Girls are maturing earlier and earlier

Smiling little girl
Though I've known for quite some time that the ages for girls (as well as boys) to hit puberty have been getting younger and younger, I was actually shocked to read this today (hat tip for the link):

A new report by the Lawson Wilkins Pediatric Endocrine Society
(LWPES), a nationwide network of physicians headquartered in Stanford,
California, suggests that it is normal for white girls as young as 7
and black girls as young as 6 to start developing breasts. This
conclusion was based on a study of 17,000 girls between the ages of 3
and 12 conducted by the Pediatric Research in Office Settings (PROS)
network of 1,500 pediatricians nationwide.

"This study is significant because it gives us a marker for when
parents should be concerned about physical development that is truly
too early and may be a sign of a hormonal imbalance," says Paul
Boepple, M.D., associate professor of pediatric endocrinology at
Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and at Harvard Medical School.
"It also gives parents a heads-up that they need to talk about the
physical and emotional changes of puberty with kids possibly as young
as age 5."

Read entire article here.

When I read this, there are two words that stood out to me: normal (as in, it's considered normal by physicians) and may (as in, it may be a sign of hormonal imbalance). That a 7 year old girl going through puberty could be considered normal absolutely blows my mind, and I have to really struggle against sarcasm when I hear that maybe, just maybe it could be that something is off hormonally.

The scary thing is that this is an old study (1997), and I would bet money on it that the situation has not improved in the past ten years.

Allow me to state the obvious by saying it is just wrong for little girls to be going through puberty! Clearly, something has gone seriously awry and we need to really, truly consider what is going on here.

The article goes on to suggest that the culprit could be insecticides in food, which break down and cause estrogenic activity in these young girls (yup, sounds very logical to me). Another plausible suggestion is the epidemic of childhood obesity. They are finding that those girls that are overweight are going through puberty earlier than those who are thin, and this would also make sense to me as estrogen is stored in fat cells (thus, those with more fat cells would have a higher concentration of estrogen in their bodies).

I would also add to the pot that the hormone treatments being doled out to the chickens and cows that make their way into the grocery store and onto our plates have a role to play, as does the often hormone-laced dairy from cows that are being forced to produce so much extra milk that they burn out in a matter of years (it's exhausting, pumping out milk day after day, year after year- us nursing moms would know!).

So, what says you, dear readers? Are you concerned about this? Care to speculate on what you think might be the cause of it? Have concerns in this area caused you to rethink or alter the foods that you serve your children?

Introducing: Naturally Knocked Up

Whenever I come across a new blog with a concept that I just really love and think will serve my readers, I want to let you know about it. I've "known" (you know, through our blogs) Donielle for quite a while now through her other blog, Raising Peanuts. She began this second blog, Naturally Knocked Up just in the last couple of months and I was instantly sold on it. I asked Donielle if I could interview her to give you more of an idea of what she and her blog are all about!


1) What was the inspiration for your new blog, Naturally Knocked Up?

My
own infertility really has been the inspiration behind my blog. We
waited for our firstborn little boy (now 2) and waited even longer for
baby #2 (due in April!). Although, I guess you could say my babies have
been my true inspiration since my story does have a happy ending.
Everything I do now is for my family, and if I can write about just one
thing that helps another woman in her own struggles, to help her with
her own dreams of family, well…. that's the goal of this blog.

2) Who is your blog geared towards? What types of women do you hope to attract to it?
I
would like this blog to be geared not only towards those who have
struggled with infertility, but those who are thinking about starting a
family. It's also for woman who are interested in a more natural
approach when it comes to overall health and reproduction. Most of my
posts do show how nutrition effects fertility, but the overall message
I hope to convey is that a persons health depends solely on how we
nourish our bodies.

I honestly feel there is becoming an epidemic among young women who are
unable to conceive or carry a baby to term. I want women to know that
there is a way to correct infertility by treating the cause, not just
the symptoms.

3) What types of changes have you made in your own life, as a result of your studies and research in this area?
I
made the changes slowly over a period of a few months, but looking back
at what I ate prior to changing my diet, it does look quite drastic.
We've switched to raw goat milk, and I buy little to no processed foods
and make most everything from home including all my bread products and
even butter. I eat very little refined sugar and try and stick with
only natural sweeteners like honey. I have also banned low-fat products
from my home in place of full fat, nourishing ones.

