Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Nine months later...

...And that has nothing whatsoever to do with pregnancy!

It's been Nine. Whole. Months. since I last posted!  I'm going through a bit of withdraw at this point.  I miss the blogosphere and recently realized how much so after the flurry of action surrounding National Infertility Awareness Week 2014.  Props to Resolve for spending the last 25 years spreading awareness, hope, and advocacy for infertility!

I am happy to say that I will slowly be inching my way back into writing on this blog since my dissertation research is done!

è finito!

 es fertig ist!

 se acaba!

 그것은 완료!

No matter how it is written, that crazy end-of-the-PhD-project is finished!

Well, mostly.

I still have to do some fine-tuning based on feedback from the powers that be, but I am excited to say that the research went well.  I found out some fantastic things about infertility and how women can cope with it and even feel better having had experienced it.

Yep.  You read that right:  Feel better because of experiencing infertility.  

How is that possible?  I know it's a weird concept, and even some of the women who took my survey thought the idea was asinine and proclaimed they would never, ever feel even the most minute benefit from having experienced such a crisis.

Ultimately, though, most of the women who took the survey did experience some kind of psychological growth while experiencing infertility.  Once the dissertation has gone through all of its fine-tuning and has been published, I will share the results here.  The posts that follow will go heavily in to how you can feel what many of the women felt who participated in my research.

Make no mistake: Infertility blows.  And nothing that I will discuss in this blog will negate those horrific feelings.

But, what if you could also experience some happy moments because of IF?  What if there are things about yourself that improved only because of infertility?

It is possible.  And I'm excited to talk about that in the coming months.

Stay tuned...

Until next time, be well,
~M

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Break

I love writing.  I especially love writing about the emotional and wild ride of infertility, and it's the sole reason I chose it for my dissertation topic.

It's a good thing I chose it, because dissertation is in my head nearly all day every day (and probably when I sleep).  Long gone are the days when I lazily get up for my first morning cup o' joe.  Now I abruptly sit up, wipe the glaze from my eyes and shake the haze from my dream-filled head, get my son off to preschool, and think about next dissertation steps.

And think.

And think.

And write notes.

And think.

And research more articles.

And think.

I'll never get bored of writing and learning about infertility, so writing 100+ pages on the topic is actually kind of a good time.

BUT...

It's inherently time-consuming.  Bleh.  You've probably noticed how sparse my posts have been of late, and I'm stoked to say it's because my life is full.  I get to help people all day long in my career, I come home to my family (bipeds and quadrupeds alike), I cook, I laugh, I do dissertation work.  Sometimes I clean.

Sometimes.

Barely.

A touch of OCD in that area would be nice, actually.

At any rate, I'm sad to say that I'll be taking a break from blog-posting for a while.  I will still be around reading and learning about other bloggers' lives and challenges, but I will be unable to comment much and will be totally unable to post updates of my own.

I'm heartily crossing my fingers that I will have finally completed my doctoral journey come December, so I expect to begin posting again in the New Year.

I'm also planning on organizing the junk drawer and vacuuming dust bunnies under the bed. Secondary to blogging, obviously.

Until then, may you be well.  May you be at peace.  And may you navigate these infertility, adoption, and childfree waters with grace (forgiving yourself when you don't).

~Maria

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

ICLW and Daydreams

Welcome ICLWers!  You can find my welcome on the tab at the top.  Short story: I'm a therapist who dealt with infertility for a long time before I said enough to ART and decided to adopt.  Been through the ringer just like you, and I get it.  Welcome!

Shameless promotion:  If you're interested in participating in infertility research (and entering to win one of six $15 Amazon gift cards), please click on the link to the right or the tab at the top to complete my PhD research survey.  Thank you!

Update 6/23: The survey is now closed.  Thanks to all who participated!

______________________________________________________

Last post I wrote about the dreaded Mother's Day fiasco...er....fiesta that most IFers scramble to avoid to whatever degree they can manage.  Understatement: It's a difficult day.  

That said, there are so many fabulous things that one can do on that day (or leading up to it) to help squelch the emotional intensity, and I posted an email that I received from a local infertility/adoption counseling center on just that topic. 

I mentioned that I wasn't sure about #4, which says something about attending a baby care class.  My first response: "WHAT?!"  My next response, "Hmmm..."  

I have a theory.  It starts with a RESOLVE support group I used to attend years ago wherein the facilitator suggested bringing a pregnant woman to the group; someone who had dealt with infertility and was now pregnant.  Her idea was that she wanted attenders to get in that space where this could actually be them.  "Imagine what it would feel like, if this were you," she said.  

