"You should sit in meditation 20 minutes every day -
unless you're too busy;
then you should sit for an hour."
- Zen Adage
I love that saying. I know that many of us get overwhelmed by the short sound bytes of pithy, ironic sayings. The one above sticks for me though. It's a reminder about what's important. What I make time for and what I don't.
The first thing I let go from my schedule when I'm overbooked is quiet, down time. Time for myself, that's the first thing that goes.
After all, I still have to work, cook, clean, take care of all my work obligations. The first obligation that I skimp on or put aside is the one to myself.
It so happens that I do meditate every morning. Maybe you do, maybe you don't. Maybe your meditation is your coffee, uninterrupted. Maybe it's the walk that you do, when you have time for it. Or the gym. Or the time for reading. Or speaking to your closest friends. Or simply having enough time between things to do that you don't have to rush.
"I don't have time" is a common refrain amongst people today.
The biggest thief of my time? Myself.
I overbook, I underestimate what's needed to hold my center strong and healthy. Then I wonder why I feel frantic and unsatisified. Not such a mystery, really.
I assume that I can go from one thing to another, to another to another.
What a blessing in my life that there are so many wonderful, interesting things in my life that I want to try to fit in. That I love my job(s), that I have interests that are sustaining and fulfilling.
Still, too much is simply too much.
After a lovely walk with a thoughtful friend, I have given myself a thirty-day challenge.
Every morning for thirty days, I look at my schedule for the day and take at least one thing out of it. At least one thing. And then make sure I don't add anything else to the day.
It has helped.
Sometimes I take out things that I would really enjoy doing.
Still, too much is too much.
Rushing like a madwoman from one thing to another never allows me to arrive in a calm state of mind, available and present for the moment.
So, I'm not. At least for thirty days, I'm actively reducing the amount of "things" I do in a day.
Which makes more time for me. To sit and read. To meditate. To drink a cup of tea, not running out the door at the same time.
My choice is to slow down. Do things with more respect. Treat time as if it's on my side instead of something to race against.
Let me know how you would spend your time if you had more of it. Then consider making a change on a daily basis to create it for yourself.
Miscarriage and Pregnancy Loss
Miscarriage, losing a wanted pregnancy, no matter how early, is a loss.
Whether you are five weeks, five months or five minutes, when a pregnancy ends before a baby arrives, it hurts.
It hurts terribly.
And hearing well meant comments that hurt even more can make any one of us shrink back into ourselves.
We know we may get pregnant again and have a baby.
That doesn't make this loss less painful or sad.
We know that the pregnancy may never have had a chance of surviving to become a healthy child.
That doesn't make having our pregnancy end feel any better.
We have our own beliefs about God and/or a higher power that may be shaken to it's very core or strengthened beyond what we could ever have believed. And with all due respect, those are our beliefs.
The Right to Grieve, The Right to Recover
No matter what anyone tells you, you have the right to grieve a pregnancy loss--however you may need to.
It may be a ritual. A letter written to your unborn child. It may be that you plant something. It may be that you start a scholarship fund.
It may be that you cry for a long time or frequently.
Let yourself grieve. Find loved ones that can help. Find a mental health professional, like RMACT's clinical psychologist Lisa Tuttle, PhD, that can help support you through your grief.
Please let us know what we can do to support you.
We are here.
A lovely woman, full of pain, asked me to write a blog about being positive while struggling with infertility and loss.
I've been struggling with what to say.
Her precise challenge is that after several losses, she is looking to find a balance between having positive feelings and staying too hopeful and then having her feelings crushed again by a disappointment.
I know I can start here.
This is about balance.
Here are several definitions that I think are meaningful in an almost gut wrenching way, according to thefreedictionary:
1. A weighing device, especially one consisting of a rigid beam horizontally suspended by a low-friction support at its center, with identical weighing pans hung at either end, one of which holds an unknown weight while the effective weight in the other is increased by known amounts until the beam is level and motionless.
2. A state of equilibrium or parity characterized by cancellation of all forces by equal opposing forces.
3. The power or means to decide
4. An influence or force tending to produce equilibrium; counterpoise.
5. Something that is left over; a remainder.
One of the synonyms used was proportion.
There were several more definitions, but these created a whole picture in my mind's eye. The first, 1, being so very physical and literal.
