PLEASE NOTE: If you are struggling with infertility or are currently trying to conceive and you DON'T want to read about my pregnancy (which I totally understand), I recommend starting at the beginning of the blog (March 2010) and reading from there. I find out I'm pregnant in June 2011 so there is a lot of trying to conceive posts in between that you might find funny, helpful or relatable. Wishing you all the luck in the world!

Monday, November 6, 2017

Hope and Heart


Let me tell you about the week of October 23rd as it was a roller coaster of a week. I was getting ready for ASRM in San Antonio and even came up with a cutesy-poo meme (of sorts).  Well, I thought it was cute. It was to be my first ASRM conference and I could NOT have been more excited. I would be flying first class to stay at a four-star hotel to meet with some friends, doctor’s, and folks who all care about family building.

On Monday morning, October 23rd, I was on the elliptical when I saw I received an email. It was from Resolve letting me know that my blog was selected as the recipient of the Resolve 2017Hope Award for Best Blog. Given the caliber of the fellow nominees, I could not have been more floored. I’ve been writing this blog since 2009 and was always aware of this award. I also know the majority of the previous winners and I could not be in better company.

I do want to again take a moment and mention my fellow 2017 nominees as these were powerful pieces for this past year's theme, 'Listen Up'. Each of these women honestly and wonderfully shared a unique perspective that I know will resonate with many. I'm honored to have been included in this group. They are:

·         A Hummingbird Pause - Listen Up! For Waiting Mothers

·         Angie.Life - Listen Up! Infertility is a Disease


To get to attend ASRM on the heels of this honor made me even more excited to go. And so the week went on filled with ASRM preparation: Getting business cards ready, packing my best dresses, getting a pedicure, eye brows done, etc. You know… the essentials. When Thursday, October 26th rolled around, I was happy and having a good week and a particularly wonderful day. Then, as I walked home in the afternoon, I felt a familiar feeling that was NOT a good one. Since 2007, I have. on occasion, had something called tachycardia episodes. This means that my heart rate shoots up and more often than not, I pass out. I’ve had two bad attacks in the past few years but usually, they are somewhat small and brief. Plus, if I lay down immediately, they tend to pass. I had been told previously that these episodes would happen because I have low blood pressure and sometimes, my heart rate goes up to pump blood to the brain if my blood pressure drops. Turns out, this wasn’t exactly correct.

But back to the bad feeling and walking home…

I immediately laid down on the side walk. Germs and the white coat I was wearing at the time be damned. I wanted to lay down to avoid passing out and luckily, it worked. However, I couldn’t get back up without almost losing consciousness and my heart rate wasn’t slowing down. As insane as this sounds, I do live in Brooklyn so there are always people about but much to my good fortune, an EMT who just got off duty happened to be walking by. He took my pulse and said to me very seriously, “You need to go to the hospital now.” I explained to him that this happened before and that it was just my blood pressure but he was insistent. I would find out in the ambulance that my pulse was at 210 beats per minute. Even on my best day on the elliptical, I could never get it that high… so always listen to your neighborhood EMT.

I’ll spare you every detail but I ended up being in the hospital from that night until the afternoon of October 31st. This meant no ASRM. No first-class seats. No four-star hotel. Instead, I was in a shitty hospital bed hooked up to monitors next to a woman who cursed at the nurses and felt strongly she didn’t have to wear a hospital gown. Time to update my cutesy-poo meme with a more morose one.

On the 30th, I had a “Electrophysiology and Radio Frequency Ablation” (that’s a mouth full!). Usually, this procedure takes one to two hours. Mine took four. Of course, it took four. Everything with me is difficult. All this time without knowing it, I had an extra “conductor” in my heart that would get into the circuit of things thus elevating my heart rate. It was next to a “good” conductor so I referred to the extra/bad one as it’s evil twin. The goal of this ablation was to burn the bad one (kill it basically) but making matters difficult was A) the bad one was super close to the good one and they were worried they’d affect the good one and B) the bad one was a thick fibrous pain in the ass that wouldn’t’ die an easy death.

Bottom line – It seems to have worked, I’m alive and home. Now the healing (and arguing with the insurance company) begins.

Between the Resolve Award and having to cancel last minute attending ASRM, I received so many texts, emails, messages, posts from the community. The community being infertility friends, Reproductive Endocrinologists, nurses, writers, companies, etc. The list is long and the fact that so many cared to either congratulate me or wish me well all in the course of one week sincerely meant more than I could ever say.

In 2009, when I started writing this blog, I was a sad person who had been trying to get pregnant for some time. I was about to do my first IVF and felt I needed others who understood to connect to. It’s 8 years later and I never would have imagined how much this blog and the “fertility world” would come to mean to me. I’m so grateful to have made the friends I have through this crazy, f’d up journey. And I swear to you – infertility folks have some of the best senses of humor (probably because we need to). The majority of my time in the past 8 years (either trying to conceive, helping support others trying to conceive and eventually going on to work in the fertility space), has been filled with love, support, humor and compassion. Some of the lessons I’ve learned recently is my existence has not gone unnoticed during that time and more importantly, that this community – whether they are on the patient side, the medical side, the advocacy side or all three – they do care about one another. We may not always communicate it well or agree on everything but there is mutual respect and appreciation.

So from the bottom of my recently repaired heart – thank you, thank you thank you for both the Resolve 2017 Hope Award for Best Blog and for your get well wishes. I will spend the next 8 years (and more) trying to repay everyone for their kindness.