I, like most everybody else, resisted the idea right away.  But, we remained open-minded.  Kinda.  

Fast forward many years later, and I'm reading the suggestion of attending a baby care class with thoughtfulness.  How could that possibly help?  Obviously, being around others who have babies or whose babies are imminent (through pregnancy or adoption) does not seem like the infertile's cup of tea.  

Then it struck me -- and this is where I realized I'm seriously owning my hippy self -- It's the Law of Attraction.  It's manifesting.  Most people have heard of The Secret by now; It's one of the most popular books written on the subject.  In very basic terms, universal law says that we attract what we put out.  So, for example, if we put out to the universe, "I am a mom," the universe says, "Okay, let's make that happen."  

So, theoretically, attending a baby care class tells the universe, "I am an expectant mom.  I need to take this class, because my baby will be here soon."  And then the universe moves mountains to make that happen. Does that make sense?  

Okay, so here's where my therapist hat comes on:  Is it really great for one's psyche to get all into the art of manifesting parenthood only to be hurt and disappointed when reality hits?  The answer as usual: It depends.  It depends on who you are, how you view your world, where your thoughts are, how you respond to your thoughts, etc.  There are a million different variables.

If, however, you feel like this might be something you're interested in, check out Flowdreaming.   Flowdreaming is a tool for manifesting that allows you to essentially daydream about what life will be like once you have the thing that you want.  There's even an app (I have no idea what I ever did without my iPhone).  Good stuff.

Going to a baby care class personally seems a bit too intense for one struggling to be a parent.  Sitting in a room with a pregnant woman: Intense.  Dreaming about parenthood?  Hmmm...

I'd love to hear your thoughts about this.  Would you go to a baby care class?  Would you practice flowdreaming or essentially daydream about what life would be like as a parent?  How do you think these things would affect you?

Until next time...

Be well,
~M

Friday, May 10, 2013

More Mother's Day Coping

I received this lovely email the other day from the Infertility and Adoption Counseling Center and knew I had to pass it on.

I'm not sure how I feel about #4, but I understand how it can be helpful for people.  Warning: The Stuck documentary is extremely emotional (even the trailer); be prepared, if you watch it.

I hope you find some of these things helpful for Sunday.



Feeling chicken about Mother's Day? You are not alone.
Mother's Day is difficult if you are struggling with infertility or had a miscarriage or pregnancy loss... are waiting to adopt... placed a child for adoption...are an adopted person thinking about your birth mother.
And unrelated to family building and adoption, Mother's Day may also bring up feelings about difficulties in your relationship with your mother or your child or about having lost your mother or your child.
10 Tips for Coping with Mother's Day 
  1. Avoid restaurants as many give out roses assuming ALL women can handle Mother's Day.
  2. Avoid family gatherings if seeing siblings' pregnancies or children trigger feelings that are too painful.  Keep in mind you won't be missing Mother's Day every year, so it really is OK not to go if it is too much for you this year.  
  3. Social survival tips if you must go to family gatherings - Keep the 'celebration' brief; have a code word with your partner or a friend that you need help changing the topic or to take the proverbial walk around the block.  
  4. If you are dealing with infertility or waiting for a baby through adoption, focus on the fact that you will become a parent if you stick with the process and get the support you need.  Sign up for a baby care class. These classes are uplifting!  IAC Center offers 3 different kinds of baby care classes and private classes are offered as well.
    1. Baby, Toddler and Child Care for Parents through International Adoption - June 2nd in Pennington, NJ
    2. Baby Care for Adoptive Parents of Newborns - August 9th in Montclair NJ
    3. NEW Baby Care for Intended Parents through Gestational SurrogacyMay 18th and September 21st in Montclair NJ
  5. Help children that do not have mothers - This spring there are 2 amazing events posted on the IAC Center Calendar under FYI: Special Events
    1. Attend a benefit at the beach:  The Alliance For Children Foundation is honored to present nationally acclaimed Singer-Songwriter Lori McKenna to benefit homeless Haitian Children at the historic Dreamland Ballroom in Oak Bluffs, MA this July 27 
    2. THIS WEEK you can see the award-winning documentary film STUCK and participate in the movement fostered by  Both Ends Burning, a non-profit dedicated to international adoption reform.  The film tells the stories of four orphans from Haiti, Vietnam and Ethiopia and their heartbreaking struggles to come home to their families. To learn more about how you can help, to view the trailer, purchase theater tickets, or download the film for personal viewing, visit www.stuckdocumentary.com.
      The film is being shown for one day in each of these locations: 
      1. New York City, Thursday May 9, 2013 at the Clearview Chelsea Cinema
      2. Princeton on Saturday May 11,2013 at The Montgomery Theatre 
      3. Cherry Hill, NJ on Mother's Day, May 12th, 2013 at 7 p.m. at AMC Cherry Hill Theater
  6. Take care of your self.  Tend to your own needs and feelings both physically and mentally. Exercise, get enough sleep, eat healthy, relax or make the time to do something you enjoy. Stress begets stress if we don't take care of ourselves.
  7. Have a support system of people that 'get' you and with whom you can be real. This may be friends, family or a support group of like-minded people. See:IAC Center Support groups  Even a small dose of validation can be extremely uplifting. 
  8. You may prefer private counseling to sort out your feelings, improve relationships or choices you are really comfortable with. Sometimes just a few sessions are necessary.
  9. Master Flow time: We all need some activity in which we can literally lose ourselves, stop thinking about our concerns, and just have a good time. I love cycling along the Delaware River, baking, reading or just about anything outdoors when the weather is good. Taking time away from what bothers you can work really well to refresh your perspective.
  10. Tap into your creativity: Writing, art, music, dance, creative movement, drumming, etc. are all ways to access your deeper feelings and ideas. Taking time out for the creative arts may even help you to find solutions to problems and to connect with what is really important to you. Look for our next newsletter in which I will talk all about a brand new IAC Center Program calledThe Creative Circle that I would love to start this summer. My vision is we gather together at the Center - indoors or outdoors depending on weather - and people pursue the creative art of their choice. Sharing the work would be optional as some people would enjoy it and others would prefer to keep their explorations private. Both choices are fine, whatever works for you.  In addition we would bring in specialists to stimulate and teach the participants - memoirist, a yoga teacher, etc. If you are interested please email me directly as I am beginning to assess interest, format, etc.  

