Infertility, Poison Ivy and What We Wear On Our Outside
Did you ever have one of those days?
For instance, you have a really important business meeting. With someone you want to impress. With someone where you would really like to put your best foot forward.
You wake up in the morning (having picked out a great outfit the night before), and there it is. Poison ivy all over your face. Itchy. Ugly. Blotchy. Undeniable and right out there in the open.
There is no hiding it.
Yeah, one of those days.
And yet, I still compare a day like that to a day in fertility treatment where I sat waiting for test results.
Where wearing my heart on my sleeve was not wearing poison ivy on my face.
Sitting in my classroom, full of enthusiastic, noisy and wonderful first graders, wondering if I would ever have the joy of picking up my own after school. Full of messy hands and a lovingly painted picture just for me.
The Effects of Infertility
Those days, my insides were not stamped on my face. My infertility didn’t affect my way of walking or speaking. I didn’t have a splint or a cast and I didn’t need to use a wheel chair. If I put on a bright enough, shiny enough face, no one would ever guess what I was going through. There would not have to be any explanations for my hurt because it was so deep inside.
My mask some days was much more intact than others. There were days where an innocent enough question would reach deep inside and twist what was already hurting. I would smile and do my best to not let it show through my smile.
I wonder now, sitting here, with poison ivy all over my face. Uncomfortable to feel, uncomfortable to look through and surely uncomfortable to look at, how it would have been to go through infertility with it stamped all over my face.
I wonder how the lack of privacy would have affected me. I wonder about the comfort that was often not available precisely because my troubles were not visible and I chose not to share; I wonder if I had made a different choice, how my life might have been.
I wonder about being stared at today. For just one day. I wonder what it would be like if I had to endure that as well with infertility. The looks of pity or disgust or compassion. I wonder if I had to live my life with my hurts marked all over my face.
What if every time I felt disappointment, that word magically appeared on my forehead? What if it faded to say relief? Then morphed into quiet joy?
What if we were open books and what we were going through was plain for all to see because it was all over our faces?
For today, my infirmity and discomfort is there. Some will ignore it. Some will stare. Some will offer unsolicited advice. Some will turn away.
Sending love out to my friends and family who have always just quietly been patient and loving with me. Throughout all my infertility trials and tribulations. And throughout poison ivy as well.
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Infertility Support - A Mid-Week Pick Up
Here’s a mid-week infertility pick up.
My word for today, as it pertains to the struggles and joys of being in fertility treatment, is almost.
Almost can walk us back from the edge.
We are all human beings. Every person you meet today is a human being with strengths and weaknesses. Every human being that you meet today makes mistakes, does great things, wakes up, goes to sleep and does a tremendous amount in between.
When you get ready to be dismissive of someone else’s mistakes or are tempted to see them as “other,” resist the urge. They are human beings. They make mistakes. They are doing the best that they can, just as you are. Just as I am. Just as we all are.
Maybe they are not as nice as you would like them to be. Maybe they don’t explain things as carefully as you think they should.
Ask yourself a few questions:
- How do I behave when I’ve gotten behind and I’m rushing to catch up?
- What do I leave out I feel pressured to move onto the next thing?
- What must it seem like to interact with me when I’ve woken up on the wrong side of the bed and nothing feels like it’s going right?
We don’t know what’s going on with another living being, or more specifically another human being. People I’ve been in relationship with for years, who are perpetually unpleasant, I have found out to have serious, persistent sadnesses and troubles in their lives. The worst I can do? I can add to them by being nasty or unpleasant back. The best I can do? Smile and wish them well.
Infertility Feelings and Seeing Others
Infertility sometimes feels like it wraps us up in a dark cloud where seeing another person and their pain is almost impossible.
Key word is almost.
I understand pain. I don’t understand it as well as some. I understand it better than others. Another key question is, “do I need to understand the source and details of someone else’s pain to offer sympathy, to feel empathy?” If I am in so much pain myself that I cannot see the other person as a real, live, living, breathing person with hopes and needs just like me, than it is almost impossible.
