Elective C-Sections on Huffington Post

photo-153

Many of you have followed along when I’ve shared my infertility story.  You’ve been kind with your words and generous with your understanding.  I’ve always appreciated the support I found when I finally dared to talk about it.  Infertility is emotional, lonely, and confusing.  It’s hard to utter the word out loud and terrifying to wait for a response.

The one part of the story that I haven’t told so far is that I actually chose to have a C-Section.  After numerous complications and pre-term bleeding and cramping that left me trapped in my house for nearly three months while I willed my little girl to stay in there, I was anxious and fearing the worst.

When I finally asked my doctor about it, he was supportive and understanding.  He didn’t push me either way.  He gave me information and listened as I talked my way through it.

But I had a hard time talking to friends and family about it.  Elective C-Sections are often viewed as selfish – for would-be moms who don’t want to do the work.

That wasn’t it for me.  I was secretly petrified.  I had been through loss and treatments and nearly three years of wanting and trying and anxiety and sadness…and I just wanted her to enter this world without complications.  I just wanted to hold her and hear her cries and soothe her little soul.

I made a choice that was right for me.  Years later, I learned that my instincts were correct.  That my uterus simply doesn’t function properly, and I never would have given birth vaginally.

But I made my choice before I had that information – and that left me somewhat isolated as people judged and tried to convince me otherwise.

Today I am over that the Huffington Post (eek!  Can you believe it?) talking about the importance of choices – and why women need to support one another in the difficult decisions they sometimes make.

Won’t you join me?  Please stop by the Huffington Post…I look forward to seeing you there!

Announcing…Clomid and Cabernet!

Hey Practical Readers!

Today is a very big day.  Today I am launching a site that I have been thinking about for years.

Some of you have read my infertility posts along the way.  You’ve left me very supportive comments, and even shared pieces of your own stories.  Your support and understanding has meant the world to me.  Truly.

This week is National Infertility Awareness Week, and today marks the official launch of Clomid and Cabernet.  Clomid and Cabernet isn’t just another blog.  It’s a community.  It’s a place for people struggling with infertility, as well as their friends and family members, to connect, build friendships, and get through this journey together.

It’s the community I wish I had access to during my darkest moments.  It includes message boards to connect and chat, the Eggfessional to vent your infertility frustrations, a place to share your story (if you so choose), and an infertility specialist to answer your questions along the way.

Please stop by and check out Clomid and Cabernet when you get a minute.  And, if you feel so inclined, please share it with your Facebook friends.  The best way to break the silence is to share the information.

What do you say?  Can I count on you?

Not to worry my friends, I will still be here too (but perhaps a little sleep deprived).

Sensitivity Matters

Even when you know it’s coming, it can still be hard to process.

You put your game face on, avoid things like Facebook as much as humanly possible, and prepare yourself for the comments and jokes intended to amuse but that might actually hurt.

You tell yourself that if you can just laugh along with the rest of them, it won’t sting quite as much.

But it’s hard, make that nearly impossible, to take the sting out of infertility.  Primary, secondary…it makes no difference.  When insensitive comments are made, no matter how innocent the intentions, it just stings.

I opened my Facebook App early in the morning on April 1st to find quite a few pregnancy announcements.  Some were clearly a joke, the punch line offered in parentheses at the end of the post.  Others were detailed and seemed to go on all day.

While it didn’t affect me as much this time around, I cringed on behalf of the many people who touch base with me each month to share their stories.  I cringed on behalf of a couple of old friends who have been struggling with infertility for years.  I just cringed.

Infertility rates continue to rise both in this country and abroad.  Couples everywhere are coping with miscarriage, self-administering hormones each day, and enduring round after round of IVF.  They are dealing with stress, anxiety, depression, and loneliness.  They are attempting to remain calm and positive in the face of repeated disappointments.

And then they have to deal with a fair amount of insensitivity surrounding the issue.

