Comedian Tackles Infertility in Web Series

I’m happy to introduce you to Wendy Litner, a fellow infertility warrior I met through Twitter. She’s also a comedian who’s developing a web series called How to Buy a Baby. The trailer is a hilarious send-up of the more ridiculous aspects of the infertility journey. I love comedy and appreciate Wendy’s ability to infuse a trying situation with humor. My Q&A with Wendy offers insights into her project, the shame that many people experience with infertility, and the latest step on her path to parenthood.

Tegan: How did you get first get the idea to make a web series about infertility?

Wendy: My husband and I have been dealing with infertility for years now and I have been writing about my own personal experience for places like Today’s Parent and Mamamia. While I started out as a personal essay writer, I have been trying to stretch my writing muscles and have become increasingly interested in script writing over the years. I felt like infertility just wasn’t getting enough air in popular culture, despite the statistics suggesting that a large portion of the population has struggled with it. I really loved the idea of being to explore a couple going through infertility. Webseries, while still difficult to make, have become increasingly accessible and popular and I liked the idea of having a larger story told in these smaller vignettes about a marriage under pressure. Also, I am so inspired by people like yourself who have taken their experience with infertility and turned it into something beautiful for other people. I wanted to lend my voice to this as well.

Tegan: I watched the trailer for How to Buy a Baby. It’s really funny and cheeky. Why did you decide to talk about these issues using humor as the lens?

Wendy: I believe there is humour in everything! Sometimes you have to look really, really hard but it’s there. I come from a really funny family who have always handled adversity with humour and I have tried my best to apply this to infertility as well. It doesn’t always work. I am a comedy writer and so I try and tell things in a funny way, even if it’s dark comedy. I was really inspired by Tig Notaro and her Live performance, where she jokes about her breast cancer. She showed so much strength and humour and resiliency and I thought if she could laugh at that, I could laugh at my inability to have children. I have gotten emails from other people struggling with infertility who appreciate being able to laugh at their awful experience and I will feel like somewhat of a fraud. Here I am trying to advocate humour in a way and I am in the fetal position crying over my experience. Through my many (many!) tears though, my ultimate coping mechanism is laughing.

Tegan: What do you hope to accomplish with How to Buy a Baby?

Wendy: I hope to humanize the experience of infertility. I want people who have been in the trenches to know they are not alone, in this child-centric Facebook world of ours that can make an infertile feel so alone. I also hope to raise awareness about what infertility does to a person and what it does to a couple. People who are lucky enough not to have to buy a baby can be very quick to say things like “why don’t you just adopt” and they don’t appreciate how difficult, costly and time consuming that process is. People can be a bit cavalier about their procreative abilities and not realize that they are so very lucky to have had a smooth path to parenthood. I hope people struggling with infertility will feel seen when they watch HTBAB.

Tegan: What kind of reactions have you gotten so far in response to the HTBAB trailer?

Wendy: The response from the infertility community in particular has been so overwhelming! I have gotten the most amazing and encouraging notes from people who have shared this experience and it means the world to me. (I was going through a round of IVF as well while I was working on this and my hormones were out of control – I couldn’t stop crying, I was so touched!). I was nervous about how people would react to the dark humour aspect of it, worrying that people would think I am trying to make light of so much pain when I am trying to do the opposite. I have been so happy that people have embraced it and are excited to see more. We have received funding from the Independent Production Fund here in Canada and are now trying to raise the balance of our funding and find a distribution platform to share the series.

Tegan: Why do you suppose people are still uncomfortable talking about infertility?

Wendy: I feel like there is a sense of shame surrounding infertility. I think we women get embaressed that our bodies weren’t able to do what the bodies of all our friends and families could do. I have felt it myself, this sense of guilt and self-reproach that I must, I must, be doing something wrong and that’s why I can’t get pregnant. My rational self knows this is ridiculous and that I have done everything possible but there is still that tiny part of me that says “maybe I shouldn’t have had that cup of coffee during my IVF cycle.” I am hoping that the more people that share and talk about their experience the most people will be comfortable talking about it.

Tegan: Tell us about your own connections to / experiences with infertility and where you are on your journey to parenthood.

