"There is no more lovely, friendly and charming relationship, communion or company than a good marriage."
--Martin Luther

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Infertility Books

Whoa, here I am, combining my two most common blogging topics. Has your head exploded yet? This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic (at the Broke and the Bookish) is a freebie. I thought long and hard about this... Umm, okay, no, I left it to the last minute and then went with something that I already had a list on GoodReads about. :) I chose to talk about infertility books, not the non-fiction books that try to tell you how to survive, or what step comes next and all that jazz, but novels and memoirs that touch in the infertility experience. I've read most of these by "accident", in that I was not actively looking for an infertility book, so I would say they are definitely not geared only towards those of us in the trenches.

1. All Good Things by Sarah Turnbull: A memoir of the author's time in Tahiti, but it also goes through her IVF experience. I found it very moving. It's also probably a good read for those of us in the northern hemisphere wishing we could hit the beach.

2. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman: I actually found this a bit hard to read because I didn't agree with some of the choices made, but the portrayal of Isabel's isolation and repeated miscarriages was so heartbreaking and real.

3. Eden by Yael Hedaya: This wasn't a book focused on infertility, as it looked at a wide range of characters with intersecting stories, but the first paragraph hit me across the face with its discussion of Dafna's IVF experience, and I found myself drawn into her story.

4. The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Clayton Whyte: A good portrayal of what it means to be supported by one's friends through the trenches of infertility, and also the isolation and shame that some women feel. I can't imagine how hard it would be to go through this decades ago, when there was no internet to find community and women had few career options outside of home.

5. I Am Forbidden by Anouk Markovits: I had mixed feelings about this book because the second part seemed so rushed, but it really showed the strain that infertility puts on a marriage and on your mental state.

6. What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty: The main focus of the novel is on Alice and her marriage, but the sub-plot with her sister Elisabeth showcased the difficulty of navigating relationships when one side is infertile and the other is not.

7. Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda: It's been a while since I read this, but I recall being moved by Somer's plight and how even though she was a highly educated and driven woman, her career and marriage could not fill the hole left in her life when she could not have a child. It strikes a nerve for me.

8. The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger: I love this book so much. I'm guessing I can't blame my own infertility on my husband's time traveling genes though?

That's all I can think of for now. There are a few that I've heard good things about like Ben Elton's Inconceivable and Peggy Orenstein's Waiting for Daisy. What about you? Any books come to mind?

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Meant to Read in 2014... But Didn't

This week's Top Ten Tuesday over at the Broke and the Bookish is about 2014 releases that we meant to read, but didn't. However, if you've been around here for a while, you'll notice that I don't really read based on release year. There are a few writers whom I follow and try to read their work brand new, but for the most part, I don't anticipate books coming out. For this reason, I'm re-jigging the topic a little and writing about books that I meant to read last year, but didn't get around to.

1. The Betrayers by David Bezmozgis: This is one of the few writers whom I do follow. I meant to buy this as soon as it came out, but money was tight as I'd just started school, and I've only just ordered it now. (Yay!) It'll definitely be a 2015 read for me.

2. Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas: This has been on my to-read list for almost five years. I even own two copies. *Hangs head in shame*

3. He Knew He Was Right by Anthony Trollope: One of my Classics Club picks. (I chose a list but don't actually blog link, so it's just a personal challenge. I had this ready at the end of the fall and ended up picking up a couple of heavy biographies instead.

4. Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton: Started, but got caught up in something else. It might be a summer read.

5. One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp: I've heard this is great and have a copy, so it'll definitely be something I read ASAP.

6. Parable of the Talents by Octavia Butler: I read the first book and meant to pick this one up too.

7. Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem by Kevin DeYoung: You know, I have just been too busy to get around to it, hahaha.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Resolutions for 2015

It's almost 2015! Go figure. I want to say that this year has flown by, but I feel like it has actually crawled by at a snail's pace. Anyway, it's not been the greatest of years, and I'm not actually that confident that we have a better one coming, but I can hope, right? On that note, The Broke and the Bookish link-up today is talking about resolutions, bookish and non-bookish.

I don't really do resolutions any more. I've only wanted one thing for the past two years, and that hasn't come to pass, so it seems silly to think that accomplishing anything smaller will actually mean much. On the other hand, I do like to think about the kind of person I want to be in the new year, so here are some resolutions.

