The Day That Changed My Life

We all have defining moments in our lives; ones that shape us into who we are at the very core. Experiences that drive change – sometimes good change, sometimes regrettable change – but change nonetheless. Over the course of my life I’ve had several such moments, and I’ve weighed in my heart and mind which are the ones that have changed me the most. Unquestionably, the day I accepted Jesus as my Savior at the age of 10 was a turning point in my life. When I was baptized two years ago, it was another moment of remarkable change in choosing who I wanted to be and what direction I wanted my life to take. But those were conscious choices to change – rooted in what has developed into an incredible faith-life that is spent fulfilling my purpose to glorify God.

Today, I’d like to take you back 30 years – to a day that changed my life, and I had no choice in the matter.

May 16, 1989 – my good friend Janine picked me up in the early morning and drove me to the hospital for a scheduled out-patient surgery. We arrived at the hospital and checked in for my diagnostic laparoscopy. When I woke up in the recovery room, I was given the news that I did not have a uterus. This is the day that MRKH entered my life.

I probably sum it up best on my Courageous page –
On that day I was told that I was born without a uterus, cervix, and the upper 2/3 of my vaginal canal – I had a birth defect that no one could see, and I would never be able to carry a child. On that day, my world quietly shattered. My hopes, my dreams, my plans, everything I thought I would or could do with my life…shattered. Yet, somehow my life continued. As I look back on my young life, the things I did and didn’t do…I look back at a young woman who learned to be Courageous.

In so many ways MRKH has shaped my life. I have grieved deeply over a life changed by MRKH. I have faced off with clinical depression. I have lived through abusive relationships. I have conquered fears. I have learned that not only does MRKH mean I won’t have a period or carry a child, but for me it also means I have kidney abnormalities and joint and skeletal issues as well. Over the course 30 years I’ve had 7 additional surgeries because my body wears out joints very quickly. When I was 23 the sports medicine doctor who operated on my shoulders said that I had the shoulder joints of a 60 year old. (um…thanks???) When I was 41 the podiatrist had to fuse my toe because the joint was so damaged there was no saving it. Last year (9 months ago actually) I had my spine fused because of degenerative disk disease and spondylolithesis.

But this post is not about the details of my entire medical history (there are plenty of posts about that in the archives) – this post is about looking back and reflecting on the day I was diagnosed with MRKH and how over time, I’ve made the best with what God has given me.

For starters, I’m still blessed to call Janine one of my best friends, all these years later. Turns out she struggled with infertility too, and ultimately adopted 2 beautiful children. She has been a solid rock in my world for some of the most trying times, and even when we go years without visiting in person, we still pick up right where we left off. She encourages me, prays with me, and reminds me that God puts the right people in our lives exactly when we need them.

While I ultimately never became a mother for all variety of reasons, I have spent my life working with youth and young adults in a wide range of rolls. I’ve been a mentor and not a mother. I’ve been a 4-H leader. I’ve worked with our teen-girls youth group. I’m blessed to be an aunt to 3 awesome nephews, and 2 beautiful nieces, one of which gave me a great-nephew too! I’ve worked for the last 15 years in a university setting where I work with students training to be teachers. This past spring one of my students said this to me, ” I love how you’ve developed your life story into one in which your career ultimately focuses so heavily on flowering integral intellectual fertility within the minds of countless kids, both within Washington and beyond. ” That one got me right in the feels. All of these experiences have given me the chance to influence many more lives in my lifetime. And I love that I can watch these folks grow and prosper in their own lives. I celebrate their victories, watch them graduate, get married, and I pray with them when things get rough.

As I’ve journeyed through my 40s, I’ve felt the impact of MRKH in a variety of ways. I’ve probably experienced the most change and healing during this time. I’ve accepted that I’m a mentor and not a mother. I’ve focused my life on physical and emotional healing. I’ve had 4 surgeries (both feet and my back) that have tested my resilience. I’ve fought through depression and grieved the death of some incredible people and beloved pets. I got a full sleeve MRKH tattoo. I’ve come to rely on the grace of Jesus to get through everything life throws at me. I found other MRKH sisters just like me, and ultimately partnered with the Beautiful You MRKH Foundation to create the Courageous Project. I can’t begin to tell you difference in my life that has made. Sharing my story. Raising awareness. Meeting some incredible women – Amy, Kay, Christina, Dawn, Hailee, Ang, Britt, Erin, Jaclyn, Kristen, Jen, Barb, Chrissy, Allison, MaryBetsy, Kristen, Lizzie, Ayala, Hanah, Krystina, Elyce, Christie, Lyndsay, Lindsey, Julie, and so many others. The love that we share, the way we support each other, the hugs, the laughs, the tears…it has been, and continues to, inspire and change me.

