More Books

Here are a few more books that I’ve read since my first book list post:


  • Silent Sorority: A (barren) Woman Gets Busy, Angry, Lost and Found; Pamela Mahoney Tsigdinos
    This memoir was fantastic. She writes about her infertility, treatment, considering adoption, and coming to terms with her childlessness. For anyone wanting to know what infertility feels like, I highly recommend this book — she is so honest, and so many times times I felt like I was reading things on the page that I had been thinking myself. And for anyone experiencing infertility, I still highly recommend this book — it’s very validating, and gives me hope that we will survive this and be okay whether we have children or not.


  • The Art of Waiting: On Fertility, Medicine, and Motherhood; Belle Boggs
    In addition to being a memoir, this book is also a study on fertility, treatment, and family building options. She shares her experience with infertility and her success with IVF, but she spends much of the book discussing research, data, literature and cultural observations that surround pregnancy, families, and parenthood. It was very interesting. It’s also very up to date — it was published in 2016, so the research she presents is current.


  • Infertility Sucks! Keeping It Together When Sperm and Egg Stubbornly Remain Apart; Beverly Barna
    This one is funny and sarcastic, and does a pretty good job of bringing some humor to the experience of infertility, but I definitely had to be in the right mindset to read it — some days I couldn’t even pick it up. When I was in the mood for a laugh, some parts of the book were really funny and made me laugh out loud; other parts weren’t as funny to me, and even made me cringe a little… but I think that’s to be expected in a dark humored book about infertility.



Pregnancy & Baby Loss and Trying to Conceive After Loss

  • Empty Cradle, Broken Heart: Surviving the Death of Your Baby; Deborah L. Davis
    I have some mixed feelings on this book. Some parts were really good. It had some really good chapters on grief, recovery, resolution, and trying again, as well as a good chapter specifically targeted at men. However, it also had a big emphasis on healing through having subsequent children, which was hard for me to get behind… It’s not always so easy or possible to just go get pregnant again; for some of us, it’s most important to find healing outside of another baby, whether or not we try again.


  • Trying Again: A Guide to Pregnancy After Miscarriage, Stillbirth, and Infant Loss; Ann Douglas and John S. Sussman, M.D.
    Trying Again covers a lot of ground… It begins by discussing many reasons why a pregnancy might be lost, why a baby might die before it’s born, or why an infant might die after birth. It then addresses fears and anxieties, and provides coping tips for couples who are trying again after having experienced a loss. Although reading about these things might terrify a lot of people, to me it felt right to learn more about the things that can go wrong, to prepare myself with coping tips moving forward, and to share in the understanding of others who know what it’s like to try again. I thought this book was very informative and helpful.



In Vitro Fertilization (IVF):

  • The Couple’s Guide to In Vitro Fertilization; Liza Charlesworth
    This was a very helpful guide for preparing for IVF. It was published in 2004, so some of the statistics are out of date, but for the most part the process is still the same. I’ve done a lot of research for IVF already, but I thought this book would be worth reading too, and it was. It was very thorough and informative, answers a lot of questions, and shares a lot of advice and anecdotes from the author and couples she interviewed.


  • The IVF Journal; Stephanie Fry
    To be honest, I’m still working my way through this one, but I still wanted to include it. This one is kind of like an IVF workbook, and I’m not finished with it because we’re not finished with IVF yet! It includes some helpful information at each step of the way through IVF and has many, many pages of charts and notes ready to be filled in by the IVF patient. There are so many medications, dosages, times, appointments, and other things to keep track of during IVF, and this journal provides an organized space for everything to be recorded. I’m finding it quite useful so far, although I am wishing it had better binding (perhaps a spiral)!
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supportWhile Matt and I have been lost in the terrible land of infertility, we’ve been the ones guiding our loved ones through it at the same time. As I’ve mentioned before, not many of our loved ones  have experience with infertility and loss, so they are often unsure of what to say or how to support us. I so often hear that someone doesn’t know what to do, or doesn’t know what to say, or doesn’t know how to help, or doesn’t want to do something in case they hurt my feelings, and so on…

Therefore, throughout my journey I have been attempting to help various people understand what this is like for me, and what kind of support is helpful and not helpful. This is not always easy. At times it’s downright uncomfortable. And it can be exhausting. It’s a bit like being blindfolded and at the same time being responsible for safely guiding our loved ones around… It’s confusing and tricky, and just like my loved ones don’t want to hurt my feelings, I don’t want to hurt theirs. It has been very hard to be responsible for educating everyone about what I’m experiencing and what kind of support I need, when at that very moment I am feeling so very broken and lost myself.

But even though it’s hard, and at times, impossible, to do this, I have found overall that the benefits of some of these tough discussions outweigh the drawbacks — sometimes when I share and try to help someone understand, things get better on both sides. So in an effort to give everyone some answers and guidance all at once, I thought it might be time to write a post on support.

