Posts Tagged ‘The Infertility Survival Handbook’
April 2, 2013 | By: Liz
We are rapidly approaching National Infertility Awareness Week (April 21-27); a week that is devoted to raising awareness of infertility and its impact on our lives. This is an important week, not just because we are discussing infertility on a national level, but because many of us may are faced with thoughts and memories that have long since been buried. Or have they? Many an infertile woman will understand very clearly what I mean when I refer to that which I call Post Traumatic Infertility Stress Disorder (PTIFSD). This is the part of our lives where we are periodically haunted by our infertility (IF) treatment, sometimes years after it has ended. Regardless of the outcome of our treatment, PTIFSD is signaled by a random flashback to one of any number of emotionally devastating moments during infertility treatment, a flashback that comes out of nowhere and is so vivid and acute that it catches our breath and momentarily disables us.
The first time I encountered PTIFSD was about two years after I had stopped IF treatment. One day I was holding my baby while on line in Starbucks and a woman came in bursting with news for the friends who were waiting for her: she was finally pregnant with twins and her beta was high! Upon overhearing this news (along with everyone else in Starbucks, most of whom probably had no clue what a beta is or why it was relevant) I had an immediate flashback to a time I too had learned I was pregnant, had a high beta and was probably carrying twins. My flashback delved further, rapidly scrolling through memories of the messages on my answering machine, including those from three nurses at my clinic to congratulate me and share their excitement about my pregnancy. Two of them gave me information that initially had not been shared with me, information which confirmed that I “must be” carrying twins, although that would later be confirmed by ultrasound. My brain spun with these memories and I became disoriented. It was only when the child in my arms, my child, grabbed my hair to get my attention that I snapped out of my seemingly trance-like state. I forgot where I was in time. I forgot I had a child. All I could remember were those happy moments of learning that I finally had a healthy pregnancy under way and the devastation that followed approximately 9 weeks later when I learned that I had to undergo yet another D&C and that my dreams were once again, dead.
While some of us do emerge emotionally unscathed from infertility treatment, many of us carry battle scars that last a lifetime. There is a cruel side of infertility treatment that people don’t often talk about and it involves the emotional scars we are left with, sometimes years after our treatment has ended and we are supposed to have “made peace” with our family building. Not many people will acknowledge that they still have bad days, get jealous or angry (sometimes very angry) over something small and seemingly benign but nevertheless powerful enough to cause a shock wave of traumatic and painful memories from our days undergoing infertility treatment to overtake us and send us into a tailspin, the likes of which we haven’t felt since. . . well since our days of infertility treatment. It has been a long time since I had a PTIFSD encounter but sadly, I had one recently and it was no easier to tolerate than was the Starbucks encounter I described above. And what struck me most was that while I understood that my infertility might still be fresh in my mind less than two years after my husband and I walked away from our IVF Clinic, I didn’t expect those same memories to carry with them the same ferocity so many years later. I mean, it has been over ten (10) years since I underwent an IVF cycle. Certainly time must have tempered my feelings, yes?
Apparently the answer was a resounding “no”. I was checking my email one morning when I received a surprise baby-on-the-way announcement from one of my childhood friends. She and I not only went to kindergarten together but we went through infertility treatment together. Despite having similar diagnoses, she went on to achieving several successful pregnancies via egg donation. I was so happy for her that I knitted a little sweater for her first born. What I experienced upon opening her email a few weeks ago, however, was hideously painful and I was left depressed, lethargic, moody and frightened. My friend had gotten pregnant by accident, in other words, without medical assistance. Indeed, much to everyone’s stupefaction, despite her age and many infertility diagnoses, she is experiencing a very healthy twin pregnancy. As I sat there reading her email I was happy for her, but at the same time I was overcome by memories of us holding hands while waiting to have our blood drawn in the morning, and the time she called in tears because she finally had to face the fact that she needed to use donor egg if she wanted to achieve a pregnancy (or so everyone thought at the time). And as I relived those memories (emphasis on the word relive) and read her email again I suddenly was overcome by anger and jealousy that I was not the one sending out the email. Out of nowhere I was overcome with a jealous rage that bordered on hate. Hatred for someone I have loved since I was so small a person? Yes, if I am truly honest I have to admit that I felt inklings of hatred for her. For the next day or so I had mood swings and bit people’s heads-off for no reason. It was only when I finally told my husband what I had received in that email that the feelings became less intense. Somehow by acknowledging my feelings I was finally able to begin to move away from this non-stop video memory spinning inside my head. Somehow this email had me caught in a perpetual mental loop of painful and devastating memories from my IF. As the memories subsided, I remembered a conversation with a therapist I had seen during and after my IVF days. During one of my sessions, she commented that what I was experiencing seemed a lot like post traumatic stress disorder; and so she and I created a new diagnosis, Post Traumatic Infertility Stress Disorder or PTIFSD.
