How to Build Hope - Happy Valentine's Day
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Martin Luther King, Jr. - My Hero
Martin Luther King, Jr. is one of my heroes. I know a lot of people out there admire him and even revere him; to me, he is a hero.
I list him on the top of my hero list.
He inspires me daily in the work that I do. Here are a few reasons why:
- He supported all people to be all that they could be; in a free and open society
- He worked from a place of strength, love and peace
- He was a non-violent man who stood tall, never stooping to vilify those he disagreed with
- He used his words to improve understanding, to make what he was saying clear and then even more clear
- He was unafraid
I work in and for a community that I love and have utmost respect for; the infertile community. I see daily how people are exhausted, ashamed, beaten down and humiliated by an infertility diagnosis. I see how they feel less than other people because of the often temporary inability to conceive and carry a pregnancy to term. I see how they (we) hide from the people we love and trust most; not sharing what we are going through or minimizing it.
Fertility Inspiration from Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. probably had no idea or inkling that he would provide fertility inspiration; that he would inspire someone whose life goal is to support men and women through infertility. That’s another reason that he is my hero; how far reaching his words and actions have been.
There were many times when Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke for his community; that is his legacy, his words and actions. That is who he was, a powerful spokesperson against deliberate and non-specific racism.
There have been many times where I have deliberated whether or not to speak; and then, what to say and how to say it. Martin Luther King, Jr. comes into my mind on occasions where there is something of importance that needs to be said, where being an advocate is more than listening in a loving way; where it means saying things that will be unpopular but are real. I think of him when I am speaking for my community. I think of him when a reader asks me what she can share with her mother who had four children, one after another and does not understand what she is going through. I think of him when I read research reports and sigh with relief that there is no causal link between fertility treatment and cancer. I think of him when I write about how it feels to be alone, reminding you that you are not alone.
Community Support on MLK Day
He is a hero of mine. I’m not entirely sure how he would feel about my using him and his words and actions to support my community. Perhaps he wouldn’t approve. Perhaps he would be upset about it.
One of the reasons that Martin Luther King, Jr. has withstood the test of time as a hero, nationally, internationally and in my heart? He has inspired me to grow from his efforts and, through that growth, I have learned how to effectively fight and support my community.
While he might not agree with my fight, nor support my cause, I have absolutely no doubt in my heart that he would respect my passion, commitment and actions to support this community that I love.
MLK Day, I will light a candle. I will say a prayer.
And I will say thank you.
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Photo: Flickr Creative Commons, AlvesFamily, Martin Luther King Memorial
New Year's Resolutions
Today is the day for intentions. And declarations. New Year's Resolutions.
We make huge statements on what we will do for the entire year.
Usually they have to do with things that we can barely do one day at a time or even, sometimes, one meal or hour at a time. Usually our intentions are about habits that we desperately want to change or think we should change or things we wish were different and that we would change if we could.
The crazy thing is that we think if we say it, especially out loud to enough people, that our declaration alone will be enough to change things. As if simply saying it will make it come true. The gyms are packed in January with people who have made New Year’s resolutions. They are crowded in February. They are back to normal in March with the people who make a commitment to exercise every day, not for an entire year.
One thing I know about infertility and fertility treatment is that if being determined and focused were enough, board certified reproductive endocrinologists would be out of work.
Fertility Treatment is a Marathon, Not a Sprint
Mark Leondires, Medical Director of Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut (RMACT), talks about fertility treatment being a marathon, not a sprint. Luckily, that turns out not to be true, very often. At least in as much that so often, one can and does get pregnant on the first fertility treatment cycle. What he is referring to, of course, is that so often men and women are trying for quite some time before they ever walk into his office. Hence, marathon, not sprint. If you have been trying on your own for any amount of time, then you are already exhausted by the time you walk into his office. Maybe you feel like you’ve already run several races, as hard and fast as you possibly can.
