21 Words…

I am often asked what infertility feels like.  It is clearly a hard thing to explain, especially to those who have never had to go through it.  I had some time to reflect on how infertility feels or how it has made me feel in the past 2 years.  I came up with 21 words that have described my journey.  I’m sure as the days press on, I could come up with many more.  However, these are the words that came to mind as I reflected upon infertility and how I can best describe it to someone who may be wondering…

  1. Lonely.  Never in my life have I ever felt so lonely.  Infertility has really isolated me. Not only has it isolated me because so few understand this journey unless they’ve walked a similar path, but it has isolated me because it’s hard to be around those people who simply do not understand.  When people do not understand there is such a lack of empathy, there is lack of filters in what is said, and they are then the wrong kind of support needed.  Infertility is an invisible illness which makes it an even more lonelier ordeal to go through.  Others can’t visibly see it, therefore, it is oftentimes swept under the rug and ignored even if I have been open about it to the person who is not acknowledging it.  
  2. Misunderstood.  Both primary and secondary infertility are misunderstood.  I think Secondary infertility is even more misunderstood because I already have one child. People often assume because it came easily without the assistance of medications and/or science that it should be just as easy the second time around.  I have often heard advice such as “just relax and it will happen,” “you stress too much,” and “why don’t you just adopt,” etc.  I have also been told that it would be easy if I just found a surrogate, which always upsets me because being able to carry a child is not our issue as to why we can’t get pregnant.  Others also often assume that I am selfish for wanting another one when I already have one child and have said to me that I need to be grateful for the one I have or have even gone as far as jokingly offering up their own children to me (which is not funny to a person going through infertility by the way).
  3. Deprived.  Oftentimes I feel like my life is lacking what I so badly desire and it isn’t fair at all.  Not only do I feel like my husband and I are being robbed of being able to expand our family, but we are depriving our daughter of a sibling relationship.  
  4. Frustrating.  This whole journey has been nothing but annoying and making me feel so impatient because we are being prevented from achieving something we desire and want so incredibly much .  It is also hard because it’s been nothing but a roller coaster ride.  It seems for every step we take forward we only take two steps back with many bumps in between.
  5. Exhausting.  We are going on 29 months of trying for baby #2.  This has left me tired, worn out, and with little energy.  When you do everything under the moon to try and get pregnant and it hasn’t worked after this length of time it just really starts to take its toll on you.
  6. Scary.  It is such a frightening thought that we will never be able to have another baby…that we will never be able to give E a sibling.  When being a mother to more then 1 child is all I have ever wanted, and knowing it may never happen it just terrifies me.  All the unknowns along the way in this journey can be so shocking too. 
  7. Lost.  Time is ticking and we only get so many chances at this.  What do you do when 4 major attempts at making a baby have already failed?  I just feel lost.  It is so hard knowing what to do next when there is so much at stake.  Everything just involves such big risks.  When I know being a mother and having a family is what I am meant to do and it isn’t happening where am I supposed to go from here?
  8. Depressing.  This journey of infertility has made me very sad, unhappy and extremely disappointed.  It’s so hard to move forward when all you want is so hard to obtain.  The days feel so incredibly long and the nights short.  Some days feel like I’m drowning in my own tears.
  9. All-Consuming.  Even when you try not to think about infertility it easily finds its ways to creep back into your every second of every single day.  There are triggers everywhere, even when you try to avoid them.  It’s so hard to think about something else when this something is so important it is all you can think about every waking moment.
  10. Overwhelming.  I feel like this journey has given me such strong emotions that I can’t think or even behave normally.  Not only are the emotions strong but everything that comes with infertility can just be too much to bear at times.  There are also all the things to remember, appointments, medications, things to do and not do, timing of intercourse, etc.
  11. Controlled. When you are doing everything you can to make a baby your life feels dictated by calendars and procedures.  Nothing is spontaneous and sex feels like a chore.  
  12. Heartbroken.  Nothing about my journey with infertility has been easy.  It feels like a series of months where I feel extreme sadness, feeling upset, and feeling great loss.
  13. Stressed.  It’s no doubt that infertility has left me feeling constantly worried, anxious/nervous to the point that relaxing has almost become non-existent.  There are so many elements to stress when dealing with infertility it can be hard to explain to others or make others understand the true depth of it.
  14. Stand-still.  It is so incredibly hard to see people having second and third children while I am at a stand still and it is so out of my control.  My life feels like it’s standing still while others are moving forward.  
  15. Grief-filled.  Infertility has left me with intense feelings of sadness, more so, it leaves me grieving the loss of a child I have never even met yet.  Each month that my period comes, it is a constant reminder of what isn’t happening for us.  This creates me to deal with the stages of grief month after month after month.
  16. Bitter.  Infertility is unfair.  It’s been a horrible path to be on and it has left me very upset that something that should happen so naturally, just isn’t.  The pain that this has caused me runs deep. 
  17. Emotional.  This whole journey has left me with some pretty heavy feelings.  It’s an up and down roller coaster ride and you experience some intense highs and some pretty intense lows a long the way.  Some days are much easier then others in this, but there have been so many more hard days then easy ones.
  18. Determined.  Although we have seen our fair share of disappointment along the way, I feel like I would do anything at this point to make my dream of having a biological child a reality.  I’m to the point where I don’t want to let anything get in the way of trying.  Not money.  Not other people. Not anything.  If we don’t try to do everything we possibly can, I know I would live with deep regret. 
  19. Invaded.  When you go through infertility and start treatments you feel like all privacy is lost.  What was once such a huge intimate part of your self and together with your partner is now open to what feels the public.  This makes me so sad in a way because it is something that I will never get back.
  20. Eye-opener.  If it’s one thing I am thankful for in going through infertility it is the many things it has opened my eyes to. I could honestly write a book on all that I have learned. I am surely not the same person I was at the beginning of this journey and I only hope I can come out a much stronger, educated, and better version of myself.  This situation has showed me so many things and I have learned so much about myself and about infertility/pregnancy along the way.  It has taught me to be more understanding, empathetic to others, and has taught me what to say and what not to say to someone dealing with infertility.  I am forever grateful of the life lessons I have learned along the way in this.
  21. Hopeful.  Although the disappointments have been many, I remain hopeful that our journey will end in the way it is intended to.  Hope, although it can be a double edged sword (meaning hope leads to expectations, and then the feeling of being crushed when those expectations are not met) has always been an anchor to my soul helping me to keep taking deep breaths and putting one foot in front of the other in this long-long journey.

