Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Don't Ignore That What You Need May Change

The theme of this year's National Infertility Awareness Week Blog Challenge, sponsored by RESOLVE, is "Don't Ignore." I decided focus on the importance of recognizing that as your journey to parenthood evolves, your needs evolve too. It's so important not to ignore what you need in order to cope with infertility.

I used to be a support group junkie. Going to support groups used to make me feel better, less alone. It was awesome to meet other women who were also going through this evil process and could offer suggestions on how to deal with anything from medications to nosy people to well-meaning but not-so-helpful suggestions from others. I enjoyed helping people by sharing the information and resource that I had collected in my arsenal against infertility. I met amazing women through support groups and developed relationships outside that circle of sharing. I think that support is a wonderful thing.

But, over time, I started to struggle with it. Groups of women would come and go--trains of positive pregnancy tests and "graduations" from the group. This started out to be a good thing, a hopeful thing--proof that pregnancy was possible and that even the most difficult cases could end in dreams come true. But then, as time went by and I was still in the group, waving success on while I stayed rooted in place, it got harder to see the hope. It got harder to keep saying goodbye while keeping my spot on the couch. As people came into their journeys and added support to their arsenal, they would come in with so much hope and positivity. And it's not like I've totally lost that myself, but I definitely find it harder to believe that it's DEFINITELY my time any given cycle and that I'M DUE or OWED for a positive pregnancy test and that I can somehow THINK IT TRUE. All things I myself have said earlier in my journey, before realizing that if the power of positive thinking could get you pregnant all on its own, I would have a full house right now. It's hard not to feel like you're squashing other people's need to stay in that place of sunshine and rainbows when an evil leprechaun has just shat on your pee stick again and you are feeling pretty squirrelly about the whole thing.

I need to realize that as my journey has changed, so have my needs. And what worked for me in the past does not necessarily work for me now. It's not that I'm isolating myself. It's not that I don't believe that support is helpful and useful. I am benefiting immensely from individual counseling. It's that group support has become more painful than helpful to me most of the time. I leave feeling worse about my situation, not uplifted. In a room full of people I feel horribly alone. That can't be good for my well-being. And it's totally me--it's not that people are mean to me or cross themselves against my bad luck when they come sit on that couch. I need to accept that my needs have changed, and while it is hard to duck out of a community that has been so helpful in so many ways, I think that at this point in my fertility journey I need to not surround myself with experiences that serve to remind me of just how infertile and unsuccesful I am at the moment.

Finding what works for you in this process is so important to coping with the considerable emotional stress that this process hands out like candy. Realizing that you are an individual and what works for others may not be the best option for you at your particular phase of infertility can be painful and hard. Ultimately, though, that realization can really make a difference in how you can handle all the crap that can be piled on when cycles are unsuccessful or not viable (and all the times in between). In the beginning of my process, I read tons of books on infertility. The ones I still reference are books that account for different choices and needs, and are based in research. The ones I got rid of recommend very specific things for all people. Fertility diet books in particular. Some suggestions I took and continue with because they are simply good health decisions--less chemicals in my home, more organic produce and meat, eating lots of fruits and vegetables, microwaving less, replacing all my plastic food containers with glass or aluminum. These are useful and universally sound pieces of advice, whether you are trying to get pregnant or just trying to live a healthier lifestyle in a world full of chemicals and poisons. It is really scary to think of how many scary chemicals are in our daily lives now. I just threw out a big buttery box of microwave popcorn because I read in multiple sources that there's some compound in the bag lining that when heated in the microwave is a known carcinogen, or something along those lines that was equally ominous. Convenient popcorn is just not worth it.

Some books and people can make you feel like you're not doing enough, like the problem is actually you. You didn't eat the right things. You didn't take the right supplements. You didn't deprive yourself of enough joyful experiences to deserve getting pregnant. All of these things are done in a well-meaning way, but it is awfully hard for me to do something like eliminate dairy and think that my dairy-eating ways are responsible for my lack of motherhood when a) there are many studies that show that full fat dairy is actually helpful to fertility and b) I have freaking celiac disease, which means that I can't eat any gluten (read: wheat, barley, rye, including malt, which is in EVERYTHING DELICIOUS) and so my diet is already limited. I live for my dairy. Take cheese away and you have a very, very unhappy Jess. Now, as it's been suggested indirectly to me in the past, do I want my cheese more than I want a baby? OF COURSE NOT. But is cheese really the missing link in my infertility? I highly doubt it.

I have to realize that I am an individual, and what works for others may not work for me. Like the dairy. And all the candle burning and smudging and pineapple and sticky buns on transfer days and orange underwear and elephant feng shui and my fertility earrings. NONE of those things have ultimately done the trick. And by doing these things, while at the time they were helpful, after a while they became...heavy. A responsibility rather than a lightening of the burden. Something that I could screw up somehow and then subsequently cement my childlessness. Because my uterus knows if I snuffed a candle rather than blowing it out and so rejects or embraces embryos as a result. Uh-huh. The reverse is true too--what works (someday) for me may not work out for others, and in the group setting I have to be careful not to fall into this trap myself. If I jump up and down 6 times while eating papaya and listening to Bob Mar.ley and then subsequently get pregnant, I'm thinking it may just be coincidence that I got pregnant when doing those things. Just a thought.

I have to realize that my needs on this journey have changed, and they may continue to change. My thoughts on treatment and alternatives may change. My thoughts on whether or not we need a break from things may change. I may want to keep going nonstop or I may want to take a significant break. I don't know. All that I know is that I have come to peace with what I need right now. And that is a powerful realization--I have taken power back to decide when I want to seek support or change my diet or lifestyle. It's based on my needs, on my journey. I am only 10 days past the loss of my most recent opportunity for motherhood, and I am still trying to figure out what that means to me. What we need to do together to make this journey work for us. I am preparing for another followup and the hard questions that I have to ask. But I can remind myself that I have at least a little smidgen of control in this vastly unfair, vastly uncontrollable chaos that is infertility. I can decide what does and does not work for me and then implement my own plan for personal sanity and well-being. I can accept and embrace the fact that I am not the same person I was when this process was started in September 2009. It's not ideal that we're still toiling away, but it's ok. We will keep fighting, and maybe we will change the terms of our fight at some point. But we won't stop until we are parents. And, by adjusting what we need to survive this fight, we will win with all our marbles. Most of them, anyway.

Below are links from RESOLVE to help further the understanding of infertility and awareness:
  • For more information on the disease of infertility, please click here.
  • For more information on National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW), please click here.


  1. Congrats on your nomination, Jess! I'm honored to be nominated with you. And wow, you've had a long journey in 2.5 years already! We did 4 fresh IVF cycles on our own before moving to donor eggs. It's a long road, huh? Hope you have your take home baby with your next steps.

    And your post is SOOO true. There is NO way I would have guessed I would end up having babies through DE IVF. It took me some time to get there, and it was an ever evolving journey. But one that I learned SOOO much through. Your post is fantastic. Best of luck!

  2. Thanks, ladies! I am so honored and amazed to be a finalist with such wonderful bloggers. Good luck to us all!

  3. Thank you for validating what I was feeling. This post is awesome. Good luck!

  4. This is an excellent post. Here from Resolve. It is so true, our needs change over time.Surviveandthrive.co.za

  5. Thanks, ladies! I'm so glad the post rang true for you, too.