Sunday, April 23, 2017

Listen Up, I Can't "Just Relax!"

I've heard it. You've heard it. Everyone in the infertility community has heard it at least a million times on their journey...the dreaded phrase, "Just Relax!"

Fertile people think this is the magical saying. The phrase that will somehow instantly make a baby appear in our wombs. My womb? The same angry womb that has denied me a baby. The womb that has suffered through years and years of infertility medications, shots, embryo transfers, and surgeries. The very womb that has ignored my every plea, every tear and every demand to work. If I would only 'just relax' then the 13 years of pain and suffering I have endured would simply just...go away!

I wish it were that easy.  If so, then all the years of my yoga and meditation classes would have worked.  I would have been pregnant many times over.  I would have a baby in my arms and a toddler (or two) on my hip by now.  Don't you think I've tried to relax and stay calm?  Don't you think I know that stress isn't good for my body.  Do you really think that me being stress-free is the answer?  Do you think my stress is causing my infertility? Do you think infertility treatments are an easy walk in the park? I wish there was a magic pill I could take to relax during this utmost stressful time. I wish I could relax and make it all go away. I wish I had an answer. Most of all, I wish I could get pregnant as easily as almost every other woman around me, but I can't. That in itself, is extremely stressful.

Infertility is not hoped for, wanted, or even a choice. It's a disease.  A disease that affects 1 in 8 couples. Yes, 1 in 8! Infertility isn't something you can wish away. You can't "just relax" and it will disappear. That's not how infertility works. You wouldn't dare tell a cancer patient to 'just relax' thinking that would instantly cure their cancer...would you? How about someone with epilepsy, or diabetes or even dementia? Of course not! So please stop telling me to relax, hoping that it will miraculously cure my infertility and make me pregnant. Infertility is stressful enough. It can destroy marriages and people. I've seen it.

In my last post, I wrote:
"I will not let infertility define me or destroy me, but instead, I will let it remind me of how far I have come. I am more than my infertility. I am strong."

Yes, I am strong and I won't let infertility beat me, but I still cry. I still wonder why. I still ache and long for the baby I will never have. However, I also know that I have tried. I have given my all. I never gave up. I can hold my head up high. I am proud of myself. I am going to be okay.

I am enough.

So listen up, please stop telling me and other infertile couples to 'just relax'. Instead of giving unwanted advice like: 'just relax', 'just adopt', 'just foster',' just use a surrogate' etc., how about you just listen.  Listen to us. Listen to our story. Listen to our pain, our journey, our triumphs, our decisions. Listen to all the things we have overcome, accomplished, and persevered through. All the steps we have taken on Capitol Hill, and all the congressmen and senators we have talked to, while advocating for infertility rights. Listen to the decisions that we have made pertaining to our family building, especially if that decision (whether made by us or if we are forced to choose this) is to be childfree. Listen without judgement. Listen without advice. Listen without persecution or feeling sorry for us.
Just listen.

Monday, April 10, 2017

I'm Stuck in a Life I Didn't Plan

Today I am dedicating my blog to National Infertility Awareness Week and to the launch of Justine Brooks Froelker's latest book The Mother of Second Chances, based on her blog Ever Upward releasing on April 17th. For five weeks 25 amazing women will share their stories of infertility and loss as part of this incredible blog tour, because together we can shatter the stigma. 

Friday, Erica shared her story, and tomorrow we will hear from my amazing and dear friend Candace from Our Misconception

We would love for you to participate by sharing these posts far and wide. We’d especially love to see your own broken silence by sharing your own infertility story using the hastags: #NIAW, #infertility and #EverUpward. 

I love living by the ocean!  There's just something about breathing in the salty air, with your toes in the sand and looking out at the waves rolling in that will bring a sense of peace and calming over your whole body. I find myself sitting in the sand and staring out at the ocean a lot more lately, needing that calming feeling I'm so desperately trying to hold on to. During my latest TWW (two week wait), a little over a month ago, I found myself here often just thinking about everything and focusing on staying calm.  I sat there trying to read my book but found my mind wandering. Thinking about my life and how it didn't go according to my plan. I always knew I wanted to have kids one day, but I kept changing my mind on exactly how many. Never in a million years did it ever cross my mind that I wouldn't be able to have any.  You see, unfortunately, infertility treatments never worked on me.

In the infertility world (and in my own math-geek mind) everything is about numbers. How many follicles? How many embryos? What is your LH? What is your FSH? How many ml of each injectible medicine will I take?  How many times a day will I need to inject myself? So many numbers. Here are some of my important numbers:
40, 14, 13, 9, 5, 3, 3, 2, 1 and 0.

40: How old I will be this year.
14: The number of wonderful years I have been married to my amazing and loving husband.
13: The number of years we have been trying to conceive.
9: The number of years we were silent about our infertility.
5: The number of failed medicated IUIs we have tried.
3: The number of cancelled cycles.
3: The total number of beautiful embryos we transferred.
2: The number of failed IVFs.
1: The number of lines I see on every pregnancy test.
0: The number of babies I have in my arms.

I could also add the numbers 10 million (the number of tears I have cried throughout the 13 years) and one thousand (the number of pregnancy tests I have peed on).

When I look back at these important numbers, I can't help but focus on the number 9.  We were silent for nine whole years.  NINE!  I try not to play the whole "what if" game, but I can't help it.  What if I wasn't silent?  What if I found my wonderful Resolve support group sooner; would we have had the time to try more treatments?  What if I talked about infertility during those nine years; would that change my outcome?  Would I have a child in my arms now if I talked about it?  The honest answer is: I don't know. I don't know if talking about infertility openly would have changed my outcome, but I do know that if I would have talked about it instead of being ashamed of it, I could have been empowered so much sooner.

The numerous infertility treatments we endured may not have ended the way we hoped for, but I am glad we tried (even if it meant we drained all of our savings because insurance didn't cover anything). We decided together that we are not going to pursue adoption, or foster or even surrogacy, not at this point in our lives and no matter how many people try to guilt us into it.  I may try another IUI again, but I don't know how much more I can take...physically and emotionally (not to mention financially!).  I know deep down that I have to face the facts, but I also don't know if I'm ready to take that step. I still have a little hope left, but I also must be realistic.

I know I have to be thankful for what I have in my life right now, and I am. I have an amazing husband, 2 crazy and wild labs, a house, a career and so much more.  So many wonderful things. I know I should just try and focus on all the good, but part of me can't help thinking about that missing piece and the plan I had for my life. The plan that included children and grandchildren. The plan that did not include infertility. This isn't the life I planned, but it is the one I was dealt. I just need time to grieve. Time to mourn the life I wanted, the life I planned and for the child I will never have.

Talking about our infertility is helping me move on. So I will continue to talk about infertility, advocating for infertility rights and supporting others going through it.  Not just during National Infertility Awareness Week, but all year long. I want to help other women and couples feel empowered and not feel ashamed. I want them to know that they are not alone.

I don't know what the future has planned for me, so for now I will spend a lot of my free time soaking up the sun, breathing in the salty ocean air, feeling the sand in-between my toes and watching the waves roll in. I will stare out into the ocean and be thankful for the life I have and the people in it.  I will take time to grieve, but I will also make sure I take time to focus on the future and what lies ahead.  I will not live in my grief, but instead soar above it.  I will be okay, and I will live a full life even if it isn't the life I hoped for or planned. I will not let infertility define me or destroy me, but instead, I will let it remind me of how far I have come. I am more than my infertility. I am strong.