Stop Asking #startasking #NIAW

It’s National Infertility Awareness Week again, and this year’s theme is “Start asking.” It’s a theme dedicated to empowering women to ask for the support that they need from friends, family, lawmakers, the media, etc. I’ve been feeling unsure of what to write in regards to this theme.  Couples dealing with infertility have so much going on.  Yes, I want to encourage people to advocate for themselves, but I also want those struggling not to have every conversation be a war zone for their hearts.

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If you know someone battling infertility (and you do), I want to encourage you to stop asking.  Stop asking the wrong questions and start asking the right ones.

Stop asking, “Why don’t you just adopt?”  Instead ask, “Where are you in your journey? What options are you considering?”

Stop asking, “When are you going to have kids?”  Instead ask, “What are your hopes for your family?”

Stop asking, “You have a baby, so why do you still call yourself infertile?”  Instead try, “I want to better understand your disease.”

Stop asking, “There’s always next month, right?”  Instead, go with, “I’m sorry. I’m here. I’m listening.”

Stop saying, “Everything happens for a reason.” Instead say, “I’m sorry you are suffering. What can I do to help?”

Stop saying, “My coworker’s cousin’s ex-wife’s sister got pregnant by drinking tea/eating soybeans/standing on her head.” Instead ask, “What’s your story?”

Some couples dealing with infertility are very open while others are much more private. Either way, ask your questions in a way that indicates you care for and support those dealing with this disease. If you wouldn’t say it to a cancer patient, don’t say it to an infertility patient.

There are many of us out there who want to raise awareness.  We want to share.  We want you to ask questions.  We also want you to acknowledge the physical and emotional roller coaster that we are on. Start asking questions with compassion and sensitivity.  You can never go wrong with, “How are you? How can I help?”

On Four Years of Motherhood

Four years ago today I became a mom, but I didn’t know it yet.  It was our fourth IUI, but we were already looking ahead to IVF.  It would still be two weeks before I’d take a pregnancy test at home, expecting it to be negative, find it on the bathroom counter 15 minutes later and freak out.  It would still be two weeks until I’d get my blood drawn and spend the day at work with my stomach in my throat waiting for a phone call from my favorite nurse.  It would still be two weeks until that phone call came in the middle of my afternoon class and I found out I was pregnant standing in the hallway at school.  Yet another week until we would find out that we were having twins.

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Four years ago today I became a mom, but I had no idea what the future held.  I didn’t know there were two sweet, funny, crazy little girls just waiting to brighten each and every day.  I didn’t know that I would spend today playing Tinkerbell, making peanut butter sandwiches, and singing Anna & Elsa tunes at the top of my lungs.  I didn’t know that my house would be covered in costume glitter, tiny doll shoes, and piles of artwork from preschool.  I didn’t know that my days would be full of singing, dancing, fighting over blocks, potty training, and bargaining over bites of dinner.  I didn’t know that my life would become this crazy, hectic, magical balancing act, and that I’d love every second of it.

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Four years ago today I became a mom, but it feels like yesterday.  Four years ago, my life changed forever.  It was a long, hard road to get to that day four years ago.  There were so many times I lost hope and so many moments I felt like I would never get here.  Yet, somehow, here I am.  Four years ago today I became a mom, and I’ve spent every day since feeling like the luckiest woman alive.

More? Maybe? Who Knows…

There comes a point after the birth of your first child(ren) that people start asking.  When are you going to have another one?  Do you want more children?

I really should just learn to say, “Maybe, someday…” and leave it at that, but I can’t seem to just give a simple answer to what, for me, is a very complex question.  So here’s the complex answer…

Right now, my family feels very complete, though that doesn’t mean I won’t change my mind in the future.

I know that I don’t want to have fertility treatments again, so I’d be willing to try and get pregnant naturally if I knew I could.  But since I don’t have a crystal ball, well, that’s setting myself up for a lot of heartache that I’m just not sure I can handle.  If we decided to have more kids, I don’t think I could just let it go if it didn’t work…and that would mean more surgeries and treatment.  In addition to the emotional aspects of it, I’m just not sure I want to put the time and money towards it.

Adoption is another option, but that process is lengthy, expensive, and emotional as well.  Again, we may think about that route in the future, but right now my heart and my wallet can’t handle it.