1. Read more non-fiction. I didn't do too badly this year with about 10 non-fiction books read, but I was better in 2013, and I'd like to keep that up.
2. Keep reading. When school piles up, it's easy to get bogged down and not read for pleasure any more, but reading is one of the few pleasures that I can still enjoy unfettered.
3. Do all my school readings. Hahahaha. Not really likely that I'll accomplish this, but a girl can dream, right?
4. Write more, and definitely blog more. I did great at this until school started...

5. Be a nicer boss. School and personal stress made me a bit of a grouchy person last year. I would really like to ensure I keep good relationships with my employees.
6. Start working on my resume and maybe Linked In profile to get ready to apply for jobs when I graduate.

7. Pray more. Like lots more.
8. Do my Bible study homework daily instead of on the night before study. This happens way too often...
9. Find better channels for my frustration. It's unlikely that my issues will vanish, and I could do a better job at managing my angst. It could be exercise or prayer (see above) or whatever, but I need to work on that.

Seems unlikely-to-actually-happen:
10. Have a baby. And while I'm at it, I might as well lose 25 pounds and negotiate peace in the Middle East, but it could happen, right? ;)

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Infertility Chat: The Trouble with Miracle Stories

As an infertile woman, I've heard my share of weird comments meant to be encouraging. And I get that it's hard to know what to say. I really do. There are some responses, however, that I find really difficult, so I'm addressing one of them right now: The miracle story.

If you've been dealing with infertility for a while, and even if you haven't, you've probably encountered this. You share your struggle, how hard has been for you, the ups and downs. The person responds with something like, "You know, my cousin's best friend was infertile. They tried for years and the doctors told them there was nothing more they could do, so they gave up. Then after eight years, they got pregnant and have a beautiful daughter. That could be you!"

Sounds encouraging right? Why wouldn't this help you in your dark time? Am I just over-sensitive for hating this kind of response?  Let's break it down.

Firstly, we have no idea what was wrong in this case. Years ago, my pastor was diagnosed with cancer, and I remember his wife saying once, "I get so tired of the cancer stories. Everyone has a cancer story to share." The reason behind her frustration was that every cancer is different. Every person's experience is different. It's not really encouraging to hear about so-and-so's great aunt's recovery from breast cancer when your loved one has bladder cancer. They aren't the same thing at all. There are so many differing variables. Telling me that someone who had unspecified fertility problems was able to conceive is not helpful if we don't have the same diagnosis.

Sarah and Abraham:* Just because they had a miracle child doesn't mean I will...

Secondly, and this probably sounds both selfish and superstitious, there are only so many miracle stories. A few people do experience amazing conceptions long after they'd given up hope, but most couples don't. Impossible conception stories are the exception rather than the rule. I think you get to a point where you hear about someone else's miracle makes you irrationally think that there is one less miracle open to you. Yes, it makes no sense, but if infertility does one thing, it is to make you crazy.

Thirdly, and this is the most important point, you have to listen to the words in that story. Read "eight years", "nothing more they could do" and "they gave up" again and again. If you haven't been through infertility, you might breeze past those phrases. I myself have told these kinds of stories in the past as a testament to the fact that miracles exist, but I don't do it any more. When you have been in the throes of fertility treatments and had to confront the question of how far to go, you cannot hear "they gave up" without understanding the tremendous grief that it takes to get to that point. To give up on your dream of being a parent is a heartbreaking tragedy. Yes, it's amazing if you eventually conceive later on, but don't ever breeze over the part that the journey must have been agonizing. If this is my story, I will of course rejoice in a miracle pregnancy, but I can't read it now without feeling deep sorrow for the couple that had to go through the terrible grief of abandoning all hope. Even if they eventually had their miracle baby, I can't imagine they will ever lose the wounds of that time of their life.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying there is no place for these stories. I'm not saying that I'm not at times encouraged when couples who have been trying a long time get to hold their baby in their arms. And of course, I'm one person and I don't represent ALL people dealing with infertility. What I am saying, though, is to use those stories sparingly, and to think about how they may be received before throwing them out in conversation. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: The best thing to say to your infertile friend is "I'm sorry you're going through this, and I'll be there for you any time."

Infertility humour*

PS I'm linking up this week with Amateur Nester's infertility link-up. So excited to get connected to others in this fight.

*Source: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/82472236899285630/

*Image found at: https://dailybibleguide.wordpress.com/2014/03/15/isaiah-511-8/ 

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Soooo... Christmas

It's Christmas again! How did this even happen? It feels like this year has both sped by and dragged along at a snail's pace.

