Thursday, April 7, 2016

The Follow-Up

The last series of posts I published here were posts that told a story that was hard to put into words. The story of how letting go of control of our fertility played a big part in our recovery. That the thing that tore our marriage to pieces, sex, was actually part of our story of redemption as well.

I stopped writing shortly after telling that story because there was a big part of me that felt that I was using my blog to isolate. I was writing here the words that could have been shared with my new 12-step friends in my new city, and I was lonely. A lot has changed since that time. Our support group in my new city has grown. I've made friends. We've gone through transitions as a family, and my marriage has continued to move in a positive direction.

But I wanted to share something of an epilogue. Probably not really an epilogue, maybe it's just continuing where I left of in my previous post almost two years ago.

My husband and I began practicing a method of fertility awareness called the Creighton method. It requires us to monitor my fertility and abstain from sex on certain days of the month if we wish to avoid pregnancy. It also, importantly, requires us to have open dialogue about our emotions, our intimacy, and our family on a regular basis. Our goal in choosing this route was to try to forge something that resembled healthy intimacy for our marriage and our family. This method of fertility awareness can also be used to spot signs of health troubles. This is important to know for this story.

My husband and I agreed that if we continued to make progress in healing our marriage over the next year, and my husband continued to work his recovery and maintain sobriety, that we would open the door to the idea of having another child. We wanted our child to have a sibling if possible, but only if we felt that our marriage could withstand the emotional highs and lows that come with bringing a child into the world.

The year came and went, and we were still stable and still in recovery and still communicating. We did a lot of praying, made sure that we had enough support, and decided to try for a second child. We assumed based on our past experiences that we would get pregnant right away. But after several months of trying without success, we reached out to our Creighton coach for advice. She noticed in our charts that I appeared to have a hormonal issue. She suggested that we go to an OBGYN who specialized in treating couples who used the Creighton model. So we did, and it turned out that my body wasn't producing progesterone on its own (or producing very little). We started on supplements, and a few months later found out that we were pregnant. We were thrilled, relieved that we were able to get pregnant on our own!

But something didn't feel quite right. I had to have blood drawn because of my history of low levels of progesterone, and when the doctor called to tell me the results, she asked if I had a place to sit down. That is not something you ever want to hear from a doctor. She said that though I was still pregnant, my body was producing almost no progesterone. She started me on a very high dose of supplements, but warned me that the chances of having a miscarriage were high. Sure enough, I miscarried about a week later.

I was devastated. I thought that maybe because it was relatively early in the pregnancy, that I would not feel like I had lost a child. But I did. And I feared that if I told people, they would tell me that it was meant to be because God doesn't want us to have another child after what we've been through. I doubt anyone would have said that out loud, but partly I feared that someone would say something of that nature and that it would be true. That we didn't deserve to care for another child because we had failed to provide stability for our child when my husband was acting out before he got into recovery.

We were advised that we could start trying to get pregnant again, but that I would need to take progesterone injections to regulate my hormone levels. My husband and I had many deep conversations about what we would and wouldn't do to try to get pregnant, and we both felt strongly that we wouldn't try any medical interventions beyond the progesterone supplementation (which I needed regardless of whether I was trying to conceive). We felt that in our unique situation, using medical interventions would be a way of us taking over control of our future rather than trusting in God.

*Note that I am only sharing our own feelings about our own particular situation and our own unique past (particularly our issues with control). Our choices are not a reflection of any judgment on anyone else's choices to use or not use medical intervention to achieve pregnancy.*

More months went by without another positive test, and for some strange reason, both of us felt peace with the waiting and thinking about the fact that maybe this just wasn't our path to take. We both felt oddly accepting of the situation in front of us, which I think can be fully credited to what we've learned from our programs of recovery.

But on Christmas day, we were given a gift. A positive pregnancy test. And this pregnancy survived. I'm about half way through this pregnancy, and I couldn't be more grateful or feel more joy than I do at this time in our lives. I wish that I could tell everyone I meet about how lucky we are to have this second chance, and about how our story has unfolded.