If you have gone through or are currently going through infertility what would you add to this list?

Book Reflection

We all cope with life’s struggles differently.  One thing I am finding out about myself through my struggle is that I desperately need other people to relate to who are going through similar struggles as mine.  By doing so, this has helped me tremendously.  It allows me to continue putting one foot in front of the other each day, helps me realize I am not alone in this and teaches me to lean on those I can trust and who are my support system though this.  Another thing that has been aiding in helping me cope is reading books on topics related to my struggle.  I recently came across the book, Hannah’s Hope,  by Jennifer Saake.  In reading her book, I found her words to be therapeutic and offered me huge validation to the pain I have been dealing with in regards to my own infertility.  Not only did her book point out versus in the bible to go to for comfort, but she offered other tools to help cope during this journey.  She has such wisdom that is both humble and loving.  I would highly recommend this book to anyone dealing with infertility, child loss/miscarriage, and/or adoption or anyone who just needs insight on any of these topics.

In reading this book, much of what the author wrote and some of the bible versus really stuck out to me.  I took note of the things that touched my heart and I wanted to share them with you.  The first bible verse that stuck out to me was Proverbs 13:12 , “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.”  It’s amazing how much in my struggle I have hung on to hope.  Hope is what keeps us going and what keeps us to keep on trying when something has failed.  However, each time our hopes of conceiving has failed us, our hope was again delayed.  I always say that hope is like a double edged sword because it also leads to expectations of an outcome.  When your expectations are not met, you are just continuously disappointed.  After a while, disappointment can take it’s toll on you.  However, hope has always found a way to creep back into my heart and makes me want to try again…and again…and again.  Although my tree of life hasn’t been completely fulfilled quite yet, I still have hope that is someday will.  If my dream of another child doesn’t come true, I hope that I can find whatever it is I am supposed to do in life that will give me the fulfilled tree of life I am so badly longing for.

What I am longing for is to expand my family, to have another beautiful child with my husband and see him be a wonderful father again, to be able to experience a child growing inside me, birth that child, and live to nurture and raise that child as his/her mother, and to give my only daughter a life long friend, a sibling.  It is with those thoughts that I wonder why God is putting this trial in my life and in all honestly question why this is happening in our lives.  It just really makes no sense.  When I read this quote from the book, Jennifer Saake gave me something else to ponder when she said, “To look at my current circumstances and accuse God of making a mistake would be like trying to see a finished picture in a single piece of a complex puzzle.  The blurs of color are senseless on their own, but when my piece is placed with all the rest, the entire beautiful masterpiece is pulled together.  God sees the big picture from beginning to end.  I can only see my little piece right now.   This insight gave me such comfort because I know what I don’t understand now and what I think is unfair, truly is the way God intended it to be.  He’s working on me even when I don’t think He is.  To have faith in Him and to believe in this makes me feel like everything is going to be ok.  My struggles will one day make sense and I do believe that God is giving us this trial to bring us closer to Him and to teach us something.  I am not sure what that something is yet, but I look at what I have learned already and what this trial has brought to my life in the midst of the heartache and there is truly much to be thankful for in all that it has made me realize and truly not take for granted.

Although, I’ve had a lot of realizations and life lessons through this struggle there has also been so much heartache and hurt.  Month after month when I get my period and it’s another reminder that we didn’t conceive, is another month of grief.    Jennifer Saake explains it this way,“Your fertility challenges hurt this much because you already have a mother’s heart, and are grieving for your children.” I just think about all the time that feels like such a loss to me and it’s true, and in my case, I’m grieving over my child that I haven’t even met, but has been living inside my heart for so long.

When you are grieving, it can be hard to make logical decisions and your emotions can be all over the place.  The heart wants what the heart wants and there will always be triggers.  Another thing I took note of that Jennifer Saake wrote was this, “Significant dates and events such as holidays are the landmarks that perhaps best capture the chronic nature of this grief.  It is one thing to realize “it’s been a while” since you last started trying to have a baby.  It is another to think of all the birthday’s, Christmases, and Mother’s and Father’s Days that are passing by.”  While it seems like everyone else is able to move forward with their life, since dealing with infertility, my life just seems to be at a standstill.  This is especially hard when the significant dates Jennifer Saake was talking about in her book creep up.  In particular, Christmas and New Year’s was particularly rough for me this year.  I couldn’t quite pin point my exact grief in these dates but boy, did I feel it.  I almost couldn’t speak to anyone and I felt like I was going to cry if I even talked.  I don’t know what it was, maybe it was just the reminder that almost 4 short years ago we were announcing we were pregnant with E on Christmas or hanging E’s “first Christmas” ornaments on our tree or the fact that another year was creeping in and it was the 2nd year in a row we did not become pregnant.  Whatever it was, I assume it wasn’t just one thing, but many things that triggered my grief.  It’s hard.  It’s oh so hard.  Among the grief I felt, there was still some laughter but as Proverbs 14:13 says, “Even in laughter the heart may ache.”

