Fertility Loss and a Mom's Love
Today’s my mom’s birthday. It’s not an easy birthday this year. At least for me, not sure about for her although I will ask her later.
I’ve been grappling with emotions, actions, decisions and yes, words and terminology ever since my sister died less than two months ago. Do I still have two sisters, only one is deceased? Am I still one of three sisters? One of three daughters? Do I have to preface a comment with “younger” anymore since I no longer have an “older” sister? No answers to any of those questions yet and of course they have me wondering.
The loss of a child or a pregnancy loss demands a certain thoughtfulness around these questions because it hurts when we don’t acknowledge a life or even the beginning or possibility of a life. For those of us who have undergone fertility treatment, IVF particularly, we see embryos that are dividing and “growing”. Yet they are not children or even babies and will not be until they are born.
So why do they so often have names? And without question, these embryos carry our hopes and dreams for the children that they could become. If they just would. If they just would continue to divide and implant and thrive and continue developing to become the baby we are hoping for.
We mourn losses that may not make sense to others. We mourn menstruating each month when we are hoping that this will be the month that our journey towards parenthood will begin. We mourn our embryos not turning into our daughters and our sons. We mourn pregnancy losses, no matter how early, when they do not continue into becoming our children.
And we mourn the death of a child. Whether an infant loss or a two-year-old or a seven-year-old or a fifty-four-year-old. It is not our expectation to outlive our children. It’s not what we believe is the natural order of things.
Happy Birthday to Our Mom
It’s my mom’s birthday today and she has two living daughters who are here to celebrate it with her. My sister Shari believed in heaven and I have no doubt that she is where she wanted to be; with my father and uncle and grandparents. I have no doubt that Shari is sending my mom love and smiles and sunshine and warmth and hugs and kisses today. I have no doubt at all. I never, ever would doubt either of my sisters' ability to continue to be a loving presence, no matter what the circumstances. And I have enough faith for us all.
I have faith that my mom is wrapped up in love today, that the cool breezes and the spring sun and emerging buds are my sister Shari wrapping her up lovingly. I have faith that this is a glorious day because she was born and that there is joy today because she is still here with us.
I know this is a hard birthday without the physical presence of my sister Shari. I know that losses feel like the bottoms of our lives have dropped out.
Another thing that I know about my sister Shari is that she would want my mother to enjoy her birthday. My sister Shari was a joyful person despite pain, setbacks and difficulties. She would have wanted my mom, our mom, to feel loved today.
I’d like to think that all of us who have experienced losses have that additional resource of feeling loved by those beings not here with us on the earth. And if you don’t believe that or can’t feel it, that’s ok, I don’t want to impose my belief system on you.
I will just hold some extra space for all of us who are feeling those losses. Imagine that space as a vast reservoir of love and peace.
To my mom, today, a special birthday wish from all three of her daughters. We love you. We cherish you. We appreciate you. We’re so blessed to have you as our mother.
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Supreme Court Debates the Meaning of Family
It's all about family this week.
All the way to the Supreme Court, it's about families.
There are very few places you can go without seeing red equal signs. Maybe you have seen them on Facebook. Maybe you're not on Facebook and haven't seen them.
What do the red equal signs mean? What do they stand for?
The Human Right's Campaign, dedicated to advocating and supporting LGBT rights and marriage for all, started the buzz and it has taken off like a wild fire.
Prop 8 and DOMA In the Supreme Court
Yesterday, the Supreme Court was deliberating about California’s Proposition 8, which bans the right for same-sex couples to marry. Today, arguments will be heard regarding the national Defense of Marriage Act, which has legally defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman since 1996.
The LGBT community supports being able to be married. To create their own families, legally and with the rights of heterosexual couples. Many have the same desire that heterosexual couples do, to have children. To have those children, often times using fertility treatment, protected legally as any other child is.
I read over and over yesterday about how simple this is. Because my Facebook page, it was covered in red equal signs and the conversation was that this should be a slam dunk, done, right thing to do.
Maybe it should be that simple. But it isn't. I get that one side of this is that this is the morally correct thing to do for our country.
The other side of the issue is that it is not the morally correct thing to do.
Regardless of what side you are on, the point of even having sides means that it's not simple. Simple would mean not caring about bringing people together in peaceful agreement. Simple would mean getting what I want and not caring about what the other side wants. Simple would mean no more discussion on how to find ways to talk to each other when we disagree.
This isn't a simple issue, not if we want to find peace with one another.
Let's care about the issue enough to continue the conversations, respectfully, with regard to the other point of view. Let's not be dismissive.
Because if we are dismissive, then we create further divisions between us.
Families are about love. That does seem like a simple enough place to start and continue a conversation.
