life, love, and maybe babies

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Silence is Golden: 5 Reasons Infertiles Keep it All to Themselves

I get a lot of questions about my infertility journey (and for the record, I love getting questions). They usually range from "how long did it take before you went to the doctor?" to "how much did the medication injections hurt to take?" But every now and again, I get a question that's a little more difficult to answer. 

"Why are you just now sharing your story?"

Since I "came out" on Facebook a few weeks ago, I have been so pleased with how many friends/colleagues/acquaintances have reached out to me to share their stories. It makes us all feel better and stronger knowing that someone else has gone through the same thing. They understand how difficult it is to publicly state what you're going through. But when someone who isn't in the infertility world asks me why I took so long to share (or why I did my blog anonymously at first), I sometimes find it difficult to explain.

But I'll try. Here are the top reasons (I feel) that women and their partners are too afraid or too intimidated to tell what they are experiencing.

1. It's not easy to admit

I've discussed this before, but even saying aloud "I think we might have a conception problem" is not easy to do. For one year or more, you and your partner have been having a great time trying for a baby - but after the 9 or 10 month mark, you start to truly wonder, could something be wrong? If you're like me, you went ahead and shared with your friends, family and dentist that you were trying for a baby, acting under the assumption that it would take three months max. So now, everyone stares at your belly every time they see you, or pays close attention to what drink you order on Saturday night. To admit to yourself and potentially a lot of other people that you might need help getting on the baby train is a huge downer. It takes the wind out of your sails, the air out of your get what I'm saying.

2. You don't want to jump the gun

Once you've admitted to yourself that you need assistance getting knocked up, that's just the beginning. You still have to find a doctor, assess your health and your cycle, figure out what insurance covers - it's overwhelming and not something that you feel like screaming from the rooftops. Besides, maybe there's a quick fix, right? If you thought you had cancer, wouldn't you first rule out a nasty cold or the flu? You wouldn't go around telling people "I'm pretty sure I have cancer" without info to back that up. Same with infertility. There are a lot of tests to go through before you are truly considered an infertile. 

3. Fear of backlash/judgment

When I was about eight months into fertility treatments, we were nearing the point where IVF was clearly going to have to be the next option. I was feeling overwhelmed and wanting some support and thought about posting something on social media about my struggle. But randomly, two days later, I saw something on Facebook that was posted by a relative. It wasn't aimed at me, but as we all know, Facebook statuses go to everyone on your friends list...and that included me. This relative has very strong feelings about adoption and babies and I knew that. I just wasn't prepared.

Like I said, it wasn't specifically aimed at me, but it didn't matter. I was feeling vulnerable and scared about what we were facing, and this felt like a knife straight through the heart. I deleted my Facebook two weeks later for a period of two months. In addition, any inkling I had of sharing my story went right out the window. How many other people felt this way that I wasn't aware of? Who would I potentially offend by admitting we were considering IVF? It was certainly a deterrent to telling anyone else outside of my close circle.

A lot of infertile's face this. Religion, personal opinion, ignorance...people can be very quick to judge and throw down their opinions without thinking about how it affects the person going through it. 

4. We heard what you said about us or someone like us

This is basically a continuation of #3, and it happens more than you think. You're sitting in the break room, minding your business and pondering whether your most recent check to the fertility clinic is going to bounce, when you hear Carl from accounting say to the copy repair guy, "Did you know they're giving some chick on the 3rd floor two weeks off so she can go make some fancy shmancy science baby? I guess they're paying like, 40 grand to get pregnant. Hell, she can have one of my kids!"

Maybe Carl wasn't even talking about you. Maybe that chic on the third floor is someone you've never even met. Who cares? People throw their opinions around about things like IVF and infertility without stopping to think about who might be listening - and hurting. It's just one of those subjects that the general public isn't familiar with unless they've read an Octomom story. The education level surrounding infertility is super low...ironically, because not a lot of women talk about it. It's a vicious cycle - and round and round we go.

Keep in mind this is also true for infertiles who have dealt with miscarriage or still births. For some reason, the general consensus is you can have three days to recover physically and then, like, get over it. I mean, you were only 8 weeks. It's not like it's a big deal.

Wrong-o. Until you've walked in those shoes, shut your face.

