Friday, October 17, 2014

Long Term Infertility

As JJ and I are approaching 7 years of marriage in December we will be going on 6 years of infertility. I never thought we would reach this milestone, I really thought this would be over by now. I know that no matter how long you go through infertility it is awful. I feel like I am in the oddest position since we have conceived before but we are technically still in the primary infertility category. As time goes by the feeling of disappointment is less and the confusion of "why not us" grows. I expect Aunt Flow to show up although I welcome her to take a vacation away from me anytime ;) 

As people get their ticket off of this island and they have been waiting for a year or much longer than that, the realization of being here is much more prevalent. There are less people to commiserate with about the woes of being infertile but at the same time you are glad that the island is getting less populated. I definitely feel like I have reached a "veteran" status so to speak as I help couples who are in the beginning stages of their journey through NaPro or meeting them through the events that I plan for couples dealing with infertility/miscarriage. 

I feel like I need to show couples who are in their first few years of infertility that YOU will survive and it will NOT always consume you, even if you never have any children. Your thoughts won't always be on having children, your life won't be run by a chart and you will be able to peacefully be around pregnant women. Yes, you will have your moments of sadness and jealousy but you will bounce back from them much quicker than you used to. You will find a way to live in God's will even though it may not be exactly what you thought it would be. You will learn to love your life just as it is, living in the present and not just on the future that you hope for. You will become a stronger more compassionate person if you are open to growing and you will not always feel jealous or bitter. You will be happy!  

I have been reflecting lately on the things I love about my life that I get to do because we are not parenting yet and we are no longer on the medical train. For example I started running after some motivation I got from Donna. If we were doing medical treatment our Dr. would caution me from starting to run because it could throw off my cycle. We recently started drinking raw milk and having more raw dairy products. Again if you are starting this while TTC and taking meds you would have to be more cautious about it. The thoughts of "what if I'm pregnant" don't come up as often before my period starts, formerly known as the 2ww. My schedule for seeing clients is more open and flexible without worrying about childcare. 

I feel like we are at a peaceful yet painful place. Peaceful because it is a gift given to me by the Holy Spirit. Painful because my body is still broken in some way and I can not give JJ the children we desire. It is such an odd feeling to know you don't have the control over the transmission of human life, God does. He is creator and I am His creature, nothing more but nothing less. Infertility is not my story, it's just a part of my story.  As the years go by without conceiving our chances of having biological children become less so we are navigating what our life is going to look like. We are learning to love our life in the now and not what could be. I hope I can grow in grace with each infertile passing year. If I ever do get off this island I want to be able to look back and say I spent my time wisely living in God's will. 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

What Can You Do? Some Practical Advice

As a follow up to my last post I thought I would give some practical advice to non-infertile women on how they can help their infertile friends/family through those awkward group settings where everyone is talking or complaining about child rearing. Sometimes our fertile friends notice that we are uncomfortable but have no idea what to do. So here is some helpful advice! If you have any suggestions on what you've done or what your friends have done for you please put them in the com box :) 

Be Present

I know this sounds like a given but often times we are not very present to each other. Know your audience. If you know someone at that party, women's group or gathering is living with infertility or recently experienced the death of their unborn child be aware of what you are saying. Think before you speak, especially if you are going to vent about pregnancy or child rearing. It's not to say you should not be able to share your struggles but if you are in a group setting and you know the other women will jump on the venting band wagon perhaps that comment or venting should be kept best for the mom's group you go to. If we are really present in our conversations we are aware of what we and others are saying and be cognizant of how others are reacting to the conversation. 

Redirect the Conversation

If you notice the conversation is all about child rearing or venting about said subject try and redirect the discussion. Tact is needed for this because you don't just want to shout "be quiet y'all so and so is uncomfortable." That would be super embarrassing for the infertile and the redirector! Maybe changing the subject when it would be appropriate for you to add something. Talking about the seasons or favorite recipes you have been making or crafts you have been working on or the show you are binge watching at the moment or the good deals you've found on women's clothing are great subjects all women can relate to. 

This is not to say children should not be discussed at all, of course they will be talked about because you have children! I appreciate my friends sharing the realities of raising children because I don't want to idolize parenthood and look at it through rose colored glasses but I prefer that sharing to be one on one so we can both share our struggles. If I am the only one not raising children in the conversation all about child rearing/pregnancy then I feel like I am wearing a scarlet "I" and infertility feels really isolating. 

Seek Them Out

If you were not successful at changing the subject and you know your friend was uncomfortable then seek them out some time during or after the gathering. Ask them how they are doing, how's work or their ministry. Infertile women often feel ignored by their peers so making that effort to acknowledge someone can be very affirming. If you know them well enough you can ask how their treatment or adoption/foster care is going. If you don't know them that well then stick to the basic subjects of common interest. Let them know you are praying for them and if they have any prayer requests then to let you know. 

