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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Struggling with Infertility
A common scenario when we are struggling with infertility is that we feel alone; we feel that no one truly understands the magnitude of what we are going through. We withdraw from friends and family because their concern, although well meaning, is frequently hurtful or intrusive. Even when our friends and family say precisely the right thing, at the right time and drop the subject the moment that you ask them to, we still experience pain. It makes holidays, get togethers, even simple conversations a strain where once it was easy and comfortable.
Peer Support Group Privileges
I feel honored to help facilitate a peer support group where we laugh, cry, help, support and educate one another. I’m very thankful and grateful for this group of women who show up, lay it on the line and tell it like it is. Relationships are formed and valuable bonds are made in these groups. Why can we tell strangers things that we cringe about sharing with those who love us?
Simple, really. We understand. We get it. Who else really does get what it’s like to go to friends for an evening and have to disappear into the bathroom? Together, I mean, your partner and yourself. LOL. Who else understands that it makes you want to laugh and cry at the same time? Who else understands that there’s a part of you that hopes your friends think that you are having hot sex in the bathroom, not getting a shot in your derriere? Who else understands that your vacation is being postponed because you’re in the middle of a cycle? Who else understands what it’s like to get one more birth announcement, one more whispered “I’m pregnant”? Who else understands our younger sisters conceiving and having children and our hearts full for them and breaking for ourselves?
Cultivating Gratitude: Make Your Own List
So for those of us who get it, here’s my list of things that infertility makes me grateful for, in case feeling grateful feels like a really big stretch, or even impossible:
- Ovulating each month
- Front desk person at your fertility clinic smiling at you
- Getting your period regularly
- Have insurance coverage for fertility treatment
- Have veins that cooperate in getting blood drawn
- Struggling with PCOS and finding ways to minimize the impact
- Getting a positive pregnancy test
- Able to face the emotional roller coaster that is infertility treatment
- Fertile Yoga
- Are healthy and young enough to be able to consider fertility treatment
- Producing enough follicles to go through In Vitro Fertilization
- Able to do IUI’s (Intra uterine inseminations) with a high probability of success
- Have the financial resources to continue treatment even without insurance coverage
- Professional therapists who have the ability to make us see things differently, espcially our feelings
- Nurses who are approachable and compassionate
- A fertility program where you are treated as a whole person and not a walking diagnosis
- Getting your period after three or four months
- Ultrasound showing a heartbeat
- A painless transfer
- A nutritionist that is not judgemental, but really really helpful
- A retrieval that goes smoothly and easily
- Live in a day and age where third party reproductive technology is available
- Can compare one fertility specialist (board certified reproductive endocrinologist) to another and pick one who is the best fit
- Having access to complementary programs that enhance your chances of conception
- Not strangling your friend/family member/co-worker/boss/partner/waitress who asks yet again when you are going to have a baby
- Live in a state where it’s mandated that infertility is covered by insurance
- Passion tea
- Able to turn to a partner for help and support
- Ultrasound showing a sac
- Feeling hope that this time the cycle will work and there will be a baby at the end of the rainbow
What goes on your list? Share your ideas in the comments and we'll build a new list together. I’m grateful to you, my community, my group who gets it--for reading, for commenting, for caring.
Lisa Rosenthal's Google+
Friends Before Infertility and Far Beyond
Okay, we were friends well before infertility.
We've been friends since we were five years old. We've gone through our entire lives together. Ice skating lessons, elementary school, being embarassed by our mothers and their friendship, middle school (called Junior High School back then), high school, weddings, disliking each other for periods of time, working together, anniversaries and, yes, infertility.
What brings this up now?
My best friend, Pamela Madsen, who blogs at The Fertility Advocate, is celebrating her thirty-first wedding anniversary to the same man. Pamela and Kai Madsen got married thirty-one years ago today. Oh, the stories I could tell about that day. Me, with the worst memory in the world, I can remember clearly the fresh flowers on the cake because the cake had a little, ahem, accident. It was gorgeous with bright, vibrant zinnia's adorning it--perfect timing for an accident.
And do not ask me why, because it makes no sense. There is no rational reason on earth that I still have the dress.
The bridesmaid dress.
I refuse to count how many moves I have made in 31 years that included lugging that dress from one home to another. Suffice it to say that it's made a few moves and lived in a few states.
I will admit here that not only do I still have it, but that it was easily accessible.
Big, big sigh.
I have no clue whatsoever as to where my winter comforter is. Or the bin of summer dresses I put away last summer (which would have been really great to have had for THIS summer). Wouldn't even know where to start to look for Halloween decorations or the dog's shampoo.
So there is no good explanation on why I could walk down into the basement, know exactly where this dress was, even though I have not worn it in 31 years; Why finding it was absolutely no problem, taking less than about 12 seconds.
Even bigger sigh.
Made a big mistake.
Told Pamela that I still have the dress.
When she stopped laughing (which took quite a while), she asked/dared me to put it on facebook. To take a picture of the dress, as I held it up, and post it on facebook.