Key word is almost.
Almost is that pause that we can take, that is offered between inhale and exhale. Almost is that moment between a thought and rushing to say that thought.
Almost is reflective.
We can think. We can decide.
We are in pain or we are in joy. Either way, what we say out loud to another human being is our choice and ours entirely.
Almost is not hurtful. It does not inflict pain.
Almost is what you choose not to say.
Almost is what protects another human or living being from harsh words that you may very well regret. Almost is also what protects us from that regret.
Use your almosts today to the fullest extent. Indulge in them.
I know I will.
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I Am Not Broken ~ Another Note to Fertile Friends
We create our lives according to our dreams. Some dreams simply appear when we are very young. A wonderful OB/Gyn that I had lunch with earlier this week talked about wanting to be a doctor since she was 8 years old. Delivering babies and being part of the birth process is her delight. Having birth be a process rather than treating it as a disease or a series of possible complications is her life’s work.
Some of us want to be parents from the moment we know what a baby is; a continuation of life. An extension of family. We revere the generations past. We are curious about our ancestors and know that we are just enjoying a momentary stop on a continuum.
We are eager to be part of that order; that continuation of family lineage. Our heritage is important to us; where our family originated and evolved from and we yearn to be part of that flow.
It’s why “just adopt” is a comment that is often greeted with stony silence from a man or woman who have been trying without success to conceive. We realize that adoption is a heart opening option and the perfect choice for many people. We get that. We hear and understand that there are children out there who need homes. We even know that the statistics on having an adoption work and be successful can be much higher than fertility treatment. We understand that too.
And we’re not ready. And we may never be ready.
And more than that, by saying that you are not meeting us where we are right now. In this moment, our focus is on a child that we are biologically connected to because that’s important to us. Important to us in deep down ways that are only partly explained by the first paragraph or two of this blog.
When you try to push us towards another option or even worse, make it seem as though another option is a simpler, healthier way to create our families, you are hurting us. You are not honoring that we have a right to make decisions that are right for us. You are not respecting that you do not have to understand our decisions and that perhaps you cannot understand our decisions, having never been in our situation. Many men and women who cannot conceive easily do turn towards adoption. In their own time and in their own way.
Family Building Options - Don't Presume
So please do not presume that I don’t understand my family building options. Do not give me information on other doctors or on adoption agencies. Do not tell me about your friends who became pregnant once they adopted and now have their perfect family. A lot of us know these stories and these types of families. Do not try to fix my situation as I am not broken. I have a sub-fertility problem which only my doctors and I can understand the intricacies of and we are working on overcoming them.
See me as I am. Someone in pain who is not broken and does not need to be fixed. Someone you love like or care about who is not looking for advice or an unpaid medical consultation from someone who is not a doctor.
See me as an adult who has not asked for help or advice and will if I need to, but is in very good hands and feels confident that I am doing the right thing for myself. I may be wrong. It may not work out that I have a child. It may take much longer than I thought. It may cost more than I planned.
It's My Fertility Journey
Still, it’s my journey. I would not presume to tell you how to live your life, what dreams were expendable or changeable. There are a lot of losses in going through fertility treatment, a lot of things that I have to give up or put aside.
Please don’t make our friendship one of those things.
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A Look at Our Demons for Fertile Friends
You who are easily fertile may not understand what it takes to say congratulations on your pregnancy or the birth of your child. You may not understand how much is needed to be put aside to attend an event where your friend is the only one without a child yet. You may not understand why coming to visit you and your growing family is not something that is treated with delight.
Here are a few insights on what it’s like, from someone who was just a pretty average normally infertile woman. While I’d like to think that I was crazier than every other woman who struggled with understanding infertility, I probably was just pretty much average.
So here goes a fairly simple explanation, maybe it will help you understand better how your friend who has no children yet may be feeling.
On an average day, almost everything reminded me of my infertility.
“It’s where the demons hide,” keeps playing over and over in my head. It’s part of the chorus of a popular and overplayed song and so it has gotten stuck, for the time being, in my thought waves.
