Saturday, February 28, 2009

MY Baby

There is something I have always known, but has become all the more obvious as the years of wanting children have ticked by...

I don't just want a baby, a child. I want my baby, my child.

I firmly believe that our children are predestined to be our children. Somehow, someway they find their way to us.

I have a friend on my support group (I hope she doesn't mind I share this) who had begun the adoption process. In the beginning, she didn't feel a huge sense of urgency. All of a sudden, one day, she felt strongly that she needed to get their paperwork in order right now. It was an overnight realization, and from then on she was full speed ahead, even without really knowing why.

A short time later, they were pulled into their case worker's office. He asked if they had a crib. Turns out, a baby had been born and my friend matched the birth mother's criteria exactly. Before even getting their background check finished, they were to become parents. Now it was clear why the urgency was there. They needed to be ready for their baby.

Another friend recently adopted as well. I had known about the possible opportunity, and had felt a little sad that I wasn't in the position to pursue it. My friend did instead, and I felt a little jealous. Until I saw her baby. In that instant, it was obvious. This was not my baby, it was hers, and meant to be with them.

So, I know that there are special spirits meant to call me mom. The mystery is how I will find them and when. As time goes on though, I become more convinced that I will find them someday. Even though I feel a twinge of sadness or jealousy when I see others start their family, I try to remind myself that just because someone else becomes pregnant or adopts, doesn't mean I never will. They aren't having my baby. :)

My babies are still waiting for me, just like I wait for them, and I know they are worth the wait!

... the waiting is the hardest part ... So true, so true!

Friday, February 27, 2009

For the Love of Animals

Every once in a while, I realize another gift that infertility has given me. Yes, in the midst of this frustrating and confusing existance, I periodically pause and think, "Wow, if I never had infertility, I never would have..."

One of these gifts is a love for animals. Now, I've had pets before and I've always loved them, but this is different.

Cosmo (yes my cat) has seen me cry more than anyone else. He lets me hold him, even when I can tell he doesn't like it. When Ryan leaves for work and I look around my big empty house, he makes it not seem so empty.

Recently we got another cat, Bella. It's been fun having her here too. Cosmo has a playmate, and I have another cuddlebug.

Cosmo and Bella have helped fill a deep hole in my heart and made the waiting not as painful. Had I been able to have my family right away, I'm not sure I would have pets, or think of them as kindly as I do. Now I know there will always be a place in our home for them.

Infertility has given me a love for animals. I am thankful for that.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Infertility Etiquette

The following is the best article I've ever read on how to deal with an infertile, emotional, hard-to-please friend... like me. ;) I think there are some good things in here that I wish I could find the words to say...

I am so lucky to have the friends I have, and I am grateful for them in my life, especially during this difficult time. I hope to be as good a friend to you during the times you struggle!!!


Infertility Etiquette
By Vita Alligood

Chances are, you know someone who is struggling with infertility. More than five million people of childbearing age in the United States experience infertility. Yet, as a society, we are woefully uninformed about how to best provide emotional support for our loved ones during this painful time.

Infertility is, indeed, a very painful struggle. The pain is similar to the grief over losing a loved one, but it is unique because it is a recurring grief. When a loved one dies, he isn't coming back. There is no hope that he will come back from the dead. You must work through the stages of grief, accept that you will never see this person again, and move on with your life.

The grief of infertility is not so cut and dry. Infertile people grieve the loss of the baby that they may never know. They grieve the loss of that baby who would have had mommy's nose and daddy's eyes. But, each month, there is the hope that maybe that baby will be conceived after all. No matter how hard they try to prepare themselves for bad news, they still hope that this month will be different. Then, the bad news comes again, and the grief washes over the infertile couple anew. This process happens month after month, year after year. It is like having a deep cut that keeps getting opened right when it starts to heal.