While I understand the intention behind the Facebook fake pregnancy, constant complaints about unruly children in the form of status updates, and jokes about giving them away, I think it’s time to take a new approach.

While I don’t want to make unequal comparisons, there are some things in life that you just don’t joke about.  There are some topics that can only be taken seriously.  We all know what those are.

I think that it’s time to increase our collective awareness about infertility, and take note of the fact that people around us are struggling.

While some of you will argue that those struggling with infertility should simply avoid things like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, I believe that that mentality leaves these infertility warriors feeling even more isolated than they already are.  In a very tech savvy world.

There must be other jokes we can tell…

Sensitivity matters.

It’s time think before we speak and apologize when we’ve gone too far.  Feelings are everywhere and easily hurt.

Below are a few statements/questions to avoid in this time of high infertility rates:

1.    Aren’t you about due for another?  While some couples are perfectly happy with one, many couples experience secondary infertility after a perfectly “normal” first pregnancy.  Either way, it’s best not to ask.

2.    I get pregnant every time my husband looks at me.  This one has been around forever.  I get it; some people are super fertile.  But some aren’t.  So maybe think twice before blurting this out to your one childless friend.

3.    Have fun trying!  There’s no way to sugarcoat this one.  When sex is timed down to the very minute and possibly involves hanging upside down afterward (whether or not that actually works), it’s not very fun.  It’s a full time job.

4.    Some people just shouldn’t have kids.  While this is usually said in reference to a specific situation (and still not ok no matter the specifics), it can really affect a person struggling to get pregnant.  When infertility starts to drag on, you start to internalize these negative statements and feel like they might apply to you.

5.    She’s too selfish; she can’t handle kids.  While some people do not want to have kids, others are enduring a silent struggle.  Avoid assumptions.

6.    It always works out in the end.  Sadly, sometimes it doesn’t.

 

I can hear the criticism already…now we have to tiptoe around every woman who isn’t yet a mother?

The fact is that infertility is a growing problem and it’s a very lonely battle.  It’s not that all pregnancy and child rearing jokes should be stifled for eternity, but we do need to be careful about when and where we make those jokes.  And we need to really, really think before we speak.

Because you just never know…

 

How has infertility touched your life?

 

Pin It

Letting Go

Most days I choose to see the possibilities.  The room that could be anything.  The furniture longing to be purchased.  The perfect space for friends, grandparents, and, someday, sleepovers.

But some days, when I’m truly being honest with myself, I see the empty space.  The hole meant to be filled by one last little one.

Some days I stare longingly at the perfect spot to place the crib, just to left of the window, where the morning light filters through the soft white plantation shutters.

Some days I rock quietly in the glider, the one that I could never quite convince myself to give away.  Just.  In. Case.  Other days I catch a glimpse of it, frozen in time, and wonder just what to do.

By day, I enjoy each moment.  I lose myself in play, reading aloud, and endless art projects.  I listen to each word carefully, burning their little voices across my memory.  I watch with pride and fascination while taking screen shots in my mind, every chance I get.  I hang on tight as I watch them grow and change right before my very eyes.

Time escapes me, no matter how hard I try to hit the brakes.

By day, I build memories.

By day, I am reminded that my family is perfect just the way it is.

But when darkness falls, my broken heart emerges once again.

By night, I am flooded with emotions.

Images of the final loss threaten to crowd out the happiness I find within the day.  Memories of the event leave me shaken to my core:  The look of desperation on my husband’s face.

This can’t be happening…

The whispers of the nurses as they ushered me into emergency surgery.

We will pray for you…

The signing and more signing of last minute waivers.

You mean I might die in there?

The final goodbye.

Just.  In.  Case.

Some nights I lie awake, clutching my empty womb, while muffled sobs escape my aching soul.

Some nights, the empty space feels bigger than others.  Some nights, it overwhelms me.

I am the lucky one, I tell myself.  I am the one with two amazing children and a husband who loves me beyond compare.