However, before I really get into it, I want to be clear that my intent is not to make anyone feel bad for interactions in the past — I know my loved ones care for me and want the best for me. Rather, my intent for this post is to provide some suggestions for general support that I would appreciate. I’m hoping that by sharing some of these, our loved ones can feel less lost themselves and have more confidence in their abilities to support us.

We’ll start with what support is not:

I am not looking for unsolicited advice or opinions. I do not want be told how I should be feeling.  I do not want to have my pain minimized. I am not looking for the silver lining. I do not want to hear about quick fixes for my infertility.

Here are the best things someone can do to support me:

Accept my situation and validate my experience

When I’m struggling and hurting, acknowledgement and acceptance of my situation is very helpful — validation is powerful. Having my feelings accepted and authenticated helps me to feel that my emotions are valid, that my reactions are normal, and that I’m understood. So in my support system, I’m looking for acknowledgement of how much all of this sucks and acceptance of how heartbroken I am. I’m looking for someone to understand and validate the fact that this journey is hard and painful and that my future is full of question marks. I’m looking for the understanding that I’m not always ok, and acceptance that it’s ok to not always be ok. I’m looking for someone to sit with me while I’m in pain and accept me as I am.

For a great overview of how to sit with someone else’s pain, please visit Psych Central.
For a good overview and explanation on validation, please check out Psychology Today.

Keep in mind the things to say and not to say

Sometimes I feel like when people in my support system don’t know what to say, they either hold back and do nothing (which can be hurtful), or they go overboard and fill the space with advice or optimism (which can also be hurtful). I know this it not intentional… and I know it stems from a place of unease. But I think it could be better…

First of all, sometimes it’s ok to not know what to say — sometimes there isn’t anything that can or should be said. In those cases, acknowledgement, and a silent nod or a hug is what I need. Later, follow up “thinking of you” texts or cards are always appreciated when it feels like other words aren’t useful.

Second, there are ways we can prepare ourselves to know what to say, because sometimes things do need to be said, and saying the right thing can be important.

Many people have written posts on the things to say and not to say to people struggling with infertility and pregnancy loss. Previously on this blog I have shared the same lists over and over, but here I will take the opportunity to share a couple more sources of these lists. Please read them and find one that connects with you, especially if you are someone who has told me in the past, “I don’t know what to say.”

Additionally, my post There Are No Quick Fixes for Infertility highlights some of the things not to say and provides suggestions for better discussions.

Support our decisions

All of the decisions we have made during our infertility journey have been made with the help of our doctors and nurses. No one I know is a better expert on my medical chart and in the field of infertility than my doctor and his team, and I value their expertise and guidance. So when we share a decision we’ve made, please accept it and be at peace with knowing that, with the help of our doctor, we’re choosing the right thing for us at the time.

Ask how you can help

If I share that I’m having a hard time or struggling with something in particular, it may be helpful for you to ask, “How can I help you today?” or “How can I best support you today?”

Matt and I learned many months ago now that this question is a good one for me when I am having a hard time. Before we used this question he used to look at me during my moments of grief like a deer in headlights. Then he’d back away and usually just leave me alone. He was never sure what to do and I ended up feeling abandoned. Once we learned that it was helpful to ask what he could do, we were able to make great improvements in coping together and handling our grief.

This question also allows for a win-win situation: I end up receiving the support I need in that moment, and the other person ends up feeling good about having supported me in the way I most needed, and having confidence that they can help me again in the future.

So you might be wondering, “Yikes. What is she going to say if I ask this?”

The answers I usually give to Matt are along the lines of:

“I want to sit with you and cry.”
“I want to talk about it.”
“I want to be alone.”
“I want to do something else and get my mind off of this.”

… and basically none of these are complicated. All of my loved ones are capable of offering these things to me, even if they are over the phone. Please don’t assume what I need; instead, ask me.

Respect our cautious optimism

In my post The Roller Coaster of Infertility I discuss our need to remain cautiously optimistic. This is still the case for us, and I expect it to remain so. Please do not argue with or challenge my cautious optimism. It’s ok to gently encourage me and tell me that you are hopeful and optimistic, but please don’t pressure me to build up too much optimism. Obviously we are hopeful that the next treatment will work, otherwise we would no longer be pursuing any treatment. It’s just that we’ve learned to be cautious in order to protect our hearts a little bit.

Be present

The bottom line is that no one can fix this for me or guarantee our outcome, and instead of giving advice or minimizing my experience, I need my loved ones to be willing to accept my situation and sit with me in this time of darkness. I won’t be in this place forever, but that’s where I am now, and I’m going to need a lot of love and support while I find my way out. So please don’t back away — be present. Be respectful. Be accepting and supportive. Keep in mind the things to say. Ask how we are doing. Ask how you can help.

