Wednesday, November 21, 2012

What I'm Thankful For

The holiday season is upon once again and again I have so very much to be thankful for. Really just so much and of course the top of a list that includes incredible friends, loving family, an amazing husband and the light of my life, my precious daughter. I can't even tell you how much my heart swelled last holiday season or many tears of joy and disbelief I shed at spending my first holidays as a mommy. There truly was nothing more wonderful or magical. 

This year, however, I have realized I have something completely unexpected to be thankful for. For the first time since infertility took over my life, I have begun to feel, well almost normal. I don't think I really understood just how much infertility influenced everything in my life until it didn't anymore. I mean there were the years of trying, temping, injecting, wanding and waiting that have dominated nearly all of my energy, both mental and physical. Then came the complex layers of joy & anxiety that came with finally getting pregnant. And finally the surreal and joyous experience of actually having my child here in the world. Yes, it's been challenging, anyone who says parenting isn't, is lying, but everyday has also been another chance for me to reiterate just how incredible it is to be here, to celebrate the things that most parents may not even notice, to express to the world just how grateful and blessed I feel. More and more each day though, I find myself just living each day as it comes without all of the fanfare. Yes, of course I still feel blessed and grateful but it is not necessarily my every waking thought and that it a good thing. 

Before infertility, I had interests, I had passions and thoughts that absolutely nothing to do with children or babies or motherhood. But once we began down the road to parenthood, it quickly became the only thing that existed in my life. For 3 years everything has been about being a mom. Trying to be one, hoping to be one, hurting when I wasn't, celebrating when I was. I almost completely forgot who I was. Lately however, I have been finding a lot more of me in my life. I have let myself spend time with friends without feeling guilty that I'm away from Snow Pea. I have taken two trips now without her and I have very much enjoyed the time away. I didn't even talk incessantly about her while I was gone. My husband and I haven't had enough time alone unfortunately, due to busy schedules, but when we do we have found ourselves interested in having conversations that don't revolve around parenting. We've talked about politics, life, friendship, daydreamed about future travel, all of those things that used to matter before the big IF. 

I am loving rediscovering myself and remembering all of those things that used to be me. I am especially excited to be that person again as my daughter grows up so that I can give her a well-rounded childhood. It's easy as a parent after IF for me to be too protective or too focused on how "miraculous" parenthood is but I know in the big picture that isn't fair to her. She shouldn't have me worrying her whole life or putting her on an impossible pedestal. That is just too much pressure and childhood is hard enough without having to live up to your parents' dreaminess about your existence. Of course, I want her to know how loved she is, how much she was wanted, how hard we fought but I never want her to think that means she isn't allowed to make mistakes or have bad days. She doesn't owe us anything. She gets to be a normal kid just like all of her friends. She doesn't need the burden of forever being a "miracle baby".  

So while I will most definitely be expressing my gratitude this holiday that IVF was a success for me and that I am finally a mom, I will also be taking the time to do express thanks that the things that make me who I am, things I once worried I might have lost forever to the black hole of infertility, are slowly but surely becoming part of my life again. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Love, Life, & Loss

Tomorrow Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month comes to a close. But before October ends, I want to take a moment and reflect on this emotional remembrance and do my part to add to the awareness of miscarriage, pregnancy loss and infant death. I truly believe it is important to have this time to stop the rest of the world and make the voices of loss heard. 

Of course, as always, my family participated in the OC Walk to Remember in honor of the steps our babies will never take. It was an emotional event just as in years past, but what really struck me was just how big the event has become since we first took part 3 years ago. There were so many new faces, new names read aloud. The crowd was noticeably larger and the funds raised to support local NICUs and baby loss support groups was quite impressive. I really am thrilled to know that we helped to support such an amazing cause but I still really don't know how to feel about how much the walk has grown in these past few years. 

The thought I wanted to hold on to and the one Chad kept steering me toward, was that the walk's growth is a good thing. More families than ever who have suffered the loss of their precious little ones are getting the support and the resources they need to grieve, to honor and cherish their babies. The walk's growth means that so many who may have been carrying their heartbreak alone for so long, now have found a place where they can celebrate their baby, hear their name, cry openly and do something positive for others who are going through the same. And the sheer number of supportive family and friends who accompany these grieving parents, holding their hands, shedding their own tears and honoring their lost sons and daughters alongside them is enough to make anyone's heart swell. Clearly, the walk, the entire Month itself, is fulfilling one very important mission in raising awareness of loss and increasing the love and support for those that experience it. 

I tried my best to only think about these many positive aspects of seeing so many new faces among the ever-expanding crowd this year, but I couldn't help knowing better. I knew that many of these new faces meant new losses and for that my heart broke over and over again. I still carry and honor every single one of the names I wore last year. This year, I sadly had many new precious ones to add to that list. My little community has suffered far too much and I pray every day that no more will come, that the most recent loss will be the last. But no matter what happens I will always, always honor and remember. It is the least I can do. 

And I can hope. I can keep reaching out for that light amongst the darkness. I can celebrate the sweet boy born just before 25 weeks gestation fighting and growing in the NICU. I can cheer for the amazing little boy home with his parents and big brother after the devastating loss of his twin sister in utero. I can rejoice for the friend who has reached full term with a healthy baby boy after the gut-wrenching goodbye she said to his twin halfway through her pregnancy. I can praise the amazing nurses and staff at NYU Medical Center who safely evacuated 20 infants from the NICU after the hospital lost power during Hurricane Sandy (story here). I can support those who are finding their way after a loss. Hold their hands as they try to bring their rainbows into the world or stand with them if they decide not to pursue another pregnancy.

It breaks my heart into a million pieces to think of anyone ever suffering the devastating loss of a child. I still cry for each miscarriage, each lost baby and I wish more than anything that no one would ever have to go through such pain. And yes, knowing what I know about how fragile these things are, seeing loss after loss, does give me trepidation when I consider trying to conceive again one day, but I would still never turn away from this community. Because what I have learned is that it is not just loss or grief we can find here, there is hope, there is love, there is life. Grieving is living, contrary to what many will have you believe. Crying, wailing, mourning, whatever form it takes, it honors the life we miss. My grandmother shared with me recently the stories of her two stillborn sons and the grief she still feels. She wears their birthstones on her mother ring right alongside her other six children and remembers them every day with love. I know that losing her boys shattered her heart and that she, like all parents who have lost, will always miss those pieces. But seeing how those that have experienced loss honor their children in the amazing ways that they live life is truly awe-inspiring.

For those that have lost babies, I know your hearts ache all year long. Please know that while October has been a month for the nation to be made aware of the reality of Pregnancy and Infant Loss, so many of us also ache all year along with you and we remember, love and honor every day. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Infertility Oscars

This past Tuesday, October 2 was The Resolve Night of Hope in NYC, or as they have been affectionately referred to by some, The Infertility Oscars. After all, The Night of Hope truly is the infertility community's red carpet night. Doctors, advocates, bloggers, drug companies, journalists and therapists all working within and somehow touched by infertility, come together to share hope and honor those who have been making a difference in the community. I was honored enough to be among them and receive the Hope Award for Best Blog. 

