Friday, May 17, 2013

French Wine & Sacred Icons

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-2BdT2Vm8w44/UO0Lq_ZCbJI/AAAAAAAAA0U/47zF0NZPNWc/s1600/aIMG_1023a.jpg
About a year ago, I was emotionally preparing myself for a childless Mother's Day.

I woke up that Sunday morning and the first thing that happened is I started my period. I wasn't surprised, but the timing stung. It felt like a slap from the Mother of Mother's Day.

John and I went to Mass with my parents. I sat by my mom and thought about how grateful I was to have her as a mother. Of the four of us (my mom, dad, John and me), I was the only one who still had a mom to celebrate Mother's Day with. What a gift and one not to be taken for granted.

The day improved substantially from then on. When they honored all the mothers at Mass, they included "godmothers" for the first time. (When it comes to godchildren, I'm blessed with 5.) Even my dad was excited about this and said, "Christina, that's you!" I stood up with all the other moms as the priest gave us a blessing.

My family went to brunch at our favorite fancy restaurant tucked away in a rural part of Almaden. The cell reception at La Foret is spotty at best. When we returned to civilization, I realized I had missed phone calls and text messages from many of my friends. They wanted to tell me I was a mom, a godmother, a spiritual mother, the kind of mom all women can be to our friends and family.

At the very end of the day, my dear friend Liz showed up at my doorstep with a present wrapped in lavender tissue paper. I knew what it was as soon as she put it in my hand ~ a small white statue of Mary that Liz's mother had given her. Most statues show Our Lady holding Baby Jesus. This one shows her pregnant. Liz and her husband, Dan, had been married 14 years before being blessed with their daughter Eden, who is now 2. If anyone knew Mother's Day stings the hearts of infertiles, it's Liz. Along with the gift, she wrote me a beautiful letter reminding me that while we don't understand it, God does have a plan.

In some weird, hard-to-explain way, I felt I had celebrated my very first Mother's Day that day. My heart was so full. I felt honored and grateful that my brand of motherhood (while not to children, but maybe in the way I love my friends) was valuable and meaningful.

This year was different. I celebrated Mother's Day 24 weeks pregnant.  

Me & John, Mother's Day 2013
(If this news hurts your heart and you want to stop reading, I completely understand.)

We found out we were pregnant on December 18th, one week before Christmas. I still feel like I'm living an alternate version of reality. Not that I mind. I love this new world John and I have found ourselves in. If fertility is your struggle, I wish I could draw you a road map to get you to the place where I am now.

The truth is, I had been doing less than usual in my attempts to conceive. I hadn't been taking my metformin for about six months. I had stopped taking all my supplements and prenatals. I had actually gained 10 pounds.

But toward the end of 2012, it felt like something was about to happen, I just wasn't sure what.

On the first Friday in November, John and I had two priests over for dinner. At the end of our evening, they blessed our home and prayed over us. They knew we were struggling with infertility, and they asked God to fill our lives with life. They did not ask God to give us a baby, and I felt a peace knowing our lives had been filled with life, especially through the joy of spending time with our friends' children and my sister's kids.  

In a chance meeting, two days later, my friend Alison introduced me to a woman named Carol after Mass. Carol and her family were new to the parish. During the course of friendly small talk, Carol asked me if we had any children. I replied, "No, but not by choice."

Carol immediately explained that while on her honeymoon and visiting the St. Francis of Assisi Basilica in Italy, she had touched an icon of the Madonna and Child and had a vision of herself holding her son. This happened in the gift shop, where the wood carving was for sale, so she bought it. And now she wanted me and John to borrow it, bring it into our home and pray with it.

I don't know about you, but when a stranger offers to lend me a priceless, irreplaceable holy object, my answer is immediately, "No, thank you." In case of damage, breakage, or general wear and tear, I have a policy not to borrow anything I can't replace for 150 bucks. So I politely declined.

Three days later, Carol called. She had the icon in her car and she was bringing it to church for me to pick up. Carol had wrapped the wood carving in baby blanket materials. She said to me, "I'm just going to step out and claim your baby from God for you." Then she said, "When you have your baby, I'm going to make you a blanket out of this material."

The icon was beautiful. But I didn't see a vision or even get chills when I touched it, and I really wasn't sure what to make of her bold prayers on my behalf.