It’s hard for me to think about growing my family because it would involve so much sacrifice for all four of us.  It would be hard to pay for dance lessons and preschool while paying for an IUI or IVF.  It would mean vacations get put on the back burner while we wait and hope for another child.  Please don’t get me wrong, I think another child would be worth all the sacrifice, but right now I have a hard time thinking about not giving everything I have to the two beautiful daughters I already have.

Part of me thinks that we made these fantastic little humans, and surely we should make some more to populate the earth.  Another part of me just feels so blessed to have two when so many are still waiting for one.  Asking if we want more just leads to more and more questions in my mind.  For right now, though, it’s not a pressing issue for us.

Right now, our family feels complete.  I feel whole and content with the two amazing, sweet, funny, goofy, ridiculous, and awesome daughters that I’ve been blessed to have.  I’m happy with where we are as a family, and I’m not looking to change that any time soon.  Though, I fully reserve the right to change my mind in the future.

Does that answer your question?

National Infertility Awareness Week

In honor of National Infertility Awareness Week, I’m having a giveaway…and no, it’s not a vasectomy.

I thought about a lot of things I could write about to recognize NIAW.  I could have written about my own infertility again, or educated you by telling you that 1 in 8 men and women are diagnosed with infertility. I could have shared with you countless stories of friends far and near who have suffered from infertility.  I could have written about our sucesses, our failures, and our painful losses.

Instead, I decided that you should educate yourselves.  Understanding how your body works, recognizing the signs of fertility and infertility, and being proactive are the best ways to get help for yourself if you find yourself to be one of those 1 in 8 people.  In order to entice you to do a little research of your own, I’m giving away a $25 Borders gift card.

Here’s how to enter:

1. Scamper off and do a little research on fertility/infertility.

2.  Learn something new.

3.  Come back here and leave a comment telling us what you learned.

4. Repeat as many times as you would like, leaving a separate comment for each fact.

5.  Get your entries in by 5 p.m. CST, Saturday, April 30th.

I’ll even help you get started.  Check out sites like Resolve, Fertility Authority, and Conceive.

Enter away!

Green Eyed

This post is an attempt to work through some issues with infertility that I am still (yes, still) dealing with.  I guess you could call it a New Year’s Resolution, but I’m working on letting go of all of this…

I’m jealous that you got what I so desperately wanted without blinking an eye.  I’m jealous that without even trying, you created a miracle.  That you didn’t have surgery or hormone injections.  That you didn’t have blood work and ultrasounds every other day.  That it didn’t cost you thousands of dollars.  I’m jealous.

I’m jealous that your pregnancy was so easy and lovely.  I’m jealous that you went to Zumba while I could barely walk up the stairs.  That you didn’t have constant, nerve-wracking, high-risk monitoring.  That you didn’t have gestational diabetes and could eat whatever you wanted.  That you didn’t have preterm labor and non-stop contractions for over a month.  I’m jealous.

I’m jealous that you had the birth you wanted.  I’m jealous that you got to follow through with the birth plan you pictured in your head, the plan you planned for.  That you didn’t have to have major surgery in order to give birth.  That you got to be an active participant in bringing your child into this world.  I’m jealous.

I’m jealous that you got to take your baby home with you.  I’m jealous that the first time you held your baby was right after you gave birth.  That you got to change diapers without nurses standing over you.  That you never had to leave your baby behind.  That you aren’t still paying the medical bills.  I’m jealous.

I’m jealous that you get to nurse your baby.  I’m jealous that you never have to worry about supply.  That your nipples aren’t cracked and bloody.  That you don’t spend half your day hooked up to a breast pump.  That breastfeeding means baby snuggles and not hard plastic.  I’m jealous.

Mostly, though, I’m jealous that you’ll get to do this all again.  That when you put away your baby clothes, you are saving them for next time.  That it will be such a simple decision to try again.  That you’ll be successful at building your family.

I’m jealous.

2010 Photo Recap

It would be really nice if I wrote an actual post, but that’s just not going to happen.  Instead, you can watch our year progress in way too many photos.  Wishing you and yours the very best in 2011!

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

(Insert non-existent picture of Stephanie and I at her wedding here.)

August

September

October

November

December

I definitely think we’ve had enough fun and excitement to last for one year.  Bring on 2011!

The Face of (in)Fertility

Exactly one year ago today, I posted this photo…

While I had already starting writing a bit about our infertility journey, this was my first foray into posting about the horrific, painful, and raw emotions that often accompany infertility.  I posted the picture because I just couldn’t get the words out.  Describing that kind of emotion isn’t easy.  Still, it was a definitely a turning point for my blog and for myself.  It was the point when I decided that I wasn’t going to keep quiet about what I was going through.  Sure, it might be ugly.  Sure, it would make some people uncomfortable.  But I needed to talk about it.  And so it began.