Not long after Resolve emailed me to inform me that I had won, I realized I would need to give some sort of acceptance speech. I was equally thrilled and terrified. I don't talk about this much here, but long before infertility became my focus in life, I was a die-hard theater student. I spent all of my childhood, teens and at least half of my college years either in an acting class or onstage in some way. I, like most aspiring actors, have often practiced my academy award thank yous in the mirror. However, having long ago moved on to other passions, I have never thought I would actually be on a brightly lit stage in a pretty dress, thanking my husband for his support in helping me achieve this honor. But now thanks to this blog and the incredible love and support of the infertility community, there I was trying to write my heartfelt and grateful remarks without going over the time limit that would get me cut off by the "wrap it up" music. 

I had drafts of what I would say in my head for weeks. I'd think of a meaningful sentiment randomly throughout the day and make mental notes to include it. Finally the night of the event, I sat in the cab with Chad, furiously re-reading and revising my handwritten remarks. I had covered everything I wanted to say and timed myself enough to know it would stay under the minute and a half I was allotted. The only problem was I couldn't get through my rehearsals without crying. I just meant every word so deeply there was no way I could stop myself from getting choked up. I know it would have been ok to cry but I didn't want it to make me lose myself and prevent me from saying what I needed to say. 

In the end though, it didn't matter. I cried that night many times, but not during my speech. I cried during cocktails while Chad and I were speaking with Jennifer Ludden, NPR Correspondent and Marisa PeƱaloza, NPR Producer about the powerful effects of positive journalism covering infertility. I cried during the awards watching the Pampers "Every Little Miracle" ad. (Click and keep a dry eye, I dare you) I cried during dessert speaking with fertility clinic nurses and hearing just how deeply they cared about the work they do and their patients. I teared up during speeches, hugs and in the middle of conversations. It was amazing to be in a room full of people that were simultaneously so professional yet so equally emotional and passionate. I remember so many incredible discussions and heartfelt moments from the night, but I don't have a clue what happened during my speech. 

I walked onstage, thanked my presenter, turned to face the audience, spoke the first 3 words I had written down and completely lost my place. So I just went with it. I said what was in my heart. Since I actually had written my remarks out and practiced them, I felt like I had managed to cover just about everything I wanted to say but in not quite the way I meant to say it. After I walked offstage, I was buzzing with excitement and a bit of confusion. How did that go? What the heck did I say up there, exactly? Did I make a fool of myself? I wasn't entirely sure.

After some reassurance from Chad and fellow bloggers Jen ( and Jay ( that I hadn't mucked the whole thing up, I breathed a sigh of relief and enjoyed the rest of what was a beautiful and incredibly inspiring night. I thought about typing up the speech I had written for you here, but since Chad was wonderful enough to capture it on video, I would rather share with you the speech I gave. 

I again, can't thank this community enough for all it has have given me. And although very few of my friends or family have ever seen my blog, I am incredibly grateful to each and every one of them for the incredible love and support they have shown me and Chad as they have learned about our struggle. I am a lucky girl. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart. 

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Honoring Hope

The big event is nearly here. In less than 48 hours I will have the privilege of honoring some amazing people for their compassion and advocacy. The RESOLVE Night of Hope is the day after tomorrow and I am so excited to be a part of it. Just being in the same room with so many of the people putting their hearts and souls into making a difference in the lives of those affected by infertility is an honor in itself but to be included among them as an honoree simply blows my mind. The other award recipients are truly incredible and I'm so humbled by their contributions to the infertility community. 

I remember sobbing last year, along with many of my fellow bloggy and Twitter pals, every time I saw he every little miracle commercial for Pampers. They showcased all of the ways families are made, including IVF, adoption and surrogacy without belittling or "othering" those parents. Being pregnant with my own IVF miracle at the time, I was moved each and every time I saw it and so grateful to have my experience included for once. For that ad, Pampers will be receiving the Hope Award for Achievement and I feel it couldn't be more well-deserved.

The other award recipients are even more inspiring. NPR is also being honored with the Hope Award for Achievement for a series of infertility related stories they've run over the past three years. These stories have done so much to really educate people on the issues and experiences of those dealing with infertility which is truly one of the most important components of advocacy. Lindsay Nohr Beck will be awarded the Barbara Eck Founders Award for her work with LIVESTRONG as their Cancer & Fertility Advisor. Kelly Damron is being honored with Hope Award for Service for her tireless and crucial work with her local Arizona area Resolve chapter. Eli Reshef, MD is being honored for his advocacy in he area of women's health and his involvement in defeating personhood amendments in his state. Atlee Breland, who founded "Parents Against Personhood", is receiving the Advocacy Award for her role in protecting the rights of people with infertility. And of course Redbook is receiving a very deserving honor for their "Truth About Trying" campaign which is spreading, not only knowledge about the realities of infertility, but also the message that there is no shame in having a hard time trying to become a parent. 

I am so in awe in each of these incredible award winners and the amazing ways they have advocated for women and men facing infertility. I still cannot believe that my quiet little blog is being lauded along with these incredible advocates. I have to admit, I'm a bit nervous about speaking onstage and I feel a little bit unworthy of such an incredible honor in comparison to the many blogs and advocates that have made a difference in my life. I just hope I don't trip on my way up or ramble when I'm speaking. And even more than that I hope I can continue to blog about topics that matter to this community and to be an advocate worthy of such a wonderful honor. 

The RESOLVE Night of Hope is Tuesday, October 2 at 7pm. You can follow along with what is happening at the gala by following #2012nightofhope on Twitter. You can also learn more about the award recipients and other event info by clicking here

Monday, September 24, 2012

Welcome Home

If you have read any of my posts in the past few months, you may have noticed my schedule is just a teensy bit full lately. Between entertaining out of town guests, travels of our own, moving into our new home and the daily in and outs of everyday life I feel like I have barely been able to take a breath lately, let alone think about how I feel about all of the things that have been happening. I have however been trying my absolute best to live in and enjoy every moment of all of these events both big and small. 

For starters, we had an amazing time on our first trip without Eliana. I was so nervous that I wouldn't be able to enjoy myself but in the end all three of us benefited from the trip. Chad and I were able to spend quality time with each other and our friends and Eliana had an amazing time with her grandparents. And absolutely nothing compared with the moment we came home to her excited smiles and endless hugs. She spent the entire afternoon after we got home running back and forth between the two of us giggling and throwing herself into full body hugs and kisses. I melt all over again just thinking about it. 