Fertile Love - A Family of Two
We open our hearts to our beloveds and we create family. We are family, whether we are born to the same mother and father or whether we were born continents apart. We are family when our hearts connect. That bond does not disintegrate. Not with time or space or loss of communication or even death. We are family.
We are family when we are partners who have committed our lives and our hearts together. Our families are not created by enlarging to include a child. Our families are started through our love and committment. With or without a child.
Celebrate your family. In this moment. Your partner, spouse, beloved. Your sisters of blood and of spirit. Your brothers who hold you up and reflect your loving heart back to you. Your parents, the ones that brought you up and the ones that have helped you on different segments of your journey.
Fertility and Family
Our children do not make us a family. We are family when we love. Our fertility shines through our love, our ability to grow and explore new ways to be family.
We are family when we love. We are fertile when we watch our hearts expand to find the light. Our fertility is ours for the taking when we love. We are family, we love, we expand, we offer our hearts. To you.
Infertility Support: A Valentine's Day Poem
Wishing everyone reading this love.
Reflecting that back to yourself, first, please.
Gaze in the mirror and see your truest self.
To create a family, from love.
It starts from a place of love.
The desire to offer that love to others.
To a baby.
However that baby may arrive in your life.
Whatever twists and turns happen before that baby arrives.
However long that journey may take. It will be well worth the wait.
It will be well worth the effort.
It will mean everything.
Gaze into the mirror.
See the strength and love there.
You will create your family.
Believe in that strength and love.
We see it.
We are here to help.
Happy Valentines Day to You.
We wish you love, compassion and kindness.
On your quest to create your family.
Building a Family in a Different Kind of Way
There are lots of ways to create families these days. And there are also lots of things that get in the way of creating families these days. Infertility is not the only thing that gets in the way of making a baby. Sometimes there's simply no "other". Other, in that there are two cells needed to make a baby. A cell from a man and a cell from a women. The other that is sometimes, even often, missing, is the man or women in the baby making equation.
Whether it's because you haven't found a romantic relationship or because you're not interested in a hetereosexual relationship, you still do need that cell from a member of the opposite sex. And if you're a man, you also need a woman who is willing to carry a baby in the only organ made to do so; a uterus. There is no other way to do it, no artificial uterus, no other way that a developing embryo can become a baby.
Third Party Reproduction & Fertility Treatments Help Singles and Couples Build Families
Fertiity treatments including third party reproduction (donor egg; donor sperm; gestational carriers) offers a variety of options that men and women without a partner of the opposite sex can take advantage of to create their families. Specifically, single men and women and LGBT singles or couples can put together a plan of action using third party reproduction and with careful consideration and legal counsel, have their children. These options are wonderful, viable ways to create families.
The New York Times, February 8, 2013, published an article online titled, "Making a Child, Minus the Couple". (Thank you Amy Demma, for sharing it on Facebook!) Interestingly enough, it was under the Fashion and Style section of the issue. (Someone please explain that one to me). I don't know if it's a politically correct article or not. Probably not. And it's probably not politically correct of me to say this. But, I like it. The idea that you could parent a child without a romantic involvement. I like it. For all the reasons in the article, plus a few different variations.
Coming together for the shared, and in fact, only, desire; to raise a child. Discussing that issue and all it's layers, so in depth beforehand, making sure that there is consistency and compatability to build a stable home. Not for the sake of living together or loving one another, but for the simple and incredibly complex reason of raising a child together. I like it. Politically correct or not. Here's another politically incorrect statement. Maybe we should all do that.
Love Makes a Family
I was very young when I got married. I was pretty young when I started trying to have a baby. Had I gotten pregnant when we first started trying, I feel very, very certain the marriage would not have survived. That we would have been part of the very common divorce statistic. Many children live through divorces and continue on and thrive. Not all do though and it's not something any of us strive for, so how do we avoid it? Maybe you were a lot smarter or even just a little smarter than me. Maybe you discussed the following:
- how you would raise children
- how many children you would like to have
- when you would like to have them
- who you would like to have take care of them
- who would work and how much
- who would stay home when they got sick
- what religion you would raise them with
- whose family you would take them to spend holidays with
- what kind of meals you thought were healthy for them
- whether regular meal times were important
- whether video games were a good idea
- how many hours of television per week were ok
- what books to read before bedtime
And so on. Maybe you discussed these things. And more. I know I didn't.
I think I might have if I were entering a relationship with another human being for the sole pupose of raising a child. Perhaps if the emphasis on the relationship were on the child rearing and not the intensity of the love/romance piece, there would be less discord and less reason for animosity or disruption of parenting. I kind of like it.
