niaw: listen up.

 

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April 23-29 marks an important week in the infertility world, as it is National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW). I know there’s a lot of months and weeks out there for so many great causes, and this one is near and dear to my heart, as it’s a wonderful time for people to start talking, begin uniting, work towards educating others about what infertility is, all it entails, and who it effects. I am a blessed one – as our story has been public for many years and we have an amazing community around us following along, asking great questions, listening when we need it, and walking through the highs and lows with us.

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Let’s get real about infertility for a minute: Infertility affects 1 in 8 couples. Now, we throw numbers and stats out a lot in today’s society that they can begin to lose their power. But think about it. If you are sitting in a room with 16 of your girlfriends, there are 2 of them who are likely personally affected by infertility or secondary infertility. This reality doesn’t care what job you have, how much you want to be a parent, your income, race, or social status. It breaks the hearts of all parties involved and leaves many left wondering why me? Why can everyone else around me have 1, 2, 3, 4 kids and we can’t? Infertility may be woven into female diagnosis, male factors, or simply unknown reasons. It weaves in emotions like fear, shame, confusion, depression, heartache, physical and emotion ailments, jealously, brokenness, sorrow, anger, and immense grief.

When you are struggling with infertility, it isn’t a part-time battle. It wrecks your world, day in and day out. You are constantly caught off guard with triggers, whether it’s observing a mother and child at the store, watching tv and catching a precious, but heartbreaking Pampers commercial, passing a pregnant women in the parking lot, or receiving (yet another) baby shower invitation. Some couples choose to share their stories and other couples keep their battles private, suffering silently and feeling the immense need to constantly put on the “happy face”.

Now back to NIAW. RESOLVE is the association that manages this week ahead and the theme this year is “Listen Up”. (You can read all about their intentions for the theme in this link.) When I first heard the theme though, my mind didn’t jump to the need for legislature to listen up (although that is important). It didn’t jump to the idea that insurance companies or fertility specialists need to listen up, although again, important factors. My brain immediately recognized the importance of those around us – our intimate community – needing to listen up.

In a battle as tough as infertility, it is critical that we have the support of those around us – those who support us and those who are struggling themselves. Isolation will create only that, feelings of being alone. And with a statistic as staggering as 15% of couples struggling, you are anything but alone.

If you are reading this today as someone who has never been touched by the struggles of infertility personally, thank you for taking the time to increase your knowledge. As you go through life, it’s inevitable that you will cross paths with someone who is struggling with infertility and your desire to build your awareness is critical. Be willing to listen to them. Don’t force them to talk, but don’t minimize their emotions and feelings if they do choose to share. Do not use your time to offer advice. Telling someone that this is part of God’s plan, or that they need to relax and take a vacation, or that if they tried this herb/supplement/doctor/exercise/adoption agency, is NOT helpful. What this does is cause them to feel more blame, like they have caused their infertility, or are being punished for something, and despite your best intentions to offer them hope, will push them back into desiring to put up a wall and stop talking. JUST LISTEN.  Validate how hard this must be. Be interested, not uncomfortable, with what they have to say. Check in on them. Ask what you can do to help. Pray for them. Without your willingness to enter into the mess with us, we feel abandoned by those we care about.

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If you are reading this today and are newly diagnosed with infertility or are quietly struggling without sharing your story with anyone, know how truly sorry I am for you. Your heart is breaking and I wish there was something I could do to make it easier. Take the time you need to grieve. It’s okay to be scared and unsure of what’s ahead. Find a good doctor and be open with them. Sadly 91% of couples struggling with infertility wish they would have talked to a doctor sooner. Don’t be afraid to reach out – it’s your doctor’s job to listen and help. I encourage you to find someone to talk to – in real life or through social media (like instagram – it’s the best community out there!).  It’s a painful journey and without someone that can process with you and listen, the suffering will become unbearably heavy. I wish I could come wrap you in a blanket, offer you a cup of tea, sit across from you on a cozy couch and just listen. You deserve the right to share your emotions without judgment or opinions.

And lastly, to those of you who are public, who share your story loudly and ensure that others know about infertility, thank you. Thank you for advocating and being the voice of many. Thank you for bravely sharing your story. Thank you for putting yourself out there and opening yourself up to stupid comments, statements and stories. Don’t give up hope – keep up the good work! Because of people like you, there are others listening in who may not have otherwise. You matter and you are valuable no matter what your family looks like. Take care of yourself, offer yourself grace, and don’t allow yourself to become defined by your diagnosis. Try not to personalize the well intended “help” someone offers. Use it as a chance to help them hear what you are trying to say.