Next time you’re wondering what to do, consider sending a text or e-mail saying you’re thinking of me or asking how I am doing. Consider sending a card as a surprise in the mail. Or consider asking if I’d like to meet up or plan a phone date. There are many ways to be present even if we’re far away from each other.

And while you’re doing that, I’ll keep doing my best to get through this, to share about my experience, to support you all when I can, and to keep holding the light and the love.

Thank you all for your support.

For additional reading on support, please visit:


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There Are No Quick Fixes for Infertility

no_quick_fixesSo many times when someone we love is upset, we try to make them feel better. We don’t like it when someone is hurting or sad, and we try to fix it. So we might suggest ways for them to look on the bright side, or give them tips on what we have done in that situation to make things better. I think we all do this at times, myself included. And I think for the most part that this is ok. It seems natural to want to help and many times we are very capable of helping a loved one feel better about something or working with them to solve a problem.

However, there are some situations where there isn’t a way to fix the situation, where there isn’t a way to make someone feel better. Infertility and loss are two of these situations… there are no quick fixes that will heal my broken heart or resolve my infertility.

But even though Matt and I know that there are no quick fixes for infertility, it feels as though the rest of the (fertile) world doesn’t really realize this. The practice of “fixing” seems to be so ingrained in our culture that people with good intentions try to fix us even though they know so little about infertility. Many of the quick fixes we hear over and over are actually much more complicated than they seem on the surface. Suggestions, advice, and minimizations roll off tongues without a second thought as to their actual meanings or implications.

Our culture also doesn’t handle grief or other uncomfortable feelings well, so when a “fix” is suggested, I feel like the person is trying to get me to move on and *just* be happy again. It feels like they don’t understand my experience or think of my emotions as valid. But infertility and pregnancy losses are serious and painful, and it takes time to work through and heal from these situations.

Even though I know that most “quick fixes” come from a place of love (while others come from a place of discomfort…), they are problematic. They are unintentionally hurtful. And it would be easier to walk my path if I didn’t have to shield myself from quick fixes all the time, regardless of how well intentioned they were. So in this post I’m hoping to shed some light on some common quick fixes and suggest what might be a better thing to say instead.

“Just relax”

This quick fix is probably the most common one I’ve heard during infertility. It’s also one of the most frustrating ones because it’s so wrong — stress doesn’t cause infertility and relaxing doesn’t cause conception. Infertility and pregnancy loss are medical conditions and they cannot be cured by relaxation. If that were the case, all we would need is a day at the spa and a cup of tea instead of medications, surgeries, and other procedures… Trust me, I’d very much rather go to the spa instead of the doctor’s office, the lab, the pharmacy, and the surgery center, but the fact is that relaxing will not bring me a baby.

When I am told that I *just need to relax*, I like to point out that I *was* relaxed until I failed to get pregnant after months of trying; I was relaxed until my doctor confirmed there was a problem. That’s when I started feeling stressed about conceiving.

For my own mental health I do things to stay calm and relaxed, but *being relaxed* is not going to cure my infertility. We have medical problems that are preventing our conception and if we want to have good odds of conception we’re going to have to treat them. Some people who have experienced infertility do surprisingly conceive after years of trying, but it’s not because they relaxed; it’s because over time, the unlikely event of conception managed to take place.  

Additionally, being told that I *just need to relax* makes me feel like I have done something wrong. Believe me, I second guess my every move every month after I fail to conceive, and I won’t even get into how much guilt I feel over my ectopic pregnancy. But I know deep down that I have not caused my infertility and I did not cause my ectopic pregnancy. But when I’m told that I just need to relax, it incorrectly places the blame on me, and that’s not ok. This is not my fault.

Instead of saying, “Just relax”, I suggest asking how you can help. Assuming relaxation is the only thing I need isn’t ok — it’s better to ask to find out what I need. Sometimes I do need to relax for my own mental health, and sometimes that relaxation is better with a friend by my side; but other times I need to rant or cry, or go on a walk, etc. There are lots of things I need to do to care for myself and treat our medical problem during this time, but *just relaxing* isn’t going to fix this.

For more thoughts on the quick fix “just relax”, please visit this post.

“You can always do IVF”

This is another quick fix I’ve heard over and over, and although I know IVF gives many couples their best chance for success, IVF is not an option for everyone and it is so much more complicated and intense than most people realize — IVF is not a quick or easy fix. I also want to note that the people who have told me, “you can always do IVF” did not go through IVF treatment themselves; rather, they conceived easily and naturally; some even conceived accidentally.