And when I truly embraced who I was – that is when I surrendered it all to God. I’ve grown as a woman and sought to serve God’s Kingdom. I’ve launched a women’s ministry through a Facebook group of MRKH sisters – MRKH Journey through Faith and started a women’s ministry group at our church we call Ladies’ Night In. I’ve been ordained and serve as Head of the Board of Deacons for our church. I’ve completed training and been commissioned as a Stephens Minister. I’ve never been as complete and fulfilled as I am today.

30 years after learning that I had Meyer Rokitanksy Kuster Houser Syndrome, today I’m living my best life.

Snow Gives Way to MUD

We had a very snowy February and March here in North Central Idaho.  Snow slid off the roof creating giant banks of snow on the side of my house and barn.  We plowed the driveway clear with the tractor this year, and created monstrous sized mountains of plowed snow all over our property. 

But now the sun is shining during the day, and the snow is melting off.  Thankfully it’s been a slow process so far…but nothing can stop the spring MUD.  Mud on the driveway where the sun hits makes for a slimy trip to and from the highway.  Mud where we park.  And ever so slowly the snow and ice is melting off too.  I may not be able to see the grass in my yard for several more weeks, but walk ways that have been plowed are melting quickly – I think we are down from 6 inches of packed snow (and let’s face it…ice) to just an inch or two in front of the house.  By the weekend I may see some gravel – or mud more likely.  But it’s progress!!! 

Now my prayer focus is that the weather continues to cooperate and our spring melt is slow and gradual, with cold overnight temperatures, and minimal rain.  You see, my house sits down in a valley along a creek bed.  As the snow melts above us, gravity does its thing, and the spring runoff fills our creek to capacity – and often over the banks.  We have lived here for almost 15 years now, and nearly every spring is wrought with worry and careful monitoring of the creek’s behavior.  Most years it is uneventful, with the water running high for a week, cresting over the banks for a few hours each day, and then receding.  But there are times when the runoff runs faster than we would like and the water level rises up to the house for a 6-8 hour nerve wracking stent before it goes back down.  As long as we have lived here, we have been lucky enough to avoid any water damage to our home – and we do carry flood insurance – but we know our home has flooded in the past.  There are 2 times that the water was high and we went through the house and picked up all the important stuff off the floor, piled things on beds, couches, tables, said a few fervent prayers – and went to bed.  We have been blessed to wake up to dry floors and receded water, but it humbles you in those moments.  You have to make quick but decisive choices about what really matters, and what will be just part of the mess. 

Isn’t that just human nature though, to worry about the things that are out of our control?  To spend hours planning for what ifs and then what – thinking that maybe if I have a perfect plan, and do all the right steps in the right order, I can influence the outcome.  Right???  No.  Really I can’t.  I can’t influence the weather.  I can’t alter the flow of the creek.  I’m not that powerful.  But I can have a plan to grab the dogs, a few essentials for myself and them, pick up a few things from the floor, and park my car on the top portion of the driveway – in case we need to leave quickly.  And that is in fact our plan – one we hope we don’t have to initiate, but we are prepared for.  It’s simple and without a lot of detail – because what will be will be.  If I’ve learned anything in my life, it’s that I can’t control everything, and there is no point to letting worry and fear consume me. 

These past few weeks I’ve been working on preparing for my spring craft shows.  I’ve been making soap, lotion, lip balms, salves, creams, trying to be diligent about keeping my database up to date.  I’ve filled and shipped a few orders, which is always nice, and have made sure those get recorded in the database too.  This coming weekend my plan is to spend a few hours back in the soap room and label and pack up what I need for the craft shows.  It takes a few focused hours to get that done, and I’m oddly looking forward to doing it and checking that off my list.  I need to make another couple batches of lip balm and at least one batch of my Courageous cream, and then the first weekend in April I will package up the last of the soap I need, wash my table coverings, and hopefully be ready for my first craft show of the season.

Spring makes me think of hope, new life, and new opportunities.  This past year has been a challenge for me in many ways.  Of course, a great physical challenge has been recovering from spinal fusion.  And now today, feeling fairly well recovered, I have time to think about what this next year has in store for me.  Spring time is also when I feel very connected to my MRKH family.  The annual MRKH Day in Ann Arbor is coming up in a couple of weeks, and I will not be attending this year.  I was able to attend last year, and to spend a week with my dear friend Chel for a much needed vacation, and it’s a trip I still think about nearly every day.  This year there should be an MRKH conference in Seattle, and I will make every effort to attend that one.  Obviously, Seattle is much closer for me making the travel expense more reasonable. 