 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Hope Award and Fighting for FAFTA



This week, the nominees for Hope Award for Best Blog by Resolve were “released” and I’m humbled and fortunate to be recognized and included in this truly kick ass list. This is the second time I’ve been nominated which makes me feel a little like Susan Lucci (super throwback reference but those who get it know exactly what I mean) but really, given how many powerful and emotional blogs were submitted, it’s no bullshit when I say it’s an honor for anyone to say, “Hey. You. That post. It had some real feels in it. Thank you.” (The post in question can be found here.)

I should mention that in general, I don’t “win” things. I’m not a winner. I’m a former stand-up comic whose routine for 12 years (when I had the energy to perform) was primarily about how much of a winner I’m not. In fact, the only thing I can recall ever winning was in May 2015 when I was 8 months pregnant and at a fundraiser that my sister was being honored at. Yes, my family is a bunch of active do-gooders. In her case, she and her family had made a noteworthy impact on Seatuck Environmental Association. Even though I was notably huge at the time, there was no way I was missing it. The big raffle of the evening was for a bottle of champagne and somehow, through dumb luck, I won. When you saw me waddle up to get the bottle, there was an audible gasp from the room as clearly, the silliness of a pregnant woman winning alcohol was not lost on everyone. Later on that night, a guest took me aside in the bathroom to give me the wise advice of, “Wait till you have the baby before drinking.” Ummm, ok. Thanks. What’s even funnier is I don’t drink. Like ever. Anytime I drink, I fall dead asleep. Being that I think I’m more fun conscious (some may disagree), I tend to stick to Shirley Temples. Soooo, yeah. That was my one and only big win.

It's not that I have a defeatist attitude but really, when you read this year’s nominees (click here to see the list and to vote), you can’t go “wrong” with anyone you vote for. I’ve known ALL of these blogs for a while now and in the case of Angie Life, I’ve had the extreme
Angela, Me and Candace
pleasure of meeting Angela in person and I adore her. She has been a hard core advocate who shared her story openly and publicly this past NIAW and took the lead on social media for this year’s advocacy day. This is not at all to take away from the other two nominees as Lauren and I have been connected online for years and let’s face it, if there were a blog award for ‘Wittiest Name”, she’d win hands down. Each one of these posts including, Jessica of A Hummingbird Paused, bring a different view point to the table and really, you have to vote for which one resonated with you.


Last year, when I was nominated, I “lost” to Shelley and let me tell

Me and the fabulous Shelly

 you – when I read the blogs that were nominated then, my first thought was, “Damn. I’D vote for Shelley!” It was a really good post and very much deserved to win (click here if you’d like to revisit it).

But here’s the point, when I “lost”, nothing really changed for me. I still care a f*ck ton about infertility advocacy, worked with the fabulous Candace (her blog here) on content for advocacy day, I met with my senators and representatives about infertility access, attended two press conferences (and even spoke at one) in support of FAFTA and I continue to write on infertility passionately and often.

My point? Win or lose, this is an honor but ultimately, I will remain as active as I ever was. I’m almost like an STD you can never get rid of. (See? Even my metaphors don’t scream “winner!”)

And that leads me to what is most on my mind… the FAFTA bill.
Me in Albany speaking at a FAFTA Conference
This is something that I’m getting my kick ass boots on for and have already contacted my local NY reps to discuss. It will create access to IVF, oncofertility preservation, and provide compensated gestational surrogacy in New York. If we have a Starbucks on every corner and can get Chinese food at 2am, we should at least have fertility rights that are more in line with this century, no?


To give you a touch more details (hold the sense of humor for a
At a FAFTA meeting in Brooklyn!
moment), I’m talking about The Fair Access to Fertility Treatment Act (S 3148A and A 2646A), which adds IVF coverage, and fertility preservation for cancer patients, to New York’s insurance law, and for The Child-Parent Security Act (S 17A and A 6959A), which legalizes gestational surrogacy in the state. Resolve has created a page/letter you can go to immediately to write YOUR reps to support these bills. Click here for that.  

Before I close, I’d like to acknowledge how many links I have in this post! Thank you and sorry for that. I’m link happy!

As always, thank you for reading and if  you’d like to vote, you can go here (another link) before October 13th! (By the way, if you live outside of the United States, you can choose "none"’ at the bottom of the States drop down list).
 

Saturday, September 30, 2017

You Matter.



First, it drives me nuts that I can’t write on here more. It’s a high-quality problem though so I can’t complain too much. The last couple of months have been a lot of big changes and although, in the end, they all resulted in good things, it still was a process to get to a new normal!

One thing that has changed for the good is I’m working for myself. I could go on and on about this but the bottom line is that this has been the greatest gift at this time in my life for a whole myriad of reasons. I hesitate to give too many details and really, I’d rather focus on the positive than the negative. So, I’ll just say this: This is the first time in a long time where I’m able to truly be “me”. I don’t have to limit my ideas, sense of humor, personality or, most importantly, what I work on or who I work with. Of the many lessons I've learned recently, one of the biggest ones is you don't realize how much a negative situation (person, environment, etc.) can impact who you are and your happiness. As super corny as this sounds, I feel free and able to pursue any and every opportunity that supports true infertility advocacy and my personal interests in general.

As a good friend of mine said, “You are free to be your authentic self without compromise.” And really, that's a super kick ass awesome goal for all of us to have!

