Quick Takes: Advice for New Infertiles Style

It's been a while since I participated in 7 Quick Takes, but I had this idea earlier this week and thought I'd go with it. While I've not been on this IF road nearly as long as some of you, in 2 1/2 years there are some things I've learned along the way that I thought I'd share. I'm hoping that some of you will chime in with your thoughts as well!

1. This is your road. No amount of advice or opinions or blog reading can change that. (Yes, I see the irony that this is my #1 piece of advice.) Just as your marriage is yours alone, your road of infertility is yours alone as well. Sure, the advice of others can help you along the way. But it cannot walk the road for you.

2. Be patient with yourself and with your husband. Yes, you are walking the same road, but you've got different shoes on. Your experience and his experience will be the same, but different. Sometimes one of you is going to lag behind the other and other times one of you might get stuck. It's a two-steps forward; one-step backwards process. Sometimes it's even one-step forward, two-steps back.

3. Live your life. This is easier said than done. I know. I often say this is the hardest part of IF. For me, I realized early on what this meant for me on a practical level. Our first few months TTC, I lived and acted as if I was pregnant. No alcohol. Little to no caffeine. Little to no exercise. I analyzed every twinge and symptom in the 2ww that I could possibly analyze - even the ones I made up in my head. And this very nearly broke me. Now, I generally live my life. If I want a glass of wine, I have it.  I run. I am training for my first marathon. Regardless of where it is in my cycle.

4.  Embrace hope. And by embracing hope, you may also be embracing pain. But, I've found that the hope is what breaths life into my marriage. Into my ability to be there for others. Into my life. The darkest times on this road have been when I refused to acknowledge that there was hope. I have learned that this hope is not always in the hope of a BFP, but on the darkest of CD1s it is in the hope of Christ, of heaven, of true healing from the Father.

5. I learned this one from Faith Makes Things Possible: As much as possible, embrace the new lives around you. While FB can bring pain like no other and I still can't bring myself to go to baby showers of acquaintances or coworkers, I can and do rejoice in the pregnancies of my friends. Whether it's by giving them a prayer book for expectant parents (one of my favorite gifts to do), or by responding to a new mom's request on FB for some company when she and her sweet 3-week old were going to be home alone all day. Those 3 hours spent cuddling that sweet baby were all at once excruciatingly painful and healing. I have never regretted a kindness that I offered to a new mom. I know this isn't an easy one, and it's been a process, but it's been worth it.

6. Set and honor your boundaries as a couple. What, when, and how you share your story is up to you. Quite honestly, you do not owe anyone anything. Not your mom, your MIL, your grandma or your best friend. Share what you are comfortable sharing and let the rest go unsaid. 

7. Don't be afraid to take breaks or to change your plan. You are not signing in blood with your NFP provider that you will take your temperature every morning for the rest of your life. You are not promising your doctor that you will take this drug or that drug for the next 5 years. Set reasonable benchmarks and reevaluate your process as needed.

Well, I'm out of takes, so that's what I've got. Anyone have any other pieces of advice that they wish someone had told them at the start of the IF road? 

Be sure to visit Jen for more Quick Takes.

**Updated to close comments on this post because of unusual amounts of spam.


Infertility Awareness Week

Mostly a rerun from last year. Up until yesterday, the start of IF Awareness Week, I really thought I'd post something this year. And now it's here, and I just can't. I don't know, maybe I think that putting it on FB makes it more real (you know, "Facebook Official" kind of thing). I don't know what about the past 2 1/2 years is not real, but maybe that's it. This way, I can pretend that we are just a happy married couple without children. I can pretend that baby announcements and u/s pictures and first days of school and holidays etc. don't bring pain I didn't really know it was possible to feel.

There is a part of me that still wants to post something. But maybe if I could turn FB comments off? I want to just post it and let it stand. Kind of like "yea, this is me. Period." But that goes against what social media is all about, doesn't it? I don't know, it just seems like sharing this would be the equivalent of posting naked photos of myself. It just seems too personal. And yet, I share it here. In ways that are so intensely personal I sometimes gasp when rereading what I've written. I have no explanation for this.

Which leaves me here. Scared of my own shadow in a sense and at the same time acutely aware of just how personal infertility really is. Even those of us who carry this cross do so differently. No two experiences are exactly the same. I don't know that I will ever say it better than I said it last year, the sentiments are the same now, with the pain a little deeper; the realization of what might never be a little clearer; and my Faith as the life-preserver that will get me through.

Original Post from 2012:

Today is the first day of Infertility Awareness Week. Last year, when this week rolled around, we had just passed month 6 of TTC using NFP - it was the first milestone to cross that would label us infertile. I remember seeing the posts of friends and family members on Facebook, friends and family members who had crossed over (most of them years ago) and thinking to myself, if we do not have a baby this time next year, I will post for all of us who are still suffering.

Oh, how a year changes things.

There will be no post on my FB page. There will be no Tweeting about IF. There will only be this, in this space.

Much like I chose not to share our story at work, I also chose not to share our story on FB - for lots of reasons. Many are the same as the work reasons, but there are a few others too.