I am strong, resilient, and always a fighter.

And yet, at times, the sadness creeps in.  The what-ifs cause my heart to race while the you-should-haves force the tears to escape.

Sometimes the letting go is the hardest part.

Dreams change.  Life moves forward.  But emotions stay with us for as long as we allow.

So, for right now, that rocking chair is staying put.

Because sometimes you just need to dream…

 

 

 

Infertility & Friends: What Not to Say

There are several different ways that I could write this in an effort to sugarcoat it a bit, but the truth is that the holiday season is often very difficult for couples struggling with infertility.

In general, and as they should be, the holidays are about families.  The gifts, cookies, and treats are nice, but it’s spending time as a family that counts.  In other words, babies and kids are everywhere.

While couples struggling with infertility often enjoy spending time with extended family, including holding the new babies and playing with kids, it can be a big reminder that they are still waiting for their turn.

It’s hard on everyone, to some degree.  Friends and loved ones often don’t know what to say in the face of infertility.  They tend to rely on clichés or attempts at humor that fall flat or, worse, result in hurt feelings.  Believe me, I’ve heard it all.

That said, below are ten things that you should NEVER say to your friend or loved one who is struggling with infertility:

1.    “Maybe it’s not the right time”:  If it’s the right time for millions of other people, why shouldn’t it be the right time for your friend?  First rule of pregnancy:  There is no “right” time.

2.    “It’s God’s will”:  Does anyone really believe in a God who grants some people children in an instant but makes others struggle for years and endure horrible medical treatments?  I certainly hope not.

3.    “It’s not in God’s plan for you”:  See #2.  Also, you never really know what another person believes.  In general, it’s best to leave religion out of it.

4.    “It will happen when you least expect it”:  When you’re expecting it to happen every single month, this just doesn’t apply.  Also, it kind of puts blame on the couple.  As if willing it to happen is actually having the opposite effect.

5.    “You need to relax”:  I find that, in general, people who say this popped out a few babies quickly.  They know little about Clomid, hormones, miscarriage, and messed up cycles.  Relaxing and infertility treatments do not go hand in hand (even if they should).

6.    “At least you can drink”:  Most (probably all) women dealing with infertility would gladly give up the glass of wine to have the baby.  Since they don’t have the baby, they need the wine to get through the family dinner.

7.    “One day you will have a house full of kids”:  Are you willing to bet your mortgage on that?  Of course that’s what they’re hoping for, but clichés and grand statements get old quickly.

8.    “You can have mine!  Believe me, you’re the lucky one right now”:  The jokes about giving away your kids are among the most hurtful.  Try to remember that this person is probably feeling desperate at times.  All she wants is one little tiny baby.  She doesn’t feel lucky at all.

9.    “I have the best doctor.  You should definitely see him right away”:  Assume that your friend has either consulted another doctor or is working with an infertility specialist.  Honestly, when you see your doctor constantly, you tend to love him.  I did.  And if I didn’t, I would have switched doctors early on.

10.                “Enjoy the quiet house”:  Your friend is hoping against hope to end up with a loud house full of small voices.  Assume that your friend has made the most of the quiet moments and is ready for something different.  Trying to point out that you wish you had what she has is hurtful; you both know it’s not true.

Let’s end on a few things that you can say to help your friend.  It’s always best to end on a positive.

1.    “I can’t imagine what you’re going through, but I would love to be there for you”:  Lack of experience in infertility doesn’t mean that you can’t be a good listener.

2.    “This must be a really hard time for you.  I’m here when you need me”:  Sometimes we really just need an escape hatch.  Provide that for your friend.

3.    “I can’t stop thinking about you.  What can I do to help?”:  It’s really hard to ask for help when your friends are busy with kids and work.  It feels like an imposition.  Give your friend the green light to lean on you and she just might do it.