This has opened the door to many opportunities and projects, which has been wonderfully fantastic. The only thing is that it can keep me from this blog. HOWEVER, I’m now blocking off time (Yay having total autonomy over my schedule! Whomp whomp!) to write a new post every two weeks. Get it? EVERY TWO WEEKS.

Secondly, and on this note, I posted the below on Social Media a month or so back and it got a very big response.
 
Thirdly, around the time I posted this, I started what became a drama that lasted almost two months with my oldest son. This was one of the other “big changes” recently. As you may recall, my oldest, MJ, was the only embryo I had to transfer on my third IVF. Out of both funds and patience, we were very lucky that he implanted and stuck around.

He is now five and a half years old (Jesus, where has the time gone?!?). He is also, as you also may recall, on the Autistic Spectrum. He is high functioning, speaks (although is speech delayed), has a sense of humor and I often equate him to a human Rubix cube. Once you figure him out, he really is a lot of fun.

I’ve been as open about this as I have been about my infertility issues. What’s funny to me is there are very specific similarities between the two issues. Whenever I talk about either, many seem to either think I should be embarrassed OR they try to explain away the problem. With infertility, is it because I was too stressed or waiting too long to have kids? With autism, is it because he was conceived through IVF or because I had him vaccinated?
Infertility and autism (big shock everyone) are MEDICAL CONDITIONS. No one did anything wrong. There are no fingers to point and there is no reason I should be apologetic or feel shameful for either.
ANYWAY, the drama with MJ is he was starting kindergarten and because of his quirks (as I call them), we had to get him in the right program. This is another long-complicated story but the struggle was similar to my own earlier this year: I needed to find an environment for my son where he could flourish and be the best him he could be. What’s very sad (and makes me stabby) is the first program/school he was in was very dismissive of him and treated him, quite frankly, like he was one big inconvenience. Only recently, did we get him into a school that is working out well, which is a relief.
So what do all three of these things have in common? Collectively, they made me realize something so important that I wanted to share with you. And that is… YOU MATTER.
Now before you roll your eyes over how cheesy that statement is… hear me out.
It’s so easy to define yourself by roles, problems, or other people’s opinions. What I’ve seen time and time again this year is just because one or two or even three people don’t see the value in you, it doesn’t mean you’re not valuable. It means they are wrong.
The power of saying, “Hey… you. I see you. You ARE important. Your voice needs to be heard and you truly matter” can’t be underestimated. Even as (dear god, I can’t believe I’m going to say this but…) a morning mantra, to look in the mirror even for a second to say, “I MATTER!” can remind you that you are alive and can have an impact on your life as well as others.
On that note, I recent saw another meme that said:

And what if we all did that? If we didn’t apologize for our existence? I’m not saying to be rude to others or disregard hearing one another. I’m saying what if we all lived with real acceptance of ourselves, had confidence and proudly lived out loud?

It does not matter if you have or don't have children, if you have infertility, if you have autism or if you are either completely perfect (lucky you!) or far from it. YOU. STILL. MATTER.
This is what I’ve been exploring for a while now and I encourage you to do the same.
So if you are reading this, whether I know you “in real life” or not, please know you DO matter. Live out loud, kick ass and be YOUR authentic self!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Dealing with Mother's Day When You're Stabby

When you want to be a mom and are dealing with or have dealt with fertility issues, Mother’s Day can, well, suck total ass. Before I launch into some potential suggestions on how to handle (or ignore) the day, I do want to post something I wrote when I was neck high in the trying to conceive trenches. It's a list of reminders for both to myself and my fellow fertility challenged friends. They are:
  • You are brave and for that, you have my utmost respect.
  • Eat chocolate, ice cream, or have a margarita whenever you need one.
  • Never get a haircut or buy a chainsaw when on hormones. Trust me on this.
  • Don’t ever, not for one second, lose your sense of humor.
  • Don’t ever, not for one second, watch anything related to the Duggar family. It’ll just piss you off.
  • Never apologize or feel bad for day dreaming about punching someone in their face.
  • You’re not alone. There are countless out there like us.
  • Please remember to have sex occasionally just for fun no matter when it is in the cycle.
  • Watch RuPaul’s Drag Rage and The Golden Girls as often as possible.
  • Don’t let this define who you are as a person or a woman.
  • Never forget that we’re not failures. We’ve done nothing wrong and we’ve done nothing to deserve this.
Now here are my humble suggestions on potential strategies to cope with the day if its May 14th is something you’re not looking forward to this year:
Decide in advance how you want to handle (or not handle) the day:
If you’d prefer to boycott Mother’s Day, anyone who is close to you should understand. Send cards to your own mother, grandmother, etc. but discuss it with them ahead of time and let them know while it’s nothing personal, you would prefer to “skip this year” and mark the day in your own way. This can also be an opportunity to educate those around you on what you’re dealing with and how to best support you.

Have Your Own Unique Event:
Maybe it’s getting your fellow fertility challenged friends together or a new made up holiday just for you and your friends, if you feel comfortable with being social, there’s no reason you can’t have a “non-mother’s day” get together that same day.

Designate an “on call” person for support if needed:
Whether it’s your husband, wife, partner, friend, therapist or your ride or die chick, have someone ready to contact that day with either tissues, chocolate, a brilliant joke or all three.

Give yourself permission to put you first:
If Mother’s day is too much for you right now, that’s ok! You’re not a bad person by knowing your limits and taking care of yourself first. Again, friends and family will understand why you need extra support and space.

