The Perfect Handstand

There is nothing perfect about infertility.

 

In fact, you might say that infertility is one big mess of imperfection.  Truly, when it comes to infertility it’s all about what’s going wrong.

 

Treatment of infertility can feel like a guessing game for some.  Try these shots, take these pills, and get your levels checked on these days at this time.

 

There isn’t a lot of control to be found when it comes to infertility.

 

But there is the handstand.

 

It doesn’t take an infertile to know the folklore surrounding the legs in the air post sex tactic.  Most pregnancy hopefuls have read about this one in a magazine or in a blog post, or, at the very least, have seen it played out in a movie or TV show.

 

The story goes that if you left your rear end in the air for five to ten minutes following intercourse, the sperm will get to the right place.  This, of course, sounds positively absurd.  Teen moms everywhere can probably make a solid argument that this extra step isn’t actually necessary.

 

And yet, we do it.  Infertilies and fertiles alike lift our rears in the air night after night with hope of speeding up the conception process.

 

When I first entered the baby-making game, my sperm directing efforts were half-hearted at best.  They swim, for heaven’s sake, how much direction could they possibly need?

 

After the second miscarriage, I really began to work on my form.

 

For a while, my husband humored me by holding my legs up for me.  How he managed to put up with me continues to amaze me to this very day.

 

When that wasn’t “working”, I decided to take it to the next level.  Clearly I needed to try a real handstand.  If I could manage to hold my legs perfectly straight in the air, the sperm would have no choice but to find the correct destination.

 

You might think I’m joking.  I kind of wish I could say I am.  Have I mentioned that infertility involves just a little bit of crazy?

But that’s neither here nor there.

 

It took some practice and a little bit of determination (not to mention a husband full of good humor), but in time I perfected my handstand.  Balanced slightly on the side of the bed, I found a way to hold my legs perfectly straight in the air for a very, very long time.

 

I was a gymnastics dropout…this is kind of a big deal.

 

Conception attempt after conception attempt, I slithered my way down the side of the bed and to the floor to get into perfect handstand position.

 

The result?  It did absolutely nothing when it came to conception, but my arms were super strong.  Who doesn’t want super strong arms?

 

Besides, it gave me a very small feeling of control during a very long and out of control process…and that can go a long way toward keeping just a hint of sanity in tact.

 

What do you say, ladies?  Care to try the perfect handstand?

 

 

Left Behind

Early on, I promised myself that I wouldn’t let it change me.  There are no guarantees that life will be easy, after all.  Sometimes struggle is just part of the deal.

 

And for a little while, I even believed it.  I took the blows as best I could and then picked myself up and started again.  I would prevail; I just knew it.  Together, my husband and I could conquer anything.

 

I put my energy into feigning some version of normal.  I met up with friends for coffee, dinner, and movies.  I talked on the phone, wrote long and detailed emails, and remembered every birthday.

 

I tried.  I wanted to ensure that everything would remain the same.

 

But I was suffering in silence.  Sure, a few very close friends knew about the miscarriages, but I was reluctant to burden them with my constant thoughts and fears.  I talked about it when they asked but, for the most part, I remained quiet.

 

I did the asking.  And when they began to have first, second, and third babies, I asked about the babies.  I bought gifts, oohed at the appropriate moments, and held those babies close.  I snuggled them close as if they were my own.

 

I soaked it up.

 

It was a cool, December afternoon when I paid a visit to the newest baby born to someone in my friendship circle.  The sun cast a warm glow through the crack in the chestnut colored blinds.  I sat, huddled into the far corner of the oversized white sofa, snuggling her baby girl tight.  With wide eyes and an open mouth, she considered me with curiosity.  After struggling to free her tiny pink hand from the swaddle, her arm shot up toward my hand, as if she wanted to make contact.

 

While my friend regaled me with stories of her birth, I sat quietly and stared at her little girl.  It would be impossible not to smile in the face of such beauty, miracle, and little.  With a tight grip reserved for fire fighters and new babies, she clamped her warm hand around my little finger and held on for dear life.

