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2020

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We Are Not Incompetent

February 14, 2020

Written by Rebecca Paradis, Guest Blogger

Hi Friends,

My name is Becca. I’m an ER nurse living in Alaska with my husband, Aaron, and fur baby, Abby.  Aaron and I have been trying to conceive for a year now.  It’s been a year of dedicated cycle tracking, basil body temps, cervical symptoms, all the things.  Every month that goes by we become more settled into the idea that having a biological child may be a bit more of a challenge for us.  Next month we meet with my OB/GYN to begin fertility testing.  I’m a newbie to this whole world of infertility and in that short time I’ve learned that it can be a lonely, desperate, isolating place to be. 

Anyway, fun fact about me, I love podcasts.  I rarely even watch TV anymore (except December because of all the Christmas movies of course), but I always have a podcast on.  The other day I was listening to one of my favorites and the guest on the show was a young woman.  A leader in her industry and clearly very strong, both physically and mentally, she made a comment that I initially misunderstood.  I thought she said that women were being raised to feel incompetent, when in reality she said confident.  While the latter makes more sense, it was incompetence that really caught my attention.  Are we as females raised to feel incompetent?

How often when you’re scrolling through social media do you feel completely incompetent?  Didn’t get your workout in for day before you went to work, cleaned the house, made dinner, and paid the bills?  Well, you must be really lazy.  Despite all the things we manage to do in a single day, it is the one thing that we didn’t have time for or prioritize that we beat ourselves up on.  That one single item on the to do list makes us feel like failures and that’s how we judge ourselves.  I’ve always considered myself to be a strong, confident woman, not a whole lot really gets me down on myself.  Fertility though, well let’s just say it the first thing that has truly made me feel completely incompetent as a wife and a woman.

A friend pointed out to me the other day that in the recent past, a woman’s only purpose was to tend house and raise babies.  While we have moved past this as a society, I don’t think it has been long enough for the feeling of failure to evolve from our DNA if this isn’t possible.  Infertility shakes us to our core, it makes us feel the highest level of incompetence.  Despite everything I do to make my marriage work, I tell myself I have failed in the most important aspect in that I have been unable to carry a child that is a genetic mix of my husband and I.  Let me clarify that my husband in no way blames me for our infertility issues; he is supportive, caring, and open to ideas on how to grow our family.  We face this challenge together.  He hurts with me and shares my fears.  Still, I feel that I have failed him and our marriage. 

Maybe this is a call to arms, for myself and for all of you.  Enough is enough.  Biology cannot always be helped and while it is a heart-breaking reality, it doesn’t make any of us incompetent.  So, whether you missed your workout today, burned dinner, didn’t finish the laundry (Currently my mother’s dog is crashed out in a pile of clean laundry I have yet to put away, eh oh well…guess I’ll wash it again or maybe the husband will smell like a dog for a couple days), or cannot conceive a child biologically, let’s stop calling ourselves incompetent.  Every day we wake up and face the world, we stand up to our fears, and we conquer ever growing to do lists.  We are strong, we are smart, we are successful, and we are 100% competent.

If you enjoy my thoughts and can relate, feel free to head over to my blog where I share more of my running rambles and thoughts on this mess called life.  Join me at: Milestomotherhood.com or follow me on Instagram.  Better yet, let’s show the world how competent we truly are with #milestomotherhood because there really are many miles ahead of us, whether you are trying to enter motherhood or already in the trenches dealing with the daily challenges.  Stay strong all you competent ladies!

Love,

Becca

Babe In My Arms, Babe In My Belly, Babe In My Heart, Blogs, Uncategorized

Infertility is Bigger than Babies

February 5, 2020

Written by Guest Contributor, Tiffany Johnston

Let’s talk a bit about the psychological warfare that is infertility.

For those that have been following our story with What The Fertility, we began sharing about our journey about 3 years ago. We experienced a large number of failed treatments, loss of hope and eventually a few miracles. Just over a year ago I shared that we were pregnant naturally via video on #nationalrainbowbabyday with all of our friends. It was a feeling I thought we would never experience! What caught me off guard was that I was equally as terrified as I had been with our infertility procedure babies.

I have spent more than my fair share of time in post partum depression counseling, dealing with onset OCD, anxiety and feelings of loss that no matter that time seem to be unshakable. I feel guilty that we have three beautiful boys and yet every time someone announces a pregnancy or a gender reveal I cry. I cry because I am jealous that they get to enjoy a natural experience and that they won’t be under a mountain of debt when their child is born. That instead they get to take that money and pay bills, travel or create the perfect nursery for their expected blessing, Five years later and not a single one of my kids bedrooms is styled or complete. 