Wendy: After many failed infertility treatments my husband and I are now pursuing adoption. Of course we wanted a baby yesterday, so the waiting and uncertainty is extremely difficult but I am trying my best to look at this new process as an adventure to meet our child. I feel like I have just now become versed in the language of infertility and now we are moving on to a whole new process. While I don’t expect it to be a smooth one, I hope that it will end happy. I can’t wait to be a mother!

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The Continuing Story of Ever Upward: Childfull Living After Infertility

EUCoverJustine Froelker is the author of Ever Upward, a memoir of her journey through infertility and the decision she and her husband made to live as a childfull couple. Justine created this word to mean a life that’s full of opportunities to be around children, to love them, and be a part of their lives while not being parents themselves. The book chronicles a heartbreaking, emotional, and beautifully-told journey of how they arrived at their decision and how they’ve embraced it.

I am so inspired by Justine’s transparency as she continues to share about her life and gives voice to this choice that sometimes invites criticism and sparks controversy. (For the record, I’m supportive of couples finding the resolution to their infertility that’s right for them, whether that be pregnancy through fertility treatments, surrogacy, adoption, childfull living, or any other option.)

March third marks the one year anniversary of Ever Upward’s publication. I decided to ask Justine to share about the experiences she’s had in the months since its release.

Tegan: As more people have read Ever Upward, what kind of response have you gotten?
Justine: There is nothing quite like getting an email, tweet, Facebook message or review on your book, especially a book as personal as Ever Upward. A bit of of my feedback has been on editing, which I am grateful and completely realize myself. Ever Upward is my first book, without a huge publisher and one that I honestly needed to be in people’s hands, and so I was inexperienced and limited with my editing. One day, when the 2nd edition is picked up for Ever Upward, I promise this will be fixed. I am also confident that my second book will be edited to my critics liking. The biggest response to Ever Upward has been a simple thank you and people sharing pieces of their story with me. Infertility or not, successful treatments or not, our stories are much more alike than different. Most people write me and say that they found their voice in my words, the things they have not been able to say out loud, yet, were found in my story. Every message reminds me to keep fighting to get Ever Upward in more hands, because it is changing lives for the better. It is continuing to change mine too.

Tegan: Have you received any feedback or reactions to your book that have surprised you? If so, tell us about them.
Justine: The biggest surprise has been in what a home Ever Upward has found among mothers. I wrote a blog post about it a while back, because it is incredible to me that Ever Upward has been accepted and loved so much by a club that I will never technically fit into. The journey of infertility leaves lifelong scars, whether or not you end up a mother in the traditional definition of the word. Ever Upward gives us all permission to own our stories, all of our stories.

Tegan: What opportunities have you had to share your story and talk about childfull living since your book was published?
Justine: I am continuing work on building the platform, the part of being published that is so foreign and difficult for me, and frustrating! I have found that my story does not go viral and in many ways I feel completely invisible. I am the advocate who’s story did not end up how we all want it to, happy with 2.5 kids. This is difficult for a lot of people. I am also sharing messages that are healthier and as of right now not the norm in the infertility world. However, I have written for The Huffington Post many times, which I am so grateful for. I have also written for mindbodygreen, The Good Mother Project and Still Mothers. My story has also been featured in CNN.com and I was quoted in Redbook Magazine, both of which felt so huge for the healthier messages in infertility advocacy!

Tegan: What projects related to infertility/miscarriage/childfull living do you have in the works?
Justine: I am part of the documentary Don’t Talk About the Baby and I am continuing to write at my blog www.everupward.org. I have stepped back a bit in pushing the platform to concentrate on finishing the follow up book to Ever Upward. I am actively involved in social media by sharing my own writing, other pieces and helping people to define their own happy ending and especially work on the self-care.

Justine FroelkerJustine Froelker lives in St. Louis with her husband Chad. They have two dogs, and have lovingly restored an older home. She’s a Licensed Professional Counselor and a Certified Daring Way™ Facilitator (based on the research of Brené Brown). Justine runs a private practice in St. Louis. SHe has worked with clients dealing with issues such as infertility, anxiety, depression, addictions, and eating disorders. In addition, Justine writes for St. Louis Health & Wellness Magazine.