I have also changed how I clean my home and do my laundry, using
only non toxic or homemade products. I use only natural products on my
face and skin, although I have a ways to go switching all the way to
all natural hygiene products. (I still haven't been able to give up my
shampoo and conditioner!) For me it's a constant slow change while
moving to a more natural life style.

4) Which changes do you think have made the biggest difference for you personally?
I
noticed the biggest changes in my health when I stopped buying
processed foods and consuming so much refined sugar. Within just a
couple months, I started to ovulate again (I have pcos and have an
issue with this), my migraines disappeared, and my eczema cleared up.

5) What most excites you about your blog?
I love the
fact that I've been able to meet so many women who have gone through
the same struggles I've gone through. And I love being able to share
what I've learned in hopes of helping someone else. I've put in hours
and hours researching nutrition and fertility and really wanted one
place where women could find the answers they may be looking for.

6) If you could share one thing about your own journey, what would it be?
The
one the I have had to learn (and relearn!) while going through
infertility, is that even above nutrition, above anything I can do, I
must give myself over to the Lords will. It's such a struggle for me to
try and take control of my own life, my own body, but I must remember
that it is not mine, it belongs to Him. I've had to humble myself at
His feet when I tried to take it back. I've had to learn to rely on the
Lord for comfort when things just didn't go my way, and when the
longing seemed to  strong. I've learned patience, when I wanted a baby
yesterday. And most of all, I've learned that God does always answer my prayers, sometimes it's just not how I expected.

7) What topics can we expect to read about over the next weeks and months?
I
plan on covering Nutrition (based on the Nourishing Traditions style,
as well as biblical nutrition), Natural Living (including many topics
that are considered green and eco-friendly), Recipes,Natural Family Planning, Simple changes to make for better health,
plenty of book reviews, Matters of the heart when it comes to
infertility, and different fertility boosters.

8) Anything else you'd like to share with us?
I truly think nutrition is key to a well functioning body. If any part
of our system is not working quite right, it's because we aren't eating
the things our body needs. Or eating too much of what it doesn't need!

That being said, I absolutely do not judge those who have chosen to
seek medical help or look down on them in any way. Just like with birth
control, we are all called by God differently. As long as we truly feel
God's leading, and not our own selfish nature, there can be many roads
to conception.

But, nutrition also helps substantially when going through
any particular treatment, which is why I would always stress nutrition
first. :-)

Attention Vancouverites- Baby Purity Conference!

Hey all you locals (local to me, that is)!

A dear friend passed on a newspaper article to me yesterday, about a great conference that's happening in Vancouver, BC at the end of this month, and I thought some of you may be interested.

Baby purity banner
 

It's called the Baby Purity Mother's Conference, and it's happening Saturday, Oct. 25 from 9am to 5pm. For more information on it and to buy tickets ($38 which includes a nice lunch), check out this link.

Here's a quote taken from the website:

Do you feel confused and overwhelmed by all the allergies in our
children, the debate between organic versus non-organic and the
frequent green living conversations?

As a mother, I certainly
have and thought it would be great if all this information could be
condensed to help mothers understand how these issues affect her
family. Hence, the reason for the Baby Purity Mother’s Conference. Come
to this one day event, have a great lunch in downtown Vancouver and
listen to experts discussing first foods for your baby, safe household
products and good nutrition for your entire family.

They have some great speakers, including a local Naturopath, as well as speakers from Healthy Child, Healthy World and Environmental Working Group. There will be booths with lots of different products to learn about, and also some Q&A sessions and panel discussions. I'm not sure exactly how in depth it will go, but I'm sure that I will learn something useful, and be encouraged in some of the things that I am doing for my family.

For anyone that plans on going, I will definitely be there and would love to connect with you at the conference! Please send me an email at keeperofthehome (at) canada (dot) com to tell me you'll be there!

Our trip to Arizona, Part 3

This is the last installment of our Arizona pics (Part 1 and 2 here)…

Day 6: Our last big day of sightseeing, we went back to the Sedona area to see some ancient ruins and heritage sites. First, though, we stopped in town for some gelato and to purchase fudge for a special someone.

Wall-drawings-vbarv1

Next, we made our way over to V-Bar-V, where we literally saw the writing on the wall (ancient petroglyphs and pictographs).

Dwellings-above-montezuma-well

Now we're over at Montezuma Well, which is a very large sinkhole (looks
like a small lake), that used to serve as a major water source for the
ancient peoples. See what looks like a little house with a door opening? These are stone dwellings, literally above the well.
If you could see the whole thing, you would be able to see that these
cliffs go straight down, more than 100 ft, right into the well. Can you
imagine living up there?