If you are reading this today, I challenge you to take a moment to pray for someone you know who is struggling. Perhaps there is no one that you know – in which case, can I offer up some of my friends to you to be prayed for? There are so many, but this week my heart is praying for C, E, J, C, C, K, S, J, K, C, N, G, A, and A. Pick a letter – God knows who they are, and pray for them. Each letter represents a couple still struggling, big time, with infertility and bringing a little one into their family. Your prayers matter. Pray for a healthy pregnancy to come their way, pray for healing of their bodies from diagnosis’s and illnesses, pray for wisdom for them as they navigate their treatment options, pray for peace to flood their hearts, pray for their spirits and their joy to be refilled, pray for their faith to be strengthened, pray for their marriage to withhold the stress of this struggle, pray for the medical team working with them and pray for those in their life that support them.

Ironically this year, Josh and I are celebrating NIAW with new lives coming into our family in the next 5-6 weeks, yet the reality remains that because of my diagnosis of PCOS, we will always be a part of the 1 in 8. My heart lies closely with those who are in this “club” with us and yet still, we know a number will never define us. We are not alone in the fight that we face, or the celebrations we have ahead. We are grateful for our Lord who stands with us in it all and fights for us, and for the most amazing community around us who have gone through so many ups and downs with us. You all make the difference, you matter, and you are a gift.

 

5 things you want to tell your fertile friend.

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Ever been there? That place, that moment, when you look around the room and realize you are the only person without kids? The conversation drifts in and out as you refresh your thinking “was up all night with johnny .. so tired .. love when they snuggle all morning … watched too much tv yesterday with them … need a night out … love them more than I knew was possible … love the boppy, although I would recommend … ” You catch snippets of conversation, knowing that you have nothing to offer and for just a moment, you want to weigh in and let your friends know these 5 things …

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Thanks for clicking to continue reading and supporting my writing at Fertility Authority! Please feel free to share this post as much as you can within the next month – your views matter! And I’d love to have you weigh in and share what you wish you could tell your friends with kids – comment there or here!

Also, it’s not too late to enter the giveaway for your chance to win a copy of  Where Have All the Storks Gone? A His and Hers Guide to Infertility by Michelle and Chris Miller or a fertility pack with a TTC Boost Bundle for Her and a BFP Test Strip Little Bundle. Read the previous post to enter or Click Here: a Rafflecopter giveaway.

See you Friday to announce the giveaway winners and share some Friday Favorites!

Q & A part 1

I am so excited to launch this Question and Answers series this month, which will be combined with questions you have sent in and featuring some fun giveaways too! (2 packages today, more to come!) Thanks to everyone who submitted a question – if you don’t see your question answered in this post, know that there will be 3 parts so yours will make its way to being answered. Also, if you didn’t get a chance to send in your question, it’s not too late! Check out the Contact page for the best way to connect or leave a question in the comments below.

Here we go!

Q: Do you have any fiction book recommendations that you enjoyed that touch on infertility in some way?

A: I know many of you went out and read What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty and have shared that you loved it! I’m so glad! I have three other books that stand out as a good read with infertility story lines. The first is The Baby Trail by Sinead Moriarty. It is written by a British author and I found it to be hilarious. There are 2 follow up books to this book character and I liked all of them. But this first one is especially relatable to many and I found myself laughing out loud and feeling incredibly understood at the same time. The other book is Barefoot by Elin Hildebrand. While the infertility story line isn’t the predominate feature, it does touch on the emotions and uses language many of us would be familiar with. The third and last one is The Things We Do For Love by Kristin Hannah. I loved this one too. All three of these are non-Christian books so there are mild/moderate adult language and elements, but nothing I wouldn’t allow my Grandma Jones to read. (Hi Grandma Jones!)

Q: What about non-fiction books? Anything that touches on infertility that’s great?

A: YES! So many I love. The first is Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist. If you have read my blog for any period of time and haven’t gotten this yet, please do! Her personal essays touch on miscarriage and struggles to conceive in a Godly way (however is not the focus of the book) and this is one of my favorite books of encouragement, relate-ability and hope. (UPDATE: And today only, the e-book is 0.99 on Amazon and Barnes and Nobles!)

The second is a book I recently read called Where Have All the Storks Gone? A His and Hers Guide to Infertility by Michelle and Chris Miller. This book is a funny, touching read, written from both her perspective and his. Her point of view talks a lot about the first steps you take when you learn you are fertility challenged, a great list of questions to bring to your OB/RE, some great advice on how to ignore the comments you wish people didn’t say and what you can expect with medicated cycles and IVF. Michelle does a GREAT job with this! And then the “his” perspective – Chris talks openly and candidly about things like preparing for the changes to the “just having sex” lifestyle, learning how to read semen analysis results, the lessons he has learned as a husband throughout the journey and touching on how he keeps his sanity and stays married through it all. I am SO glad I got to read this book – it was a lot of “you too!?”. It’s funny and touching and I will go ahead and let you know, has a great ending. In fact, I like this book so much that the publisher and I are hosting a GIVEAWAY for you to win a chance to get this book for free! Yeah! Enter below – the contest will end this Friday and the winner will be announced with Friday Favorites. Be sure to enter! (If you don’t win, I would still highly suggest grabbing this book. You can find all the ordering details on their website – www.wherehaveallthestorksgone.com) (This too is written from a secular perspective but is very tasteful!)