The Mommy Box: Coping with the Child Who Isn’t There

kid bookMy youngest son is four years old. He recently discovered a book of children’s poems by Robert Louis Stevenson, a collection I adored when I was a kid. One line in particular gets me every time we read the book’s opening poem: “…it is but a child of air, that lingers in the garden there.” I know all too well what it is to love “a child of air.”

Infertility grief is difficult to handle on a regular day, so it’s no surprise that special occasions and holidays really increase the emotional intensity. What’s especially challenging for couples dealing with infertility is that they’re grieving for a child who has never existed. Unlike grief after a loved one’s death, there are no happy memories, photos of smiling faces, or videos of birthdays. There’s never even been a birthday, a smile, or a single memory for the child who isn’t there, the child who never has been.

Mommy boxOne of the most effective tools I created to deal with this grief was a mommy box. On small sheets of paper, I wrote down brief descriptions of things I wanted to do to make a memory with my child after he or she was in my arms (whether through birth or adoption) and stored them in a box a very talented friend had painted and given to me years earlier. My mommy box was an especially therapeutic tool around the holiday season when so much of the public Christmas displays, both sacred and secular, are geared toward children.

I remember arriving home after a Christmas church service one year when we were trying to conceive and almost running to the closet where I kept my mommy box. I had two or three things I just had to write down. For me, writing about something I wanted to do with my future child was a way to feel productive while we waited and to give my longing a tangible outlet. Every time I added a note to the mommy box, I felt relief and peace. It was important to me to write down the date so that someday, my child would see that I imagined the things we’d do together throughout the year.

mommy box notesSometimes instead of writing down the activities I wanted to do, I opened the box and read all the ones I’d already written. The slips of paper were little pieces of hope. I cried over them, held them, and prayed over them. They were, and still are, very important to me.

I’m happy to say that after we became parents through adoption, we did fulfill almost every hope and wish I’d jotted down in my memory box. And of course, those shared moments were just the beginning. My heart is now full of beautiful, happy memories of the things I’ve gotten to do with my children. I recently sat down with my oldest child and read through some of the pieces of paper in my mommy box. He was delighted to know all the hopes and dreams I had for him, for us.

Have you done anything similar to my mommy box to help you process your grief? I’d love for you to share about it in the comments because your technique may be just the thing that helps someone else cope.

Top image via Flickr by arctia

Dear Infertility…

During the years we were trying to conceive, this is the letter I would’ve written to my infertility:

Dear Infertility,
I’m glad to have the chance to speak directly to you after all this time. We’ve lived together in this body for years, and I think it’s time to call a house meeting and iron out a few things.

First, I wish you’d stop tweaking the thermostat. One minute I’m hot with anger and tears. Then, twenty minutes later, I’m wrapping my arms around my chest to fend off the bitter cold of loneliness. It’s super annoying.

Second, please stop leaving boxes of junk in the middle of the floor. How many times has your box of jealousy tripped me up? Or how about that backpack full of self-loathing? I mean, you’ve got a lot o’ baggage, and I really resent having it shoved in my path.

Let’s also talk about your music. I wish you’d play something other than those same tired songs about shame and guilt. You’ve had them on repeat for years! Admittedly, they’ve got a hook that lodges itself in my brain–I know every line by heart and could probably mumble them in my sleep. But, c’mon. Play something a little less angst-y once in a while.

And have you ever heard of boundaries? I don’t know why you think it’s fine to sneak into my bedroom when I’m with my husband. Honestly! Who can enjoy fun times with their spouse when it’s obvious you’re in the room. You’re the most intrusive third wheel in the history of third wheels.

I’ve also had it with your friends showing up uninvited. Well, really, it’s just the one friend. I don’t know why you call her Aunt Flow when everyone knows you guys aren’t related. And she’s so unreliable. Sometimes she’s on time. Sometimes she’s late. I wish she’d just take a hike for nine long months.

baby showerCan I just say how much I hate it when you tag along with me to parties, showers, and holiday gatherings? It’s so embarrassing when you show up at a baby shower and start whispering awful things in my ear. Then, I have to act like you’re not there when everyone totally knows you’re there. AWKWARD. Plus, we all know how much you can’t stand the adorable onesies and those faux cakes made out of rolled up diapers. Really, you shouldn’t come. Like at all.

