Fertile Thoughts for New Year's
Sometimes I get asked how I can think of things to write five days a week, day in and day out, for over four years. Sometimes I wonder too.
There’s a group that has been contributing regularly lately. Our RMACT Ladies Night In, Online Facebook page. Whew, say that one three times fast.
A fabulous group of women, who support each other, make each other laugh, cry and everything in between. Carrie Van Steen and I are both honored to be part of this group. When something strikes my fancy as helpful to you, my wonderful readers, I ask for permission to share it.
Here’s a great one, used with permission, verbatim. The only thing I left off was her name. I use the word struggle a lot when it comes to understanding infertility and fertility treatment. I love her take on it, which is that she is no longer struggling. She is ok.
Ok is great. OK is especially great when you have not gotten what you were hoping for in 2013. Dealing is a lot better than struggling. Recognizing that feelings are impermanent and not a state of being, bingo. I have a lot to learn from this wonderful writer.
Read her post to her friends on our Facebook page. Some she knows in person, some she only knows online; with both groups, she connects with her heart.
Happy New Year Ladies! I can't help but think of myself last New Year's Eve - as I think I have shared before, I drank too much chardonnay and then tearfully bared my soul to a busybody friend of the in-laws. I never would have thought then that I would still be struggling with infertility another New Year's Eve. But, you know what? "Struggling" is the wrong word. Back then, I thought I wouldn't be ok until I got pregnant, but here I am - a year later and I've still not gotten pregnant, but I am ok! Sometimes I'm sad, frustrated, disappointed, devastated, angry etc., etc. but I am ok, I'm functioning. I'm DEALING with my infertility instead of struggling with it. This has a tremendous amount to do with the support I have found amongst you ladies. Thank you all so much and thank you to Carrie Van Steen and Lisa Rosenthal for creating this network of support for us. Happy New Year to all of you and may 2014 bring... well, let it bring what it intends on bringing and let us all have the strength to deal with it- whatever it is!
If you are patient at RMACT and interested in becoming a member of this loving and fun group, please email me at FertileYoga@gmail.com. I'll be glad to add you on.
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Infertility Support through Private Facebook Group
Here at RMACT, we have a private group through our Facebook page where patients can speak freely and support one another. It's a very intimate group of friends, some of whom have never met except for online. They speak from their hearts and it resonates for others, including me. It also normalizes some of the feelings that feel so BAD, that we feel such shame about. I am using a post (with permission, of course) from our group below.
Might you recognize yourself? I know that I did.
"I was talking to a friend about a mutual friend who had undergone hip surgery and how, after being in pain for so long before, during, and after the surgery, she became a sad moody person to be around. My friend said I had become a little like that (not in a mean way, she knows what I've been going through). It's made me realize that, even though I don't have the physical pain that our friend has, I have emotional pain with me all the time. And when anyone asks "how are you?" I hear, "how's your infertility going?" and regardless if I speak directly about infertility or not, my answer is always sad or negative. I've become a sad moody person because I've let my infertility define me. And I really f'ing hate it. I know I can't make the infertility go away, but my (early!) new year's resolution is to find the good, positive things in my life (of which I know I have many), and make those define me too."
Sometimes it's hard to tell when someone is being honest, you wonder, is this just polite? You can absolutely tell from above, the deep down honesty being expressed there. Wasn't it honest and kind of her friend to reflect that back to her? And brave!
Our fertile friends often step on our toes. They say insensitive things. They ask questions that feel invasive and over-personal. They don't say anything at all. They ask no questions at all. Truly, they do everything wrong.
Since that's really not possible, that they do and say everything wrong, it makes me wonder how we take things in. How incredibly hypersensitive we are. How the constant emotional pain makes us vulnerable and easily hurt.
How Does Infertility Define You?
What responsibility do we have here? Are you strong enough to ask that question? Do you decide, to a certain extent, how much infertility defines you?
I applaud these two friends for their courage. I have friends like that. So thankful for the friend who will tell me the truth, in a loving and kind way.
I applaud the writer of this post for sharing it here as well. She knows that it might make someone out there feel comforted that they are not the only ones to be affected by infertility and fertility treatment in this way.
She wants you to know, just as I do, just as all the team members at RMACT do, that you are not alone on this path.
If you are a RMACT patient and would like to join this group, please email me at FertileYoga@gmail.com. I would be glad to add you to this private group of friends.
Wishing you a weekend full of love and peace.
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New Facebook Game Not Funny
A new Facebook game is really, really getting under my skin.
Someone I know who is 46 posted that she was pregnant.
Her life and family history is none of my business so I’m not sharing it here.
I don’t even know how many responses she has gotten to the post.
Photo: jaycameron, Flickr Creative Commons
I do know that there was a decent amount of back and forth, including her giving some details about her ongoing pregnancy. Leading us down the garden path, I fell into it and congratulated her and wished her a happy and a healthy pregnancy. I thought she was happy about it and I was happy for her.
It turns out she is not pregnant. It’s a Facebook game to see how many people are REALLY reading your posts.
OK. I read it.
Not a fun game.