What else are best friends for? Pamela, remember the incident with the wet cement? And your still daring me?
It's not a good thing to dare your best friends. Especially if it's me.
So down I go into the basement and up comes the dress.
Only why hold it up and not at least try it on?
Can you actually believe I am even telling you this story? Do you promise never to be embarassed by anything you ever do again in your life? Because, really, nothing can top this.
On goes the dress.
It went on.
It zipped up. (There is no elastic and it's a size 2.)
I could breathe. Talk. Walk.
It zipped up.
Just like our friendship, Pamela, a perfect fit, even after many, many years.
Stay tuned for our adventures through infertility, fertility treatment and being cycle buddies.
Distinguishing the Voices During Infertility
Infertility. Lots of conversation recently about fertility treatment and timing. Timing about when to do a cycle, when to wait, what we're waiting for.
Some thoughts on the subject:
In the face of an obstacle which is impossible to overcome, stubborness is stupid.
Change your life today. Don't gamble on the future, act now, without delay.
~Simone de Beauvoir
The same woman said both of those things. They look contradictory, don't they? Somewhere within lies the balance that I seek.
What to Fight For? What to Accept?
I just keep looking for which is which. Which is the piece that is stupid to rail against? How do I tell the difference between that piece and the life that I want to change?
Listening to myself is helpful.
Listening to others is equally as helpful. Okay, often more helpful. Knowing who to listen to and making sure that I'm listening with my ears and heart wide open.
Specifically: I make sure that I go to professionals that I trust and have respect for and to whom I ask questions and who are willing to answer questions. Those professionals include doctors. Do you see a board-certified reproductive endocrinologist who answers your questions? Is it someone with whom you feel comfortable asking questions?
I listen to trusted friends, whom I frustrate often as I don't take their advice.
Knowing What To Believe
Why don't I take their advice? Why do I typically get the comment that I re-package what they say, several minutes or more after they say it?
I need to incorporate what I have heard into my life and my belief system.
A dear friend shared a statement with me recently that fits, so perfectly. Instead of paraphrasing it, let me share it with you:
no matter where you read it or who has said it,
not even if I have said it,
unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.
Talk to us about what you need for your fertility treatment. We are listening and we know that you are too.
I'm sitting here drinking my tea. Calm, it's called.
It is calming. And nothing interferes with the experience of finding comfort in sipping my tea.
This is much less true when comfort and escape from the real world is a magazine, facebook, a movie, a book or even chatting with a friend.
Forget escaping pregnant bellies if you are indulging in comfort from any of the above.
When struggling with infertility, when in the midst of fertility treatment, when trying to manage real life and trying to conceive, we need our comfort.
And if your comfort is spending time on Facebook, it's invaded relentlessly by birth announcements, baby and child pictures, even ultrasound images of babies in the womb.
No comfort there.
A friend pointed out to me today that every celebrity in the universe is pregnant.
Ok, probably not every single one. But, evidently, if you pick up the newest issues of the celeb mags, a tremendous amount of them are. And so it's all over the news.
No comfort there.
Movies during the late spring and summer months? All about the children. Children's movies, children heroes, children's themes.
No comfort there.
No comfort there.
Talking with friends? Yes, absoloutely, depending on the friend.
Then there are the friends who are in the fertile realm. Who get pregnant, rumor has it, by having sexual relations with their partners. Our friends who get pregnant the moment they consider having another child.
Someone shared the other day in the peer support group, (note, please, NO NAMES are being mentioned here, nor identifiying features mentioned) about a friend who chased her down in her own house to tell her about their pregnancy. She had sequestered herself in her bedroom and this friend was so insistent about sharing the good news that he literally was banging on her bedroom door.
Can't find comfort in your own bedroom?
Something not quite right about that.
So, the question remains. When the usual places you go to find comfort, (including FOOD!) are not available because of the infiltration of pregnant bellies or conversation, then what?
I have a zillion suggestions. Yes, a zillion.
What are yours?
My comfort right now? This cup of tea. Calm.
Yesterday was a really challenging day. Hard to get through, even moment by moment. I worked with all the tools that I have; breathing, walking, talking, time alone and quiet, directly confronting the problems, leaving things alone for a while, seeking advice, introspection. Yep, even with all those ways of coping, it was a really tough day.
Infertility is not the only really challenging process that any of us will ever go through. Sometimes it’s the first, major, life shaking one. Sometimes it isn’t. Infertility causes seismic shifts of its own; whether it’s having your hopes dashed with yet another negative pregnancy test or a miscarriage of a much wanted pregnancy. Infertility creates some of the toughest moments of our lives. We find ourselves looking at a deep questioning of faith, love, intention and heritage.
Yesterday, many of those things came into play, having nothing to do with infertility. It felt like one of the many days that I experienced during treatment though. Waiting, not knowing whether things were ok or not, out of control, desperate, scared and upset. It was a really challenging day.