I'm sure that there are many more bumps and twists and turns left in this story, but right now I'm just enjoying the ride.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Back To The Beginning

Continued from here...

I used to think that I knew a lot of stuff for sure. Now, I'm unsure about a lot of things.

But there is one thing about which I am absolutely certain.

God can turn death to life.

I had to die to learn how to live. Our old marriage died to make room for the new marriage. And I absolutely am not the source of this unearned new life. It must be God. There is absolutely no other way to explain how I could be in this place in my life otherwise. For most of the past three years I was angry with God and not praying that he would heal me. But being the ever faithful, loving higher power God is, God put the right people in my life at the right time to carry me. The fact that I am a person who experiences joy is the work of God.

This new life God has given me is different than I ever imagined. But in a deeper, more beautiful, more human way.

I have no clue why my husband chose recovery when most husbands don't, why I was lucky enough to be surrounded by the best therapists and 12-steppers out there when many women struggle to find good help, and why our marriage came back to life while others fade away. It is not because I made all the right decisions. It is certainly not because my husband made all of the right decisions.

Which brings me back to the point of the story. Conversion. Or reversion. Maybe.

We're finding ourselves in a season of new beginnings. Our new beginnings, through a string of well placed coincidences, has led us to once again embrace natural family planning and learn healthy intimacy through the Creighton model.

That's how we went from feeling that natural family planning was the source of many of our problems to feeling as though it is a precious gift that heals pain.

That's my story. I don't know if I told it well. I don't know if it will be meaningful to anyone but me. But I feel like I have a responsibility to carry this message forward to others. And this is one way to carry the message.

God can turn death into life.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Tipping Point

I don't have many triggers anymore. They are so infrequent that sometimes I forget what it feels like. And then I remember.

Yesterday's phone call from my mom started off innocently enough. She had a quick question to ask. Could she borrow the leftover fabric from my wedding dress for a display at church?

Before I could even respond, the tears took my breath. So unexpectedly. My mom immediately backtracked, apologizing for asking about the material. I reassured her that she didn't hurt me in any way by asking for the material.

It's just that the mere mention of the fabric from my wedding dress started a chain reaction of negative feelings.

My mom is an amazing seamstress. When I got engaged, she offered to make a custom one-of-a-kind dress. It was stunning, and it was the perfect dress for me. Simple, modest, with a vintage feel. My dream dress. It took many trips for her to complete it (we didn't live near each other), and we spent so much time together. When she finished the dress, there was quite a bit of extra fabric left over. I decided to have her store it in her basement so that I could use it for a baptismal gown some day.

So when my mom mentioned the fabric yesterday, my emotional reaction wasn't just about the fabric. It was about losses. The dress that was beautifully designed with love that sits in my parents' basement because it's too hard for me to have in my house. The wedding photos that were either destroyed or tucked away because I feel sick when I see them. The fabric, that was supposed to be sewn into a baptismal gown for a little baby girl some day. Fabric that now somehow feels tainted.

Everything surrounding our marriage day is now clouded with the knowledge that my husband was an addict the day he married me. He lied to my family, friends, priest, and me. He had already had sex with other people while we were engaged. While my mom and I excitedly worked on that dress and talked about my bright and happy future with my soon-to-be husband.

I am happy in my life now. But I still grieve the losses.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Second Miracle

Continued from here...

My therapist says that anger is usually a symptom of a more vulnerable emotion. My husband was in real recovery, and the only way I can describe it is that it was a miracle. But all I could do was be angry. It shielded me from the pain of his actions. It shielded me from the fear of opening my life back up to him. And it protected me from vulnerability.

Everything my husband did in the first few months after he moved back in irritated me. I was always mad at him. Unwilling to forgive or open up my fragile heart to him. I just wasn't ready. But I was also miserable.