I’ve been thinking about my MRKH a lot in the past few weeks.  I’m sure it’s because I’m working on Courageous products, and the conference is coming up.  But it’s little things too.  I was invited to a baby shower for a tiny new blessing at our church.  This little one is a rainbow baby after 2 miscarriages, and the new mom is a lovely woman.  I bought sweet baby gifts, prepared my contribution for the lunch, but when the day of the shower came up – I just couldn’t make myself go.  Babies are beautiful and lovely to hold and squeeze…baby showers are hard.  So I took care of myself, and skipped the baby shower.  One of my MRKH sisters recently had a birth mom change her mind about giving up her child for adoption, and so I’m grieving alongside her and it’s hard.  This was one of my greatest fears when I was at a point in my life where adoption was an option on the table.  Could I withstand the heartache if my dream was shattered?  To be chosen, and UN-chosen?  And yet, another of my MRKH sisters is PREGNANT.  She received a uterine transplant, and now after her 3rd attempt of IVF, she is 12 weeks pregnant.  My heart sings for joy with her, and she is even posting adorable bump pictures.  What a medical miracle and a blessing from God himself.   I have 2 MRKH sisters and their families who had embryo transfers to their surrogates last week who are waiting to hear if they are pregnant – and so we wait with baited breath to hear the news.  All of these things recently in my life, and while I am gleefully happy and hopeful for the moms to be, the new moms whose dreams have come true – I am also recognizing these triggers and allowing myself to feel the pain of infertility…again.  

My peers and classmates are mostly done with creating tiny humans themselves, but now I am seeing them welcoming grandchildren into their lives.  A new chapter, a new generation, another layer of legacy they are adding to this world.  I look at my life, and while I’m not leaving a genetic legacy, I hope that I am leaving a trail of compassion, love, acceptance, service, and grace.  I am content in my role of mentor and not mother.  I know that I am making a difference in the lives of the people whose paths I cross.  I know I am living the life and love of my Creator for all the world to see.

Matthew 5 15-16

18 Weeks Post Spinal Fusion

I haven’t really counted the weeks lately, been counting months mostly – but it was a question floating around in my head, so I grabbed my phone and counted the weeks.

You know, we go through life every day – just doing life, but not really paying attention to anything outside of the moment. Most folks this time of year are focusing on Christmas obviously – so thinking ahead to make sure they have gifts for everyone, all the right things in the fridge for special meals, and planning those last few days to make sure everything on the list gets done in time. But how many folks look back? Some do for sure – especially those who are missing a special someone who isn’t with them for the holiday. But as a rule, we don’t necessarily think back with any specificity about what the last few weeks, months, or even years have looked like in our lives. We just do life – one day at a time. Each morning brings new opportunities.

Many of you know I work at a university – so my work life centers around academic calendars – the start and end of semesters, the work associated with beginnings and endings. Juggling new students, and students about to graduate. Its a perpetual cycle, but one that is also very predictable. I work from a calendar that reminds me of specific tasks needing to be done each week in order for the semester to continue to run smoothly. So when I threw the wrench of spinal surgery into my work life – it was kind of crazy. I was out of work for 4 weeks, and I spent most of the remaining 12 weeks of the semester trying to catch back up! I expect the spring semester to be back to a more normal feel – not constantly playing catch up.

As my last post explained, in my recovery from surgery, I was having some trouble with my SI joint, and so my therapist scaled back what I was doing to really focus on deep core strength, and supporting my spine with some very targeted work. I’m happy to say that the rest and focused work on stabilization worked like a charm. Of course, the KT tape probably helped too! My SI joint and therefore my pelvis has stayed nice and straight and stable. This is the foundation of our weight bearing structure, so when it is out of alignment, it messes with everything else. After nearly two weeks of really focusing on the deep core muscles, I can really pin point them and ensure they are engaged and working to support my spine. I am beginning to add back in more of the other work and exercises again – but slowly, and only after warming up with the core work first.

I’ve been keeping up with the nerve work too – neural flossing – to continue to keep those pathways clear. I don’t have the constant nerve pain like I did, but I need to stretch it regularly as I continue to heal. What we don’t want at this point is to have any scar tissue forming that the nerves can get hung up on. It might be time to schedule another couple of massages – one to focus on the surface adhesions and keeping the scar itself moving around, and another one to focus on the deep tissue tension as I gain strength, that I keep the neural paths open and moving. While it has been 4 months, there is still active healing and scar tissue forming (or hopefully not forming) – and so the timing is right for another couple of massages.

As the year wraps up, I can’t help but be grateful for all the prayers that have been offered on my behalf this year. For healing, for strength and for joy and prosperity. I’ve leaned heavy on my faith this year, and have been greatly blessed. My prayer for each of you this year is that you too are richly blessed and that you know the love of God in your heart. Merry Christmas, friends!