I stopped taking phone calls after a while as I didn’t know what to say to the simple question, often asked almost immediately in a conversation. “How are you?” How do you answer that question honestly when you are simply having an awful day? Not wanting to lie or pretend, not having the energy to do either, I didn’t answer the phone.
My Fertile Yoga students came into mind. As did the members of the peer support group. I am inspired by the woman involved in these groups on a regular basis and I was again last night. I answered the phone twice last night and told the truth. I talked and cried (some of you know how I feel about that) and talked some more. Nothing got fixed but still I felt better. I laughed, I listened, I heard new things, I talked some more. And I felt better, letting others in.
With gratitude, I thank you all for the support. Special thanks to Kath and Tara.
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.
Why not tell your friends that you are struggling with infertility? Why not share the pain and difficulties that you are experiencing? Who better than to offer support and love than our friends and families?
Here are a few reasons I hear a lot:
- 1. Loss of privacy; too many questions
- 2. Fear of pity
- 3. The other person's inability to understand how we feel
- 4. That they will share the information with others that we don't choose to
- 5. Too private and intimate a subject to discuss
- 6. Shame and embarrassment over our struggle
- 7. Fear we will lose control emotionally in the conversation
- 8. Fear that we will have to comfort the other person
Notice how often fear comes up? None of us want to lead our lives driven by fear, yet we don't share with our friends and family mainly for that reason. One question to consider is what we give up by allowing the fear to keep us quiet with our friends and family. Here is the list that I came up with a long time ago, that allowed me to realize that the gains, for me, from facing my fears far outweighed the losses. A short list, a simple list, but a group of ideas that can mean all the difference between feeling like you are going through life alone or with love.
- 1. Support
- 2. Comfort
- 3. Understanding
Here's a poem that I found that describes well how I felt in the midst of infertility and the idea of sharing my pain with those I love:
MY INFERTILE LIFE
Don't look at me with pity
Don't judge me with your eyes
Don't listen to the others
For they may tell you lies
Don't think I am not caring
Or that I have no needs
Don't think I'm not a lover
Or never done good deeds
Don't see me with no children
And think it's my desire
Don't think a new born baby
Won't set my heart on fire
Just give me understanding
And let me stand and cry
And know my desperation
As my infertile life goes by
And yes, it's a bit depressing. But then so is infertility. If you are experiencing infertility, if you are in the middle of it, then you understand the poem.
If there is no one that you are sharing your pain with, consider telling someone you love, someone you trust, someone who will not judge you, but will listen with an open heart. I know it's scary and you may even tell someone and feel afterwards that it was a mistake, that they don't understand, that it doesn't help. Trust someone else, try again. Don't be alone in this struggle. Counter your loneliness with love.
What can you ask of your friends and family while struggling with infertility
and treatment? My Fertile Yoga
students last week giggled when I told them I handed my friends and family a list. Ha ha ha.
Here is a rough compilation of that list:
1. I am the only one who can bring up the subject of fertility and treatment
2. We will talk about it for precisely as long as I want and then the conversation is over
3. You may not ask any follow up questions if I have not opened the subject
4. Please do not send me emails, texts, letters or leave phone messages about new doctors/treatments/therapists that you think I should try. If I need a referral, I will ask
5. If you're not sure of what to say, "I'm sorry you're experiencing so much pain around this" will suffice
6. Your take on God, circumstances or how long/how hard I should stay in treatment is welcome only if I ask. I have my own belief system that is being rocked to the core; I don't need someone else's overlaid on top of it
7. Adoption is a wonderful way to build a family; it is not a solution for everyone, nor is it an easy, quick fix. Please wait for me to bring it up
8. Please find someone else to complain about your children to, I'm sure they're a handful but I'm not the person who can hear that right now nor is it helpful for you to offer me one
9. If any comment you want to make needs to be preceded by any of the following, you are probably right, "I know this sounds stupid/insensitive/off base" and please don't say it
At some point, I added what is written below, sent to friends and family:
You are my friend, there are lots of losses around infertility and I don't want our relationship to be one of them. I know that you care about me, want the best for me and hate seeing me in pain. Please know that I am handling my situation in the way that I see fit, even if you disagree with my choices. I am an adult and am making the choices, step by step, that make the most sense to me. Infertility is something that I am going through, it is changing me in some ways that can feel and look scary. I am still me underneath all this pain and stress. As my friend, I appreciate all the love and support you can give, which include listening to what I need. As my friend, I want your love and support and do not expect you to fix this for me. Just be my friend.
Perhaps writing your friends/family a letter would be a good step. You'll write your own letter, of course, use as much of what I have written here as is helpful. If you come up with some wonderful words of wisdom to pass on, please consider posting it here, I know that we would all appreciate it.
Take this weekend and use it to your fullest advantage, whether it's doing chores, catching up with friends and family, reading a book, seeing movies or anything else your heart desires. Next week, please, please, please, consider walking with us for the March of Dimes on April 25. I'll be there!!
Posted by Lisa Rosenthal