I struggled to make sense of what Carol and her icon were supposed to mean to me. I settled on, if nothing else, that I thought meeting her was a reminder from God that He knew the desires of my heart. He had not forgotten about me, and I quietly told Him I wouldn't be mad if the icon didn't miraculously bring a baby into our lives.

The following Sunday, there was the anointing of the sick at Mass. It's a great tradition, and perfect for cute old ladies with their walkers, but I look relatively young and healthy and didn't want to draw attention to my malfunctioning uterus. However, it had been only 10 days since the priests prayed over us and a week since I met Carol. I kind of felt a spiritual push to get over myself. So I went up to the altar, and I was glad I did.

Exactly a week later, I started my period. But the next month, I didn't.

I thought for sure I was going to. I had abdominal cramps for more than a week, which I blamed on the Jillian Michaels-impersonating instructor at the kickboxing class Erin and I were attending somewhat regularly. 

And I would be remiss if I didn't say I was experimenting with eating gluten-free, plus John and I had challenged ourselves to juice once a day in the month of December. (That went out the window once nausea set in.)

But in terms of dietary changes, the most important was obviously switching from California to French wine for the month of December.

John and I love California wine and rarely drink anything else (not that we drink wine all day, but you know what I mean.) The characters on a show we like drink French wine, so when the BevMo coupon arrived in the mail, I thought it would be fun to see if Bordeaux and Burgundies were worth all the fuss. 

Maybe the soil is more fertile in France. I really don't know. As one of our friends pointed out, "the French are very romantic." They are the only people I know, other than the Eskimos, who have a kiss named after them.
Ultrasound at 19 weeks
Anyway, here we are. Twenty-five weeks pregnant with a baby girl expected to arrive sometime late August or early September. I stare at my swollen belly in joyful disbelief, and every night, I pray for those whose hearts ache for a child. Infertility will always be a mystery to me, and so far, I feel the same way about motherhood.

10 comments:

LovestoEat May 18, 2013 at 6:43 AM  

Awesome! I had a feeling this would be your year to bloom!

Anonymous,  May 18, 2013 at 6:53 AM  

CHRISTINA!!!!
Although I haven't seen or spoken to you forever, I want to wish you a heartfelt Congratulations!!! You and John are absolutely going to LOVE parenthood. You were meant to be a mother. I am so extremely happy for you and reading your story brought me to tears!! I wrote to John when I was preganant and tomorrow Kade is turning 1 !!! It is so true what everyone says about "it going fast". Enjoy every waking moment (and the shut-eyed) ones too. Soon you'll be blessed with the love of your life!! Much Love to you and your family xoxo

FullOGrace May 18, 2013 at 7:18 AM  

HUGE congrats to you and your husband!!! Your next chapter will be sleepless and stinky, but so worth it! :) xoxo Marcy

Anonymous,  May 18, 2013 at 4:23 PM  

I am so delighted for you. I have read your blog for a few years. Love your way with words and love your heart. What a blessing this baby will be to you and you to her. (I have never written on a blog before but this miraculous event calls for a response.) Love to you ALL!

Anonymous,  May 18, 2013 at 6:26 PM  

Oh Christina! I read your blog with tears in my eyes and a smile in my heart. I am so happy for you and John and know your child is so loved, so wanted and has such a beautiful soul. Although you and John may have been waiting and praying for her, the time had to be perfect and the plan had to stay on course. I know you thank G-d everyday for your miracle but I thank G-d for brining another good person to the world. Your daughter is going be a great person - she has you two for parents. I am so happy for you both. LOVE!!

Anonymous,  May 20, 2013 at 8:22 AM  

I've been following your blog and struggles for awhile now. I LOVE this post the most. Tears in my eyes and I'm so happy for you and your family. A joyous way to begin a week!

monkey momma May 20, 2013 at 8:58 AM  

Beautifully written! I'm so happy for the both of you!

Sheila,  May 20, 2013 at 12:07 PM  

while i've heard all this first hand, reading it still made me cry. i think of the three of you every single day and i cannot be any more proud to call you friend.

Christina May 24, 2013 at 8:48 PM  

Thank you, Friends! Thank you for sharing in our joy and keeping us in your prayers! This is just the start of mine and John's great adventure!

jered August 14, 2013 at 12:16 PM  

Just got sent here from John's newsletter. My absence from Facebookworld has left me devoid of such announcements.

A terrific picture from his site and - wow, congratulations! Parenthood is so rewarding and challenging.

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