There was infertility testing, surgery, drugs and injections, four IUIs, and then two babies.  I wrote about it all, and I kept taking pictures.  I came to find that being open about my infertility was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Now here we are, exactly one year later, dealing with a whole new set of often indescribable emotions.  Some of those painful infertility feelings still pop up from time to time.  I’m honestly not sure they will ever completely go away…and I’m not sure that I really want them to.  Still, anticipating the arrival of our two baby girls, the picture has changed quite a bit.

On a Different Kind of Body Image Issue

It seems I have some body image issues.  I’m not talking about the I’m too skinny/too fat/hate my nose/butt/legs kind of body image issues.  I’m talking about the kind of body image issues that arise when your body doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do.

It started, of course, with the infertility.  There I was, doing everything I could to make a baby, and my body just wouldn’t cooperate.  It seemed that my body was incapable of doing the very thing it was designed to do.  Meanwhile, people all around me were just magically pregnant.  It took us years of trying, surgery, pills, injections, and 4 IUIs to get pregnant with the girls.

Eventually, though, all our hard work paid off, and my body agreed to cooperate and carry two baby girls.  With each passing day, my anger at my body faded into the background.  Things were going great!  Every day I expected a problem, and every day passed without a sign of a problem.  My girls were growing and healthy, my cervix was long and closed.  I was taking care of myself and even starting to enjoy this pregnancy.

Then, along came gestational diabetes, and all of those rotten feelings about my body came back.  Once again, I find myself standing on the outside.  While all the other pregnant women I know get to eat what they want when they want…not so for me.  I have to eat certain things at certain times.  I can’t just eat whenever I’m hungry.  I have to wait two hours after each meal to check my glucose, and only then can I have a snack.  Could I have a bowl of ice cream?  Sure.  Half a cup.  And the choice to eat that ice cream is the choice to not eat something more filling and that has real nutritive value for my girls.  Once again, I feel like my body is failing to do the very thing it was designed to do.  I was a failure at getting pregnant, and now I feel like a failure at being pregnant.

And, of course, along with the gestational diabetes comes the advice.  Just like with infertility, everyone is quick to tell me just what it is they think I need to do.  I’ve had some very helpful conversations with people who have had gestational diabetes, but I also have an inbox full of advice from people who have never been pregnant, never had gestational diabetes, and certainly don’t understand the complexities of dealing with gestational diabetes while eating enough to keep me and my girls healthy.  It feels like infertility all over again.

On top of all that, it’s looking more and more like I’ll be the lucky recipient of a c-section for the birth of my girls.  Having multiples combined with the gestational diabetes just makes the likelihood of a c-section extremely high.  It’s something that I really don’t want.  I understand that women do it all the time.  In fact, something like 40% of births in the US are c-section.  Still, I’m not a fan of having major abdominal surgery, and I really, really want to give birth.  I would like to give my body the chance to do what it’s supposed to do.  I’m not giving up hope completely on the chance of a vaginal birth, but it’s looking less and less likely at this point.

I’m sad.

I’m tired and angry.

And I’m really frustrated with my body.

What I want right now is to drown my sorrows in a gigantic brownie sundae.

What I want right now is to snuggle my girls.

What I don’t need right now is anymore advice from people who don’t know anything about gestational diabetes.

What I don’t need is people e-mailing me telling me how much worse their problems are than mine.

What I don’t need is to be told to be grateful that I’m pregnant.  If you know me at all, you know how much this pregnancy means to me.

Instead, what I need is to find a way to deal with the shortcomings of my own body.

I need to stop putting so much pressure on myself to fix things I have no control over.

I need to find a way to be at peace with my body.

Emotional Limbo: Redux

Your responses to my previous post gave me a lot to think about.  I so much appreciate how many of you who didn’t struggle with miscarriage or infertility reached out and confessed your fears and anxieties.  I think that so often, women are just expected to be bubbly and excited about their pregnancies.  If you visit pregnancy sites or chat rooms, the biggest concern seems to be what color to paint the nursery.  Some fears are addressed, but a lot aren’t even mentioned.  Pregnancy is a miraculous thing, and no matter how you came to be pregnant, every pregnancy comes with it’s own set of fears and anxieties.  As an infertile, are some of my fears different or more intense than someone who didn’t struggle?  Probably.  At the same time, do I have any idea about the kinds of anxiety that comes with an unexpected pregnancy?  Nope.  I feel so lucky though to know so many of you, both those who have struggled and who haven’t, to support me through this amazingly crazy time in my life.

