Demystifying Infertility- Dr. Dan Nayot- TRIO- The Social

Starting a family is one of the most exciting times of a couple’s life. But for roughly one in six couples in Canada who have trouble conceiving, it can be frustrating and exhausting.

So, how do you know if you’re infertile? And when is the right time to seek professional help? Doctor Dan Nayot, an infertility specialist at the Toronto Centre for Advanced Reproductive Technology, stopped by to help answer these questions and more.

How is infertility defined and when is the right time to see a specialist?

  • Infertility is defined as the inability to get pregnant after 12 months of unprotected sex
  • But issues that come up before the end of a year can also contribute. An irregular period is a common reason that patients may want to see their doctor to make sure that everything is in check.
  • For healthy, young women, we generally recommend seeing a specialist after 12 months of trying; if you’re over 35, after six months of trying.
  • However, if you suspect you may have difficulty conceiving or are even just interested to learn more about your reproductive health, any time is the right time.

What exactly do ‘old eggs’ mean?

  • Early to mid-30s is a good estimate of when your fertility potential really starts to decline.
  • The decline is more significant in your late 30s to 40s.
  • Women are born with a set number of eggs and both the quantity and quality of these eggs decrease as women age. On the contrary, men are constantly producing new sperm (it takes about two-three months for sperm to be made), and so age is much less a factor for men.

What are the common fertility treatments and how much do they cost?

  • Fertility treatments can range from the simple (such as monitoring the menstrual cycle and helping the couple properly time their intercourse) to the more involved (such as in vitro fertilization).
  • The costs depend on the treatment, and partially on the province you live in. In Ontario, the majority of the initial testing, which may include the bloodwork, ultrasound and the consultation, are covered by OHIP.
  • Before you proceed with any fertility treatment, you need to consider several issues: What is the chance this treatment will work? What are the risks associated with it (i.e. side effects from the medications, the risk of having twins)? What is the cost? What are the alternative options?

What are the success rates for the different treatments?

  • When talking about treatments, we usually speak in “cycles,” which refers to monthly ovulation.
  • The number of cycles really varies depending on your personal situation. Sometimes all you need is a single cycle to get pregnant. I have even had the good fortune of meeting a couple for a fertility consultation and finding out that they were in fact pregnant and didn’t know.
  • Just to put things into prospective, for a young healthy couple just starting to try to get pregnant, their chance to conceive is about 15-20 per cent per month. Some fertility treatments have success rates over 30 per cent per cycle, but again this depends on the patient and their partner.
  • Choosing the right treatment is critical. Of course, the goal is to have a baby, but doing so in the safest way possible is key. You and your doctor need to discuss which treatment makes sense for you.

 

Fertilized Human Egg Emits Flash of Light- CBC

Fertilized human egg emits microscopic flash of light

When an egg is fertilized, the rapid release of zinc creates a spark

By Jillian Bell, CBC News Posted: Apr 27, 2016 5:00 AM ET Last Updated: Apr 27, 2016 5:00 AM ET

In vitro fertilization is seen in this file photo. The size of 'zinc sparks' has been linked to an egg's quality and ability to grow into a viable embryo, which could improve the selection process for in vitro fertilization.

In vitro fertilization is seen in this file photo. The size of ‘zinc sparks’ has been linked to an egg’s quality and ability to grow into a viable embryo, which could improve the selection process for in vitro fertilization. (Dr. Thomas Hannam)

When you meet someone who ignites your passion, it can feel like fireworks going off. New research by Northwestern University researchers, published in the journal Scientific Reports, shows that when human sperm meets an egg, it can also set off sparks.

For the first time, scientists have proven that when a human egg is fertilized, it releases what are called zinc sparks. Upon fertilization, calcium increases and zinc is rapidly released. When this happens, the zinc joins itself to small, light-emitting molecule probes. In other words, it creates a microscopic flash of light.

The scientists were unable to fertilize eggs with sperm for this study due to legal issues surrounding research with human embryos. Instead, they injected the eggs with a sperm enzyme, triggering the egg activation process and causing the increase in calcium and release of zinc.