As the couple moves into infertility treatments, the pain increases while the bank account depletes. Most infertility treatments involve using hormones, which alter the user's moods. (That statement is like calling a lion a cat-my husband would tell you that the side effect is insanity!) The tests are invasive and embarrassing to both parties, and you feel like the doctor has taken over your bedroom. And for all of this discomfort, you pay a lot of money. Infertility treatments are expensive, and most insurance companies do not cover the costs. So, in addition to the pain of not conceiving a baby each month, the couple pays out anywhere from $300 to five figures, depending upon the treatment used.

A couple will eventually resolve the infertility problem in one of three ways:

They will eventually conceive a baby.
They will stop the infertility treatments and choose to live without children.
They will find an alternative way to parent, such as by adopting a child or becoming a foster parent.

Reaching a resolution can take years, so your infertile loved ones need your emotional support during this journey. Most people don't know what to say, so they wind up saying the wrong thing, which only makes the journey so much harder for their loved ones. Knowing what not to say is half of the battle to providing support.

Don't Tell Them to Relax

Everyone knows someone who had trouble conceiving but then finally became pregnant once she "relaxed." Couples who are able to conceive after a few months of "relaxing" are not infertile. By definition, a couple is not diagnosed as "infertile" until they have tried unsuccessfully to become pregnant for a full year. In fact, most infertility specialists will not treat a couple for infertility until they have tried to become pregnant for a year. This year weeds out the people who aren't infertile but just need to "relax." Those that remain are truly infertile.

Comments such as "just relax" or "try going on a cruise" create even more stress for the infertile couple, particularly the woman. The woman feels like she is doing something wrong when, in fact, there is a good chance that there is a physical problem preventing her from becoming pregnant.

These comments can also reach the point of absurdity. As a couple, my husband and I underwent two surgeries, numerous inseminations, hormone treatments, and four years of poking and prodding by doctors. Yet, people still continued to say things like, "If you just relaxed on a cruise . . ." Infertility is a diagnosable medical problem that must be treated by a doctor, and even with treatment, many couples will NEVER successfully conceive a child. Relaxation itself does not cure medical infertility.

Don't Minimize the Problem

Failure to conceive a baby is a very painful journey. Infertile couples are surrounded by families with children. These couples watch their friends give birth to two or three children, and they watch those children grow while the couple goes home to the silence of an empty house. These couples see all of the joy that a child brings into someone's life, and they feel the emptiness of not being able to experience the same joy.

Comments like, "Just enjoy being able to sleep late . . . .travel . . etc.," do not offer comfort. Instead, these comments make infertile people feel like you are minimizing their pain. You wouldn't tell somebody whose parent just died to be thankful that he no longer has to buy Father's Day or Mother's Day cards. Losing that one obligation doesn't even begin to compensate for the incredible loss of losing a parent. In the same vein, being able to sleep late or travel does not provide comfort to somebody who desperately wants a child.

Don't Say There Are Worse Things That Could Happen

Along the same lines, don't tell your friend that there are worse things that she could be going through. Who is the final authority on what is the "worst" thing that could happen to someone? Is it going through a divorce? Watching a loved one die? Getting raped? Losing a job?

Different people react to different life experiences in different ways. To someone who has trained his whole life for the Olympics, the "worst" thing might be experiencing an injury the week before the event. To someone who has walked away from her career to become a stay-at-home wife for 40 years, watching her husband leave her for a younger woman might be the "worst" thing. And, to a woman whose sole goal in life has been to love and nurture a child, infertility may indeed be the "worst" thing that could happen.

People wouldn't dream of telling someone whose parent just died, "It could be worse: both of your parents could be dead." Such a comment would be considered cruel rather than comforting. In the same vein, don't tell your friend that she could be going through worse things than infertility.

Don't Say They Aren't Meant to Be Parents

One of the cruelest things anyone ever said to me is, "Maybe God doesn't intend for you to be a mother." How incredibly insensitive to imply that I would be such a bad mother that God felt the need to divinely sterilize me. If God were in the business of divinely sterilizing women, don't you think he would prevent the pregnancies that end in abortions? Or wouldn't he sterilize the women who wind up neglecting and abusing their children? Even if you aren't religious, the "maybe it's not meant to be" comments are not comforting. Infertility is a medical condition, not a punishment from God or Mother Nature.