Don’t get me wrong here — IVF is a wonderful opportunity for a chance at conception and pregnancy for some people, and Matt and I are currently preparing for IVF treatment. And I am thankful that we have this option. However, it has taken us a lot of time and consideration to get to the point of being ready for IVF. Coming to the conclusion that IVF should be our next step was a hard one. It was not a quick or easy decision for us to make and we’re still in the process of coming to terms with it.

What most people don’t realize about IVF is that it’s very intense. It’s extremely physically demanding and risky. It’s emotional. It’s expensive. And really I can’t even say too much about it because I have yet to experience it myself… but I do have the medication and appointment calendar in my hand, as well as the preparation check list, and financial estimate; and what I’ll say is this: IVF is intense. So for anyone to suggest that it’s an easy fix for infertility means that they really have no clue what IVF entails.

Additionally, IVF is not always such a miracle. It is not 100% successful — not everyone who undergoes IVF treatment will deliver a baby. And not everyone experiencing infertility is able to undergo IVF treatment — different medical conditions or financial restrictions can prohibit some people from undergoing IVF. IVF is not a quick fix for infertility.

Instead of saying, “You can always do IVF”, it might be better to ask what treatment options the doctor is offering at this point and what we might consider. I had people pushing me into IVF way before (months and months) the words crossed the lips of my doctor, and it was so upsetting to me. And when my doctor did suggest IVF it wasn’t, “You can always do IVF now that everything else has failed you.” No. It was nothing like that. Instead, he asked, “Would you be open to considering IVF as the next step?” His gentle approach was unassuming and respectful, and it would be nice if everyone could speak to us in a similar way.

Note: For those wanting to learn more about IVF, check out this clinical overview of IVF and this post on 10 things about IVF from someone who has experienced it.

“Just adopt”

This quick fix implies that adoption is an easy, painless, risk free process that will end and cure my infertility. It’s not. Adoption only cures childlessness, not infertility. That said, adoption can a wonderful family building option, but like any major decision during infertility, it is not easy or quick. Adoption takes time, it can be very expensive, and it is risky — it may not be physically risky, but it’s emotionally and financially risky. There are no guarantees with adoption, and I know several couples who had their hearts broken during the adoption process before a successful adoption went through.

“Just adopt” also has a partner that I’ve heard: “Just adopt and you’ll get pregnant.” This quick fix is a huge disservice to adoption and adopted children. It implies that adoption only serves as a way to achieve pregnancy, and this is terrible. Someone adopting a child is doing so in order to build their family, not in order to later achieve pregnancy. Sure, a small number of people do later conceive, but just like “relaxing”, adoption is not a cure.  

“Just adopt” also assumes that everyone experiencing infertility wants to, or should, adopt children; but not everyone wants to adopt — and that’s ok. Another frustrating thing about “just adopt” is that, like “you can always do IVF”, the people suggesting this to me have not adopted; they have biological children. And what I’d like to point out here, is that adoption isn’t an option only for infertile people — fertile people can adopt too.

I’d also like to note that when I’m told to “just adopt” I get frustrated because it’s not like this is a new idea or something — I’m well aware of adoption already. I have friends and family who are adopted, and who have adopted. Adoption can be wonderful. But it’s not a quick fix for infertility. So if you feel that adoption is something I should be considering, rest assured knowing that I already know it’s an option for family building and that Matt and I are carefully weighing all of our options at every step.

“At least…”

Pretty much anything that begins with “at least” is a quick fix for my sadness or disappointment that leaves me feeling like my pain has been ignored or minimized. I’ve heard all varieties of “at least…” but here are a few examples:

“At least you can sleep through the night without kids waking you up.”
“At least you can leave the house or leave town when you want.”
“At least you have a great marriage.”
“At least you can afford treatment.”
“At least you got pregnant.”

I’m not going to break these down one by one, because it’s not worth it. I know and understand that when someone tells me one of these things they are intending to help me find the silver lining. They are trying to bring me out of my sadness to be happy again. But it’s not that easy. I can’t *just* forget about what I’m going through. I need to sit with my emotions and work through them.

When I hear “at least…” I feel like my pain is being minimized. Like the person doesn’t think my pain is real, or like I’m overreacting. Sometimes it makes me doubt my own emotions, and other times it makes me feel like the person *just doesn’t understand me*. And I hate feeling like that, because I’m not a teenager; I’m an adult who’s experiencing heartbreak, and my emotions are valid and they are real, and it’s not okay for my experience to be minimized.

When I hear “at least…” it also makes me feel like the person thinks I’m ungrateful for the good things in my life. But I’m not — I’m very grateful for the good things happening in my life. I practice gratitude. I say thank you and I write thank you notes. But doing those things doesn’t cure my broken heart, and they don’t fix my infertility. They are good for my mental health and my perspective on life, but they aren’t a cure-all.