Zinc sparks had previously been seen in animal studies, but the discovery that they also occur in humans could have significant ramifications for assisted reproduction technology. This is because the animal studies, where the eggs could actually be fertilized, have shown that the size of the zinc sparks is a direct reflection of the egg’s quality and ability to grow into a viable embryo.

In vitro game changer

Currently, during the in vitro fertilization (IVF) process, doctors don’t know how viable a fertilized egg or embryo is until pregnancy occurs. But if scientists are able to develop a way to measure zinc sparks without harming the zygote, it could be a game changer.

“This means if you can look at the zinc spark at the time of fertilization, you will know immediately which eggs are the good ones to transfer in in vitro fertilization,” Teresa Woodruff, one of the study’s senior authors and a Northwestern University professor of obstetrics and gynecology, said in a news release.

Using only the most viable embryos could save a lot of time and heartache for IVF patients, while sparing them from the potential risks of extended embryo culture (keeping the embryo in a culture medium from the third day of fertilization on, which has been associated with pre-term births) and multiple embryo transfer (which increases the risk of becoming pregnant with multiple fetuses), the study says.

New 2016 Census- Fertility Matters

2016 National Census – Let’s make infertility count!
Many of you have received the national census questionnaire and about to respond. This an opportunity to have an accurate picture about infertility in Canada and we’re counting on you to help make this happen.

One out of four households will receive the long questionnaire and will have a chance to raise awareness about infertility. In the section about Activities of the Daily Living, question 11 f) allows the respondent to specify a health problem or long-term condition that has lasted or is expected to last for six months or more. We are encouraging you to answer “Infertility”.

Having accurate statistics can go a long way in having more open discussion about infertility in our lives and in our society. It can also help us advocate for better access to affordable, fair and safe medical treatments. Good luck!

Jewish Couple doesn’t give up hope- CoLive

A Jewish couple who gave up hope on having a child rolled into Chabad of Nepal. What happened next will deeply move you.

Mrs. Chani Lifshitz, her husband, and children, are Shluchim of the Rebbe in Kathmandu, Nepal. The following was published onChabad.org and translated by Esther Rabi:

For several days, Limor sits, silent and thoughtful, in the Chabad House. Once in awhile, she asks about this or that, but most of the time she sits, mute, observing the joyous youths around her with a bleak countenance.

Her husband Amir sits at her side, frowning and serious. We never hear him speak.

Everything was so good at first, the whole world awash in the colors of their hopes and dreams. And then their troubles began. They looked with yearning at the families around them. Why did everyone else have a baby, but not them?

“It wasn’t for lack of trying,” she explains. “There wasn’t a specialist that we didn’t consult. There wasn’t a treatment that we didn’t try. Everyone said the same thing: It’s not going to happen.”

Before abandoning their sinking marriage, they decided to make one last effort. They stopped the injections and the treatments and dismally loaded their backpacks “to clear our heads and to get as far away as possible,” she says.

“First, to Nepal, and then afterwards, to India and maybe also China. If travel wouldn’t help us recover what had been destroyed, then there was no hope.”

The tears fall as she cries out that even this didn’t help! She buries her head in my shoulder, sobbing.

“Limor. I want you to come with me to immerse,” I tell her, putting my hand on her hand. My stomach is churning. To immerse? Where did I get such an idea just now? She leaps back, away from my touch.

“To immerse? Like, in a mikvah? Why should I all of a sudden want to immerse in a mikvah?” She rises from the couch. “I already immersed in a mikvah before our wedding. That was enough for me. No, thank you!”

“But you don’t understand! Come with me to immerse. Perhaps this will help you have a child!”

She looks at me, angry and disappointed. “How can you say such a thing? For 10 years, I’ve been going from doctor to doctor, and not one of them could help me have a child. You know me for a minute-and-a-half, and you think you can help me?” The pain in her hazel eyes pierces my soul. She strides hastily to the door.

A moment before she can grab the doorknob, I catch her hand. I look deep into her eyes and ask her to listen to me for just one more moment.

