Thursday, January 30, 2014

So What is Off Limits?

First of all, I have been re-reading the lovely sentiments so many of our family and friends sent us the other night when we "came out."  I realized that several people thought our "coming out' meant that we were no longer pursuing our dream of becoming parents.  I apologize for those of you who thought that was our intent.  B and I will continue to pursue IVF, as well as discuss other avenues. Believe me, we have discussed EVERYTHING. There is not much that is new to us in regards to how we can become parents.  We are not giving up!

So, we've talked about what you can do to help. Seems like we can now transition nicely into the "No-No's" list.  I know, I know- why do we get to dictate what you say to us?  We don't.  We have absolutely zero control over what comes out of anyone's mouth, just as y'all have no control over what comes out of our mouths.  But you know what? If there is something I have said that has hurt or bothered you, and you address it with me, then I have every understanding that if I said it again then I am purposely hurting you. So i would rather you be honest with me about it, then to find out you went home and cried over something I thought nothing of saying.  And believe me, I have cried over each and every one of the things that I am going to post. Even as recently as a particular email last week.

What Not To Say:
Infertility Etiquette
Chances are, you know someone who is struggling with infertility. More than seven million people of childbearing age in the United States experience infertility. Yet, as a society, we are woefully uninformed about how to best provide emotional support for our loved ones during this painful time.
Infertility is, indeed, a very painful struggle. The pain is similar to the grief over losing a loved one, but it is unique because it is a recurring grief. When a loved one dies, he isn't coming back. There is no hope that he will come back from the dead. You must work through the stages of grief, accept that you will never see this person again, and move on with your life.
The grief of infertility is not so cut and dry. Infertile people grieve the loss of the baby that they may never know. They grieve the loss of that baby who would have had mommy's nose and daddy's eyes. But, each month, there is the hope that maybe that baby will be conceived after all. No matter how hard they try to prepare themselves for bad news, they still hope that this month will be different. Then, the bad news comes again, and the grief washes over the infertile couple anew. This process happens month after month, year after year. It is like having a deep cut that keeps getting opened right when it starts to heal.
As the couple moves into infertility treatments, the pain increases while the bank account depletes. The tests are invasive and embarrassing to both parties, and you feel like the doctor has taken over your bedroom. And for all of this discomfort, you pay a lot of money.
A couple will eventually resolve the infertility problem in one of three ways:

  • They will eventually conceive a baby.
  • They will stop the infertility treatments and choose to live without children.
  • They will find an alternative way to parent, such as by adopting a child or becoming a foster parent.
Reaching a resolution can take years, so your infertile loved ones need your emotional support during this journey. Most people don't know what to say, so they wind up saying the wrong thing, which only makes the journey so much harder for their loved ones. Knowing what not to say is half of the battle to providing support.
  • Don't Tell Them to Relax
Everyone knows someone who had trouble conceiving but then finally became pregnant once she "relaxed." Couples who are able to conceive after a few months of "relaxing" are not infertile. By definition, a couple is not diagnosed as "infertile" until they have tried unsuccessfully to become pregnant for a full year. In fact, most infertility specialists will not treat a couple for infertility until they have tried to become pregnant for a year. This year weeds out the people who aren't infertile but just need to "relax." Those that remain are truly infertile.
Comments such as "just relax" or "try going on a cruise" create even more stress for the infertile couple, particularly the woman. The woman feels like she is doing something wrong when, in fact, there is a good chance that there is a physical problem preventing her from becoming pregnant.

  • Don't Minimize the Problem
Failure to conceive a baby is a very painful journey. Infertile couples are surrounded by families with children. These couples watch their friends give birth to two or three children, and they watch those children grow while the couple goes home to the silence of an empty house. These couples see all of the joy that a child brings into someone's life, and they feel the emptiness of not being able to experience the same joy.
Comments like, "Just enjoy being able to sleep late . . . .travel . . etc.," do not offer comfort. Instead, these comments make infertile people feel like you are minimizing their pain. You wouldn't tell somebody whose parent just died to be thankful that he no longer has to buy Father's Day or Mother's Day cards. Losing that one obligation doesn't even begin to compensate for the incredible loss of losing a parent. In the same vein, being able to sleep late or travel does not provide comfort to somebody who desperately wants a child.