Yet another challenge I face in the midst of infertility is maintaining the unity of my marriage.  This was another thing talked about in this book and described as one of the biggest hardships we combat with in our trial with infertility.  As if secondary infertility isn’t hard in and of itself.  I am amazed at the web of other difficulties it creates.  It has been hands down the most challenging part of my marriage thus far and has no doubt taken its toll on our marriage.  As Jennifer Saake writes, “Part of the panic comes from lack of assurance that you are still together in this darkness.”  Although my husband and I are in this together, we have had rough patches here and there too.  Lots of them.  Sometimes you just feel like you are not on the same page and when that feeling strikes you just feel down right alone in the process.  It’s important to keep up communication and lovingly give each other support.  If you are unsure of what support your partner needs, I find it easiest to just simply ask.  No decision in this is easy either and it is so incredibly important to make them together.  You may come to your own conclusions about a decision you would like to make, but never make that decision alone.  Ultimately, it’s so important to learn to agree to disagree, and come to an agreement of sorts in making a decision.  I also find listening to that little voice in my head or heart (which ever voice you hear), also called intuition or maybe you may see it as God giving you a sign-whatever you believe, listen to it.  It is there for a reason.  “Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction…whether you turn to the right or turn to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, “This is the way; walk in it”.” -Isaiah 30:20-21

Although my belief in God plays a major roll in my struggle and my decisions I totally related to Jennifer Saake when she says this in her book, “While I gave my all in the pursuit of parenthood, methods always seemed to fall short.  God had the final say and I felt like a puppet on a string, at his mercy, performing without a script.”  There is no instruction manual to secondary infertility and no matter what you want and how much you pray or how much to talk to God it may not go the way you want it to go.  I’ve learned this the hard way man times.  In those moments I continue to pray and ask for guidance and know I am doing the best I can hopefully walking in the direction God is calling me to walk in.

Nothing in this is really in my control and again, before I was deep into my struggle with infertility, I thought it was easy as having sex during my fertile window and boom I would easily get pregnant.  I look back at my old self and think, “Girl you were naive and foolish, if only you knew then all that you know now”.  However, I was taught to think in this way.  I truly wish sex education was different and people truly educated the young generation what it really takes to make a baby.  It’s just sad because I may have realized the other truth earlier on and maybe prepared my expectations of making a baby by what Jennifer Saake writes, “Society teaches us that reproduction is ours to control.  Shock and sorrow accompany the discovery that we can not always plan parenthood.  Infertility is prolonged grief with few defined points of closure.  Anguish is caused by the death of dreams, not always by the death of an individual.”  This it truly the truth, right down to the last word.  I’m living it and breathing it as we speak.  I can relate when Jennifer Saake also says, “…you pray people won’t judge you while your heart sits shattered at your feet.”

Grief is a long process to overcome and many don’t even want to acknowledge that.  Many expect you to just get over it, especially because there is no visible proof of what you are grieving over and I agree with Jennifer Saake when she shared this in  her book, “Above all we need time.  We continue to hold on to hope and take active steps to bring additional children into our lives.  The thoughts and process consume more then anyone knows.  Yet we may or may not choose to discuss our pursuit.  The pressure of achieving success is increased with each person we engage on the topic.  We need more time to heal, to feel normal, to discover what God’s plan is for us.  Asking for time from friends and family may  be  a self centered thing, but it’s what we need.  Don’t take our quietude, seclusion, or self centered set of expectations personally.”  This is why earlier I said it is so important to find those set of people you trust and can relate to with your struggle.  These people will be the beacon of support you need that will ultimately help you cope and help get you through this troublesome time in your life.  A time that someone who has never walked a day in your shoes can so easily try to brush off or not want to try to even acknowledge or bring up to you.  For me, grief has not been something that goes away.  It occurs month after month after month of not conceiving.  You may not see it, but I feel the effects ten fold.  I shouldn’t have to ignore my grief and will more then likely  need your support.

Support is huge in being able to get through day to day in this.  This is especially true because of the hard decisions that need to be made along the way.  You don’t know how many times I have prayed for God to just tell me if this dream of mine will come true.  Do you know how much easier this process would be if I just knew what my future held?  I was surprised to see that I am not the only one who is alone in this as Jennifer Saake expressed in  her book, “I often wished I could see enough of God’s plan at least to know if the battle was worth such grief.  If only God would tell me, “yes, someday  you will have a baby”, or even, “No, my plans for you do not include a child”, then I would either been able to rest in the peace of knowing or grieve my losses and move on”.    You wouldn’t believe how much I can relate to that last quote from her book.  I’ve always felt that moving on from this would be hard if I didn’t at the end of this, have the desired outcome.  It would be so much easier to know which way to go with this.  I can only just keep listening to my heart and following that little voice I keep hearing and do what my husband and I think is right and the next step.  I will never know otherwise!  My main goal in this is to not live with regret and know we did our all to make our dream a reality no matter the outcome.