The thing about a marathon is that just like a sprint, you have to do it one step at a time. In a sprint, you are moving much faster, usually with more effort. In a marathon, you know you will be out there for several hours, just for the race itself. There is no expectation that in fifteen or thirty minutes you will be finished. The training is a whole other issue though.
If I look at a new year’s resolution as a marathon, in that I would like to accomplish my goal for one solid year (secretly hoping of course that I will have retrained myself not to do, or to do, something astonishing) and allow that each day I am in training, somehow that feels manageable. At least to me. Each day, I have to achieve my goal. Not for an entire year. Just for that one single day. That breaks my goal into the steps I would have to take to run that marathon. That gives the training needed.
I can’t run a marathon tomorrow. But I do know that if I run today, let’s say three tenths of a mile on my five mile walk, that I’ve started my marathon. Because then tomorrow I could run a half of a mile. And Friday, perhaps a bit more. And on Saturday, I might not run at all, because that’s how training works. I know that with training, I could run a marathon in about five months. Barring injury, and not very fast, I could run a marathon in May or June.
With Life, As With Fertility: the Smallest Pieces First
And I know something else too. I will not be able to run a marathon without taking that smallest piece first. Three tents of a mile is about the distance between two telephone poles. Doesn’t look a bit like the 26.2 miles that a marathon is, all big and glorious. In fact, three tenths of a mile looks a bit silly maybe. Still and all, it’s where I would need to start. And without starting, there would be no marathon ever.
I like Dr. Leondires’ analogy with the marathon. It allows us to break things down into smaller pieces, knowing that is how it has to work.
First step on your marathon to become pregnant - Ask yourself these questions: have you been trying for more than one year to become pregnant and you’re under the age or 35? Or six months of trying over the age of 35?
Next - Understand that if you have been trying to become pregnant and have so far been unable to that there is help out there so that you can have the family you are dreaming of.
Finally – make an appointment! You do not have to do this alone. In fact, you may be unable to do this alone. So far, it has not worked. Get some help. See a board certified reproductive endocrinologist who specializes in helping conception along. Take the time and effort to succeed by having professionals guiding and supporting you each step of the way.
New Year’s resolutions are a great idea. They are a great way to reflect your desires and dreams and announce them to the universe.
Then do the footwork, so to speak. Do those New Year resolutions, one piece at a time, each day.
We are here to help. Please let us.
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Last Day of the Year
It’s the last day of the year. In my family, that means that last night we celebrated my husband’s birthday. I try hard to make sure that he doesn’t get overlooked; between the holidays and the New Year, that would be easy to do. Especially given his personality. He wouldn’t mind, not really, if his birthday wasn’t celebrated. As long as he skis on his birthday, he’s all set.
He knows what he wants, he knows what he needs and he creates the day to fulfill and satisfy himself.
A lot of us reflect on the past year on this date. What have we done that we wanted to do? What have we done that we did not want to do? If we made New Year's resolutions a year ago, how well did they hold up?
I summarize. I look at the big things from 2013. It’s too large a chunk of time to examine each day, so it’s the bigger things that stand out.
The bigger things are important, no doubt. I do judge myself on those moments and occasions, and I do mean judge myself. I know for myself that in the tenderest moments, what I need to reflect on is my day to day behavior; my choices on an hourly basis. And this I need to do more frequently. Much more frequently than once a year.
Each evening I spend some time asking myself questions.
Self Reflection Questions
Here are some of the self reflection questions that I find myself pondering.
Was I kind?
Was I honest?
Was I loving?
Was I authentic?
Was I helpful to others?
Was I true to myself?
Did I do what needed to be done?
Was I grateful?
Was I present?
I don’t ask myself each of those questions every night. Not surprisingly, I find myself asking the questions that I need to each night. It’s when I’m wondering about my honesty that I ask myself about my honesty. It’s when I’m uncomfortable about whether I was as kind as I could have been that I ask myself about kindness.
I clean it up every night. I acknowledge to myself what I didn’t do as well as I would have liked. I look at it honestly and forgive myself (the best that I can), so I can start the next day, in a fresh, clean way.
