Monday, February 21, 2011

Infertility Etiquette

From This is perhaps one of my favorite articles about what not to say to those who are dealing with infertility. 

Infertility Etiquette
Chances are, you know someone who is struggling with infertility. More than seven 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. 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.

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?"

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.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I swear that I'm not a whiney twit all the time

I feel like lately all of done is whine. I promise, I really do love my life but at times it's difficult and I don't necessarily like it. Plus, February is just not the best month right now:

February 5th was 4 years that we've been TTC with no success.
February 14th is Valentine's Day (well and my oldest brother's birthday, which is of course a good thing <3) and while it's not an uber-important day to me, it's definitely a difficult day during deployment.
February 15th was the WTF appointment with our RE and part of the news was not good (more on that in a minute).
February 16th (today) is our third wedding anniversary and he's in a war zone.
Two out of four of our dogs are limping (one of them is a senior dog).
Lately the babes have been sleep fighting.
Today I had to cancel my hair appointment, the one thing that I have been looking forward to since the failed cycle, because our girl got sick and had to be picked up from preschool.
I emailed and called my therapist this week but haven't heard back from her.
I texted my local BFF last week, haven't heard back from her.

Yes, I know that "this too shall pass."I know that other people have it worse and yes, I love the babes and am thankful for them. I know that I am blessed with an amazing husband who calls me from over there as much as possible and who is still alive and relatively safe. And yes, I love our crazy zoo and would not trade any of them for the world. I am just having a tough time right now and apparently need to vent, A LOT.

Perhaps the hardest thing was the WTF appointment with the RE. I learned that we are now dealing with some MFI (male factor issues) regarding morphology and if my PCOS and endometriosis were not enough. The RE does not want to use any more of the frozen samples that P left and instead recommends a fresh IVF cycle after P gets home and after he has a SA to test his swimmers. I am just overwhelmed at the thought of doing another IVF and at the thought of paying for it (99% that we've used up my insurance benefit). We still have one frozen embryo but our RE is not crazy about thawing and transferring only one embryo but the success rate is not that great. No matter what, I am relieved to be on a break for a few months. As our RE said, I have "too much" going on right now and need to focus on me.

So yeah, I will take the next few months to focus on me as much as I can with 2 kids and a zoo. I also plan to find some way to make friends, reliable friends, in this place. I love my internet friends but it's not like I can teleport y'all here to me ;)

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Mommy Menu Monday

Ok, so ya know how I was worried, in the beginning, about bonding with the babes? How I wondered if I'd ever really feel like a mommy to them? Yeah, now worries now :) This weekend I truly felt like a mommy and I don't ever want them to leave, ever. We all had the best time this weekend, even with the little acting out episodes that are, of course, normal. All in all, things are going GREAT.

Now, for the menu portion of this blog. With P being deployed I have gotten into the habit of not cooking as much-that is about to change. Today while I am work Crockpot Chicken Salsa is cooking and we will be eating that every night for dinner. The great thing about this dish is that you can serve it so many ways-over tortilla chips, over rice, in taco shells, in a soft tortilla, all by itself-so to me I don't feel like I'm eating the same thing every night. If this experiment works-if the babes don't revolt and throw dinner on me by night 3-I will trying this approach with other crockpot dishes. I seriously heart my crockpot and need to use it more.

I also made Baked Oatmeal this morning for me to eat for lunch everyday this week (and for breakfast on the weekend). It is so easy and freaking yummy! The kids love it too so if they get tired of the CCS, then they can have this for dinner (breakfast for dinner FTW) a couple of nights.

And now for the recipes :)

Crockpot Chicken Salsa
Frozen chicken Breasts (I try to use one per person)
1 can black beans - drained and rinsed
1 bag frozen corn
1 jar salsa (your choice - I like to use a chunky style)
1 block cream cheese (I use the 1/3 less fat version)

Put everything in crockpot. Cook on high 6-8 hours. When there are about 30 minutes remaining, drop in cream cheese. Stir before serving to shred the chicken. I like to top mine with sour cream and shredded cheddar cheese :)

Baked Oatmeal
1/2 cup oil
3/4 cup brown sugar
3tsp baking powder
3 eggs
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1.5 cup milk
4 cups old fashioned oats
Whisk everything except the oats until mixed and then stir in the oats. You can add 1 cup raisins or craisins if want to-I always add craisins to mine. Pour in 9×13 greased baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes. I serve it in a bowl with a little bit of extra milk mixed in :)
*Changes I've made to the recipe-I use apple sauce instead of oil and increased it to 3/4 cup. I also increased the milk due to living in a higher elevation now.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Want to feel like myself again

Just over 2 weeks since the BFN from the failed IVF cycle (wow, it seems like so much longer than that) and I still feel like I'm on hormones. Sore ovaries, headaches, bloat (though that is going down) and little to no energy. I tried to start P90X but I think it was too soon. I'll start it after AF comes again. Until then I will do yoga every day since I can pretty much always handle a moderate yoga workout.

On a happy note, the kids are doing GREAT! We went to BWW for dinner last night and they loved it! This weekend is finally a weekend of sun and moderate temps so after we eat a late breakfast, mail some care packages to P and get SB's hair cut, we will go somewhere and enjoy the weather...I'm thinking Garden of the Gods. Since the kids have gotten here, the weather has been so cold and they have been sick on and off so I haven't gotten to show them much of the city. We will definitely change that today. I cannot wait!!!

Ok, so off I go to get ready for the day. I am determined to get back to my old self!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Exhausted-warning, whining ahead

I am exhausted. Lately both babes are fighting any sort of sleep. I finally got J to sleep (after much crying) only to have SB launch a toy from her crib into his and then start her exorcist screaming. Currently she is in timeout while I type this. And yes, I am most definitely drinking wine.

I am out numbered.
I am tired.
I am sick of deployment.
I am sicking of fucking ovarian cysts that are so painful they wake me up
I am tired of negative temperatures, snow and ice (well, these wouldn't be so bad if my damn 4WD vehicle was in operating condition).
I am damn fucking sick of infertility.

Also, it looks like another one of our dogs has hip dysplasia :-( That makes 2 dogs with hip/joint problems, 1 with doggy dementia and 1 with adjustment issues (not including the fact that 3 out of 4 have skin allergies and both males have separation issues).

Tomorrow I will put my big girl panties back on but right now I will pour another glass of wine and have a pity party.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Can I have a clone please?

I have a ridiculous amount of stuff to get done this weekend:

-Wash and put away all the laundry
-Clean the backyard
-Clean the house
-Clean out both vehicles
-Take Tahoe to the shop (and pray it's not too expensive to fix)
-Do p90x and 15 minutes of yoga each day
-Figure out dinner menu for next week & buy grocery items
-Read :)
-Play with the babes

Seriously, I need a now.

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