I do know that with whatever outcome we end up with in this struggle, seeing my baby grow has been both filling me with happiness and sadness.  Jennifer Saake explains this feeling perfectly in her book, “As my baby grew up before my eyes, great joy was mixed with the grief of thinking this would be my “only chance” and wishing to savor every fleeting moment.  The longing for another baby intensified with each passed milestone, and yet the desires were tempered with guilt that I shouldn’t want more after receiving such a blessing, when so many remained without a child at all.”  E is and will forever be our biggest blessing.  I don’t ever want others to perceive my wants for another child as greed.  I can only explain it as my heart wants what it wants.  I want another child.  Just as some just know their family is complete, I know mine is not.

Jennifer Saake shared a poem by Russell Kelfer, called “Wait”.  I have always loved and have been touched by poetry and I am going to be adding this to my list of favorites.  Just as she shared with me in her book, I wanted to share with you.

“Wait” a Poem by Russell Kelfer

Wait

Desperately, helplessly, longingly, I cried.
Quietly, patiently, lovingly, He replied.
I pleaded, and I wept for a clue to my fate,
And the Master so gently said, “Child, you must wait.”
 
“Wait? Your say wait??” my indignant reply.
“Lord, I need answers, I need to know why.
Is your hand shortened?  Or have you not heard?
By faith I have asked, and I’m claiming your Word.
 
“My future, and all to which I can relate
Hangs in the balance, and you tell me ‘wait’?
I’m needing a ‘yes’, a go-ahead sign,
Or even a ‘no’, to which I can resign.
 
“And Lord, you have promised that if we believe, 
We need but ask, and we shall receive.
And Lord I’ve been asking, and this is my cry:
“I’m weary of asking: I need a reply!”
 
Then quietly, softly, I learned of my fate
As my Master replied once again, “You must wait.”
So I slumped in my chair; defeated and taut
And grumbled to God; “So I’m waiting, for what?”
 
He seemed then to kneel and His eyes met with mine
And He tenderly said, “I could give you a sign.
I could shake the heavens, darken the sun,
Raise the dead, cause the mountains to run.
 
“All you see I could give, and pleased you would be.
You would have what you want, but you wouldn’t know Me.
You’d not know the depth of My love for each saint;
You’d not know the power that I give to the faint.
 
“You’d not learn to see through clouds of despair;
You’d not learn to trust, just by knowing I’m there.
You’d not know the joy of resting in Me,
When darkness and silence was all you could see.
 
“You would never experience that fullness of love
As the peace of My Spirit descends like a dove.
You would know that I give, and I save, for a start,
But you’d not know the depth of the beat of My heart.
 
“The glow of My comfort late in the night;
The faith that I give when you walk without sight;
The depth that’s beyond getting just what you ask
From an infinite God who makes what you have last.
 
“And you never would know, should your pain quickly flee,
What it means that ‘My grace is sufficient for thee.’
Yes, your dreams for that loved one o’ernight could come true,
But the loss! if you lost what I’m doing in you!
 
“So be silent, my child, and in time you will see
That the greatest of gifts is to get to know Me.
And though oft’ may My answers seem terribly late, 
My most precious answer of all….is still…wait.” 
 
–“Wait” by Russell Kelfer taken from Hannah’s Hope by Jennifer Saake pages 177-178 Copyright 2005

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be bold, Be Brave, Be free.

One topic of conversation started on my online Secondary Infertility group was focused on if any of us have shared our struggles with infertility on a social media network to people other then close family and/or friends. I find this to be an important discussion because  Secondary infertility is truly made out to be, by society, a taboo topic. It is also a very private topic for some, so I can truly understand those people who choose not to talk about it openly. In all honesty, it took me quite a while to be bold and share my struggles with this. Whether you share your journey with Secondary Infertility or not, it is really a personal choice.  No one says sharing such a personal matter is mandatory,  however, individuals should never be made out to feel that they can’t share their journey with others.  Unfortunately, this is the case for many people who struggle with this.

Therefore, I was deeply saddened by the amount of people in my group who responded with answers such as, “It scares the crap out of me”, “No, for the fear of being judged”, “I haven’t, but I wish I was brave enough to”, “Part of the reason why I keep my infertility quiet is because it’s such a taboo subject that is to be kept quiet”, “I’ve lost friends from being honest”, “I tried to, but the responses were, why would you want another when you have x,y,z”, “I’d rather suffer privately, as the important people know”, and “My infertility is too painful to post about”.  These responses saddened me not only because this is how these people are feeling, but because they wouldn’t have to feel scared or feel fear of sharing if society was more open, educated, and empathetic as a whole about talking about the topic of Secondary Infertility.  Women, men (couples) should not feel ashamed, embarrassed, or like they have to hide behind this health issue.  Shame on our society for making this a taboo subject nationwide, especially when society puts such an emphasis on the importance of mental health-depression, being one of the biggest side effects of secondary infertility.  It’s when we talk about important and such huge issues such as this, and come together as a society to make people feel comfortable we begin to help lift the burdens of this struggle, we learn about another human beings hardships and in turn are able to give another human a little empathy and compassion and less judgement.  It also allows us to work together to find answers to help them cope.

