Friday, August 30, 2013

Pregnancy Loss

I haven't been able to write for some time. Unfortunately we lost the baby last month and after that I mostly wanted to spend my time working. The family and friends that were aware of what was happening were amazingly supportive though and I think the result was an easier grieving period than it might otherwise have been.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

An Unexpected Result

The last few weeks have been hard. And wonderful.

On June 4th I was recovering from the tail end of a virus and feeling very frustrated. My usual signs of fertility didn't seem to be appearing and the weirdest symptoms of my cold seemed to be getting worse, not better. I was lying on the couch fighting off waves of nausea when I started to get angry that my body was playing such a cruel trick by making me queasy when I new I couldn't be pregnant. To stop myself from fantasizing about a common cold being pregnancy I decided to take a pregnancy test.

It was positive.

The first positive test.
I was so stunned that I didn't know what to think for the rest of the day. The next day I decided I didn't believe what I'd seen so I took three more tests, all different brands. They were positive too.

I walked around stunned for the rest of the week before telling my husband. The day before I told him I took another test just to make sure. The first few times with word "pregnant" came out of my mouth I felt like I was lying but five different pregnancy tests had all said that it was true. Because of how well I was keeping track of my cycles I am fairly sure that I conceived prior to the last period so I hadn't had the experience of "being late" that's usually the first sign of pregnancy. Lost of women have some implantation bleeding around the time that would have been their period but mine was heavier than the stories I'd heard so I didn't think that could be it.

The next couple of weeks went by fairly easily. In spite of that early queasiness I never got really ill and I had no problem being accepted into a midwifery practice where an initial appointment was booked for around week 10. Then a little past week 7 I started bleeding again.

The past week has been dedicated to preventing a miscarriage which has been nerve-wracking, draining and physically painful. In the end there is good news though. When the bleeding stopped a sixth, and then seventh, test showed that I was still pregnant.

Proof that I'm still pregnant.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Another Two Week Wait

The wait to find out if you are pregnant is the worst. I think everyone who has tried for a baby knows that. Lately I haven't been able to decide if it's getting easier as time goes by or worse. The time definitely passes faster than it did in the beginning but I think that's because I stopped expecting anything to happen, and that is hardly an optimistic thought.

This time around I have given myself the goal of saying the Long Obligatory Prayer everyday through this cycle. It's not so much that I think it will help anything to happen, but I remember what a difference it made to my inner well being when I said it daily during my year of service. I always lamented that it dropped out of my daily routine later on. Regardless of what happens I'm sure I can use the extra strength it brings.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

The Best Choice: Thoughts on May Maxwell's Struggle With Infertility

A few days ago we found out yet again that I am not pregnant. To say it is disappointing would be an understatement, as would saying that I'm not surprised. After many months of trying you stop expecting to conceive.

I was feeling like I needed to read something inspiring to ease the discouragement so the other night I picked up Violette Nakhjavani's Tribute to Amatu'l-Baha Ruhiyyih Khanum. It is a book that was recently given to us but neither my husband nor I have had time to read and it's been sitting on our coffee table ever since. My Baha'i friends will know this but Ruhiyyih Khanum was born Mary Maxwell and raised in Montreal prior to marrying Shoghi Effendi. Her parents were May Maxwell and William Sutherland Maxwell and she was their only child.

The first chapter of the book was a timely reminder of the long wait May Maxwell went through to become a mother. After they were married years passed for the Maxwell's with no sign of a child. Then in 1910 May wrote a letter to Agnes Alexander describing an encounter she'd had with 'Abdu'l-Baha while in Haifa the previous year.

He had seen her walking with His daughter one evening and May had been carrying His infant grandson. He asked her, "You love that baby?"

"Oh! I love him," was her emphatic reply.

'Abdu'l-Baha asked her if she would like to have a baby and her answer was that she would be very happy to have one. He answered, "Do you know why you have never had one? It is because you were a chosen maidservant of God - you were called for the service of God - you could not have children because you had to devote your time to the service of the Cause. This is the only reason; this is the only reason."

The letter continues:

I stood with bowed head before Him and after a little silence He said, "Speak, do you choose to have a child, you may choose."

Then I looked at Him with all my heart and soul and adoration, and I said, "I choose whatever God chooses - I have no choice but His." Although those words were very simple - in them I renounced all hope of Motherhood. Then 'Abdu'l-Baha arose quickly and came to me and clasped me in His arms with the greatest love and joy, and He said: "That is the best choice, the Will of God is the best choice", and walking up and down the room He continued, "I will pray for you, that God will send you that which is best for you. Be sure of this, that God will send you that which is best for you - " and this He repeated several times.
The letter goes onto reveal that May did indeed become pregnant a few months later.

