On fertile ground? Not so much.

“Wait, this isn’t going to be a post about mindfulness?”

No, no dear readers. Not today. Although, I could argue that a heightened sense of awareness, developed through mindfulness, will increase one’s ability to be empathetic, which for a woman dealing with infertility is a highly desired quality.

In previous ramblings, I’ve alluded to my fertility journey. I’ve tried to be as open as possible about this experience with people in my life, as I have been blessed to have received the same openness from others who have walked their own path down a similarly frustrating, heartbreaking road.

And yet, talking about infertility is not a comfortable, cozy conversation topic. It’s one spoken in whispers, as if normal volume will spread it like wildfire. Like many women in a particular age range, especially after getting married, I get asked almost daily if I have children.

“Do you have kids? Not yet? Do you want kids?”

Why are we socialized to ask this question to people, especially strangers? What does having a child, or holding the identity as “parent,” really tell us about someone? Do we perceive an individual as being a better person if they are a parent? Are they smarter? More responsible? More capable of giving love? Perhaps there’s research out there proving otherwise, but my gut is that those associations are fallacies.

In the year after my doctor dropped the “I” label on me, I answered such questions with a hopeful response of: “Yes, I want kids. We’re working on it!” I soon learned this opened the door to the laundry list of unhelpful statements people utter that are both good-intentioned and make you feel like a 21st century Hester Prynne.

Hester Prynne

Enduring heroine or Nathaniel Hawthorne’s views on women’s sexual freedom? You decide!

I want to be upfront that I can only speak to my perspective on what is helpful and unhelpful in supporting a friend grappling with infertility and the swirl of exhaustion, guilt, blame, self-loathing, hope, outrage, confusion, and pain that infiltrates the mind, body, and spirit. So, in that vein, here are some of my suggestions on what actions to take — and which ones to avoid — when trying to be supportive:

  • Do: take cues from your friend on how much they want to open up about their experience. Ask permission to ask questions. Be patient. It is their story to tell, and they deserve the chance to share it when they are ready.
  • Don’t: don’t share a story about your brother’s girlfriend’s aunt who tried getting pregnant for 100 years and then — lo and behold! A baby was born. Leave all comparison stories at home. I do not care. That is their experience, and bully for them. But, those stories do not fill me with hope because our bodies are completely different vessels.
  • Do: if you feel sadness as a friend, share it witnessing another friend go through this, share it. “I am sorry that you’re going through this.” I am sad too. I wish you weren’t sad, and I wish I wasn’t sad. But, I feel your compassion and care in your words.
  • Don’t: don’t unload a pile of advice on my doorstep. Have I thought about working out less? Decreasing my coffee intake? Standing on my head in the middle of the street? The short answer: YES. Yes, I have cut out x,y, and z and taken this supplement and added this and — you get the picture. Yes, again, well-intentioned. Let us not forget that intention does not negate impact. I feel worse after hearing this advice because it makes me feel like I’m being perceived as not doing enough to fix this situation. I’m trying — believe me, I WANT to get pregnant! If I want advice, please allow me the chance to ask for it.
  • Do: if you are willing, share your story if you have also had trouble conceiving. Even if you did eventually get pregnant and now you’re a rockstar parent, I appreciate your willingness to name the challenges you endured. Even though you achieved your desired outcome, you still experienced sorrow and loss.
  • Don’t: don’t tell me to just relax and have fun. Ever. My response to this statement is not appropriate for the Internet.giphy
  • Do: be my friend. That may seem silly, but let’s continue to do things together that bring us joy! Sure, some of those could relate to women’s health (or MINDFULNESS! See, I could sneak it in there). But, it can be all of the other activities that people – fertile or not – take up: go bowling, start a book club, attend a concert, dance like no one is watching (except that one creepy person in the corner). Distractions are welcomed. Having fun and creating spaces for laughter are appreciated. Finding time to build our bonds of kinship remain a priority.

One situation, where I don’t feel like there’s a clear or justified do/don’t, is around sharing your own personal good news if you become pregnant. This happened to a friend of mine not too long after I had revealed my own struggle. Later on, she confessed that she was afraid to tell me as she was attuned to my situation and didn’t want to hurt me.

Now, this friend is by far one of the kindness, most selfless people I know. I appreciated her honesty, and I expressed that her decision to withhold her celebratory news made me feel sad. I reveled in her happiness — and now get to do that to an even greater extent by holding her beautiful child.

At the same time, there are days where I catch a friend’s social media post announcing their pregnancy and my first reaction is not one of celebration. There was a string around the holidays where it felt like everyone in my circle was holding up little baby booties and onesies and I was like:

C’MON ON NOW UNIVERSE.

A friend reflected that the infertility journey is truly a roller coaster. There are moments of such anticipation and excitement — you try to temper it as best you can — but there’s something so visceral when you allow yourself to be filled with that hope.

Then, there are times when the bottom drops out; your body sucks your breath back in by the sheer force of your current reality. You want to hold on to something — someone — and yet you are often alone. You may be on a bathroom floor. You may be laying on some awful table with your legs in stirrups. You have to find a way to pick yourself back up. Slap a smile on that face. Be ready to shake hands with someone new as they ask:

“So, do you have kids?”

How are wedding plans coming?

That has to be one of the most popular questions directed at me over the last three months, and for good reason: it’s a major life event. People are kind enough to remember, inquire about said event. However, since the start of 2014, I feel that my answer has not sufficed the hungriest of mouths:

“Fine.”ding

“Good.”