It’s okay to occasionally remind me that there’s light in my life, but there’s a difference between reminding me of happiness and hope, and minimizing my pain. Anything that begins with “at least” sets me up for feeling minimized, so I suggest avoiding that phrase entirely. A better way to remind me of the good things in my life could me to ask me about them and let me find the light… but if you do this, please also follow my lead — if I’m not receptive, let it go for the time being; sometimes I need be with my grief.

“Don’t worry, the sun will come out tomorrow.”

This and other such promises for the future are quick fixes that do not give me as much hope the speaker intended. Promises such as, “You’ll end up with kids, don’t worry” or, “This is going to work! I can feel it!” or, “Everything will work out” end up making me feel like my pain and fear are being minimized.

Infertility causes lots of fear about the future. No one knows what the future holds for me in regards to parenthood. The end result with infertility is completely out of our hands — no one can fix my situation. Not me. Not Matt. Not my loved ones. Not even my doctor. We are working with our medical team closely to select treatments that will give us our best chance for success, but there are no guarantees.

So when someone tells me that I’m going to be okay or that they *just* know it’s going to work out, it’s frustrating because no one can promise me that, and it dismisses my very real fear and pain about my situation. At the end of the day, *all* of our futures are unknown, so it’s not okay to pretend that we know how someone else’s story is going to turn out. It’s better to sit with someone in their moments of pain, and acknowledge that right now things aren’t okay.

Healing is a process that takes time

I know that many of these quick fixes are said with love and with the intention of making me feel better, giving me hope, or reassuring me… and while on the surface they may seem like they should do just that, they don’t. Quick fixes dismiss fears and minimize pain. Quick fixes sometimes assume things that may not be correct, they might pass judgement, or place blame. And overall, quick fixes for infertility do not exist — there is absolutely no quick fix out there for my infertility and loss. The birth of my own living child, or adoption may end up curing my childlessness, but the wounds caused by my infertility and loss will remain. Healing these wounds will take place over time, probably for the rest of my life. Healing will require acceptance, reflection, great love, understanding, and support. But it will not be quick or easy, and it would be wonderful if people would understand this and be willing to sit with me while I grieve and try to heal.

NotePlease also see my support post, which is closely related to this one.

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My Book List

I’ve read a handful of books on infertility and pregnancy loss… For anyone who might be interested in my book list, here are the ones I’ve read so far:


Trying To Conceive:

  • Making Babies; Sami S. David, MD and Jill Blakeway, LAc
    This was a good resource for me and I wish I had found and read this book much earlier in our journey. Their three month program did not work for me… but the information in the book really helped me to be informed about tests, procedures, and treatments when we started seeing Dr. 2.


  • Unsung Lullabies: Understanding and Coping with Infertility; Janet Jaffe, Ph.D., Martha Ourieff Diamond, Ph.D., David J. Diamond, Ph.D.
    Unsung Lullabies has been THE BEST written resource I have come across for infertility. It was so validating and explained infertility so well that I had Matt and my mom read this book too.
  • Love and Infertility: Survival Strategies for Balancing Infertility, Marriage, and Life; Kristen Magnacca
    I just recently read this book. Perhaps if I had read it earlier in our journey it would have made more of an impact… Some of the strategies resonated with me and some didn’t. Overall, I would still recommend it, especially for someone near the beginning of this journey.
  • Waiting for Daisy; Peggy Orenstein
    Note: this book also falls into the loss category, but I’ve decided to keep it in the infertility category in this list.
    This book was reviewed as a funny memoir of her experience with infertility… I wouldn’t call it funny, but it was honest, interesting, and I’m glad I read it.

Pregnancy Loss:

  • There Was Supposed to be a Baby: A Guide to Healing After Pregnancy Loss; Catherine Noblitt Keating
    This was a very, very helpful book for me after my ectopic pregnancy. I highly recommend it for loss mamas.
  • Our Stories of Miscarriage: Healing with Words; Edited by Rachel Faldet and Karen Fitton
    Our Stories of Miscarriage is a collection of essays, poems, and journal entries written by people who have experienced the trauma of miscarriage and pregnancy loss… it was healing for me to hear their stories and reduced the isolation I was feeling.
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The Arrival of Fall

the_arrival_of_fall2My favorite time of the year, fall, is officially here. I love fall weather and the clothing it accommodates — sweaters, scarves, cute boots. I love the colors in the leaves and the way the leaves take flight and dance in the wind. Fall brings the harvest and asks for warm, comforting foods — soup, apples, apple cider, and all things pumpkin. Fall means my birthday is coming and all the best holidays of the year. But some of these things I that love about fall have become difficult for us during infertility. Instead of celebrating the season change and looking forward to upcoming events, fall is now the beginning of a rough time of year for us: it signals that more time has passed, it brings my birthday, and it starts the big holiday season. Infertility has made all these things painful and it’s threatening to ruin fall for me.