Struggling With Infertility - The Usual Demons
While struggling with infertility, jealousy, envy, resentment were my most usual demons. They were my constant companions while I was trying to conceive. Not my only demon companions, but most loyal demon companions.
And they weren’t so hidden really.
They always seemed to be waiting right around the corner. Always pretty eager to rejoin me. I would feel balanced, normal, ok, just ok, finally, finally ok and then I would get a birth announcement or there would be a baby shower and there were my unwelcome companions, my not so secret demons.
They were very false friends. They held my hand and kept my company. They made me feel less alone and more isolated at the very same time. They were companions that stole joy and laughed while they were doing it.
They hid around the corners because they couldn’t survive easily in the unrelenting light of day.
They didn’t make sense.
They didn’t allow hope.
As much as I felt bereft and just plain sad at not being able to enjoy my friends' and families' good news, my demons hurt me the most deeply, not my loved ones. Carrying them around made me feel much heavier than I was physiologically. My joints hurt and it was difficult to sit upright, they sat so solidly on top of my shoulders. I felt crumpled inside and tugged incessantly by that decompression.
They weren’t there every moment. As I said, they were content to lay in wait for me, biding their time. Did they simply wait to see that I was lighthearted, bright, and more hopeful? And then whack me over the head with yet another mommy pushing a stroller, lovingly adjusting the sun visor to protect her little one’s eyes?
Among my infertility feelings, I felt bombarded by the fertile population. Saw babies and pregnant women absolutely everywhere. My demons created blinders so that was all I saw; not the glorious spring trees blooming, but the pregnant woman walking under them. I didn’t see the way the sun was streaming through the clouds because I was so busy looking down so that I wouldn’t see anything at all.
I am not the only one with these demons. Your friend who is silent while you talk about your second pregnancy may be kept company by them as well. Your sister-in-law who made excuses not to attend your baby shower may have one or two or a lot more of them holding her hand. Your brother who couldn’t make eye contact with you when you announced your happy news may be wrestling with his demons also, unwilling to diminish the joy in your eyes with his pain.
So please be tender. Please be generous with those of us who are not celebrating good news and are worried we never will. Please consider that demons are mighty foes and we are battling the best we can, even if you can’t see them. We can. We see them. We feel them.
And your good news can be exactly what brings them out in force.
Thank you for understanding.
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Infertile or Not - Some Things Are Starting to Annoy Me
I’ve read a lot of quotes lately, whether e-cards or beautiful pieces of poems coupled with gorgeous photographs or images.
They’re starting to annoy me. So are Pinterest and Twitter, and yes, even Facebook. There are these little snippets of advice that sound remarkably similar after a while.
Look at things differently. See the good. Appreciate what you have.
Oh, come on.
I’m sticking up for those of us who have feelings of disappointment, frustration, irritability about significant and insignificant events in our lives.
Why can’t we take a moment of emotional honesty and say “THIS SUCKS” at the top of our lungs? Punch a pillow. Curse like a truck driver. Cry our eyes out.
Why can’t we take a moment and acknowledge the very HUMAN emotions that we feel when we spend time, energy, effort and more and we don’t get what we want? Why can’t we throw a little or big pity party? Or a tiny or enormous temper tantrum?
It sounds so much to me like a version of “pull yourself up by your boot straps”. It sounds so much to me like don’t feel your feelings. It sounds so much to me like feel differently, NOW, immediately.
Oh bah humbug.
I have a great life, with wonderful things, people and more in it. But I am tired right now. And I was tired yesterday after fifteen minutes of moving around my house. And I sat down and had a good cry about being unable to do what so definitely needed to be done in my home.
I felt better. I felt better after I cried. I felt better feeling awful for a little while; for feeling sorry for myself.
Ever hear this one? “Eat all your dinner because there are children starving all over the world.” So what, does that mean I should overeat? Would that make those children less hungry or just me overfull?
I know there are people who have it worse than I do in this world. There are people who have it worse than you in this world too. Does that mean you have no pain or that you’re not allowed to express it or feel it for a moment before rushing on to feeling better, different, more?
