featured post: “my pregnancy & my truths” by bohemian transplant

This is the first post I read by Brittany at Bohemian Transplant. I “met” her last week on Twitter and became acquainted with her story through this post. She was hesitant to post it, and after reading it I could see why. Many bloggers struggle with the fine balance of trying to be sensitive to their friends “in the trenches” and celebrating their own joys. It hurts when people move on and you are left behind. It hurts when others get what you want. And it hurts when others lash out at you because of it.

Brittany’s post touches on a lot of things I struggle with in the ALI community. The desire to be as sensitive as possible to those still in the throes of TTC. The need to be true to yourself and your feelings. The guilt that you were successful and those you care about haven’t been yet. The way we censor ourselves trying not to be insensitive or inadvertently hurtful. The way some folks lash out at others, using their own pain as an excuse or justification.

Recently, Brittany announced that she is currently expecting her second child:

We are incredibly excited, although a little nervous about having two children (just one babe in there, we checked!) but excited none the less. The post has since been removed because, well, it was kind of depressing. As excited as we are, it was a tough pill to swallow, knowing that I have hurt some people that I love who are still very much in the trenches of infertility.

And then I got no response. Not even one congrats. Which, you know, is fine. It’s not about that. But I poured my heart out in that post as well, about the guilt I was feeling, and I didn’t even receive any thoughts on that, either.

When I broke the news on twitter, as gently as I could, it was mostly positive responses. But there were a few. Some harsh words were spoken. Words that hurt. Words, honestly, I can’t get past. They are in the throws. The very ugly throws of infertility. They hurt. They are in pain. I understand this. But it sucks, mostly, when I have been so supportive of others, through good news and bad, no matter how hard it has been to me in the past, to not receive that support in return.

What really struck me about this, was how heartbreaking it is when this happens. I think we can all agree that a BFP, no matter who it is from, can hurt like a bitch. But I would wish we could all agree that it is not okay to be an asshole about it. If you need to step away, step away. But if you need to say something shitty, step away.

Brittany’s post, however, spoke to me on another level. She makes some astute and insightful points about the give and take of support, URL to IRL friendship, how our circumstances change, and the conditional nature of support:

Whether some like it or not, there is this mentality in the infertility community (not among everybody, but among some) that your struggle does not count if it is not the same as their struggle. Many seem to forget that pain is pain, no matter what form it comes in, but if it’s not the same level of pain, if you haven’t gone through the same treatments, then sympathy or support is not required. It’s expected to be received, but not given. It’s also unfortunate.

And as somebody on the bottom rung of the infertility treatment, I fall often into the category of having to give, but never receive. As somebody who has gone out of my way to send love, strength, hope, care packages, gifts, cards, words of encouragement and all the hugs the virtual world can offer (and sometimes in real life) sometimes I want that back when I am feeling down.

These are tough things to write, to read, to acknowledge, and to work on. This post stirred up a lot of my irritation and discomfort with the “just be grateful” attitude in this community, but it also reminded me that I can always be doing better to be supportive. It is a reminder to us all that support, sensitivity, and understanding are needed on every step of the journey. To give what you can, when you can. To treat each other as we would wish to be treated.

I’m still thinking a lot about this post. If I am being honest, I have a lot of things I am thinking and feeling about the points Brittany is making, but I find myself afraid to say them too. Maybe that is the point. That we shouldn’t be afraid. And as much as I say “just keep talking” I keep mum on things too. Let’s keep working on that, one post at a time.

Please head over to Bohemian Transplant to read Brittany’s post “My Pregnancy & My Truths” and leave your thoughts with her.

*****

Brittany in her own words:

I am 31 years old and a born and raised Seattle girl, although currently living in Fayetteville, North Carolina. I work in the public relations field to pay the bills, while moonlighting as an aspiring photographer, designer and wanna be chef to help keep my creativity afloat. On top of that, I am a full-time mom to a baby boy and three awesome pooches, a military wife to a loving husband and a woman who is continually trying to find her place in this world… But then we started trying to have a baby, a process that turned out to be not so easy for us. After a miscarriage in January of 2009, just two months into my husbands second year-long deployment, suddenly talking about sperm counts and ovulation didn’t seem so appropriate for all the people that I knew in my real life. Our miscarriage was followed by another year of trying to on our own before starting fertility treatments, we were blessed with our extremely handsome baby boy via IUI. Our infertility journey was simple compared to most, something that we are incredibly grateful for.