  • Don't Say There Are Worse Things That Could Happen
Along the same lines, don't tell your friend that there are worse things that she could be going through. Who is the final authority on what is the "worst" thing that could happen to someone? Is it going through a divorce? Watching a loved one die? Getting raped? Losing a job?
Different people react to different life experiences in different ways. To someone who has trained his whole life for the Olympics, the "worst" thing might be experiencing an injury the week before the event. To someone who has walked away from her career to become a stay-at-home wife for 40 years, watching her husband leave her for a younger woman might be the "worst" thing. And, to a woman whose sole goal in life has been to love and nurture a child, infertility may indeed be the "worst" thing that could happen.
People wouldn't dream of telling someone whose parent just died, "It could be worse: both of your parents could be dead." Such a comment would be considered cruel rather than comforting. In the same vein, don't tell your friend that she could be going through worse things than infertility.

  • Don't Say They Aren't Meant to Be Parents
One of the cruelest things anyone ever said to me is, "Maybe God doesn't intend for you to be a mother." How incredibly insensitive to imply that I would be such a bad mother that God felt the need to divinely sterilize me. If God were in the business of divinely sterilizing women, don't you think he would prevent the pregnancies that end in abortions? Or wouldn't he sterilize the women who wind up neglecting and abusing their children? Even if you aren't religious, the "maybe it's not meant to be" comments are not comforting. Infertility is a medical condition, not a punishment from God or Mother Nature.
  • Don't Be Crude
It is appalling that I even have to include this paragraph, but some of you need to hear this-Don't make crude jokes about your friend's vulnerable position. Crude comments like "I'll donate the sperm" or "Make sure the doctor uses your sperm for the insemination" are not funny, and they only irritate your friends.
  • Don't Treat Them Like They Are Ignorant
For some reason, some people seem to think that infertility causes a person to become unrealistic about the responsibilities of parenthood. I don't follow the logic, but several people told me that I wouldn't ache for a baby so much if I appreciated how much responsibility was involved in parenting.
Let's face it-no one can fully appreciate the responsibilities involved in parenting until they are, themselves, parents. That is true whether you successfully conceived after one month or after 10 years. The length of time you spend waiting for that baby does not factor in to your appreciation of responsibility. If anything, people who have been trying to become pregnant longer have had more time to think about those responsibilities. They have also probably been around lots of babies as their friends started their families.
Perhaps part of what fuels this perception is that infertile couples have a longer time to "dream" about what being a parent will be like. Like every other couple, we have our fantasies-my child will sleep through the night, would never have a tantrum in public, and will always eat his vegetables. Let us have our fantasies. Those fantasies are some of the few parent-to-be perks that we have-let us have them. You can give us your knowing looks when we discover the truth later.

  • Don't Gossip About Your Friend's Condition
Infertility treatments are very private and embarrassing, which is why many couples choose to undergo these treatments in secret. Men especially are very sensitive to letting people know about infertility testing, such as sperm counts. Gossiping about infertility is not usually done in a malicious manner. The gossipers are usually well-meaning people who are only trying to find out more about infertility so they can help their loved ones.
Regardless of why you are sharing this information with someone else, it hurts and embarrasses your friend to find out that Madge the bank teller knows what your husband's sperm count is and when your next period is expected. Infertility is something that should be kept as private as your friend wants to keep it. Respect your friend's privacy, and don't share any information that your friend hasn't authorized.