What strikes me in reading this is how extraordinary May Maxwell's response was. We tend to read stories of 'Abdu'l-Baha and the early believers with a sort of fairytale quality and wonder at how blessed they were to benefit from His mystical insight. No doubt she was extremely devoted but most women who have had trouble conceiving would find it difficult to have someone tell them it's because they have been called to serve God. Then to be told that all she had to do was choose and she'd have a baby must have been very painful. To women now days it might feel like they are being blamed for their infertility if they heard that but for May it likely would have been painful for other reasons. Because of her trust in God and in 'Abdu'l-Baha for her to hear that would mean a feeling of having to choose between service to the Faith and motherhood. Her words indicate she didn't think she could have both and her choice shows a stunning amount of self-sacrifice.

Of course 'Abdu'l-Baha was no ordinary man. He had a history of knowing the right thing to say and she clearly left His presence with a sense of joy. But this story makes me think. In the hundred years since this took place our understanding of human reproduction has grown beyond anything our ancestors could have dreamed of. With that increased understanding has come very different attitudes and expectations. We have more control over how and when babies are made which has led to people making a lot of assumptions that they can have a baby whenever they want. Sometimes they can and sometime they can't.

The idea that God might have a better idea of what's best for you than you do - or that when you want isn't necessarily in your best interest - isn't really a concept anymore, even amongst many Baha'is. I know it isn't a thought that enters my mind all that much these days. I suppose it's an idea that lingers in the back of my mind but it doesn't surface that often and reading how instinctive it was for May Maxwell makes me contemplate just how badly my spiritual life needs attention. I suspect that if I made and effort to have the kind of trust that she had there would be a lot more peace in my life, not just in this matter but in all other areas as well.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Closing for Holy Days

We've just finished Easter weekend but of course in our house it was business as usual. Being Baha'i we don't celebrate and keep our business open on Christian holidays. Our customers love that we do this as they usually have time off to go shopping those days but I don't feel like I've gotten good at explaining the reason we do it or the flip-side of us closing for Naw Ruz. I think most people figure we are just die hard capitalists.

This year closing for Naw Ruz drew more attention than last year. The timing probably has something to do with it - March 21st fell on a quieter day last year - but we've also become more established and have a larger customer base. The majority of people responded with a friendly "happy new year" afterwards but one person gave me a hard time. He suggested that we hire "heathens" to keep things running while we took the day off and made sure to send the message that this a big inconvenience.

For the record, I know what business he had with us and it was not urgent.

I explained that it was not a matter of us taking a day off but that we are actually supposed to close for the day. I don't think this sunk in. I also explained that there are other holidays we are supposed to close for too.  

This is sadly an example of both why we aren't closing for all the Holy Days that we should and why we really should be. When we started our business we were scared that if we closed at all we would ruin our relationship with the public and drive away business. Closing for one Holy Day was an act of bravery for us but we did it out of dedication to the Faith. It has worked out for the one day a year that we do it. We tell our customers why we are closing well in advance and the results are often wonderful opportunities for discussion. But I don't know how many Baha'i business owners make efforts to obey this law and I wonder if not doing so diminishes the impact we can have on society. We, as a community, have been given the task of distinguishing ourselves from the social decay around us through our words and actions. We also hope to elevate and deepen the lives of those around us to be more meaningful regardless of their beliefs. While working hard is by no means the most harmful offence (we in fact view work as equal to worship) how are we supposed to distinguish ourselves when we do exactly what everyone else is doing?

I felt rattled after that encounter. It threw me back to the awkward feeling from childhood of being something other people don't understand. I try to remind myself that others experience far worse but I feel disappointed  that I'm not better at articulating what I am. In spite of the Faith being woven so deeply into my identity I am so often at a loss for words when explaining these things.

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Fast Ends

I managed to take part in the last week of The Fast. For several days before that I had been only consuming fluids during daylight hours as my airway wasn't quite back to normal. I thought it would be a challenge to get back to it after missing so much but I found that going without food did not produce much suffering.

I had been wondering if there was some unpleasant wisdom in becoming so ill during The Fast and I think returning to the normal patterns of life is answering that question. What I noticed over the past week is that going without food and drink is something I've hardly noticed but all of my attention has immediately been drawn back into the bare necessities of life. It is such an effort to get through the day that that's all I can think about. The long hours that my business requires and the mental responsibilities of keeping everything organized leave little time to focus on spiritual growth or devotion.

There is a real tug of war that I feel about that when thinking about it from a Baha'i point of view. On the one hand our laws make it clear that a significant portion of our lives should be spent in communion with God and service to the Faith, but on the other hand we are urged to excel in our occupations and consider work as worship. Then there is the practical element of simply needing to work long and hard to make sure we have a business that functions. But then, of course, how does one find the strength to expend so much energy if the spirit is not nourished?