I taught a yoga workshop last night, where the entire focus was on balance. There were demonostrations on what happens to the physical body when we stand or walk, off balance. If we are walking skewed in one direction or another, the other side of our body compensates. We are shaping our bodies into uncomfortable and unatural states.
That's purely the physical.
Consider though, how it relates to the emotional and the spiritual, those other places where hope lives and breathes, and where we can get skewed as well.
As the body moves lopsided, so can the emotional and spiritual. We lean further and further away from pain, which is why we are lopsided most often.
We are lopsided, off balance, most often, when we are in pain. We move away from pain.
Because it hurts.
How do we find balance?
Look at the second, third and fourth definitions.
We bring the physical body back into balance by acknolwedging pain and allowing for it and working towards re-alignment of muscles, tendons, fascia, and the skeletal system. We don't ignore pain, it's our body's way of sharing information with us. We pay attention to pain and adjust, not to avoid, but to heal.
We bring the physical, emotional and spiritual bodies back to balance by using opposing forces. Lean too far to the left, physically, come back to balance by leaning to the right.
There is no but.
Some things are simple enough.
With each breath we take, we move. We unbalance, rebalance, unbalance again. The earth actually is moving, below and with us. We balance, again, and again and again.
When we hold rigidly to a place that feels balanced, we lose our balance completely. It's like trying to hold onto the past, present and future, instead of accepting the fluidity of time.
The third and fifth definition may apply best here. The power or means to decide.
We decide in each moment, just how much hope we have. We decide in them moment, in the present, what we are able to handle.
The key to that is coming into the next moment as fresh as possible, as available as possible to feeling something different.
Sometimes, it's all about definition five. Something that is left over, a remainder.
Our hearts and spirits are resilient. We hurt, we hope, we hurt again, we hope again.
It's in line with how our physical bodies function. Our breath and our hearts work that way. Breath flows in and then flows out. Our hearts beat and then beat again.
We hope and we breathe and we hurt and we try and we hope again.
Infertility Basics- 5 of the most common Mis-Conceptions.
Yes, mis-conceptions. Sorry for the play on words. But when I looked around to say it differently, it was the word that fit. These are not misunderstandings or myths.
They are misconceptions.
So here goes:
- If you have not gotten pregnant in 3 months, you will not get pregnant on your own.
Wrong. Check and make sure that you are timing intercourse properly. Check to see if you are ovulating by using an ovulation predictor. And if those things are all in order, give it another few months if you are over 35 and up to a year if you are under 35.
- If you are having trouble becoming pregnant, it will cost you $60,000 or more.
Also wrong. Many conception problems are simple and inexpensive to manage. Many fertility treatments are much more simple and less expensive. Many of us also have health insurance that helps pay for treatment. There are state mandates that also help.
- It's your fault.
Totally wrong. It's split roughly down the middle on who's "fault" it is. But really, it's no one's fault. Infertility is a medical problem that can be addressed. Assigning fault serves no valid or helpful purpose.
- No one you know is or has experienced this.
Given that one in six couples experience infertility, I assure you that someone you know has been down this road. One piece of the puzzle of infertility that is very painful is that we don't talk about it with our friends and family. Sometimes for very good reasons. Perhaps you could be the first to talk about it. If you do, you will find that others confide that they also have had trouble. Then neither of you will be alone in this.
- Everyone else in the world is pregnant.
Look back at 4. It is so gut wrenching hard to hear over and over again that your friends; sisters, cousins, acquaintances; peers; co-workers are pregnant. You're happy for them, sad for you. Or some variation. It's even harder reading about the 15 year old girls who get pregnant, who don't want to be. But not everyone is pregnant. Support groups, message boards, telephone meetings exist to support and help you. You do not have to be alone.
If you are just starting out on the path of fertility; wanting to get pregnant and it's not happening, we are here to help.
You are not alone.
I write when I’m anxious.
Sometimes I eat. (OK, often I eat when I’m anxious.)
I meditate when I’m anxious. Or create a mantra and repeat it.
Infertility and fertility treatment sometimes causes anxiety. To be fair, it also creates hopeful anticipation and lots and lots of joy when it works.
Taking medication, having to come in for ultrasounds, noticing changes in our bodies, having to be aware of scheduling, all can create some anxiety.
Here are a few suggestions from our Fertile Yoga ladies last night on how to handle those anxious feelings:
- Writing in a journal- stream of thought. Releasing it to paper or onto the computer will allow it to flow from your head out. Seeing it out there is often calming as you have given yourself a way to see it, outside yourself.