Kids-in-firehats

We encountered some very friendly fireman, who bestowed hats upon my children. Too fun!

Ryan-in-front-of-montezuma-castle

Ryan in front of Montezuma Castle, which literally is an ancient castle
built into the cliff walls. It is huge and amazing, to just stare up at
and imagine how they came up with building it. Why on earth do we have
this notion that people who lived long ago were less intelligent than
we are? This is some pretty fine engineering and building, if you ask
me, especially since it's mostly still standing 1000 years later.

Day 7: Our last day in the Flagstaff area, we pack up at the hostel,
and say goodbye to the lovely older couple we had become friends with
(he is an Anglican minister in England), with whom we had a wonderful dinner the night before.

Abbie-in-front-of-flowers-and-red-cliffs

Early in my motherhood, I once read "What is a picture of a beautiful autumn tree without a child standing under it?" It stuck with me and I've felt the same way as I look back on many of the photos I take during a vacation. My favorites always include my favorite people. This is taken with the backdrop of the red rocks near Sedona, at a national heritage site called Palatki, which has ancient pueblo ruins.

House-ruin-at-pontoki

Just inside the entrance of the ruins, at the base of the red cliffs.

Ryan-and-kids-in-pontoli-ruins

The largest room in the ruins. Doesn't Caden look thrilled to be there? :)

At this point, we had planned on visiting a little artsy town called Jerome up in the hills, but we ran out of time and out of steam. We hit road work and had a bit of a time crunch, and so we decided to just head straight down to Scottsdale, where we had a dinner date with the recipient of the fudge…

Me-and-lylah

My delightful friend, Lylah and her wonderful husband, Michael. Lylah and I had never met, but had connected through our blogs about a year ago. It was so kind of them to invite us over, and especially after a week of making simple food in the hostel, the feast that Lylah spoiled us with was absolutely incredible!

Us-with-lylah-and-michael

We had such a good time of fellowship and had endless interesting things to talk about. What a blessing! Straight after, we drove to the Crowne Plaza, the deal of a hotel I scored on Priceline.com. What luxury, after a hostel!

Day 8: We took it very easy. We had been planning to see Phoenix a bit, but we were just worn out and even I (the one who always wants to see, see, see) was a bit done. We slept in, lounged around in our hotel room, bought breakfast from a local Target (because it turned out the continental breakfast here was incredible… if you want to pay $13 each!), and then went swimming at the hotel pool. In the afternoon, we found a cheap theatre and went out to see a movie.

Steph-eats-baja-fresh

We finished off with dinner at my absolute favorite restaurant in the USA- Baja Fresh! I just love Mexican food (authentic or not), and their food is soooo much better than any other fast-food style restaurant, and their salsa bar is just the best. Mmmm…

Day 9: After packing up at the hotel, we headed into one of the downtown areas of Phoenix (by accident), as our GPS led us to the nearest Baja Fresh (again) for our last lunch (isn't my hubby sweet?). We realized how much time we had to kill, so we drove around to look for a park or something, and stumbled upon a large Mexican market. We ate in the car, then walked around inside for an hour. I wish our camera hadn't been packed, as it was such a fun experience! We even saw a cow's head (seriously, an entire one, without the skin, but with the eyes) in the deli section. We passed on that one, and ate a Churro instead.

And then, we flew back to Seattle, and arrived on a cool, drizzly night. Good-bye Arizona sunshine and heat, hello Seattle grey and rain (and then we went North, on up to Vancouver grey and rain)!

As I'm sure you've gathered, we had a wonderful time. We were able to spend so much time bonding as a family and just enjoying one another, and Arizona was such a great place to visit. God blessed us with many sweet times of fellowship and refreshment, with each other, with friends we met along the way, while visiting a church, etc. We're so grateful that we were able to go on this vacation, and as with any good vacation, we were so glad to be home sweet home once again!

A sign of what’s to come?

So, I walked into my dining room last Thursday to discover this:

Caden-table1

Yes, that is my darling 16 month old son, who made his way up onto the table all by himself. He climbed up one of the chairs, right up onto the table and I discovered him standing up on it, but he got back down when he saw me. He was having a grand old time. Just like the time he attempted to climb up these shelves when he was 12 mths old.

