Why “Try not to stress” is the worst advice…

For someone who battled infertility, the phrases “don’t stress” or “just relax” while trying to conceive are met with inner cringes. But they are also the most commonly offered words of “advice” or “wisdom” imparted when a couple finally shares their difficulty in starting a family. Well these phrases, turns out, aren’t just reserved for those hoping to get pregnant.

Let me start by saying if you personally have at some point or another told someone to relax or to not stress, it doesn’t make you a bad person. If you know me and care about me, you’ve likely even said it to me at some point in time in some context. Heck, I’ve possibly said it to you! But let’s look at what we’re asking of someone when we say those words.

Image result for wrong gif

YOUR STRESS IS NOT VALID

First let’s understand what stress is. Stress (defined by good ole Mr. Google) is a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.

Alright… so in the context of a couple who is struggling to conceive within the first year this advice, though appropriate in theory, is still unhelpful. If you are under 35 years of age it is “normal” to try for up to a year given the fact that a healthy couple only has roughly a 20% chance each month if they time it perfectly. So stressing about it isn’t really accomplishing anything. But as each month passes, a couple naturally begins to worry that something is wrong or that they might be doing something wrong. This repetitive failure is not only frustrating, but also emotionally straining. “Did I ovulate?”, “Did we time it right?”, “Are my eggs any good?”, “Are his sperm healthy?”, the questions begin to cycle through a person’s mind. And the truth is they are valid questions. It is hard to not stress when you’ve been led to believe someone will wink at you and you’ll get pregnant. All those years of freaking out when you took your birth control pill 2 hours late… pointless.

Now let’s say a couple has been trying for over a year. This is officially a diagnosis of INFERTILITY. Imagine you, a healthy individual, no signs of concern prior to trying to conceive and now receiving the worst possible news in relation to your family building goals. You begin to think the worst… “this may never happen for us.” Sure stressing and playing out worst case scenarios in this moment isn’t exactly helping matters, but it is a natural response to the mental and emotional strain caused by such a diagnosis.

So here’s the thing, whether or not a person feels stressed is a completely individual matter. Two different people experiencing the exact same circumstances will inevitably react differently. Take snakes for instance. If Eric sees a snake he will literally push me in front of him for protection. I on the other hand assess the situation and whether it is a dangerous species, their proximity etc, and calmly go about my business. Massive spider and you’d see a complete reversal of that scene, me freaking out, him calm. Now these are fears, not stresses, and I can acknowledge the difference, but my point is that we all have experiences throughout our lives that have woven our fabric of being. They have built us into the complex, emotional, and intellectual individuals that we are, and that results in varying behaviours. If someone is feeling a certain way about something, there is inevitably a reason, regardless of whether or not you think (based on your circumstances and experiences) that reason to be valid enough.

But guess what. You don’t matter in the reality of someone else’s experience, only they do. So taking your own reality to formulate what another individual should or shouldn’t be feeling, is not only doing a disservice to the individual to whom you are ignorantly offering invalid advice, but also to yourself and the potential for you to learn and expand your understanding and empathy for another persons situation or viewpoint.

Pregnancy for me is a different experience from someone who got pregnant on their first month trying. Why? Because it’s taken me 5 years, a lot of money, a lot of failure, a lot of help, and a lot of perseverance and overcoming obstacles to get here. Pregnancy to me feels like a treasured commodity reserved for the elite, and I feel like an imposter holding on to the crowned jewels expecting the cops to show up at any minute and send me to jail. An expectant mother who didn’t struggle very likely feels grateful and is cherishing the process, but the delicate intricacies of the day to day experience of pregnancy is going to be inherently different… there’s just no way around it. And that’s okay. But it has to be okay for my experience to be different. And it has to be okay if I can’t be as trusting, excited, or happy go lucky as that mom.

 

Image result for sad puppet

CONTROL YOUR FEELINGS

When we tell someone to “relax” or “don’t stress” we are essentially telling them to control their emotions. We’re asking them to stop feeling the way they’re feeling, and feel something else instead.