Strike One: Fall is a Marker of Time

It was hard for me to acknowledge the arrival of fall this year… I love to decorate for the seasons, changing out my decor with every season. But this fall I struggled — I sat on my sofa and stared around the room for days before deciding that I would decorate. It seemed like a lot of work, and my heart wasn’t in it… but I ultimately decided that if I didn’t change my decor for the season, the lack of pumpkins and leaves and yummy scented candles would probably make me more depressed than I already was. So I asked Matt to go fetch my totes in the basement and I put out a few things.

I know that acknowledging the arrival of fall doesn’t seem like such a big deal… but it is: the turn of every calendar page marks another month of our heartbreak. Every season change marks more time in which we have tried, and failed, to grow our family. Time keeps moving on while Matt and I feel stuck, going nowhere, waiting for our miracle. We are doing everything we can to grow our family, but so much is out of our hands and it feels like every month we’re right back where we were before.

Strike Two: Fall Means My Birthday is Coming

My birthday is less than a month away. Birthdays used to give me great joy — a day for me! But my birthday has been hard the past couple of years, and this year I expect it to be worse. It’s not necessarily that I’m getting older; it’s that birthdays mark time. My birthday puts me another year older in my quest to become a mother. And if I’m not dreading my birthday enough, I’m reminded of it all the time — my age and birth date are all over my medical paperwork, prescriptions, and instructions. My nurses mention my age when they discuss treatment or try to encourage me. I confirm my birth date at the lab before having blood drawn and at the pharmacy when I pick up meds. And having my birthday celebrated… well, it’s a day I’m not looking forward to this year. I’m certainly not where I thought I’d be by now and turning another year older without a child here with me makes me so, so very sad.

Strike Three: Fall Means Holidays are Coming

The arrival of fall means that holidays are just around the corner: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years. I’m dreading the holidays already and they haven’t even begun. Holidays are hard because they naturally emphasize the very thing we are lacking: our own family. Please don’t get me wrong — we LOVE our families. And we have, for many years, travelled back across the country for both Thanksgiving and Christmas to celebrate with our families. But sometimes just being with our families, even just our parents and our siblings, reminds us that we have yet to create that magic of our own. We want so badly to have children to share these special moments with and to create new traditions with, and holidays brutally remind us of how much joy and love we are missing due to our infertility. Holidays make our hearts ache for our losses.

The upcoming holidays again mark time that has passed. This will be our third holiday season since we’ve been trying to conceive. This will be the third Halloween where we hand out candy to other people’s children while feeling sad for ourselves. And I so hope I’m wrong, but at this point, we are potentially looking at a third Thanksgiving and Christmas without a pregnancy announcement to share with our loved ones. This could be our third New Year where we have tried, and failed to meet our goal from the previous year: grow our family. For the third autumn, already I’m anxiously wondering if next year’s holidays will be different. I hope so.

Three Strikes: You’re Out? Fall Officially Sucks?

Good thing I have at least a small say in how infertility affects me — I hate the idea of letting infertility ruin my favorite season. Infertility has already taken so much away from us, and caused us so much pain. Is it really fair for it to take my favorite season too? Absolutely not. But there’s only so much I can do — the painful reminders of the time passing, the disappointment of my birthday, and the heartbreak over the holidays are all probably still going to happen. I can’t stop them and I’m not going to try — I’ve learned it’s not good for me to fight my feelings.

But I can do little things to reclaim fall and the upcoming holidays for myself. I did decorate a bit for the season. I like my pumpkins and leaves and spiced autumn candles. We will make soups and drink apple cider. And I certainly will wear cute scarves and boots. However, I will need to do more than dress myself and my home for the part; I will need to take care of myself in order to survive what’s coming. I will need to give myself plenty of time to sit with my grief during this hard time of the year. I will need to be ok with feeling sad on my birthday. I will need to be gentle with myself over the holidays. I will need to give myself space during family events or large social gatherings. Resolve has a list of recommendations for surviving the holidays that I have found helpful. I will need to make sure Matt and I have enough time for each other. I will need to remember that we are not alone… there are many others having a hard time too: here and here just to name a few. In short, I will need to practice a lot of self care in the months to come. And I hope that with enough love and care for Matt and myself, we will be able to get through this hard time of year and maybe even enjoy some parts of it.

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Support Group

About a year ago a friend suggested I find an infertility support group. She thought it might be helpful… I hadn’t thought of a support group until then, and I was glad she had suggested it. That said, at that time I wasn’t ready for one, but I did keep it in mind. Shortly after that conversation with my friend, we scheduled my laparoscopy. With the treatment of my endometriosis and the thoughts from the doctor that he was optimistic my fertility would improve, we carried on for a few more months alone. However, when that train ran out of track and Dr. 1 sent me away to Dr. 2, we were ready for a support group. Being told that he was out of options for me and that I needed to go see someone else was hard to swallow. Plus, time was ticking away. We had been trying for over a year and half by that time and infertility was taking its toll on us.