“Well, I really haven’t been doing all that much…”

Initially, I jumped on the wedding blog bandwagon, seeking out ideas for how to create the perfect vintage décor. Mason jars! Burlap!

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I had ambitious goals of crafting invitations, gifts, centerpieces, and the like. Not that I have abandoned such dreams. But, something started to happen the more I dug deeper into the wedding advice channels:

 

I began to panic.

 

Clearly, a major life event will likely be complemented with a good dose of stress, which is not always a negative. Stress can help one focus, follow-up more quickly, and take decisive action. But, the thought of experiencing stress more than six months before the actual wedding frightened me. If I already felt on edge in February, what would I be like in August? Don’t even think about September, the actual month.

Immediately, I enacted a cease and desist order on pawing through wedding publications: in print, online, didn’t matter. I had worked myself up to a frenzy inside: was it okay that I wasn’t having a wedding shower? Maybe I should begin setting make-up appointments. What about wedding shoes? Should I be caring more about flowers? Would I need to hire a calligrapher to do our wedding invitations? All I could see was dollar signs increasing and my to-do list growing.

So, I stopped. I walked away from even thinking about our wedding for a couple of months. One of the many benefits of finding a partner who is a stronger “J” on the Myers-Briggs profile than you is that a great deal of our required tasks were done. We have a venue, caterer and DJ. We have someone to marry us and the rings to symbolize the commitment. We have the desired dress for the occasion, notions of our vows, and our first dance song. What else is there?

Over the last two weeks, we’ve delved back into the world of “wedding planning.” We’re looking at invitation designs, making plans to pick out our cake, creating our desired playlist, and sketching out our ceremony. I’ve allowed myself to start thinking about the more nuanced aspects of the day, from what might be placed in my hair and ears to what song we should use as our exit music.

In the end, it’s about the people who have enriched our lives, and having the experience of celebrating this momentous occasion with many of them. Because in the end, will anyone care if the wedding invitation arrives sans calligraphy or if our floral displays came from Costco?

 

What happened?

Is history repeating itself once again? I have felt so disconnected from the blogosphere, as both a faithful reader (with attempts at pseudo-engager) and dedicated writer, exploring the various aspects of my life that continue to bring adventure, satisfaction, and challenge. Over the last two weeks, I have been struck by various post topics in the shower, in the car, and while at work, but none have actually manifested themselves into the “pages” of online print.

After spending this weekend in a prone position due to the onslaught of germs, I have tried to catch-up on what I have missed, mostly for the love of reading other people’s words. I certainly appreciate the content as well (because what would be the point of reading otherwise?) but I take such pleasure in how other people express themselves.

Overall, one of my current challenges is computer burnout. After spending my entire day in front of a screen, I am coming home to total avoidance. Unfortunately, I have been slipping back into the bad habit of bringing my phone with me to the couch (a habit acknowledged this weekend with Aaron and now that is in the open, can be improved upon again). But, I still have little desire to crack open my laptop.

How do you all find balance in sitting in front of the screen to read, write, work, play, and stay connected? Advice wanted!

Dear Molly

I love my cats. I really do. I take a lot of photos of them to share on various social media platforms [insert apology here].

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This is the more recent addition of the two: Sweet Josie. Too bad I’m not holding a Lonerider Sweet Josie in the shot. Josie is the love child: she nests, kneads (and needs), and has one of the most adorable “mews” ever.

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And, this is Milo. I adopted Milo in August 2010, and he is such a Momma’s boy. He purrs loudly, climbs into great spaces, and has some serious hops.

But, this is what I don’t love:

[4:30am] Meow. Meow. MRRRRRRRRRRROOOOOOOOOOWWWWWW. Brrrrrrrup! Brrrrrrrrrup!

(switch on vacuum cleaner)

[4:45am] Brrrrrrrrp! MEOW! MEOW!

(vacuum cleaner round 2)

[5:05am] Meeeeeeeeeeow. BRrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrp! *scratch scratch*

OH MY GOODNESS I AM UP YOU CAT THAT JUST GOT FED SEVEN HOURS AGO.

That. Is that part of your life as well? I have read dozens of articles on cat behavior, including the advice of “Dear Molly” from the Wake County SPCA, which is where both Milo and Sweet Josie landed after their lame families gave them the boot.  The first trick we tried came from a friend’s response to our Facebook call for help. When I lived at my apartment, I let the cats roam free (and most doors did not actually close). This included sleeping in my bed at night. When I moved in with Aaron, we made a pact that the bedroom was going to be a cat-free zone. Well, apparently the cats did not get that memo. Our friend suggested putting our vacuum cleaner outside of the closed door, running the cord underneath and plugging it into a power strip. Keeping the vacuum in the “on” position, you then turn on the power strip when the cat begins to scratch/meow.

Brilliant, right?

At first, it worked GREAT. The first night we had to turn the vacuum on 10 times. The next night: five or six. Each night the number decreased, and we thought: this is it! We’ll have this wrapped up in no time and finally be able to sleep in until our alarm.

Just kidding.

I learned I enabled him (because, let’s be real: Milo is the true culprit) when I would get up and open the door either to spray him with compressed air, yell, scream, chase him downstairs. So, then we hid under our pillows. Then put the vacuum back out.

I have tried feeding them later at night. Playing with them more right before bed. Ignoring them upon first waking up. Giving them more lap time at night. Delaying their breakfast until I returned from the Y (which meant Aaron’s night of sleep came to a screeching halt).

What else can one do? Anyone out there know the magic trick?

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I’m guessing it’s not taking artsy photos with your cat. Or is it?