So why is this such a bad thing? Well, emotions are a natural instinctive state of mind deriving from one’s circumstances, mood or relationship with others. (Thanks again Mr. Google). Key words there are NATURAL INSTINCTIVE. So when someone is feeling scared… there’s usually a reason. Fear is founded in some basis of reality (however far reaching or abstract it may be). So when someone is feeling fearful in early pregnancy, or someone is scared they’ll never conceive… these are emotions that are set in motion by the circumstances that individual is in. They can’t control the circumstances… so you don’t tell them to. You know better. Yet in our minds, it seems, we believe a person can magically control the way they react.

It’s funny there’s a really popular quote – “You can’t control someone else, you can only control your reaction.” Except this would be better read “You can’t control someone else, you can only control your OUTWARD reaction.” In that immediate moment when someone does something malicious to you, you are going to react. It’s instinctual… it’s survival. But you can chose how you reflect and internalize that, and how you behave outwardly as a result, sure. When it comes to stresses and anxieties though, would someone really be better off bottling all that up to make those around them feel at ease? Feeling scared, anxious, angry or whatever someone is feeling as a result of dealing with infertility is not only valid, but also better out than in. At least in my humble opinion…

Instead of telling someone to not feel one way, perhaps you’d be better off asking what specifically is making them feel the way they are. Trying to understand where they are coming from, offering a sympathetic ear, or even just offering well wishes and prayers will undoubtedly be more well received than telling someone to feel a way they may believe to be impossible in the moment. Instead of feeling shamed for potentially harming their pregnancy (ahem… I’ve felt that way from the many comments I’ve received), or more pressure because it could be getting in the way of conception (been there too), they will feel as though you are a partner, a confidant… someone they can rely on if and when the going gets tough.

Image result for fake happiness

BE HAPPY

I think this is the hard truth of this piece today. Ultimately… people don’t like to sit in others’ pain. It’s not fun. It’s like when you walk into a room with people who just had an argument and can feel the negativity hanging in the air. All you wanna do is turn on your heels and leave. Well by throwing out the phrases “just relax, it’ll be fine”, “don’t stress, it’ll make it harder” we’re essentially dismissing the negativity and saying, get over it and go back to being happy, because that’s better and more comfortable for everyone.

Well this leaves the person struggling feeling more isolated, shamed, and unsupported. Someone struggling with infertility wants nothing more than to be happy. I know throughout our journey we’d take breaks and I’d look for happiness in life in other areas, and surely I’d find it. But the hole in my heart was always there, and the pain and sadness I carried with me never let me fully enjoy or embrace all the amazing things life had to offer as much as I’d have liked. I lost a lot of my vitality over the years and I had to work daily at getting it back. Looking back I could feel bitter or resentful over lost time, but I also learned a lot in the process.

We so badly want life to be perfect, but life inevitably includes struggle. For some people its career, romance, or finances to name a very short few… for others, its fertility. When someone loses a loved one, we don’t tell them to stop being sad, we allow them to grieve. When someone loses a job and can’t pay their mortgage, we don’t tell them them to “relax”… and if you do or have, maybe you’ll rethink that after this post… I hope!

My point is, that it’s okay to feel negative emotions. They are all part of the human experience. Are they pleasant to experience in the moment? Heck no. But they give contrast. What is love without hate? What is success without failure? I read a really enlightening book called The Shadow Self by Deepak Chopra, Debbie Ford and Marianne Williamson. I love this excerpt and I feel like it perfectly sums up why I think living authentically is so important, even in the struggle.

We have been conditioned to fear the shadow side of life and the shadow side of ourselves. When we catch ourselves thinking a dark thought or acting out in a behavior that we feel is unacceptable, we run, just like a groundhog, back into our hole and hide, hoping, praying, it will disappear before we venture out again. Why do we do this? Because we are afraid that no matter how hard we try, we will never be able to escape from this part of ourselves. And although ignoring or repressing our dark side is the norm, the sobering truth is that running from the shadow only intensifies its power. Deny¬ing it only leads to more pain, suffering, regret, and resignation. If we fail to take responsibility and extract the wisdom that has been hidden beneath the surface of our conscious minds, the shadow will take charge, and instead of us being able to have control over it, the shadow winds up having control over us, triggering the shadow effect. Our dark side then starts making our decisions for us, strip¬ping us of our right to make conscious choices whether it’s what food we will eat, how much money we will spend, or what addiction we will succumb to. Our shadow incites us to act out in ways we never imagined we could and to waste our vital energy on bad habits and repetitive behaviors. Our shadow keeps us from full self-expression, from speaking our truth, and from living an authentic life. It is only by embracing our duality that we free ourselves of the behaviors that can potentially bring us down. If we don’t acknowledge all of who we are, we are guaranteed to be blindsided by the shadow effect.