Look, I know people think you’ll change (or just leave) if I stop stressing about all the madness you’ve brought with you. Like my lack of stress will make you vacate the premise (taking Aunt Flow along with you). But you and I both know that’s not going to happen. You’re not really the sort who’ll just leave if we all ignore you.

Okay. Here’s the truth. Even if you do leave and I get a new roommate, an adorable new roomie who has my nose and my husband’s eyes, you’ve left your fingerprints all over the place. It’s not like I can remove every trace of you. You’ve banged up the floorboards and chipped away the paint. So, we just need to make peace. You aren’t going to change, but I can change the way I react to you and your inconsiderate ways. I’m going to focus on taking better care of myself rather than letting you frustrate me so often. It’s what I’ve got to do until I can figure out a way to evict you for good and get that new roommate moved in.

With hope for better times ahead,
Tegan
P.S. You really do make me nuts. Maybe someday I’ll write a book about it. Believe me, I’ve got enough material.

Baby shower image via Flickr by Emily Stanchfield

A Conversation With My Adopted Kids About Miscarriage

There isn’t one right way to have this conversation. I’m going to share with you how it went down with my three children, ages 8, 5, and 4. My kids don’t remember ever being told they were adopted because it’s always been a part of their life story. They also have always known that Mommy and Daddy tried for a lot of years to get a baby to grow in my belly before we changed our plan and pursued adoption.

In a recent conversation, we were talking about how my belly doesn’t work quite right because it can’t hold a baby. I mentioned that there had been a baby in my tummy briefly a long time ago before we adopted them, but that it didn’t grow. I explained that this made us very sad and that’s when we decided we wanted to adopt children. The conversation then went something like this:

8 yr old: So the baby died?

Me: Well, yes. But it wasn’t a baby in the way you think about a baby who drinks from a bottle and cries. It was extremely small. Like this. (I showed them the tip of a pen.)

5 yr old: Was it a boy or girl?

Me: I don’t know. When a baby is that tiny, you can’t tell. We actually don’t even think the heart ever beat.

4 yr old: Mommy, what is your baby’s name?

Me: (pause) We didn’t give the baby a name because we didn’t know if it was a boy or girl.

5 yr old: How did the baby get out of your body when it died?

Me: When your body stops holding on to a baby, it bleeds. It’s not like bleeding when you get a cut on your arm. But it’s a way for your body to clear out the things that would make it sick if they stayed inside. The baby was so small, I never saw it.

8 yr old: How did it die?

Me: It stopped growing. You know that when babies are born, they’re much bigger than the end of this pen. They’re about the size of some of our baby dolls. My baby stopped growing when it was still very, very small. And we don’t really know why it stopped growing.

And that was it. We were on to coloring after that. Had I planned to talk about my miscarriage with my children on a Monday afternoon? No, but it came up in the course of normal conversation about our family and the fact that our family was formed through adoption.

The story that binds us together is a story of how beauty comes out of loss. My husband and I think a lot about the terrible, irreversible losses our children have experienced by being away from their birth family and birth country. But our losses as an infertile couple are also a part of our family’s narrative. It felt good to speak to my children about our pregnancy loss in a straightforward and honest manner, to show them that I don’t feel shame, only sadness, over my body’s inability to grow my baby.

Have you ever spoken to your children, adopted or biological, about your miscarriage(s)? I’d love to hear how other parents have handled similar conversations. I’m sure this conversation may come up again with our children.

Top image via Flickr by SarahCartwright

Vacation and Infertility: A Trip Back in Time

Earlier today, Patrick and I arrived in Miami without our three kids. We’re here to celebrate his 40th birthday in a place we’ve long enjoyed visiting. In fact, our very first trip here happened not long after we started trying to get pregnant.

A Time for Hope

On that first trip, we laid in bed one night watching a movie. I turned to Patrick and said, “I can’t wait until we have kids we can bring here. Can’t you imagine all of us lying on the bed after a day at the beach and watching a movie?” The rest of the trip, I thought about what it would be like to have our children with us. My visions included angelic, well-behaved toddlers who giggled and let me dress them in perfect outfits.