“We don’t have a mikvah here, Limor,” I explain. “We immerse in the river. It’s an hour-and-a-half ride, and then it takes another hour to climb the mountain to get to a freezing river! We break the ice! Literally!”

Tears roll down my cheeks. “I want you to come with me to immerse,” I plead. “I want you to help me break the ice, and in this merit, may G‑d bless you with a child!”

Her cold hands slowly warm in mine. The look in her eyes softens. “Where have you come from, Chani?” she murmurs. “How have you gotten to me? Enough. We’ve already given up. And … and … what about Amir? He’s not at all religious. We don’t believe in those things. What am I going to tell him?”

I calm her, tell her not to worry. My husband Chezki will talk to Amir.

Her inner turmoil slowly subsides. The sun shining through the window streaks her face. “Come, Chani,” she tells me. “Let’s go to the river.”

I tell her now is not the time. First, I want to be sure that she understands the magnitude and sanctity of the mikvah, as well as the requisite laws.

She comes to my home for the next couple of weeks. We sit and talk about what purity means. We talk about the power of the Jewish woman, and her own power. Limor’s eyes are still. She barely touches the coffee or the cinnamon buns I set out for her.

Her husband, Amir, was opposed at first, but when the day comes for her to immerse, he comes to our house to wait for her return. Limor follows him in, wearing a white dress, with such a light in her eyes! A light that I’m sure Amir himself hasn’t seen for a very long time.

A sputtering motorcycle rickshaw takes us to the bus station. We’re on our way to the village where “our” river is. The windows of our old bus have no panes, and a stubborn wind whips our faces. The road twists and turns.

Several times we find ourselves hanging over deep gorges, with only a step between us and oblivion. Each time that happens, I sneak a fearful glance at Limor, but she’s beaming. None of this disturbs her.

I’ve accompanied tens of women who were initially wary of immersion up the steep grade I’m climbing now with Limor. Their hearts melt when they hear stories of righteous women breaking the ice to immerse in the river. This natural feminine experience is enchanting. It’s just them and their Creator, while the mountains surrounding them whisper their prayers.

It’s pitch-dark when we get there, but I know every rock and could walk here with my eyes shut. Limor’s face shines like the moon. We hardly need the miner’s flashlight that I wear on my head.

“Come, Limor,” I say before we reach the river. “Come, sit with me for just a moment. There’s a song I love to sing before immersing. Listen to the words.”

The babbling waters of the river sing with us. The birds are silent. “May this hour be a time of mercy, a time in which Your heavenly will accompanies us.” Limor sings after me, word for word. Her head rests on my shoulder. We hold hands. “A time of mercy, a time in which Your heavenly will accompanies us … ”

I take an axe from my pack and go to break the ice on the river. Limor shivers, not just from cold. A soft cry escapes her as she enters the water. “It’s freeeeeezing!” Her cries rise straight to G‑d’s throne. When she steps out of the river, the stars descend to meet her.

I honor the pure, silent moment, and neither of us sully it with speech. I just hug her and pray. We sit on the steep path. Two women in the center of creation.

Praying.

Pleading.

The next day, she sets off with Amir to India, and from there to China. We lose touch. I try every which way to find out what has become of her, but can’t. She is just … gone.

Until, 10 months later, the phone rings. Limor is on the line. At first, all I can hear is crying.

Then she tells me they experienced a miracle yesterday. They had a baby girl. They are calling her Nesyah (“miracle of G‑d”).





Baby Nesyah, Photo: Chabad.org

Baby Nesyah, Photo: Chabad.org

The river that serves as a mikvah for the women of Katmandu

The river that serves as a mikvah for the women of Katmandu

Living with Secondary Infertility- Huffington Post

Is he your only child?” she asks. I nod, hoping that will end this line of questioning. But it doesn’t.

“You don’t want to have another?” she asks pointedly.