So instead of telling someone to feel a different way, perhaps offer them strategies. Some things I personally do are meditate, use crystals, do fun activities I enjoy (dance, paint, play sports), or write in my affirmations book. Instead of just saying “relax” offer insight into what you do to cope with stress and even potentially take an active part in doing it with them! “You know what I find helps me de-stress, _________.” This will not only leave the person feeling much more supported, but also might actually help!

 

What do you do to cope with stresses and anxieties surrounding infertility or pregnancy after infertility? I’d love to hear from you!

Pains & Rashes

6th week is here and anxieties and fears are still running rampant. Unfortunately, this part of pregnancy after infertility is something I don’t think anyone could have adequately prepared me for. In the past, I would have perhaps even scoffed at the thought of being anything but grateful following a positive pregnancy test. And grateful I am, but early pregnancy also comes with many other less desirable feelings and emotions.

Today I should be filming my 6 week bumpdate for my vlog, but it’s already 3pm and for whatever reason I still haven’t brought myself to do it. I know a lot of my procrastination is rooted in fear. It is as though I refuse to acknowledge this pregnancy until I have been given unequivocal proof of its existence. That proof will never come, because nothing is certain in this life, and I know that. But yet I continue to guard my heart.

Part of why I am so guarded this week in particular is because in the last few days I’ve had some less than ideal symptoms.

1. RASH FROM PIO

Now if you are going through IVF or IUI and are put on Progesterone in Oil (PIO) shots, know that there is a strong possibility of you developing a rash from the sesame oil it is suspended in. This is “muscle fatigue” as some people like to call it, where you begin to develop itchy and bumpy rashes around the injection sites. Apparently this is common, and does not threaten the pregnancy in any way shape or form, but I am still very fearful and on edge. We’ve always suspected that immune factors were at play and so having an immune response of any kind, even localized, sent me into a panic. My RE is trying to get me a prescription for it in olive oil instead, so here’s hoping that helps. In the meantime I’m on Benedryl which is supposedly safe in pregnancy, but adds to the fatigue for sure.

2. SHARP INTERMITTENT PAINS IN LEFT HIP/GROIN/PELVIS

Ugh ugh ugh… as if I don’t have enough to worry about, now I’m left with my head spinning wondering what this could mean. Some possibilities:

  1. ECTOPIC PREGNANCY – where the embryo implants outside of the uterus
  2. ROUND LIGAMENT PAIN – due to uterus and body stretching to make room for baby
  3. COMBO – stretching in early pregnancy combined with former left labral tear injury
  4. CONSTIPATION/GAS – not even sure if this could be it since it’s sharp, but worth putting in
  5. MISCARRIAGE – ugh… let’s not even go there, but what do I know, it’s possible…

It is sharp and painful but not consistent. Hurts when I lay on my right side, better on my left, best on my back. Activity seems to aggravate it slightly, and although it’s not getting any worse, it also doesn’t seem to be getting much better. No fun, and scary as heck.

– – – – – 

So that’s what’s new in week 6. I definitely thought I’d be feeling worse by now, but turns out I feel pretty normal-ish. Today in particular I feel exhausted but that’s mainly because I got very little sleep last night between the pains, having to pee, and anxiety over these new symptoms. Tomorrow is another day and luckily I’ll be adequately distracted going to look at a few more homes before we start to potentially draw up an offer on a home. Wednesday is Ultrasound day and it really can’t come soon enough. I was half tempted to go to emergency last night given my pain and fears… I talked myself down though don’t worry 😉

Fingers crossed the next 43 hours pass quickly and end with fantastic news. ❤

 

 

Fears & Third Beta

So I woke up this morning feeling “less pregnant” than I have in a long time. I had energy, my boobs weren’t sore, I just felt kind of just fine… of course this was incredibly unsettling. The first thing I did when I popped out of bed was take a home pregnancy test hoping to ease my mind. Well that was a fail. It was lighter than it was 2 days ago.