Caden-table2

This little man is turning out to be quite the climber, far more than his sister ever was. It makes me think of the time that his Daddy, at 5 years old, did a Winnie-the-Pooh and climbed up a very tall tree with a fistful of balloons on strings, hoping to make his way down with his balloon "parachute". Instead, he ended up with a broken arm when the balloons got tangled 1/3 of the way up.

Caden-table3

Tell me, all you mothers of boys, is this just a sign of things to come? Should I prepare myself now? What other kinds of adventurousness do I have to look forward to?

Living Simply Saturdays: Keeping the toy mess in check

Lss-graphic-small
Lately it seems that no matter how clean the family room is when the day begins, by approximately 10:07am it has become a pig-sty.

It's not that we don't try to get it cleaned up often, but my biggest challenge is with a very creative 3 (almost 4) year old girl. She loves, loves, loves to do all sorts of imaginative play. She can turn anything into an instant tea party, a kitchen, a zoo, or a bedroom for her dollies and soon all of the precious things that have made their way into her creative play end up strewn all over the house.

I know what the major problem is. I do not have her cleaning up one activity entirely before allowing her to move on to the next. As a result, it doesn't take too many activities before the room is trashed and what could have been a 2 minute cleanup has now become a 20 minute ordeal.

When she was young, before Caden was born, I had all of her toys neatly organized in labeled ziploc bags. The bags belonged in two wooden baskets, which belonged on the bottom of a wooden bookshelf in our little condo. It was all so tidy and orderly. She was given one bag at a time, and when that one was cleaned up, she could have a new one. Ahh… I thought it was so easy back then. Before she could reach it all herself, open everything without asking for help, and come up with the idea to combine 5 different sets of toys into one grandiose imaginative play idea.

I'll admit, I gave her too much slack. I was so enthralled, watching her creativity develop that I began to regulate her toy use less, and just let her mix and match and make a big mess, as she developed these wonderful skills. Overall, I don't think it was a terrible thing. I think it's important for children to be able to play freely at different times during the day, and to have a variety of playthings (be they "real" toys, or other household objects that they are allowed to use for make-believe).

The concept of simplicity had to come into the picture for me, though, for two basic reasons. One, the family room (which is also our school room, the place I do my computer work, and also where we store many books and toys) was continually a mess, and it was becoming so difficult to stay focused on a task, because I was distracted by the clutter. Two, she is still young enough that although she is capable of cleaning small messes and helping to clean larger ones with direction from an adult, she was not capable of cleaning up the entire mess on her own and this would immobilize her and ultimately frustrate us both.

The solution?

Family-room-shelves

We received these great shelves a few months back, and they have definitely helped us to store and organize the kids toys to a larger degree. What I did yesterday, though, was a bit of tactic organization.

I moved all of the bins with lots of different pieces and components up to the two top shelves, which she cannot reach (and won't be able to for years). On the bottom shelf, I placed a few things that both children could access on their own (a few simple baby toys on the left, and some dolls and doll accessories on the right). Abbie and I discussed it, and she now understands that if she wishes to play with something in one of the upper bins that is perfectly fine, but she will need to ask me to get it down, and there will be no more bins coming down until the first one has been cleaned up and put back.

This serves a few purposes. Cleanup will be quicker and simpler for her, and I can retrain her to do it by herself, with less direction from me. Both children can still access some toys without my help, but they cannot make too much of a mess with these few simpler toys. Since we will not have half of the toys spread all over the room at any given time, I think that the kids will grow to appreciate the toys more, and really play with what they are using, instead of getting bored after a few minutes and moving on to the next item.

Problem solved. I hope. I'll let you know how it goes!

How have you simplified the use of toys and playthings in your house? What types of organization have worked to keep down the clutter and help your children make good use of what they have?

(On a quick side note- beginning next week, I'm going to start working my way through the book From Clutter to Clarity: Simplifying Life from the Inside Out, just addressing a chapter or aspect of the book each week. This is something that I'm mostly doing for myself, because I have so enjoyed reading the book and have found it so helpful that I want to really make an effort to put the things I am learning into practice. If you have the book, or are interested in it, I'd love to have you join me and follow along, letting me know how you are implementing these ideas into your life!)

___________________________________________________________________________________

Living Simply Saturdays
are an opportunity to share what is bringing more simplicity and
purposefulness to your own life, and to glean from the lives of others.