“We don’t come by them easily,” I say as nonchalantly as possible. “But the one that we have is a fantastic kid.” I smile, as if to say: And that’s that. No more questions. It’s a response I’ve used before when other casual acquaintances have touched on this sensitive subject. Often it works. But today I’ve encountered a persistent one.

“This may be none of my business, but it’s my experience that only children are more unhappy than ones that have siblings,” she says. I take a deep breath and pretend to listen as she prattles on about her own two sons. I resist the urge to tell her about hours spent having blood work and sonograms at the reproductive endocrinologist’s office, nightly progesterone shots for pregnancies in jeopardy, two miscarriages, a stillbirth at seven months. Instead, I listen politely and wait for an opportunity to change the subject.

As a parent living with secondary infertility, I know how fortunate I am to have a smart, funny, all-around-awesome child. I also know the beauty of watching a young child learn and grow. I long to have that experience again with another child.

Our basement is filled with toys, strollers, car seats and clothes our son has outgrown. They are symbols not only of our son’s infancy, but also of a future we had imagined for our family. A future we now fear may be out of reach.

Secondary infertility is in many ways an invisible issue. Outsiders often assume that because we were able to have a child once, we can do it again — that we are a one-child family by choice. Couples struggling with primary infertility understandably see our good fortune, rather than our pain. We are the lucky ones.

Yet, when we see the brothers across the street playing catch together, the soccer moms on the sidelines with strollers and diaper bags, our son eager to play with his baby cousins, inquisitive about when we can welcome a sibling to our home… We feel the ache for what we wish we could give our son — and ourselves.

In our house, the joy of parenthood and the pain of infertility live side-by-side.

When you’re facing infertility, a synagogue can be the most painful place to go. Let’s change that.

When I stood before my congregation, I had been asked to be one of 100 Jewish leaders giving sermons at their synagogues on the subject of infertility.

I could have talked in the abstract to my congregation at Ohev Sholom, as if infertility is something that other people experience. The idea of saying anything personal was nerve-wracking.

But one of the biggest challenges that couples face when they struggle to conceive is loneliness. That feeling that you’re the only one going through it can be hard to bear.

So this past Shabbat, I told my community: I had two miscarriages, before my husband and I found out about the chromosomal problem that was preventing us from having a healthy baby. I went through IVF.

And now that I am blessed to bring my infant son to our synagogue, I know that faith communities can do so much more to support members who are struggling with infertility.

 

Infertility is a long and aching experience. Each month crawls by, as the couple waits to see: Will this be our month? Will we finally get a positive test? Will the treatments work? Will we finally get to share the good news?

And for members of a faith community, there is another layer to these questions: Will we finally get to celebrate with our congregation?

At my synagogue in the District, which is called the National Synagogue, we are blessed to have so many babies born in our community, and so many opportunities to celebrate, at brises for boys and simchat bats for girls.

 

But for every baby that is born, there is at least one person in the room desperately wishing it was happening to them. While my husband I were struggling through our two miscarriages, uncertain of what the future held, being in a synagogue was very painful. There were so many times that I stood with families welcoming new babies, happy for the new parents, but also with tears in my eyes as we sang because it hurt so much and I so badly wished that I was the one celebrating.

And if one in six couples deals with infertility, then I know I was not the only one.

So how can faith communities be more supportive? How can we be a more sensitive space that helps make those couples feel less alone?

We cannot control biology. And we cannot stop celebrating births. But we can strive to be a community that is able to hold both of these needs together.

 

When we know that someone is suffering from something that we cannot fix, many of us react by disengaging, because we don’t know what to say. It’s much easier to be a community that celebrates births, without considering the babies who are not born. It’s easier to enjoy happy moments without recognizing that those times may be sad for others.

But if we value all members of our community, independent of their status as single or married, parents or not, then it is incumbent on us to reflect that in our actions.

To not make assumptions about why someone may or may not have children.

To not say to someone “Oh, I see you decided to stop after two children.” After all, we know that infertility doesn’t only affect people trying to have their first child.

To invite people in all different life stages, not just families, to our homes for Shabbat meals.

To remember that at our times of celebration, there are some in the room who are in great pain, and to take extra care to engage.