Now I will admit, my afternoon tests seem to be consistently darker than morning tests. I’m not sure if that’s in some way due to the suppositories overnight, or my natural hormone fluctuations. Regardless an afternoon test from 2 days ago (well 1.5 if we’re being anal) in my mind should have been very similar to a morning test today. Perhaps I’m wrong, and a friend of mine tried to reassure me that she experienced the same thing and to not trust the sticks but it’s so very very hard.

img_3902

That being said, many women have suggested I get a third beta to make sure my levels are rising appropriately so I finally caved and asked my RE (reproductive endocrinologist – aka fertility doctor) for an order so I could go to Labcorp and have this done today. So that’s what I’m doing. My appointment is at 11:30am and even if he requests it STAT I’m not sure if I’ll be able to get the results today. I just know in the past I’ve gone at 9:30am and didn’t get my results until later in the afternoon and with my RE clinic on the East Coast they may not be able to get back to me until tomorrow.

This is a rundown on what my HCG should look like:
1st Beta Dec 27 = 192
2nd Beta Dec 29 = 379

This is about 97.4% increase in 48 hours. Those first two betas were drawn around 9:30am. Based on the same percentage increase:

by Dec 31 should of been around 783
by Jan 2 should of been around 1545

by TODAY at 9:30am (Jan 4) should be around 3050, so maybe a little higher by the 1130am draw.

And so more waiting. All I feel like I do these days is wait in limbo. Regardless, waiting for results tomorrow is much more manageable than waiting for our Ultrasound which is now scheduled for January 11th.

Image result for waiting for ultrasound

Ohhhhh the ultrasound… so this has been fun. *insert eye roll* Because I’m new to Texas I didn’t yet have an OB-GYN. I hadn’t had time between finding an internist, getting settled, starting FET etc. Well a friend recommended a practice and I called them and because I’m still on Fertility medications until 10/11 weeks they won’t see me until that point in time. I was shocked. And they weren’t exactly nice about it, they basically said you can go get imaging done at a regular imaging lab center in the meantime.

Well that’s all fine and dandy but for someone who has gone through all I have to get here, I would like a bit of continuity of care and reassurance. It felt very very unsettling. I expressed my frustration too because if I had of just not told them about IVF then I would have gotten in for 6 weeks. I’m sure many women lie, but I do want my doctor to know my case and history and be sensitive to it so probably for the best in the end. Really horrible and stressful experience.

Anyways, I did end up finding an OB-GYN that has experience with high risk so I’m hoping it won’t be an issue. I simply booked in on Zoc Doc so don’t plan to explain the IVF/FET situation until during my appointment. Hoping that doesn’t affect their willingness to work with me on the day. Fingers crossed. I do have a letter from my RE “releasing” me from their care, and explaining that I’ll be on meds to sustain pregnancy thereafter, but man it’s complicated. Everyone’s just worried about being sued in the states I swear. They don’t give a crap that they’re causing undue stress.

So until further notice I’m waiting waiting waiting, and anxiously fearful that all that I’ve worked so hard to achieve is going to be taken away from me before I can even start to enjoy it.

 

*EDITED TO ADD

The lovely ashleymatics was kind enough to point out that beta levels beyond roughly 1000 tend to double slower. I did some research and found this info helpful so thought I should include it here:

  1. Within the first 2-4 weeks after fertilization, hCG usually doubles every 48-72 hours
  2. An increase of 60% in 48 hours is still considered normal
  3. Below 1,200 mIU/ml, hCG usually doubles every 48-72 hours
  4. Between 1,200 and 6,000 mIU/ml serum, the hCG usually takes 72-96 hours to double
  5. Above 6,000 mIU/ml, the hCG often takes over four days to double
  6. More than two in three normal pregnancies have a doubling of the hCG every 72 hours
  7. There is a wide variation of normal hCG levels. An hCG that does not double every two to three days does not necessarily indicate a problem
  8. A maximum level is usually reached by the 10th or 11th week.
  9. After 10 weeks or so, hCG normally decreases

Early Pregnancy after Infertility

First off, it’s been a while since I last posted so in case you’re wondering about beta #2 it almost doubled and came in at 379. I would have loved to have gotten at least a doubling rate within 48 hours but this is still very strong progression and promising for sure. My first ultrasound will hopefully be next Monday but I didn’t previously have an OB so getting an appointment has been tricky.

