Monday, April 24, 2017

Why is barren a dirty word?

It's that time of year again! NIAW 2017 - National Infertility Awareness Week. I am grateful to RESOLVE for having created the safe space for us to reach out to each other and empower each other. In my first post yesterday I called myself barren and someone pointed out to me that barren is a word that is associated with being devalued, and that is very true and something I would love to address.

There is not a good word to use for those of us who are living and have lived through infertility: barren, infertile, childless? None of those words are "acceptable" in society, they all have negative connotations. Rob Bell once talked about reclaiming words, like when the word God or religion rubs you the wrong way due to a bad experience in your life. I'm OK with reclaiming the word barren. It is used to describe some amazing matriarchs in the Bible. These women were a source of solace and inspiration during my darkest hours. Barren does not have to mean useless or empty. For me, it just means that there is something in my life that will always be missing, I acknowledge it, and have learned to not just live with it but embrace it. I also want to acknowledge it even though the word makes others uncomfortable or because they might think I am dwelling on what I don't have. Our journey through infertility has given me something that I might not have necessarily found for myself, I learned to prioritize myself and not think of it as being selfishness but an act of love to myself and those around me. I learned during treatment, and afterwards when I was healing physically and mentally, that I have little to give if I don't first replenish my needs.

Infertile is not any better than barren and it doesn't have the rich heritage that the word barren does. During treatment, I shuttered at even hearing the word childless, I felt that if I thought of that word even for a second that I was jinxing myself, or "giving up." Obviously now I feel different about the word, and have also learned to reclaim it and I often refer to my husband and I as either childless or childfree.

This is part of the conversation for this week, we want others to listen to our stories and not think of us with pity.  Infertility is a grief that has no greeting card you can send. (Well... actually there is this one website: It would be great if when someone is so indelicate as to ask if I have children to be prepared for the answer that I will give: "No, I can't have them, and adoption is not for us."

We are the other side of the coin, the one that people don't want to acknowledge is there because it's not the average story. It makes others uncomfortable with the realization that they are lucky to have what others could only dream of. Let's break that stigma, and add a little more empathy in the world this week.

I am barren AND I am loved, empowered, a child of God with so much to give.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Medicine or Voodoo?

I have resentments from my years of attempting to "fix" my infertility. I know my husband does as well. I tried very hard for a long time to not fault anyone and blame a particular doctor, during the treatment because it wasn't going to be very helpful or productive. I personally have been an advocate for better patient care since I was in undergrad. It is something I am passionate about. It sounds very broad, but it is my driving force for all the career decisions I make.... but I never really thought about my own care.
I believe I am decent advocate for my own health, doing my own research and speaking up when I am uncomfortable with something, or asking about alternative treatment options. But for the most part I removed myself from my passion because I didn't fight for me, I fight for others, it's what I am best at. With time having past and my continued work towards healing I found myself thinking about my own extensive healthcare experience thus far in my life.
I realized that my treatment felt like a trial and error, like a voodoo science kind of thing. I know from my education and research that the medical community can do better. I am incredibly passionate about personalized medicine, I think in part, because I wish it had been a real option for me during treatment.
Having visited 3 different reproductive endocrinologist clinics, I felt like all three had the same approach: Step one: Does she have all the plumbing working properly?, Yes, good. Step two: What do we think she has? PCOS, yeah sounds about right, ok moving on, Step 3: Start with treatment option A, that fails after a few months, then option B, then C... etc until she gets pregnant. Period. (No pun intended)
And I am sure this is not the only condition this reasoning is used for, maybe not exactly but for Depression, Anxiety, Adult Onset Diabetes, Migraines... Its a stab in the dark until something sticks. 
The reason I have a problem with that is because they are attempting to resolve the immediate issue, which in my case was barrenness. There was little regard for my own health and the risks taken were my own to bear. 
I would have preferred that they work harder on identifying WHY I was barren, and not just making assumptions based on past diagnosis and minor work ups. If you are looking for PCOS, you will find it, and that was reason enough for them as a cause. What about how I was responding to the medication? How about family history? Medicine as a means to an end, instead of treating the WHOLE patient, especially in something as emotionally charged as infertility is just cruel. And of course, there is the cost of it all, if you really want to treat the whole patient you need: an RE, psychologist, nutritionist, meditation/yoga classes, couples therapy, time off.... the costs are exorbitant, all for the privilege of having your body do the main function that it was created to do... reproduce. How humiliating is that? I think those of us that have gone through this become numb to that feeling, constantly having to strip down and spread our legs to whomever comes through the door, being poked, prodded, stabbed.. the whole thing is traumatizing, degrading, and then to not have anything to show for it?! 
I digress... the point of my post is that we deserve better. As patients, as humans, we deserve better care, we deserve for the medical community to find a better way to treat the barren. I feel for those who are given the awful diagnosis of Undiagnosed Infertility.What is that? How unfair to be deprived of having a child, and being told "we don't know what is wrong with you or how to fix it?" 
We can do better.... we must do better. The mindset needs to change, the humanity needs to be brought back into the practice of healing the human body. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Deja Vu... Infertility SUCKS

