Fertility Prayers at Ladies Night In
We drew pictures in Ladies Night In at our Danbury meeting on Tuesday night.
It wasn’t my idea, although if you knew me well, you could have been right that it was my idea. It just wasn’t this time.
It was Carrie Van Steen’s idea. Give credit where credit is due.
Carrie was inspired by one of our brave ladies who suggested praying to the “Ovary God”.
In twenty-five years working in the field of infertility and fertility treatment, I never heard of or thought of an Ovary God. Or Goddess.
I kind of love the idea of one.
After all, why not?
Kokopelli, Fertility Deity
Kokopelli is a fertility deity most commonly associated with the Hopi tribe from the southwest. He was also a mischief maker. I never liked him. I never wanted to put my fate in his hands. He was too impulsive and too nonsensical.
I think I like the idea of a female God/Goddess directly related to the ovaries more then Kokopelli.
A generous, sweet, compassionate and funny Goddess.
All that and more.
If I get to design my own Ovary Goddess, then I make her purple.
And very, very lush.
If I were going to paint my Ovary Goddess, then I would use squishy, mushy, pliable oil paints with lots of medium. Lots and lots of layers of paint. I’d make her complicated and very simple and basic at the same time.
A Fertility Goddess for One Thing
A Fertility Goddess designed for exactly one thing. Creating an opportunity of new life. A possibility. Not a certainty.
Just a hope.
A hope with a lot of power behind it.
Not a gratuitous hope; a hope with depth and strength and resilience.
A hope with a physical form; one that occupies a space and place, with a specific shape.
Maybe your Goddess wouldn’t look like a physical ovary. Maybe your Goddess would take on some more spiritual or esoteric form.
I know one thing for sure.
An Ovary God or Goddess would not be punishing. No matter what you may think or be afraid that you deserve, no Ovary God or Goddess would do anything but their best.
We each get to create what we believe in; what we put our faith and hope in.
I chose to put my faith in a God and Goddess that support and love me.
What about you?
What does your Ovary God or Fertility Goddess look like? What do they act like?
Can you believe that creating something to believe in will support your fertility efforts?
If nothing else, believe in yourself.
I know I do.
Lisa Rosenthal's Google+
Tools for Finding Infertility Hope
Infertility, for me, was very frequently a huge pity party. I felt every pang of not becoming pregnant, every bit of the loss of another month or year of not having my family. No pregnant woman walked by where I did not feel the hit right between the eyes or more, right between the heartbeats.
Less frequently, I saw the blessings that flourished around me, even as the fertility treatments kept on going, unsuccessfully. I often did not notice the beauty of the day or the steadfastness of my husband, family and friends. Rarely did I enjoy what was available each day; a bit of beauty, a lovely meal, an appreciation for a conversation.
I had an interesting conversation the other day, in regards to this.
With my sister. My younger sister, who is one of my closest friends and who at times can be a complete idiot and, at other times, can be utterly brilliant.
One of her most brilliant moments, via text message is below. The details don't really matter all that much, although they are kinda funny. Still, what a brilliant answer to my question.
Consider that the only differences are those of perspective.
It was a good reminder. I've held onto it ever since.
I can choose how I see things. And when I make choices, it affects how I feel.
Rose colored glasses make the world seem brighter. Green colored glasses make it seem more vibrant. Yellow ones make it all sparkle.
The Role of Gratitude During Fertility Treatment
Hope colors infertility and fertility treatment. So does gratitude.
Perspective is the difference between a nice time and a nightmare.
What’s hopeful for you today?
What are you grateful for?
If nothing comes to mind, look out for it. Make a list.
Here's mine for today, so far:
A Gratitude List
1. Cooler, unmuggy weather
2. The cat sitting on my lap as I write
3. The email from Nora yesterday about Angie spending so much of her day translating into Spanish so that our patients could have the comfort of hearing things in a way that they truly understood
4. Hearing the birds
5. My husband's bright smile this morning, accompanied by "I love you"
6. You! For reading this blog
Make a list. And for me? The more miserable I feel, the more frequently I note what I'm grateful for and write them down.
I'm grateful that tomorrow I get to write another blog.
Lisa Rosenthal's Google+
Lessons in a Fertility Garden
The word fertility has such a sweet sound to it. When I think about the word, it conjures up growth; soil freshly tilled, turned, weeded, ready to be seeded and planted.
A few summers ago, I worked with a group of my friends on a piece of land lent to us by an elderly farmer, instead of joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), which is a way of getting fresh produce each week from a farm.
Photo: Flickr Creative Commons (Southern Foodways Alliance)
You make a commitment in the beginning of the season, pay a certain fee up front and then get a weekly amount of veggies/fruit/herbs; whatever is ripe that week. That summer I got the privilege of working on the farm itself.
This was not a twenty foot square garden. I am talking about a 5 acre farm (tiny for a farm, but rather large for a garden). To give you an idea of mass, a twenty foot garden is 400 square feet. Put into perspective, one acre is 43,560 square feet; our "garden" was five times that size.
