featured post – “seeing pink, blue– and green” by keiko

This week’s feature post is taking us back to PAIL’s roots.

When we debuted PAIL on June 1st, we had a very specific vision for tweaking the PAIL acronym, settling on “Pregnant/Parenting through Adoption/Infertility/Loss.” Although “through” is the one word that we sneakily omitted from “PAIL” (we all know “PTAIL” doesn’t have the same ring to it), we all really felt like that one word was key in describing our group experience. We aren’t pregnant or parenting after, but pregnant and parenting through. Infertility isn’t cured by a pregnancy on a physical level; nor is the pain of infertility and loss cured by parenting. This is an important distinction– it’s who we are as a group and is the one thing that really connects us all together through our varied experiences. As SRB pointed out months ago, there is a common experience of moving through and, hopefully, towards a place of healing and resolution.

Keiko of The Infertility Voice highlights the experience of moving from infertile to pregnant-with-an-asterisk (as I like to call it) in her post “Seeing Blue, Pink– and Green.” This is a space we know well– it’s where you are in identity limbo, still reeling from infertility but also “on the other side,” getting the very thing that you want. It’s not so simple.

I have never been a habitual POAS-er. And I’ve have a complicated relationship with HPTs, given that I have usually taken them when a child wasn’t wanted. So it’s been a very strange thing indeed to suddenly desire them in this way.

As if somehow, seeing these two lines will erase my fear that I’m going to lose this pregnancy.

The label infertility does not, of course, represent a blanket experience. It’s not uncommon to fear pregnancy loss without having ever lost a pregnancy before, and this fear is just one of the ways infertility can seep through to “the other side” and impact pregnancy and parenting, including feelings of jealousy and envy:

I envy the ease with which some women deal with pregnancy, how they’re not worrying about making it through another week’s milestone. The women who could care less what their beta numbers are – if they even know them in the first place. The ones who don’t have to worry if this pregnancy will this last, or will I just face another crushing heartbreak in the face of everything else we’ve been through just to get here to this moment.

This post is from a few weeks ago, and some of you who are fans of The Infertility Voice may have already read it and commented. There’s a bonus here, though: this is the prelude to a guest post Keiko will be writing here on PAIL this Thursday! So, as always, comments here are closed and we encourage you to click through to read “Seeing Pink, Blue– and Green” in full, but don’t forget to check back in on Thursday to see Keiko’s follow-up as she continues to navigate early pregnancy and the beginning of life “on the other side.”

news item: ‘letting myself go’

In college I joined the cross-country team. Now don’t think I was, or am, some healthy runner chick. Yeah, no. I joined because I knew I had to start exercising regularly and I knew I wouldn’t keep it up on my own. I figured a team sport would motivate me to stick with it, and also, the cross-country team at my college didn’t make cuts, so I was in! And I did stick with it. I became a runner.  My senior year I went for my annual physical that all athletes had to have to play a team sport. The college nurse, who I knew quite well, remarked that since joining the team I had lost some weight and gained a lot of muscle. She said to me, “Boy I wish I could love running like you do.” I looked at her point-blank and said “No, no, I hate running.” She asked me why I was doing it. I told her quite simply that I knew I had to do something to keep me healthy, running was a cheap sport to do, and if it meant I could eat a cupcake or ice cream and not have to worry about it, then I would do it. Mmm, cupcakes…where was I?  The nurse laughed and said that was one of the most honest statements she had ever heard from a college student.

My point, and I do have one, is that I am still a runner today, but it is not some grand love of running that gets me up at 5 am to run, or sneaking in a quick run while the baby naps. It’s the fact that I know, we all know, we should stay physically active.  And we all know just how hard that is once kids come into the picture. So when a well-known trainer, gives an interview in which she shames pregnant women and new moms for “letting themselves go” I get a little upset.

Tracy Anderson, Gwyneth Paltrow’s personal trainer, gave an interview in which she said that not only had she dropped her thirty pounds of baby weight in six weeks after giving birth, but that,

“A lot of women use pregnancy as an excuse to let their bodies go, and that’s the worst thing.”

This comment implies that not only are “a lot” of women lazy and unhealthy during pregnancy, but as the author of the article states:

“…it’s unrealistic to suggest that women who don’t lose the baby weight quickly are ‘letting their bodies go,’ or using their children as excuses to put off fitness.”

