Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Fertility shaming?

Over the weekend a woman named Emily Bingham wrote a post on Facebook that has now been shared approximately a gazillion times.  In the post she shared a random ultrasound picture that she found on the internet to get people's attention and then followed it by a call for people to please stop asking women/couples family planning questions.

The post:
Hey everyone!!! Now that I got your attention with this RANDOM ULTRASOUND PHOTO I grabbed from a Google image search, this is just a friendly P.S.A. that people's reproductive and procreative plans and decisions are none of your business. NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS. Before you ask the young married couple that has been together for seemingly forever when they are finally gonna start a family ... before you ask the parents of an only-child toddler when a Little Brother or Little Sister will be in the works ... before you ask a single 30-something if/when s/he plans on having children because, you know, clock's ticking ... just stop. Please stop. You don't know who is struggling with infertility or grieving a miscarriage or dealing with health issues. You don't know who is having relationship problems or is under a lot of stress or the timing just isn't right. You don't know who is on the fence about having kids or having more kids. You don't know who has decided it's not for them right now, or not for them ever. You don't know how your seemingly innocent question might cause someone grief, pain, stress or frustration. Sure, for some people those questions may not cause any fraught feelings -- but I can tell you, from my own experiences and hearing about many friends' experiences -- it more than likely does.
Bottom line: Whether you are a wanna-be grandparent or a well-intentioned friend or family member or a nosy neighbor, it's absolutely none of your business. Ask someone what they're excited about right now. Ask them what the best part of their day was. If a person wants to let you in on something as personal as their plans to have or not have children, they will tell you. If you're curious, just sit back and wait and let them do so by their own choosing, if and when they are ready. (source)

I didn't hear anything about this until I was watching the morning news on Monday morning.  Since I was not fully caffeinated yet, I was only partially paying attention and comprehending what was being said.  But the when the lead in to the story teased it as a story about fertility shaming, that got my attention.

It wasn't until I read the entire post that I realized that the news tried to hook people in with a sensational title and that the post wasn't about fertility shaming at all.  Or at least not the way I define shaming.  I believe that in order for it to be shaming there needs to be intent to make someone feel bad.  For example, if someone says to me "that dress makes you look fat" there is an obvious intent to make me feel bad about myself.  I don't think that someone casually inquiring about one's family building plans is done with the intent to cause hurt or shame.  Can it cause hurt?  Absolutely!  Is it completely inappropriate?  You bet!

I've got the question more times than I choose to remember.  It all started as soon as we started to plan our wedding.  The question made me uncomfortable back then but it didn't hurt my feelings. As things progressed and we realized that there was a problem it started to hurt more and more and more until I could barely exit the conversation without melting into a puddle of tears.  But at no point did I ever feel like someone intended to make me feel like crap by asking that question?  Not once.

So I'm curious...what do other people think?  Do you think that asking someone about their family building plans is fertility shaming?  Or do you think it's highly inappropriate?

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Brain dump

I have a few partially written posts in my drafts folder but right now my head feels like it's in the clouds right now and at this rate I'm never going to get them finished and published.  So I'll resort to bullet points.

Here's a bit about what's going on in my life:

  • I'm slowly adjusting to the idea that my sister is pregnant.  I'm happy for her, I really am, but a little bit of the sadness for me lingers.
  • My sister that had a baby in February called me this morning and asked me if I wanted to split the cost of a baby gift for pregnant sister.  This caught me off guard because SHE'S NOT DUE UNTIL FEBRUARY.  I refuse to even start to think about a gift until after Christmas.
  • All of my sisters are terrible drivers.  As such I always purchase a car seat for each of my nieces and nephews.  I spend hours researching safety features, product reviews, etc. and buy them the best.  My two sisters that already have kids just accepted this for what it is, have let me do my thing, and graciously accepted their car seats.  According to the sister I talked to this morning (sorry if all of my sisters are confusing) she wants a specific car seat in a specific fabric.  I feel a little bit like she's taken my job from me.  Of course I recognize that it's her right to pick out whatever she wants for her baby so I suppose this will have to be one of those times where I shove my feelings aside, put my big girl pants on, and just deal with it.
  • Hot flashes are kicking my ass.  They (thankfully) gave me a bit of a reprieve in August and early September, but they are back with a vengeance.  I don't even know how some women deal with these for years....I spent 10 minutes sobbing in the grocery store parking lot because I was so hot I couldn't deal.
  • I'm tired.  I'm not sleeping again.  And just when I finally get to sleep the night sweats start.  And that was before hubs decided to put the flannel sheets on the bed.
  • I feel like I'm walking around with my head in the clouds.  I feel like I'm so forgetful and I can't focus on anything.  Probably the sleep.  But I don't like feeling like this.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Rogue wave

Last week I shared a metaphor about grief involving waves, and how with time and healing the waves become less frequent and less intense.  What I didn't write about (because I didn't think of it at the time) was about rogue waves.  The NOAA defines rogue waves as "waves that are greater than twice the size of surrounding waves, are very unpredictable, and often come unexpectedly from directions other than the prevailing wind and waves."  If you're more of a visual person, see this example.