I now have learned how to recognize and embrace the PTIFSD memories and use them to remind me of the joy that surrounds me. I hope my PTIFSD is now truly at rest in my past. But it’s okay if it is not. Because I know where these feelings come from, and that they will go away. These feelings do not control me, nor does my infertility continue to define me, instead it is the genesis of my growth as a human being, a woman, and a mother.
I recently had dinner with an infertility doctor. He asked me why I wrote The Infertility Survival Handbook and whether it had been cathartic. I told him why I wrote it – to let other women know they were not alone – but I also acknowledged that writing it wasn’t the least bit cathartic. My healing process is one that continues. Perhaps writing The Infertility Survival Handbook was my way of starting the healing process but I would be lying if I said I was finished with it.
The Infertility Survival Handbook was released during National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW) in 2004. Today as we approach NIAW, I am thinking of all of the women (and men) who are currently struggling to have a baby. Now on its’ ninth (yes 9th!! Woot! Woot!) printing and as I contemplate writing an updated version, I think of all those women who have read my book and have emailed me, messaged me on facebook, or even called me (on a private number at home at 6am); women, who like me, struggle with the emotions that linger even after they have become mothers. PTIFSD is not yet in any diagnostic manuals, but I wish it were. I had two wonderful therapists who helped validate the emotions I was experiencing both during my treatment and well after it ended; therapists who believe in PTIFSD and its power. Not everyone has people in their lives like my therapist who invented PTIFSD, or someone that understands and “gets it”. And it is for those women I write this blog.
No you are not alone. Being unable to conceive a child when you so desperately want one, is painful. You are entitled to express that pain. You should not be shushed or told to “just relax” so you can get pregnant. And yes, that pain can stay in your heart and mind and hide there waiting to jump out and catch you off guard. That too is normal and you are entitled to express that pain as well. You should not be shushed or told “it’s over now just forget about it”.
You are not crazy. Infertility is a part of your life regardless of the ultimate outcome. It is an experience that shapes you and has the power to disfigure you – to change who you are – if you let it. If you think you might have “Post Traumatic Infertility Stress Disorder”, talk to someone. Get those feelings out. Give your feelings a name. Sometimes just by having a name, a reason, or a diagnosis gives you closure and helps you move past the feelings and you experience a sense of relief that allows you to let go. I may not be like my childhood/IF buddy who is on the verge of delivering twins. But I also am no longer be at the mercy of my memories. By being reminded that my reactions and feelings when confronted with things that trigger painful memories has a name, PTIFSD, I have been able to regain my balance. Or perhaps it is simply the understanding that, like anyone who goes through a very traumatic experience, I am bound to (at some point) relive that trauma, which has enabled me to begin to heal on a new, even deeper level.
Infertility awareness requires not only an understanding and recognition of the disease itself but of what that disease can do to us. So if all the media coverage regarding infertility in the coming days (of which I hope there is a lot), finds you feeling a little more blue (or red) than normal, a little bit more withdrawn or melancholy, remind yourself that this media coverage is triggering some old buried memories, just as that woman in Starbucks and my friend’s email caused me to become momentarily blinded by sadness, grief, and anger. It is okay that our infertility causes some of us to experience things and feel emotions long after we thought they were over. That can be a part of infertility too, PTIFSD; and it too deserves some recognition during NIAW.
The point of NIAW is to help us recognize that we should not suffer in silence, that we should band together and make people aware that infertility is a disease. What I wanted to share with you, and make people aware of is not just the medical diagnoses, but the sometimes unbearable emotional pain we feel. We also should not be forced to suffer the emotional pain in silence.
Filed under: Check This Out, Deadly Silence, Egg Donation, In the News, infertility in the media, Infertility on Television, IVF, Personal Musings, Recurrent Pregnancy Loss, The Infertility Survival Handbook, Thinking Out Loud
The painful silence of recurrent pregnancy loss and stillbirth. A first hand perspective and perhaps finally, a voice.
February 15, 2013 | By: Liz
The shrowd of silence around stillbirth and pregnancy loss finally is being lifted. Someone is making a documentary about miscarriage, recurrent pregnancy loss, and stillbirth. This morning I watched the trailer of “Still” a documentary devoted to raising awareness of the pain of the loss of a pregnancy, a child born too soon, or a stillbirth. I think “Still” may focus more on stillbirth or pre-term delivery, but some of the articles I read as I researched its production indicated that the documentary intends to address recurrent pregnancy loss and/or miscarriage more than is touched upon in this trailer.