I had found the website for Resolve months earlier and remembered that they had a section of their website for support groups. I went back there and quickly found what I was looking for: a support group right here in town. After some phone calls and a face-to-face meeting with the group facilitator who is a therapist, Matt and I were invited to join in at next meeting.

The meetings are probably a little bit like you’d imagine. I had never been to a support group before, so I only had movies and TV to guide my expectations… but they weren’t too far off. I’d say the big differences are that we meet in the living room of an old house that’s used for therapists’ offices, not a church basement or community center; we sit on couches and comfy chairs, not folding chairs; we don’t have a podium, we speak from our seats; and we don’t respond with monotone voices… But we do go around the circle giving updates about how we’re doing, developments in our journey since our last meeting, and what we’d like to talk about that night. We share tips on how to handle an upcoming procedure or what can be done to help our sore injection sites on our tummies and hips. We talk about tough situations with family and friends. We talk about how hard it can be to see other people’s babies and pregnant bellies. We share our fears, our frustrations, our disappointments. We share our anger. We share our grief. We share silence. Sometimes there is no perfect thing to say and just listening, being present, and accepting each other is the comfort we need. Many times we cry together. We hope for each other. We understand each other and support each other.

surround_yourselfUntil I went to support group I felt very alone. None of my close friends or family have been through this, so no one seemed to get it. At my support group though… they get it. They understand. All of our stories are different — no one’s journey is exactly the same, but the underlying love, hopes, and dreams are similar. The fear, frustration, and grief are similar. Because we are all familiar with the roller coaster of infertility, we can support one another and validate each other’s experiences on a deeper level. And the power of validation is enormous. Feeling understood, feeling accepted, and feeling that my emotions and reactions are normal has been so meaningful. Meeting others face-to-face, hearing their stories, and sharing with them has been so healing for me. I know for sure now that I am not alone — at group I feel surrounded with love and support from people who *get it*.

Reading about infertility has been helpful for me, yes, and I know it will continue to be helpful, but joining our support group and being in the presence of people who understand has been one of the very best things Matt and I have done for ourselves during our infertility journey. It connected us with people who understand what this journey is like, and for that I am so grateful. I am so thankful for our facilitator who guides us with understanding, wisdom, kindness, and love. And I am full of gratitude and love for the brave souls in our support group who open their hearts and share with us their stories. Thank you.

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Recommended Reading

If it’s not obvious by now, I like to write. When I was little I would make books at home… I’d cut the paper, staple the book together, and fill in the pages with words and pictures, and an adult would have to translate my sloppy words and letters into coherent sentences. Later, in my elementary school we had the opportunity to have our little creations printed and bound. The covers of the books were cardstock wrapped in scraps of wallpaper or contact paper… I wonder now which unfortunate teacher, school staff member, or PTA member had to patiently cut and wrap those covers. Yikes. Thank you to that person for helping my eight-year-old-self bring a “published” book home to share with Mom and Dad. Which reminds me — I believe there are several stacks of those books at my parents’ house… Sorry, Mom and Dad. I did move most of my stuff out here, but I do think my collected works are still living at your place.

However, with all of that said, I consider myself a reader first and foremost, not a writer. I read novels mostly, but during my infertility journey I have read numerous books, blogs, and other articles about infertility, and more recently pregnancy loss. Today I want to share three of the resources that have spoken to me during my journey. When thinking about what to write on my own blog, it occurred to me that sometimes someone else’s writing was just right for me, and just what I needed… I figure that the best way I can acknowledge their work and pay it forward is to just share the links (and maybe a few thoughts I had about it too. I do like to write after all). So without further ado, here are three links for today’s recommended reading:

5 Surprisingly Outdated Problems Infertile Couples Face
This is one of the best posts I have read about infertility. It’s spot on, and as a bonus, I think it’s hilarious. Even the picture captions make me laugh. This is one of the few posts that I have read and re-read. And re-read again. So I won’t even try to sum it up. Please read it.

My Facebook Timeline Lies
This is a great post about how there’s much more going on behind the scenes than what we share with the world. This writer opens up about her facebook posts and what was really happening in her life when the pictures were taken. For a long time I have felt like my facebook timeline was similar. To the world it looked like I was travelling, going to concerts, working on our house, and basically living a carefree life, but behind the scenes things were not as great as they seemed… facebook doesn’t tell the whole story. We never know what someone else might be going through.

Therapists’ Top Tips for Coping with Fertility Problems
This is one of those “well intentioned lists written by professionals” that I mentioned in my about me page. It’s not a post that I felt an emotional connection to, but I do think it gives a nice, general overview of coping tips and issues facing people with infertility.