It’s been interesting this last week since our second beta… I’ve been anxious, happy, hopeful and downright scared. When I say this, a lot of people don’t understand. Everyone goes through some anxiety in early pregnancy people might argue, and that is very true, but what those who have never suffered with infertility don’t understand is just how magnified it is for those of us who struggled so significantly to get to this point in the first place. Fear is fear, and I don’t mean to discount anyone’s journey. We are each navigating our own paths and our feelings are valid. But what I try to make people understand is that they may not be able to relate as well as they might think.

When an “infertile” becomes pregnant, it doesn’t change the fact that they are still technically a victim of infertility. And while yes, both the fertile and infertile pregnant moms-to-be are anxiously awaiting that first ultrasound to know all is well with the blossoming life within, it’s also important to note that the infertile is still on daily medications that serve as a reminder that she and her body can’t do this on their own. They need medical intervention.

A pregnant “infertile” woman waiting for that first ultrasound is like a man at the horse race track who, at his wits end, just bet his life savings on a horse named Lucky and is watching with sweat pouring down his face as Lucky barrels around the track vying for the one lone first place finish. It’s do or die, and it can feel like that to a pregnant infertile. We have invested so much into our cycles that once we get that elusive positive hpt it becomes a lifeline to everything that we’ve worked so hard towards. A light at the end of a very long dark and grueling tunnel. And if for some reason Lucky trips up… we aren’t sure how we are going to move forward.

Related image

For me, this cycle was it… next was surgery, surrogacy or even adoption. We weren’t quite sure. The pressure that an infertile feels after emptying bank accounts and sacrificing so much is truly immeasurable, and certainly unexplainable. It may seem like this weird club that we the infertiles don’t invite our fertile friends to, but trust us, you don’t want in. Be grateful you’re privileged to not understand. Be happy you will likely never know these emotions I try to convey. It is a blessing you didn’t struggle, and I am genuinely happy for you that you didn’t. But it can be difficult when women think they can relate to our journey when we’ve been down very different paths.

On the flip side, many women who have battled infertility for years and years welcome their pregnancies with open arms. Every wave of nausea, every sharp pain in my boob, I smile. I feel reassured. I feel grateful. In a way, I am privileged to see pregnancy through this lens. It makes all the hard parts of pregnancy a lot easier to bear when you are just so immensely happy to be in this moment in time, finally. It can be very hard to express all this to the fertile mom who struggled in her pregnancy, who hated pregnancy, or who maybe even doesn’t always love being a mom. All of that is okay. We are different. But that is alright. It just needs to be acknowledged as so…

Anyways, my point is that I’m in a weird state of limbo at the moment. I am still pregnant, at least my First Response hpt yesterday tells me so, but how pregnant, how viable, remains to be seen… I am definitely a ball of nerves waiting for the first ultrasound. Not only am I anxious to see that it’s progressing, but I’m also anxious to find out how many are in there. My gut is telling me one based on my symptoms and beta hcg numbers, but you never know until you know.

Okay, now for a little rant, my apologies in advance. Today on my Instagram a woman who was successful on her first IVF posted about how devastated she was that only one of two stuck. I can understand being disappointed and sad, but she apparently hasn’t been able to stop crying since her ultrasound. For me, as someone who has put 2 embryos in 3 separate times prior (though never once gotten a positive or to hold a baby), I understand a connection to an embryo. But I also believe in gratitude for what you are afforded in this journey. To not be able to acknowledge enjoy and love fully the one that DID make it is quite sad to me. Sure will I be a little sad if not all 3 of mine make it? Maybe… though I believe this to be likely, but I’ll be also be so very grateful for whatever I’m blessed with.

I believe everything happens for a reason. We may not know or understand, but I don’t think I could ever pull my focus away from the beautiful life building inside me after all I’ve been through. Perhaps it’s because in the grand scheme of things she hasn’t really struggled like I have. She hasn’t lost 6 embryos like I have. She hasn’t hardened like me maybe. Perhaps that’s it. But I think a little gratitude goes a long way when so so many women would willingly trade shoes with her in an instant.

Image result for gratitude

I will be grateful. I will love fully. Whatever I may blessed with.

xo