  • Don't Push Adoption (Yet)
Adoption is a wonderful way for infertile people to become parents. (As an adoptive parent, I can fully vouch for this!!) However, the couple needs to work through many issues before they will be ready to make an adoption decision. Before they can make the decision to love a "stranger's baby," they must first grieve the loss of that baby with Daddy's eyes and Mommy's nose. Adoption social workers recognize the importance of the grieving process. When my husband and I went for our initial adoption interview, we expected the first question to be, "Why do you want to adopt a baby?" Instead, the question was, "Have you grieved the loss of your biological child yet?" Our social worker emphasized how important it is to shut one door before you open another.
You do, indeed, need to grieve this loss before you are ready to start the adoption process. The adoption process is very long and expensive, and it is not an easy road. So, the couple needs to be very sure that they can let go of the hope of a biological child and that they can love an adopted baby. This takes time, and some couples are never able to reach this point. If your friend cannot love a baby that isn't her "own," then adoption isn't the right decision for her, and it is certainly not what is best for the baby.
Mentioning adoption in passing can be a comfort to some couples. (The only words that ever offered me comfort were from my sister, who said, "Whether through pregnancy or adoption, you will be a mother one day.") However, "pushing" the issue can frustrate your friend. So, mention the idea in passing if it seems appropriate, and then drop it. When your friend is ready to talk about adoption, she will raise the issue herself.
Adapted from

Of course you are wondering, have people really said those things to us?  Yes. They have.  And much more. Honestly. One of the things people don't realize is that the comments they make truly minimize our struggles. Are they meant to be hurtful? Not usually.  Normally it is simply a comment that you make because you don't know what else to say (check out my last blog- that should get you started if you need the help). Unfortunately, that comment pings around and around our brains pretty consistently.  Especially the ones about "God's Plan." 

Now, I make no comment about anyone's religious beliefs, but to be told that God doesn't want me to have children is the absolute, most horrible comment I can imagine. God finds me unfit in some way to share my love with a child.  God thinks I suck as a human being. God thinks our DNA is incompatible with human life. Yeah ^ all that there^ that is what the "God's Plan" statement means to us.  That is what we hear.  Do you mean it that way? Good lord, I sure as hell hope not.  There are truly some shitty people out there pro-creating, and yet *I* am the one God thinks sucks? Ouch. 

But realistically, is there some truth in the above sayings?  Sure.  Everyone knows someone that adopts, then gets pregnant miraculously. Hell, *I* know someone that has happened to. I think that is wonderful. I love hearing those stories, but I also know that is not the journey we are taking at this time.  In the future? Maybe. We've even talked about adoption even if we do miraculously get pregnant. But that really isn't anyone's business but ours right now.  

Relax?  Sure!  We relax all the time.  Shoot, we are both watching random TV, playing on our computers, and (other than the time I am spending on this post) neither of us is thinking about kids right now.  In fact, children do not consume our every waking moments. Even when I am working with my students, I am not thinking the whole time about how I wish this was my kid, or why am I not pregnant right now.  I do think about many other things, so please don't think that my every moment of life is consumed by my need/want to have a child. I do have an existence beyond children. 

Yes, I know kids are hard.  Very hard.  And I welcome having that in my life. And I will cherish every moment, even if I actually *gasp* complain about it once in awhile. I want the struggles, I want the lack of sleep, I want to hear the cries. I want it all.  And I will do everything in my power to make that happen for B and I, even if it means creating a family through "unnatural" means.  A family is a family, no matter how they get there. 

Despite all the struggles, the heartache, the money, the comments; B and I are ready to grow our family. He and I *are* a family. Court and Callie, though they may just be cats to others, they *are* a part of our family. We are a family and that will not change. But the size of our family will. And we welcome that.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

When You Want to Help and Just Don't Know How

I struggled with what direction I wanted to take my post tonight.  My original thoughts were placed on the back burner for the time being, but I will be addressing "What NOT to Say to Someone Struggling with IF" in the near future. That being said, the beautiful words of support we received after telling our family and friends the other night was very comforting to both B and I.  Honestly, some of the most kind comments came from rather unexpected sources, and we are forever grateful to have those to fall back on when we are having a down day (or week).