Ironically enough, I have been on two sides to the infertility journey. In 2004, I donated my eggs to a family member who was unable to conceive on her own, resulting in two beautiful twin girls that just started first grade. The irony comes from us having our own struggles years down the road, but we are still blessed with what we have. I love my infertility community and will do what I can to help promote the amazing things that comes from it.

*****

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tending the garden

***It’s our ONE YEAR blogiversary!!!***

On June 1, 2012, we hit “publish” on our first post here at PAIL Bloggers. We are so pleased and so proud of what this space has become since launching it one year ago today. In the last year, the blogosphere has started talking, really talking, about what “the other side” looks and feels like. A conversation is being had in this space and in yours. For that, we are beyond grateful and so proud of everyone who not only just kept talking, but kept listening.

From the seed that was planted last spring, the five of us have worked at tending the garden to help this seedling grow. One year, 271 posts, 2608 comments, and literally thousands of emails later, we are ready to see this space grow and bloom into what we know it can be. And so, for our 1st blogiversary, we’d like to give you a very untraditional 1st anniversary gift – garden tools. (Stay with me…)

It is time to plant more seeds in the garden, with more gardeners. More tools, more knowledge, more varieties of plants as it were. Each and every one of us has a different story to tell, and we would like to make this space more of a true community allotment garden. Over the past year, we have been thrilled with our occasional guest posts and would like to see more of these. We love the emails we get from you about posts to feature or news items to highlight, but we know there is so much more.

So the question is, do you have a green thumb?

Here is what we are looking for (and we welcome your suggestions and ideas here as well):

  • Featured posts: You find it, you write it! (Similar to our current format – what struck you about the post? What stood out to you?)
  • Cross-posting: If you have a post you would like to share in its entirety here at PAIL (with comments closed here) in addition to your own blog, let us know.
  • News items: You find it, you write it! We welcome commentary on the news that strikes a chord with you.
  • Expert knowledge: Do you have some expertise in a specific area that our readers might be interested in? (i.e. pharmacy, mental health, education, birthing, etc.)
  • Guest posting: Have something to say on a current ALI and/or parenting topic? Want to share your story with the blogroll?
  • Blog hopping events: Do you have an idea for a blogroll “mixer” event such as our Vlog Challenge or Twenty Questions?
  • Monthly theme post hosting: Do you have a topic in mind? Be our host!
  • Book club: We are always looking for suggestions and book club hosts.

If any of the above sounds like something you would be interested in, please let us know! Fill out the form below with your details and what you would be interested in writing. We will then contact you regarding assignment type and deadlines, unless of course, you contact us with an idea first.

 *If we publish one of your posts, we will also contact you for a thumbnail image to run next to your blurb. If you aren’t sure what to write right now, just wing it! You can always tighten it up later. Feel free to add links to your blog and social media outlets. We reserve the right to final editorial decisions on all content not created by the site owners.

Should you have any questions, please email us or ask in the comments below.

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On a personal note, the five of us would like to thank you all profusely for everything this space has become in the last year. For every comment, every theme post, and every email. For every tweet, every ‘like’, and each and every word you write in this space and in yours.

Thank you.

XO

Josey, Jules, Chandra, SRB, and Traathy 

*****

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news item: “study finds genetic prediction of postpartum depression”

I don’t discuss it much, but I went through a Very Bad Time after my first son was born. When he was about 4 months old, my husband realized that I was no longer doing things like leaving the house, showering, eating, sleeping, etc. He took me to the emergency room. A psychiatrist, social worker, mental health nurse doing home visits, support groups, and months of medication later and I was semi-human again.