5. We're afraid to jinx it

You will never meet a group of people as superstitious and paranoid as infertiles. Every cramp is a sign. Every song that comes on the radio with the word "baby" in it is a sign. Every billboard is a sign (literally and figuratively). We take it all very, very seriously. So it should come as no surprise that when it comes to our treatments, we don't want everyone to know. Even if we have that gut feeling that this time it's going to work, we're terrified that even whispering that little layer of hope out loud can make the whole house of cards come crashing down around us. Is it logical? No. Do we care? Not really. It's survival. And so we sit quietly, scouring the internet for signs that pregnancy occurred this month, freaking out every second of every day. But we don't dare tell you what we're doing. Because dammit, you might jinx it, and we just can't risk it.

So if you have a friend that's finally admitted to you that she is having a hard time getting pregnant, be honored. We don't usually tell many people unless we're sure we can get the support we need from you. Listen to our story, tell us it sucks and then offer to get us the biggest decaf mocha frappucino money can buy. What do you get out of it? A fantastic friend. Not to brag, but infertiles really do make the best buds. We're super patient, we rarely complain, and since we usually can't drink alcohol we can be your DD for the night. Win win for everyone.


Friday, May 22, 2015

5 Questions You Can and SHOULD Ask an Infertile

When I was in elementary school, I distinctly remember once hearing a teacher talking to someone (likely a parent) about how she approaches disciplining children different than some other teachers did. She used positive reinforcement rather than speaking down to a child for misbehaving. 

For example, instead of screaming "DON'T RUN IN THE HALL!" at little Jimmy, she would instead say, "Walk, please, Jimmy!" Her theory was that kids respond to requests better than demands. This makes sense to me. No one likes to be preached at or told what to do. Rather, being given a set of guidelines on what to do seems to be more effective. 

So, I'm taking a different approach today. In past blogs, I've touted what not to say to an infertile. Don't get me wrong, this type of information is important. Infertiles are dealing with a lot and there are some major no-no comments that should never be uttered. But what if I try something else? How's about I tell you (and all your friends you'll surely forward this post to) what you should say to someone going through infertility? Maybe those words will stick better than me barking orders at everyone like a squeaky chihuahua. 

1. How are you feeling?

It sounds so simple and that's probably why it's my favorite question to be asked. It doesn't come right out and say "please tell me about your infertility!" This question is broad, so if on that particular day I'm not feeling like sharing, I can just tell you I'm feeling annoyed that someone at work is stepping on my toes or I'm worried about the new recipe I'm trying tonight coming out right. If I am feeling like I want to get some fertility stuff off my chest, it leaves me open to do that. I can say, "in general I'm feeling okay, but I did have this test that was awful..." To me, asking how I'm feeling is just a great way to inquire about my journey without putting me on the spot.

2. When is the last time you had a totally awesome and stress free dinner?

Notice this question doesn't mention anything about drowning in over-priced cocktails. As an infertile going through treatment, it's likely that I am on a strict no caffeine and no alcohol regimen...and it's killing me. As sweet as it is for someone to offer a night out on the town with wine and jello shots to forget my worries, it's important to remember that I'm trying to get away from nights on the town. I need an environment free of stress where I can decompress. A cozy corner booth at a restaurant with amazing cheese fries is just the ticket. Or maybe a nice manicure for all the times my feet have to be up in the stirrups so the doctor can examine my inner workings. Now you're talking.

3. I have a friend starting fertility treatments. Would you mind if I talked with her about what I know you have already gone through?

For myself, I didn't particularly mind if someone shared my story with their friend, mother, brother or printer cartridge provider. I had been relatively open with what I was experiencing, so I knew it was probably coming up every now and again in conversation. However, I am not representative of every infertile on earth. Some people are fiercely protective of their experience and do not want it shared under any circumstances. Some women are in families that highly disapprove of IVF. Some women are just not sharers. If, by some chance, you have gotten word that Sally is going through infertility, do not walk up to Sally and say that you hope her fertility treatments are going well. It's always best to ask before you go around sharing that someone is struggling to get pregnant.

4. I read about a treatment called Clomid the other day and I thought of you. I don't know that I understand what that is. Is that something you have tried?

Notice what this question doesn't do. It doesn't tell me what I'm doing wrong. I can't tell you how many times someone offered up, "My friend tried Clomid and it worked right away!" as though, duh, just do this and it will get you pregnant. Unless you are a doctor or have experienced infertility and can offer first hand experience, you are not in a place to tell someone what treatment they should be trying. Even if you have heard that XYZ drug is the next best thing in fertility, you might be doing unintentional damage to your friend by mentioning it as a solution. 

Infertility is a mind freak. One minute you're positive you're doing the right thing and the next you're questioning whether you should switch doctors or even quit altogether. One day you're positive the medicine is working and the next day you're getting your period 10 days early. Advice on prescriptions and treatment is better left alone. There's nothing wrong with mentioning a drug or procedure and asking if your infertile friend has heard of it. Just don't push it as a solution - that's what their doc is for.