As I watched the trailer I was reminded of a long call I had with a new client this week. It is rare that I have a client who has a similar background to my own experience with infertility. Like me she has experienced 12 unexplained pregnancy losses (although I sort of stopped counting about a year ago when I went through it again . . . something about hitting the number 13 and I really decided it didn’t matter how many I had, I have had enough, one is enough). Only in addition to experiencing a number of first term (non-chemical) pregnancy losses, my new client also lost pregnancies in the second trimester and near the beginning of the third trimester. We had a lengthy conversation about how isolating it is, how lonely it is, how there is no person other than your partner or spouse who “gets it” (and even then sometimes perhaps they don’t totally get it because it isn’t their body), and how the silence that surrounds pregnancy loss can engulf one’s life, one’s existence. Our call also reminded me of a blog I posted about a gravestone I once saw that marked the death of fetus. As I commented in that blog, it wasn’t a pro-life stunt. It was a family who had been given permission not only to mark the death of their baby while in utero (or loss of their pregnancy) but to recognize all those other families that have suffered the same pain. In silence.
Reproductive medicine has provided so many advances to assist infertile couples in achieving their dreamed of family but recurrent pregnancy loss remains largely unexplained. While theories abound, there are far too many of us who don’t know why this happens to us, repeatedly. Reproductive medicine and reproductive law now give us the option of having our biological child carried by someone who is likely to deliver that child when we can’t. Indeed, the option to use a surrogate after experiencing pregnancy loss is perhaps the driving force behind at least half of my clients who come to me to assist them with legal agreements as they begin their journey using a surrogate. As is the case with the call and the client I just mentioned.
As many of you know, in the absence of an explanation of why my babies die, I was too frightened that a surrogate might lose my child. I couldn’t ask another woman to risk experiencing the pain I have dealt with so many times. Adoption was always something my husband and I had wanted to pursue so when we were faced with the [dreaded] conversation where our doctor told us we were out of options other than surrogacy or adoption, it was a no-brainer for us. It was going to be adoption. And as one of the women in the trailer for “Still” points out, I wouldn’t turn back the clock or make different decisions; because without those pregnancy losses I wouldn’t be parenting the two beautiful children I have now. I cannot imagine a life without these particular little souls in it. It seems like a heartbreaking price to pay but as I told my new client, one day when this is all over and you are holding your baby in your arms, it will make sense and you will know that but for all that came before (all 12 of those horrendously difficult pregnancy losses) this little baby wouldn’t be yours.
But as she journeys toward that day where she hopefully does feel that sense of peace and gratitude for the child in her arms, she is left with a huge void. She has no one to talk to. I had no one to talk to. Even my best IVF friends didn’t understand how I felt. Excuse me: how I FEEL. I still feel pain on a day that one of my longtime friend’s celebrates, the day she heard the heartbeat of each of the babies she was carrying. I don’t begrudge her that joy. I celebrate with her. But for me, inside, it always is a reminder of the miscarriage that I experienced just a few days earlier. My client and I share a special bond, one of knowing what each carries inside her and the thoughts that creep into our mind throughout the day. Thoughts that largely go un-shared with anyone.
Will “Still” do justice to this topic, to this diagnosis, to the countless women and men who have endured the loss of a life growing inside them or one that came into the world far too early to survive? I think so. I hope so. Because I would like nothing more than for women like me who are going through what I went through, women like my new client, to have a voice in the reproductive community. To have doctors pay attention to our kind of infertility. To have better resources and support groups. To just plain have a voice to express their pain. Amazing options for family building notwithstanding, the pain associated with recurrent pregnancy loss, miscarriage, and stillbirth shouldn’t continue to be shrouded in silence.
And so today I thank the people behind this documentary entitled “Still”. THANK YOU for initiating a dialogue that is long overdue.
And one final note, to all those physicians who have dedicated their careers to exploring the mystery of recurrent pregnancy loss . . . THANK YOU.
If you would like to watch the trailer click here
Filed under: Current Affairs, Deadly Silence, Faith and Infertility, infertility in the media, Infertility In The Movies etc., Infertility on Television, IVF, Miscarriage, Peace to Parenthood, Personal Musings, Recurrent Pregnancy Loss, Stillbirth, The Journey to Parenthood, Thinking Out Loud, Third-Party Assisted Reproduction
July 30, 2012 | By: Liz
Everyone who knows me, really knows me, knows I am sucker for all things Emily Giffin (I mean we have sooo much in common . . . you do know I said that tongue in cheek right? although the similarities in our lives, associate in a big law firm turned author of best selling book . . . although admittedly she’s had slightly better publishing success than I), and that I like Danielle Steel too. There I have outed myself. Chic lit and romance novels are my thing.