- Listening to music- plug in! Find something that is so unbelievably beautiful that you just can't help but dive in. Sing along. Tap your foot.
- A side note to music- DANCE. Enjoy your body. Do it privately if it makes you less self conscious.
- Read. Oh yeah. Dive right into a book. A nice, juicy novel.
- Educate yourself. Make that stack of books on your nightstand books that will help you understand the infertility and fertility treatment process.
- Work out! Take a walk. Go to yoga.
- Consider a brand new style of therapy. Profane therapy. Swearing evidently can help. Let loose. Then let yourself laugh.
- Movies- there are a lot of them coming out right about now. George Clooney. Need I say more?
Thanks Fertile Yoga Ladies for all these suggestions.
Another idea that came up last night is still percolating.
Any other ideas for managing anxiety?
Let me know. I'll post them here. Anonymously, if you like.
"Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life."
- J.K. Rowling
I'm into quotes this week. I guess I'm into slogans or cliches too. The one above struck my fancy as being just a little different.
Maybe because it perfectly melds the idea of a positive spin on a negative situation. Put in the most simple terms, infertility is on the side of negative. Not something you chose or want or need in your life.
Putting the positive spin on it though, with the phrase from above.
Here's my further thoughts.
Infertility makes you a better parent.
Infertility makes you more empathetic.
Infertility offers you a way of becoming closer to your partner/spouse.
Infertility shows you just how strong and mighty you are.
Cliches and slogans become popular for a reason. They resonate with people. With many people. Yes, they sometimes seem trite, unless and when they perfectly fit and express how you are feeling.
The cliche above is lesser known, written by a wildly successful person. She was practically homeless, practically penniless, no exaggeration.
And her foundation was rock bottom. Solid as a rock.
If infertility is your rock bottom, see how strong you can make it as a foundation. Not a foundation of disease or inability, but of strength and capability and health.
We're here, as always, to help.
Thanks to all our Ladies from Ladies Night In!
Here are some answers to the questions you will likely encounter at some point during this holiday season.
You know the questions.
Basically, any variation of question that asks your about pregnancies, babies and so on and so forth.
Here are answer suggestions from your peers, from Ladies Night In- Danbury:
- That's a private matter, I'd prefer not to discuss
- Thanks for asking, we'll let you know when there's any news
- We're really not ready- He's not ready, She's not ready
- We're leaving it in God's hands
- We've been trying
- This doesn't seem like the time or place to talk about this
- Did you notice the goat cheese appetizers? (Or any other version of changing the subject)
- We've decided not to
- We're enjoying our lives the way they are now
- It will happen when it happens
No way of knowing
No reason to re-invent the wheel. Pick an answer from above, or use one as inspiration to create your answer. Standing there and trying to figure out a new answer every time you're asked a question that makes you uncomfortable is not necessary.
Hints for surviving the holidays while struggling with infertility:
- Pick the partys and celebrations to attend that truly bring you joy, not the ones that you feel you "should" attend
- Create new rituals for yourself if you find that some of the ones that have brought joy and comfort in the past no longer do (check in later this week for some ideas on new ones!)
- Consider a vacation or a staycation- if going away is impossible or not appealing, then create some vacation time at home. Pick your favorite things to do (suggestions later this week!) and do them!
- Prepare a script (or two) of things that you'd like to say when you get asked the inevetable questions about babies and family. They can be quite simple or more complicated depending on who is asking the question. On Thursday, I will create a list of answers to these questions. Those of you out there who have ones that you are comfortable with, please make a comment below so that I have them to add to the list
- Ask for support. Many of you now know someone else who is in fertility treatment, through Ladies Night In. Ladies Night In is meeting in Danbury tomorrow night- Wednesday, December 7 and in Norwalk- Wednesday, December 14. We'll exchange phone numbers. Use them. Call each other. Call us. (Friday, December 16th, after Fertile Yoga, we're doing a Ladies Night OUT- details to follow)
- Another variation on asking for support. For those of you who have shared what you are going through with friends or family, let them know that this is a difficult time for you. It's a great idea to ask them to watch your back. They can keep an eye out if you are stuck in a conversation with a known busy-body and come rescue you if needed.
- Keep a gratitude journal. Write three things a day that you feel grateful for. It could be as simple as the car started today. It could be that you feel grateful for your relationship with your partner. If it's helpful, write in your journal thirty times a day. Sometimes it is, incredibly helpful.