I have talked about the burden of the home we own on previous posts. We have been trying to sell this house for 7 months now, in a sellers market, with what we have been told is an "easily sellable" house. Updated, beautiful, good neighborhood, etc. And you know what? We have had two contracts fall through for different reasons, mostly not having to do with the house itself, just bad luck. And yet, I see houses all around me pop up and be sold quickly.... sound familiar?
I remember being told that my infertility was going to be an easy fix, and that I would be pregnant in no time, and yet, time went on, and things weren't happening, and every new treatment felt like, it was it that time. In the meantime, I felt that pregnancy was happening all around me, even in the unlikely of places.
This feels like deja vu.... no, you know what? Today, in this moment, it feels like I'm cursed. Like the one thing I had wanted more than anything in the world and can't have, is going to haunt me, and taunt me for the rest of my life. And any move I make to try to regain my life, will keep throwing me back into the 4 worst years of my life. I feel like I will never escape, and that my optimism, faith, and hope for a better life is not going to be enough. There is only so many fake smiles, and "looking on the bright sides" that I have left in me, and right now, I am all out.
My life sucks right now and I feel like there isn't going to be a better tomorrow. And even if there is, I don't have the energy to hope for that future. Right now, today, IT SUCKS...

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

On Creativity

I am reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. I have recently decided that she and I are made of the same stuff. I hear her talks and read her work and it's like she wrote it for me, to wake me up. And well, she IS best friends with Rob Bell who we all know I adore and wish he were my friend too!

I feel like my subconscious is so intense that it taps into something like the Speed Force, but instead it's the Creative Force. When I am asleep and my mind is allowed to wander, it wanders into the invisible world where the ideas live and it picks one or two up to read and recreates them in my mind.  It's like I'm a lightning rod. Most ideas are incomplete because they haven't found their partner which is why the story never seems to end. I tend to pick up things that are perhaps relevant to my life, or things that resonate with my mood and most prominent feelings of the day or week. By the way, this also happened to be how I decide which book to read or buy.

I have  a difficult time accepting that I am a creative being and what that means for me. But I have felt that tingling feeling, hairs on end, stomach knotting, anxiety and thrill of being hit by an idea, it's just that they always seems so marvelous that I couldn't possibly bring it to life.

I am hoping that while reading Big Magic I will be able to untangle myself from the fear, self doubt and lost sense of self so that I can be open and available for when an idea finds me again. I would love nothing more than to feel that again and to take on something beautiful.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

"You will have many 'children'"