 

I was in awe of her, as I was with every new baby that entered my life.  I could have held her for hours.  When she began to fuss, I walked her around the house to give her mommy just a little more time.  And then I left them to bond and find their way together.

 

I took a deep cleansing breath as I stepped out into the sunlight; new babies are good for the soul.  The colors seemed just a bit brighter as I scanned the landscape along the walkway and back to my car.

 

It wasn’t until I got into the car and bucked my seatbelt that my emotions caught up with me.  One moment I was aglow with love and the scent of a new baby, I could still feel the weight of her in my arms.  The next I was a sobbing mess.

 

I sat there for what seemed like hours, crying into my steering wheel.  Wishing, wanting, and being left behind yet again left me feeling lost and alone, no matter how hard my friends tried.  I cried for my losses, I cried for my shattered dreams, and I cried for the friendships I wasn’t sure I would be able to maintain.

 

With mascara stained cheeks, I finally found the strength to drive away.  I made my way home in a daze, not thinking or feeling, just driving.

 

It was then I realized that I had changed.  My friends were moving forward with their loves, expanding their families and starting new adventures.  But I was stuck in limbo, left behind and full of frustration, anxiety, and great sadness.  I was unable to connect because the aftermath was too emotionally taxing.

 

I stayed in touch as much as I could, and attended outings when I felt strong enough to socialize.  But, for a long time, I often chose to isolate.  I read hundreds of books, watched the same movies ten times over, and exercised my feelings away.  I waited for my time to come.

 

Despite my best efforts to the contrary, infertility changed me.  It left me hollow, anxious, and alone.

 

It left me feeling…

 

Left behind.

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When The Whole World Is Pregnant

 

When the whole world is pregnant…it can feel overwhelming.

 

When the whole world is pregnant…mixed emotions ensue.

 

Happiness is always the first emotion to escape.

 

Ohmygodthat’ssoexcitingwhenareyoudue??!!!!

 

Followed by…

 

I’m so happy for you.

 

Because you are.  You want your friends to have more and more babies.  You want their dreams to come true.  And you want to be there every step of the way, from pregnancy tests to holding that sweet little baby wrapped just tight enough…

 

There’s just one tiny little problem…

 

You want that too.

 

Boom!  Jealousy hits when the lights go down.  It attacks in an instant.  It manages to break free, even when you’re certain that you have it cornered.

 

How can they all be on #2?

 

When will it ever be my turn?

 

I’m quitting Facebook…and Twitter…and Pinterest…and…

 

It’s not long before the guilt sets in.

 

I really am happy for everyone else.

 

I want them to have happiness too.

 

I’m not a horrible person.

 

Followed by anger and self-loathing, of course.

 

I hate being bitter and jealous.

 

What is wrong with this godforsaken uterus?

 

I’ve gained a million lbs.

 

My face looks like that of a 13 year old.

 

My clothes will never fit again.

 

And I still don’t have a baby.

 

And then the tears finally escape.

 

It’s hopeless.

 

I’m helpless.

 

Nothing is working.

 

I just want one.  One sweet little baby.

 

When the whole world is pregnant, emotions run high.  Feelings shift by the minute and threaten to overwhelm your day.

 

When the whole world is pregnant…you have to take care of you.

 

Check out.

 

Watch that episode of Friends for the 37th time in two months.

 

Eat those dark chocolate M&M’s.

 

And drink that Cabernet.

 

When the whole world is pregnant…

 

You just have to survive.

 

 

 

For Better or for Worse

Whether or not you actually tied the knot, if you are fighting infertility…you are in it for the long haul.

 

For better or for worse.

 

Infertility, without a shadow of a doubt, falls under the category, “worse”.

 

No matter the diagnosis, it quickly becomes all-consuming.  The life you once knew ceases to exist.  The dreams you shared about starting a family when you’re ready are shot.

 

Suddenly, your relationship exists within timeframes and schedules.  Charts, temperature readings, pills, injections, and even suppositories (yup, been there) become the new normal.