There are so many levels of ‘wrongness’ I feel about this story.  On the surface are the trainer’s comments.  They are inflammatory and insensitive.  And I am quite sure Tracy Anderson knew what she was doing; you see this interview was given along with the promoting of her new DVDs for, wait for it…pregnancy fitness workouts!  And the rule in media is ‘any press is good press’.  So Tracy got lots of attention for her new line of DVDs.

The author further goes on to state another level of ‘wrongness’:

“And, while it’s normal to lose weight after the birth of a baby (some women have an easier time of it than others), losing all of it by six-weeks postpartum, as Tracy Anderson did, is not the norm. Most doctors won’t even clear women for exercise until their six-week checkup, and if you’ve had tearing or complications (as I did with all three of my boys) then the wait can be even longer. And, too much exercise and dieting can also interfere with breastmilk production, so it’s best to go easy while you’re nursing and while your baby is so young.”

And yet this article only begins to hint, in my opinion, at the real issues here, the real ‘wrongness’, that this is yet ANOTHER story about a woman casting judgment on other women.  Why are we so damn ready to judge each other?  I was constantly asked, by relative strangers, how much weight I was gaining during my pregnancy.  Since when is it suddenly ok to ask a woman that question?  And why does it matter?  I gained in the range my midwife told me to gain and that is all that counts.  And what if, and I don’t, but what if I had a history of an eating disorder, and being asked that question triggered my old issues?

The fact is that no one ever really knows another person’s back-story, or if they do, they don’t know how it truly feels unless they have lived it themselves.  And yet we continually judge each other:  amount of weight we gain, non-medicated birth or epidural, breast-feeding or formula, co-sleeping or crib, and it goes on.  When the only thing that really counts, the only thing that should matter, EVER, is the fact that a healthy child was born, game over, miracle created.

And so the day I wrote this post my little girl napped like a champ, three naps over an hour each.  I did not choose to go for a run on the treadmill however, just didn’t feel like it.  Instead I rested and made brownies.  I’ll try again tomorrow to fit in a run.  But my exercising will never be about trying to fit into some unrealistic expectation that the celebrity culture puts on women.  My exercising will be to make myself healthy so that I can be the best Mom I can be and hopefully model a healthy body image and healthy eating to my daughter.  (And also teach her that cupcakes are little bites of heaven.)

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What do you think about trainer Tracy Anderson’s statements?  Were they motivating or derogatory?

Almost all parenting topics seem to come with some form of judgement, do you feel the ALI community is less judgemental?  In what ways?  Are there any ways you feel the ALI community is more judgemental?

Tracy Anderson gave a followup interview trying to explain her comments (see a video of it here along with a write-up * that is a bit catty *) but didn’t actually apologize.  Do you feel she explained herself any better?

How do you feel about the ‘judgemental culture’ we seem to live in?  How do you handle it?

Have you written a blog post on this issue?  Or if this article inspires you to write one, share the link in the comments!

news item: “Not Just the Baby Blues”

The article and topic for today’s discussion was submitted to us by mandski of Chhoto Pakhi (formerly AS of Mira’s Mama):

It seems that a lot of PAIL members have experienced prenatal or postpartum depression and/or anxiety, usually unexpectedly. I was lucky enough to have support (regular meetings with a psychotherapist and a prenatal psychiatrist available), and I still ended up afraid to get on the subway when I was pregnant (among other anxiety-related fears). In some ways, perhaps infertility exacerbates this experience. This article in Slate doesn’t talk about infertility, but I thought it was interesting since it’s a common topic of conversation here, and it’s not so commonly talked about in the mass media. The author talks about her mother saying that her doctor brushed off her concerns about depression, saying this should be the happiest time of her life. How many of us heard that?

*Raises hand*

In the last few days, I have been thinking a lot about pregnancy after IF/loss. Specifically, the unrelenting anxiety I felt during my pregnancy with HGB and how this was compounded by platitudes (variations of “just relax” continue after the BFP too!) or a general lack of support and understanding. And, in my case, some pretty blatant invalidation of my feelings. The situation surrounding my pregnancy left me very depressed, and I experienced a terrible bout of PPD after our son was born. Recently, I was asked for my advice and some resources to help someone with this very issue (prenatal anxiety), and it really struck me how differently I feel this time. How much clearer I am able to think about not only this pregnancy, but to really shine a light on my last one. It was a very bad time, and I did not begin to enjoy it until the very end. And I still feel guilty about that.