I have even felt a sense of loss over the fact that my memories of conception do not entail a moment of passion and love, but rather recollections of shame and fear. I have memories of my husband being taken away to masturbate in isolation to provide the needed sperm sample, and personally having to experience the joy of being turkey basted over and over again after each failed transfer. It has taken me over five years to realize that all of these feelings of loss, shame and sadness are natural and very common. Let’s talk about why…

For those new to the infertility world I like to remind followers that the term infertility is generally defined as a condition of the reproductive system that inhibits or prevents conception after at least one year of unprotected sexual intercourse. To account for the natural decline of fertility with age, the time frame is reduced to six months for women 35 and older. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 12% of women between the ages of 15 and 44 have “difficulty getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term.”

I bring up the definition of infertility because I believe we must educate society because I recognize that it can be hard to fully grasp what infertility involves unless you’ve dealt with it personally. I also am guilty of being one of the many people that originally believed that infertility was all about the end game, a baby. I truly believed that if we could just get to that prize, the pain of infertility would fade away. But infertility is bigger than babies. I want you to hear what I am saying so let me repeat myself.  Infertility is bigger than the baby. It can affect our physical and mental health in insidious — and sometimes enduring — ways.

Some researchers argue argue that the definition of trauma should be expanded to include the psychological and emotional response to not only physical threats, but threats too deeply held expectations of life. To understand a bit better I want you to take a moment to think about the grief that occurred for you after the death of a loved one. The relationship you had with your loved one was probably clearly defined, and you have memories of that person to look back on. The loss is easily identified because of the relationship you formed and the feelings you experienced over the years, not only by you but by others who were aware of the death.

It’s likely that your friends and family expressed sympathy and gave you their condolences,  you may have taken time off work for bereavement and attended a ritual such as wake or funeral that helped to facilitate your grief. Your loss was likely recognized, acknowledged, validated and supported in a multitude of ways. Now I ask you to think about the losses associated with infertility. One of the most common forms of loss and grieving is that of the imagined or expected family, women with primary infertility, who do not have biological children, face the loss of the entire life stage of parenting.

What seems to be the hardest for people to grasp is that with infertility, feelings of loss can come from an absence of something that has never been rather than the absence of something that used to be. Reproductive trauma also stems from the fact that many people begin imagining their futures as parents long before they even dream of starting a family. For many people their reproductive stories started when as children, they heard things like, “Someday, when you have kids…”, we start imagining what our experiences will look like long before we reach the age of reproduction. This doesn’t even touch on the emotional trauma caused by all of the babies lost early on, still born and those families that experience recurring miscarriages. There is so much more loss in infertility than what we see and understand as a society. 

I want to tell you today that you don’t have to feel guilty for having emotions, your emotions are valid, worthy of discussion and that everything you are feeling is natural and perfectly normal!  It is common and normal to experience shock, grief, depression, anger, and frustration, as well as loss of self-esteem, self-confidence, and a sense of control over one’s destiny. Infertility changes how you see yourself and the world.

Somewhere along the journey, many of us stop feeling as though infertility is happening to us, but instead begin to believe that it is ingrained as a part of who we are. You become used to living in a constant state of fluctuating despair, loss and hope; that seems even worse during the dreaded two week wait and as many of us later learn it doesn’t just turn off when and if you get pregnant. For many of us it has never turned off, we experienced those feelings through each ultrasound, the birth and so on.

I now have a 5 year old and 3 year old that we got through infertility and an 11 month old that we were blessed with au natural and I am still trying to turn it off. Just last weekend my sister in law who is 20 years of age announced the gender of her surprise baby and I cried for over two hours, hysterically. Want to know what my counselor said? “ That’s okay Tiffany, your heart is battered and worn by your experiences and your feelings are YOURS. You do not need to feel guilty for not experiencing the emotions that are expected of you.”

More than anything I want you to read that again! Lock it in your emotional vault and hold tight to the validation that your emotions are valid whether you are 6 months into trying for a family or 5 years past your very first IUI. Other’s may not understand your feelings or understand how you can simultaneously love the children that you hold earth side at the same time as you mourn the loss of those that you never got to hold and the experiences you never got to have. Hold strong in the fact that you have a safe and understanding community here @whatthefertility who see and acknowledge all that you are experiencing.  

Babe In My Arms, Babe In My Belly, Babe In My Heart, Blogs, Uncategorized

Conceiving With Love: Increasing Fertility, Healing Shame

January 2, 2020

Written by Denise Wiesner, Guest Blogger

I recently received an email from a 43 year old patient who wrote about her journey in coming to terms with the sexual molestation she experienced at only five years old. Like so many young victims, she was threatened not to speak a word, a threat she took to heart for most of her life. But in this email, she discussed trying to dismantle the belief she had grown up with, “I can’t ask for help or tell anyone my truth.” By writing about what had happened in her childhood, she asked me to witness her story — a story that had affected every relationship in her life until now. 

In reading her words, I wondered… 

How many of us have beliefs from childhood, and even adulthood, that have affected our capacity for intimacy? 

How many of us are too ashamed to tell anyone? 

And how do negative beliefs, stress, and trauma affect our ability to become pregnant? 