 

It is also important for clergy to get involved in this issue. At the National Synagogue, we have taken extra steps to ensure that the attendants at our mikvah — a Jewish ritual bath — are as sensitive as possible to those who come to use the bath. Our most recent attendant training a few weeks ago focused exclusively on infertility sensitivity. We have rituals for healing, and there are women who have used our mikvah after experiencing a miscarriage. We are building a page of our website that is devoted to fertility resources. We are trying deliberately to make our community one that offers support to those who really need it.

On Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, we read the story of Hannah in Chapter 1 of the Book of Samuel. Hannah is unable to conceive, and she weeps, and God eventually grants her a son. This story can be a source of pain to those having trouble conceiving, because it ends with a miracle pregnancy from God, which leaves many wondering where their own miracle is.

But there is one part of the story that speaks to the truth of infertility across the ages. And that is the way that Hannah was so alone in her pain. Another woman taunts her for remaining childless. Her husband cannot understand why she is so anguished by her lack of a child. A priest, seeing her silent weeping, does not know she is praying and instead accuses her of being drunk.

It is a cautionary tale for all of us, a warning never to make assumptions about anyone else. It also reminds us of the importance of having resources available to help those who are in pain. We can only imagine how different Hannah’s experience would have been if there had been anyone with her to support her.

Faith communities have a responsibility to remember this pain, so we can support the Hannahs in our own midst.

 

How to deal when everyone else is pregnant- Sachs

HOW TO DEAL WHEN EVERYONE ELSE IS GETTING PREGNANT

Patricia Sachs, LCSW-CWritten by: Patricia Sachs, LCSW-C

They’re at the mall. They’re in your neighborhood. They are your friends and your family. They’re everywhere! When you have been struggling with infertility, it suddenly seems like everyone around you is getting pregnant. Everywhere you go you see pregnant women and big bellies. You can be out enjoying yourself and then you are unexpectedly confronted by this traumatic event. You feel as if you want to “flee” the situation. Especially if you are at an age when your friends and relatives are also getting pregnant and starting their families, it may seem as if everyone else is getting pregnant quickly and easily, and can’t understand why you have not.

The reality is that it is extremely painful to be faced with the visible success of others when you want this so much for yourself and feel so vulnerable and helpless. Seeing or even hearing about pregnancies can be a stimulus that triggers feelings of anger, sadness, and jealousy. You may be left feeling out of control and overwhelmed.

STRATEGIES TO HELP COPE AROUND OTHERS WHO ARE GETTING PREGNANT

There are some strategies you can do to help with coping with other people who are getting pregnant or who are already pregnant that allow you to regain control of the situation and your emotions. Here are some questions to ponder and some possible solutions:

  1. Have you told any of your close friends or family members about what you are going through, even if not in a lot of detail? Letting a few close allies in on your situation can sensitize them to how difficult seeing/hearing about pregnancies can be for you. Think about what you may want from them. Do you want them to tell you about pregnancies right away, or to wait, or have someone else be a “reporter?” Would you prefer NOT to receive baby shower and birth announcements? Chances are if you can speak privately with a friend/relative about these issues they will understand and there will be fewer hurt feelings. If you simply cannot go to a baby shower, tell your friend that it is just too difficult for you to be in that kind of group setting. Maybe there will be another way to have some special time with your friend in the future. It may seem as if these relationships will be strained, but once your situation changes (and it WILL, one way or another) they can be repaired. You are not a bad person because you can’t “be there” for your friend’s pregnancy and most likely, if you express these feelings, she will understand.
  2. Take notice of when mothers and young children are most likely to be at the mall, for example (mornings, daytime, not at night!)and don’t go then. This will cut down on unexpected encounters with pregnancy.
  3. Recognize that jealousy is a normal feeling associated with infertility. Chances are you are not typically a jealous person, but this situation is bringing out these uncommon emotions in you. It is normal to feel frustrated when faced with infertility, especially as getting pregnant seems to come so effortlessly to others. These feelings of jealousy towards your friends and family members will ease in the future when your own situation has been resolved.
  4. If you are going to a party or family gathering where you know there will be a pregnant person, enlist the help of a partner, spouse, or friend. Agree on a signal or cue you can give if you are starting to feel uncomfortable and want to leave. There is no reason why you have to suffer through an experience that will set you back emotionally and leave you feeling depressed and defeated.
  5. Last but not least, consider joining a support group of others experiencing infertility. You will find that many people face similar emotions and concerns as you and that your feelings are completely normal. Having a safe place to share and strategize about coping with infertility will help you to feel empowered to deal with the “outside world.” You may even make some new friends, which can help you feel less lonely and isolated, knowing that you are not alone in this struggle