Signing off thinking about chickens, my wonderful long-awaited daughter raising hens and a rooster, and that if you are coming to the Center in Pennington and want some fresh as in laid-that-day eggs, let me know that too. We have lots!!
Wishing you all a Happy Mother's Day!



Friday, May 3, 2013

It's Around the Corner...

I was reading through some old posts about that fabulous (eh-hem) holiday that most people in the infertility community have some trouble with:  Mother's Day.

Oh yes...it's back.

Some women struggle, because it is a reminder that they are not yet mothers.  Some women struggle, because they already are mothers and believe they should feel grateful for what they have; the guilt can overshadow the joy.

Partners struggle, because they don't want to see their wives/girlfriends/loves-of-their-life hurting anymore.

I was going to write a whole new post about how to cope with this one day a year, but last year's post is still totally appropriate:  The Holiday You've Been Waiting For (and waiting, and waiting, and waiting)

In short: Be kind to yourself. You deserve it.


Until next time...be well,
~M

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Join the Movement: An Ah-Ha Moment

I remember well the day it happened.

I was sitting on the back patio holding a stick.  His favorite stick.  The lavender was newly blooming, the fragrance enveloping me, and the bees flicked around the purple stalks making a loud buzzing sound impossible to ignore.  I smiled up at the sun knowing that this was a great moment.

I intended to carve his name in that stick and toss it in his favorite lake where he use to dive in and swim after it no matter how far it was thrown.  I always joked that he would swim until he died. 

Bailey was my beautiful, wild yellow lab.  A strong swimmer, an eater of random non-edibles like plastic bottles or underwear that missed the hamper, and a source of daily laughter (or certain expletives when his ever-wagging tail would connect with a shin) .  He was always at the ready when we'd walk in the front door, like he had heard our car a mile away.

Except, of course, the time he ate a whole tray of freshly-baked brownies.  He hid upstairs that day.

Bailey had died the previous winter.  My handsome, funny, crazy, yellow lab was just ten days short of 8 years old.  And I missed him the instant he was gone.

I didn't know of the lesson he would teach several months later as I sat among the lavender.  It's propelled and motivated me in a way in which words fall short of describing.

Briefly: I was finally happy.

That moment was six and a half years post infertility diagnosis with tens of thousands of dollars spent on fertility treatments, raging hormones, a seemingly endless emotional roller coaster, intrusions on my body and mind, and no baby to show for it.