5. I am so proud of you.

Okay, okay, technically this isn't a question. But it's an important thing to say. Infertiles are going through so, so much. And many times they aren't talking about it. We stuff a lot of it way down deep into the pit of our stomachs and try not to think about it. But I can tell you that hearing that someone is proud of you (especially if it's someone you respect and admire) is like heroin. It might just be what I need to hear to get me through the HSG procedure I'm having next week. Or maybe I just found out this month's IVF treatment didn't work and I feel like a failure. Hearing that you're proud of me might just be the jolt of love I needed to propel me into the next day. So say it and say it a lot. It won't go unnoticed.


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

if only I'd known...

This last weekend was Mother's Day and I couldn't help but remembering one year ago looking at all the posts on Facebook and Instagram of new mothers or mothers to be in my feed, making me sadder and sadder that I still wasn't there. I was still just waiting. Waiting for the day it was my turn. This year is obviously quite a bit different as I am waiting to become a mother to the little banana that is growing away in my gut (and starting to kick that gut, as well). 

But fear not. I remember what is was like to be in the infertility shoes. I remember all too well. Several of my friends and acquaintances are just beginning on the infertility journey, so I wanted to share a few thoughts that might help prepare you for the road you're considering heading down. These, as always, are just my experience, so don't expect that you will have the exact same experience. But I do wish I had known a few of these things going in...though maybe it wouldn't even have helped. Sometimes ignorance can be bliss!

1. Be ready to wait

I'm not talking about waiting for treatment, either. I'm talking about waiting to even be seen by a doctor. The harsh reality is, infertility is not uncommon. At all. If you are considering heading to an infertility specialist, I wouldn't wait until you hit the year mark. Once you've been trying for 8 months, give the local infertility place a jingle and ask what kind of wait you will be on to see a doctor. For me, I called after we had been trying for a year and our appointment was set for three further months out. It felt like lost time.

2. Track your cycles and be ahead of the game

When we finally got in to see a specialist, the doc gave me a blank sheet for tracking my cycles and said, "track your basal body temperature for three months, then come back and we can move on." I was devastated. I was wanting to get going right now. And now I had to go home and track my basal body temp for a further three months! Had I shown up with my basal body temps and ovulation dates accounted for already, we probably could have moved on to the next step.

3. The protocol should make sense

If I could change one thing about my infertility treatment, it would be the order in which it occurred. My original doctor (who I later moved on from) put me on Clomid for three months. When that didn't work, she had me go in for an HSG, in which they found a small blockage in my right tube that was easily cleared. So...why didn't I do the HSG first? If I had a blocked tube during those months on Clomid, it was like throwing darts through water. Completely pointless. You will often hear me say (even in this very blog entry) to trust your doctor, but you must also trust in yourself. If something doesn't seem right, speak up! 

4. You really are a number

Every fertility clinic will make promises that you are special, you are unique and you are going to be treated as such. Ya'll, that is a TALL order to fill. These people are working their tails off to make babies for all sorts of different people and sometimes, you are going to get lost in the shuffle. Paying close attention to what your doctor tells you and following up is on you just as much as it is on them. I remember a few times at my doctor thinking, "Geez, he sounds like a robot. Just telling me my results and moving on." But then I would stop and think about how many times a day he does this. How many times he's had to tell someone that their IUI didn't work, or their IVF cycle was a failure. I think about when I have to break bad news to someone and how I feel emotionally drained for days afterward. It's not an easy cross to bear. Yes, these places make a large amount of money for what they do, but remember they are humans. Sometimes it's just self preservation that keeps them from seeming that way.

On the flip side, your doctor or nurse should never be rude to you or disrespect you. If they do, get the hell out and find a new doc.

 5. You can't predict how long it will take - or if it ever will

Whether you know what your problem is (PCOS, endometriosis, sperm quality, etc) or not, there is no accurate timeline that a doctor can give you. I remember someone once telling me that once you see a fertility doctor, if you aren't pregnant in a year, they're doing something wrong. Do not listen to these people. Hope is a wonderful thing, but false hope is the worst. This is not a Nestle Chocolate Chip recipe where you put in the right ingredients and you get a delicious dessert 20 minutes later. You are trying to create a human being.