A Mom’s Support for an Infertile Friend- Jewels Green

A Mom’s Support for an Infertile Friend

You have children; she’s struggling to get pregnant. Advice for navigating a tough spot.

You’ve been up since 4 a.m. with the baby.

Your preschooler wet the bed last night.

Your second grader has strep throat.

When your phone rings, you gratefully run to the laundry basket (where your phone is hidden under some pajamas). You want nothing more than to commiserate with an adult human being and it’s your dear friend calling, and just before you can share your story … she shares hers. She tells you she’s struggling with infertility.

What do you do? What do you say? You love your friend and support her in every possible way, but you also need to vent about issues in your life, the kids, the housework, your schedule. It’s not earth-shattering, but it’s your reality at the moment. Does she really want to hear about this — do you have to censor yourself now?

The answer is complicated. Every friendship is different, of course, just as conception challenges are all different. But certain guidelines can help you navigate a friendship while acknowledging your friend’s pain and preserving her feelings — while maintaining a relationship where neither of you has to worry about hurting each other with unintentionally harmful words.

The hardest part for me, because I’m a very direct communicator, has been knowing how to be sensitive and supportive without “walking on eggshells” in my interactions. We all have our crosses, and I don’t expect anyone to give me “trigger warnings” in a conversation — but there is a line between being honest and hurtful. Suggestions from those who are personally affected by infertility can help avoid missteps.

Definitions are vital, first off. Primary infertility is infertility in a couple who have never had a child. Secondary infertility is inability to conceive after a previous pregnancy. And both hurt. Typically, a diagnosis of infertility isn’t made until after a healthy couple has been trying to conceive for at least a year.

Cleveland clinic performs first uterus transplant
WMAR – Baltimore, MD

I’m sure I’ve put my foot in my mouth when trying to comfort my friends who have had difficulty conceiving, so I thought I’d ask them what they want — and don’t want — to hear from their friends who are mothers. This is what they had to say.

‘Please Bear With Us’
Aimee, a dear friend who lives in Pittsburgh, is in her late 20s and has been married for four years. She explains it like this: “Primary infertility is sometimes persistent and perpetual. There may not be a biological child in our future. Stress alone is not a cause of infertility. ‘Just relaxing’ won’t cure endometriosis, fibroids, azoospermia or varicoceles. Infertility is a disease.” 

She also said this: “When we first receive a diagnosis, sometimes we just need time to come to terms with it. Depending on our own mental health, it could mean we really struggle to see your pregnancy announcements, or attend baby showers, or even attend family gatherings.”

In other words — “Please be patient with us and understand that, most of the time, this is not because of anything you have done. We still want to be invited to the baby showers, we still want to hear about your pregnancies (tactfully!), and we still want to be invited to family gatherings. It might take a year or two for us to be at a point where we don’t feel cheated by God, fate or nature and can realize the fruitfulness in our marriage (despite being childless). Please bear with us.”

The Feeling of Loss
Another close friend, Emily, who is in her 40s and whose pain is still fresh enough that she asked me to use a pseudonym, said: “Although we may already have one or two (or more) children, it’s very difficult when you don’t have the family you always thought you would. It is a definite feeling of loss. For years I felt there was someone missing … that extra Christmas stocking or Easter basket. I felt a constant emptiness and it wasn’t just on holidays but every single day.