So why do I write about rogue waves now?  Because I got hit by one on Sunday.  My sister, the pregnant one, got a new haircut/dye job and sent me a picture.  Except the picture showed her stomach and the beginnings of being visibly pregnant (though, in her defense, this was not the intent of the picture).  Honestly if you didn't know her and didn't know she was pregnant, you probably wouldn't guess.  But I know.  I saw.  I noticed.  And it hurt.

Not my proudest moment, but I'll admit that I threw the phone across the room and proceeded to have an ugly cry.  The picture took me by surprise but so did the intensity of the feelings.  Now, three days later, the anger has faded, but the left out-ness hasn't faded at all.  Silly as it sounds I'm already dreading the holidays.  I thought last year would be the hardest.  Maybe not.

So that's where I'm at.  Two steps forward, one step back.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

I wish it wasn't this hard

On Facebook, someone recently shared the link to an article titled "Old Man's Advice To Grieving Woman Goes Viral."  I read it because it was about grief and that particular topic is relevant to me at this point of my life.  Apparently a young woman made a post on Reddit following the death of her friend and seeking advice on grief.  Another Reddit member who calls himself an "old man" wrote a beautiful response to the young woman, and even though it was over four years ago, it is just now going viral.

In part, the "old man" wrote:
As for grief, you'll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you're drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it's some physical thing. Maybe it's a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it's a person who is also floating. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive.
In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don't even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you'll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out. But in between, you can breathe, you can function. You never know what's going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a street intersection, the smell of a cup of coffee. It can be just about anything...and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life. 
Somewhere down the line, and it's different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas, or landing at O'Hare. You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself. And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you'll come out. 
Take it from an old guy. The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don't really want them to. But you learn that you'll survive them. And other waves will come. And you'll survive them too.
I thought about his response in the context of infertility and grieving the loss of my children (even though for me they were just a dream) and it is so true.  I can say that the metaphor of waves is so appropriate.  In the beginning the waves were so high and so close together that I really didn't know if I'd make it out on the other side.  With time the waves decreased in both intensity and I've learned to identify when they are likely to come and how to survive them.

Right now I'm in a phase where I'm getting battered by a few waves.  Since I found out that my third sister is pregnant I've been having a pretty tough time.  I can't really explain it.  It's not the breakdown/ugly cry variety of a tough time, more the variety where I feel like a black cloud is following me around.  I thought the first would be the hardest.  Then came the second.  And now the third.  I think that maybe it's because I'm the last one.  Because before she was pregnant at least I wasn't the only one who didn't have kids.  But now I'm alone.  I'm not angry.  I knew this was going to happen at some point.  But even though it was expected, it's still hitting hard.  The weight of the unfairness is heavy.  I feel vulnerable.  With as much as I'm trying hard not to, I'm slipping into a pity party and I don't like it one bit.  I know this is normal.  I've been through it before.  I'll survive.

Grief is a fickle thing.  I need to acknowledge my feelings and give myself permission to feel them to get through this.  I wish it wasn't this hard.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

A few alternatives

I passed about 30 of these signs the other day....
The other day I was on my way home from work when I passed a sign just like this one.  Then I passed about 30 more.  These signs lined a road that led to an elementary school that many students walk to on a daily basis.  I'm not opposed to the occasional reminder that encourages safer driving, but these signs seemed a bit over the top to me.  Particularly a whole street lined with them.

So I thought up a few alternatives that could be printed on signs and placed on roads.  All are statements that I feel are more inclusive.  Here are a few:

  • Drive safe!
  • Watch out for pedestrians! 
  • Slow down! 
  • Pay attention!
  • Yield to pedestrians!
  • Safety first!
  • Don't drive like an asshole!
Feel free to add a more suggestions in the comments!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

July/August reading

One of my 2015 goals was to read at least two books per month and to write about it on my blog.  I decided that all of the books that I read would be just for fun, not job related reading.  I've done a pretty decent job keeping up with my goal.  From January-June I read 14.75 books (links here).  Unfortunately  I forgot to write my monthly post about my July reading until August was nearly over so I decided to save it and combine my July and August reading.  So without further ado, here are the books I read in July and August.

Quinn by Iris Johansen
This was a mystery novel that is part of a trilogy, I think, and not the first book in the trilogy.  The writing wasn't superb, I felt like most of the story was just fluff and was stringing me along.  It also ended in a cliffhanger, which I didn't like, but my disgust wasn't strong enough to read the other books.  Maybe I would have liked this book more had I read the first book in the trilogy first?  I don't think so.  This book was just meh.  I didn't hate it but I didn't love it.