Don't Ask Why They Aren't Trying IVF

In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a method in which the woman harvests multiple eggs, which are then combined with the man's sperm in a petri dish. This is the method that can produce multiple births. People frequently ask, "Why don't you just try IVF?" in the same casual tone they would use to ask, "Why don't you try shopping at another store?"

There are many reasons why a couple would choose not to pursue this option. Here are a few of them.

IVF is Expensive with Low Odds

One cycle of IVF is very expensive. With all of the hype in the news, many people assume that IVF is a sure thing when, in fact, the odds of success for each cycle are low. Most couples cannot afford to try for one month, much less for multiple times. Considering that it also costs a significant amount of money to adopt a baby, many couples opt for the "sure thing" rather then risking their money on much lower odds.

IVF is Physically Taxing

Undergoing IVF treatments is very rigorous. The woman must inject shots into her thigh daily to cause her ovaries to superovulate. The drugs used are very taxing on the woman, and they can cause her to be become extremely emotional.

IVF Raises Ethical Issues

Ironically, couples who undergo IVF to become parents may have to selectively abort one or more fetuses if multiple eggs are fertilized. Many couples cannot bring themselves to abort a baby when they have worked so hard to become parents. If the couple chooses not to selectively abort, they run the risk of multiple births.

Don't Offer Unsolicited Opinions If They Are Trying IVF

On the flip side of the coin, don't offer unsolicited advice to your friends who do choose to try IVF. For many couples, IVF is the only way they will ever give birth to a baby. This is a huge decision for them to make, for all of the reasons I outlined above.

If the couple has resolved any ethical issues, don't muddy the waters. IVF is a gray area in many ethical circles, and many of our moral leaders don't yet know how to answer the ethical questions that have arisen from this new technology. If the couple has resolved these issues already, you only make it harder by raising the ethical questions again. Respect their decision, and offer your support. If you can't offer your support due to ethical differences of opinion, then say nothing.

A couple who chooses the IVF route has a hard, expensive road ahead, and they need your support more than ever. The hormones are no cakewalk, and the financial cost is enormous. Your friend would not be going this route if there were an easier way, and the fact that she is willing to endure so much is further proof of how much she truly wants to parent a child. The hormones will make her more emotional, so offer her your support and keep your questions to yourself.

Don't Play Doctor

Once your infertile friends are under a doctor's care, the doctor will run them through numerous tests to determine why they aren't able to conceive. There a numerous reasons that a couple may not be able to conceive. Here are a few of them:

Blocked fallopian tubes
Low hormone levels
Low "normal form" sperm count
Low progesterone level
Low sperm count
Low sperm motility
Thin uterine walls
Unexplained (I added this one!)

Infertility is a complicated problem to diagnose, and reading an article or book on infertility will not make you an "expert" on the subject. Let your friends work with their doctor to diagnose and treat the problem. Your friends probably already know more about the causes and solutions of infertility than you will ever know.

You may feel like you are being helpful by reading up on infertility, and there is nothing wrong with learning more about the subject. The problem comes when you try to "play doctor" with your friends. They already have a doctor with years of experience in diagnosing and treating the problem. They need to work with and trust their doctor to treat the problem. You only complicate the issue when you throw out other ideas that you have read about. The doctor knows more about the causes and solutions; let your friends work with their doctor to solve the problem.

Don't Be Crude

It is appalling that I even have to include this paragraph, but some of you need to hear this-Don't make crude jokes about your friend's vulnerable position. Crude comments like "I'll donate the sperm" or "Make sure the doctor uses your sperm for the insemination" are not funny, and they only irritate your friends.

Don't Complain About Your Pregnancy

This message is for pregnant women-Just being around you is painful for your infertile friends. Seeing your belly grow is a constant reminder of what your infertile friend cannot have. Unless an infertile women plans to spend her life in a cave, she has to find a way to interact with pregnant women. However, there are things you can do as her friend to make it easier.