A Time for Longing

My spirit was much less optimistic when we came to Miami the following year for vacation. We were newly diagnosed with infertility. I had two negative pregnancy tests while we were here. I didn’t have the emotional energy to imagine bringing our children to the beach because all I could think about was how to bring our children into the world. Longing mixed with hope and bubbled in my heart every time I saw a family with kids.

imageSomeone once said infertility is like missing someone you’ve never met. I think that’s a good analogy. I didn’t know my child’s face or name, but I felt keenly my child’s absence.

A Time to Heal and Reflect

Now that we have three marvelous children through adoption, my time in Miami is about reconnecting with my husband and searching for treats to bring back to the kids. (We wouldn’t dream of coming home empty handed!)

But as we walked the familiar streets this afternoon and I saw many kids running and playing with their parents, a ghost of that old despair and longing nudged its way into my heart: I missed my children. But today, I savored the fact that now I know the shapes of their eyes, the silly nicknames I’ve given them, and the sounds of their excited voices. I know the curves of little lips that, when we return home, will welcome us with kisses.

In what ways has infertility Changed the way you feel about certain places you visit?

 

Infertility and Shame: The Body Broken

I believe it’s a valid choice to stay silent about your infertility. There are many reasons to choose to keep your struggles private. But don’t let shame be one of them. In ways big and small, life seems to tell us that we should feel shame over our inability to conceive or give birth. And I’m here to say there is nothing shameful about being infertile or experiencing pregnancy loss. You’re not less of a woman or man. Your worth and ability to contribute are not dependent on birthing a child.

I hope you liked that pep talk, but I know overcoming shame is not as easy as saying “Shame, be gone!” So, to help you unpack your feelings, I’ve put together a list of five perspectives about infertility/getting pregnant that breed shame. It’s my hope that in identifying the sources of these feelings, you can set aside the shame and give yourself the gentleness you need during this difficult journey.

shameInfertility is someone’s fault.

When you’re diagnosed with a medical condition, it’s natural to wonder, “Why isn’t my body working properly?” That question doesn’t always carry an implicit tone of blame, but it often does for people having trouble conceiving. You know from your doctor and the online forums you visit that the reproductive system is extremely intricate and complex. It’s not always clear which partner is having the issue. But when it is, there’s this persistent question: would my spouse already be a parent if he/she had married someone else who didn’t have a condition that causes the infertility? The partner who has an identifiable issue feels tremendous shame, grief, and responsibility.

Let me also say that while you may increase your chances of getting pregnant by losing weight, reducing stress, or making other healthier choices, these changes aren’t a magic bullet that solves everyone’s fertility problem. I used my infertility as an opportunity to get more serious about eating better and exercising more. It was a lovely to discover that exercise improved my mood. And at that time, I needed any little thing that could help me have a sunnier outlook.

Blaming yourself for your infertility only perpetuates the shame. I was able to let go of some shame when I chose to focus on how to move forward. I adopted a mindset that said, “It is what it is, so let’s do what we can to work around it.”

couple holding handsYou and your husband aren’t a family unless you procreate.

I have a serious issue with how most people use the word “family” because they only apply it to couples who have children. When I married my husband, I felt like we were a newly-minted family. We didn’t have children yet, but we were a family. We had our own home, we combined our resources, and we aligned our priorities. The way we use the word family needs to evolve so that it encompasses couples without children. The shame comes from the implication that until you have children, you aren’t a real family, and that’s heartbreaking for couples trying to conceive their first child.

“Don’t you know there’s an easy fix for that?”

Every couple of weeks, a new blog post circulates on the interwebs with the top five phrases you should never say to your infertile friends. Yet, rarely do these articles get at the underlying implications of these phrases. Look, fertiles, you know you can’t say stuff like this: “You’ll increase your chances of getting pregnant if your husband wears boxers instead of briefs” and “You guys just need to stop trying so hard and go on a vacation.” Other than sounding like an idiot who obviously knows nothing about infertility, these people are using words that have a shame-inducing implication: if you’d only shape up and make these changes, you’d get what you want, and if you aren’t doing all these things, then it’s your fault you can’t get pregnant.

Recognize these hurtful words for what they are: a misguided attempt to offer advice. Just look at the person and think, “Bless their hearts, they have no clue.” Speaking of blessing…

If you’re blessed, you’ll have children.