So often, baby talk in our society revolves around cute baby outfits and baby names.  We don’t talk about the down and dirty of it all, and I think that we should.  How else as women are we supposed to know what’s “normal” and what’s not?  How else are we supposed to adjust to what is probably the most life-changing thing to happen to us?  It’s not that I don’t think that picking out baby names or nursery colors is fun, but there is so much more to being pregnant that than.  I would imagine that to be especially true with a first pregnancy.

We can talk about sex, war, famine, and environmental disaster, but we can’t seem to muster up the courage to talk about the horror of infertility and miscarriage.  It’s just not deemed polite conversation despite the fact that millions of women are dealing with this every day.  We also can’t seem to find a way to talk about the completely normal anxiety that comes with bringing a child into the world.  No one who asks about your pregnancy wants to hear that you were up at 3 a.m. freaking out about getting things done, or that you’ve had nightmares c-sections.  They just want to know how far along you are, what you’re having, and if you have names picked out…and to give you well-meant, but often nonsensical advice.

As a community, I think that bloggers do a far better job about talking about these things than others do.  I certainly don’t shy away from sharing my scary thoughts with you.  Now, we just need to work on spreading that conversation around.  Becoming a parent, however it happens, is something that affects most people who want it (and plenty who don’t) at some point in their lives.  We should be able to talk about it.

Emotional Limbo

You know how sometimes you’re feeling all kinds of things, but you just can’t get the words out to talk about it?  Well, this is that kind of post.

Sometimes I can’t remember who I was before infertility.  Does it matter?  I suppose not.  What matters is who I am now.

People often ask me if I’m relieved now that I’m done with infertility.  Am I done?  There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t deal with some aspect of that struggle.  A big part of what I deal with is figuring out who I am now that I’m on the other side of it.

I still get annoyed when people make stupid comments about getting pregnant.  The whole “just relax” thing still makes me irrationally angry, even when it’s not said to me or about me.  Yes, stress can affect your fertility, but it doesn’t cause infertility!

I’m irritated when people make innocent comments assuming that it was easy for me to get pregnant.  I generally politely correct them, but the assumption bothers me.  It’s silly because I certainly can’t expect the world to know that we struggled.

Pregnancy announcements still make me catch my breath.  They don’t knock the wind out of me, but I still get uncomfortable from time to time…and then I feel bad for having that kind of initial reaction.

I still have so many friends who are struggling, and supporting them is so important to me.  Is being a part of that community preventing me from moving on?  Is it helping me to remember where I’ve been?  Is it giving me an opportunity to learn about the pregnant side of infertility?  Do I even belong there?

I feel guilty for being pregnant when others are not.  I feel like I shouldn’t be grappling with all these crazy emotions when my journey was so much shorter than others.

So much of me is still in the infertility game.  I feel more comfortable there than I do at the OB, and I’m finding it hard to let go.  Maybe I don’t need to let it go though.  Maybe I just need to figure out how to incorporate it into my new life.

I need to be prepping myself to be a mother, but being pregnant is still so surreal to me.  I still check for blood every time I go to the bathroom.  I’m counting down the days until viability.  Is that morbid?

I’m supposed to be all giddy and excited about my babies, and of course I’m thrilled about them, but I have such a hard time believing that this is actually happening for us.

It’s like I’m stuck here in some sort of limbo.

I’m pregnant, so clearly something is working.  My babies are growing and healthy, so I must be doing something right.  Yet I still struggle with feelings of inadequacy when it comes to my body.

I know that my infertility isn’t my fault.  I know that we couldn’t get pregnant on our own because of my endometriosis.  Rationally, I get that, but my head still wonders why my uterus decided to fill itself up with so much gunk as to make growing a baby impossible.

I just wonder what it’s like to have a normal pregnancy.  I’m sure some of these feelings are typical for many pregnant women, but I’ll never really know.  Does it matter?  Not really, but I’m curious as to who I would be as a mom if we hadn’t struggled.  I’m curious as to who I will be as a mom since we did struggle to get here.

I don’t know if any of this makes sense, but that’s okay.  It feels good to get it off my chest and out of my muddled brain.