But, as I sat there, "it" happened.  The realization that I was happy.  My ah-ha moment.

"How could this be?" I thought.  I should be sad, discouraged, angry, and, and, and....

Yet, I wasn't.

Why?

Somehow in the mess of infertility and losing Bailey, I realized I had everything I could ever want or need right then.  In that moment.  Happiness is now.  And the more that I want something that I don't presently have, the more unhappy I feel.

Sure, wanting something more...dreaming of something more...craving something more (like parenthood) is normal.  But, I was obsessing, perseverating, and becoming consumed with the ache of not having that thing.  That's where I lost myself.  And my happiness.

When I really thought about what was happening, I was able to trace that shift to sometime the previous November when I really began looking forward to the holidays.  I was always happy about the holidays, but this was more than just reaching my pre-infertility level of happiness.  I was so much more grateful for everything I had.  Even though I didn't have a baby, I had a fabulous husband, awesome animals, a comfy home, and my dream job.  I enjoyed lots of different hobbies and got to help people on a daily basis; some of whom were dealing with the same confusing and overwhelming world of infertility.  I didn't take even one of those things for granted anymore.  Just like not having a baby, any of those things could be gone.  And I didn't know it at the time, but Bailey would be gone in just a few short months.

Because, I'm a researcher and pseudo-academic at heart (Okay, I'm a nerd.  There, I said it), I wondered if this happened to other people.  Could I be the only one?  Is it just me, or was I experiencing this traumatic health crisis and feeling, not only happy, but way more happy than I'd ever been?

No way.  No way!

After digging a bit on Google Scholar, I discovered a phenomenon that had been studied for the past decade or so called posttraumatic growth.  You know what PTSD is, right?  Well, this is the opposite:  When good things happen as a result of trauma. 

I know.  Weird. 

It's the message in that song "Live Like You Were Dying."  You know the one.  Are you humming it yet?  The character in the song is diagnosed with cancer and decides to do all of the things that he ever wanted to do.  He began to make Each. Moment. Count. 

Now, would I ride a bull named Fu Man Chu?  Uh, no.

But, there are a ton of things that I (or any of us) could do in any given moment.  To live in that moment.  To really be present right then and there.

Like throwing a stick for your dog.

Thanks to thoughts of Bailey, I discovered what was happening to me.  And I decided I needed to know more and pass it around.  I began research for my dissertation on infertility and posttraumatic growth, and I began throwing ideas around for this blog. 

Hence, I began Joining the Movement to contribute to the infertility community and to educate outside of it.

It's the crux of this blog to recognize the suffering that people with infertility experience and to highlight that one is not alone and does not have to suffer alone.  I'd like to also highlight that one can be in the gutter and simultaneously look up at the stars and wonder at their beauty.  Suffering does not negate joy.

I'll say it again: Suffering does not negate joy. 

I'm Joining the Movement to contribute that small piece of knowledge that can have a big impact on your life, if you so choose.

I'm happy to say, I took my joy back from infertility.  And it even grew exponentially beyond what it was before I began the wild infertility ride. 

Take that, IF. 

And thank you, Bailey. 

One last thing: I wouldn't know it for another year, but as my "shift" happened that previous November, my son was being born half way across the world.  A Thanksgiving baby.

Coincidence?  I think not.  But, that's another post. 


May boundless joy be yours,
~Maria

Dedicated to my Bailey Boy swimming after sticks somewhere

To learn more about the disease of infertility, please visit this page at RESOLVE (The National Infertility Association).

This post is written in honor of National Infertility Awareness Week 2013 (see badge in sidebar). To learn more about NIAW and the theme "Join the Movement," please click here.

Also for HAWMC's Day 21 prompt:  “The flower that blooms in adversity is the rarest and most beautiful of all.” – Mulan  True or False?   I vote true.  Obviously.  :)


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

HAWMC Day 17: Organic Happy Carrots

HAWMC Day 17, here we are!  You can start with day 1 here.

Yesterday's post was a temporary reprieve from HAWMC...just had to say a few words about Boston.


Today's prompt:  Go to wordle.net to create a word cloud or tree from a list of words associated with your condition, blog, or interests.  Post it!

I had way too much fun with this prompt, and I'm kinda diggin' the finished product:



I recently saw an iPhone case with the words Think Happy, Be Happy, and I way dig it.  So, "think" and "happiness" right in the center like that?  Way me.  That, and the fact that the color scheme is called Organic Carrot.

Yup.  Can't go wrong with that.  

Until tomorrow...be well,
~M