If you come from a Judeo-Christian tradition, you probably have heard that children are a blessing from God. When you’re struggling with infertility, it’s easy to think you aren’t worthy of being blessed in this way. You may believe you’re lacking, and if only you could fix that part of your life that falls short of expectations, you’d be able to have children. I went down this rabbit hole on multiple occasions when we were trying to get pregnant, and it’s an issue my main character explores in INCONCEIVABLE. The fact that my religious beliefs equated having children with being blessed contributed to a sense of shame: somehow, I failed to measure up in a specific way that prevented me from getting pregnant. I know all the encouraging responses, and read a really wonderful book that helped combat these thoughts that crept up on me from time to time. (I know many other religious traditions equate fertility with divine blessing or approval, so please feel free to share in the comments. I’m writing here from personal experience.)

butterfly1Your body is broken because it can’t do something very basic.

The tiniest insects mate. Their very existence depends on it. Animals do it. They’re hardwired to procreate for survival of their species. So, if bugs and bears can get pregnant without the help of doctors, why can’t my husband and I do it? I remember thinking at one point that my body was simply defective. It was a heartbreaking way to frame my struggle, and one that I latched onto in a moment of despair. But, I knew my body wasn’t defective; it just wasn’t capable of doing this one (very important) thing. To combat this feeling, I trained and ran a half marathon. When I was on the course, I remember having extreme gratitude that my body was able to carry me so far so fast. Also, the race was a tangible metaphor of our long and arduous journey to parenthood. Could I finish a half marathon? Yes. Could I hang on until we’re parents? You bet.

I’m so grateful for every person who shares their experiences with me and my readers in the comment section. It takes courage to speak up. So, I look forward to reading your answer to these questions: What paradigms or perspectives have nurtured feelings of shame over your infertility? How do you work through it?

Top image via Flickr by Alkan Chipperfield

Shame image via Flickr by PinkMoose

Butterfly image via Flickr by Rene Mensen

Miscarriage: The Lonely Goodbye

candle1Scheduled events drive our lives. Weddings, baby showers, and funerals mark major transitions, while soccer practice, choir rehearsal, and book club meetings fill the hours, knitting themselves into the backdrop of our day-to-day routine. But what do you do when something terrible happens that completely alters your universe, but there’s no tradition or template for how to recognize your loss, grieve, and receive support from others? Here are six reasons why I think of miscarriage as the lonely goodbye. At the end of this post is a poem to help observe this loss.

  1. There’s no formal ceremony. When someone dies, there’s usually a funeral, memorial, wake, or graveside service. In many cases, these ceremonies are infused with traditions, religious observances, and reflections on the person’s life. But when a woman has a miscarriage, there’s no widely practiced ceremony to name and grieve this loss. The fact that my miscarriage didn’t warrant any observance hurt my heart, though I was too sad to think of any way to put together my own private observance.
  2. Few people know when it happens. When only a select group of friends and family know about a pregnancy loss, the potential support network is small. For a variety of reasons, women may choose to tell only a very few people about her loss. This means she carries much of the burden of her grief by herself.
  3. Friends and family often don’t know what to say. “You can just try again” and “At least you know you can get pregnant” are not comforting words to a woman who has experienced a miscarriage.
  4. Medical staff may not know how to respond to you with sensitivity. I’ll never forget getting a form letter from the clinic that did my in vitro fertilization cycle. It arrived a couple of weeks after my miscarriage. It basically said, “We’re sorry. But if you just try again, we feel confident it will work out better the second time.” I threw away the letter. My regular OB/GYN was much better in his response: he said he’d support whatever we wanted to do as our next step, assuring us we still had options for achieving a successful pregnancy, if that’s what we wanted to pursue. But he never pressured me to keep trying or to rush to a decision after the miscarriage.
  5. sad womanYour own emotions betray you. This is an issue I explore a bit in INCONCEIVABLE. My miscarriage came after our one and only IVF cycle, which was the culmination of five years of trying to conceive. After I found out I was pregnant, I barely let myself believe it was finally happening, though I savored the joy and hope quietly building in my heart. When the miscarriage happened, I cried gut-wrenching tears and felt such intense anger and sadness for a couple of days. Then, I went numb. I spoke with a therapist because I was worried that I wasn’t crying more. With gentle and kind words, she assured me my feelings were a normal part of the grieving process. She encouraged me to give myself time and space to experience healing, and not to judge my heart for how it mended itself.
  6. Life goes on. This is both a blessing and a curse. Because not many people know what you’ve experienced, it’s easy to pick up again with the rhythms of your routine. But I found myself wanting to say randomly, “Hey. I’ve experienced a major tragedy that likely means the end of our journey to getting pregnant. Mind if we stop a minute and just think about the seriousness of that? Because I’m thinking about it a lot.” Yeah, it would’ve been completely awkward to do that, but I had the weird urge to say it, to rage against the fact that no one noticed my loss and my pain.