Handle with Humor:
Sometimes, laughter truly is the best medicine, or at the very least, a great distraction. Whether it’s a hilarious friend, your favorite comedic movie, or actually going to a stand-up comedy show, if there’s anything that amuses you and makes you smile, today might be a good day to indulge in it.

Get thee to a spa:
If you feel you need a little extra care or pampering, a massage, a pedicure or a facial. Some relaxing music, some you time and to be as far away from social media as possible could be downright heavenly.

Get support from the infertility community:
One in eight are dealing with infertility so you are very much not alone. Whether it’s a local infertility support group near you or an online one you’ve connected with, it will no doubt be a safe space to help each other, understand one another and share either what’s helping you or how you’re coping.

And as always, I'm sending everyone in the community my very best wishes no matter where you are in journey. Be good to yourself - we all deserve it.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Listen Up - I am One in Eight

To be public and say, “I’m the one in eight that has been diagnosed with infertility.” is powerful. Well, for some, it may be easier than others but for me, it was a period (no pun intended) of time before I could get to that point of being open about my fertility issues.

Here is the quick overview of me and what brought me here to writing this post on April 26th, 2017. If you go to what I wrote on April 26th, 2010, which was during a two week wait after my very first IVF, I was definitely in a different place emotionally, physically, career wise, and literally every other place I can think of. Hell, I was even thinner back then and had blonde highlights.

Cade Foundation Event
My story really isn’t all that amazing or terribly different from most. I worked at a corporate job by day, performed stand-up comedy at night (thank god for my humor) and my husband (who is also a comedian) started trying to conceive pretty much right after we got married. Months went by and nothing happened. We tried roughly six timed cycles – nothing. We tried three IUI’s (that always seemed to be near or on a holiday) – nothing. We started doing IVF’s and despite retrieving a healthy amount of eggs, I’d typically only ever get ONE embryo.

Along the way, we discovered that I had a uterine polyp (that I named Jackson Polyp… he was an artist) and had a D&C to evict him from squatting in my uterus. I tried acupuncture, drank herbs that could have been dirt from a random front yard for all I know, saw a hypnotist, visualized an internal garden that I fertilized with my mind, did the standard bikini wax before each retrieval, started blogging, began tweeting under the handle @the2weekwait, became totally focused on my fertility at the expense of my marriage at time, drained our savings account and was terrified anyone would find out that I couldn’t get pregnant.

It was before our third IVF that I began sharing with others what was going on. It all became too much and I needed the support. The select group who knew were informed what to say and not say and they were instructed that any and all pregnancy announcements of others should be delivered to me strictly through email so I had time to process (and then work on feigning happiness despite my own struggles).

Michael next to his embryo
The night before my beta for my third IVF, my husband and I were certain it didn’t work as nothing had ever worked before it and I had all my classic PMS symptoms. He talked about stopping treatment and traveling, I talked about how we’d get the money for the fourth IVF. It truly was one of the lowest points in our marriage because we were no longer on the same page and the distance between us in how we were dealing with infertility had grown. Next morning, we would found out that I was pregnant with my son Michael.

STRONG and fun Advocates & I
About six months after he was born, I was approached by a company in the infertility space asking if I’d be interested in working for them. Between my infertility experience, my administrative background and my writing/comedy skills, working in the infertility space made all the sense in the world. It was because of that career altering decision that I got to really know many reproductive endocrinologist across the entire United States as well as connect with infertility patients literally all over the world. I also just learned a lot about infertility that I wish I knew when I first started going through it. Fertility related issues, various forms of treatment, relevant and fascinating statistics, all the ways you could build a family, stories of multiple miscarriages and stillborns that would bring anyone to their knees and just how very much insurance companies, employers and the public at large don’t get that infertility is as painful and serious as it is – I learned all of this.

Advocacy Day 2016
Infertility became more than something I alone was diagnosed with. It became a personal mission to me.

Its seven years later and none of that passion has died. I have two sons now (one through IVF and one that came out of nowhere that made my RE say, “Holy shit!”) and I could give you a list longer than the 1996 movie version of Halmet on the many events I’ve attended, spoken at, organized on infertility, the articles I’ve now written, the videos I’ve made, the interviews I’ve done but you get the point which is:

To be the voice I couldn’t be for myself in 2010 and more than ever, the voice for those who can’t speak for themselves at this exact moment.

That’s palpable to me.

While I’ve made so many incredible, lifelong friends through infertility and in the infertility community/industry, I know some don’t like that I try to make infertility funny. Others don’t like that I allowed my husband to post our second child’s pregnancy announcement on Christmas day and then there are some who I’m sure just don’t like me. I’m know this and while it’s not something I celebrate, I don’t focus on it because I also know one thing without a doubt -- as much as they may not like me, we ALL hate infertility more.

New England Resolve Conference
I have no idea what the future holds for me seven years from now. I don’t know where I’ll be living, working or even if I’ll have gone back to blonde highlights again. I only know that I will still be making every effort to learn from my fellow fertility challenged friends whatever lessons they have for me (there are so many lessons each day that we can learn from one another), I’ll be continuing to educate others on the facts, options and questions they can bring to their RE, I’ll be supporting those in the thick of it in the way they request and I will raising awareness about every issue I can surrounding infertility rights and access until it’s as readily accepted, acknowledged and covered as much as other medical issues are.

So, listen up – I am a proud one in eight, I’m an infertility advocate and I’m not going anywhere.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Listen Up and then BE HEARD!