The idea behind the work was to grow enough vegetables for the families that were involved and for the different churches, homeless shelters, temples, etc. that help people in need. This part of the project particularly touched my heart as I heard about more and more people struggling in our economy.
So I spent 6 hours a week rolling around in the dirt and mud. We did everything by hand and used no pesticides. Weeded and mulched; back breaking work. Lots of fun too. An excuse to get down and dirty, easier to get dirty and get the work done. By down and dirty, I do mean, down. On my knees, because it saved the back, crawling around in the rich, deep, fertile soil.
What a miracle the planting was. These tiny little seeds that you could barely see in your hands. I admit, that for me, seeing is believing. Believing those tiny little seeds would grow, not only into a plant, but into food, was a true leap of faith for me. I know that this is how things grow; I have a garden at home and grow plants and flowers. It is still always a miracle that something that looks like a poppy seed grows into food and nourishment.
A Leap of Faith to Create A Baby
This is just what you are doing in trying to create a baby. Preparing your body, heart and mind to be as receptive as you can possibly be. That's also what you do when you take that leap of faith. Faith in yourself, faith in your partner, faith in your doctor and practice.
I know that you are doing everything you can to create a healthy, happy, calm place for a seed to grow. While you're at it, let hope grow along with that seed. Let the hope grow just as straight and true and strong.
And please do let us know how to help. It's what we're here for.
Lisa Rosenthal's Google+
Infertility Hope: Right in the Struggle
I am inspired by the weather and the earth's movements and changes. You all know that.
Spring abounds with images and reminders of rebirth, reawakening, budding and flowering.
Just when winter and cold seem too long (although perhaps not this winter), everything turns brighter, more colorful and achingly more vibrant.
Hope that this fertility treatment cycle can work. We know it can. We believe it can. We hope it can.
Navigating Fertility Treatment
Fertility treatment often feels like a roller coaster, complete with slow, sometimes scary ups and devastating downs. Then add those twists and turns of unexpected news and rescheduling--so yes, roller coaster fits how fertility treatment can feel.
I'm inspired by hope and a more gentle approach these days.
Roller coasters, yes, could be just the right metaphor for fertility treatment.
Here's another one, though.
Looking with Kindess at the Fertility Process
How about the flower emerging from the earth? Taking it's time, getting ready underground, waiting for the warmth of the sun. There is no sign of the flower all winter. Yet, it's resting in the healthiest of ways, having stored the nutrients it needed during the fall.
That flower is not impatient, it responds to the rhythms of the earth. The days that have more hours of light, the temperature rising, the rain rather than the snow. It sends down unseen roots even while emerging so slowly that it's invisible to the human eye.
Perhaps it's a kinder way of looking at our fertility process. That it unfolds slowly, just the way that it's supposed to, in it's own time and with the right conditions.
Perhaps it's a kinder way of allowing ourselves to conceive.
Perhaps a kinder metaphor is watching a river winding it's way within it's river banks. It moves in one direction and then for reasons sometimes unseen, the river changes direction. Sometimes it's obvious, there's a boulder in the way and the river has to go over or around the boulder. Sometimes it's not at all obvious.
The Face of the Two Week Wait
I love to see the hope in the faces of women in the two week wait. Hope that this is the time that the sun will shine brightly enough and that flower will peek it's head out.
Hope that the river will wind it's way around, seeking the most fertile ground.
Braving the naysayers is not an easy job. You know the ones... the people who tell you every reason in the world why something won't work. Every problem that could possibly come up. Every problem that has ever come up in the history of the Universe.
I hope yesterday I wasn't one of those people. I talked yesterday about what we don't know about our reproductive systems, infertility and the simple fact of our biological clock. I talked yesterday about choices, that sometimes we make them without realizing that we are doing so.
Truthfully, we are inundated with information. Bombarded is another good word for it. We are told constantly by the media about all the health issues, news issues, economic issues, environmental issues and they all need our attention immediately, right this second.
Isn't reproductive health just one more on a long list? I do have an answer to this question! And that answer is no. It's not one more thing, on the same level as volcanic ash, global warming, economic downturns or any other less personal, very important piece of the world.
It's the body that we live in. It's the world that we need to take care of, be aware of, and listen to, first and foremost. It's our piece of the world that we need to be educated about and responsible for. Reproductive health and maternal aging; our possibility for conceiving has its own lifecycle. Those possibilities begin when we first start to menstruate and end when we enter menopause. Realistically, most of us don't want to conceive when we first start to menstruate; most of us wait quite a few years past that. And just as realistically, on the other side, conception becomes more difficult as we approach menopause.
Here's a comment to yesterday's blog that perhaps says best what I appear to be bumbling around in the dark trying to say:
I was just having this conversation with some friends (all over 35). We were discussing how little educated we were about age & infertility. We are all highly motivated career & academic women, but yet we never really took the time to get the facts. We knew fertility decreased, but never really looked at the stats! As successful women, I suppose we just assumed we could make pregnancy happen (knowing we might need some help, but never considering/imagining the potential emotional & financial tolls). Looking back now, I wish I had known the facts earlier in life, although I don't know how that would have influenced my career decisions. How do younger women get educated today about age & infertility? Seems like the only mechanism is at the individual level & how curious a woman is to ask? Are there any campaigns or initiatives out there to get women better educated (thru GYNs/other)?