In her article for Slate, writer Jessica Grose details her struggle with prenatal depression, finding support, and coming to terms with it:

Neither the psychologist nor the psychiatrist mentioned prenatal depression. In fact, I had never heard the term before I started plunging into a clinical melancholy so deep that my Google history from that period is a darkly hilarious trail of cries for help. I entered many permutations of the terms “pregnancy depression” and “pregnancy can’t stop crying” and discovered that prenatal depression is just as common as postpartum depression—it affects between 10 and 15 percent of women. Despite these stats, prenatal depression is still relatively under the radar, and many obstetricians are not well-trained in its complexities

Speaking from my own experience, my doctor did ask about this a few times, and I lied. What if they knew how I was feeling and decided I was a terrible mother? What if they tell me all the horrible ways my feelings are harming my child in utero and confirm all the crazy shit Dr. Google has told me about? I’ll just hide it and feel even worse. Not my best logic.

Grose goes on to talk about the guilt that inevitably arises from these feels of anxiety and depression, and perhaps ever so slightly touches on the experience of pregnancy after infertility and loss (emphasis mine):

Compounding the obsessive thoughts was an overwhelming sense of guilt. We had wanted and planned for this child. I was supposed to be thrilled, cooing at strange babies in the street and gleefully learning how to knit tiny hats. This should have been something that brought my husband and me closer together. Instead, I was scared and sick and sloppy, and my husband was increasingly terrified.

Taking all the information and statistics provided in the article (and part two) with a grain of salt, I wish I read this 2 years ago. We all know that being in the ALI spectrum can cause significant stress and anxiety, often resulting in bouts of depression. I know that *I* hoped, nay, expected that to all go away when I got pregnant. Instead, it got worse. And I was extremely reluctant to talk about that people after being essentially ordered to “just be happy.”  It took me a long, long time and a lot of hard work to get to where I am today.

But here is the kicker: I went through this time without blogging – without seeing my experience mirrored anywhere. I wonder if it would have been different if I had been writing about this. I wonder if it would have helped me or hurt me to discuss those feelings here. Would commenters have been supportive? From reading blogs, I have come across very few in this community that discuss these feelings (particularly with respect to prenatal depression) openly and honestly. And I wonder, is it not happening, am I not reading the right blogs, or are we not talking about it?

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Did you experience (or are you now experiencing) anxiety and/or depression during your pregnancy? If you have adopted your child, did you experience similar emotions while waiting for your child to come home?

If so, did you blog about these experiences? What was that like for you? 

Do you think there is a reluctance to discuss this issue in the ALI community? Why or why not?

How can we encourage each other to seek out support if this happens to us or someone in the community we care about?

news item: “12 Things You Should Never Ask a Woman”

This news item brought to you once again by “Things SRB Sees on Twitter, Somehow!” Meaning, I don’t follow Huffington Post*, but someone retweeted it. I clicked on it. I read it. I laughed. I nodded. And now, I report!

When I first found the ALI community on the Goo.gle, I found a lot of “Top Ten Things to NEVER Say to Someone Struggling with IF!” Some were funny, and some were…harsh. Depends on the author, depends on the reader. And while I can totally relate to some of the more strongly worded lists, I have always gotten a kick out of IF humour. It is important to laugh, you know, so that you don’t cry. You dig?

I haven’t read a list like that in a while. Reading this list brought up those old memories, and served as a reminder of how far I’ve come (and how far I have to go) about the degree to which some of these questions bother me. Right now, I am in the extremely fortunate position to be pissy when someone says to “Congratulations! Was it planned?” Um, gross.

In her list/article, Erica Berman describes the “12 Things You Should Never Ask a Woman” and why. Here are some of personal “favourites” that I have encountered over the years:

3. Never tell a woman that she miscarried because it wasn’t meant to be.

4. Never tell a woman who has miscarried not to worry, she’ll get pregnant again. Instead, try I’m sorry for your loss, or I’m sorry, please let me know what I can do to help.

5. Never tell a woman who has miscarried that next time she’ll just have to: drink less coffee, worry less, exercise less, eat better, etc. etc. Miscarriages are rarely caused by controllable factors, and making her feel like it’s her fault is a disgraceful thing to do.

Yeah. I think these go without saying. See also: “AT LEAST YOU CAN GET PREGNANT!!!” or “It wasn’t a real baby anyway” or “There was probably something wrong with it”

7. Never ask a woman with one child when she plans to have another child. Same as above. None of your business. Just because she has a child does not mean she is not struggling to get pregnant again. Secondary infertility is extremely common and just as devastating. This also means that it is not helpful to tell someone facing secondary infertility that she should be grateful that she already has a child or children. Most people have an idea in their head of what they want their family to look like, and if they are not able to create this family, they experience significant distress, even if they already have a child or children.