“It’s also tough in the Catholic world,” she added, “when you feel you are being judged by not having a larger family. It was probably in my head most of the time, but I heard others make judgments about families of one or two kids being selfish. I would sit in Mass sometimes and want to wear a big ‘I’ on my shirt (for infertile) or come right out and say, ‘This isn’t my choice! I’m trying!'”

The Best Things to Do
I also asked both my friends, who know I love them and support them but sometimes fail miserably, what should I say?

Said Emily: “I’m not really sure, but it’s always nice to have a friend just listen and not try to tell me what I should or shouldn’t do. (‘Have you tried this? Have you tried that?’) It’s also nice to know that friends are praying for you.”

Aimee put it this way: “Something I know I needed to hear when I was so deeply ‘in it’ was, ‘I love you, I’m praying for you. I’m here for you.’ And mean it! Just knowing someone was thinking of me and praying for me did so much to open doors to friendship when I was ready.”

She added: “Eventually, when your friends suffering from infertility can cope with the diagnosis, they may be looking for a family with children to help them ‘upon re-entry’. My godson, who is now just five months old, has helped me learn to love again and has helped heal my heart in a very real way. It took time, but I’m grateful that his mama was patient with me and encouraged me to love him with my maternal heart.”

Just as it stings when someone asks me, a mother of three sons, the very common but mildly insulting, “So, are you going to try again for a girl?” — as if my boys were failed attempts at conceiving a girl — these well-meaning but often thoughtless remarks can, and do, wound our friends.

From now on I’m going to take the advice of both my friends: Listen, pray, and never tire of telling my friends I love them and support them.

Shame, Guilt and Infertility and Fertility- Lisa Rosenthal


Shame, Guilt and Infertility – what do they have in common?

Here are two very common definitions of shame and guilt:

Shame – a painful feeling of humiliation or distress cause by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.
Synonyms: humiliation, mortification, chagrin, embarrassment, indignity, discomfort

Guilt – the fact of having committed a specified or implied offense or crime.
Synonyms: culpability, guiltiness, blameworthiness

Here is one, very standard definition of infertility:

Infertility – the failure of a couple to conceive a pregnancy after trying to do so for at least one full year. In primary infertility, pregnancy has never occurred. In secondary infertility, one or both members of the couple have previously conceived, but are unable to do conceive again after a year of trying.
Or
Diminished or absent ability to conceive.

What does this mean to you?

Is this about how you feel or what you think?

Infertility & Feelings

We know that our feelings are not facts. We know this in our heads. We do. We know a few other things as well. We know that our feelings are powerful and come from way deep down inside. Our feelings come from our core values; even ones that we cognitively believe are erroneous.

Our feelings become self-fulfilling prophecies. We feel it. We proclaim our feelings. We declare them. We argue about how real they are. How strong they are. We convince ourselves that are feelings are us. We feed them. We are our feelings and if they don’t fit exactly right, we become them.

Just like we are our diagnoses?
Wait a minute. Back up please.
We are not our diagnoses. We are not infertility. We are not infertile. Any more than we are cancer, heart disease, diabetes or mental health. We are not these names of diseases or diagnoses.
We are people. That’s who we are. And our diagnoses are a very small piece of who we are.
Our feelings are even more transitory than our diagnoses.

Our feelings sway and move in the breeze.

When we let them. When we don’t demand that they define us. That they are us.
Look again at the definitions of guilt and shame. They point the finger at us. There is not a single redeeming aspect of shame or guilt. Not one positive attribute.

Read them.

The opposite of guilt is innocence. The opposite of shame is pride.

I’m not here to talk you out of your feelings. I am here to remind you that observing and acknowledging your feelings does not mean having to live in them.

The opposite of infertility?

You know what it is.

It’s fertility.

Fertility Mantras

Here are a few mantras to combat “infertility”:

We are fertile.

We are alive.

We are vibrant.

We are worthwhile.

We are whole.

And we are complete. Exactly as we are in this moment.

Yes we are.

