted all areas of my health. After a major cross-country move I started experiencing more crippling mood swings and anxiety attacks. Thanks to the knowledge of a family member’s recent bipolar diagnosis, I was able to put a word on what I was experiencing and seek professional help.

Having proper medical care has made a world of difference to my daily life and especially my marriage. Knowledge really is power.

I haven’t experienced the “tough” side of NFP yet, but given that we now know we can have “unplanned” children, I think we’re about to experience it!

On being subfertile and Catholic…

Before Benedict was born, I felt like I had to explain our childless state to everyone. It wasn’t as if others were prying into our intimate concerns, but living in a vibrant Catholic community as we did at the time, we were surrounded by large families. I was afraid of being seen by others as unfaithful.

Those fears were unfounded. No one thought ill of us. In fact, those who knew had sympathy. They prayed for us.  They befriended us and welcomed us into their families.  We happily conversed about their kids, of course, but they also understood that we didn’t have kids to talk about and therefore talked about other things as well.

This is the best thing others can do for subfertile Catholics. We needed friends who could meet us where we were. Thank the Lord, we were blessed to have them.

Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, Rhonda.  Reader, do you have an experience with subfertility to share with your fellow Captive Pandas?  Did you go from infertile to subfertile, experience secondary infertility, or experience a different path all together? What’s the hardest part of being a Captive Panda Club member?  What keeps you going in faith?  How has God sustained you through it all?  What have been some unexpected blessings you’ve found as a result of trusting in Church teaching on fertility?  Talk to us in the comments below!

PS: Don’t forget the Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show Selfie Scavenger Hunt!

Yours Truly, Captive Panda

Don’t forget the Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show Selfie Scavenger Hunt!

Not only is this week the Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show and Catholic Writers Conference Live, but it’s also National Natural Family Planning Awareness Week.  I’ll be away at the show/conference, but I’m hosting postings from a few fellow members of the Captive Panda Club: those of us follow Church teaching on fertility but who nevertheless bust that super-fertile Catholic stereotype and get and stay pregnant as often as your average captive panda. The Captive Panda Club: Subfertile Catholics talk Natural Family Planning During NFP Week

Today’s guest blogger is ME!

Author Erin McCole Cupp

Oh, come on.  You people know me.  Now learn about life in the Captive Panda Club, better known as our journey with subfertility. 

I’d always had problem periods, from the second one on.  In college, even while not practicing any real faith, I considered asking for The Pill, but something very visceral stopped me.  I knew that it caused early abortions and wasn’t super comfortable with that, even as a nice, friendly agnostic.  However, there was something deeper still that I can’t name that stopped me.  Maybe it was because my uncle’s girlfriend died of blood clots (Pill-induced, everyone guessed, as if to say, “Oh, well. That’s a shame”). I didn’t believe in God but was still frightened of meeting him on bad terms, so I wasn’t eager to sign up for anything life threatening.

When I did get married, we used NFP to avoid for a little over a year, thinking we needed to get our footing as a couple before we added another person to the mix.  But then once we started throwing caution to the wind, we went five years without anything but that one time there was an extra shadow on a HPT.  The next day I got my period.

In those years, we went to doctor after doctor, none of whom were Catholic (or not practicing, at any rate), all of whom ended up saying, “There’s nothing we can do for you.”  None of them knew how to heal.  Frankly, it felt like none of them knew how to care.

Finally, while getting ready to adopt, we found ourselves spontaneously pregnant with twins.  After another six years of trying and one endometriosis surgery with a Fertility Care doctor, we spontaneously conceived our Second Shift of Kid (just one this time).  We have again been trying for another five years.  That Fertility Care doctor has since retired, and I’m having trouble finding a doctor who will perform surgery, much less treat me consistently without having to harp on me about my weight at each interaction (like I don’t know it’s there or something).  I’m trying some new things with my health, though, and may go up to the Gianna Center in New Brunswick, NJ when it becomes a little more feasible with the family schedule.

How is the experience of subfertility is different from infertility? 