The number one rule is DON'T COMPLAIN ABOUT YOUR PREGNANCY. I understand from my friends that, when you are pregnant, your hormones are going crazy and you experience a lot of discomfort, such as queasiness, stretch marks, and fatigue. You have every right to vent about the discomforts to any one else in your life, but don't put your infertile friend in the position of comforting you.

Your infertile friend would give anything to experience the discomforts you are enduring because those discomforts come from a baby growing inside of you. When I heard a pregnant woman complain about morning sickness, I would think, "I'd gladly throw up for nine straight months if it meant I could have a baby." When a pregnant woman would complain about her weight gain, I would think, "I would cut off my arm if I could be in your shoes."

I managed to go to baby showers and hospitals to welcome my friends' new babies, but it was hard. Without exception, it was hard. Stay sensitive to your infertile friend's emotions, and give her the leeway that she needs to be happy for you while she cries for herself. If she can't bring herself to hold your new baby, give her time. She isn't rejecting you or your new baby; she is just trying to work her way through her pain to show sincere joy for you. The fact that she is willing to endure such pain in order to celebrate your new baby with you speaks volumes about how much your friendship means to her.

Don't Treat Them Like They Are Ignorant

For some reason, some people seem to think that infertility causes a person to become unrealistic about the responsibilities of parenthood. I don't follow the logic, but several people told me that I wouldn't ache for a baby so much if I appreciated how much responsibility was involved in parenting.

Let's face it-no one can fully appreciate the responsibilities involved in parenting until they are, themselves, parents. That is true whether you successfully conceived after one month or after 10 years. The length of time you spend waiting for that baby does not factor in to your appreciation of responsibility. If anything, people who have been trying to become pregnant longer have had more time to think about those responsibilities. They have also probably been around lots of babies as their friends started their families.

Perhaps part of what fuels this perception is that infertile couples have a longer time to "dream" about what being a parent will be like. Like every other couple, we have our fantasies-my child will sleep through the night, would never have a tantrum in public, and will always eat his vegetables. Let us have our fantasies. Those fantasies are some of the few parent-to-be perks that we have-let us have them. You can give us your knowing looks when we discover the truth later.

Don't Gossip About Your Friend's Condition

Infertility treatments are very private and embarrassing, which is why many couples choose to undergo these treatments in secret. Men especially are very sensitive to letting people know about infertility testing, such as sperm counts. Gossiping about infertility is not usually done in a malicious manner. The gossipers are usually well-meaning people who are only trying to find out more about infertility so they can help their loved ones.

Regardless of why you are sharing this information with someone else, it hurts and embarrasses your friend to find out that Madge the bank teller knows what your husband's sperm count is and when your next period is expected. Infertility is something that should be kept as private as your friend wants to keep it. Respect your friend's privacy, and don't share any information that your friend hasn't authorized.

Don't Push Adoption (Yet)

Adoption is a wonderful way for infertile people to become parents. (As an adoptive parent, I can fully vouch for this!!) However, the couple needs to work through many issues before they will be ready to make an adoption decision. Before they can make the decision to love a "stranger's baby," they must first grieve the loss of that baby with Daddy's eyes and Mommy's nose. Adoption social workers recognize the importance of the grieving process. When my husband and I went for our initial adoption interview, we expected the first question to be, "Why do you want to adopt a baby?" Instead, the question was, "Have you grieved the loss of your biological child yet?" Our social worker emphasized how important it is to shut one door before you open another.

You do, indeed, need to grieve this loss before you are ready to start the adoption process. The adoption process is very long and expensive, and it is not an easy road. So, the couple needs to be very sure that they can let go of the hope of a biological child and that they can love an adopted baby. This takes time, and some couples are never able to reach this point. If your friend cannot love a baby that isn't her "own," then adoption isn't the right decision for her, and it is certainly not what is best for the baby.

Mentioning adoption in passing can be a comfort to some couples. (The only words that ever offered me comfort were from my sister, who said, "Whether through pregnancy or adoption, you will be a mother one day.") However, "pushing" the issue can frustrate your friend. So, mention the idea in passing if it seems appropriate, and then drop it. When your friend is ready to talk about adoption, she will raise the issue herself.