Postpartum depression is FOR REAL. It is not the “baby blues” nor is it “regular” depression, something I have struggled with as well. Without going into much detail (as this is something I still struggle greatly with sharing) I was not myself. And on top of it all, I was debilitated with guilt and shame. How could I feel this way when I just won the lottery?

In hindsight, I had many risk factors for PPD all lined up neatly in a row. A history of anxiety and depression, suffering back to back miscarriages, infertility, an extremely stressful pregnancy, traumatic birth experience, lack of support after birth, and so on. However something I had never considered was whether I was genetically predisposed to it. Yesterday on Twitter I came across an article (thanks KeAnne, you re-tweeter you) that has me thinking…

Study Finds Genetic Prediction of Postpartum Depression

It is not clear what causes postpartum depression, a condition marked by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, exhaustion and anxiety that begins within four weeks of childbirth and can last weeks, several months or up to a year. An estimated 10 to 18 percent of all new mothers develop the condition, and the rate rises to 30 to 35 percent among women with previously diagnosed mood disorders.

The researchers later confirmed their findings in humans by looking for epigenetic changes to thousands of genes in blood samples from 52 pregnant women with mood disorders. The women were followed both during and after pregnancy to see who developed postpartum depression.

The researchers noticed that women who developed postpartum depression exhibited stronger epigenetic changes in those genes that are most responsive to estrogen, suggesting that these women are more sensitive to the hormone’s effects. Specifically, two genes were most highly correlated with the development of postpartum depression. TTC9B and HP1BP3 predicted with 85 percent certainty which women became ill.

“We were pretty surprised by how well the genes were correlated with postpartum depression,” Kaminsky says. “With more research, this could prove to be a powerful tool.”

Without going off on a tangent about study size, sample population, and commentary on methodology, I will say that this study is very interesting. It is general assumed (even by mental health professionals) that PPD can be attributed to “wacky hormones being all out of whack.”  More specifically, that a drop in estrogen levels affects mood significantly in some women, but not others. Although, that reason doesn’t answer the question of why this woman and not that one?

This study suggests that certain woman are more sensitive to changes in estrogen. What is interesting about this research is that it could potentially lead to a blood test performed in the third trimester to determine whether these changes are taking place and raise a potential red flag for the woman, her family, and her healthcare provider.  The lead researcher, Zachary Kaminsky, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins, hopes that this could help HCPs and mothers make informed decisions about treatment for depression during and after pregnancy, including the appropriate use of medication when weighed against other risks. In other words, if you knew you higher risk, you could better prepare for the possibility that it might be more likely to happen.

I have been chewing on this all morning, and will likely continue to for a while. I felt that I had no choice but to go on medication or risk not being able to parent my child. Curiously, I have not remotely had the same experience after the birth of my second son, despite life (and life events) being more stressful now. I attribute this to a a different pregnancy, and empowering birth, and experience as a mother, but also to being on the lookout for The Very Bad Time – Part 2. I have written here before that I lied to my HCP about feeling depressed during pregnancy. So as I read this over and over this morning, I can’t help thinking that normalizing mental health issues before and after pregnancy is a good thing. Yes, a blood test like this raises moral and ethical questions and could be used for all sorts of nefarious purposes. But what if it is used for good?

I’m chewing on it.

*****

If you or someone you know is struggling with postpartum depression, an excellent resource is Postpartum Progress. Click on GET HELP for more information.

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What do you make of this research? Can you see this being added to the battery of available pregnancy testing?

If this test were available, would you choose to take it? Why or why not?

Prior to giving birth did you discuss mental health issues (relating to pregnancy and the postpartum period) with your healthcare provider? 

Did you have adequate emotional support (or access to resources) after bringing your child home? 

*****

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SRBSarah is a former high school teacher, turned medical writer, turned SAHM to two boys. She enjoys beer, knitting, gardening, and cheese, and is striving to raise boys who can will do their own laundry and cooking. This urban mama parents with an ever-evolving mix of natural, attachment and RIE principles with a dash of by-the-seat-of-her-pants for good measure. She blogs about her life at a sausage party at Little Chicken Nuggets.

april 2013 – monthly theme: NIAW

This month, rather than hosting our usual Monthly Theme Post, PAIL is encouraging you to participate in RESOLVE’s Bloggers Unite Challenge as part of National Infertility Awareness Week (April 21-27).