Many people wanted to know what they could do to help.  There really is no easy answer to that question. It sucks to say, but some days we have no issue discussing what is going on, some days we just want to ignore our IF problems exist. Sometimes we want to go hang out, enjoy time with family and friends; sometimes we just want to sit at home and ignore the world.  Sometimes we can handle seeing babies/pregnant women; sometimes we need a break from it all.  Honestly, we are just like every other couple out there.  We have our ups and downs, our good days and bad, and most of the time, if isn't even because of IF or our struggles.  We could simply be having a bad day. Who knew??

Moving on- how you can help.
Question: How Can I Support a Friend with Infertility?
So a friend or family member has confided in you that they are struggling to conceive. Maybe you already suspected they were dealing with infertility, in which case this isn't a big surprise. Or maybe you're really shocked. No matter how you took the news, the fact that they've told you is a big deal. This means they trust you, and that they think you'll be supportive.
Even if you intend to be supportive, knowing how to actually give that support can be tricky, especially if you've never experienced infertility yourself.

Learn More About Infertility

Read up on at least the basics of infertility to be a more supportive friend. Not so you can offer advice, which will most likely be unwelcome, but so you can offer support in a more understanding fashion. Knowing the basics of IVF, for example, will make it easier for your friend to talk about her cycle. You won't react with shock that she needs to give herself numerous injections, since you'll already know that.
Another reason to brush up on the basics is so you don't find yourself repeating common myths. The fertility challenged are used to hearing myths, but it'd be nice if the person they have trusted to offer support - you - wouldn't be one of those myth-repeating people.
Here are some articles you can read on the basics and infertility myths:

Ask Them What They Need

Asking a friend what she or he needs sounds so simple, and yet, few people do so! Maybe because they are embarrassed about not knowing what to do, or perhaps because we're concerned it makes us less supportive. (Don't we all dream of people knowing what we need without having to spell things out? And yet, few people are good at mind reading.)
Conversely, people who are struggling often hesitate to ask for what they need. They don't want to be a burden, or they are so overwhelmed that asking for help doesn't even occur to them.
Here are a few things you can offer as help:
  • Attend difficult appointments with them. Whether they'd like you to just sit in the waiting room or come in and hold their hand.
  • Offer to be an exercise buddy, if you know they're trying to lose weight. Sometimes women (and men) need to lose weight to make treatments more effective. It's much easier to lose weight when you have a buddy working out with you. (Just don't suggest the weight loss plan on your own!)

Know What to Say

When you're not sure what to say, you may want to try one of these responses:
  • I'm sorry to hear that.
  • What can I do to help?
  • Do you want to talk about it?
  • I'm here to listen, whenever you need me.
  • I wish I knew what to say to comfort you.
  • I wish there something I could do or say that would make it all better.
.Above adapted from

Still want to help?

Send positive thoughts, light a candle, say a prayer. Know that this struggle has been a very long and painful road, and that we are trying everything we can to make our dream a reality.

Or simply leave a comment showing your support.  Let us know that you are thinking about us.  Support is one of the greatest things that all people with IF need, and you can never have too much!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Fear of the Unknown

So, we decided to be honest and upfront about our struggles... with everyone.  To say I am scared to death is an understatement.  All the comments I have heard over the years have come rushing back to me in the last few days as I contemplated this decision.  I say *I* because B has always wanted to be upfront about our struggles, but I didn't.  I was too scared of the comments, the judgment, the talking behind our backs.  B pointed out that this happened anyway, and at least this way, we could confront people head on.  If they wanted to know something, they could just ask.  No more secrets.  No more hiding.  No more hurting in silence.

So, we are going to email our family and friends first, then put it out there for the world.  My hopes are that others can seek comfort in our story and share their stories with confidence.  Infertility is a heartbreaking diagnosis, and not one that should be kept quiet or shunned.  People need to be educated, not left to their ignorance. By just one family talking about their struggles, it opens the door for more and more to share theirs.