What I like best about this? I don’t have a lot of clean up to do tonight. I don’t have a lot of regrets about 2013 that I haven’t already processed. There’s not a lot of discomfort hanging around about what I could have, should have, done better or different. I’ve looked at most of it already and feel mainly at peace with my choices and behavior.
My daily clean up means that at the end of the year, I don’t have a huge clean up. For that, I am very grateful.
Ringing in the New Year
Tonight, while ringing in the new year, I will ask myself some questions. Right now, I don’t know what they will be. I do know that last night, my husband celebrated his birthday and that he enjoyed himself. Last night, for me, got cleaned up last night so that waking up today felt brand new.
I invite you to try this with me. This evening, reflect on today.
Tomorrow we will talk about intentions.
Happy New Year to you all.
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There is always beauty to be seen.
May you find beauty in your life today.
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The Gift of Children
What are you hoping to find this holiday season? An end to fertility treatment with the best gift ever?
Is it a gift that you can unwrap? A gift that you can be surprised and delighted by?
Gifts come in packages that are most unusual and unexpected.
The last several days of warm weather were a gift to me. Yes, I know, they shouldn't have been warm; it's snow season. Does that mean I shouldn't have enjoyed the balminess in the air? Being able to move around outside without being bundled up, without hiding every bit of exposed skin, was a pleasure that I had not anticipated and that I enjoyed thoroughly.
I considered it a gift.
The Meaning of Giving
I'm a word nerd. May be silly, nonetheless, true. Here's the dictionary defintion of gift:
1: a notable capacity, talent, or endowment
2: something voluntarily transferred by one person to another without compensation
3: the act, right, or power of giving
In this season, number two pops out at me first. The piece that warms my heart as a reminder of giving in a loving way, is "without compensation".
It's not about what I get back. Or what I get first. It's about what I give or what I receive without "compensation".
Gifts are not all bought and paid for; some are offerings of time and energy. Making food, doing an errand, doing someone else's chore; these are all gifts that cannot be unwrapped yet are enjoyed as meaningful expressions of love.
Did you notice that love is not mentioned in that definition?
Yet, that's what makes a gift most meaningful. The emotion with which it is chosen and delivered and the feelings it evokes in the person who receives it.
Without love, a gift has very little lasting meaning. It's just an object. It's not real, even if it can light up and do all kinds of extraordinary things.
A beloved children's book, The Velveteen Rabbit, says it best:
“Real isn't how you are made,' said the Skin Horse. 'It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.'
'Does it hurt?' asked the Rabbit.
'Sometimes,' said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. 'When you are Real you don't mind being hurt.'
To Become A Parent: Waiting for a Child
For most of you reading this blog, that is the real point, isn't it? What we're hoping for? To become real, become most alive, in the role that we are yearning for: to become a parent.
The real gift would be to love a child in a way that makes us real, in the way that we want to become real. To love so truly and completely that sometimes it even hurts, because we don't mind.
That is the gift many of us are still hoping for; to love a child and to become parents.
Until that happens, we become real in our quest, through our pain and disappointments. You are already real through your love for a child that has yet to be.
So we will wait. Together. For that child.
May you find that gift soon.
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Coping with Infertility and the Holidays
I just read an article written by someone I know and respect on ways to get through the holidays. Dr. Marie Davidson, from Fertility Centers of Illinois, in "Advice from Two Pros: How to Navigate the Holidays With An Infertility Diagnosis" posted by the Chicago Tribune, gives some very sage advice about infertility and finding ways to celebrate without causing yourself undue harm.
It's about creating a plan. It's about being proactive in the next several weeks in ways that you can; making decisions about what you do, what you don't do, where you go, where you don't go.
I love all of her ideas. I remember trying all those ideas and finding the ones that fit in the right ways and adjusting others. I suggest reading her wonderful article and seeing how her ideas could help you.
Here's one more idea that a very lovely and loving woman in our practice tried out this year.
She adopted a family. Luckily, a lot of us do that. It's a way of helping another human being and putting them first, if only for a little while. It creates a feeling of gratitude within ourselves about we DO have, rather than what we DON'T have.