This year, the Bloggers Unite prompt is “Join the Movement…”

The goal of this year’s Blog Challenge is to bring together bloggers to talk about how you are making the difference in ways large and small in the lives of people with infertility. Topics covered in your blog post can include how you broke the silence of infertility in your life, how you advocated for the infertility community, how you advocated for yourself, or how you created a support community to help you through the infertility journey.

While we are not officially working with RESOLVE, we highly encourage you to participate in this very important blog challenge. One of our core messages at PAIL, and the cornerstone of our mission statement is to “keep talking” through this part of the ALI journey. Your story, your journey, and your path to healing matters. Writing on the suggested prompts above from your current place on the journey lends an important perspective and new avenues on how to Join the Movement.

For full details on how to participate in the Bloggers Unite Challenge (including how to submit your posts and formatting) please click here.

Your post must be submitted directly to RESOLVE between April 21-27 to enter the challenge. If you would like to link your post up to us as well, please link up or pingback to this post but remember, you must submit your post to RESOLVE first. We will post links to the full list from RESOLVE as well as your posts for all to read and get inspired!

RESOLVE has their NIAW blog badges (like the one in our sidebar) available for downloading here. Additionally, Keiko at The Infertility Voice has created 12 Facebook Timeline Covers available as free downloads to raise awareness during NIAW. Please click here to choose and upload yours today! We did! 🙂

Be sure to share your posts far and wide! We’re really looking forward to reading the whole list!

healing week: the nerve

This week at PAIL, each of the contributing editors is writing about what healing looks like for her, in this moment. As I tend to repeat ad nauseum, healing is a non-linear process and will look different for each person at any given time. Resolving my physical infertility did not magically resolve my emotional infertility, a continuum on which I slide depending on various external factors.

I wrote the first part of this post last April for RESOLVE’s NIAW Bloggers Unite challenge. I was just coming out of the oppressive fog of a severe bout of PPD and felt that I needed to communicate why I wasn’t “over it” to the people in my life. Now, a year later, I reflect at the bottom about how my wound is healing, and what is keeping it open.

*****

When I was 14, my family spent Christmas at my grandparents’ house in Florida. My brother and I were playing catch with his new football when, not surprisingly, it sailed over the fence into the neighbour’s yard. The “closer to you” rule was enacted and over the fence I went. I threw it back, and as I climbed up to jump back I was met with a chorus of “Go through the gate!” from the adults on the porch. Being smarter than all of them combined, I jumped down from the fence. Unfortunately, my t-shirt got caught and acted as a slingshot, aiming me straight at the ground. I attempted to defy physics with my left arm with predictable results.

Actual X-ray of SRB’s arm.

My forearm had essentially snapped in half like a green twig. Because my arm could not be put in a cast due to massive swelling, I was strapped into a series of splints. The possibility of surgery was floated. My mother (a nurse of many years) decided that if surgery was happening, it would be happening back in Toronto, thank you very much. We spent several days driving back to Canada; every bump in the road excruciating. Upon arrival in Toronto, it was decided that as the bones had been healing for a few days, surgery would not be prudent. Instead, it was decided that they would simply re-break the arm and ‘set it properly’.

I was in a series of casts for three months. I complained constantly of numbness in my hand, which was attributed to swelling, healing, my imagination and everything in between. At the same time, even feeling the air on the skin of my fingers was unbearable. When the cast finally came off, I could not feel my index and middle fingers. I could not feel my thumb. I could not move it. Something was wrong.

I underwent a series of very painful tests to diagnose the problem. It was determined that I had severed the median nerve when I broke my arm. In order to restore any level of function to my hand, I would require surgery. When they went in, they could not find the nerve ends where they expected to. They had to open up the entirety of my forearm to find them. It was then discovered that they would not be able to reattach the ends, and so a length of nerve was removed from my ankle and grafted into my arm. I had to miss the rest of the school year to heal.