We didn't have long to stop and reflect on the fun we had though because the next day we threw ourselves straight into moving and it's been non-stop since. It has been so busy that I haven't had time to really reflect on leaving the home we inhabited for the past three years. Yeah, it's just an apartment, but so much happened there. This was where we lived when we came to California from Florida without a friend or family member within 1000 miles, when it was literally just the two of us against the world. This was where we held each other and cried after so many BFNs, where we hoped things would "just fall into place". We were in that apartment when we decided to pursue IVF. We where there for both of the phone calls that gave us the news that I was pregnant. We holed up together in that living room crying and mourning the loss of my first pregnancy. I will never forget the days I spent in that bedroom on bedrest after my FET, hoping that Snow Pea was snuggling in as I watched "Gone With the Wind" and relaxed to the hum of our new window a/c as the 115 heat wave roared outside nor will I forget any moment of the pregnancy that followed and all of the excited hopeful moments that it contained. Taking apart the desk and guest bed to make room for a crib and changing table, hanging vinyl star decals on the freshly painted nursery walls, baking spicy labor cookies in the tiny kitchen, saying goodbye to our life as a couple as we left for the hospital and hello to our life as a family when we returned home with Snow Pea in our arms. 

That apartment is where Eliana laughed for the first time, spoke her first words and took her first steps. There are so many amazing and important memories there and it is bittersweet leaving the place where so many important moments in my life took place. But it's not just the past I am sad to say goodbye to. In the past few months we have become close with the neighbors that live next door to us. They have a son just a bit older than Eliana and the two of them have a blast playing together. And the four of us adults have a great time just hanging out, talking and laughing together. The first time we sat on the patio together chatting, we were there until 3am, not realizing just how late it was. Becoming parents isn't exactly easy on your social life and having friends we genuinely liked and clicked with right next door was pretty incredible. We got to feel like our Saturday nights were fun again while still having the comfort of being just a few steps away from our baby girl. Of course, we are maintaining our friendship with them but we are definitely sad to give them up as neighbors. I know it's just a place, just four walls and a roof but I can't help but feel a connection to that place. I probably always will. It is after all where I lived for what has turned out to be the most significant three years of my life.

We are officially living in our new house (yes that is a picture of it- LOVE!) and we really do love it here. This house has more space, heaps more character and a great yard complete with white picket fence. We are just two blocks from the park and five blocks from downtown and all kinds of fantastic cafes, coffee shops and antique stores. But there is still plenty left to do until we are "settled". Luckily, Snow Pea loves the new house and only really lost sleep our first night here. Since then, she has become pretty comfortable and happy in her new digs. Speaking of happy, that is her new favorite word. She started saying it last week and hasn't stopped. It is absolutely, unbelievably heart melting to hear! I ask her if she is a happy baby girl then she responds with a giant smile and giggle before exclaiming "happy! happy! happy!" over and over again. It's the best. She has a few other new words too. She loves saying apple, up, baby, book, ball and her two best friends names Avery and JoJo. All of which she has learned since our move. She even said her very first sentence the other day! I asked her what she wanted to do and she said "go outside walk!" It was astounding! It is incredible to witness and experience every new day with her. She is developing such a fun, goofy and lovable personality and after only a week in the new house she has already created so many wonderful memories here. I can't wait to experience and create even more, maybe one day as a family of four.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Ready To Be Me

During my last 2ww after FET, I was anything but optimistic. I had just suffered a miscarriage following a roller coaster IVF and my heart was still raw and couldn't fathom anything good happening for me. Chad and I both spent most of those two weeks bracing ourselves for disappointment and heartbreak. We truly had very little hope that this FET had really worked. Finally we realized we needed to escape and just be us, if only for a moment. So we sailed off for a short island getaway to take a breath and release some anxiety the day before beta. While we were there we took a moment to make a wish in a little fountain tucked into a hidden courtyard. My beta was less than 24 hours away so we held hands, tossed our penny in and felt our very first ray of hope. That short 2 day trip was the first time I felt really like the me I was before infertility. If only for a moment, I could just be.

Two years later we journeyed to that island again this time with the amazing little girl that was born as a result of the very same FET we had been so worried would fail. And of course we revisited that hopeful fountain. It was so amazing to experience that mini vacation again but this time with her there to enjoy it with us. She delighted in all of the new sights and sounds and we delighted in seeing them again through her eyes. And having so much traveling with her already under our belts and so much more to come, we are excited about the many opportunities to see old places become new again as we experience them as parents for the first time. 

Next week though, we are taking a truly groundbreaking trip: the first since Snow Pea was born for which she won't be joining us. I am kinda, sorta freaking out about being away from my baby girl for the first time since she was born. But I am also kinda looking forward to the break from parenting. Don't get me wrong, I love being a stay at home mom and wouldn't change that for anything right now, but it gets exhausting. Really exhausting. And the idea of a having few days to not worry about why my child is whining and whether I am a terrible mother for giving in to said whines sounds pretty nice right now. 

I feel so incredibly conflicted for even thinking I need a break and not just for the reasons you might think. Yes of course, part of it is because I want to be with my daughter and I know that I will without a doubt miss her immensely. I can't imagine missing 4 entire days of her life. But I also feel like I somehow don't deserve to feel tired or worn out. I mean what do I really do to warrant the need for a "break"? Yeah, I'm a stay at home mom, but I'm no heroine. I rarely cook, my house is always a mess and as much as I adore my girl I also find myself occasionally overwhelmed with the demands that come with full-time caregiving. I feel like there are so many more women and men out there giving more, doing more- moms and dads who work and still have the same responsibilities I do when it comes to grocery shopping, laundry washing and dinner making. There are moms who meal plan and have their crock pots set up, ready for the night's meal as they put together homemade, educational activities for their tots, while I rely on a day full of the same store bought toys, trips to the library for storytime and puzzling over what to make for dinner about 5 minutes before we should be eating it. I try to convince myself that the "pinterest" world of crafts, homemade meals, perfect exercise schedules and cleaning schedules isn't really an accurate picture of what happens in other people's homes, but it is hard to believe I'm not the only slacker sometimes. If I can't even keep up with my own to-do list, what exactly do I need a break from?

Then of course there is the infertility thing. I wanted this more than anything in the entire world. I still do. I truly do love being a parent and not in a passive way. The thought is consciously in my head at least once a day. Every time I try to do something that used to be easy that is now instead a struggle to keep my toddler from running into traffic or throwing a tantrum, I can't help but realize how much more I enjoy having a demanding baby making it impossible for me to eat my dinner while it's hot than I ever did actually eating said dinner. But that doesn't mean I don't ever want to eat a hot meal again. And maybe even have a glass of wine to go with it once in a while and some uninterrupted adult conversation while I'm at it. It's this crazy internal debate that I go through constantly. I have so much fun being a mom and I am so grateful for it but I also just want to be me sometimes without having to think for two people. I love it but no matter how great it is, it can be draining. That thinking for two people thing is what gets really hard. My brain feels like complete mush by the end of the day. 