And for the 7.3 million Americans out there struggling with infertility this holiday season…I’m here for you.  I know how hard it is to try to balance all of your emotions this time of year.  I think the best advice I can give you is to be a little selfish and focus on your needs, and to be honest with those around you.  Take a little advice from John Mayer and “say what you need to say”.  Your friends can only help you if they know what you need.

What things have been said to you that only made you feel worse?  What would you want your friends to say instead?

When One Isn’t Enough (Tips for coping with secondary infertility)

Secondary infertility can be a lonely road to travel.  Don’t get me wrong; I know first hand that primary infertility is lonely as well.  But the second time around was lonely in a much different way.

I was ambushed with emotions that were difficult to share without hearing, “count your blessings” or “you’re lucky you have one” in response.  I knew that to be true.  I was one of the lucky ones.  I battled infertility and survived.

But I desperately wanted a sibling for my little girl. I wanted another small voice in the house.  I wanted another baby to hold.  I was lucky once again.  I did get my second chance.  But the third time?  Not so lucky.  Again, count those blessings.

3 million Americans are currently battling secondary infertility.  3 million.  That’s a lot of couples walking this road, but not necessarily together.  That’s a lot of, “count your blessings” and “you’re lucky to have one”.  That’s a lot of loneliness.

Women struggling with secondary infertility experience a range of emotions and feelings, including (but not limited to):  Disappointment, shock (it wasn’t so hard the first time), guilt (I already have one; I don’t want this to affect my existing child), isolation (I can’t talk to people about it without be minimized), depression, anxiety, and anger.

It can be hard to cope with these emotions when one or more children need your love and attention at all times (it often feels this way).  It can be hard to keep a marriage strong when young children zap most of your energy and infertility treatments and/or stress zap the rest.  It can be hard to feel heard and understood when people are quick to respond with clichés and point out what you have.  It can be hard to find support when you know that others are still battling primary infertility, and you already have one or more.  It can just be hard.

There are steps you can take to help reduce the stress and isolation associated with secondary infertility:

1.    Label it:  The best way to understand what you’re going through is to call it what it is.  Acknowledge that you are experiencing secondary infertility.  Label the feelings that you are experiencing.  This is not to say that you should tell everyone you know (unless you want to).  Labeling it makes it real. Labeling it makes it a diagnosis versus a secret.  Labeling it might help you begin to confront it head on.

2.    Grieve:  Sometimes secondary infertility comes in the form of multiple miscarriages, other times it means months and months of trying with no results.  Either way, it’s sad and overwhelming at best.  Give yourself permission to grieve the losses and/or the loss of the family that you are trying to create.  Grieving the current circumstances does not mean that you are giving up on adding to your family, it simply means that you are allowing yourself to experience the feelings associated with the infertility.  Often times, couples experiencing secondary infertility try to avoid the stress by focusing on what they have.  While this might help them to get through the day and enjoy the small moments, it doesn’t take away the stress, anxiety, and depression that often result from infertility.  Give yourself permission to confront and cope with those feelings.

3.    Focus on your marriage:  Infertility affects the whole family; it is not an individual battle.  Often parents go to great lengths to protect their existing children, sometimes at the expense of their own relationship.  Plan date nights and time to reconnect with your partner.  Talk about your struggle and how it’s affecting your marriage, but be sure to make room for discussions that do not revolve around family expansion and monthly cycles.  It can be hard to step away from infertility once you’re in it, but it’s very necessary to keep your relationship thriving.  Try to tap into the reasons that you fell in love in the first place.  Get away if you can, or plan a staycation if you can’t.  The best thing I ever did the first time around was to take a leave of absence from my job and go on tour with my husband.  We found each other again during those six weeks and were stronger for it.  Make room for couple time.

4.    Routine:  Children pick up on stress quickly and will respond with behavioral changes, sleep issues, potty training issues, and eating issues.  The best way to help your child during this time is to develop and stick to a structured routine.  Take the guesswork out of each day to reduce the stress for your child.  Plan special outings and make an effort to focus on your child during playtime.  Sometimes a daily tea party is all it takes to help your child know that everything is ok.  Find those small moments and take a break from the infertility thoughts to just be in the moment.