Fake Pregnancy - My Feedback
Here was my response to her about her fake pregnancy post:
"I'm going to speak out for the community that I work with, those struggling with understanding infertility. They hate Facebook because of all the images of pregnancies and ultrasounds and birth announcements. It hurts them because they are trying so hard and wanting it so badly. And I'm sure there are folks out there that will think I am over reacting. That's ok. I'm going to stick up for my women who want a baby so badly and it's not happening. This is not a fun game for them. It's hurtful. And what I know of you is that you are not a hurtful person. But I guarantee that this game is hurting people."
There are folks who love my response. There are folks out there who hate my response. And there are lots of in between reactions as well. Many comments on over reacting, being over protective, restricting freedom of speech.
Hmm . . .
Takes me back to running Resolve of NYC educational symposiums. There, the debate raged. If one of our volunteers got pregnant, should she or shouldn’t she come to the symposium and work? There were two basic sides; there still are. One, that us infertile folks could have a day and a place where they didn’t have to deal with other’s pregnancies. Two, that pregnancies gave people hope and that shielding them from the realities of other’s pregnancies was unrealistic and even paternalistic.
I’ve always come down on the side of protection. That’s why the Facebook “game,” of announcing your fake pregnancy, did not sit well with me. (I don’t even know how or why it’s a game. I’m going to say it again, I think it’s stupid.)
Some of what I heard back was that anything you post will offend someone. Be optimistic and you offend the pessimists. And vice versa. I get that.
I do get that.
Maybe I am oversensitive and overprotective. Maybe, though, I help make up for those who are under sensitive and under protective.
Pain is pain. And to me, a joke is not funny when it’s hurtful. The pain of a joke, though, also depends on the person hearing it. Maybe some people will find the fake pregnancy game funny or at least fun.
What I know is that in the community with whom I’m so closely associated with, the group of men and women whom I love so dearly and respect so deeply, there is a very good chance that they will be hurt/disappointed/shocked/upset and more by this game.
Infertility Support & Advocacy
A dear friend on FB wrote this about my comment:
“I so want you on my side if ever I need an advocate. You are a strong, calm force.”
I don’t know about calm force. But I do believe that I’m a strong force. And yes, I do believe you would want me on your side if you needed support. Although I do not believe in taking sides a lot because it’s alienating and isolating and it separates us, not unites us, I make exceptions sometimes.
In this case, I make an exception.
I do not now, nor have I in the past, nor will I in the future, support games that create pain for men and women trying with everything they’ve got to create their families.
Please take me off that invitation list.
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Ok, so it's not really a medical piece today. I'm off a day. Tomorrow a medical piece, an update from ASRM! Today, Facebook.
Facebook is a wonderful way to re-connect with friends, colleagues, and even interesting acquaintances from the past.
Great way also to connect professionally or network on a grass roots level. I admit to spending more time than I should on face
book, especially late at night.
I personally would appreciate not hearing about some of the minutia in other people’s lives, but that’s just me and if I’m bored or uninterested, I just stop reading. Even when I choose that option however, it pops up in front of me and I see it.
Here’s what I see, often. Birth announcements, baby pictures, pregnancy stories, updates on children. Normal everyday stuff. Nothing unexpected, just the information that we pass around in our daily lives.
Wonder if anyone knows how those things pierce the heart of those of us in the midst of still trying to have our children?( I actually think yes, that many of our friends and families are more sensitive than we realize, but that’s another blog.) In case anyone out there didn’t
realize the far reaching effects of infertility, facebook is just another example of the spidery tentacles infertility has.
Here’s a truth. It’s impossible to avoid the pregnant bellies, even as it is impossible to ignore the pregnant silences when you say that you don’t have children. If you are married or in a committed relationship of more than, let’s say, a year, you know what I mean. And aren’t we lucky when they are simply pregnant silences and not invasive, insensitive and downright stupid nosey questions? (Yes, I am in a bit of a mood today.)
Coming back to facebook. What to do, what to do. It’s part of the reason that facebook exists and is so popular. It’s an easy, fast, inexpensive way to share information and pictures. (The pictures are the worst, aren’t they?) So what to do? Grin and bear it? Unfriend every single person that has children or might? Resign yourself that you may see news that will send you into a tailspin? Never go on facebook again?
Like every single other aspect of our lives, infertility affects our choices. And if you are waiting for an answer from me, sorry, I can only answer for myself. I picked and chose what events I went to, what announcements I responded. It’s when I first started practicing yoga, having nothing to do with downward facing dog or a yoga mat. It’s when I started to become present in the moment to how I felt and attempted to find balance between heart and mind. Completely heart led is unrealistic and often makes life feel even more like a roller coaster than it has to. Completely mind led and you run the risk of stuffing those feelings so deeply that they will come out in other, less appropriate, less understandable ways.
So, to facebook or not to facebook? That’s not THE question. But it is a question. Help each other out here with some suggestions. What you do may help someone else out who is unsure what to do. By the way, what I do is block some of the most likely culprits, only go on when I am prepared to see information that may upset me and make sure that my friends know I would rather hear certain type of news directly from them, rather than on the internet.