This lovely woman went further and organized other women in Fertile Yoga and Ladies Night In to help. One woman went out and shopped for the two year old boy, whose mother had left him. When she brought the clothes in to be collected at Yogaspace, her face shone with delight. I asked her if it was difficult to shop and buy clothing for a toddler when she was still without a child herself, wondering how that would feel.
Her reply was that she enjoyed herself so much, that it lightened her heart. She showed me what she had bought, describing each item of clothing, smoothing the clothes over with her hands, almost as if the little boy's body filled it out. The love and kindness of the holiday season was all there, in that moment, in this woman's heart.
The feelings are there. Love, compassion, kindness. Then there was an outlet for those feelings to be expressed, by giving to a little boy who needed some tender loving care.
What does the holiday season mean to you?
Maybe it's not love, compassion and kindness. That's what the season means to me.
Perhaps taking some time to find out what the holidays means to you; to reflect, write, meditate, ask yourself some questions. Probably the holidays aren't just about shopping and gift giving. What are they about?
Then, having identified what the holiday truly means for you, take some action. Whether the action is for you, a loved one, or someone you've never met.
Give your feelings a way to be expressed. Don't worry about whether it's a traditional way to celebrate the holidays or a truly quirky version. This year, give yourself permission to celebrate the holidays in a meaningful way for you.
Me, this year? I'm going with lighting candles, sitting in front of the fire, drinking tea and reading books. That's right, multiple books! Nirvana, for me. It will feed my soul to have some quiet time.
I celebrate the holidays by encouraging you to find your way of expressing yourself.
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Holiday Support Through the Season
This is a very personal blog, based on what is helpful to me, the places I go when I feel stress or anxiety. They are probably not identical to how you cope or where you find holiday support through the season, and yet some may seem very familiar.
Getting clear with what I am doing as opposed to what I could be doing is a way for me to see through the murkiness. I have choices, it's reassuring to remember that.
I don't know if this will be helpful to you or not. Maybe you need to make your own lists, see where the things are that trigger you and how to release in a healthy (or not so healthy way).
Coping with Holiday Stress
The holiday season is in full swing. Some of what goes on is so loving and fun and full of joy. And some of it is just plain hard, holiday stress. Especially if you are dealing with not being pregnant. Again. Or fertility treatment cycle failed. Again.
Maybe not every coping method has to be healthy. At least not every day, occasion or minute.
Ten ways that I punish myself during the holiday season:
- I eat too much of too many wrong foods - including drinking alcohol and caffeine
- I stay longer than I am comfortable at social events
- I don’t exercise
- I make too many plans and don’t plan enough down time
- I don’t attend yoga classes
- I stay up too late and get up too early
- I don’t read
- I don’t pray and meditate regularly
- I don’t pay attention to how I am feeling and therefore can’t respect my feelings
- I endure rather than enjoy the holiday season
Ten ways that I support myself during the holiday season:
- I appreciate my loved ones
- I make phone calls to people I don’t normally speak with
- I put on my pajamas and stay in them for hours past what is normally socially acceptable
- I cook and clean in spurts
- I look at the physical beauty of the world
- I watch good movies
- I listen to those around me and let them in
- I hear my heart beating and my breath coming in and out
- I actively work towards finding light in my life
- I get up. I move a muscle, change a thought
Ten things I COULD do to support myself during the holiday season:
- Take a walk every morning
- Go to yoga class twice a week
- Pray and meditate
- Paint, draw, weave, knit
- Go to sleep by 11 pm every night
- Embrace the loving relationships in my life
- Spend time with my beloveds
- Make social contact regularly with supportive and loving people
- Have fun. Plan fun. Laugh more often.
Stress Reduction - Remember Choices
It's easy to get caught up in the season, for good and for bad. It's equally as easy to forget that we can make choices.
I'm going out for a walk. That's my choice.
As is my writing to you.
Maybe your choices would be helpful to someone else.