But Emily Giffin’s new book, Where we Belong, has adoption and reunion of birth mother and adoptee as it it’s theme. I respect Ms. Giffin tremendously. She did a fantastic job addressing infertility and child bearing in Baby Proof as noted in a previous blog; and I understand from discussions with colleagues that Ms. Giffin interviewed reproductive lawyers and perhaps other professionals in the world of ART in order to properly address issues of infertility in Baby Proof. So I’m guessing that she probably did a really good job researching adoption and is nothing but politically correct, sensitive and thoughtful when writing about this very delicate topic. (If it’s okay by you, I’m just going to call her Emily. She is after all my soul sister.) I see on Emily’s FaceBook page that people are asking her if she will do a sequel so it must be good. But are any of those people who are asking for a sequel part of an adoption triad or an adoption professional????
I have read so many books and articles that are written by people with good intentions but nonetheless totally botch the job when it comes to adoption language and/or addressing the emotions and feelings that come up for people in adoption triads. I won’t mention the titles here — why bad mouth a book you might enjoy — but I have had to put a couple of them down and just agree to disagree with the author. Anyone who knows me also knows that once I start a book I HAVE to finish it no matter how bad or boring is the tombe. I am that anal that I will force myself, yes force myself, to finish something I hate. Even on a beach on a vacation, I will force myself to gut through the last few pages of a book which I think is really awful. So I am very careful these days about what I will read. Knowing that I am committed from start to finish I only can choose books that I feel will truly entertain or enlighten. And thus, I do my research and read reviews and blogs (and FaceBook pages) to see what people think. So far, Where We Belong gets amazing reviews. And yet, I won’t download it to my tablet or buy it . . . what’s up with that?
I guess I am really afraid that Emily will hurt me or bring up emotions that I would rather not face. I am after all, an adoptive mother and one who feels very strongly about the use of positive adoption language and who wishes that adoption came without bittersweet feelings or even shall we say, threatening feelings. I worry about legislation that will open adoption records that currently are sealed and thus create a greater potential for dramas like the one portrayed in Where We Belong to unfold for my friends. (btw, I “get” both sides of the argument to open adoption records, and while I have my own opinion on this topic I do respect those who don’t share it, so please don’t spam me on this particular topic, I leave this up to legislators and their constituents to figure out whether it’s right or wrong, good or bad).
I also really care about the birth mothers I have represented and knowing what they go through, I can only imagine how they would feel — especially those who wanted a closed adoption or less contact with the adoptive family — if one day the child they placed for adoption knocked on their proverbial door.
And please let’s also be clear, I hate the term “gave up for adoption” . . . this term runs rampant throughout reviews of Emily’s book so I am worried she uses it IN the book. Please remember that this is a decision someone makes and it is NOT an easy decision for anyone. Birth mothers have “placed” their child for adoption, a term which hopefully is more respectful of their decision to enter into an adoption, as opposed to “gave up” or “give away” which makes it sound like babies are a commodity and birth mothers don’t care about what happens to their baby. “Gee, I think I’ll just give this baby away today . . . ” I think NOT. I hate this terminology and while I never know what is right or wrong and often worry about what words I use with my own clients and in my family, I really don’t think this one particular term is respectful to birth mothers.
And as I have recently discovered it’s not even politically correct to call my clients who are considering making an adoption plan for their baby, a birth mother. These women now request or prefer to be called “emoms”. An emom is a woman who is expecting a baby and is considering placing her baby for adoption. I would strongly suspect that emoms don’t consider what they are thinking about doing (emphasis here on thinking) to be “giving up” or “giving away” . . . This is such a highly charged issue with advocates for both terms that I suspect just by talking about this language I am going to get a ton of hate email.
And I have already upset myself thinking about adoption language and whether Emily used it appropriately . . . As a result of my discussion of terminology I have relived allot of what my own family, and our adoption triads, have gone through, as well as some of the adoptions my office has handled . . . I can’t even write a blog about this topic without getting myself upset and disjointed, so how am I going to do reading this book? And I HAVE to finish it if I start it . . . And yes, I know that’s ridiculous and nutty and if I don’t like a book I should put it down, but that’s just not ME people. I am nothing if not thorough (and loyal) right through to the end.
F*&^k. I love Emily’s work and I feel I have a professional obligation to read and review this book. And yet I am scared sh!tless at the thought of reading it. But read it I must. Right? Wrong?
Crap. What to do . . . stay tuned.
Filed under: adoption
Tags: adoption, Birth Family, birth moms, Birth Mother, books, Domestic Adoption Planning, hope, Inspiration, talking to birth mothers, The Infertility Survival Handbook, The Ultimate Insider's Guide to Adoption