And the bright, bright, shiny news is that there's help.
That's the take away message I want to make sure that you hear loud and clear. Yes, we will and are working harder to make sure that women understand their reproductive lives and options. The bright, shiny message is that there is such wonderful help available for those of us who need it. Wonderful fertility specialists (reproductive endocrinologists), highly successful medical procedures, and lots and lots of babies that are coming into this world. A positive, wonderful message.
Here in Connecticut we have had a glimpse of the types of storms that normally we just read about. Floods, high winds, downed power lines, electricity in entire cities out for over a week and more. Rivers overflowing their banks for the first time in decades.
Overwhelming. Just as infertility and treatment can be. Unpredictable. Just as the dips and turns in fertility treatment can be. Frightening. Just as hearing an upsetting diagnosis can be. And no way of really controlling what's going on, either outside with the stormy weather or in the midst of fertility treatment. Sometimes, even with the best infertility protocols and management, your retrieval will come earlier or later than you think or expect. Sometimes a fertility cycle will more move slowly or more quickly than is typical and you are taken by surprise about when you need to take time off from work. Out of control feels just that; out of control.
And unpredictable is just that as well. Unpredictable means being unable to plan, to schedule, even to commit to anything. The more patients that I listen to, the more I hear and remember how difficult this piece of fertility treatment is. Just the simple act of not being able to make a date with friends to go out, to the more complicated issues around planning a vacation become more and more challenging.
Disappointment is a big factor here as well. When we expect one thing, to find out that something different is happening, how do we see it? Is it possible to see an extended cycle as an opportunity? Possible to see any disappointment as an opportunity? At our best, yes, I think so, I hope so, and I definitely strive to make it so.
Then add in these factors; not sleeping enough; eating choices that are less than healthy; having few releases for the anxiety that is building, and I believe that disappointment will win and the opportunity will not be seen.
Thank goodness for those good moments, that heartwarming news, those hopeful feelings; they help counterbalance all of the above. If the weather is stormy now, well, it's supposed to be a beautiful weekend. The flowers are flowering, the earth is brightening, and the storms are feeding the earth. Sleeping, eating and creating ways to release tension are all ways of keeping the disappointment in perspective. Letting the unpredictable come and go and realize the ebb and flow are just part of the rhythm of life, in or out of fertility treatment.
No question that it's challenging. And we're right here with you so that you don't have to go through it alone.
Speaking to a Fertile Yoga student on Saturday, in the peer support group that meets before hand, and listening to the responses of the other participants, it struck me, just how strong hope lives within us. The strength and fragility of our hope sometimes feels like there's a battle for the upper hand. And what are the choices? Hope or despair? Hope or no hope? Hope or resignation?
Infertility treatment, whether IVF cycles or IUI cycles, whether donor sperm or donor egg, whether clomid or third part reproduction, is entered into with hope. Even those of us feeling completely beaten down by years of trying on our own, those of us who see all our friends getting pregnant around us, or those of us with symptoms or diagnoses that feel defeating, have hope. If we didn't, we wouldn't enter fertility treatment. We wouldn't make appointments with a reproductive endocrinologist. We wouldn't take hormone medications or inject ourselves, have blood drawn, go for ultrasounds. We just wouldn't. If there was no hope that fertility treatment would work, that we would become pregnant and hold a baby in our arms, why would we do it?
Even when that hope is buried deep, unbelievably deep, subterranean level deep or so small as to be practically non-existent, completely unnoticeable, it is there. If it were not, you would not be considering fertility treatment, in treatment or continuing treatment.
So in this season of glorious growing, of green things poking their way through the still cold earth, buds miraculously appearing on trees and bushes that still look a bit tired and weary, how can we allow that tiny seed of hope that lives within you to flourish?
Our wonderful therapists, Lisa Tuttle and Jane Elisofan, wrote a few weeks back about magical thinking. It made me wonder about the opposite. I know that I did feel the more hope that I had, the more I allowed my hope to get bigger, the harder the fall and disappointment would feel when treatment, once again, didn't work. What I had a much harder time imagining was the gentle possibility of my hope supporting fertility treatment working. Not empowering my hope with magical possibilities, that if I hoped enough, I would get pregnant. Just allowing that hope to float below the surface, perhaps put a smile on my face, thinking about the possible pregnancy. Imagining the possible pregnancy, hearing my nurses call me and say "yes".
What brought this up, as often happens, is speaking to the students who attend Fertile Yoga. More to the point, listening to the students, and listening with an open heart as well as my ears. Hearing their hope. Hearing them allow that hope in. Giving the hope a chance to grow and be supportive.
It certainly made me smile. And it made me realize that hope is both fragile and strong. Usually in just the right measure.