Emotional Support and Empathy
My very physically ill and compromised older sister called me yesterday, from the hospital. I can’t even count how many times she’s been in the hospital in the last two years. Probably a conservative number of times would be twenty. She had another emergency admittance last week and was calling me from the hospital to see how I was feeling.
She pushed aside questions about how she was feeling and pressed me to tell her about myself. Not coincidentally, our conversation precipitated my bout of crying. Her tenderness, concern and empathy, despite her much more overwhelming painful situation were like a soothing balm. My pain and discomfort were valid and it was ok to feel how I felt and to express those feelings. She was not comparing our pain and she was interested.
It’s ok to hurt. It’s ok to cry. It’s ok to feel bad, frustrated, disappointed and yes, even angry.
And it’s ok not to rush on to make any of those feelings any different. We know they will pass. It’s ok to feel bad until they do.
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Infertility Anxiety - Ideas from Our Community
I write when I’m anxious.
Sometimes I eat. (OK, often I eat when I’m anxious.)
I meditate when I’m anxious. Or create a mantra and repeat it.
Infertility and fertility treatment sometimes causes anxiety. To be fair, it also creates hopeful anticipation and lots and lots of joy when it works.
Taking medication, having to come in for ultrasounds, noticing changes in our bodies, having to be aware of scheduling--all can create some anxiety.
Tips for Anxiety
Here are a few suggestions from our Fertile Yoga ladies -- tips for anxiety -- on how to handle those feelings:
- Writing in a journal - stream of thought. Releasing it to paper or onto the computer will allow it to flow from your head out. Seeing it out there is often calming as you have given yourself a way to see it, outside yourself.
- Listening to music - plug in! Find something that is so unbelievably beautiful that you just can't help but dive in. Sing along. Tap your foot.
- A side note to music - DANCE. Enjoy your body. Do it privately if it makes you less self-conscious.
- Read. Oh yeah. Dive right into a book. A nice, juicy novel.
- Educate yourself. Make that stack of books on your nightstand books that will help you understand the infertility and fertility treatment process.
- Work out! Take a walk. Go to yoga.
- Consider a brand new style of therapy. Profane therapy. Swearing evidently can help. Let loose. Then let yourself laugh.
- Movies - there are a lot of them coming out right about now. George Clooney. Need I say more?
Thank you Fertile Yoga Ladies for all these suggestions.
Any other ideas for managing anxiety?
Let me know. I'll post them here. Anonymously, if you like.
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There's a problem with peer support.
Inquiring minds want to know. What could be wrong with a group of women who are sharing, educating, supporting and loving each other through infertility and fertility treatment?
When only some of them get pregnant. If you are reading this and are one of our fabulous ladies who attend Ladies Night In or are in our online group, I am speaking for you right now, but not just for you. I’m going to go ahead and express a few of the feelings that you might not feel comfortable saying.
You are all loving and kind human beings. Every single one of you. And I am sure that you are genuinely excited when someone in our group becomes pregnant. Excited and happy for them.
Sad, frustrated and disappointed for yourself because it’s not you.
I’m going to call out the elephant in the room here.
It sucks when everyone else gets pregnant in your “normal” life and you don’t. Then you join this fabulous group of women who are also undergoing fertility treatment and the other women are helpful and kind and supportive and they become our confidants; our go-to buddies throughout this process. And then they become pregnant. And you still aren’t.
And because we are all kind, loving, supportive people, we are excited for those women who have become pregnant. We are. We are happy for them. We know the struggle that they have gone through and we are genuinely and authentically happy that they have achieved what they were so desperately wanting.
And because we are real human beings. Real human beings, not just human beings saying and feeling the “right” things at the “right” time, we also feel other things.
We feel sad that it’s not us. We feel disappointed that we are not in that group of lucky pregnant women yet. We feel frustrated that yet another of us is pregnant and it’s still not us. We feel shame that we have anything but happiness for our friends. We feel fear that this could be the last magical pregnancy and that we are the statistic left behind. We feel unspeakable terror that we are the ones who will be permanently in the “have not” group.