When I first read the theme of this year’s NIAW, Listen Up, my first-not-thinking-just-react-reaction was, “Wait. Shouldn’t it be speak up????” I mean haven’t us infertiles been hiding in the shadows quietly listening long enough???

We’re the ones who attend baby showers after our latest IVF failure listening to the “Oooos” and “Ahhhs” while someone else opens up baby gifts. We’re the ones who politely listen and ignore ignorant comments like, “I had a cousin who was trying to get pregnant for years and then she went to a hypnotist and got pregnant the next day! Have you tried that???” We’re the ones who nod and listen when we hear a fertile friend talk about how bummed she is that her third unplanned pregnancy is going to be another girl when she really wanted a boy. Especially now, we’re listening while more people in power talk about what they think should be done with embryos or whether or not children born through assisted reproductive technology should be considered ‘legitimate’.

Frankly, I don’t know about you but I’m a bit tired of listening. In fact, I think I’ve heard enough.

As the days passed however, the more the theme actually got me thinking. Listen Up can be taken so many different ways (leave it to a writer to take it so literally). Some just starting out on their family building journey may want to do just that – listen up on when it’s time to see a doctor and get help. If you have PCOS, endometriosis, a potential sperm issue or any medical issue that directly impacts your fertility, you should see a fertility doctor. If you’re under the age of 35 years old and have been trying to conceive for over a year and/or if you’re OVER the age of 35 years old and have been trying to conceive for over 6 months, make an appointment to see a reproductive endocrinologist. Hell, even if you’re not ready to have kids just yet but want to be proactive and learn more about your fertility health, you can get blood work done or semen analysis. There’s no harm in finding out more about your parenting potential.

Others who have been told they have fertility issues should listen up to their options such as insemination, in vitro fertilization (IVF), IVF plus Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGS) or Preimplantation Genetic Screening (PGS), donor eggs, donor sperm, reciprocal IVF, freeze all cycles, domestic adoption, international adoption, embryo donation and surrogacy to name the “big ones”. If you are comfortable with exploring these options, if you can afford them and/or if you have coverage through your employer, the question may not be IF you’ll be a parent. It may just be HOW you’ll be a parent.

Listen Up can also be what those going through infertility are quietly saying to themselves. I know my inner infertile could be the equivalent of a bitchy hormonal high school bully when I was struggling to conceive. With every period, I’d berate myself with words such as ‘embarrassed’, ‘humiliated’ and worst of all, ‘failure’. Since most of the public seems to think infertility isn’t an actual medical diagnosis, it’s easy to forget ourselves that we are not being punished and this isn’t anyone’s fault. It’s like being told you’re diabetic and then calling yourself names because you can’t properly handle your insulin levels... as if you have any control over it. Or asthma. Or arthritis. But I did blame myself and many still do.

On that note, Listen Up can be a reminder to listen facts. The. Actual. Facts. I’m talking about things like:
  • Infertility is a DISEASE that affects 1 in 8 couples.
  • Even the healthiest of couple between the ages of 29 through 33 only have a 20 - 25% chance of conceiving every month.
  • Approximately 44% of women with infertility have sought medical assistance. Of those who seek medical intervention, approximately 65% give birth.
  • Approximately 85-90% of infertility cases are treated with drug therapy or surgical procedures. Fewer than 3% need advanced reproductive technologies like in vitro fertilization (IVF).

And another fact that REALLY hits home is, that while you may feel alone, 7.4 million women have received some kind of infertility service in their lifetime. So really, listening up to these statistics reminds you that this is a disease, that even fertile people are not as fertile as seem to be and with medical assistance, it may very well bring you one step closer to your family building goals. It also reminds you that you are statistically and literally not alone in this.

Which brings me to my next listening up. As an infertility community, we need to listen up to each other. We can listen up on how phrases like, “Don’t give up!” can intentionally hurt or listen up on how to better to support someone who has opted to stop treatment (or not pursue it at all). Infertility is so emotional and personal. Everyone has things that offend them, don’t offend them, inspire them or set them back. We’ve all seen disagreements online, we all have different thresholds of understanding (or not understanding) but sometimes, the best thing to do is to just be quiet and listen to what a person needs or a lesson they may be able to teach you about their journey.

While I reconsidered my initial reaction to listen up and all the ways we should rethink how we judge ourselves, know our options, our facts and hear one another -- at the end of the day, we still need to eventually be the ones to speak up, be heard and let others do the listening.

I must stop here though and acknowledge that I know I’m in a position of privilege to say that. I’m no longer in the trenches, my personal family building has come to a conclusion. I know when I was deep in the trenches, I was intensely private about my struggle. I was emotionally a mess, depressed, VERY private and anti-social (which isn’t like the somewhat loud-ish New Yorker many of you have come to know). I wasn’t able to share with even the closest friends and family what was going on with me let alone with my eggs so believe me when I say that I know that speaking up takes courage and bravery. Some people are just not in a place to do that. I know many are where I was most of 2010; in bed with the curtains drawn clutching yet another pack of Always maxi pads wondering what the future holds.

The thing is that if we, the one in eight, stay silent, the other seven will never know or understand what infertility is or the impact it can have. So to those who feel they can, whether they are in the trenches or not, we must speak up for those who can’t.

Again, when NIAW is over, the infertility journey for one in eight is not. It’s a week for the public. A lifetime for others. So again, I say to those of you who are the one in eight -- not only are you not alone, but there are others like me who aim to give you a voice if you feel you simply can’t have one.