One Plus One by JoJo Moyes
Yep, another JoJo Moyes book.  I really love her writing.  Just enough to suck me in, but an easy enough read that I can polish it off in a night or two.  One of my favorite parts about her writing is that she tells the story from the perspective of several different characters which not a lot of authors manage do do as seamlessly.  If you want a quick, easy, feel good read, pick this book up.  Or any JoJo Moyes book, for that matter.

The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith
I read this book at Klara's recommendation.  Well, she read the second book in the series, but I wanted to start with the first (see above for the pitfalls of not starting with the first).  Robert Galbraith is one of JK Rowling's pen names so I had high expectations.  It couldn't be more different than Harry Potter, but I wasn't disappointed at all.  I loved this book.  Intelligent writing.  Excellent plot.  I highly recommend this book and I can't wait to read the next in the series!

Marcelo In The Real World by Francisco X. Stork
This book is in the adolescent literature genre and is written from the perspective of a young man with Aspergers Syndrome.  I read it because a friend had high praise for the book and loaned it to me.  Plus I have an interest in the Autism Spectrum, so it was interesting to read a book from the first person perspective.  I thought it was a pretty good book.  It's probably not for everybody, unless you have an interest in adolescent lit or Autism, but it was good nonetheless.

So I believe this brings me to 18.75 books for the year.  I might have come up a bit short a few months so far, but I think I'll definitely hit 24 books for the year and have my two book per month average!  

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Hard is hard

The response to my last blog post has been overwhelming.  Both the comments as well as personal emails seem to indicate that I struck a nerve.  A piece like that has been bouncing around my head for a long time and not being chosen for the article (while expected) was the catalyst that I needed.

The funny thing is that I almost didn't start this blog, for exactly some of the reasons I talked about in my last post.  I was worried that I wouldn't be taken seriously because we didn't try every single possible thing to get pregnant.  I didn't know if I would be accepted.  I wasn't sure that people would take me seriously.  I worried that people would read that my husband and I decided against fertility treatments and write me off.

My fears weren't exactly unfounded either.  You see, right around the time when it was becoming pretty obvious that getting pregnant was going to take longer than we thought it would, I joined a large online TTC forum.  It took a few months but I found my niche and fell into a small(ish) group of really supportive women.  They kept me sane during the hard parts of TTC.  They supported me through testing and diagnosis.  But when they found out that we weren't going to do IVF, many turned their backs on me.  Then when we stopped TTC they just didn't understand how we could do that. When I got the IUD (mind you, for medical reasons, my body did a just fine job preventing pregnancy without assistance) the comments ranged from "you'll change your mind" to "I can't believe you're giving up."  My personal favorite was "you're the worst nightmare of someone who is still TTC."  I haven't been on that forum in probably six months.

But as it turns out, I had nothing to worry about.  This community accepted me for who I was without condition or hesitation.  It's always seemed like a natural fit.  This community understood that I wanted kids, that it didn't work out for me, and that I was having a hard time with it.  My "rap sheet" wasn't a prerequisite for acceptance.  Despite this unequivocal acceptance I still sort of felt out of place.  I was never pregnant.  I never experienced the loss of a child.  I never went through fertility treatments.  I felt like my story wasn't important because I hadn't lost as much as others.  This was 100% me.  Nobody made me feel this way, I completely brought it on myself.  Maybe this is a me thing or maybe other women do this too, constantly comparing themselves to others, with the end result usually being feeling bad about myself.

Admittedly I am stubborn and sometimes rather than just accepting what is, I need a swift kick in the ass to really understand something.  That swift kick in the ass came during one of my insomnia episodes when I read one of Justine's posts at Ever Upward (that I'm too lazy to go and find right now and properly link it) where she pointed out that hard is hard.  That one person's hard isn't any more or less hard than another person's hard.  It's just hard.  All of a sudden it made sense.  Comparing my hard to another's hard would never lead to anything good.  It was a lightbulb moment.

In Justine's post she gave the link a TEDx talk given by Ash Beckham where she touches on the topic of "hard is hard."  If you have 10 free minutes and you haven't already seen it, click on the link, you'll thank me later.  There are so many take aways from it.

Ash said:
There is no harder, there is just hard.  We need to stop ranking our hard against everyone else's hard to make us feel better or worse about our closest and just commiserate on the fact that we all have hard.
I think that pretty much says it all.

As I'm nearing the conclusion of this post I realize that it probably should have come before the last post.  And both of these posts probably would have been a great lead up to my one year blogaversary post.  But oh well.  I've swam against the current for my whole life so why would this be any different?  It's just who I am as a person. :)

Anyway, thank you all for welcoming me and accepting me without hesitation, even when I couldn't quite accept my own hard.  I think that I finally understand why you did.