To join in, post your contribution on your blog, then come back
here and add your link below. Please make sure that you link to the
specific post, and not to the homepage of your blog, and make sure that
you include in your post a link back to this post. Thanks so much!

If you don't have a blog, I welcome your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section!

A very full freezer, indeed

When I came home from my favorite natural meat store earlier this week, I was rather surprised to discover this as I struggled to put away the items I had bought:

Full-big-freezer

It's nearly full!

I know that I've been working hard to fill it all summer (mostly with fruit and some frozen garden veggies), plus there's the beef that we bought with some extra money in the spring, and I just added a bit of chicken and turkey to it to last us the next month or two. I probably shouldn't have been surprised, but I was.

Preserving so much food this summer has been a lot of work. More than any other summer, ever. There have been many days when I have wondered whether it was worth it, and this week was no exception as I canned 4 out of 7 days (I'll show a photo soon), not to mention freezing and dehydrating. Even though October has arrived, I know I'm not done yet. There's still many more tomatoes (I've only just had enough ripen for a first batch of canning), plenty of pumpkins, some more pickles, the rest of a large box of apples sitting in my dining room, as well as fall garden vegetables to either freeze, can or put in cold storage (peas, spinach, carrots, turnips, etc.).

I'll confess- when I first realized how full the freezer was, and that I had some major reorganizing work to do, I was tempted for a moment to grumble. I was already tired of all that I had done this week, and spending possibly hours reorganizing this freezer (plus the upstairs fridge one) didn't really sound all that appealing to me. Then these words that I had read earlier this week at Tammy's came back to me, as she reflected on a night of "surprise" canning when a neighbor gave a box of unexpected tomatoes:

One of the things I learned from my parents' example was not to
waste. When God said that He would provide all of our needs, He didn't
say that it would be done in the way we wanted, at the time that we

wanted. Being willing to work hard and sacrifice leisure time in order
to accept His blessings is something I still work on being disciplined
about.

Did I need the extra tomatoes right now? No, I didn't. But what if
next year's need was being supplied right now — and I refused it? How
can we throw away food today and yet expect tomorrow's needs to be
supplied?

The hard work this summer to garden and glean and pick berries and freeze fruit and can jam and all that other stuff has been worth it. We are now going into the winter with a well stocked freezer and pantry, and what better time could this come at? With the economic turmoil going on and food prices continually on the rise, how glad I am that I've spent so much time this spring and summer putting food away.

Going back to Tammy's quote, what I recognized in the split second after I considered grumbling was that we are so incredibly blessed. God has been very, very good to us and has provided for our needs so richly this year, as He has always done in the past. Sometimes it takes a lot of hard work and sacrifice, but that doesn't make it any less from His hand. I'm so grateful that He has given me the opportunity to ensure that I have plenty of nourishing foods to feed my family, as well as to use for hospitality to others.

How has God blessed your family and shown His provision to you? Have you also spent time this summer preserving foods while they were cheap and available (or perhaps from your own garden)? And any tips for me on organizing a very full freezer?

Three cheers for my produce market!

Veggies-from-2-ee's

If you don't already think that I'm strange, you may very well think so now: I just love shopping for produce! I actually get excited about getting to go and do it!

Not just anywhere, though. I love shopping for produce at my local market (2 EE's, for those who live near me), and especially in the fall during harvest time. Today, I visited my beloved market for the first time in about 5 weeks (prior to our 2 week vacation, I hadn't gone for a while to try to use up what I had and make good use of my own garden produce).

I must have been looking around at the fruits and vegetables admiringly, because one of the employees asked me what I thought of it with a smile on his face, and I said enthusiastically, "Everything looks just amazing!" because it really did.

Perhaps it's because it's the end of the Indian summer we've been enjoying, and all the local produce is out in full force. Perhaps it's that there is no where else around here where I can get organic and unsprayed and local produce for such reasonable prices. Perhaps it's that learning to garden and to buy more seasonally has really opened my eyes to the marvelous variety that's out there, and taught me to fully enjoy the changing seasons and the harvest that accompanies them.

I believe that the only things I purchased today that were not local and seasonal were a few avacados and a bag of lemons. Other than that, the aisles and bins were bursting forth with broccoli, cabbages, corn, peppers, kale, potatoes, herbs, plums, pears, grapes and squash, and multiple varieties of each at that. They were fresh, vibrant and gorgeous, and so full of nutrients and amazing flavor that I could practically taste them. Not only does this type of produce rarely make it's way into a grocery store, but even if it does you'll pay far more than you should for it.