 

The problem, of course, is that there is nothing even remotely “normal” about navigating the ups and downs of infertility.

 

Even the strongest relationships can start to come unglued when infertility drags on.  It’s difficult to maintain intimacy when sex becomes a full-time job.  It’s difficult to maintain communication when infertility talk leads every conversation.  It’s difficult to cope when coping styles clash.

 

It’s just plain difficult.

 

But not impossible…

 

Be honest:  Honesty is the key to surviving the ride.  Be honest with your partner…about what you need, what helps, and what makes you feel worse.  Be honest with your friends…about what you’re going through and how they can help.  Be honest with yourself…about your limits.  Try not to push yourself for the sake of others.

 

Be accepting:  It’s no great secret that men and women tend to have very different coping strategies.  In general, women prefer to process while men prefer to problem-solve (although this is not true for everyone).  Try not to resent your partner if he or she doesn’t feel as angry, sad, or overwhelmed as you do.  Everyone processes difficult situations in their own way.  Be accepting of that, even when it’s hard.

 

Set limits:  Once the infertility talk starts, it can be difficult to make it stop.  While it is important to get your feelings out and work through difficult things together, focusing exclusively on an overwhelming topic more often than not can increase feelings of anxiety and depression.  Consider setting a timer for 25 minutes.  When the alarm beeps, move on for the night.

 

Plan on fun:  Even when you set the limit, it can be hard to bounce back from an emotional conversation.  Rent a funny movie, play a good old fashion game of Scrabble (you know, with the actual board and wooden letters?), or head out for some mini-golf.  Have something fun in mind so that you have a plan post conversation.

 

Infertility free day:  Plan at least one day per week that you agree to avoid all infertility talk.  Preferably on a weekend day so that you can actually enjoy a day together.  Come up with little adventures to keep busy and just enjoy being together.

 

Listen:  Infertility is not your fault.  Infertility is not your partner’s fault.  Infertility is a disease that quickly leads to feeling a complete loss of control.  Listen when your partner needs to talk.  When we don’t listen, we end up arguing.  When we listen, I mean really listen; we stand a chance of working through these difficult feelings together.

 

And when in doubt, there’s always Cabernet…

 

 

 

 

 

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The Monday Muse…

By Word of Mouth Blogging

My dear friend Nicole, a fellow infertility warrior and all-around great person, asked me to stop by and share some musings on the silent hell that we call “infertility”.

We’ve discussed our journeys, shared tales (both good and bad), and enjoyed a glass or two from afar while recounting our experiences.  Although my greatest wish would be that none of us would ever have to go through any of this, I also wish that I had found Nicole earlier in my journey.  Sometimes another person at the end of the line can really pull you through even the most difficult days.

I’ll give you a little bit here, but then you’ll have to go over there to finish reading…

“Most days, socializing seemed impossible.

I quickly came to loathe the obvious discomfort around me.
They tip toed around me, watching for signs of distress.  They didn’t dare bring it up, and they ran for cover when I did.
I couldn’t stand the words meant to reassure…that were not very reassuring at all…
Your time will come.
I just know the next one will work out.
If you just relax, it will happen soon.
Enjoy the trying!
But the worst part…was the silence.
The averted gazes when I dared to utter the word “miscarriage”.
The blank stares when I attempted humor in the face of stress.
Force-feeding your husband pumpkin seeds, to increase sperm production, is a little funny, after all…
Yes, I knew about the message boards on various websites.  And, sometimes, I might have even stalked them a little.
But they were full of things like TTC, IF, RE, HCG, BFN, BFP, LTP, MC, and the list goes on.  Decoding the posts was enough to make my head spin.
It was all just a little overwhelming.
And there was the leader of the pack phenomenon.  Because each message board seemed to have a clear leader.  A warrior above all warriors who knew everything about everything and was clearly the most infertile.
I couldn’t handle the stress….”
Please stop by By Word of Mouth Musings to continue reading…Nicole is a great person to have on your side.  Get to know her while you’re there!