I'm a big fan of Rob Bell's work. I went to an event of his called "How to be Here" this past spring and it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life (forgive me if I have told this story before, I need to hear it from myself today). Not because I got to meet this amazing person whom I admire and respect, though that was cool, but because I had the courage to speak in front of this group of 100+ strangers and tell my story. Granted, it was among half sobs, and with nerves and adrenaline coursing through my body. I remember saying: "After having gone through years of failed treatment, my husband and I have decided to live childless. And we are ok with that decision. But [in your book] you are talking about how to manage your energy when you have a lot going on, but what I am struggling with is what to do with all the energy I have and no where to put it. I was going to be a mom, and now we have this ... space... and I am terrified of it, and don't know what to do with it."
I remember him complimenting my purple hair, and then telling me he was sorry. He also said, I have this prayer that I say when I feel lost and in need of guidance, I say "Show Me." That's it, that's the prayer. And then he looked at me, his eyes filled with compassion and said "You will have MANY 'children.'"
Afterward during the break and for the rest of the event, I was approached by many people, older couples, and women who went through a similar situation and decided to live childless. I remember the older woman with tears brimming in her eyes that took my hands and said "me too." And I hugged her and said thank you. And the older gentleman who told me he and his wife have lived childless for 40 years after failed treatments and they got on with their lives and they are happy. He said "you can be happy." I believe him.

I recently been hearing in my head Rob Bell's sentence "You will have many 'children.'" I put it in quotations because I know that he didn't mean literal children, he's not a prophet that is foreseeing the future, or an angel of the Lord making me a promise. I know he means projects and people that I will pour love over and love as my own. But until recently I think I have been feeling like it HAS to be children. Since I don't have my own, and I wanted my own for so long, my responsibility is to devote my extra energy in other children, children in need. But that's the funny thing about these paths that the Lord has made for us, we tend to think that we know what the Lord wants us to do, instead of listening to what he really wants us to do. A lot of times what I think is the Lord's demands of me, are really society's pressure on my situation. I know today that it's not. How I know, I'm not sure, it's one of those trans-rational things in my subconscience or what have you that tell me that I am projecting my own guilt and feeling the pressure of society as a childless woman and thinking that I still have a responsibility to children in need. Perhaps one day I will do something to help those children, but that is not quite what I am feeling is my purpose. I can't force myself to want to open an orphanage, or foster children, or go into teaching to fill the void my childlessness has left me. It's just not there.

My passion continues to lie in patient care, in utilizing science for the betterment of medicine, making sure the right medicine gets to the right people, that the right information gets to the right patients.

Someone I love is imminently dying of cancer right now, because we haven't figured out how to cure her cancer, how to stop it from spreading....

"My children" may not be children that I care for directly... they may be young and old, and everything in between. People's lives that I want to help make better by throwing in all my love and passion into my belief in science and humanity.  That is what rings true in my heart today.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Waiting for something amazing! Part II

We love going to trivia, and we are always struggling to find a clever and nerdy team name to use. But lately my husband, without talking to me about it, has started using the team name "Something Amazing." Its our own little inside secret, only we know what it's about and I LOVE that he took it upon himself to take ownership of this phrase. It also made me really think about what this blog means to me, and our life.

This life is something amazing! We live every day searching for the beauty and awe of the day, for the blessings big and small that appear in the most unpredictable places.

The fact that we are now team "Something Amazing" means to me that we have taken this life that was once broken and painful, and we are rebuilding it to be our own, to find joy and things that amaze us and gladden our hearts, to fill our days. We don't care what others think about what we are creating together, as long as it makes us happy and helps us heal and grow and enjoy life.

This blog will continue to be about an infertility survivor, servant of God, who's current resolution is to live childless, with the man she loves. I will blog about my struggles as I find myself, as I wait for the answer to the prayer I say everyday "Show Me!" Show me what I am going to do with this life, but I am not waiting for the answer, standing still, no... I am waiting and in the meantime I will continue to enjoy all the amazing, wonderful moments that we will create and live together that form our lives. Living with gratitude, joy, love, and compassion for the glory of our Creator who makes all things new, even these broken hearts. 


I was going to write: Chapter 1: but that would mean that all that was lived was a closed book, as we say in Spanish "punto y aparte" "period and new paragraph" but that doesn't feel right. I do not want to separate who I am from that painful chapter in our lives. We call ourselves "survivors" but I am still surviving it, every day, and I will continue to do so for the rest of ours lives. Its who we are. Its who I am. So, no, this is not Chapter 1, this is...