I think being infertile was harder in a way because it seemed so hopeless, but while the sting of being subfertile is duller, it’s more frequent.  The few children I do have bring into my life other families who throw little barbs and don’t even know they’re doing it.  If you’re infertile, you usually don’t have to go to playgroups and find yourself surrounded by women who complain about getting pregnant at the drop of a hat, complain about all the things they’re doing/have done to avoid having any more children, or talk about how they’re going to stop using condoms X month so they can have a baby during Y month….  There have been times it’s taken all my will to keep myself from saying out loud, “You know how much I don’t live in your world?”

How has NFP helped with health and our marriage? 

By finding a Fertility Care Doctor, I have finally found effective treatment for PMDD, which has helped immensely, even if I haven’t gotten pregnant a third time.  When my husband was charting for me (I did the observations, of course–ew), it added a fresh level to our communication.  We stopped doing that, though, because I ran out of charts, and my practitioner hasn’t gotten back to me, which brings me to…

Be honest: how has NFP made life less-than-easier?   

On the one hand, I don’t feel right saying it hasn’t made my life easier, because I now see those friends who didn’t understand why we wouldn’t try IVF have tried it themselves and come out of the experience much poorer and still childless.  While IVF might have seemed easier, I now see NFP has protected us from a lot of pain, both physical and spiritual.  What is hard, though, is how hard it is to get help with NFP.  It’s hard to find a doctor.  It’s hard to find a practitioner.  And, um, hello? It’s 2015 and there STILL isn’t a Creighton Model app?  Not cool, Pope Paul VI Center. Not cool.

What is one thing I wish people knew about being a subfertile Catholic?

I remember when I told a certain family member that we were pregnant with twins, he said with great doubt in his voice, “And how did that happen?” I’d been so vocal about the, forgive the word those of you who are sensitive, evils of ART/IVF, that when I was suddenly pregnant with multiples, I got the sense that people were assuming we had become big, fat, desperate hypocrites.  At first that freaked me out, but what kept me from trying to defend myself was the knowledge that everybody who knew Mary probably thought she was a big, fat hypocrite too when she showed up unmarried and pregnant.  So if that humiliation was good enough for the Mother of God, then I was not in a position to whine—or defend myself.

Okay, one more thing: as a Catholic homeschooling mom, I feel a sharp twinge every time I go to an outing or somebody’s house and have to park my Prius in line with all the sixteen passenger vans.  Nobody ever says anything to me about it, but I often wonder if they think I’m CINO.  Again, gotta go back to Mary for that.

Reader, do you have an experience with subfertility to share with your fellow Captive Pandas?  Did you go from infertile to subfertile, experience secondary infertility, or experience a different path all together? What’s the hardest part of being a Captive Panda Club member?  What keeps you going in faith?  How has God sustained you through it all?  What have been some unexpected blessings you’ve found as a result of trusting in Church teaching on fertility?  Talk to us in the comments below!

PS: Don’t forget the Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show Selfie Scavenger Hunt!

NFP Awareness Week: Let’s Hear from the Captive Pandas

Don’t forget the Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show Selfie Scavenger Hunt!

Not only is this week the Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show and Catholic Writers Conference Live, but it’s also National Natural Family Planning Awareness Week.  I’ll be away at the show/conference, but I’m hosting postings from a few fellow members of the Captive Panda Club: those of us follow Church teaching on fertility but who nevertheless bust that super-fertile Catholic stereotype and get and stay pregnant as often as your average captive panda. The Captive Panda Club: Subfertile Catholics talk Natural Family Planning During NFP Week

This week, I’m honored to host the following guest bloggers:

7/21 Erin McCole Cupp (surprise!)

7/22 Rhonda Ortiz

7/23 Carolyn Astfalk

7/24 Barb, aka Franciscan Mom

Reader, do you have an experience with subfertility to share with your fellow Captive Pandas?  Did you go from infertile to subfertile, experience secondary infertility, or experience a different path all together? What’s the hardest part of being a Captive Panda Club member?  What keeps you going in faith?  How has God sustained you through it all?  What have been some unexpected blessings you’ve found as a result of trusting in Church teaching on fertility?  Talk to us in the comments below!

PS: Don’t forget the Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show Selfie Scavenger Hunt!

7QT: It’s Never Too Late for a Hastily Written Post

7 Quick Takes Friday.  Write ’em. Post ’em.  Link ’em up and read ’em at This Ain’t the Lyceum.

… who is actually taking Friday in the Octave of Christmas off, but I’m here in spite of that.