I left almost giddy, as I made away like a bandit with all that you see in the picture (most of it organic or unsprayed, and there's more food than it looks like in the photo), for a mere $33.

Can I just say, once more for the record (scratch that- I know that I'll keep on saying it again and again), seek out a produce market near you! Find a local farmer! Search for a farmer's market (or here for Canadians), or a CSA program or a Food Coop, or any other source of local, seasonal produce you can get your hands on! You will not regret it!

Do you use a Produce or Farmer's Market? Where you do find the best quality produce for the best prices? Am I the only one who gets excited about buying fruits and vegetables? :)

Our trip to Arizona, Part 2

Continuing on from Part 1

Day 4: We woke up bright and early, ready to hit the Grand Canyon! We drove up to Tusayan first, where we watched the Imax movie on the Grand Canyon, which is highly overrated and not worth the money (in our opinion). Oh well, on to the real thing.

Broad-shot-gc

One minute you're just walking through the forest, the next minute the trees clear and suddenly… bam! You're staring at this. It's incredible. I think we spent the first full two minutes just staring and saying "wow".

Me-with-kids-in-stroller-gc

This is where we ate lunch. Talk about a picnic site!

Me-at-grandview-point

This was my one and only chance to creep just a little ways down into the Canyon's interior. With young children, it just wasn't feasible to do any hiking, mule rides, etc. When we visited this spot, called Grand Viewpoint, the kids were sleeping in the car, so Ry and I took turns walking down a path for a few minutes before coming back up.

Ry-and-abbie-gc

Ry-and-i-sitting-at-gc 

After walking for an hour in the very hot sun, pushing two tired and somewhat cranky children, we decided that walking just wasn't the way for us to see the canyon. Instead, we hopped back in the car, and took a scenic drive along the Southeastern edge. The kids slept in the car, and we stopped at about 8 or 9 viewpoints, where we could just hop out of the car and take photos while they continued to sleep. This was also great because we could see more varying views of the canyon than we could at the slow pace of walking. What had started to become a grumpy day suddenly became a whole lot of fun!
 

Tusayan-ruins

A brief break to see the Tusayan ruins, ancient pueblo houses from about 1000 years ago.

Our-family-over-painted-dessert

At the Eastern most edge of the canyon, we went up a tower at Desert View. In the distance behind us is the Painted Desert, and the Navajo nation, which we didn't manage to visit.

Open-land

Is the world really overpopulated? Try driving through Northern Arizona, and you'll see just how quickly that myth evaporates, as you drive for hours and see nothing… seriously, nothing. 

Day 5: Sunday morning, so we found a small congregation to join for a service, and were blessed to be invited to stay and enjoy lunch and fellowship with them.

Abbie-in-wind-at-lava-flows 

After lunch, we headed out to Sunset Crater National Park, which is the site of a huge volcanic eruption that took place around 1000 AD. Abbie says it's windy, as I try to catch a few good shots of the crazy landscape, still marred by the lava flows 1000 years later. It takes hundreds of years for life to begin to exist again, on top of and through the thick lava.

Lava-flows-with-some-trees-in-them

Some areas were smooth, almost like pavement as in the picture above, while others were completely rough and jagged, such as this area. Trees and bushes are beginning to grow in some of the cracks now.

Sunset-crater 

Sunset Crater itself, named for it's orangey-reddish peak (more evident when you see it from far off). 

All-the-earth-worships-thee 

A sign up at Desert View tower. In the midst of all the beauty and wonders of creation that we saw (and I'm not quite through with showing you- one more post!), I could not say it any better than this.

Living with PCOS: Guarding our Hearts

Gate
I began this post with every intention of carrying on where I left off last time- beginning to discuss nutrition more specifically, and then moving on to helpful supplements and natural remedies. It just didn't feel right, though, and I felt that there was a more pressing issue to be examined first.

Our hearts.

You see, fertility (or rather infertility) is a deeply emotional issue, and it sadly affects most women with PCOS to at least some degree. It touches right to the core of who we are as women, to the dreams we held as little girls, to our desire to have a large family or to have children close in age, as well as to our sense of self-worth, our contentment, our joy, and our trust in God.