But here's what I would say, what a piece of me is dying to say, if I were to post:

It would start with this picture:
And then I would say:
In honor of Infertility Awareness Week: "This is for all of us who long to see two lines on a stick; who wish for labor pains; who look forward to being woken up every few hours of each night; who imagine first steps and first words; who dream of first birthdays; who hide tears, minimize pain, and straddle the fence of the life we have and the life we want; who suffer in silence; who bite our tongues at bad advice; and who just want to hear "I love you Mom". Those of you with children: Hug them tightly, tell them how blessed you are to have them in your life, say "I love you" just because you do, and praise the Author of Life for the opportunity to do so."

I wish I had the courage to not care about the reactions; to stand up and educate others about infertility; to explain our reasons for our treatment plan; to let everyone see the truth.

I don't. I couldn't even advocate for myself with a local doctor - let alone 300 some FB "friends".

But there is something I want to say to my IRL friends (and MIL - hi Mom!) who read here:
Thank-you. Thank-you for reading these words and hearing the truth - the good and the bad - and still loving me. Thank-you for not pushing me to share when I don't want to and for listening when I do. Thank-you for not ever making me feel embarrassed for tears or for making jokes to hide them. Please know that every. single. time. I thank those in the bloggy world for their support I am including you because you are part of this place as well.

So, while I won't be saying anything on Facebook - to everyone who is reading this thank-you for helping me to carry this cross. Thank-you for loving me, praying for me, and sticking with me. I don't know or how when this road will end, but I do know that you've made it easier and less scary.


Infertility Retreat

I will say, planning this retreat is a labor of love and is testing my strength. Just the planning process has been excruciatingly painful and healing all at the same time. The priest that is planning it with me is my spiritual director and it is mostly to his credit that the retreat is happening at all, as he really helped me to see that I can do this while maintaining boundaries. He has really helped me to balance my ministry with my personal life in a much healthier way and I am forever grateful.

The retreat is for anyone who has experienced infertility (including secondary infertility and recurrent miscarriage) at any point (meaning you may have children now or be past child-bearing years, but if IF has touched your life, you are invited!). You may attend as an individual or as a couple. If cost is an obstacle for you, please email me (my work email is below) and I will be able to waive or lower the fee for you. Please do not let money be the reason you do not attend.

If I could humbly ask you to pass the information along and to consider attending. To download the brochure, visit www.dwc.org/marriage.



I ran 3.1 miles this morning.
No, it's not 26.2 miles (the distance of a marathon). But for so many who run 26.2, it all started with 3.1 - a 5K. When I run 26.2 this fall, it will be because of that first 3.1.

It was a 5K that gave me my first taste of a finish line. I was exhausted and yet I was so proud. I'd actually done it when 8 weeks prior running for 60 seconds was almost impossible. The joy and accomplishment mixed with exhaustion is almost un-explainable to anyone who's not felt it. As the distance grows, so do the exhaustion and the accomplishment and the joy.

It was a 5K that showed me running is a different kind of sport. Sure, there are the elite runners who actually stand a chance at winning, but for the majority of the people out there on race day, it's about their individual race, their individual goal.

And the running community? When I ran my third 5K, I was barely making it at the end. There was less than a half-mile to go and I started to walk. Another runner, a lady I didn't know encouraged me and said "you're almost there, don't give up now" and that was all I needed to pick up the pace and run to the finish, with tears pouring from my eyes. Find me another sport where that happens, where it's more about encouraging one another than beating one another. If someone falls, or steps to the side you'll hear a continues refrain of "are you OKs?" as other runners pass, slowing down for a moment in case the reply is "no." I've seen it in every race I've ever run.

So today, knowing I didn't have the time for the full 6 miles my training called for, I knew exactly how far I would run - 3.1 miles. Because it was 3.1 miles that taught me about the running community and what a finish line is all about.

3.1 miles for Boston.

Because finish lines are places of accomplishment and joy, not what happened yesterday.


I'm Guest Posting!

My IRL friend and fellow NFP Teacher, Stephanie, writes a blog for Catholic ladies who are engaged and she asked me to guest post for her today. The title of my post is "Be Not Afraid: The Sex Post, Part 2."

Stephanie so beautifully and honestly shared some advice for those of you preparing for your wedding night who are approaching the altar as virgins. One commenter called her post “bold holiness” and I couldn’t agree more. It is with humility that I accept Stephanie’s request to write from another perspective.

I was not a virgin on my wedding night. That is just one of many things that leads to me being asked occasionally if I regret the many choices I’ve made, as my life looks very different today than it did almost 9 years ago when we were married. The answer that seems the most honest is this: No. I do not regret our past choices because without each one, made at precisely the time it was, we wouldn't be where we are today. We never set out to make a bad choice.  Each choice was made with good intention and based on the information we had at the time...

To read the rest, please visit Captive the Heart: Be Not Afraid: the Sex Post, Pt. 2. And when you're done, take some time to reach Stephanie's other posts, you'll love her as much as I do!