There is nothing in this statement that I do not agree with 100%. I wrote about this myself recently.

And finally:

10. Never assume what a woman dealing with miscarriage or infertility wants or needs. Come out and ask her if she wants to talk about it. Avoiding the issue may make some women feel worse while others may not feel like discussing it. Just ask!

Yes. Just ask. And keep asking. And might I add, never assume that you know what another IFer is feeling or needs. You can understand, but you can never assume you know. Just ask. And keep asking.

So, I just blew half the list for you, but I am curious to know what you think.

This list has a focus on fertility/infertility/miscarriage. Did Berman miss any? Did she miss the mark?

What is your experience with one or more of these statements? How did you handle it?

What about non-IF issues? What should you NEVER ask a woman?

*I am not a regular reader of the site, nor do I know much about the author and how she covers infertility issues. This is quite likely my first exposure to her, but I will be poking around the archives to get a better sense of the type of coverage she produces. Call it a mix of personal and professional interest.

featured post: “where do I belong?” by EndoJourney

When I was twenty-five weeks pregnant (in five days it’ll be exactly a year ago, holy cow), I wrote a post about “the other side of infertility.” When PAIL was first formed, I revisited that post because it was, for me, the exact experience of identity crisis that described both the limbo PAIL bloggers face and the need for this sort of space– can I be both infertile and pregnant? Is my infertility identity a sham now, are my experiences and feelings moot? Is it “over”? Can I ever really feel “safe”?

When we suffer trauma, bits of ourselves get chipped off, scattered, and left behind; I experienced this in a very visceral way tonight when my mother dropped a glass plate onto a granite floor and missed a piece while vacuuming it up (ouch). We lose little fragments of ourselves along the way, and we fill in those spaces with patches of identity built from labels that describe what happened to us. Labels like “I AM INFERTILE,” or for those preferring a more fluid and dynamic tone, “I HAVE INFERTILITY.”

It’s a strange experience to lose a piece of that patched-on identity by becoming pregnant, and stranger still to wander into a limbo like that you might not have realized was a part of the package to begin with after you start parenting: now you’re infertile, but with a baby that you made, somehow (my particular situation is also seasoned with the “bonus” of a second baby– twins surely means you beat the system, right?). This applies to more than just the experience of pregnancy through infertility. High-risk situations like bed rest add a whole other layer on this particular situation because you lose access to many, if not all, of the things you do that make you who you are– work, socializing, some hobbies, exercise and other physical pursuits. Lying around watching TV and barely able to cook for yourself won’t do much to keep you from feeling like pregnancy and impending parenthood is stripping you of your identity already! If infertility was a huge part of your daily existence, and then it was overwritten by pregnancy, well, you might still be processing all of that when you get upgraded to “high risk” and lose the last bits of distractions and hobbies that you held on to for sanity– imagine a two-week wait lived out in the most sparse of doctors’ waiting rooms, with just one three-month-old People Magazine and no cell phone reception to get you through.

EndoJourney is on bed rest and managing some difficult emotions as she navigates a complicated high-risk pregnancy. Her post “Where Do I Belong?” popped up in my reader about two weeks ago and I immediately felt a connection to the way she described her current perception of pregnancy through infertility and her struggle to define her experience:

I’m realizing how little others understand and can do for me. I never realized how fragile the world is and how much tougher I’ve become from this. I can see my friends or family just being crushed by my updates after doctor’s appointments. And it’s not that be being tougher is necessarily a good thing either because it comes with a side of bitterness and resentment too. People don’t know what to say and they just leave me with these looks of pity and sadness. What else are they supposed to do, even though it’s not what I need?

I’m also realizing how much I’ve missed in the world of my family and friends while I’ve been struggling through all of this…. It feels like while I’m parked on the sofa watching show after show, movie after movie and going through books faster than there are books being printed, the world is passing me by.

Her entire post and, honestly, all of her entries of late are poignant and really hit some nerves for me that reminded me of my own struggle to resolve some of my feelings and experiences during my pregnancy. To read on, please visit EndoJourney’s post “Where Do I Belong?” on her blog Journey with Endometriosis. Comments on this thread will be closed in an effort for you to connect with EndoJourney directly and share your thoughts with her.

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If you have a post of any kind (old or new!), on any topic that you would like share, please fill out the form on the main Featured Posts page here. You are welcome to submit your a post of your own! 

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