My husband came home from therapy one day and showed me a flyer he had seen at his therapist's office for a women's betrayal trauma group. I didn't want to sign up, but I was so miserable and knew that I needed more help.

I'm now pretty convinced that God was reaching out to me over and over during the first year of my husband's recovery, begging me to trust the process and to trust God. But I was pretty good at ignoring the message. So he sent the message in the form of a female therapist. That I was able to open myself up to life and God again through work with her is the second miracle in the story. She gave me hope.

And hope led to the beginning of a conversion. Or maybe a reversion...

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Rational Thought

Continued from here and then here...

Sometimes I'm my own worst enemy.

I had tried every possible method to convince my husband to get better. I had worked for a year to try harder and beg more. I put my foot down countless times in anger. Trying to convince myself that this time it would make him stop acting out. And, of course, none of that worked.

Never once did I consider surrendering the situation to God. I know now that I never had any control to begin with, but at the time, I acted as though I was self-sufficient. Besides, even the existence of a higher power was, at best, a shaky concept.

So imagine my surprise when I decided to give up on my marriage, to stop trying, that my husband found some sobriety. His newfound recovery didn't make sense. I had made my decision. Me, myself, and I had assessed the situation, decided there was no hope, and resigned. And I was wrong.

It was really, for me, the first time I really had to wave the white flag and admit that I was not in control. Of outcomes, of other people, of situations.

The only possible way to explain what I witnessed in my husband is that it was a miracle. I couldn't rationalize it.

And it not only blew my mind, it made me angry...

Friday, August 29, 2014

Spiritual Darkness

Continued from here...

I got so lost in trying to sort through what was right and wrong in my own situation and focused so much on trying to "do it right" and make my marriage fit in the Catholic rule books. I wavered between feeling like I had to get an annulment to feeling like I was an evil sinner by being on birth control to feeling like Church doctrine was useless. It was after many sessions worrying about the rules, and feeling in between a rock and a hard place, that my therapist said, Eleanor, the rules make sense for couples of healthy mind, body, and spirit. You are doing the best you can in circumstances that don't make sense right now. Don't focus so much on the rules, focus on your safety, security, and healthy boundaries. Do the best you can, and you will find the answers you need.

I took my first deep breath in months after hearing those words. I tried my best to heed her advice and focus on my own healing, knowing that the answers would come in time. But patience and tolerance of mental discord are not my best qualities. So it was a rough road.

Little by little, I tried to accept a future that might include no more children. And no more marriage. I tried so desperately to accept that I was experiencing a spiritual darkness rather than trying so hard to reason my way out of it. I started working to appreciate even more the gift of the child I was able to have. Learning from my 12-step group to practice an attitude of gratitude. Not easy. And I failed a lot. But I did start to experience more joy, even in the midst of darkness.

And then my reality started to change. The husband I gave up on started to reappear. And he was calmer. His face more solemn and less angry. His behavior more predictable, and his presence more safe. Month after month of consistency, apologies, and accountability.

And that's when everything got scary...

Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Fragile Conversion Story

Sometimes the experiences I hold most dear are the most difficult to share. At the risk of feeling vulnerable, this is the story of a conversion that is in the making.

When we were first married, we agreed that I was not going to use contraception. We successfully used natural family planning techniques to avoid pregnancy. Unfortunately, I used it as an excuse to avoid intimacy, and Husband used it as an excuse to resent me.

When D-Day happened, I was angry at a lot of things, including the Catholic Church's teachings on sexuality, at least what I knew of them at the time. I felt as though natural family planning left me exposed and used. In addition to closing off sexual intimacy with my husband for obvious reasons, I also closed off fertility completely by going on birth control. I had always wanted to be open to life and have several children if possible, and we had been discussing trying to have another child right before D-Day. I was bitter and resentful for the loss of that dream. I blamed our marriage troubles and the addiction, in part, on following church teaching on sexual intimacy.

I remained bitter towards the Church and kept my fertility shut off for almost three years. I thought that only a miracle would convince me to change my mind.

To be continued...