As noted on multiple occasions, this year and especially the last month or so have not been good ones. I find myself having a hard time feeling Christmas-y at all this time. It's a struggle. Christmas is so closely associated with family and children, so my own personal sense of grief is magnified by a large factor.

But of course, it's Christmas. It's a season of hope and expectation and joy. It's a season when we are reminded that God loves us. And I am trying, bit by bit, day by day, failing yet getting up again, to find that hope and joy and even expectation that He will do something good in my life. Maybe it won't be the good I am asking for, but something good.

Merry Christmas to you and yours. May you find that joy.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Reads of 2014

With school finally done, I can actually get back to my link-ups. Today at The Broke and the Bookish, we're talking about the best books we've read this year. So.... 2014 sucked. There's no way around it. This year just sucked.  However, the bright light of this awful year is that I read a lot of great books while whittling away the hours in doctor's waiting rooms and attempting to escape reality. I haven't read quite as many books as last year, but I have read quite a few, and these ones were my favourites.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr: I can't remember where I heard about this, but it might be from a Facebook book club. Anyway, it's a very interesting look at a French girl and a young German man whose lives are somehow intertwined before and during World War II. I loved it.

The Chosen by Chaim Potok: A really fascinating look at the Jewish communities in Brooklyn in the 1940s told by the unlikely friendship of two boys.
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens: I just love Dickens so much (well, except for Great Expectations for some reason, but I digress). David Copperfield is simply marvelous, with so many memorable and entertaining characters.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: There were aspects of this book that I found tedious, but I really appreciate it's perspective. It is the story of a young woman from Nigeria and tells about her schooling in Nigeria, move to America and experiences there, and the connection with her first love.
Kindred by Octavia E. Butler: A time travel novel involving a modern African American woman who is accidentally brought back into the days of slavery. Fascinating and gripping.
The Giver by Lois Lowry: Not sure how it took me so long to read this book, but it's just fabulous and I appreciate a dystopian story that doesn't get bogged down into yet another teenage love affair. (Sorry, did I say that out loud...)
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell: I didn't expect to enjoy this as much as I did, but I got pulled into the story of Cath, her roommate Reagan, the stilted relationship with Cath's twin sister, and their loving but absent-minded father. I fell in love.

The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill: A fascinating look at a life during times of slavery that sweeps from western Africa to the American South to Canada and back to Africa.

Peter the Great by Robert K. Massie

Saturday, 13 December 2014

The Lord Giveth and the Lord Taketh Away

It's been a heavy week. Aside from my hectic last week of school, which involved a flurry of exams and papers, I lost someone dear to me. One of my oldest and closest friends J lost her father to cancer last Saturday. Until last spring, he was a health enthusiast who did yoga and cycled regularly; we all expected him to live as long as his own father, who only passed away within the past two years. I have known Mr. C since I was three years old. He was one of the kindest men I have ever known. He welcomed everyone with open arms. He always made you laugh. He had a dozen funny nicknames for everyone, calling me Margaretta and even Margot Fonteyn (a reference that was lost on my seven-year-old self). I will miss him dearly.

The funeral for Mr. C was yesterday, a beautiful tribute to his generous spirit and the love and admiration that so many people had for him. My best friend came into town (she and I were university roommates with J) and we cried on each other's shoulders while a soloist sang Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah". It was a beautiful and heartbreaking day.

If I'm being honest (and why not), this year has been awful, just plain awful. It started on January 1 with the worst flu that Gil and I had had in years and it seems to have gone downhill since then. 12 months later later and we are still no closer to having a child and it feels like a constant cycle of grief: Grief for the baby we may never have, grief for the relationship that Gil and I shared before infertility took over our lives, grief for a man whose life was taken so soon.

While we were walking to church from my mother's house, we passed a long-time neighbour whose own wife lost her fight with early-onset Alzheimer's just over a year ago. Then last night, a high school friend posted on Facebook that his mother is probably in her last days. These are heavy days indeed. I knew that one day we would move into that stage of life when we have to watch our parents decline, but I had always thought that would be decades away.

As a Christian, if I'm being honest, I don't know where God is in all of this. I want to be that smiley-faced woman full of faith that His path is the right one and His timing is perfect, but the truth is that right now, His path feels rocky and arduous, and I don't know where it leads. I'm not saying that I will walk away and take a new path, just that I feel like the best I can muster right now is, in the words of Cohen, "a cold and a broken Hallelujah." I pray it is enough.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
1 Corinthians 4:16-18