On the opposing end of this, I was delighted to hear that there were some very bold and courageous people in my group who did openly share about Secondary Infertility.  Although those who did openly share, a few had some obvious hesitation initially doing so.  I am proud of these women for stepping up and sharing because you help to encourage others to do the same and you also help many going through similar hardships to feel less alone.  Kudos to you!  There should be absolutely no shame in that.  I first wanted to share my full response to this question that I shared with my group.  I said, ” I have {shared openly on social media}.   I find although it takes a lot of courage to share and be open about my struggles, it’s somewhat therapeutic to do so and it gives me a voice on something I am very passionate about. Of course, when you begin to open up you take that risk to be subject to other’s comments and insensitivity as well as their ignorance {and lots of judgments} and you truly have to be ready for anything-for some people this could break you when you are already in such a fragile state of mind. I am in a place where I feel strong enough to deal with anything-and in a sense the more people comment to what I have to share, the more I become open to shed light on my situation and to be a voice and to even educate from my own experiences. I share on Facebook openly and I also have a blog that I have openly shared. I am a firm believer that nothing will change in the infertility world unless we are our own advocates, so I was beyond ready to share. It was also my mission in sharing my journey with others-to hopefully help others, as well as make another person feel less alone perhaps.”  Other people who said they openly shared made comments such as, “I have only shared a little on Facebook”, By sharing, I’ve gained a lot of new friends who understand my struggles, so for me it was worth it”, “I was nervous at first but it was a weight lifted off our shoulders and in doing we opened the door to have others, some even close friends, feel comfortable enough to confide that they were also struggling with infertility. We went from feeling completely alone in this battle to gaining a huge network of support. People have been absolutely fabulous to us”, “I did this a little while ago because I felt I needed to vent and have people understand what I was going through. I feel better for getting it all out in the open”, ” I have shared a variety of times. It helps me not feel stressed or sad to talk about it. I’ve had positive comments and I figure if they don’t want to hear it they can ignore it or quit following me. It helps me to share things occasionally”, “I have received a lot of positive support this way and have also received a lot of thanks from other ladies that were suffering alone but have since shared their stories as well”.   It is my hope that one day those who want to share, but feel like they can’t due to being scared, out of fear of being judged, or because of how society portrays Secondary Infertility, that one day these individuals can find their voice among the crowd of people who do not understand and stand up and boldly be the face of their struggle openly and without any reserve.  

Without any hesitation people freely should be able to talk about Secondary Infertility if they want to and choose to do so.  This is such an important conversation to have within the already difficult battle we are fighting.  It’s so hard to be closed about a topic that is so much apart of so many people’s lives.  It’s a hard battle to fight alone, we all could use extra support to continue on fighting.  The way Secondary Infertility affects people is deep and beyond the surface.  It affects our every single day.  We can’t keep ignoring this and it is quite ridiculous that it is considered a taboo subject.  Nothing has ever changed in this world from people sitting back and staying quiet about topics that matter, that should matter to everyone!    The future is in your hands.

BE BOLD, BE BRAVE, BE FREE! 

 

 

 

 

Food “Cousins”

On Monday, I had my re-visit with my allergist for the year.  For the past couple years I have had to get allergy shots in hopes that my body can build some immunity to the things that bother me most.  In my case, this happens to be Ragweed, Birch Pollen, Dust Mites, and Animals (esp. dogs/cats).  Originally, I was put on a regime of allergy medications, including inhalers for my asthma.  Not only do I suffer from asthma due to allergens but I also suffer from chronic sinus infections in which I had been taking a prescribed nasal spray for.  This past year, I thought I had all of this under control so I had tapered off my medications, never really needing to use the nasal sprays and only needing my inhalers as needed when a random attack would strike (which is great considering these used to happen daily).  However, then November hit and I started to feel my symptoms flare up again getting worse when we brought the Christmas tree in our house in December.  Of course, the tree was to blame but who would have though there could have been much more to it then that.  Dr. Kagen to the rescue!

I started my appointment at the allergy clinic like every other 3rd Monday-3 allergy shots in the arm and wait for 30 minutes to get them checked.  Typically I have some small reaction to one or more of the shots given.  I go home and have an itchy arm for a couple days and all is forgotten about until the next time I go in.  However, this past Monday I got to have a very interesting visit with the doctor and re-visit what has been going on this past year.  The nurse took my blood pressure (all good) and then had me do the breathing test (not as good as it should be).  My latest score on this was a 57% (yikes).  To the doctor this indicates asthma and inflammation in the lungs and it’s important to figure out why.

Upon further talking, my doctor asked if I had been experiencing heartburn/acid re-flux.  Ironically, I have been experiencing this but  I was wondering what the heck it had to do with my allergies and why it was important to bring up.  My doctor then explained he has a guess as to what may be going on and why my symptoms are flaring up.  He said that if I am experiencing heart burn/acid re-flux that typically it can be caused by a food allergy or food sensitivity. There is a name he rattled off at me too for what could possibly be part of my issue, Eosinophilic Esophagitis.

Typically, in my case my doctor believes the allergens are working from the bottom up.  The things I have allergies to, have cousin foods that can also cause problems for people.  This may be the case for me.  If I eat one of these cousin foods it goes down into my stomach causing a reaction, then it causes heart burn/acid re-flux which then the allergen travels up through my esophagus causing some inflammation there and also to my lungs (inducing my asthma) then it continues to travel up into my head/sinus areas and causing a lot of extra mucus and bodily secretions.  I actually was diagnosed with a sinus infection while there as well.