For the ones who CAN be heard, here’s our ‘Listen Up’ list to speak to:

Friends and family: Listen up to how to support someone going through this difficult diagnosis. You don’t have to have answers. You don’t need to make suggestions. You can just say, “I don’t know what to say.” Or simply ask, “What can I do to support you?”

Large Employers/Human Resources/Benefit Teams: Click here to see extensive data on why offering fertility coverage will not only save your company money but spare your employees the heartbreak of not having options when it comes to treatment. Your company could will also see an increase in attracting top talent, and in absenteeism. Do your homework and know that this is a needed benefit!

Congress: Listen, REALLY LISTEN UP on what it’s like to not be able to have our right to expand our families threatened. Do your research and read the hard cold facts in how infertility is a medical issue, how our military can have their reproductive parts damaged and they need our help (and it’s our way of thanking them) to have the families they deserve, and that offering an adoption credit to those wonderful people opening up their homes and hearts to children who are worthy of parents who desperately want them is a good thing.

Public at Large: Listen up to those same facts about infertility and know that you seriously know more than just one or two people who are having issues conceiving. You don’t need to ask anyone why they haven’t had kids yet. You don’t need to give suggestions on things to try. You don’t need to ask if they’ve considered adoption. Again, you only need to listen up and ask, “How can I support you?”

More than ever, we NEED to make this year’s NIAW count. I have more blog posts to come this week but for now, let’s listen up and speak up not just during April 23rd, 2017 – April 29, 2017 but until we are truly heard.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

A Round of Fertility Anecdote Fun


I started writing a whole blog post about the last few months and then I realized… it would be a perfect post for NIAW so I’m going to save it for then. It was almost weird how that happened as I was writing stream of consciousness and the phrase, “listen up…” came to mind. I’m like, “Holy crap! That’s the theme of this year’s National Infertility Awareness Week. I just unintentionally wrote one of my posts…” Soooo, I’ll put that one on the shelf… if I had a shelf. Damn this small house in Brooklyn!

It’s been awhile and one of my goals for 2017 was to blog more. Since my original post is currently on a make believe shelf, I figured I’d like to share some “fertility anecdotes” I’ve collected in recent months to hopefully give you a chuckle.

And of course, if you have any of your own, please include in comments!

One: Right Sample, Wrong Office

A man shared with me that he was meant to drop off his sperm sample. He “collected it”, was driving to the doctor’s office and received a work call. He was so stressed about both delivering the sample and work that he was a bit distracted. He walked into the doctor’s office, went up to the front desk, put the cup on the counter and explained to the receptionist what it was. She promptly responded with, “Sir… this is an ophthalmologist’s office. I think you want the doctor down the hall.” If she were a good marketer, she would have suggested he stay for an eye exam.

Two: Don’t Take My Wife – please

Believe it or not, this second anecdote is ALSO about a sperm sample. This was back in the day when we all used VHS tapes and VCR’S. Yes… I know… that was a while back. A man went to give his sample and brought in a VHS tape of his wife that she made for him. I’d like to pause and talk about this man’s true dedication to his spouse as I would imagine most husbands would like to live a little and check out something new. ANYWAY, he watched the tape, got the sample and headed home. Trouble is that once he arrived home – he realized he LEFT the tape of his wife in the sample room. He of course called the clinic immediately to get the tape but there were other men who used the room after him so one can only wonder who else saw it. I would love to know if he shared this information with his wife but if he was smart, he didn’t.

Three: Clean Contacts

A friend of the family who is a doctor shared this one with me. She had a patient who kept contracting one STD after another. When she called to tell the patient that she again had tested positive for a new strain, the patient said, “I don’t know why this keeps happening!” The doctor said, “I think you should check your contacts.” (Meaning the people she comes into contact with). The patient responded with, “I do. I clean them every day before putting them in my eyes!”

Four: Arrested Embryo

I was talking to a newbie about the IVF process and she was telling me about a recent appointment with her reproductive endocrinologist. She said that he used the term, “Arrested Embryo”. She said, “I was too embarrassed to ask what that meant. I’m assuming it’s people who are going through IVF while in prison.” I’m not sure how she made that conclusion but at least she didn’t think it was a sitcom starring Jason Bateman.

In closing, I sincerely am planning to write more here. I think what happened was I’ve been blogging other places that I neglected this space. It’s like Blogspot is saying, “Ummmm, Jay? Have you been seeing other blogs???” And although I have, they don’t mean nearly as much to me as this one does. The friends that I’ve made online and especially through this blog have meant the world to me.

To prove though that I really have been seeing other blogs, here are a few of the posts I’ve written elsewhere if you want to check them out:
As you can see, although they have their own well-written flair, this is the space where I can really let it hang out!

With hope and humor... as always,

Jay

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Persistent Infertility Advocate

Image result for advocate
In the past couple of weeks, I’ve been teaching an “Empathy and Empowerment” presentation about how to support, relate and assist infertility patients on their journey. Yesterday, I spent a good portion of my day doing these sessions that includes many different elements of empathy, how to support and be sensitive to someone dealing with infertility and I include a list of things to NOT say to those going through infertility treatment (i.e. “God has a plan, be grateful for what you have, maybe there’s a reason, don’t give up, etc.) I also get into making sure that patients feel empowered to take an active role in their fertility treatment decisions (we tell people about the success rates of IUI versus IVF, etc.) I take great pride in not only making the “fertile world at large” aware of the impact infertility can have on an individual or couples life but also, how they can help not say something that will get them punched in the face.