And before you judge too quickly, consider your own life. Not everyone is lucky enough to have the wonderful partner or spouse that you may have. Don't they deserve the family that they want as well? It seems to come down to the same thing over and over again. Love makes a family. And the children of these parents will be loved before they are even conceived. And that is the point.
We are a practice of board certified reproductive endocrinologists.
Our job is to help you create your family.
When we do our job well, you do not stay in our practice very long.
Our job is to help you become pregnant.
We care a lot about that.
We care a lot about you. As a person, not as an infertility diagnosis.
We are with you on your up's and downs through your fertility treatment. We feel your disappointments and your elation, depending on the moment and the circumstance.
There are connections that are made and we get to know the circumstances of your life. What you do for a living, who is important to you in your family, what is easy and workable for you around your fertility treatment, what feels really hard.
We listen. We ask questions. We answer questions. We smile at you. We don't always say the right things at the right time. Please know that we care enough to try and try hard.
We get to know you.
And you get to know us as well.
Whether you are here for a short time or long time, we are working to help you with your dream of becoming a parent. Our goal and your goal is the same.
When you leave, we miss you. We think about you.
We wonder how you are doing.
We love hearing from you.
We hope that your stay with us is short and that it ends with you having the family you have been dreaming of, that you've been striving for.
However your time with us ends, please know that all of us here wish you the best. That we have been honored and privilaged to have been your health care providers, your confidants and your friends.
We wish you peace and contentment and tremendous joy in your life.
Election 2012 Predictions
That was my prediction.
That no matter what happened with the election, the sun would rise this morning.
The world would not and did not end because of who we voted in as President of The United States of America.
I knew it would. I counted on it.
I also am counting on the fact that we believe in the process in this country. Really believe in it.
The process, simply put, as I understand it, is that every four years, we have choices. And we make one choice for President of The United States of America. We make the choice that we believe in most or we make a choice because we think the other choice is awful.
We get to vote. One vote.
We make a choice.
And then the system is that the choice that more voters opt for becomes President.
Not just for those who vote for him.
But for everyone.
It means that that our system has a lot of bitter, disappointed people on the Wednesday morning after election day.
I get it. You've put a lot into the election. Many of us have become much more thoughtful and informed on issues because we have to select who we think is the best candidate. It becomes very passionate and opinionated and loud and in your face and I do get it. We give it our all.
And we're disappointed and frustrated and angy when our choice doesn't win. Some of us threaten to move out of the country. Some of do just that when we don't like the person voted in.
I get it.
I'm happy that my prediction came true.
The sun rose this morning. It's cold out and apparantly we are expecting yet another huge storm, hitting places that are already so vulnerable and decimated that even more support will be necessary.
The sun rose. Life goes on. We rejoice or we mourn the choice made.
Can we respect the process? For those out there whose choice did not win, could you please, please, please, become part of the solution that we need?
Could you please now make the choice to work within the system that we have in place in this country? Respect the decision of the voters who came out yesterday, some who had to battle cold because of no electricty; some who left shelters because they recently lost their homes; some who voted by absentee ballots because they are in a hospital.
One personal story. My personal story.
My dear friend Julie (I love you) and I drove to Long Island on Monday. Two hours. Picked up my mother's car at my sister's apartment, gathered clothes and other belongings. We wittnessed the devestation that has ocurred in New York. Saw the gas lines that are literally miles and hours long.
We drove two cars to the upper west side, sat in mind-numbing traffic, another 2 hours. Waited for my mother and sister to arrive at a rehabilitation facility. (Long, long story.) I slept in a chair, by my sister's bedside, overnight, while my mother and Julie drove back to Connecticut. Two more hours in the car for Julie.
My mother drove another two hours to arrive at her home in Massachusetts at 2 am.
To come back into the city the next day to relieve me.
Exercising the Right to Vote
Because my mother wanted to vote. All of this so that she could exercise her right and her responsibility to vote.
We looked at about three hundred and seventy-five different ways for my mom to get to MA to vote. (Her absentee ballot had arrived with no ballot in it!)
When we realized just how insane it was, we realized that she couldn't get to MA to vote.
The sadness in her voice was palpable. "It will be my first time not voting since turning 18," she said.
Very simple words. Nothing meladramatic or impassioned. Very, very simple.
I'm proud of my mom. She voted yesterday. So did I. So did Julie. Probably, so did you.
And today, the sun rose!
Coming Together After Election Day
Whether you like the President that we chose yesterday or not. Whether you did not choose the President that was re-elected or not, in this country, the system that we use is that the Wednsday after election day, we still all have one President.
Be part of the process, please. If you despise the decision made yesterday, help in all the ways that you can to make the changes that you want made.
We exercised our right to vote yesterday, in the democratic system that we use in this country.