There’s more…

Digging further, my doctor and I started briefly talking about our issues with infertility.  Although he stated he is no expert he said that although my husband may have the “slow swimmers” and that could be our major contributing factor he also explained that my bodily chemistry may not be the greatest with my body trying to fight off all of these allergens.  He also explained that the sensitivity to food is more then likely producing extra acidity to my body and again, acidity will go strait to our bodily fluids, namely vaginal fluids and therefore could be killing off what good sperm my husband has.  My doctor said gut health is so incredibly important and links to some of our bodies major health issues.  Interesting thought right?

Whoa-stop the train!  Never in all my time dealing with allergies or infertility did I consider any of this or that the two issues may, in fact, be linked together.  Considering food allergies are tricky, where does one even start in tackling this issue?  My doctor started by giving me a list of the food “cousins” to be aware of:

Ragweed Pollen Food Cousins:  Watermelon, Cantaloupe, Pumpkin, Pumpkin Seeds, Squash, Sunflower seeds, Banana, Lettuce, and sometimes Latex or Rubber products

Birch Pollen:  Celery, Carrots, and all Stony Pitted Fruits such as Apples, Peaches, Pears and Cherries

Cat Allergens:  Pork

Dust Mite:  Snail and possibly Shellfish

Since an abrupt change in diet can be very overwhelming, I am not diving in head first.  Instead, my doctor suggested I start by keeping a food diary and being extremely cautious of how my body is reacting to what I am putting in it and also record these symptoms as well as any lingering symptoms may have.  He said the listed above foods, for now, is NOT a “do not eat it list” it is just simply information intended to help me determine if this relationship has any clinical significance to my issues.  Along with keeping a food diary, my doctor also wants to treat my symptoms first hand.  So, I am currently being treated for my sinus infection with Azithromycin.  I am using over the counter nasal spray (Afrin) and also taking Prilosec for my heartburn/acid re-flux.  He then wants me to be seen again at the end of January to again revisit my symptoms after a few weeks of treatment.  The pharmacy did suggest eating yogurt daily as well as using a probiotic to ward off possible yeast infection.

I started the food diary yesterday, which is a lot harder then I thought it would be.  However, I am all for figuring this out alongside my doctor, especially if this would help improve symptoms and our fertility.  Again, this year is all about self care and I am all for making any positive changes that help improve my daily life.  The time is now!  In the days ahead I am also going to try to gather more information about this issue and ways it relates to infertility.  Knowledge is power right.  I’ve already brought this issue up in my secondary infertility groups and I have had a great response along with feedback.  I will try to keep you all updated in the days ahead with what I find out or changes made!  Thank you for your continued support.

A few links I have found online in regards to this are below, but ironically I’m not finding too much concrete research on the links between allergies and infertility BUT I plan to continue on digging in the days to come.  Until then check out the links I found:

http://acaai.org/allergies/types/food-allergies/types-food-allergy/eosinophilic-esophagitis

http://www.meghantelpner.com/blog/what-fertility-awareness-can-teach-you-about-food-allergies-and-inflammation/

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2009/10/29/10-ways-to-address-your-root-causes-of-infertility–naturally.aspx

http://www.pullingdownthemoon.com/blog/2011/april/why-fertility-nutrition-starts-in-the-gut.aspx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2016 Self

The world officially said good-bye to 2015. While many people are welcoming the New Year with open arms, I am simply saying, “hello” to it with a bit of skepticism and a whole lot of courage.  I also am saying “hello” to my 2016 self with a bit of tenderness and a whole lot of kindness. Again, I wish my 2016 self oodles of luck.  I would be setting myself up for failure if I went into this year saying that “it’s going to be different then last.” Instead, I am going to say, “fasten your seat belt Nichole because it’s going to be a roller coaster ride.”  We are only 4 days in and I can tell it’s going to be a bumpy ride with lots of twists and turns.

One thing I concluded about myself in 2015 is that I am not very kind to myself; I let actions of others bring me down and affect me way more then I should.  I also worry too much and I certainly didn’t practice self care.  That reality surely made life more difficult, less enjoyable and more stressful then it had to be.  I’m ready to take a shot at modifying some of these things.  Awareness of what needs to change can truly be a powerful thing.  So, I have news for my 2016 self:  SELF CARE IS IMPORTANT AND IT’S TIME I PRACTICE WHAT I PREACH.  Although I don’t typically set resolutions, it is my goal to work on self care this year.

For a few years now, I’ve been following Marc & Angel Hack Life-Practical Tips for Productive Living.  From the beginning of following some of their work, I’ve sincerely been a fan of this couple and what they have to offer to others. Their work is truly inspiring, motivating and at times it is what gives me the pep in my step to keep moving forward.  Recently, I read a couple of their articles and they without a doubt provide great advice on how to practice self care.  I wanted to share one of these articles and talk a little bit about what I reflected on after reading them:

10 Things You Must Give Up to Get Yourself Back on Track

10 Things You Must Give Up to Get Yourself Back on Track

If you want to grow and move on to better things, you have to give up the things that hold you back.

Last night, Marc and I received a new thank you email from a longtime reader and coaching client named Kevin (we’re writing about him today with his consent).  He said our book and life coaching sessions helped him and his wife Laura maintain a positive, intentional mindset as they struggled and grew through one of the most difficult periods of their lives.  Certain sections of his email nearly moved me to tears:

“As you know, after injuring my back, losing my job because of it, being evicted from our apartment, moving in with Laura’s parents, nursing my five-year-old through a nearly fatal bout of strep throat, I was stuck in a tragic rut for far too long.  And I was sitting on the front porch of my in-law’s house feeling sorry for myself, yet again, when my old college buddy called me crying and said, ‘Mel-Mel-Melissa, my baby girl, just died in a car wreck.’  And suddenly I felt like the lucky one.”