I miss "me" stuff. I need more of it. I realized I am kind of losing myself to the toddler routine. I get out every day, I have tons of friends to interact with- both parents and not, I am not shutting myself away by any means but I still feel like I often lose sight of what makes me, me. My 30th birthday is coming up and since I was 23 I have been planning to throw an epic 80s Prom to celebrate. But in the past few months, it has started to sound like too much work and I have lost excitement for it. Part of it I think is that I really do have a lot of other things to plan and prepare for and this party really will take some work, but I also realized I haven't been excited because I haven't been in touch with the part of me that wanted this in the first place. I haven't listened to own music in ages because my CD player and pandora station is always blasting The Wiggles or Laurie Berkner. As much as I love the kids tunes Eliana and I jam out to, I need to rock out to my music again too. That used to be a huge part of me. I spent my entire pregnancy and Snow Pea's 1st year belting Journey, REO Speedwagon and Depeche Mode into a hairbrush to get psyched up for planning my birthday bash, but now that she has reached toddlerhood I've caved to playing "Shake My Sillies Out" a thousand times a day to keep her happy. 

I know it is probably selfish and that I probably don't actually need or deserve it, but I still really want a break. I want to spend time with my husband without us both having to divide our attention. I want to be able to put all of my energy into something that I really want to do. Of course, I'm sure I will barely remember any of these feelings this time next week when I'm missing my baby and counting the moments until I can with her again. But hopefully, just like that 2ww escape trip, I will find that moment that will snap my brain out of whatever funk it might be in and I will come home feeling refreshed and recharged and ready to be the best mom and the best me that I can be.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Help Wanted!

The word of the month is BUSY! Holy full schedule, Batman! Despite having three different posts floating through my head this month I have actually written exactly zero of them and now that I am finally sitting down, the words escape me, so instead I'm claiming my right as a blogger to use this space to decompress and beg for advice on a few exciting upcoming events. 

First up, we are moving! Chad and I moved to California just before we began our IVF journey 3 years ago and chose to rent a cute 2 bedroom apartment with the intention of becoming a family of three. Now that we have finally filled our second bedroom with a much longed-for child, we have realized that it won't be long until we're ready to begin the journey to baby #2 and will need a bigger space. After much searching, we found the PERFECT 3 bedroom house in our favorite neighborhood and we can't wait to move in and get settled into our new space. I am kind of freaking out about the actual moving part though since we will be doing it with a toddler in tow. She knows her home, her room, her neighborhood and now we are taking her out of all of that. How will she react? Will she have a hard time adjusting? And how the heck am I going to manage the actual logistics of getting her stuff moved and set up? Should I hire a babysitter for the day? If you have ever moved with a child any advice or tips to make the process as painless as possible would be VERY appreciated. We get our keys on the 1st but the lease at our current place isn't up until the 25th, so we have some time to play with. 

We do however, have to give up a good chunk of that time for a pre-planned getaway with my best friend and her boyfriend to celebrate her 30th birthday. Just after Labor Day, we will be packing up for train trip up the coast to Portland, Oregon. We are really excited to get away with some good friends and explore a new city however I am also kinda nervous about the first ever trip we are taking away from Snow Pea! Eek! My in-laws will be arriving a few days before we leave to hang out and then stay with E while we are away. I trust them completely and I know she will have a blast with them, it's me I'm worried about. In the 16 months since she was born, the longest I have been away from her is about 4 hours and now I am getting ready to embark on a trip away for over 4 days! ACK! Please, please, please if you have any words of wisdom to share that might help me enjoy this trip and keep my "I miss my baby tears" at a minimum, I would be thrilled to hear them. I am thinking that with us being gone it might be easiest on Eliana if we keep most of her things in our old place until we get back rather than trying to move before we leave. However, since she will be spending time with her grandparents maybe the new place would provide a neutral, new territory that will make feel more comfortable with following their guidance? She has one regular babysitter and has always gone to her house and done very well. of course if we move before we will have zero time to actually set up and get settled before we leave for Portland. To move before or after? Thoughts?

Finally, and perhaps the most exciting, We're going to NYC! In the days after I learned about winning Resolve's Hope Award for Best Blog, Chad and I pondered whether we could make a trip to the Big Apple to attend The Night of Hope happen. And I am ecstatic that our trip is completely booked and we are definitely going! I am beyond thrilled to make another trip to what is hands down my favorite city on the planet and to bring my amazing baby girl along to experience it too. My friends think we're crazy for bringing a toddler to the city but I figure thousands of people are raising toddlers in the very same neighborhoods we will be spending a mere 5 days in. People do it everyday so obviously NYC with a toddler is completely do-able. But I would still love any tips, tricks or advice from anyone who has visited or lives in New York on navigating the city with a toddler. What attractions are worth bringing her to and which should we skip? How manageable is the subway with a little one? What do I need to know that I am probably completely forgetting? What do I need to bring and what should I leave at home? My awesome in-laws are saving the day yet again by staying in the city with us and babysitting while we attend the Night of Hope. So the big stuff is taken care thanks to their amazing generosity.

Whew! That is just a snippet of all the big, exciting stuff I've been working on lately. In addition to all of that, I am still working toward my grad school application, planning a trip to Texas to visit my brother-in-law's family after our newest nephew is born next month, planning my epically huge 30th birthday bash in December and getting ready for a visit from my mom who arrives here the day after tomorrow. I wish she could stay longer but I plan to make the most of the long weekend we are spending with her. It will be nice to give my brain a short break from planning and researching and just enjoying time together. So while my brain is on vacation please feel free to fill in and share any and all words of wisdom on any of these upcoming events. The blog and twitter community has always been one of my favorite sources of great firsthand information and you have no idea how much I appreciate your input!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

It's a Major Award!

I still can't believe it. I am just so blown away and overjoyed and excited! This is huge! My blog post for this year's National Infertility Awareness Week ( you can find it here) has been awarded RESOLVE's Hope Award for Best Blog! I WON A MAJOR AWARD! A national award from the most important infertility organization in the country. I still haven't recovered from the shock that out of nearly 300 posts this year, mine was nominated as one of five finalists. I read each of the other nominated blog posts and found such incredible women with amazing writing in each. Being included in that group of women in itself just blows me away, but to actually be voted by all of you as the award winner, I'm honored! I'm thrilled! I'm so incredibly grateful!

A little over two years ago I began blogging as an outlet to talk about what I was going through in my quest to be a mom. I had only just begun that journey then. I hadn't been fully diagnosed or begun any sort of treatment. No one in my real life knew what I was going through. It felt too scary, too personal to share. Through this blog I sorted out my feelings as I went through IVF, miscarriage, FET and pregnancy. I have delved into the hopes as well as the anxieties and fears of each of these experiences in a way that I couldn't in "real life". I have also been incredibly fortunate to receive an overwhelming amount of love and support from a community of strong women and men facing struggles similar to my own. And from that support and the self-reflection gained by sharing my experiences, I gained strength- Strength to face each new step of the journey, no matter how frightening or overwhelming. Strength to finally "come out" with my infertility and my loss to anyone and everyone that I know. Strength to speak up and advocate for others in the ALI community, to stand by them and hold their hands as they have done for me.

