A letter to all the Pregnant women in my life- Kveller

It’s not you, it’s me.

I’m not like your high school boyfriend who heard that phrase in a romantic comedy and repeated it to you just days before taking your best friend to prom. I really mean it. Everything is me. You are wonderful. You are careful with me. You are kind.

I sit, every minute of every day, with the knowledge that I may not be able to have a family, and that even if I am able to have a family through adoption, I may not ever be pregnant, carry a pregnancy to term, give birth, glow, hurt, heal. There are moments, brief and beautiful moments, when I am so in love with my life that I forget about infertility and I feel actual joy. Those moments never happen around you. I can’t forget around you. Back when I had hope, I could find excitement in your growing belly and happy plans. Now, I just don’t know how to.

Most of the time, I am walking around in one of two states of emotion–both distant from my pre-infertility emotional self, both distant from joy. One of those states is a disconnect. Disconnection from my emotions is how I live through this; it’s how I get through every day. I want to compare it to wearing a bandaid to protect a scab, but it’s not quite like that. It’s more like a helmet covering a thin layer of flesh over an otherwise raw and exposed bundle of nerves, delicate and tender and requiring care and protection. I can talk about what I’m feeling while I’m not actually feeling the emotions. It’s the closest I get to being able to share what I feel with others.

Then, when the helmet comes off, it is not pretty. That is the other emotional state I sometimes find myself in, filled with intensity uncommon in my adult life, feeling emotions that make me uncomfortable and unrecognizable to myself. Anger, jealousy, hurt, resentment, despair, loss. I prefer to experience those alone. Which is lonely.

I don’t know how to engage with you, my dear friend, the way I used to. With my helmet on so tightly, how can I connect with you during this most important time of your life? With my helmet on so tightly, I feel like everything I say is a lie. But, with my helmet off, there’s nothing about me you’ll want to be around and there’s nothing about me that is comfortable for me to show around you. It cannot come off.

So, I miss you. Each time a friend begins to “try” I withdraw a bit more. When they succeed I become a little more alone. Over three years of this, the losses have accumulated and I have steeled myself for them a little better each time, faking it with a bit more success. I don’t want your happiness to feel like a loss to me, but it is. At least for now.

I read constantly that it is impossible to get through this without losing girlfriends, but I really don’t want to give in to that. In my lowest moments I see how infertility might take away everything. In my better moments, I hold out hope that when I come through this I will still be loved and able to give love.

How to navigate the holidays with an infertility diagnosis- Fertility Centre of Illinois

The holidays can be a difficult time for anyone. Our culture promotes an ideal of the perfect holiday season with unrealistic expectations, and when that experience inevitably falls short, it can lead to disappointment. For those coping with infertility, the joy of the holidays can seem even harder to attain.
The holidays are focused on family, with children at the epicenter. Those who long for the child that has not yet come can feel isolated, sad, and discouraged.

“The holidays tend to remind those dealing with infertility that family building has not gone the way they imagined,” says Dr. Ariadna Cymet Lanski, a clinical psychologist at Fertility Centers of Illinois. “Seeing your siblings and cousins with their children can remind you of what you don’t have, and that’s not easy.”

Dr. Marie Davidson, who is also a clinical psychologist at Fertility Centers of Illinois, agrees. “For couples experiencing infertility, there can be deep sense of alienation from the spirit of celebration. As a result, you may not want to participate in the usual family rituals, and you may search for ways to protect yourself from the distresses of social comparison.”

Yet the holidays and family gatherings can still be meaningful and enjoyable. Drs. Davidson and Cymet Lanski offer advice and techniques on how to navigate the emotions that surround the holidays.
Acknowledge Your Feelings
Don’t judge your own feelings; they are important and real and you have them for valid reasons. It is normal to feel envious and even angry that you are “left out”. Holding everything inside doesn’t help. It actually takes more mental energy to hold your feelings back than to express them. Allow yourself time to feel the sadness, anger, and frustration.

Reach Out
If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out support from your partner or a close friend. Talk about your feelings together. Keep in mind that men and women cope with stress in different ways. Women are more likely to express their sadness, while men tend to hold things inside. Neither way is wrong, just different. Whether it’s your partner, a friend, professional counseling, groups, or online forums, finding somewhere to talk with people who understand can help you feel less alone.

Choose the Gatherings You Attend
Discuss holiday gatherings with your partner, and decide how much celebration to participate in. If going to that family dinner will send you over the edge, don’t go. Going to every minute of family gatherings isn’t necessary – it is important to put your needs first. Your family will move on in time.

Plan Ahead
Plan, plan, and plan ahead. Anticipation is half the battle. People have a way of asking inappropriate questions at inappropriate times. Be ready for the nosy questions and the possible “We’re pregnant” announcements. Come up with an answer in advance that feels comfortable to you.

Make Special Plans of Your Own
Plan for memorable events of your own. Host an adults-only holiday party, or plan a romantic evening out with your partner. For some, it might even mean skipping a family gathering and planning a holiday getaway of your own. For example, one couple we know spent Christmas at a quiet cabin with another couple and enjoyed hiking, playing board games and relaxing. While their families didn’t quite understand, both couples said it was a rejuvenating and memorable holiday.

Remember This is Not Forever
Remind yourself that this holiday season or the way you choose to celebrate this year is not how it will be for the rest of your life. Your fertility struggles will resolve at some point and things will change.

About the authors: Dr. Marie Davidson and Dr. Ariadna Cymet Lanski are clinical psychologists at Fertility Centers of Illinois who work specifically with individuals and couples coping with infertility. Fertility Centers of Illinois is one of the nation’s leading fertility treatment practices, providing advanced reproductive endocrinology services in the Chicago area for more than 30 years. For more information visit www.fcionline.com.