As I headed home at the end of the day feeling positive, I got a comment on my blog from someone who called themselves, “Unknown”. It said,
“I have ready many of your posts as well as your piece on Recombine’s site. There are a few different definitions of Infertility but bottom line is that one who is truly infertile cannot conceive. You have two children. Can you really speak for those of us who are unable to have children? You say to find humor in it, I haven’t yet.”
To be blunt, my first reaction was annoyance as I felt like someone just pooped on something I’m passionate about. However, I decided to practice what I preach, be empathetic and publish the comment so I could respond. However, when I went Blogger to approve it, the comment disappeared. I have it in my email which is why I’m able to still have what it said. So I’m writing this post to share it (as this person clearly did want this to be shared/read) but also because I’d like to address it.

First, to “Unknown” directly: I’m so very sorry to hear things have been unable to conceive AND that this has been so tough. It’s not fair, it makes little sense and I can’t even imagine how incredibly frustrating this journey (or rollercoaster) has been for you. I thank you for bring this important point up and for your honesty.

Second, I’m going to try to explain why I remain an infertility advocate despite the fact that I do have two kids. Please know that this is something I even asked myself and even went through a period where I struggled with how to proceed in the infertility world so I’m happy to share my reasoning.

There’s a well-known and vocal infertility advocate named Carolyn Savage who I’ve had the honor of connecting with. When I was pregnant with my second child, I asked her about whether anyone who had kids could be an infertility advocate. She said to me, “Of course. That’s like saying anyone who survived breast cancer can’t be an advocate for it.” That resonated with me… but still I grappled with my advocacy role.

After a few weeks, something hit me that changed my mind and has kept me going since. When I was deep in the trenches, I was EXTREMELY private about how I couldn’t conceive. It was several years of not telling my family, friends, and co-workers. That’ why I started this blog. To privately have an outlet because I felt so guarded and quite frankly, ashamed. I felt like a huge failure and literally every time I’d get my period or fail an IVF cycle, I’d spend days in bed not talking to anyone being depressed.

If any of you know me (and some do), my guess is you’d describe me as boisterous (i.e. LOUD! ), outgoing, jokey and hopefully, good hearted New Yorker (but not as rude). When I was going through those years of treatment though, I was not any of those things. I avoided social situations, distanced myself from friends who had children or who were pregnant and stayed home silently wondering what was going to happen, how I was ever going to pay treatment or how I could get out of any event where someone was going to ask me why I don’t have kids yet.

Now here’s the thing “Unknown” – Right now, there are many, many people in the position I was in then. They are private about their struggle, they are perhaps depressed, they are not their usual selves, and they too feel like they can’t be open about what they are going through. They don’t want to share their story because they are understandably protecting themselves. Perhaps that’s why you even used “Unknown” and not your real name, which again – I understand.

For me though, its years later and I’m in a place where I can raise awareness about infertility, share my story, write for (as you mentioned) Recombine, Huffington Post and Time Magazine about infertility rights and coverage. I can go on CNN or go to Washington, D.C. to talk to Congress about increasing fertility coverage for those, who like me, had none. While someone is somewhere at home dealing with this journey, I’m putting myself out there, using my real name where everyone (family, friends, foes, the public at large, etc.)  can support me or judge me, judges what I’m saying and in the case of some of my Huffington Post pieces, make comments like, “It’s selfish to do infertility treatment. Just adopt.” I do this though to speak for those who currently can’t. My goal is make this medical diagnosis known, to raise awareness, support and real benefit coverage and in the process, raise the level of sensitivity around the topic.

I also know there are many like me in the infertility community who do go on to have children that find themselves in a tough spot. We were formally diagnosed with infertility. That was three doctor’s opinions in my case – I have poor egg quality and infertility and that was certainly the CPT code used on all of my medical treatment. However, the debate remains that if you do go on to have children, even if it is, in fact, through fertility treatment, are you still considered an infertile? I hope you’ll all weigh in on that in the comments section as I know there are varying opinions on this.

On this note though, what I would like to ask Unknown is would it be better if I was active in the infertility community and then as soon as I had kids, I left and said, “Ok, thanks! Bye!” To me personally, that’s worse. The community supported me when I needed it and now it’s absolutely my turn to support those who need it. Whether you think that’s wrong or right, I don’t have it in my heart to just peace out like that.

Also, on the note of humor, I volunteered for several years at Gilda’s Club. As you may know, Gilda’s Club was named after Gilda Radner, a very well-known and respected comedic actress who was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer. Her husband, Gene Wilder, who also just recently passed away, said that Gilda Radner kept her sense of humor throughout her grueling treatment and right up until her death. When I volunteered in “Noogieland” which was the children’s department, one of the main overall objectives was to use humor as a coping mechanism. It doesn’t dismiss the horrible issue you’re dealing with but it can help buy you even moments of sanity. It also, I hope, takes away infertility’s power… to make fun of it and show, “I can laugh at you so f*ck you!” I’m certain not everyone sees it that way but given your options, laughing at it or letting it kill your sense of humor, I’d suggest trying to laugh at it every time.