Becoming a parent shifted my role in this community considerably but I have still always felt that I am very much a part of it, that I still have a voice here, a perspective worthy of contribution. I still care deeply about those still in the trenches and try to do my best to support them through their cycles, losses, adoptions, child-free decisions and everything in between. I have also developed a passion for spreading awareness and an understanding of infertility and involuntary childlessness to those outside our of community and it is with these goals as well as my ongoing need to work through my own emotions on parenting after infertility that I continue to consider myself an infertility blogger. I am so grateful to still be a voice in this community and although many of my parenting posts go unread by those who need that distance, I know that it doesn't change that we are still there for each other, still members of this same undesirable club.

I have never been a superstar blogger. I have a pretty basic (read:boring) design, I can barely keep up with a few posts a month, I only have a handful of regular readers and even fewer comments each time I post. I have always done my best to be honest and thoughtful every time I write, but ultimately I think my blog is a pretty quiet, humble corner of the internet and that's fine by me. Which is why I am still so incredibly blown away and humbled to be awarded with RESOLVE's Hope Award for Best Blog. I just can't thank those of you who voted for me enough. It is truly an honor to be a part of the collective voice of this community. But I am not the only award winner for this years Night of Hope. Please take the time to visit RESOLVE and learn about the other amazing advocates, volunteers and organizations making a difference in the lives of those with infertility by going here:

This blog has given me so much. I always knew it would be an outlet for my emotions, but I never dreamed it would also be a catalyst for so much growth and strength. Thank you so much for every bit of support you all have given me. This award is incredible, I am beyond at excited to receive such a major award, but knowing I have so much love out there from all of you means even more.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Language of Infertility

I have been thinking a lot recently about how amazingly fortunate I am to be a mother. I often think about what I went through to get here and so many other hopeful women and men facing their own struggles with being involuntarily childless. I hate that any of us have to live that term but I love how accurately it represents what the experience is truly like and I am so grateful to the sociologists I referenced in my literary review for coining it. Language is a crucial part of any cause and using the right language can make a world of difference in reaching those in need and enacting change. With that said, I truly think the term "involuntarily childlessness" is an important and deeply relevant term that needs to be used more within our community. 

Yes, infertility is still a very important and powerful term. It gives us a medical diagnoses, a definable issue to understand to dissect and try to cope with. But for me and I think for so many others who struggle with "infertility", the term itself leaves us feeling incomplete. It doesn't quite encompass what our struggle is really about. It is the word that isn't quite the word you were looking for, but settle on when the right one never makes it off the tip of your tongue. It's good but not good enough. It acknowledges that those of us unable to easily have children are facing something real and big and difficult but it leaves so much more out. It isolates those of us that can conceive but suffer from tragic losses. It discounts entire groups of women and men who find themselves ready, willing and wanting children but not in a socially acceptable position to have them and therefore afraid to or unable to actually try. It fails to include those feeling a new surge of pain at a disrupted adoption, a failed cycle, a canceled donor or a lost pregnancy. It leaves out the millions of people struggling month after month who have yet to pay a visit to a doctor and receive an official infertility diagnoses. Most importantly, it fails to adequately name what matters most to those who are facing it. Specifically, people with infertility, often don't care about being infertile as much as they care about not having children despite wanting them more than anything. Infertile is second to being involuntarily childless.

At least, that's how it was for me. When I did the research for my paper and found that term, it really spoke to me because that is how I identified myself over just about everything else. I have an official diagnoses. I know exactly why I can't get pregnant on my own. I am medically infertile and it definitely matters to me. I have gone through my fair share of feeling betrayed by my body, being angry at myself, feeling like less of a woman, less of person for being unable to conceive. But conception was always the smallest aspects of the mountain of emotions I felt when struggling with infertility. What mattered to me more was that I wanted to be a mom. I wanted a child to care for, to raise, to clean up after, to spit up in my hair, to kiss, to set curfews for, to cuddle, to love. What broke my heart on every holiday, every weekend outing, every quiet morning wasn't a medical term but the deep feeling of sadness at wanting more than anything a child with whom to celebrate and experience all the wonderful and all of the every day joys of life, but having empty arms anyway.

I know there are so many women and men out there who have felt that pain who might not consider themselves "infertile". Who don't know about RESOLVE, don't attend support groups or seek medical care. Maybe they just aren't there yet or don't want to face something so daunting or scary. I will never forget opening up to a friend about how emotional and difficult it was trying to conceive and how broken-hearted I was about being infertile. At the time I hadn't been officially diagnosed or started treatment yet. Because of this, she tried to comfort me that I wasn't really infertile. I didn't have to do anything crazy like IVF (gasp!). But despite my lack of diagnoses, I still clung to the term because I knew what I was going through was more than just "TTC". I had been on that road for far too long and been through far too much pain. I was involuntarily childless. I wonder if we integrated that term into the discussion on infertility and loss more often if we might be able to reach more people in need of support. I also wonder if we might be able to better reach those who have never had to experience a life of involuntary childlessness and allow them to more easily empathize and understand our experiences. Yes, some infertile people adopt, some have babies through ART and some never have children but what we all have in common is that none of us chose to be faced with those decisions. We all grow up presumptively believing that one day, when we are ready, we will be able to be parents. It's just a given. But for 1 in 6 of us having children doesn't turn out to be something automatic and instantaneous and I think this term helps convey that. 

Of course, I don't want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. The term "infertility" is still very real and very needed. Just as infertility does not encompass the entire experience, neither does the term involuntary childless. Secondary infertility is very real, very prevalent and very important. I in no way wish to discount the very emotional struggle of parents facing difficulty conceiving for the 2nd, 3rd or even 4th time. Infertility still matters. I am still faced with it nearly every day and will be swimming in it again when I go back for another FET to hopefully have a second child one day.  While I still am and always be infertile, I am enormously blessed to no longer be involuntarily childless. These two terms, while incredibly similar aren't exactly the same and I pledge to do my part to acknowledge and provide support and advocacy for both experiences.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Is There Such a Thing as an Infertility Scholar?

Remember a little while ago, I talked about wanting to go back to school pursue my master's degree? And I said I wanted to focus on an education that somehow contributed to the IF community? Well, this month I took my first steps toward that goal and began an undergrad class that I need as a prereq for my grad work. And for my first assignment, I did just what I had hoped to and focused my research on the IF community! I know this is crazy geeky to admit, but I really had fun writing this paper and genuinely enjoy this class in general. I mentioned sharing it on my blog, which some of you were excited about, so now that it has been turned in and graded (I got an A!) here it is! Keep in mind, I was working within the confines of an assignment, so this is not comprehensive. Honestly, there were so many more aspects I wanted to tackle and I had all the research to do it, but it couldn't be longer than 2 pages, so I had to keep a narrower focus.  Despite the fun I had researching and writing this sociological literary review on infertility's effect on identity, it might still read as dull for some of you, so if you just skim or decide to pass on reading it altogether, I won't be offended. I think it is a fascinating subject though and I would love to learn more and eventually see the issues surrounding infertility more incorporated in academia. So without further adieu: 