Kevin then went on to say, “It was the shock of my friend’s tragic loss that motivated me to review four pages of notes I had previously taken from both your book and our most recent coaching sessions.  And this time your wisdom sunk in!  Suddenly a light bulb illuminated in my mind – and it literally changed my entire outlook from negative to positive.  I suddenly realized there were people who needed me to get back up, and infinite reasons and ways to do my very best with what I had.  So I started giving up all the negative things I was thinking and doing that had been holding me back; and then I took a bold step forward, and another, and another.  And it’s been almost a year now, and I’m happy to say you were right!”

If you can relate to Kevin’s situation in any way, and you’re ready to move forward, I want to remind you that TODAY is the first day of the rest of your life.  The road ahead is wide open.  You CAN get yourself back on track!

But first, you have to…

  1. Give up pretending that you have to be who you used to be. – When times get tough, our worst battle is often between what we remember and what we presently feel.  Thus, one of the hardest decisions you will ever have to make is when to stay put and struggle harder or when to take your memories and move on.  Sometimes you have to step outside of the person you’ve been, and remember the person you were meant to be, the person you are capable of being, and the person you truly are today.
  2. Give up berating yourself for everything you aren’t. – Being kind to yourself in thoughts, words and actions is as important as being kind to others.  Extend yourself this courtesy.  Love yourself – your real self.  Work through your fears (dive deep), your insecurities (speak honestly and loudly), and your anger (scream into the pillow – not into the mirror, nor the people you care about; they don’t deserve it.)  Instead of hurting yourself by hiding from your problems, help yourself grow beyond them.  That’s what self-care is all about.  It’s about facing the inner issues that make you believe that you are less than you are.  It’s learning to see that you are already beautiful.  Not because you’re blind to your shortcomings, but because you know they have to be there to balance out your strengths.  (Read A Return to Love.)
  3. Give up regretting, and holding on to, what happened in the past. – When you stay stuck in regret of the life you think you should have had, you end up missing the beauty of what you do have.  Not all the puzzle pieces of life will seem to fit together at first, but in time you’ll realize they do, perfectly.  So thank the things that didn’t work out, because they just made room for the things that will.  And thank the ones who walked away from you, because they just made room for the ones who won’t.  As they say, every new beginning comes from another beginning’s end.
  4. Give up getting caught up in the negativity surrounding you.– To be positive in negative times is not just foolish optimism.  It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of tragedy, but also of success, sacrifice, courage, kindness, and growth.  What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine how well we live.  If we look only for the worst, it destroys our capacity to do our best work.  If we remember those times and places – and there are many – in which people have behaved magnificently, and things have gone well, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning world in a different direction.  And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to sit around and wait for some grandiose and perfect future.  The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live right now as we think we should live, in defiance of all the negativity around us, is in itself an amazing victory.
  5. Give up thinking that everyone else has it so much easier than you. – When times get really tough, remember this simple truth: Nothing that’s worthwhile is ever easy.  And when you’re struggling with something that’s important to you, and you feel like your life isn’t fair, look at all the people around you and realize that every single person you see is struggling with something, and to them, it’s just as hard as what you’re going through.
  6. Give up wanting to be where others are in life. – Stop comparing where you’re at with where everybody else is.  It doesn’t move you farther ahead, improve your situation, or help you find happiness.  It just fuels feelings of inadequacy and shame, and ultimately keeps you stuck.  The truth is, there is no one correct path in life.  A path that’s right for someone else won’t necessarily be a path that’s right for you.  And that’s OK.  Your journey isn’t right or wrong, or good or bad – it’s just different.  Your life isn’t meant to look exactly like anyone else’s because you aren’t exactly like anyone else.  You’re a person all your own with a unique set of goals, obstacles, dreams, and needs.  So stop comparing and start living.  You may not always end up where you intend to go, but you will eventually arrive precisely where you need to be.  Trust that you are in the right place at the right time, right now.  And trust yourself to make the best of it.  (Read The Untethered Soul.)
  7. Give up letting the judgments of strangers control you. – People know your name, not your story.  They’ve heard what you’ve done, but don’t understand what you’ve been through.  So take their opinions of you with a grain of salt.  In the end, it’s not what others think, it’s what you think about yourself that counts.  Sometimes you have to do exactly what’s right for you and your life, without giving a darn what your life looks like to everyone who doesn’t even know you.
  8. Give up letting toxic relationships bring you down on a daily basis. – Not all toxic relationships are agonizing and uncaring on purpose.  Some of them involve people who care about you – people who have good intentions, but are toxic because their needs and way of existing in the world force you to compromise yourself and your happiness.  They aren’t inherently bad people, but they aren’t the right people to be spending time with every day.  And as hard as it is, we have to distance ourselves enough to give ourselves space to live.  You simply can’t ruin yourself on a daily basis for the sake of someone else.  You have to make your well-being a priority.  Whether that means breaking up with someone, loving a family member from a distance, letting go of a friend, or removing yourself from a situation that feels painful – you have every right to leave and create some healthy space for yourself.  (Marc and I discuss this in more detail in the “Relationships” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
  9. Give up over-thinking and worrying about everything. – When your fears and anxieties have you looking too deep into things, it creates problems – it doesn’t fix them.  If you think and you think and you think, you will think yourself right out of happiness a thousand times over, and never once into it.  Worrying doesn’t take away tomorrow’s troubles, it takes away today’s peace and potential.  And life is too short for that.
  10. Give up believing you aren’t strong enough to take another step forward. – It’s always possible to go on, no matter how impossible it seems.  In time, the grief (the lessons) may not go away completely, but after awhile it’s not so overwhelming.  So breathe…  You’re going to be OK.  Remember that you’ve been in this place before.  You’ve been this uncomfortable and restless and afraid, and you’ve survived.  Take another breath and know that you can survive this time too.  These feelings can’t break you.  They’re painful and draining, but you can sit with them and eventually, they will pass.  Maybe not immediately, but sometime soon they’re going to fade, and when they do you’ll look back at this moment and laugh for having doubted your resilience.