I see situations in my Chinese Medicine practice where women and men carry shame around infertility. One of my patients, lets call her Lisa, was a very successful and beautiful business woman who came to see me after an ectopic pregnancy. At first, the doctors hadn’t found the ectopic, but Lisa felt that something was off. And as it turned out, she was right. 

They had to take out her tube because she was at risk of losing it. It was a devastating loss for Lisa, and yet she was determined to get pregnant again. However, she told me that she and her husband had very little time for intimacy, and she described making a baby with her husband as “a ten minute in-and-out experience.” But for me, the more disturbing thing was that she felt she was being punished, as if she couldn’t conceive because she had done something wrong. It felt to her almost as if God didn’t want her to have a child. 

I wanted to bear witness to this untruth. I wanted to hold this belief she held strong and question its very existence because it is already hard enough to have fertility challenges let alone believe we are at fault for them. 

When it comes to fertility, there are so many blogs, books and advice about what to eat, what supplements to take, and how to become fertile-ready. But what is missing (and equally important to talk about), is what gets in the way of us being our fertile, sexual, and intimate selves. Or in other words, how do we deal with our stress, trauma, and negative beliefs in order to make a baby from a place of love? 

I have made it my mission to speak about the things that no one wants to discuss, and listen to the words that men and women are ashamed to say, because I believe that it is an important step toward conceiving. Secret shame must be addressed so that it doesn’t get in the way of our fertility and intimacy with our partners. 

In my book, Conceiving With Love, A Whole Body Approach to Creating Intimacy, Reigniting Passion and Increasing Fertility,” I talk about techniques to heal trauma and stress in order to get back to a loving place with ourselves and with our partners. First, we have to be able to be honest with ourselves about our story. I can’t tell you how many people I work with who keep secrets from their partners. 

For example, one of my fertility patients was struggling with Bulimia, and her partner didn’t know. While another one of my patients never told her partner about the molestation that took place in her childhood. These women were holding onto shame, and it was getting in the way of intimacy. 

In Chinese Medicine, we talk about feeling all emotions, but not becoming fixated on any one of them. It is the ability to feel, let go, feel, and let go again. Fertility struggles are bad enough to experience, but when we disconnect from our partner, we only isolate in the pain. 

It is also common to feel as if our bodies are failing us when we cannot conceive. This too is a form of shame. I see many social media posts that say, “I failed,” with the illusion that they are a failure because they didn’t get pregnant. 

I am no stranger to any of these feelings and thoughts. You see, I felt the same way when I miscarried, and again when I struggled to conceive my second child. I couldn’t understand what I had done to hold me back from conceiving, and I shouldered the blame on my own. So, I started writing letters to God asking why I wasn’t getting pregnant; and slowly, my sense of self began to erode. I realized I had been trying to affect the outcome I desired, and that simply wasn’t up to me. This was sad, because it questioned the belief I was taught — do good things, and good things will happen. Instead, I adopted the new belief that life doesn’t work on rewards and punishments, and we all have our own struggles to overcome. 

It took me years to reframe my thinking; but today I am living with an open heart knowing I can get through whatever life offers me, and each challenge makes me a stronger person. One day at a time. 

If you are trying to conceive, and think that shame could be getting in the way, what can you do to reconnect to LOVE? 

1. Communicate with your partner – Allow yourself to be vulnerable with your partner – it increases intimacy. Tell your partner about your wants, likes, and desires. How often do my patients feel uncomfortable asking for what they want? I would say, 98% of the time, especially if it is in the sex department. Sometimes people don’t even know what they want. If you can relate with that, there is a section dedicated to foreplay in Conceiving With Love, for more suggestions.

2. Know your story – but don’t let it run your future. Are there any lessons from your past that caused you to establish negative beliefs that you are carrying into the present moment? If so, don’t be shy to ask for help from a friend, healer, and/or therapist.

3. Notice your triggers. Do you react to situations in bigger proportion than necessary? This can happen even when revisiting the doctor’s office where you were last pregnant before a miscarriage. Sometimes acknowledging and understanding your triggers can help you dismantle them.

4. Become aware of the negative beliefs about yourself that you carry into your relationship. For example, “I don’t want my belly touched, it is fat.” After having a negative thought like that, make sure to look in the mirror and see the beautiful body that houses your spirit.

5. Take time away from electronics and be with your partner. Making love with your beloved is sacred, and making time to connect with an open heart can be a game changer when it comes to conception. 

My own fertility journey is in the past, and today I am lucky to have two beautiful children. I appreciate them every day because I know how much some women and men struggle to make children. I know most of them didn’t expect this process to be difficult. I also know that there is a lot of suffering that people go through and don’t talk about. 

If you are struggling, please find someone to bear witness to your thoughts and feelings. It could be a healer, therapist, best friend, or your partner. Don’t forget to wrap yourself in the healing power of love. As Lao Tzu, the famous Chinese Philosopher said, “When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” 

If you’d like more information or to connect with Denise, you can find more over on Instagram, her website, or the website for Natural Healing Acupuncture!

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