The Effect Of Infertility on Gender and Identity

            Most young men and women approach adulthood with the assumption that they will become parents (Peterson et al 2006). While career and life goals constantly shift throughout childhood and adolescence, the social expectation that girls and boys grow up to become moms and dads does not waver and many young children spend their time imagining what it will be like to become a parent (Ulrich and Weatherall 2000). When this vision does not come to fruition naturally and easily, the resulting shift in one's lifelong understanding of identity can be monumental. Research indicates that both men and women facing infertility or involuntary childlessness undergo dramatic shifts in identity, gender roles and self-definition as a result of their experiences. 
              Numerous studies on the impact of infertility have shown the negative effects the condition can have on identity and sense of self. Nearly every study conducted found a correlation between the experience of infertility and feelings of grief, uncertainty, loss of control and personal failure ( Zucker 1999; Webb and Daniluk 1999). In a study of women facing various reproductive difficulties, Zucker (1999) noted that women experiencing infertility more often reported feelings of failure and uncertainty than the other, non-infertile, groups. These feelings are not exclusive to women, as Webb and Daniluk (1999) observed that the men in their study experienced a deep sense of grief, powerlessness, loss of control and personal inadequacy as a result of infertility. This loss of identity and control in one's life is not limited to the area of fertility. Quite often this sense of failure and powerlessness pervades into every aspect of one's life as a result of the feeling of lost control over one's own body and reproductive choices (Letherby 2002). 
              More profound than this general sense of loss and personal failure, is the rate at which both men and women feel like failures in their respective gender roles. Women, for instance, feel pressured by an expectation of motherhood and due to this socially constructed ideal of women as mothers often feel that they have failed as women if they become involuntarily childless (Ulrich and Weatherall 2000). Letherby's studies show that it is often considered socially unacceptable for women to be childless or to live as “non-mothers” and therefore these women experience social stigma and the feeling of not being “real” women (1999 and 2002). Similarly, men report feeling pressure from family, friends and society to become fathers and perceive an assault on their masculinity if they are confronted with infertility (Webb and Daniluk 1999). This perceived loss of manhood due to infertility can be so pervasive that some men in the study by Webb and Daniluk (1999) attempted to prove their masculinity through extra-marital affairs or “super-jock” behavior. Even men who did not become hyper-masculine in the study, still reported the desire to conform to traditional male gender roles to be “strong” and not share their pain or emotions with anyone else when first confronted with their infertility. The prevailing theory on behaviors such as this, is that men and women when faced with threats to their identity or sense of self control, seek to compensate these feelings by exerting more control in other areas of their lives or reaffirming gender roles in alternative ways (Zucker 1999; Webb and Daniluk 1999). Studies on the differences in coping mechanisms between men and women facing infertility demonstrate this by showing that both genders initially embrace coping methods traditionally associated with their gender, such as seeking social support for women and distancing or avoidance for men (Peterson et al 2006). 
             Ultimately however, the effects of infertility on identity as it relates to gender roles proves to be transformative rather than merely negative. As a result of these feelings of failure, both men and women are forced to reconstruct and redefine what it is to be a man or a woman. They inevitably learn to separate their sense of femininity and masculinity from their reproductive abilities and develop of sense of self-worth that is not tied to their fertility (Webb and Daniluk 1999). This redefinition of gender roles in response to infertility is shown to provide great emotional benefit to both husbands and wives, as it allows both partners to be more actively involved in treatment and to better share the experience (Peterson et al 2006). Men especially seem to benefit from the reconstruction of gender roles and research shows the process allows men to feel more comfortable expressing aspects of their personalities traditionally assigned to female roles such as compassion, empathy, communication and connectedness. These men report feeling changed in positive ways that not only strengthen their marriages and families but their sense of self as well, as they feel unburdened from strict gender role expectations and free to live “lives that more fully reflect their complete humanity” (Webb and Daniluk 1999:22). Women also are shown to utilize education and other resources in order to cope with infertility's negative experiences and draw positive effects from them (Zucker 1999). Many women report finding peace with infertility by challenging the conventional definitions of 'mother' as well as the notion that motherhood is a woman's only valuable contribution to society (Ulrich and Weatherall 2000). It can be argued that in redefining their own womanhood, these women resist being reduced to gender stereotypes and demand that society recognize their multi-faceted existence. It is important to note however, that transitions in identity are not one-dimensional nor do they occur in a linear fashion. Many subjects report feeling negative emotions and positive shifts simultaneously (Letherby 2002), suggesting that infertility's effect on the self is layered and complex. 
               It is also important to be aware of the limitations of current studies conducted on infertility as it relates to identity as well as the limitations on studies of infertility as a whole. Nearly all of the research in this area has been conducted on predominately female subjects who are white, heterosexual, married and middle/upper class (Ulrich and Weatherall 2000; Letherby 2002; Peterson et al 2006). This area of research may greatly benefit from more inclusive studies incorporating the experiences of homosexual couples, diverse races, lower income groups and single persons identifying as infertile (Ulrich and Weatherall 2000; Letherby 2002). It should also be noted that a large majority of research subjects have undergone medical treatment and/or determined a resolution for their infertility. Very little research has been done on the millions of men and women experiencing infertility who never seek conventional treatment, due in large part to the difficulty in locating willing research participants (Letherby 1999). 
              Despite these limitations, it is clear in reviewing the current literature that the social condition of involuntary childlessness has a profound effect on the gender roles, self-definition and identity of those who experience it. As is clearly shown by these studies, transitions in identity are often multidimensional and pervasive into all areas of life. Perhaps the most intriguing example of this is seen in the progression of identity. As argued by Ulrich and Weatherall (2000) and Letherby (2002), although initial self-perception may involve failure or inadequacy, these men and women ultimately realize that in facing the grief, loss and pain of their infertility, they are not passive victims of their condition but instead active survivors. Continued study on the process of re-constructing gender, identity and most significantly survivor status by those experiencing involuntary childlessness can do much to provide guidance, support and social acceptance to the more than 7 million people in the U.S. faced with infertility.

Letherby, Gayle. 1999. “Other Than Mother and Mothers As Others: the experience of motherhood and non-motherhood in relation to infertility and involuntary childlessness.” Women's Studies International Forum 22(3): 359-372.
Letherby, Gayle. 2002. “Challenging Dominant Discourses: identity and change and the experience of ‘infertility’ and ‘involuntary childlessness.” Journal of Gender Studies 11(3): 277-288.
Peterson, D.B., C.R. Newton, K.H. Rosen, and G.E. Skaggs. 2006. “Gender differences in how men and women who are referred for IVF cope with infertility stress.” Human Reproduction 21(9): 2443-2449.
Ulrich, Miriam and Ann Weatherall. 2000. “Motherhood and Infertility: Viewing Motherhood Through the Lens of Infertility.” Feminism and Psychology 10(3): 323-336.
Webb, Russell E. and Judith C. Daniluk. 1999. “End of the Line: Infertile Men's Experiences of Being Unable to Produce a Child.” Men and Masculinities 2(1): 6-25.
Zucker, Alyssa N. 1999. “The Psychological Impact of Reproductive Difficulties on Women's Lives.” Sex Roles 40(9/10): 767-786.