The third book is Every Drunken Cheerleader – Why Not Me? By Kristine Ireland Waits. This book is HILARIOUS. It’s written by a Christian author and I am so encouraged and touched by this challenging book. It’s written so that you can relate to it if you are struggling with infertility but also is an amazing resource for those who are supporting someone who is struggling with infertility. There’s an entire chapter (or two) that answers the questions they have like How can I help? What should I do? What shouldn’t I do? When and what should I ask about? How can I best support my friend during this? If I could give a copy to everyone I know, I would. This book is fabulous.

I have many other book suggestions listed under my Reading Resources page so check those out too!

Q: What helps you get though the 2 week wait? Are there any fun activities that help you get your mind off of things?

A: Let me just start by saying 2 week waits (2WW) suck. Never in my life have I known 14 days to take so painfully long. That being said, somehow they do pass. During this time I like to pretend like it’s not happening, while also recording every detail of every day. Makes sense right? I briefly write in my journal each day and this actually has helped keep me sane when reflecting back and reading other 2WW entries. I realize I am crazy EVERY 2WW which somehow brings comfort that this wait isn’t extra special. But anyways, to pass the days, I love to pack my days full of distractions. Coffees with friends (decaf of course!), trips to local and free museums or zoo’s, movie nights, girls days, mall walking (but no buying anything! Never clothes shop under the effects of progesterone.), painting my nails, and doing some gentle yoga (or swimming if you have that option). Things I DON’T suggest you do – Google. STAY OFF OF FORUMS, CHAT ROOMS, AND 2WW symptom websites. I repeat, DO. NOT. DO. THIS. You will drive yourself batty and set yourself up for waves of pointless emotions because you can’t truly count yourself out of this cycle at 3dpo (3 days past ovulation) simply because your left boob doesn’t hurt as much as your right. And don’t start taking tests at 5dpo. They will never show up as positive and you will waste pointless tears. My friend Lisa once told me “I would rather be hopeful and positive and convinced I am pregnant for 13 days and utterly devastated on day 14 if I am not, then spend 14 days in nervous, scared anticipation of failure.” I love that and live by that each 2WW now. Embrace the time you have, even if it doesn’t end the way you have hoped.

But my best advice is to stay busy. I have goals to make a 2WW bucket list for my next wait – it will keep me busy and distracted! What about you? What do you like to do to keep yourself busy during the 2WW?

Q: Are there any pills or supplements you have tried that have worked well or that you would recommend?

A: This is a loaded question! I know SO many people have differing opinions on this so I will keep this brief and allow you to do your own research as well, but here’s what I would loosely recommend*: CoQ10 for egg quality (stop taking this once you get your BFP), Vitamin D (studies showing it increases your fertility), Folic Acid/Prenatal vitamin, and Melatonin (said to play a role in hormone secretion and improve egg quality). Now there are always other supplements that others use and try that are still scientifically unknown if it helps increase fertility, but certainly have positive outcomes and stories! Fairhaven Health is an online source for many of these products and I am excited to try some of the products they sent me recently, like their brand of CoQ10, FertilAid (used to enhance fertility and support overall reproductive health) and FertiliTea. I have heard so much about this tea for preconception and am excited to give it a try! I will keep you all up to date with my thoughts but so far, I am impressed!

That being said, it isn’t fair for me to get stuff and not you! So I am teaming up with Fairhaven Health to offer one lucky winner a GIVEAWAY package of two if their most popular products – valued at nearly $100! The TTC Boost Bundle for Her includes FertilAid for Women, OvaBoost, and FertileCM to encourage hormonal balance, cycle regularity, and to promote fertile-quality cervical mucus and the BFP Test Strip Little Bundle is designed to provide you with the ovulation and pregnancy tests, consisting of 15 BFP Ovulation Test Strips and 5 early detection BFP Pregnancy Test Strips. I can’t wait for someone to give this all a try! Thank you to Fairhaven Health for your generous donations – ladies, check them out and enter for this giveaway below! This giveaway will end on Friday as well and the winner will be announced with the Friday Favorites.


Well that’s it! I have managed to tackle 4 questions and I am excited for the next post in this series, hitting questions like How do you ethically handle embryo creation during IVF? and Where do you suggest finding support on this journey? Can’t wait to answer!

Okay without further ado, here’s how you can enter to win the book and the awesome Fertility package! You will enter using Rafflecopter and it’s super easy – just provide an email so that I can contact you if you win for a mailing address. You can earn more points if you follow me on Instagram, share this giveaway using social media, subscribe to my blog, or leave a comment but regardless, everyone still earns 5 free entries! Can’t wait to share these products with you!

Click Here: a Rafflecopter giveaway

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* The opinions shared on my blog are based on my own thoughts, experience and knowledge gained throughout this journey. I am not a doctor or health professional so please consult your own doctor before making any changes to your health or TTC plan. It’s important for you to advocate for yourself and make your own decisions based on your health care providers plan.