Some mornings I start off by checking in with facebook. I check in to see who’s doing what, what’s going on with the infertility world and experts. Make sure there’s nothing that I am missing that is important. I check in to hear about my friends. My “real” friends, the one’s that I know up close and personal. The friends that I know only through other friends, the ones that I know professionally, the ones that I have “met” because we have interests in common.
And a growing number of friends that I have reconnected to after many years, decades even. I check in on them too.
This morning I read about kisses and it brought tears to my eyes. It was a private essay so I won’t share it here except to say that it affected me and will reverberate through my day, with my actions. I read about births and deaths, joys and sorrows. I read that there were many people who woke up feeling fresh and wonderful this morning and quite a few who felt that it was impossible that Monday was here again.
I don’t post my status very often. Most often my status is my blog, what I write to you. Most often it is about infertility, sometimes very directly and sometimes not. Always it is about life. I don’t share that often about my feelings, my day, what I am doing or what my plans are. There is a piece of me that feels a little shy about that, not all that sure that everyone is interested or needs to know.
Yet it’s what I find interesting and most often comment on. How someone is feeling. What they are doing. What their plans are. These are the things that really catch my attention and make that person come alive to me.
Very often in Fertile Yoga, especially in the peer support groups, we share about our infertility treatment. Where we are in our fertility cycles, how the blood work is going, giving ourselves injections, when and what the next procedure is. Miraculous to me that we share these things with each other. The details, the overview, all of it. And we share the feelings, absolutely. We may not post it on our status on facebook, but still we share. And it is in the details that our personalities shine through. What are the little things that make us care, that make us unique. Why we pick this and not that. Fascinating, really, to listen to another person. To hear what their experiences are, what has shaped their lives to make them who they are.
Support groups, professionally or peer led offers you insight into others that allow you a mirror to see yourself as well. As always, I am most grateful to those who come and share on Saturdays with me.
I love facebook. It's a way to stay in touch with friends, absolutely. I prefer to see or speak to my friends, face to face, when possible, though. What I really love about facebook is the ability to read what top experts in the field of infertility have to say; people that I am lucky enough to know, some in person, some in virtual space only.
The adoption debacle that occurred just a few weeks ago was almost overwhelming to try to untangle. Certainly there were plenty of voices condemning the parent of the child who was sent back to Russia. Certainly, there were many reasons to feel that this was simply an awful parent, choosing a simply awful way out of a situation that most of us would absolutely never have chosen, regardless of what the problems were. And I get that. Yet, this parent didn't seem completely insane, just completely overwhelmed, beyond completely overwhelmed.
This is the long version of why I love facebook. I know. Here's the point. I popped on and saw Patricia Irwin Johnston's post. Pat is one of the leading advocates for adoption in the field for decades. Truly a giant. Founder and long time publisher of Perspectives Press, one of my favorite book publishers. A fair minded, strong opinioned adoption and infertility advocate. And here's what she had to say:
This is one of the most practical, well-researched and least emotionally-tainted articles I've seen coming out of the Artem case. But of course the author is a teacher of investigative journalism. Major points for parents: adopt from a Hague signatory country, don't practice denial about the info your agency gives you, and ask for help!
(I very much appreciated her pointing out "least emotionally-tainted", a point to be noticed.)
The article that she was referring to was written E.J. Graff on April 17 for the Boston Globe. Here are some of the highlights of the article:
- Russia should ratify and implement the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption. Enactment would require Russia to offer a fuller social history for each child available for adoption, which might help US agencies place children with the most appropriate families.
- The United States should require fuller post-adoption services and training when parents adopt children older than age one - for all adoptions, even those not governed by the Hague Convention.
- And yet it's not clear that either would have helped Hansen's son. Hansen's was an exceptional response from an overwhelmed parent who should have, and apparently didn't, reach out for help.
- Russian and other eastern European orphanages hold children with some very severe problems, more severe than some Americans who want to adopt can imagine.
- Impersonal institutions can leave serious damage. And, experts say, if this boy had reactive attachment disorder, the intimacy that comes with a new family might have set it off.
- Given its reputation, the adoption agency probably told Hansen all this in advance. But sources say that many prospective parents aren't open to hearing it. They're so excited that they don't fully absorb what they're taught in pre-adoption trainings; in their hearts, some believe that love will solve all.
- But the biggest lesson is too personal to be written into policy. Everyone needs help sometimes - most certainly, exhausted and terrified parents who have adopted traumatized children. Asking for help is no shame.
- Russia is threatening to make adoption policy based on this outlier. If it does indeed close, thousands of institutionalized children who desperately need homes may end up stranded and without hope. That would be a deeper tragedy.
(E.J. Graff is associate director and senior researcher at Brandeis University's Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism.)
I agree with Pat. This is the first article that I have seen written on the subject that truly tries to understand the issues at hand, in a fair, dispassionate way. It's too easy to simply vilify the parent or the agency or one or both countries involved. Everyone involved needs to take more responsibility to prevent this type of tragedy from occurring again.