So, what can you say to your infertile friends? Unless you say "I am giving you this baby," there is nothing you can say that will erase their pain. So, take that pressure off of yourself. It isn't your job to erase their pain, but there is a lot you can do to lesson the load. Here are a few ideas.

Let Them Know That You Care

The best thing you can do is let your infertile friends know that you care. Send them cards. Let them cry on your shoulder. If they are religious, let them know you are praying for them. Offer the same support you would offer a friend who has lost a loved one. Just knowing they can count on you to be there for them lightens the load and lets them know that they aren't going through this alone.

Remember Them on Mother's Day

With all of the activity on Mother's Day, people tend to forget about women who cannot become mothers. Mother's Day is an incredibly painful time for infertile women. You cannot get away from it-There are ads on the TV, posters at the stores, church sermons devoted to celebrating motherhood, and all of the plans for celebrating with your own mother and mother-in-law.
Mother's Day is an important celebration and one that I relish now that I am a mother. However, it was very painful while I was waiting for my baby. Remember your infertile friends on Mother's Day, and send them a card to let them know you are thinking of them. They will appreciate knowing that you haven't "forgotten" them.

Support Their Decision to Stop Treatments

No couple can endure infertility treatments forever. At some point, they will stop. This is an agonizing decision to make, and it involves even more grief. Even if the couple chooses to adopt a baby, they must still first grieve the loss of that baby who would have had mommy's nose and daddy's eyes.

Once the couple has made the decision to stop treatments, support their decision. Don't encourage them to try again, and don't discourage them from adopting, if that is their choice. Once the couple has reached resolution (whether to live without children, adopt a child, or become foster parents), they can finally put that chapter of their lives behind them. Don't try to open that chapter again.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

MIA and I'll tell you why (100th Post)

This last month has been quite the battle. I almost left this part of my journey unrecorded because I was nervous about putting it out there. I have seen friends be open and honest about their struggles, this issue in particular. But my pride stopped me from taking this next step.

I questioned Ryan about whether I should approach this topic so publicly. I was somewhat shocked by his response. He made me feel normal, and encouraged me to share this experience.

For the last year or so, I have been going in a downward spiral. Completely stalled in pursuing adoption or fertility treatments for an indeterminate amount of time, I slowly became more and more hopeless that things would ever improve, that I would ever have my family.

It started out as a funk, which turned into sadness, which turned into depression.

I tried everything I could think of to pull myself out of it. I prayed like never before. I journaled my feelings. I read scriptures. I started exercising more, including taking a weekly dance class. I tried herbs and acupuncture. I concentrated on work. I meditated and relaxed. I forced myself to think positively. I planned fun activities with Ryan. I served others at church. I cuddled with my cat. I vented to friends. I tried a new hobby. It wasn't getting better.

So, I turned to a psychologist, who immediately diagnosed me with depression (I didn't know that at the time though - I just knew she said I had 'symptoms' of depression). I worked with her for five months. It was only getting worse.

Finally, at the urging of loved ones and the psychologist, I made an appointment with my doctor. She couldn't see me for three weeks, so in the meantime I forged ahead.

After just one week, I couldn't take it anymore. I was near desperation. I knew this had gone way beyond just wanting a baby. Way beyond sadness. This was a different creature altogether. I called my doctor's office and told them I needed to come in right away.

While I was waiting to hear back from them, I ran an errand to Kinkos. There was a mix-up and the girl behind the counter was frustrated. Once back in my car, I burst into hysterical tears over the incident. This is the place I was at. This had become common behavior for me.

Just then, my phone rang. The doctor could see me right then. I went back to my office, told my boss I would be missing my afternoon appointment, and headed over there.

Through my tears I told my doctor how I was feeling and the thoughts I'd been having. I told her some of the things I had tried to make it better. I asked her what I should do.

She stated there was no doubt I had full-blown depression. She said I had let this go too long before seeking help, but she was glad I finally came in.