I don't know what is going to happen when we share this.  I am hoping for love and support, not pity and shame.  I am hoping that once people know what we are going through, they will stop and think about the ugly and hurtful things they say, and have said in the past, and recognize that it is NEVER okay to judge someone for their beliefs and wants.  Sometimes things are best left unsaid, because the pain you are causing someone is unforgettable, and can continue to haunt them for many years.

It's time to stop the silence. It's time to be true to who we are.

We are unable to have kids naturally.  That is who we are, and that is who we will always be.  The question is, are you ready to accept that?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

And another year passes...

So, B and I were slowly getting excited... We had our 2nd IVF in December, right before Christmas. We waited for the date listed on my blood test form to have the draw. I woke up really excited that morning, and went to the closest lab on my way to work. I tried not to think about it all day (puh-lease! We all know how that went!), and focused on my students. I tried to ignore walking over to my desk ten thousand times to tap my cell phone to see if any messages had come through.

After lunch, I checked one more time... and there was the missed call and voice mail. After last year's disappointment, I knew that the message wouldn't say any more than to call the office, but it still made my breath catch when I saw the notification. B was home early that day, so I wanted to wait until I was with him before I made the call. The call that left me sobbing just one year prior. The call that I dreaded to ever have to make again. I held it together until I got home. We huddled together upstairs in the bedroom and I dialed the office, waited for what seemed like forever (just a few moments, really), then my doctor was on the line. And she was telling us the words we had been waiting to hear for almost 7 years...

"Your test is positive (ohmygod ohmygod ohmygod... but wait... there's more, she's still talking... shhh), but just barely." This could mean one of two things: (1) we are in the very early stages and implantation occurred later than expected; or (2) it started to implant, but didn't finish and I was having a chemical pregnancy. *Hope crushed* We listened numbly for a few more minutes, received instructions to continue taking the medication (you know, just in case it was a real pregnancy), and to repeat the blood draw in a few days (to give more time for the HCG to raise).

So, instead of tears of joy, we spent the next few hours trying to give one another hope, trying to figure out what we could do to keep things moving, trying not to fall apart completely. And this journey lasted for almost two more weeks. Two of the roughest weeks of our lives. Every blood draw, and subsequent phone call, gave us a little more hope and a little more disappointment. The HCG numbers were doubling, but they started so low, that it really didn't make too much of a difference.

8 weeks after our 2nd IVF began, it was all over. Confirmed that the embryo didn't finish implanting and start growing. We were devastated. Even with all the knowledge we had that most likely this was not going to end in a viable pregnancy, we still had hope. We still wanted to dream. We still walked around Target, laughing and smiling with our secret knowledge, and "window shopping" for our future little one's nursery. Deep down, I knew... we knew. We knew it wouldn't be viable, but we couldn't accept it. Did not want to accept it.

I spent the next few days in an automatic daze. I got up in the morning, went to work, enjoyed my students, came home, went to sleep. I ate here and there, I kept a bright smile on my face whenever I was out of the house, then came home to let the misery wash over me in private. When B was home, we talked about our days, watched TV, played on our computers, but we didn't really discuss what happened. I cried by myself in our room. I didn't want to feel, and I didn't want anyone to know what I was going through. I wanted to just keep moving, thinking positive, planning our next steps.

I was trucking along, and even though I knew B and my parents were concerned about me, I just didn't want to talk about it.

Then we received a card in the mail from our IVF office. It was a card of condolence on our loss. I opened it, read it, and put it away. We went out to spend time with our friends that night, and B told them about the loss. They expressed brief condolences, then we moved on as if nothing ever happened. I drank that night, more than I had in a long time (because, remember, you aren't supposed to drink during the IVF process!). On our way home, I played a song that I had come across in my searching about miscarriage, chemicals, etc. And then I dissolved into tears. Loud, gut wrenching sobs while I mourned the loss of our "baby." S drove us home to my parents house, brought my mom out to me, and she held me in the freezing Winter cold while I spent the next 20 minutes or so letting it all out. It was painful for all involved.