5.    Exercise:  Less stress improves fertility.  That’s a fact.  Daily exercise can help reduce stress and anxiety and improve symptoms of depression.  That’s another fact.  Find a way to work in at least twenty minutes of daily exercise to help reduce your stress.  If you’re trying to get pregnant you are not worrying about weight loss, but you should be thinking about stress reduction and good health.  Choose an activity that you enjoy.  If it’s a chore, it won’t seem worth it and you might avoid it.  Find a friend, join a class, or start a group…just get some exercise.

6.    Increase your support network:  Although secondary infertility is mentioned on occasion, primary infertility takes up most of the media coverage on the subject (not that there’s that much to begin with).  This can make it hard to discuss the subject with others.  Reach out to close friends and family members.  Consider joining a group (many hospitals and religious organizations now have groups for women battling infertility).  Consider individual or couples counseling.  The fact is that secondary infertility is extremely stressful, and it’s very difficult to go through it alone.  There are many therapists trained to work with couples and individuals living with infertility.  Ask your OB/Infertility Specialist or check with your local hospital for a referral.  Talking about it helps.

7.    Be honest:  Infertility remains a secret society, which makes it hard to get the support that you need.  Break the silence.  Tell family and friends what you need.  People don’t always know what to say, but they can learn.  Describe your feelings, the treatments you are undergoing, and specifics about how people can help.  If you can’t make it to yet another birthday party because it’s too overwhelming…say that.  If you need a night out with a friend, ask for it.  Your support system can only be as supportive as you allow it to be.  Ask for help and be specific.

8.    Find an outlet:  Everybody needs an escape once in a while, and the TV will only get you so far.  Write, read, take a cooking class, take up photography…you get the point.  Find another outlet that allows for some “me time” and helps you focus your attention elsewhere for a while.  I read a lot the first time around, I baked a lot the second, and now I can’t stop writing.  If you do choose a TV break each day, I truly recommend the Ellen Show.  Ellen DeGeneres helped me through many long, lonely nights before Riley finally arrived, and for that I am eternally grateful.

How has infertility touched your life?     

The Infertility Wars

We live in a competitive world.  We live in a world where comparisons are constantly being drawn.  We live in a world where people love to pretend otherwise, but often view things as right or wrong.  Shades of grey are generally ignored.  Judgments are made with little to no information.  Opinions are stated whether or not they are wanted.

I suppose it was simply a matter of time.

There is a new trend in the fight against infertility, and it is only making matters worse.

Women are at war with one another.  Women are comparing their journeys and attacking those who they deem to be “less infertile”.  Instead of joining hands and fighting infertility together, women are now fighting each other.

7.3 million Americans are currently waging war against infertility.  To bring it a little closer to home, if you and your partner are out to dinner with 7 other couples, one of those couples is currently experiencing infertility.  That’s a lot of couples.

Despite increasing numbers, infertility remains a taboo subject.  It can stop a conversation in a heartbeat and empty a room in record time.  It can end marriages, friendships, and family relationships.  It can cause some serious emotional damage.

The potential for emotional wreckage and lost relationships often causes couples to suffer in silence.

Infertility can cause anxiety and depression.  It can lead to significant social isolation.  I have experienced all of these along my journey, and then some.

Infertility is alienating.

Why women would choose to turn on each other is beyond comprehension.  Because when everybody fights, everybody loses.

It used to be that infertility message boards and blogs were a safe place to seek comfort.  It used to be that women could reach out to other women on a similar path while remaining anonymous.  It used to be that under the cover of screen names, we would offer words of support and possibly even resources.  It used to be that we were in this together.