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Merry Christmas!  Santa came!  Only to get torn limb from limb.

Poor Santa.

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My husband and I were reflecting on how smoothly Thanksgiving-to-Christmas seems to have gone, for the first time in years. Inwardly, I’d been congratulating myself for keeping my pledge (also inward) not to go crazy with getting junk for the kids to unwrap, with cookies to bake, with dishes to concoct, etc.  Then hubby pointed out that this was the first fall-to-winter in yeeeeeeeeeaaaaaars when I wasn’t down for 2-3 months with a viral-triggered asthma episode.  I’ve had cold after cold, but thankfully they’ve not required heavy doses of Prednisone, nebulized albuterol, and/or antibiotics that may or may not make things worse.  Was it the olive leaf extract, the kinder/gentler viruses that made the rounds this season, or just the way God is working things so completely out of my control?  I don’t know.  I am, however, grateful.

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Speaking of Christmas, I have a post up on Catholic Mom today, “Christmas is Not Supposed to Be Like This.”

Weihnachtskrippe in der Sanoker Minoritenkirche courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

I originally wrote it for this blog last year for Christmas Eve.  It all started because, as hinted at before, Christmas came and I hadn’t been able to mop the floor or bake a single cookie. This is perhaps one of my favorite things I’ve ever blogged, and the feedback I’ve gotten on how it’s helped people put things in perspective… anyway, I hope you like it and that God is pleased by the whole mess.  I’m grateful He came down into our mess and still does.  I’ll see you at the manger.

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Could you please pray for a special intention?  It was an intention I prayed for during this year’s St. Andrew Christmas Novena.  For last year’s, too, but last year’s answer was a BFN.  I’ll have God’s answer to this year’s in a few days.

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While we’re at it, could you also pray for the other intention I included in this year’s novena: for the success of the launch of “Working Mother,” my short fiction ebook piece about the Holy Family.

Working Mother Final-1

“What if Mary had to get a job outside the home?”  Read to imagine one possibility.  It’s available for preorder now, if you’d like.  It should show up on your Kindle on Holy Family Sunday.

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Sigh.  Both intentions are related to doing everything possible to contribute to a desired outcome.  Over and over again.  And then getting disappointed.  Over and over again.  And it’s not like the desired outcomes are things that couldn’t possibly be within the realm of God’s will. That I could help support my family financially by writing stories that get people to consider our Heavenly Father in a more positive light then they may have done previously? To my feeble human brain, it doesn’t really seem like such a bad combo.  And the other thing… well, not sure if I feel comfortable going into all that again, not in public anyway.

image (2)

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Either way, I know that God can do all things, and that no purpose of His can be hindered.  I know, too, he hears the cry of the woman who believed that just a touch of His garment can make a difference.

In hindsight, it looks like the 2004 Tsunami may have ended 30 years of armed conflict.  Analysis of the Columbine Massacre says of one of the shooters, “If he had lived to adulthood and developed his murderous skills for many more years, there is no telling what he could have done. His death at Columbine may have stopped him from doing something even worse.”

“God, why am I failing at doing good for you on earth?” is about as useful a question to ask as if Mary had said, “Why would You choose to be born in a stable?” God’s sight includes hindsight.  As much as we might want to know the “why” behind God’s “No,” it’s.  Just.  Not.  Our. Business.  Not right now, anyway.  Hindsight, I now see, does not have to be a painful curse.  It’s a gift–a gift of seeing, as God sees, outside of the nownownownowNOW!

Through whatever inscrutable pain the now might bring, it will pass away.  His Word, however, does not.  Cling to it.  I know I will need to in the coming days.

Wake up with Snoring Scholar!

Why, hello again, my friends!  Today’s stop on the Don’t You Forget About Me virtual book tour brings us ’round to Sarah’s place over at Snoring Scholar.com.  I have a post especially for her Mom to Mom series, and it’s called “My Fertile Imagination.”  Thanks for hosting me, Sarah!

While you’re here, though, don’t you forget about the Don’t You Forget About Me Goodreads giveaway:  enter before November 15 for your chance to win one of three paper copies!