The recovery process was long, arduous, and incredibly painful. Not only did I have two massive incisions, but I was trying to ‘grow back’ a major nerve. For months there would be waves of unrelenting sensations that felt like an electrical fire pulsing down my arm. Slowly, over time, the waves subsided giving way to something of a burning itch under my skin that no amount of scratching or rubbing could ease. I have rubbed my skin raw trying. I have spent years learning how to use my hand again.

Actual scar, 19 years later.

If you spend a little time with me, you will notice the scars. They are hard to miss. They were red, angry, and took years to fade. I will tell you the story, and you will gasp, and then we will laugh. Because I have learned to use my hand again – I have adapted. It is not perfect, and it never will be. It is what it is, and I am very lucky. Some of the feeling has even returned, little by little, year by year. It is slowly healing over time. Still. But every once and a while, without warning, an electrical fire burns; an itch I cannot scratch returns.

This is what infertility and loss feels like to me. It should have been like hopping a fence for the thousandth time. Instead, it was a broken arm. It was a severed nerve. It was nerve endings that could not be found, that had to be patched up. It was a medical problem that required medical interventions. It was a nerve graft that somehow stuck on the third try. It was an electrical fire, and every so often the pain flares up without warning. It is a burning itch that no amount of scratching, only time, can soothe.

You cannot see these scars – they are (literally and figuratively) on the inside. Right now they are red, angry, and will take years to fade. But they will fade, and someday I hope to hardly notice them. HGB is my nerve graft – he is teaching me to use my hand again so that I can hold his.

Don’t ignore the scars of infertility and loss. Some wounds heal more quickly than others. There are many ways to stitch up the wounds, but every cut leaves a scar.

*****

Now what? In the last year, I have had a surprise natural conception, easy pregnancy, and amazing homebirth experience. I have the two children I always wanted. And for a little while, this was an elixir that made me feel as though my wounds had really, truly, finally healed. But as the weeks keeping passing, I find that glow slowly ebbing. So what is my problem?

I still struggle nearly daily with the injury of infertility and loss. Yes, my family building is complete. That part is over and has done wonders for where I am today versus 5 years ago. But how my husband and I were treated during and after those struggles and how we related to each other because of them are wounds that feel like they will never heal.

There are rifts between us because of it that we struggle to gap. Things it seems we will never see eye to eye on. I don’t know how to heal that.

There has been irreparable damage to other relationships because of it that impact our extended and immediate family. That impact our children. I don’t know how to heal that.

There is this feeling in my chest, in the pit of my stomach… this heaviness about our infertility and losses that I still think so much about. I don’t know how to heal that.

I worry that I don’t know how to talk about this. That I cannot abide by “just be grateful” in the same way that “just relax” is intolerable. That a person can be grateful beyond measure for what she has, for having everything she ever wanted, and yet still have so much pain etched into her heart and soul. But I worry more that by not talking about it, it will never heal. I worry that this wound will fester, will stay infected. I worry that this scar will never fade. Can you be grateful and sad at the same time?

Other days, I feel so very free of it all. That it is finally “behind me” and now I can “move forward” and get on with life. It’s over, I think. It’s done – you beat it. And honestly, when I catch myself thinking this way, I feel guilty. Guilty for moving on, for needing to move on. For moving away from this place. These scars will never fade away to nothing – I will never forget. But I do need to stop hurting. And so I do feel myself moving away from here, but I don’t have the nerve to do it just yet.

Because I’m not done. I’m not done hurting.

*****

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SRBSarah is a former high school teacher, turned medical writer, turned SAHM to two boys. She enjoys beer, knitting, gardening, and cheese, and is striving to raise boys who can will do their own laundry and cooking. This urban mama parents with an ever-evolving mix of natural, attachment and RIE principles with a dash of by-the-seat-of-her-pants for good measure. She blogs about her life at a sausage party at Little Chicken Nuggets.

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