P.S. If you haven't already, and you feel so inclined, please don't forget to stop by Resolve to read and vote for this year's Hope Award for Best Blog! Thank you!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

What An Honor!

I haven't been the most consistent blogger in the past year. I try to write what's on my mind and in my heart as often as possible and I always have posts written in my head, but somewhere between the thought process and my keyboard I lose focus and it never actually gets written. I never let myself off the hook for National Infertility Awareness Week though, and I always do everything I can to write a post that really means something to me and hopefully to anyone that reads it. Last week, I found out that my blog post for this year's NIAW is one of 5 nominees for RESOLVE's Hope Award for Best Blog!

 I know it sounds cliche, but it really is an honor just to be nominated, especially alongside such amazing bloggers. This is THE blog award within the infertility community and just knowing that my post will be seen as fellow IF bloggers and readers take the time to read posts before voting means so much to me. 

You don't have to vote for me, or anyone for that matter if you don't want to, but please take the time to read all of the incredible posts nominated on this year's theme "Don't Ignore".

This blog and this community has been such a tremendous source of support and hope for me and this recognition reminds me that I was much as I get from the community, I have the ability to give to it too.

Monday, July 9, 2012

I'm Back!

I'm back! Back from what you ask? Well back to blogging after a nearly 4 week absence for one and back home from a week of fun with Chad's family for another. Yes I said fun with my in-laws! All of them! Chad, Eliana and I spent a week swimming, rock-sliding, kayaking, playing games and celebrating with his brother and sister and their families at his parent's cabin in the Georgia mountains. I know to many of you this sounds crazy, but I adore the family I married into. I cried when we left. I am a lucky girl. 

We created so many wonderful memories this past week. This is going to sound ultra-cheesy, but every moment felt special and amazing simply because our daughter was there to share it with us. Throughout the week, I couldn't help but notice how much more "in the moment" I felt than the last time I had been there. I could smile and mean it. I could laugh without forcing myself. I never had to fight back tears or pretend to be having more fun than I was because I really was having a great time. The last time the entire family was together in this cabin still held plenty of happy moments for me, but mostly I was hurting. It was Christmas 2009 and as we boarded the plane for the trip, I was anxiously waiting to see whether AF would show up after an incredibly difficult and emotional 2ww. Her arrival on Christmas morning was a stab to my heart that was almost too much to bear and spending time with my nieces and nephews provided me the contradictory experience of both easing my broken heart and exacerbating it. I will never forget the chain of crying that occurred on Christmas day. One of my sisters-in-law was in tears due to a challenge she was facing with her son's behavior, followed quickly with tears from other sister-in-law who was also crying and overwhelmed by her oldest child's behavior. Que me sobbing my eyes out in the corner because although I knew their struggles were real, and challenging, I wanted more than anything to have a son or daughter's difficult behavior to cry about.

This trip was heads and tails different than that experience. It made me realize just how much my heart has healed since becoming a mom. I didn't ache or hurt when we celebrated my sister-in-law's pregnancy with a surprise shower. I could enjoy my nieces and nephews and watch them play without feeling sad or wistful. Being able to really be me this time, I could see just how hard those family events really used to be for me, just how guarded and detached I really was. I didn't feel like I was fully apart of these occasions then. I felt like Chad and I were the odd ones out. The only ones with empty laps and empty arms. I wasn't myself, I was nearly consumed by infertility. That experience was always right on top of my conscious thoughts throughout the week, and it kept me grounded and happy. I didn't get particularly bothered when my dinner got cold because I was busy cutting up bite sized meals for Eliana, or when she woke up early from her naps because she was asleep in an open loft without much protection from noise because these were the problems I cried for the last time I was here. I am not trying to be a saint or idealize things. I'm a normal woman who was grateful to have my mother-in-law volunteer to watch my daughter so I could have a break. But I also truly felt so incredibly lucky and grateful to have a toddler demanding my attention when I was trying to have an adult conversation instead of being left alone with the empty, achy feeling of childlessness after everyone else has pulled away by their kids needs for attention.

I think the best part of this week though, wasn't my experience, it was hers. Watching Eliana play and giggle with her cousins made me melt in a way I can't even describe. All four of them were so incredibly sweet with her and she was in awe of each of them. She followed the girls around, trying to imitate them and take part in their games. She let the boys cuddle her and care for her and giggled at their silly faces. She found her uncles to be almost as hilarious as Daddy and let her aunts paint her toenails and play lap games with her. She trusted her Grandmommy completely and just flat out adored her Grandaddy. She spent the entire week laughing, playing, learning and being loved. I am so thrilled that this is her family. That she is blessed to be related to such amazing people. But it also kills me that she has to live so far away from all of them, that she'll have these experiences only every so often instead of often. It's the same story with my side of the family. I am incredibly close to my mom and sister and they adore Eliana almost as much as I do. The last time they visited, she screamed when she watched them walk away into the airport, she wasn't ready to say goodbye. And neither was I. I feel incredibly guilty to be raising my daughter without more constant interaction with the family that loves her so much. But I also feel so blessed that she has the family that she does, that she loves spending time with them so much that I wish there was more of it rather than less. And I am grateful that both my family from childhood and the family I married into, love me as much as they do so that with their support I could be true to myself in both the heartbreak of infertility and the joy of motherhood.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Second Time Around?

It's official: my sweet little Snow Pea isn't a baby anymore. She is 14 months old as of a few days ago and she is walking and talking a little more each day. Despite my all of my attempts to savor every second and slow down time, she has become a toddler. 

It is an amazing stage really. I love the sound of curiosity in her voice asking "What's that?" and I do my best to answer as enthusiastically the 400th time she asks as I do the 1st. Even better is when she asks, I answer and she responds, "ooo cool". I love watching her toddle into the kitchen every morning- step, step, fall, crawl- to pull open every cabinet until she finds the small saucepan the is just the perfect size for carrying around and banging on the floor. I love hear her exclaim "woof, woof!" anytime she hears or sees a dog. I love how absolutely nuts she goes when a playground is in eyesight, begging to go play by signing "more, please, more, please, please". Speaking of signing, I am blown away by all of the signs she does! She knows about 40 now and the other day, Chad and I spied on her pulling all the books from her shelves and "reading" them to herself by flipping through the pages and doing the signs for every picture she knew the word for. It was amazing! 

Toddlerhood is not without its challenges though. As she gets older she is learning more about what she likes and does not like and can get pretty demanding and whiny. Our new nickname for her is "Yelly Ellie" because she is quite vocal with her opinions. She also has no problem physically pushing someone away if they get too close and she doesn't want them to. She has done it to both myself and Chad, as well as a few of her baby friends and even a stranger who wanted to say hi but made the mistake of penetrating Eliana's "bubble". She throws food on the floor, arches and wiggles out of our arms anytime we try to hold her and gets into EVERYTHING. Anyone with a toddler and a clean house must be a superhero. 