Here's something I posted on Facebook several weeks ago:
Here's an idea. We will all need to live together the day after the election. Why not be respectful? Why not? Why wouldn't we choose to be respectful about our choices and someone else's? Why not choose being respectful? That's my choice. And the day after the election, will we choose to support our president? Or will we continue to rail against the president if he is not of our choosing? That's democracy? Or we go with the system that our country uses, voting. I'm going with respectful.
I'm very happy that the sun rose today.
And I'm going with respectful about the choice made yesterday.
I will leave you this morning with a quote from Rosa Luxemberg~
...we will be victorious if we have not forgotten how to learn.
P.S. Photo on this blog was taken of the sunrise at my sister's bed on election day.
I've written about this before. But it's time for a reminder.
When it comes to infertility basics, the more that you know about your family medical history, the better.
Ask these questions:
- Did your mother have regular periods?
- Did your mother have any problem getting pregnant or have any pregnancy losses?
- Did your mother have a hysterectomy? If so, how old was she and what was the reason?
- How old was your mother when she experienced the onset of menopause or menopausal symptoms?
- Is there a family history of polyps, fibroids or other problems concerning the reproductive system?
- Is there a history of thyroid disease in the family?
- If you have siblings, what is their history with trying to conceive?
- Have your partner ask these questions as well of their family.
I know it's not always easy to ask, but it's important that you know. It's important that your fertility specialist (board certified reproductive endocrinologist) know.Maybe it will open up other conversations as well. Perhaps you have not shared what you are going through trying to become pregnant.That will make the questions more awkward, I know.
If it doesn't feel right to let your mother and family members to know about your trouble conceiving, then see if you can find out in more subtle ways than outright questions. Try the conversation from a different angle or enlist someone in your family that you can confide in to ask the questions for you.
Some things you can even surmise. If there are 8 years between you and your sibling, it may very well be that there was a loss or a difficulty getting pregnant inbetween. Tell your doctor that, even if they don't ask.
The more that you can tell your fertility specialist, the better. It may help them diagnose and treat you.
We know this is hard. In so many ways. Please remember that you don't have to do it alone. Call us
if you have questions.
It's beautiful here, at the beach.
Walking, the sun is shining and bouncing off the water energetically, sending sparkles in every direction.
There are children everywhere, in all stages of growth. Babies, toddlers, youngsters, tweens and up.
Pregnant women too.
It's hard to tell if the adults that are hauling bucket after bucket of water for sand castles are parents, grandparents, older siblings, aunts and uncles or family friends.
One can't make assumptions about that anymore.
My sister, who is walking beside me is a member of a happy family. She is content, fulfilled, happy and in love with her husband of 19 years.
She is also childfree by choice. Not infertile.
We both admire the families that we see around us. Giggle at the adults racing after the little ones, just trying to keep up.
These families look very little like the ones that I grew up with.
The families that I grew up with had very different make-ups. Mainly, they were young mothers, many of whom who worked. They were young fathers, all of whom worked. There were grandparents who helped out regularly, with childcare, cooking, cleaning and more.
There were very few divorces. There were very few parents in their 40's and 50's.
Occasionally, there was an "oops' baby. A family, with teenagers, all of a sudden with a newborn.
There were a few of my friends who had much younger step siblings because of a divorce and a new marriage.
These situations were unusual.
These days, families have blossomed into many different configurations.
It's hard to tell who's who in a family anymore. Who's a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, sibling or family friend.
Or maybe, it's just ridiculously easy.
A family is made up of love.
And that does look all different ways.
That is not always a child born of your blood or union. That is not always a child who lives in your home.
There are happy, content, fulfilled families that are devoted, committed, and connected to children and who are not parents.
I know. I'm lucky enough to be related to two such people. Two sisters who are childfree but are still members of our family.
Friends who are not related in any way by blood but are family, none the less.
Those are the things that make up family.
Happy Valentine's Day!
Feel the love between you and your partner today. Revel in it. Feel the miracle that with all the people in the world, you found the one you truly love.
Put aside, for just a little while, what you feel is missing. Know that a family is what you make of it, whether it is two or more. The love you and your partner have created does make you a family. Whole and complete.
In this moment, this is what you have. And it is enough. It is love. It is family. And it is here.
So celebrate your love. Exault in it. Allow yourself to be immersed in the two of you, complete and whole for right now.
Blessed are those who cherish well their loves!
Each enduring love is like a river:
Making bloom the land through which it moves,
Yielding bounty in exchange for labor.
Very few appreciate this treasure,
As most desire more while giving less,
Liable to miss joy pursuing pleasure,
Each dragged into love under duress.
Nor does one understand so easily
That love requires one to be a lover:
Intimate in ways that set one free,
Needing for one's sense of self the other,
Even as one is oneself an other.