Could you share them with us?
If you do write to me, it does not post automatically. I can post your choices and stress reduction ideas anonymously.
Make a choice to share, I'd love to hear from you.
Lisa Rosenthal's Google+
Thanksgiving thoughts, during the days before the holiday.
Preparations are in full swing. Travel arrangements are also being commenced or coordinated, whether driving, flying or picking people up.
Cooking or meal planning has started and shopping for ingredients is obvious when you walk into any grocery store.
Expectations are high. We are to be thankful, grateful, happy, content.
Uh, huh. Except for when we're not.
Infertility and Gratitude
Today's blog is about infertility and gratitude and thanksgiving.
So many of us experiencing infertility do feel gratitude about so many things. I know this because I get to speak to so many of you.
Here's what I've heard lately, from you, about gratitude and thanksgiving, in your voices:
- "I'm grateful for the strength and foundation of my marriage"
- "I'm grateful for the support and help my friends have given me"
- "Every single day, I find things that bring me joy"
- "I'm so thankful for my job, which is so fulfilling"
- "The support that I feel from my family holds me up"
- "How interesting to see where support comes from, unexpected people who understand what I'm going through"
- "I love noticing the things that make other people smile"
- "Music brings me joy, even on the worst days"
- "Knowing that my husband is there for me, means everything"
- "I know that a child will enter my life, one way or another"
- "My faith sustains me"
- "I'm so grateful for the medical care and attention that I get from my doctors and medical staff"
- "Infertility has deepened many relationships for me, including the one with myself. Who knew I had the strength to go through fertility treatment, with shots, and medication and more?
Just little tidbits that I have gotten from all of you. You may recognize your words or your sentiments. Or you may be inspired by someone else's words and thoughts.
Thanksgiving is a time of hope and expectation.
That can be a lot tougher to create than a Thanksgiving dinner.
Would you please tell me what you're grateful for this Thanksgiving?
Lisa Rosenthal's Google+
Thinking About Infertility? How Often?
Conservatively, how often do you think about infertility and fertility treatment?
Here are your choices. Remember, please don’t exaggerate!
A. Once a day
B. Once a week
C. Once a month
D. Once an hour
E. Once a minute
F. Every time the phone rings
G. Every thanksgiving (and every other holiday, including Election Day, Veterans' Day and Canadian Thanksgiving)
H. On your birthday
I. Every time you see a baby
J. Every time the sun goes down
K. At lunchtime
L. When you have a doctor’s appointment
M. When a family member or friend asks you about when you are having kids
N. When you read an article about fertility treatments or doctors
O. When you hear an ad on the radio for a fertility program in your area
P. When you see an ad in your local magazine or newspaper
Q. When a friend announces a pregnancy
R. When you see an ultrasound of a pregnancy on Facebook
S. When you get your period. Again.
T. When you don’t get your period. Again.
U. When you are given unsolicited advice by a well meaning (?) person regarding your family building
V. The moment you wake up
W. The moment before you go to sleep
X. When you are planning your vacation time
Y. When you are preparing a financial budget
Z. All of the above
Hmmm. Chances are men and women will answer quite differently. If you have a partner, regardless of their gender, have them take the test too. See how your answers line up. It can give you some insight into why you don’t always seem or feel like you’re on the same page.
Do Others Understand If Fertility Treatment Has Infiltrated Your Life?
If you’re willing to risk a little, allow yourself to be vulnerable, hand your answers to one or more people who you expected to support you and who haven’t done as well as you had hoped. Maybe it will give them some insight into how thoroughly infertility and fertility treatment has infiltrated into your daily rhythm of life.
By the way, if you answered any of those with a resounding yes, you are not alone. I know that you’ve heard that before. Sometimes, the answer will be Z, all of the above.
Sometimes the answer will be A, once a day.
And sometimes it will be something or all that come in between.
We get it. If you have a chance, let me know some of your answers, maybe I’d be a safe person to try them out on.
I’d love to hear from you.
Lisa Rosenthal's Google+