Note: I have created a Resources page to list in one place all of the resources that I share in my blog posts. Check that page out to see the full list to date. You can also click on “Select Category” under the Topics heading and select “Resources” to see all of the posts I have made that include resources.

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Sitting With Grief

sitting_with_griefSometimes I have really bad days. Days where I need to cry and feel very sad. Days where I need to sit on the couch and snuggle my kitties. Days where I intentionally wear a sweatshirt because I’ve found them to be the best for bad days — they are handy for wiping away tears and they are also extremely comfortable. On my rollercoaster of infertility, bad days typically strike after my period arrives, but I’ve found that bad days can really occur at any time. There are a variety of things that might trigger me to have a bad day, and let’s face it, the things I’m putting my body through certainly aren’t helping to moderate my emotions… the medications do quite the opposite. I won’t even get into how much I cried while watching the Olympics this summer. It was madness. Anyway, back to the bad days. After my ectopic pregnancy I was having lots of bad days. At the time I told my therapist that I was spending a lot of time sitting around feeling really sorry for myself. My therapist listened and then kindly corrected me — I wasn’t “sitting around feeling sorry for myself”; I was “sitting with my grief.”


Her correction made me realize that I was feeling negative about my grief. I had been thinking of my grief in terms of feeling sorry for myself for a long time. And telling myself I was sitting around feeling sorry for myself made me feel guilty. Like I shouldn’t be doing that. Like I was selfish. Like I was weak for having bad days, for crying, or ungrateful for the things in my life that are great. But this grief is more than a self-indulgent pity party of feeling sorry for myself because things just aren’t going my way. Infertility and pregnancy losses are real — they may not always be tangible, but that doesn’t make them any less real. This grief is overwhelming and powerful, and experiencing and working through my grief isn’t something I should feel guilty for doing; it’s not something that makes me weak or selfish. Experiencing grief doesn’t mean I’m ungrateful. Her word change was simple, but it made a difference for me.

Don’t get me wrong — from my past experiences with grief and loss, I know how important it is for me to take the time to grieve. To be sad. To remember who and what has been lost. To honor them. But infertility is different. When I’m sad about my inability (thus far…) to bring a child into this world, I’m not able to remember a person. There isn’t a funeral. There are no memories or mementos for me to hold on to. Instead, the loss is one of a future. It’s a loss of hopes and dreams. In the case of my ectopic pregnancy it was the loss of a much wanted and loved baby who I’ll never hold in my arms or rock to sleep or watch graduate from high school… it’s the loss of a whole lifetime. And in our society there is no tradition for recognizing these losses… no comforting ceremonies to hold for saying goodbye and gaining some closure. Some societies do have traditions; for example, in Japan there are temples to visit to say goodbye to and honor their babies. But we don’t have anything. Matt and I had to come up with our own ways to recognize and honor our lost pregnancy and our infertility journey in general. I’m pleased with what we have done, but it would have been nice if there had been some kind of widespread tradition in our society to guide us.

Additionally, society doesn’t understand infertility or pregnancy loss very well, so the support can be minimal at times. These are taboo subjects and they tend to make people very uncomfortable if they are brought up. They are also experiences that not everyone has endured themselves, unlike other kinds of losses that are very common. In our case, not many of our loved ones know what infertility or pregnancy loss is like. This lack of understanding and personal experience makes it hard for people to relate to me. Due to this gap, sometimes I find the words spoken out of love to be far less comforting than they were intended by my loved one, and I end up feeling misunderstood and alone. In an attempt to bridge this gap, here are two links with tips on supporting someone who is experiencing infertility and/or pregnancy loss or stillbirth that may be helpful for anyone who is supporting someone experiencing this type of heartbreak.

For me, infertility is also a different kind of grief than others I’ve experienced because it’s so repetitive — month after month I experience the loss over and over. The wound I’m desperately trying to heal gets torn open again. Just when I’ve built up some hope again for this month’s treatment it seems that my period arrives and I’m drowning again in the waves of grief. And while I’m drowning, reminders of what I’m missing are everywhere I go and everywhere I look. So I have to be patient with myself while I survive my bad days. I cannot seem to escape them, and the only way out seems to be through. I have to let myself feel and accept the losses, the disappointment, the overwhelming heartbreak. I need to sit with my grief.

The simple rephrasing of what I was doing allowed me to to completely reframe how I felt about my grief. It allowed me to let go of any guilt about my grief so that I can better work through it, to experience it, and to carry on. Nothing in my behavior had really changed, yet I felt more free to experience my grief after I started to think about it differently. My grief may not be well understood by society or my loved ones, but that doesn’t mean it’s not appropriate. I have every right to take all the time I need to sit with my grief and heal from it in my own way.

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