Part II:
I have been contemplating self discipline thanks to Gretchen Rubin, Elizabeth Gilbert and Rob Bell. I am slightly obsessive compulsive and I like to do "what feels right." I rely a lot on feeling and mood, and not so much on "shoulds and woulds" and YET! I definitely guilt myself with "woulds and shoulds." (I am an Obliger) Part of this process has involved eliminating things that "do not serve me" and I have relied a lot on how I feel about things, people, habits, and it has worked out for me so far. But now I have eliminated so much that now I have room for new things, and I want them to be healthy, and to serve me, so I may serve God...  the possibilities are daunting. I realize that I have never really worked to have self discipline because I rely on my character to get things done, as an Obliger, I do things in service of others and that is enough to motivate me to get things done, but I do not worry about things that I need. So in this space I want to fill some of it with what I need.

I have been thinking a lot about "Fixed-Hour Prayer" and how that may help me support my faith. I have pretty much stopped going to church. I never did find a community where I felt I belonged, and I did not find a church with a good Adult Christian Education program that I felt served me. I still love my church, and my denomination and continue to identify with them, but for now, I just need to keep my faith fed. I thought this might be a good idea. I love tradition, but am not much for ritual, despite my upbringing as a Catholic. For this practice I will need self discipline. I have also found great value and goodness in yoga. It serves my body, and helps strengthen it, and it also feeds my soul and calms my mind. It too is a practice and I think I would gain a lot by using it as a practice, as it is intended and not just a thing I do sometimes to ease my guilt or physical aches. Both of these require self discipline and both I think would do me much good.

Here's what I have figured out about myself regarding these two practices... the "fear of missing out" is what keeps me from doing it. I want to be available at all times for anything and be available to help someone else with what they may need, because that's "more important" in my obliger mind. If I think it through the way my therapist will want me to, I will acknowledge this has yet to be the case, and I waste a lot of time literally staring at the wall, or my phone, processing the day as it happens or my own existence, its like my own life voiceover, but I worry that it can be destructive. I think prayer may help guide that contemplation, and help me get out of my own head for a while. I have had many revelations during yoga, and prayer before, all constructive and healthy, and my hope is that this will be a kinder way to show myself some self love while allowing myself that internal contemplation that is so characteristically me.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

New Truth

My husband and I have fully embraced our new journey of living childless. Our hearts reached the decision in silence on our own, until one day, one of us was brave enough to speak it out loud to the other. Since then we have worked together to make sure there are no regrets, resentments or doubts about what we have chosen for ourselves, and trust me we were thorough. I am the kind of person that can talk an issue to death, and my husband is the kind of person to make up his mind in a millisecond, so we may have worked over the issue more than he wanted but as much as I needed.
We are in the processes of selling that house with all the dreams and that other life that is hard to even remember sometimes. We are talking about new futures, plans and goals. This is our new truth.
But here's the thing, I struggled with accepting it because I kept wondering about those other moments when that felt like the truth of the moment. What about when I felt like there was no sacrifice too small to become a mother? or what about that day when I felt the universe was trying to tell me that adoption was the way to go? ....or what about the day when I felt in my bones that this was all my fault and that I was doing everything wrong? ... or even worse, the time I was sure my husband would be happier if he left me so he could still have a chance at a family?
All of those were truths to me at one point. Some darker than others. They all felt real, and in that moment in that time, they were. It does not take away their value, because each of those truths were part of the process that I had to go through to get to where I am today.
I said at the very beginning of all of this, what I seek is peace with this journey, not a child, not a "solution"... but peace. And this moment, this journey, feels like more peace than I have felt in a long time. And yet, I doesn't stop hurting.

Father's Day is around the corner, and I can't help but feel that pain that you feel in your chest when you know someone you love is feeling left out and hurting... My protectiveness goes into full gear and I want to make sure he is ok. But if he is not, that is ok too. He is allowed to feel whatever this day may feel for him and its ok if its different than my pain on Mother's day.

This is our new Truth, and we will embrace it, struggle with it, and be strengthened by it, every day.