I asked her what was going on with me. How did my sadness turn into depression? She compared it to losing a loved one. Most people go through the grieving process step-by-step, but some get 'stuck' at a certain point. She's seen the same thing happen with women who have dealt with infertility for as long as I have. After a while of living in a state of sadness/hopelessness/anger, the chemical balance in your brain can literally change. That's when you might need a little more help.

So, she offered me some help. Swallowing my pride and accepting it was one of the hardest things I have ever done. Even as my ego and stubbornness begged me to say no, the Holy Spirit (through an avalanche of tears) forced me to say yes.

She cleared up misconceptions. Yes, even I, a graduate of Psychology, had misconceptions. I would venture to say that everyone does, unless they've been through this themselves.

Since that appointment some amazing things have happened. Last week, for the first time in months, I was able to get out of bed without two or more hours worth of pep talks. Ryan and I had a disagreement and I got over it, instead of crying uncontrollably until 4am. Not only have I been making dinner again, but I am enjoying it.

Perhaps the most amazing thing is I have hope again. It is small, but it's there. Last night, I pulled the pre-natal vitamins out of the medicine cabinet. For five years I took these pills just in case, by some miracle, I actually became pregnant. Several months ago, I threw them in the back of the cabinet saying, "Why bother?" Last night I thought, "Why not?"

I still have all those emotions that come with infertility: pain, sadness, loneliness, bitterness. I still cry sometimes when I feel these things. But I also found the other side of life again: joy, faith, hope, charity. I feel so much closer to my Heavenly Father, and I can finally see His wisdom again, even when I am feeling hurt or impatient.

When I first noticed I was having trouble conceiving, someone told me to 'humble myself and it will happen'. I took a lot of offense to that at the time. Although it still stings today, I look back and realize that I am a lot more prideful than I thought I was. It took this experience to make me see that sometimes I really have to let go. Perhaps I needed to lose control to truly learn I wasn't in control in the first place.

This is my 100th post. My first post was written when I was starting my first Clomid cycle (in 2006). I ended with the following:

I am cautiously optimistic. Maybe this is all my body needs...just a little push. Or maybe it's just the first step in what may be a long process...

Oh, I had no idea, huh? What a process this has been!

Last summer, Ryan and I hiked to the Lundy Mine. Ryan had been on this hike one time as a child, and I had never been. Needless to say, neither one of us knew the trail well enough to know how far we'd hiked and how much further we had to go. There were no mile markers and no maps along the way. All we knew was the mine was at the end of this trail. If we stayed on the trail, we would get to the mine eventually. But we had no idea when.

About a half-hour or so into the hike, I literally sat down and said I didn't want to do it anymore. I was tired. I wasn't prepared for this. I was too out of shape. It was too steep. This was harder than I thought. This was not what I was expecting. After a few minutes and some tears, I changed my mind and we pressed ahead.

At that moment, had I known we weren't even a fraction of the way there, I would have quit. No question about it. Had I known the steepness and the length of the trail that was ahead, I would have second-guessed my ability to do it. It was the not knowing that was the hardest part, but also the part that kept me going. The end of the trail could be around any curve, and I wanted to make it to the end.

Much is the same with this 'trail' I'm on now. Had I known at Post #1 where I would be at Post #100, I might have sat down and quit. "I'm tired. I wasn't prepared for this. It's harder than I thought." I would have second-guessed my ability to do it.

There may be steeper paths ahead, rocky roads and long stretches. It's the not knowing that is the hardest part, but also the part that keeps me going. The end of the trail could be around any curve, and I want to make it to the end.

Figuring out what really matters...

You have nothing in this world more precious than your children. When you grow old, when your hair turns white and your body grows weary, when you are prone to sit in a rocker and meditate on the things of your life, nothing will be so important as the question of how your children have turned out. It will not be the money you have made. It will not be the cars you have owned. It will not be the large house in which you live…

Do not trade your birthright as a mother for some bauble of passing value.

President Hinckley, 2000