Eventually we went in the house, I went to bed, slept fitfully, and the next morning, my mom and B were there to talk to me. We talked for a long time. They both suggested counseling, but it just wasn't something I wanted to pursue. I realized during that talk that I was not the only one hurting. B was not the only one hurting. Our parents were hurting with us. Everyone was so worried when I just moved along as if nothing had happened. It was so out of character for me, as I normally fixate on anything difficult. They knew my moment was coming, and they knew there would be more (though next time, I hoped alcohol would not be my undoing).

So, why bring all this up now? Because we just passed the year mark of our loss. And no matter what your belief is (a baby isn't a baby until it is born, conception is when sperm meets egg, it all becomes real when it implants, etc.), my belief, at that moment, was we lost a baby. We lost the hopes and dreams that we had been working towards for 7 years. We lost something so special and important to us, that the actual term "baby" no longer had a definitive definition. At that moment, that was our baby. That was our loss. That was our heartbreak. And no one can prepare you for how you handle it.

And another year passes...

Monday, January 20, 2014

How does one start?

How do you start "The Talk" about infertility? Do you start dark and gloomy or full of pep and optimism? Use humor, sarcasm, make passive-aggressive statements? How do you let people know that one of your deepest, darkest fears has been your reality for over 7 years? It's not an easy road to travel.  It's not a fun road to travel... and that's not even counting the actual journey. I am merely talking about TALKING about infertility.

The answer is easy.  Go for the Nike goal and just do it! It will be uncomfortable for you, it will be uncomfortable for the people you are talking to, because really, who wants to invite family, friends, strangers into your bedroom?  Who wants to have all this people all up in your uterus? Who wants to answer the questions, "Is it her?," "Is it him?," "Which one is responsible for ruining their dreams?!?" We know those questions are there, lurking under the surface.  Hopefully, your friends and family will have a little more tact and either phrase the questions differently, or Hey! Novel idea here... just don't ask THOSE questions!

But seriously, we are in the land of "Everyone's business is my business" so, let's get back to the original question.  How do you start the Talk?

I don't start the Talk with many people.  In our family, only our closest family members and very few close friends know what we have been dealing with all these years.  It's one of our Vault topics.  We just don't talk about it.  Why? Because we have had too many people comment about "God's Plan" and "Not meant to be" and how so and so is "stupid to waste so much time and energy and if they just RELAXED they would get pregnant easy, Just like me!"  Those comments hurt.  Those comments sting.  Those comments spend entirely too much time in my over taxed brain, popping up every time something goes wrong or even when something goes right.  No matter how little faith I try to put into those words, once they are out there in the world, they are out there.  And I think about them.

Oh, and then there are the comments, from the well-meaning people of the world. "How old are you?" (32) "Oh wow, you aren't getting younger, you better pop out some kids!" Well, gee.  Thanks.  Last I checked, women were having kids (although maybe not the best idea, but that can be a topic for another day) well into their 50's.  I *think* I still have some time.  Or or or "When are you going to fill all those empty rooms in your house?" (Well, seeing as we just moved in 4 months ago- they are great for storage right now.) "It's never too early to start prepping the nursery!" Cool.  Glad we have your permission.  I'll let you know when it happens.

So, anywho, here we are again.  Infertility.  It sucks.  It sucks for everyone.  I am hoping to start documenting the journey of Us, and see how this journey goes.  Over the next few posts, I hope to talk a little about how we got here, mixed in with a bit of where we are now.  It may be disjointed at times, but the story will be told, and while it doesn't have the baby happy ending... we hope it will some day soon.

So, join me on this crazy journey.  I have a lot to share, and a lot to learn.  And I hope to have the Talk with all of you.