Closing Thoughts

I want to riff on the final point just a bit more…

Because the truth is, you have to KNOW that YOU ARE strong enough to take another step forward, every single day.  Feeling otherwise is just that – a feeling, not a fact!

So if you only take one point away from this post, let it be this:

The first and worst place we lose our footing is in our own heads.  If you think it’s permanent, then it’s permanent.  If you think you’re broken, then you are.  If you think you’ve reached your limits, then you have.  If you think you’ll never heal and grow, then you won’t.  You have to change your mind.  You need to see everything that’s holding you back, every obstacle, and every limitation as only temporary.

Because that’s the truth.

 

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Although I could relate to every single above point that Angel Chernoff wrote about, I reflected on the below points the most and wanted to share my personal thoughts:

#2-Give up berating yourself for everything you aren’t.  Making the sacrifice to be a stay at home mom is hard.  Although I feel so incredibly blessed everyday to get to be a part of every milestone of my daughter’s life, raise her right, care for her, nurture her, and be there for her I have had to put myself and my career goals second.  I oftentimes feel guilty for not bringing home a paycheck or balancing a full time job and being a mom at the same time. I often feel I’m not living up to my full potential.  I have blatantly called myself a loser because all I am is a mom. Lets face it, I’ve put myself down a lot in this last year when I should be complimenting myself in all that I do on a daily basis.  I need to realize that being a mom is a big shoe to fill and one of the most important jobs around.  I need to realize that this is what I am choosing to do right now and no one is making me decide this.  I need to go back to the beginning when I chose to be a SAHM and remember WHY I chose to do this.  I need to own it and tell myself what an important and wonderful thing I am doing for my family and my daughter. I am not a loser and what I do matters.

#5-Give up thinking that everyone has it easier then you.  This one speaks for itself and is so true.  What makes an already difficult circumstance even more hard is comparing my situation to others and having a pity party for myself thinking if I lived someones life my life would be better because they have it easier. I’m constantly saying how unfair things are and I am guilty of this when it comes to my struggle with infertility.  I really need to change the way I think and perceive my situation.  We are all blessed and all have different things that come easier than they do for others. For example:  I may be struggling with secondary infertility but there are so many struggling with primary infertility.  I may want another child but I am truly blessed to at least have one biological child-some people are not as fortunate.  I need to stop focusing on where others are at in this journey called life because it is insignificant to where I am at.  Life is certainly not a competition.

#7-Give up letting the judgments of strangers control you.

Unless someone has walked a day in my shoes or has a similar story to tell, they don’t understand what I have gone through or where I have been. Oftentimes, those types of people’s advice is unsolicited. I need to keep this in mind when others start spouting their judgments upon me and my life story.  I can’t continue to take their opinions to heart when their opinions truly have no merit to my life or what I am going through or choosing to do.  Only God and myself know the truth about my decisions and life and at the end of the day that should be all that matters.

#8-Give up letting toxic relationships bring you down on a daily basis.  I continuously allow toxic people in my life daily and I need to learn to distance myself from them.  I need to learn to put less energy into these people because honestly they suck me dry of it.  I need to not let them in as much as I allow myself to do. I can’t grow or better myself if I let these relationships continue.  I need to do this guilt free and focus on those people in my life who are genuinely there for me and where the give and take is equal.

#9-Give up overthinking and worrying about everything.  This one is a hard one for me.  I am constantly overthinking about everything and worrying.  This is not good for myself and my health.  Lets face it, this is where the majority of my stress is.  It also isn’t good for anyone around me.  It’s time to learn to let go a little more and focus on the things that I can control.  By letting go, I know I will find more peace in my every day.

#10-Give up believing that you aren’t strong enough to take another step forward.  There are so many days I just want to give up when the struggle of infertility gets to be too much.  Those days are many.  I need to continuously remind myself that I am here and my track record of getting through those bad days is 100%.  I am strong and I am full of courage.  I need to keep reminding myself of this daily.  It’s like the saying goes, “If you think you can you will.  If you think you can’t, you won’t.” I know if I feed my mind with positive thoughts and people I know I can have forward growth.

I know my 2016 self has a lot of work to do.  That’s the thing though, we are all always a work in progress.  For me, it will be important to stay mindful of these points and admit when I have failed them.  I know I will not live any of these points perfectly, but we learn from failure.  2015 was a year of failure for me in more ways then one.  All I can do is try to improve and do my best.  I believe if I can do that, I can live my best life and bring my true self into motion. I firmly believe for every negative there is a positive and am trying to train my brain to think as such.  Practicing is the key word to all of this.  The more you practice, the better you become.  I know 2016 won’t be short of it’s hurdles, but my happiness is going to come from keeping perspective and learning to deal with things differently.  Ready. Set. Go!

Sincerely,

 

2016 self, always a work in progress!