So that's my advice from an infertile woman's perspective. What I have to remember is that most often when I am in a group of married women is that most if not all of them will have children. I feel so awkward trying to contribute to the conversation if it's all about child rearing because I am not raising any children, although I know a lot about child development, it's OK if I have nothing to say. Even though we are living out our vocations differently at the moment I find great comfort in relating to my women friends whether they are married or single. I love when we can all build each other up even if we can't relate exactly to what each other is going through. So as we are going into the various holidays soon hopefully there will be more fellowship and fun rather than awkward isolating moments.   

Monday, September 15, 2014

When They Say.....We Think.....

*Let me preface this post by saying I think all mothers need a break at times and they need to vent about how hard it is to raise their children. I do not think mothers need to shut up and not talk about their children or suffer in silence about their struggles. I think it's good and healthy for them to do so and I love hearing about my friend's and family's kids. Most of the time I am fine with hearing the milestones and a little venting from my friends about their children. As a friend I want to share the joys and sorrows with them in their state in life. 

So the other day I went to women's group and the topic was gentleness. At this group children are allowed so a lot of stay at home or part time working outside the home moms bring their kids. It's great because the children are playing outside in a courtyard as the rest of us are drinking tea and discussing/reading about the day's topic. There is of course a bit of chaos as to be expected with lots of children around :) At each meeting I have attended I am usually a little more on edge afterward and JJ has noticed this. Most of the women who go are mothers raising children, there have been older women and a single woman who have come before but then haven't returned. I love when other women come to the meetings because it balances out the perspective I think. When it's all mothers raising children and me, that's when it's a bad combination and that is when I come home frazzled. 

At this particular meeting there was a lot of venting about one's children, more than normal. It felt like the entire first half of the meeting was different women venting about their children and how hard it is to raise their children. It may have been only 10mins. but it felt like so long and the silence in my heart was deafening. As these women were complaining about lack of silence I thought "All I have is silence. A deafening one that resounds from my womb." As they complained about the chaos I thought "All I have is order and no one but JJ and I to make our house messy." As they complained about not having alone time I thought "All I have when I am not at work, volunteering, out with friends or with JJ is alone time." When they complained about children jumping on them whenever they got on the phone or on the computer I thought "there is no one to interrupt me or climb all over me as I make a phone call."  There was even a point where someone mentioned "the moms should all get together for an Advent reflection with out the kids." Ouch it stung and what I thought was "I am always with out my kid." 

As they questioned and discussed their decisions about being a stay at home mom I just sat there in silence having nothing to say, well nothing to say that would've been appropriate for the children to hear ;) I don't get what they are going through and I may never get it. I tried to be compassionate and listen to their struggles all the while I just wanted to scream. I wanted to say "hey can you just stop talking about this" but I couldn't. There was no where for me to go to excuse myself either. I just sat there, the silence from my childlessness was so loud I thought they would hear it but they didn't. 

I have to say I was probably extra sensitive at this meeting because AF is just around the corner, we just got some medical news that reaffirms the brokenness of my body and Cecilia's due date anniversary was on Fri. Sept. 12th (she would've been two). I didn't share any of this at the meeting because I am not comfortable enough with all of the women there to do so and I just couldn't after all the venting/complaining. It would have sent me over the edge so I just kept my mouth shut. I also don't want it to seem like these women are monsters who were torturing me w/ a lot of talk of raising a family, it wasn't like that at all! 

After the meeting when JJ got home from work he asked how it went and I just let the flood gates open. I told him through my sobs what had happened and he affirmed what I had been thinking for a month or so, that I should not go back to the women's group for now. Maybe someday but maybe it's just not the place for me. If there was more variety like single women, married and widowed then maybe I would go back. The time of the group is more conducive to SAHMs and I was able to go because my CrMS work schedule is so flexible. I think a big reason that it is so difficult to be there is the fact that we are at a standstill with adoption, have no idea if we should reconsider foster care and we have not conceived since Cecilia almost 3 years ago! I think the unknowing state is particularly hard, if we were in the process of adoption or foster care I could feel better about going to these meetings. 

The next day I prayed for all the women who go to the group at Mass that God would help them in their vocation and state in life.  I wanted to make sure I harbored no ill will toward them and I don't, we are just at different places and it is more of a moms group. I don't want them to feel like they have to walk on egg shells around me because I know it is a very needed group for them but I don't think it would be healthy for me at this point to go. They should be able to freely talk about their struggles in a supportive environment. I think the greatest support I can give them right now are my prayers. I am sad about it because I met some great women there who I would only see in the context of the group. I know if a friendship is suppose to happen with them God will make it happen.  I sent an email to the leader who is also a friend of mine letting her know I wouldn't be returning and why, that was so hard to do. I got to talk to her about it over the phone and explain a little more which I think helped. She didn't criticize me or make me feel guilty she just listened compassionately and tried to understand. I do hope I can go back to the group some day perhaps when my vision is a little more clear about my motherhood.