I’m interested in hearing from anyone who has found ways to mark and observe their pregnancy loss. I look forward to reading your comments. In closing, here’s a poem I wrote, the kinds of words I wanted and needed to hear after my miscarriage.

The Lonely Goodbye

We tried again to love you into being,
But away you went, leaving me sitting quietly
In an emergency room where doctors mumbled,
“There’s nothing we can do.”
You left behind a box of “somedays.”
(I keep it in my closet on a high shelf.)
Someday, you’ll sit beside me on the piano bench.
We’ll scoop up shells together on the beach.
I’ll laugh when you play dress up in my clothes…
But they will keep. High on that shelf. They must.
For now, it’s time to steel and heal my heart,
And say goodbye to you, my almost-child.

Top image via Flickr by seyed mostafa zamani

Image of sad woman via Flickr by Mitya Ku

Speaking Out: A Live Conversation About Infertility and INCONCEIVABLE!

Despite technical difficulties, I was able to participate in most of the conversation about infertility and my book today on KCUR, the NPR station in Kansas City. I want to invite you to listen to the clip, which also included Karree Tidwell, a board member from Kansas City Infertility Awareness. This is a local group that offers support to people who are struggling to conceive.

I’m pleased I was able to talk about the storyline of INCONCEIVABLE, my own journey through infertility, and the importance of support groups. I’m planning to do a few more media appearances. What other topics would you like to hear me discuss?

 

Infertility and Why Community Matters

I’m glad to see more celebrities and other newsmakers talking about their struggles with infertility. I also want to give a shout out to all the people across the country who organize and lead local infertility and pregnancy loss support groups. When we were in the throes of trying (and failing) to conceive, there wasn’t a formal group in our area, and I felt its absence. I longed to connect with other women who knew firsthand the monthly ups and downs of the process, gals who shared my obsession with at-home pregnancy tests, and ladies who understood the shame and guilt I felt because my body wasn’t doing what it was supposed to do. I came to understand why community is so important for people struggling with this medical challenge.

unimpressed11. You need understanding, not crappy advice.

Ever shared your infertility journey with someone who just didn’t get it? Sure, they might try to comfort you with some sage advice like, “Stop trying so hard!” or “Go adopt a baby from Africa. Then you’ll get pregnant!”

What you really need are co-conspirators who can help you survive the two week wait or can tell you which filters make even the faintest positive lines on a pregnancy test show up. Online communities are a great place for these kinds of relationships. These message boards are full of women who are in the same boat as you, and would send their old pee sticks by the truckloads to anyone who suggests relaxation is the key to overcoming infertility.

2. You need mentors.

It helps to connect with people who are farther along on their journey. They have valuable advice that they’ve gleaned from their experiences. For example, it helps to hear when others have decided to move from trying in utero insemination to in vitro fertilization. If your doctor suggests a course of treatment that sounds new to you, ask your infertility support group if they know anything about it. Of course, you should always feel comfortable asking your doctor medical questions…but sometimes, it’s helpful to also draw on the collective wisdom of the BTDT ladies. (That’s Been There Done That for all your fertiles out there.)

popcorn woman3. You need permission to treat yourself right.

Sometimes, you need an ugly cry because you just found out your ovaries didn’t produce enough eggs for your upcoming IVF cycle. Sometimes, you need to go see a mindless action movie and gorge on popcorn. Sometimes, you just need to rant and rage against the world because it’s not fair that you can’t conceive but the neighbor’s cousin’s dentist’s assistant just got pregnant after a one-night stand. Being in a support group with other people who are going through infertility allows you to understand that there are many appropriate and healthy ways to cope with your emotions.

In what ways has being in community with other people experiencing infertility helped you?

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