One common thing that many people succumb to is armchair doctors...aka friends that KNOW what treatment you should be doing. Friends that say things like, "Oh, Femara? My friend didn't get pregnant after 4 months on Femara. Then she switched to Clomid and she got pregnant the next month!" Yes, they are trying to be helpful, but you have got to listen to your doctor. You can certainly mention what your friend advised to your physician, but be prepared for them to roll their eyes and say, "What degree does your friend have?" 

If your doctor makes a promise like, "Oh, we can get you pregnant in six months", may I suggest running away like the building is on fire? Your doctor is just that, a doctor. Not Miss Cleo. No one knows how long this will take, or if it will ever take. There is a reason that surrogate mothers and adoption exist. Some women never make it to the land of conception and that's okay. Just know at the outset that there is always a chance that conceiving may not be in the cards. Going in with knowledge is always better than going in blind.

6. Your cost estimate is wrong

Hubs and I tried to "budget" for infertility treatments. What a complete waste of time. I get it, you want to to sort of have an idea of what it's going to cost to get knocked up, but here's the thing...there's no way to tell. I assumed we'd get pregnant after one round of IUI. Truthfully, IVF was not even in my realm of imagination. And yet, that's where we ended up. 

Oh, and IVF budgets are impossible, too. I remember looking at the costs and saying, "Well, Hubs, we won't need ICSI and we're not doing a frozen cycle, so that saves XYZ dollars. We can afford this. It will be tight, but we can. Yay!"

Fast forward 3 weeks and we found out a) we needed ICSI and b) our cycle changed to frozen when I developed 33 follicles. Again, you are trying to make a baby, not getting the transmission in your car cleaned out. This is unpredictable. If you are really a stickler about what you're going to be spending, I would suggest to make a plan for what it will cost, and then add at least 50%. There are things you will totally forget about and things you never knew were coming. 

7. The worry never goes away

Somehow I was under the impression that once I got pregnant, all my troubles and anxiousness would magically disappear. They didn't. Pregnancy is not easy. It's a roller coaster, just a different type of roller coaster than infertility. Your friends and family might be surprised to hear you even mention unfavorable pregnancy symptoms because, after all, "isn't this what you wanted?" Yes, it is what I wanted. But do I really want to grow this thing inside of me and have it kicking my innards for 9 months? Of course not. I'd love it if I could just skip the whole human coming out of my vajay-jay and produce a child out of thin air. Just because I was an infertile doesn't mean the pain and discomfort of pregnancy are welcomed with open arms.

Think of it this way...remember when you were young and had your first pregnancy scare? (If you didn't, good for you.) Remember how you sat on your bed and cried and prayed for God to give you the worst cramps ever in the history of life if only you wouldn't be pregnant right now? And then your period came and you got the worst cramps ever in the history of life? Did you sit there and say, "This is amazing!!! Thank you for these awful cramps!" Hell no. Same with infertiles and pregnancy. You hope and you wish and beg for it, but when it's happening, it's not exactly a picnic. You can be miserable and still grateful. Ain't no shame in that game.

8. Your relationship will suffer

Don't freak out - I didn't say it would end. I just want you to know that there is no couple on earth who can go through the ups and downs of infertility and not struggle. There are just too many dimensions to the process. You're going through things mentally and physically, and believe it or not, so is your partner. But remember, the only way to get through this is to talk. That might even mean counseling. It's nothing to be ashamed of or hide from. No couple signs on for marriage or a long term commitment expecting that they will have to go through this. It's hard, it's tough and it sucks. can be done. 
I'll save some other tips on how to help in the relationship department in another post on another day, but just know that it will test your relationship and hopefully make it stronger.

9. It may not happen

This is my least favorite part to write, but it is the truth. There are people in this world who don't get a baby. Whether the funds finally dry up or adoption doesn't pan out...ultimately, sometimes the end of the road really does show itself. I'm not saying this to be depressing, I'm saying it because it is the reality of the world we all live in. I don't understand why and I don't pretend to be able to make it better with a blog. All I can tell you is, if you are an infertile, guard your heart and know that sometimes the good guys don't win. If you end up in the pool of those that come to the end of the fertility road, my heart goes out to you. Keep your friends and family close to you and know you gave it everything you had. And no one can take that from you. 

Infertility is a lot to take on. Even admitting that you might be infertile is a huge step. Hell, I didn't even want to say it out loud for a long time. It's a process. A long, stressful process that takes the strength of a warrior. But you are strong and you are a warrior and you will get through it one way or the other. You may not even recognize yourself when you come out the other side. But hang on tight and rely on your friends (bloggy and real life) to get you through it. We're always here.

XOXO my friends,

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