Here’s the bottom line: Anyone who wants to be unhappy with me, my journey, and my sense of humor absolutely can. I’ll even connect you with a few ex-boyfriends if you’d like to talk smack about me. You can hate that I did end up having children as quite frankly, I can imagine that I might feel similarly. What I can only hope though is like me or not like me, you still see that I am doing all I can to help bring attention to this issue that affects one in six, and somehow do my part to help make things better for those who are going to go through treatment or for those going through treatment right now. I would hope that even if you don’t like me or get me, you’d at least respect that.

All of us, whether in the infertility closet or not have the power to make a difference. Whether we send a letter to our local Senator or HR Department about the importance and need for fertility benefits, whether we create an anonymous profile on Twitter or FertileThoughts or any other support forum you like to help support and share information with others or even if you educate just one person about infertility – that it exists, we all can be an infertility advocate in a way we choose and that we feel comfortable.

So, Unknown – I do have children and I apologize if that or my sense of humor has hurt you in anyway. If you at all feel comfortable though, I’d encourage you to do something that does make you feel empowered by helping the cause. I will never stop being an infertility advocate. Instead, I hope you join me and become one as well.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Maybe It's Not Blue. Maybe It's You.

Let me preface this post by swearing on my life that no one and nothing in particular prompted this post. It’s something I’ve been kicking around for a while so really – there is no specific drama. Just a trend of behavior I’ve been noticing the past few months.

It all reminds me of a sketch I love by Key & Peele (truth be told… I love most of their sketches) but one in particular brings home a point that I’ve been thinking about. I’ll try to explain first in non-specific terms as to offend as little people as possible (if that’s possible).

Let’s say you hate the color blue. I don’t know why you’d feel that way as blue is actually my favorite color but there you are. You absolutely hate the color blue, the ocean and sky make you cry and Dory as well as Cookie Monster and Grover drive you insane. You mention this quite often. You also tend to be short with people, dismissive of their feelings and perhaps insensitive at times in general. When others point this out to you, you immediately respond with, “You’re just saying that because I hate the color blue!” thereby taking no responsibility for your actions.

Now, here’s the sketch that hilariously demonstrates my point: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e3h6es6zh1c

Bottom line: Maybe it’s not that you hate the color blue. Maybe it’s more that you need to honestly look at your behavior.

Has anyone else observed this in the cyber-universe???

Perhaps this isn’t a new trend but lately, I feel like I personally have been seeing an increase in this kind of logic both in the infertility community and out. It’s online pretty much everywhere you look: Chat boards, Twitter, Facebook, etc.

You just don’t like that I’m a Democrat!

People treat me differently because I speak the truth!

I wasn’t rude. You just feel that way because I called you out!

It’s a hostile world out there what with an insane election, issues on gun control, LGBT rights and if you’re Team Kanye or Team Taylor Swift. I’m neither by the way.

And hey - I admit that I too can get passionate about my beliefs but to accuse a person or a community of treating you differently because you don’t like the color blue can’t be your “get out of responsibility free card”.

In the infertility community, that’s where it upsets me the most. Whether you adopted, went through IVF, are childfree, etc., aren’t we meant to support each other? You can’t be dismissive of someone’s pain, point fingers or start a flame war and then claim that you weren’t being provocative and people are just singling you out because of your fertility journey. That makes no sense.

Now to be clear: I’m not saying that you shouldn’t express how you feel if someone makes an insensitive comment or unintentionally (hoping it was unintentionally) hurts your feelings. There’s a way though to give someone the benefit of the doubt and say, “Hey, you probably didn’t mean for it to come off this way but when you said X, it came off as Y.” That, I respect. That’s not starting a fight. That’s starting healthy dialogue. And god willing, if you express that to someone, they will recognize you’re coming from a good place and meet you half way.

Look, we can’t always all get along. We can’t. I’ve been involved in the infertility community a LONG time now and I’ve seen the nicest, sweetest, most thoughtful people still manage to offend someone. I can’t think of one person (whether they know it or not) who unintentionally (there’s that word again) hasn't upset someone. Either they posted a picture of their child (or too many pictures in someone’s opinion) or they made a joke that came off wrong or they posted good news to them but not so good news to someone else and so on and so on that bothered someone for one reason or another. It happens.

I remember years ago, someone in the IF community wrote a lovely piece featuring another member of the IF community just saying how much they respected them and others got offended that they too weren’t mentioned in the piece. You just never always know what may rub someone the wrong way on the wrong day (if that makes sense). Really – all you can do is try to be empathetic, do your best and apologize if you accidentally made a misstep that hurt others.

Lord knows I’ve hurt people along the way. If you know me or met me though, I think you would know firsthand that it’s SO not my thing to set out and do that. I would never intentionally (man, I really like that word!) mean to upset anyone. Well, ok, maybe the Duggars but that’s it. I’ve always apologized and tried to hear people out when this has happened but one thing I know I’ve never done is say, “This is just because I’m a fast talking New Yorker who can’t always keep up with her brain!” No. Sometimes, it’s just that I actually just fucked up. My bad. My fault and I need to own that.

But the whole, “It’s not me that’s done anything! People are just mean to me because blah, blah, blah.” That’s not owning anything. That’s not giving others credit for supporting your feelings, even if you do hate the color blue or are a democrat or are a fan of Kim Kardashian (for whatever god forsaken reason). If enough people say to you, “Hey, you’re kind of being a poopie pants”, I’m just asking you take a moment and ask yourself, “Hmmm. Am I being a poopie pants? If so, why?”

Again, not sure if anyone else but me is seeing this trend but that’s my two cents. Any which way, I do love the color blue but if you don’t, I absolutely respect that and love you anyway!