Find something fun to do. Or something silly. Something that is just "not you". A comedy club, sky diving, zumba class, bowling, laughing yoga. Something that may open up new interests or just provides a lively distraction.
Stay tuned to this blog for all the hints and suggestions that I promised you.
Anyone out there with fabulous answers to those questions we all dread hearing, please send them into the comment section of today's blog! I need your help....
At Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut (RMACT), we know how important it is to treat a person as just that, a whole person. Not as a walking infertility problem.
We have two therapists who work with RMACT to compassionately support and guide our patients. Below are frequently asked questions that they have answered. If you have more, please post at the end of the blog. Questions and comments will come directly to me. I will forward them to either Jane or Lisa if you would like.
1. What kind of therapist are you?
Jane Elisofon is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, with a four year post Masters certificate in psychotherapy and Lisa Tuttle has a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology. Both Jane and Lisa specialize in fertility counseling and are part of the Integrated Fertility and Wellness Program at RMA. (To learn more about us, click here to read our professional biographies)
2. What services do you offer for fertility patients?
We individualize the counseling depending on what each patient is struggling with and looking to accomplish. We try to understand our patient’s feelings and help them learn ways to manage these emotions more effectively so that they do not feel overwhelmed, unfocused, and upset with themselves. Our non-judgmental responses and our validation that their feelings are ‘normal’ in the context of their situation, can be a relief to them. Sometimes suggesting a different way to view a situation brings clarity and the awareness of better choices.
During the initial session, we will work with the patient to determine what their needs and wishes are, and develop a treatment plan based on this information. The frequency of patient sessions and whether the sessions are individual or include their partner are part of this treatment plan. Many patients find themselves grappling with ‘next step’ decisions, such as considering IVF or egg donation, and often a couple find themselves not on the same page about what they want. Many patients are experiencing deep feelings of loss due to a miscarriage or due to being informed that they cannot conceive without an egg or sperm donor. Although these emotional reactions are normal, professional help can assist you in grieving and moving beyond your loss. Our counselors can provide you with ways of thinking about your decision so that as a result you have made the best individualized decision for yourself and your partner. Some patients may want to focus on learning stress reduction and relaxation techniques. We are flexible to accommodate their wishes and their financial realities.
3. Does insurance cover my seeing you?
Both Jane and Lisa are not “in network” for insurance, however, we have all of the credentials necessary for you to receive ‘out of network’ insurance coverage. Patients are asked to pay us at the time of our visit and we give them a receipt that they can submit to their insurance company for some reimbursement. Since both Jane and Lisa lead or co-lead educational support groups, patients may choose this help modality as it is free to RMA patients.
4. I’ve always been able to handle my own problems before, why should I come see you with this one?
There are very many high-functioning people who find themselves really struggling when they are faced with the stress of infertility. It is a profound life crisis. Often this life crisis brings to the surface past losses
and painful experiences. Thus the emotions can be overwhelming and confusing.
Some couples feel "stuck" in their attempt to make an important decision in this
process. To make matters worse, they may feel as if they are at opposing
viewpoints and can see no point of resolution. We are experienced in the
particular issues of infertility patients, and aware of the medical aspects as well.
Our ability to introduce you to new ways to discuss these issues can make us particularly helpful to you. Our goal is to assist you in the exploration of your particular issues in ways that can benefit you long after you have completed this fertility process.
5. I don’t want anyone to know that I’m coming to see you. Will this be confidential? Even from the doctors or my partner?
The sessions with our counselors are confidential. Certainly patients can, and often do, choose to have some information from their counseling sessions shared with the RMA medical team, when it can be helpful to their treatment. .
Patients who are planning to use donor egg, donor sperm or gestational surrogacy will be required to meet with Jane or Lisa for a “recipient consultation”. In this circumstance, the counselor must submit a brief report to the doctors summarizing the discussion of the questions asked in all of the donor recipient consultations. The doctors only need to know that you have thought through the issues pertinent to donor recipients so that the RMA staff knows that you will not be faced with unexpected issues after your child is born.
The entire RMA staff is aware that a patient’s trust in us is a necessity and protecting your confidentiality is an important part of this trust.
5. I know I shouldn’t be feeling a lot of the feelings that I am feeling. Isn’t there a way to handle this without coming to see you?