Maybe we feel only a twinge of any or all of those feelings. Maybe we feel a tidal wave and can barely choke out the congratulations that we offer to those friends who have achieved what we are so actively striving towards. Maybe it makes getting our period or getting poor results that much more overwhelming. Maybe it doesn’t.
Maybe we feel close enough to each other that we can even say out loud what we so often only feel in our heart and hear in our heads. Here are a few things that may fit how you are feeling. Why am I writing them? So that you know that you are not alone. You are not alone in fertility treatment and you are not alone in your pain.
When Others Become Pregnant
Here are a few things that may run through your head and heart when others in the infertility support group become pregnant:
I am happy for you. I am sad for me.
I feel relief for you, I feel fear for myself.
I feel jealous even though I love you.
I am crying tears of joy for you and right underneath are tears for me.
I wish you only the best for your pregnancy and it’s going to hurt to hear about it.
I still feel frustrated and disappointed for what I’m going through and it’s so inspiring to hear that you’ve been successful.
I still want you for my infertility buddy even though you are pregnant.
I feel ashamed that I feel less close to you now and I don’t want you to know that.
I wish we had gotten pregnant and could enjoy this moment more fully because we are together.
I am relieved that since my cycle wasn’t successful that yours wasn’t either. But I feel guilt and pain that I feel that way.
Any of these resonate with you? Have I missed the boat entirely? Anything I left out that you would like to add?
My email address, if you would prefer not to post directly to the blog, is FertileYoga@gmail.com and I would love to hear from you.
Say what you need to say. A great line from a beautiful song. Don't choke it back, please. Say it, release it, cry over it, giggle over it. Find the relief in knowing that no one thinks that you're awful or ungracious or mean. Find the relief in knowing that you weren't the only one to feel that way.
Find the relief in knowing, once again, that you are not alone. And if you are feeling that way, talk to someone you trust and know will not judge you.
That's what we're here for. That's what I'm here for.
Sending you loving thoughts, even if some of the thoughts and feelings you are having are far from loving.
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The Winter Solstice and Finding Your Light
"There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it."
- Edith Wharton
Soon, we will experience the shortest day and the longest night -- the winter solstice.
More darkness than light.
A lot of us are afraid of the dark. Even those of us who don't admit it.
Being in the dark throws off our sense of balance. From time to time in Fertile Yoga class, we do balancing poses with our eyes closed. It is astonishing to people that coming onto their toes, raising their arms to the sky with their eyes closed is so challenging.
Being in the dark challenges all of our senses. Our eyes strain to see what they cannot see, our ears become more alert, our skin tingles with every change in the stream of air around us. Our sense of smell becomes more acute.
Our intiution also comes alive in the dark.
We hear, see, smell, and feel things that we could not see with the light shining in.
Darkness is not evil, nor bad, nor our enemy. Darkness is a place where we are invited to rest, to find quiet and stillness.
It's a place where our heart can open more calmly and more completely. We feel, rather than see. We can listen to our hearts because there is nothing distracting to look at with our eyes.
There are subtle shifts in our thinking when we sit quietly in darkness. When we deliberately close our eyes and look inside, we do not see darkness, we see ourselves.
We see the reflection of our truest self, which shines brightly.
Our heart reminds us of this as well.
After the darkest day, longest night, light comes back in.
Soon, the day will be longer, the night will be shorter.
Soon, we turn towards spring.
Winter solstice, welcome the darkness.
We will find a path together through the darkness.
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Fertility Blog Apologies
Recently on this fertility blog, I wrote a post called Infertility @#*&! Words, and asked a question.
What are the things that you are asked about having children that are distressing, upsetting, or just plain insensitive? Even if not meant to be unkind or hurtful.
I asked the question and someone answered me. Here was her answer:
“I dislike when people not even going through ivf say “so overwhelming". How do u know? Be considerate and understanding... If someone was fighting cancer would u tell them it was overwhelming!”
How did I read this?
I thought she was talking to me, about me! I felt attacked.