All too often, those very legitimate hopes and dreams we hold in our hearts can be given too much free reign, and what starts out as a desire for something very good quickly turns into something ugly. We covet and envy. We resent others. We become angry. We withdraw. We cease trusting God and make a desperate attempt to control those things that we cannot control. We grow disillusioned. We give up hope. We judge others, and ultimately, we charge God with the unfairness of it all.

I can make these statements knowingly because they are very familiar to me. I spent a year battling this sin in my life (and even still I must often fight it, sometimes weekly, sometimes hourly), before I began to learn to surrender my own plans and chose to trust God, not because life will be perfect or the way that I want it to be, but because He is good, no matter what.

I recently spoke to a friend who is walking through her own very difficult journey of infertility right now, and was so blessed as she recounted a discussion she had recently had with her husband. I wish I could remember the poignant way that she expressed it, but the gist of it was that as they pondered the ongoing infertility and the process they had begun to pursue adoption, he reminded her that there is nothing God does that is not good, and she was struck by the realization that even in their current circumstances, that fact was still completely true.

He doesn't stop being good because life isn't turning out just the way that we think it ought to. He is good by His very nature, and regardless of whether we understand it or accept it, all things that He sovereignly allows are right and just and yes, even good. Even when they don't feel good. Even when they downright hurt. Even when our hearts ache, and we are filled with disappointment and longing and sadness.

Though I am in a somewhat different place now than I was while trying to conceive our son, there are still many days when my heart struggles with these things. It hurts to be asked whether we want another baby or when we will start trying again. It is difficult to think of how long it may take before I am able to conceive again, or of the possibility that I even may not. It can be hard to watch other's families growing quickly, or to see those who accidentally become pregnant, and keep my strong desires tucked away in my heart.

Unlike last time, I have chosen to keep my "trying to conceive" efforts to more of a minimum this time around. I keep holding off on charting my cycles, a practice which was incredibly useful and yet also enabled me to play so many mind games and become obsessive. Though I'm taking a few supplements, I haven't gone all out in looking for other options that might help me more. Though I continue to pursue eating well and staying healthy overall, I haven't allowed myself to spend time researching specific nutrients or foods that may be of greater benefit to me. None of these things would be wrong, in and of themselves (in fact, they could be very good and useful things to do), but if they encourage me to hold too tightly to these hopes and turn them into idols of the heart, then I need to do away with them until I am in a better place.

At this point in time, my heart is most able to stay at peace and trusting in my Savior by keeping my fertility held loosely in an open hand. The less that I run after methods and techniques and things that I have "control" over, the more that I am able to keep my mind stayed on Him and focus on the blessings and priorities that are in my life during this season. For me, right now, less is more as I live with PCOS and rest in the goodness of my God.

If you're struggling with these types of heart issues, here are a few suggestions that may serve you:

  • Take a hiatus from "trying", whether it's to stop charting, stop studying, stop agonizing over when to try, stop talking about it, etc.
  • Talk to someone you trust about the things that you're struggling with- perhaps a pastor's wife, a close friend, a mother or aunt or sister. Seek out someone who will encourage you to cultivate a more positive, trusting attitude, rather than support you in your sin (you know what I mean- those who will agree with you, "I can't believe she was so insensitive to talk about her pregnancy in front of you", or "You deserve to have a baby, and I don't blame you for feeling the way that you do"- this isn't what you need!)
  • Serve someone else. There's nothing like looking for ways to serve and bless someone else in need to help you take your eyes off of yourself and your situation.
  • Confess your struggles. The Lord already knows how you are feeling, and He promises to take our burdens (Matt 11:28-30), care for our anxieties (1 Peter 5:7) and give us strength to stand up under temptation (1 Cor 10:13). Try memorizing verses that will help you keep a proper focus, and put them in prominent places where you will see them often.
  • Read Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts by Jerry Bridges. This book was given to me during the summer when I was most struggling with this issue, and God really used it in helping to change my perspective and my heart attitudes, as well as my concept of His sovereignty.
  • Refocus yourself- Pray and ask what else God may have for you to focus on during this season. Sometimes I think it is right under our noses, and we become so caught up with ourselves and what we want, that we can't see anything else that's going on in our lives. Spending time prayerfully examining the needs of our family or others around us, as well as our goals and priorities (perhaps on a personal retreat) can help to remove the blinders from our eyes and give us new clarity.

For those of you with PCOS or who have also struggled with infertility, how have you handled the heart issues that go along with it? What is/was most helpful and encouraging for you? Thanks for sharing!