Don’t assume that you “shouldn’t be feeling what you are feeling”. There is a wide range of “normal” feelings for fertility patients to experience that includes grief, anxiety, depression, anger, jealousy, hopelessness, and so much more. Feelings are not “good” or “bad”; they are just feelings and cannot hurt anyone. We can help you learn to understand, accept and cope with these emotions in ways that will result in your having compassion for yourself and feeling better about yourself.
6. Will I need medication and if so, can you prescribe them?
Some patients might benefit from medication for depression or anxiety, and this will be something that we help you to evaluate. Of course, the decision is yours. If you decide that medication would be helpful, we will refer you to a psychiatrist that can prescribe the appropriate medication that is also safe for a woman who is trying to become pregnant.
7. The idea of counseling is scary to me. How do I know that it will help, not hurt?
Many people are uneasy about getting counseling because it is unknown and unfamiliar. A skillful counselor is able to make certain that patients are benefitted by the time they spend in counseling, and that no harm is done. There are many ways in which we can help reduce your distress: help you put your feelings into words, which can bring relief and comfort; explore new ways of viewing an issue so as to open up new options when you have felt stuck with no options that felt right for you; or, teach you stress reduction techniques that you can use at particularly stressful times or to help you cope more easily with your daily routine and sleep.
9. How do I know if I should see a mental health professional?
Certainly if you are having trouble sleeping, eating, or concentrating, these are signs of distress. If you are arguing a great deal with your partner or other people, you are probably overwhelmed and unclear about what you are feeling. You may be simply feeling sad, alone, angry and hopeless, or feeling intense anxiety or stress and would like some relief. Or perhaps you are unable to make a decision about what to do next… another medical treatment, adoption, egg or sperm donation, or childfree living? In all of these cases, it is very likely that counseling would be helpful.
More questions? Ask us here, we will get you an answer. We're here to help.
Ladies Night In-Infertility Peer Support Groups
Without revealing anyone's name or identifying information, I thought I'd share some of the incredible wisdom, examples of strength, sweetness and humor that Carrie Van Steen and I were privileged to be witness and be part of the last two evenings.
"Our men need to be taken care of too. They need a support group to talk. And they want it."
"I've created the space in which I give myself shots to reflect how I want my child to be conceived. Music, candles, soft lights, reflective atmosphere, quiet. It soothes me and allows me to focus on what I'm really doing."
"Next mother's day, may we all be mothers."
"I know I shouldn't want twins. I know all the reasons not to want twins. All the complications that could happen, that it's so much harder to carry the pregnancy to term, that it's harder to raise the children. But, oh, what wouldn't I give to have this over with. To have my two children and never have to face fertility treatment again."
"My husband wonders as he's taking care of me, who's taking care of him?"
"My mother-in-law has stopped asking us questions about when we're going to have a baby. Maybe she understands? I don't really care why, I'm just so relieved not to have the questions anymore."
"It's not the children or babies that upset me. It's the never ending announcements of pregnancies. Everyone around me is pregnant. Every time I relax and think it's kind of safe, someone else is pregnant. Why can't it be me?"
"Everything else in my life, I've worked hard for and been successful. Why not this? What if this is the part of my life I can't be successful at?"
"I've had five miscarriages and I'm ready to try again. I never thought I could go through so much and keep trying."
"I have a daughter. Every single day, she pushes around her doll stroller and asks when we are going to have a baby. She points out that everyone elses' Mommy is having a baby brother or sister. When am I going to give her one? It breaks my heart."
"I know that I'm strong enough to do this. I know that God doesn't give me more than I can handle."
"Infertility has brought out the most positive things in my marriage. We have never been so close."
"Hearing about other people's children is so hard. Why would they think I want to hear these things? Why would they think I want to hear them yelling at their children? Why can't they realize how hurtful this is to me?"
"We're all prenatal. We're all just waiting for our babies."
"I've rearranged my entire life to try to have a baby. We've moved, changed jobs, changed insurance companies, left our families, delayed, planned and cancelled trips around fertility treatment. And people still tell me to try to forget about it!"
"What should I say when someone asks me if I'm pregnant? No, I'm just bloated and distended from fertility drugs?"
These comments and more, full of pain, strength and humor are just a tiny piece of what was discussed at Ladies Night In, Danbury and Norwalk.
We were all touched to have ended last night with one of our members singing for us.
They have never sang that song as beautifully as she did last night.