Infertility- You are not alone- Huffington Post- Colleen Berg

Infertility: You’re Not Alone

01/22/2016 07:28 am ET | Updated 5 days ago

  • Colleen BergeWriter, poet, traveler, optimist, enthusiast for life.

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People make allowances for all sorts of grief.

Compassion is often our first and most natural response when it comes to bereavement and loss, especially loss we can give a name to. Something discernible that from the outside is easy to understand. Easy to put into words.

Infertility is a loss of staggering proportions.

To those of us who experience it, it can be incomprehensible. Bewildering. Mind-numbing. Yet it is not an easy loss to define. Nobody died. There is no funeral to attend. No one sends flowers or sympathy cards.

Even to the ones who suffer this loss, it can be a struggle to find the proper words to describe it.

What have we really lost? What words can we use to do justice to this thing that knocks the air from our lungs?

It isn’t loss that has a name or memories or a number of years attached to it.

“We are mourning something intangible — what never was and what never will be. Because of this, it can also be difficult for others to grasp.”

While most people would agree it is sad to not be able to have children, the idea of feeling desperation and wild crippling grief could seem dramatic, excessive and even weak.

I came to think that the most common response to infertility was: “At least it isn’t… ”

From well-meaning souls I heard that at least I didn’t have cancer. At least I hadn’t had a miscarriage or three. At least I hadn’t lost a sibling or a parent or even my job. At least I wasn’t dying.

To be fair, these “at leasts” weren’t meant to be hurtful but they did breathe distance into some of our relationships. A part of me understood that these phrases were meant to reassure me, that these people genuinely wanted to help me to put what I felt in perspective, but at that early point in my journey I was still reeling from the pain and shock of it.

It wasn’t perspective I sought, (that came later), it was understanding.

I needed someone to sit down and hold my hand and say, “I’m so sorry, this must hurt so much. I’m here for you.”

There were some who did exactly this, who it was safe to grieve with. They spoke with love and compassion and the very fact that they allowed my grief to exist and they heard me was healing.

Unfortunately, more often, the unintentional message I heard was that of my sadness being undermined, made less by the words “at least.”

How could my personal pain possibly measure up against all the greater tragedies in the world?

So I would sit there, my eyes cast down. Twisting my fingers together. Nodding my head apologetically because how could I disagree with such logic?

Yes, at least I wasn’t dying.

Except I was.

I would catch myself feeling as though I should apologize for all my sadness and anger, for daring to be so bold as to let my heart shatter and my world fall apart over this. Apologize for all this hurt my heart couldn’t contain.

I would bite back all the words I wanted to say. The hurt and desperation I thought I might be able to share with someone. I recall feeling complete dismay that others couldn’t see how this loss to me felt like grieving an actual death.

“I didn’t have a child I was mourning, but in my heart I was mourning every child. “

I cried rivers over the little boys and little girls who would never have my smile or my husband’s eyes. I began to have dreams of stumbling down a difficult forest path leading to a pitch black lake where a child was floating face down in the water. The grief I experienced in this dream echoed my grief in real life–indescribable and haunting.

I hurt endlessly, and on top of all this, I felt like the worst sort of failure because I wasn’t able to just slap a smile on my face and convince myself that at least it wasn’t worse.

For myself, at the time, and others in the process of going through this, it is the worst. It just is.

There is nothing trivial about grief over infertility. A person can grieve the loss of their dream of a biological family as honestly and deeply as someone else can grieve the loss of a child or parent or partner or their health.

There is no “at least” when it comes to the breaking of the human heart, there is no need to try to measure one person’s pain against another to see who is worthy of feeling grief and who isn’t.

If you are in a similar situation, you probably know already that no grief ever fully disappears, but I want to tell you from eight years down the road from this pain, that one day these wounds that now feel so raw and open will heal. They will still pulse with pain every so often but you will be restored to yourself and left with the truth of who you are.

The truth is things will change and you will change. It won’t always hurt the way it does now. I promise you that you will find your way.

I’m going to leave you with one “at least” that I hope makes a difference.

That in this pain that feels so solitary, at least you’re not alone.