There is irony in the absence of fasting being what inspires the reflection that is supposed to come with The Fast. However those 19 days are over now and with the Naw Ruz celebrations of the last couple of days we move onto a new season. We were excited to be able to join our community to celebrate the holiday as we all broke our fast for the last time this year together. We also took March 21st off and closed the business for some much valued family time. My hope it that in the year to come I will be able to maintain the spirit of reflection that has come with this year's Fast.
Friends enjoying food together at our community Naw Ruz  celebration.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Fast In A Day

Last year a small production company called Media Makes Us decided to make a short film to capture the feelings and emotions that surround the Baha'i Fast. Their method was unique in that they put out a call for Baha'is around the world to shoot and submit footage, crowd sourcing the film making process. I was lucky enough to have the clip I send in included. It was our first year fasting as a married couple and the story I tell is about our first day fasting together. As you hear in the film we kind of botched it.

Fast in a Day from Media Makes Us on Vimeo.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Reflections on Being Deprived of The Fast

We are right in the middle of the Baha'i fast. This is the time every year when Baha'is between the ages of 15 and 70 abstain from food and drink from sunrise to sunset.

Our breakfast
Everyone who's healthy, that is.

Baha'u'llah, in His infinite wisdom, did not require those suffering from illness to fast, nor did He require women to fast if they are pregnant, nursing or menstruating. This time last year I remember joking with my husband that it would be the last year I'd be fasting with him for quite some time since we were having thoughts about starting a family. His response was to joke that he would hold off getting me pregnant just so I'd have to join him for another year. As the months went by and this year's fast started to approach, the joke no longer seemed funny. Ayyam-i-Ha came and went with no sign of conception and I realized it was my husband's prediction that had inadvertently come true instead of mine.

I normally look forward to fasting. It was something I couldn't imagine as a child but as an adult discovered it was not nearly as difficult as I'd thought. I enjoy the discipline and the challenge of it. I also find that when fasting is shared with other Baha'is there is a bond and camaraderie that is formed. That was something I discovered while spending time with Baha'i youth on my year of service, then experienced with my father after returning to Canada and experienced again with my husband over the last few of years. The prospect of fasting would normally be welcome but this time I felt like I was getting a harsh reminder of how quickly time had gone by and how badly we were failing. I felt strong disappointment.

Then we started fasting. We lasted through the first day but by sunset I was starting to cough and sniff. I knew that night I wouldn't be able to fast the next day but wasn't sure if I could manage a partial fast with just liquids or if I'd need to give the whole thing up. I find it's worse when you have to break it off after starting then resume it again later. Things go more smoothly when you can just plough through for all 19 days. As it turned out I think I was too miserable to take anything but liquids anyway. I also had to work as we were running a display at a convention that weekend.

It was less than ideal but I figured it was a bump in the road that would be over in a few days. It wasn't. I mean, I'm sure in the bigger picture it is but here I am on day 11 of 19 and I can barely get out of bed. It seems that this is the time my body has chosen to send the clear and firm message that I have abused it too hard. I have been working too many 12 hour days and only taking time off for illness. It was only a few weeks ago that I was sick before this and there were a series of migraines in between. I was already worn down and now what should be a short cold has completely knocked me down and will not let me up.

This seems to be the worst of both worlds. I am neither pregnant nor fasting. Even though there are likely practical reasons for both (perhaps they are even connected) I am starting to feel like I'm being called to examine my spiritual health. It seems a rather strong coincidence to become so sick at exactly the time of year when we are supposed to turn our attention to God. There is some irony at finding myself being forced to focus on the spirit by being deprived of the fast that is supposed to be the focal point for the rest of the world but it is unlikely I would have paused for reflection otherwise. I don't quite know what I should do other than lay here and recite prayers. There is little other choice though so that's as good a place to start as any.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

I'm reviving this again.

I have very little time for writing these days but at the moment I am flat in bed sick. I suspect it will not be read much - in fact I hope it isn't read much - but down the road my family may very well enjoy having a blog maintained. I am at the stage of life of trying to start a family and when that finally happens this seems a good way to keep relatives and friends up to date instead of - or in addition to - bombarding facebook. Even though the stage we are at is essentially a private one I think it might be wise to collect a few of the thoughts from my pre-parent days to look back on later. Very few people know at this stage how much of an effort we are putting into becoming parents. At the moment we have no desire to enlighten them but it may  help to provide perspective later on.

There is another aspect to picking this up again. This started as a travel blog during my Baha'i year of service. That was a challenging time but it was also the time when I was the most steadfastly rooted in the Faith. I found strength during that time that has seemed to fade and I think my attention needs to turn back in that direction. Serving full time offers the chance to be fully devoted to God but we need to be able to maintain devotion through everyday life and I fear I am not doing so well at that.