All this toddler stuff really is great, but I feel like it snuck up on me. I knew it would go fast but I really can't get over how quickly her baby days flew by. It's like I blinked and they were over!  And now that she is no longer a "baby", the inevitable questions about when we will try for number two have started. I am now very outspoken about my infertility and the nature of Eliana's conception, so thankfully most people know and try to be respectful when they ask. I make sure they know I am completely ok with answering anything they want to know. I do find it interesting though that almost everyone's first question is whether a FET means we get to choose the sex of our baby. (The answer is no, in case you are wondering. The embryos do have a genetic make-up that is male or female but there is no way of finding that out without costly and risky genetic testing, which is typically reserved for cases of medical need).

Every time I'm asked I have to really stop and think about my answer. Chad and I have had a plan for a while now that we would revisit Dr Jedi for another FET sometime in the first half of 2013. But as my Snow Pea continues to grow, I find myself daydreaming of another tiny baby in the house. I begin romanticizing late night feedings and newborn cries. I even caught myself researching baby names & texting Chad for his input, just like I did when I was pregnant. More and more I can see a sibling for Eliana. I almost feel ready to have that baby. But when I think about what it would take to make that happen, I realize I am nowhere near ready to go through that process again. 

The sleepless nights, the aching back, the swollen feet, the leaky boobs. None of it was easy, but none of it compared to the anxious hopes, the empty arms, the broken heart. I try to relive what another treatment cycle would be like, and it emotionally overwhelms me. I don't think I always realize just how much having Eliana in my arms has healed me. Taken away the pain, anxiety and fear that I lived with daily. A day without tears was a rarity in my life not too long ago, now the opposite is true. It's unbelievable how much happiness she has brought into my life. But I remember those emotions, that pain. I know how easily they could come back as I anxiously hope and pray myself through another two week wait or a BFN. 

I admit though, the next time around won't be nearly as emotional as the last. If we attempt a FET without success, I will be disappointed and emotional, but it won't be as devastating now that we have our sweet girl to hold on to for comfort. The stakes will never be as high as they were before I became a mom. Even if we aren't fortunate enough to ever have another child, we will always be parents to this amazing little girl. I know all of that, but I am still not ready. I want another child, I do. I want a sibling for Eliana. And if it was as simple as just that, who knows what our choice would be, but the fact is that it's not that simple and I am not yet ready to leave my happy bubble to dive back into treatment and the anxiety that comes with it. Thankfully, we have no reason to rush. I can focus on parenting our toddler and my educational goals and cross the FET bridge when we get to it. And I know that I will get through that future cycle no matter what happens. I have learned so much on this journey and connected with so many incredible, supportive people, and I know those things will help see me through any difficulty I may face. We'll get there. In the meantime, I am going to keep working on my "slow down time" machine

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Easy As ABC

I had a free photobook code sitting around and of course, waited until the absolute second to even think about it. I didn't want it to go to waste though so at the last minute I put this book together for Snow Pea to add to her library. I wrote it myself based on the photos and I have to say I am pretty excited about how it turned out!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Next Level

For years, I have praised the amazing and supportive relationships in the infertility community found on twitter. Truly, the friends I have found there have helped me to get through some of the most difficult moments of my life and I am forever grateful. Many of us have known each other for 3 or 4 years now. We have been there for each other through BFNs, miscarriages, homestudies, natural cycles, medicated cycles, surgeries, successes, joys and heartbreaks. As more than one person has put it, we were there in the trenches together. When the outside world couldn't understand our pain, our hurt, when we couldn't tolerate yet another happy birth announcement or cute kid story on Facebook, we had Twitter and each other to turn to for support. 

But over the past year or so I have witnessed an ever increasing divide between those of us who have been blessed with the children we have dreamed, hoped and cried for and those in our community who are still in those trenches with empty arms. Naturally, those who have crossed over into motherhood (myself included) have been tweeting and blogging about their new roles in life - their challenges in pregnancy, adoption finalizations and ultimately parenthood. And many amazing women who were there to support us in our journey to parenthood are forced to watch their support system shrink as their timelines fill with more and more tweets about breastfeeding and cranky toddlers. I have blogged in the past about infertility survivor's guilt and I experience it almost every time I am on twitter when I see the hurt and isolation in many of my beloved friend's tweets. Which is why I wasn't surprised when I recently learned that many of my favorite twitter pals have decided to deactivate their accounts or begin trimming down who they follow to focus solely on those who are still in shoes they can relate to. I completely understand and support their decision to move on from that aspect of the community because it is no longer fulfilling their needs. We are not the same community we were when we started. Of course I am overjoyed for those of us who are now mothers, but I am also heartbroken for those who are feeling left behind. I want so badly to be able to give the same love and support I once did, but I know that while I can represent hope I can't be back in their shoes and that is something people need. I know I did. 

When I went through my miscarriage in 2010, Twitter was a source of so much support and love, but it was also a source of tremendous pain. My BFP came on the heels of a couple of others and was followed by quite a few more. All of their pregnancies continued on after mine ended, and for the longest time I had to skip over tweets from many of those women. I just couldn't bear to be reminded of where my pregnancy would be by reading what was happening in theirs. Now that I have had my successful pregnancy, I carry that feeling with me and know it's not personal when someone pulls away or un-follows me online. I know that as much as I don't want to, I have the potential to be that painful reminder to someone else and it kills me. I love this community so much and hate to think I could cause anyone to hurt. Infertility does not define me but it certainly has become a part of me and while I can't serve the same role in this community as I did when I started, I can still find ways to advocate for support, understanding and awareness. 

Before my life was consumed by the infertility battle, I worked as a Victim Advocate, primarily providing support to survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. I loved my job and was beyond passionate about victim rights. It was demanding work however, and I made the decision to step away so that I could focus on building my family. It has been over 3 years since then and now that I am contemplating my return to a career, I have realized that my experiences have caused my focus to shift and I want more than anything to incorporate advocacy for infertility into what I do next. So for a long time, I contemplated how I could do that. I spoke with friends both in and out of the community, chewed my husbands ear off with pro/con lists, researched into all hours of the night, met with professionals working in career paths I might pursue and did a great deal of thoughtful lot of soul-searching. 

And I think I have found the path that will help me incorporate all of my passions into my future and hopefully educate others on the issues that matter to me. I recently enrolled in a course to obtain needed prerequisites for a graduate studies program in Sociology. Yes, I know this isn't a degree with a huge likelihood of high paying career, but luckily I am not in it for the money. I am hoping to focus my Master's of Sociology on women and gender studies so that I can teach these topics at the community college level. My dream is to be able to create a course that examines the role of motherhood in women's lives and what happens when women don't become mothers in the way society expects them to. I want to explore and analyze the effects of infertility and child loss on women's rights, on gender roles, on the family, on society. Even more, I want to educate future generations on these things that impact so many members of our society but are too seldom discussed outside of the people that are experiencing them. Most of all I want to try to give back to the community that has given so much to me. I know I can't be everything to everyone, but I hope that if I can follow my passion and be true to myself and my experiences, I can still be a voice and a supporter for those who need one.