AF - Take 3

It has been a long time since AF sent me on such a roller coaster of emotions, symptoms, and annoyance. It used to be every month I had BB for a few days, just enough to think it was normal, get my hopes up and have AF arrive. It was like being told "no" twice every month.

On Wednesday, my birthday, I went to the bathroom in the afternoon to discover the spotting that is my warning to get prepared because AF is coming within the next few hours.

I prepared.

No AF.

I didn't update the FB group, because the spotting continued, but not quite like normal. Oh, and it was brown, that's not happened for a while. I didn't dare say anything, it could be real - or I could be crazy.

On Thursday, all signs of AF had left. I think I saw BB (spotting really) once. There go the hopes, tempered a bit and with paranoia of do I say something or not?

On Friday, yesterday, I was reminded why I didn't say something because the spotting came back and I was sure this was "it", even had a little bit of red in there, still all considered VL or spotting though. So, surely AF was on her way.

I prepared.

No AF.

I even went to bed prepared because I didn't to ruin sheets at the retreat center I'm at and be very embarrassed at that.

I wake up. No AF.

That makes today P+16. I've never met P+17. I've never spent all day with P+16, she always has turned in to CD 1, surely today would be no different.

And yet, I hoped. Today is 15 years since The Man and my first date, we usually have wings and beer to celebrate (our first meal). I thought how cool to tell him while we are out celebrating tomorrow (I'm out of town working today), I'll even pretend like I'm ordering pop, I order beer these days, to reinact the entire first date (I wasn't 21 yet) and then I'll surprise him with the news (I ignored the detail that I refuse to test until P+19 because how cool would it be?!) I just couldn't help it, I hoped and planned and dreamed (I admit I was ignoring the obvious, but I did it.)

And that's what I get for hoping.

For ignoring the obvious.

AF is here. For real this time.

I got another warning of spotting.

I prepared.

AF arrived.

P+16, maybe we can try again some day?

And of course it is on the day I'm  running a weekend for engaged couples, when I get to talk all about the beauty of our sexuality and NFP. This has happened before. I'm sure it will happen again. Clearly there is a lesson to be learned, something to be gained from this, perhaps dying to self? Whatever it is, I've not learned it yet because this happens often.

Jelly Belly and I were cycle buddies one cycle. We were close this past cycle.

And now, we start anew together.

I'm waffling between anger - of the can't see straight, want to throw things variety - and defeat. One day next week, when I do not have to be "on" for work, I will feel these emotions. I will let it out. Polkadot, I'm offering it up for you!

For now, all I've got is: AF, you suck.


My Pain

Yesterday was April 1. April Fools' Day. I'm an extremely gullible human being so I generally hate April Fools' Day. (As proof of how much I hate the day: if we'd had to work yesterday, I would have used a vacation day to avoid it.) And when I saw the first "April Fools' Pregnancy" on Facebook, I knew I needed to steer clear for the rest of the day. And so I did. Except to like a friend's picture stating that a fake pregnancy announcement isn't funny.

Today however, I ready Ashley Sue's post on the topic: Looking for Sensitivity on a Day for Fools and I left a comment with this as part of it:

I realize that it's more about my pain, as you said that it hurts, because it hurts, not so much because someone made a joke of it, but because it hurts, all on its own.

And as I wrote that, and then continued dialoging with Ashley Sue, I realized that this goes much further than April 1 on Facebook.

It includes the pregnancy announcements; the complaints from pregnant women; the questions from strangers; the comments from family and friends; the baby at Mass that is the same age as ours would be if we'd conceived after surgery; all. of. it. All of those things that can cause tears or anger or embarrassment without warning, without notice. All. of. them.

They have nothing to do with the announcement, the complaint, the question, etc and EVERYTHING to do with my pain. They become a crutch, an excuse, a place to put blame. A way to hide what they are really about. The pain. I so often feel like I need an excuse for the pain, a reason for it (most often unconsciously . But, honestly, the pain is enough all by itself. Certainly things can trigger it, or make it worse, but those things are not causing the pain. That same pregnancy announcement or question, if I have the family I dream of, don't hurt. They are not the source of the pain, only a reminder of it.

A while back, while venting over a friend's pregnancy announcement, specifically that she didn't tell me individually (she knows of our struggles and had some of her own), I asked the question, what do I expect? I came to the conclusion that I had no right to expect anything from her, as it was her announcement to make. It is only today that I am finally understanding why I came to that conclusion. Regardless of how she made her announcement, my pain is still there. And is about me, not her.

Will knowing this, realizing this, make the pain less when those reminders happen? Probably not. But I know that when I stumbled across a left-over FB announcement from yesterday this afternoon, it didn't feel like a slap in the face. Yes, it hurt, and yet, it was different. While I will still steer clear of places and situations that I know to be strong reminders of the pain, those times that I know it will come to the surface, when they happen (as they will, I'm not crazy), I hope and pray I  remember this, and I respond  with grace to the person, rather than from my own pain.

*I am not speaking of those situations where people, who know exactly what they are doing, choose to inflict additional pain. I'm speaking specifically of those instances that come from a place of ignorance, circumstance, or anything else that the intent is not to cause pain.