But lately there’s been a shift.  Here and there, brave women are coming forward and sharing their journeys.  They are doing it to help others, to convey a message of hope, and to relieve the emotional burden that suffering in silence creates.  They are standing up, using their names, and telling it like it is.

And they are under attack.

What used to be a safe place suddenly feels a lot less safe.

Women who share stories of multiple miscarriages are hearing, “at least you CAN get pregnant” in response.  I assure you, fellow infertility soldiers, there is no comfort in conceiving a child only to have him silently slip away at 6, 8, 10, 12, or even 20 weeks.  I lost one at 9, two at 13, and one at 18 weeks.  I loved them all.  And despite my two incredible children, not a day goes by that I don’t think about that last one…a sweet little baby boy lost in June.  I should be nine months pregnant right now.  I should be decorating one more nursery.  I should be washing and folding tiny clothes.  Instead, I am trying to remain focused on what I have and move on from the longing that threatens to shatter my soul.

My journey has been long and emotionally exhausting.  Excruciating at times. For the first half I heard, “at least you can get pregnant” over and over again.  It felt like tiny daggers of shame were stabbing my soul each time I heard it.  Today I hear, “at least you have your two” or “at least they’re healthy”.  What can I say?  It’s hard to argue with that kind of logic.  But it certainly doesn’t erase the loss(es).

Incidentally, the Center for Disease Control estimates that 11% of couples that have one child go on to experience secondary infertility.

Other women are competing over who has endured more rounds of IVF, who had the worst reactions to the hormones and medications, and who has been trying for the longest amount of time.  People, it seems, would rather be the worst-case scenario (and hopefully get the most social support) than join a growing number of Americans and fight the war together.

I can tell you with certainty that there is no trophy for being the worst case.  After losing my baby boy, and nearly losing my life in the process, I was later told that I was one of two cases like that in the 30 years that my doctor’s practice has been open.  Being a medical mystery doesn’t make me feel any better, and it certainly won’t bring my baby back.

But sharing my story and helping others does add a small ray of sunshine to an otherwise dreary journey.  Receiving email from people who feel just a little bit better knowing that I am here, and fighting both with them and on their behalf, gives me a reason to keep looking forward.

At least once a day I have to remind myself that my journey to conceive and carry to term is likely over, but my journey to help others along the way has only just begun.  Together we can get through this.  Together we can fight for more resources and better insurance coverage.  Together we can move forward.

But if we remain at war with one another, we will all suffer.  We will force couples to remain silent.  We will continue to lose friendships and end marriages.  We will spiral into episodes of anxiety and depression that will undoubtedly affect other areas of our lives.

Because when everybody fights, everybody loses.

Let’s make a pact to fight infertility instead of fighting each other.  Let’s make a pact to listen and empathize, even when it’s hard, and offer the support that we seek in return.  Let’s make a pact to fight this enormous war hand in hand until we get to the end.

How has infertility touched your life?

 

 

A Friend is a Friend


Mommy Moment
This week on Mommy Moment I'm sharing a few tips about how to help a friend or loved one who is struggling with infertility.  It's a lonely road to travel, and often people don't know what to say or how to help.  The best advice I can give is to be a good friend and listen always.  Please stop by Mommy Moment to read more...

A Friend is a Friend

Everything’s Not Lost

Mommy Moment 
Today on Mommy Moment I shared our very personal journey through multiple pregnancy losses and infertility.  Please join me in opening the doors to discussing this often very private and lonely topic.  I appreciate any input, and would love for you to share this with anyone who might benefit from reading it.
“We were young and naïve (make that ill-informed) when we decided to start “trying”.  I was 29 years young.  Old by mother’s standards, but right on target with my friends.  All around me people were having babies.  One by one my girlfriends announced their exciting news.  It was time for us to give it a try.  Who knew the word “try” would take on a whole new meaning?”…
Please stop by my post, “Everything’s Not Lost”, at Mommy Moment to continue reading.
Thank you, as always, for your kindness and support.