Infertility Emotions and Triggers
Sigh. Every time I think I am completely over my infertility emotions, something comes up and triggers a response in me. Infertility hits such an essential, primal place in us that the feelings can reverberate for a very long time.
Want to hear the snotty response I gave? After feeling sorry for myself that I got a first “negative” comment in four years?
How do I know? Six and half years trying to conceive, that's how. Four of those years in treatment. More IUI cycles than I can remember, as well as IVF cycles. That's how I know. I know because I experienced it. All of it. My friends getting pregnant, while I did not. Baby showers that were not for me. Birth announcements while I was lying on the couch recuperating from surgical procedures to help me get pregnant. And yes, cancer is overwhelming too. I've supported family members through it. Absolutely overwhelming!
Some people find it considerate and understanding to acknowledge that what they're going through is overwhelming. I was certainly overwhelmed. Luckily not every minute, but many, many minutes, I was. This blog comes from my own experience, my heart and daily conversations with those men and women still trying to conceive.
I'm interested in knowing what you would consider considerate and understanding? What would you prefer to hear to support you? I'd really like to know. Thanks for writing and letting me know how you felt about what I wrote. Sorry it didn't help you.
Keep reading, I'll keep what you have to say in mind.
Sigh. Yep, I owe this woman an apology!
Here’s what made me remember how much I love my life and my friends (thanks Greg for pointing out my misunderstanding her comment!) and the universe.
I’ve gotten hundreds of comments on the blog in the almost four years (birthday coming soon!) that I’ve been writing PathtoFertility. Most from men and women that I don’t know and have not met.
Fertile Yoga Class and A Gift from the Universe
I was preparing to write my mea culpa, apology note on the blog and didn’t get to it because I needed to drive to Trumbull to teach our first ever Fertile Yoga class in RMACT’s beautiful new space.
We were chatting before class (because we do a little peer support first and get to know one another), and one of the lovely ladies there said this, and I quote:
“I hate hearing about how overwhelming fertility treatment is. Would you say that cancer is overwhelming?”
I got very focused. And of course I asked the obvious question.
“Did you post a comment like that to the blog last week?”
How do you not appreciate the universe when she plops the very person that I need to apologize to right in front of me so I can do it face to face?
And right after I had given her a beautiful bracelet from a former RMACT fertility patient who wanted to share her strength with women still struggling.
Oh yeah. I love the universe.
And just for the record, that was also my first snotty response to any posting on the PathtoFertility blog.
And also my last.
From now on, I read more carefully. I check my own reactions more thoughtfully. And I remember that infertility is still a little closer than I sometimes realize.
Thank you universe! And Greg for pointing this out.
Thanks for the opportunity to apologize in person. I probably appreciated it even more than she did.
Lisa Rosenthal's Google+
The reality is that fertility treatment is successful, a lot of the time.
The reality is also, that fertility treatment does not work, at least some of the time.
Here are a few more realities.
Sometimes, more often than you realize, a fertility cycle will work the very first time that you do one.
Sometimes the journey is longer than that and will need a longer view and reach, more diagnostic tests and fertility treatment cycles.
A fertility cycle that is not going well, not going as planned, can turn around in the middle and absolutely flourish.
And sometimes the best, most wonderful looking outcomes do not result in a pregnancy.
Those are all realities. They are not even possible realities. They are realities every day, side by side.
None of them mean that you won't eventually be successful. What they can mean is that sometimes the road to parenthood will be longer than you think. Or shorter than you think.
The question, or the point, is how you spend your time in fertility treatment.
Expect a wide range of emotions and reactions.
A growing awareness that you have all of those feelings and much more. You have the emotional, physical, and mental fortitude to push through the feelings to get the medical care that you need to meet your goal of having a baby.
Whatever holiday you are celebrating, please remember to celebrate yourself. Fertility treatment is not for the faint hearted.
As I say in Fertile Yoga:
You are beautiful.
You are graceful.
You are whole and complete.
Just as you are in this moment and breath. Nothing that needs to be different in this moment.