Abby’s Birth Story

I love a good birth story, even back in the day when I never thought I’d be writing my own.

Prior to my due date we had no birth plan. I made a deal with myself that if labor was relatively straightforward, progressed as expected and I was able to manage my pain well, I would not get an epidural. I knew I could do it physically, but I was concerned mentally that I’d break if I was one of those women who, after laboring for days, was only dilated 2 cms. My pregnancy had been so easy, textbook and predictable that I had a hunch labor would be similar. I was on track when, about a week before my due date, I began to have terrible hip and pelvic pain, which I was told was an indication that the baby was “moving down.”

And on my due date, Wednesday, April 25th I started bleeding and having what felt like menstrual cramps. My friend Delia came over that morning and brought me coffee, but I didn’t say anything to her, not sure what the bleeding meant. Later in the day the bleeding increased and I did tell my mom because she stopped by the house, who insisted “this is labor! You will have a baby by Friday.”

By the morning of Thursday, April 26th I was still bleeding and now passing plenty of mucous. The bleeding wasn’t slowing down, so I called the hospital, but they assured me this was all normal and just part of early labor. That evening, Ryan and I had dinner at a Mexican food restaurant. Sitting in the booth I got a very long, painful menstrual cramp. I couldn’t move or talk through it, but didn’t think it was a contraction because my stomach didn’t harden up and I didn’t feel a “tightening.” These mega-menstrual cramps very slowly started coming on, first once an hour, then more frequent. By the time I went to bed I was certain they must be contractions, so I started timing them on my app. Sure enough, they were lasting over a minute and were regular in their spacing. This must be it! I had told Ryan I was having “cramps,” but as he went to sleep I didn’t say anything, thinking I’d let him get a good night’s rest and would probably be waking him up at 4 or 5 am saying “it’s time!”

I was up most of the night as the cramps came on every 20 minutes, then every 15, then every 10. These were not mild or gentle contractions, either, but beasts. Every time one came on, I had to stand up and lean over the side of my bed, breathing heavily through it. I don’t know how Ryan didn’t wake up. But at about 3 am the cramps started slowing down to every 15 minutes, then back to every 20 minutes, and by morning I’d had a sleepless night and now was feeling nothing.

The next day, Friday, I told Ryan what was up. He had me call the hospital, who said this was normal and assured him he was safe to go to work out of town that day. I had a few contractions throughout the day, but otherwise felt fine and went about my day as normal, running errands. That evening, about 9 pm, the contractions started up again in an irregular pattern. Lying in bed was too uncomfortable so I sat in our tv room for hours, timing the contractions and watching Sherlock Holmes and other HBO late night tv. The only place I could get comfortable was on the edge of my husband’s big fluffy chair, leaning forward with knees spread wide. So that is where I sat, moving into a deep squat and swaying side to side during the contractions. At times my wailing was so loud it woke Ryan. He had me call the hospital again, but the nurse simply advised me to stay put until they were 3-4 minutes apart. This was infuriating since the contractions at times were one on top of the other, and at other times 20 minutes apart. No rhyme or reason. But again, at 3 or 4 am they started to slow down and eventually stopped, so I went to bed frustrated.

The next day, Saturday, I stayed home. I was confused and anxious to get the show on the road, and a little concerned that maybe this wasn’t labor after all, and I was just being a baby. The contractions started up at about 4 pm, this time milder and very regular. I took a bath, chatted with Ryan, and remained calm. It was a totally different experience than the previous two nights. At 8 pm they were 5 minutes apart, so we got in the car to go to the hospital. Unfortunately, as soon as we got on the highway the contractions stopped. I could have cried, I was so exasperated with the starting-and-stopping. We went to the hospital anyway, checked in, put on the gown and the nurse hooked my belly up to the monitor. I finally had a contraction, which the monitor would not read because my stomach would not get hard. But finally a victory – the nurse checked me and said I was dilated 3-4 cm! My body was doing something! I could not be admitted until I was 5 cm, so we opted to check out and got back home about 10 pm.

Something about leaving the safety of the hospital shifted my mental state, and the contractions started up like a nightmare. I could hardly walk out and wailed in the car all the way home. I tried to put my pajamas on but was so frozen in pain I stood for 20 minutes in my bedroom grimacing and heaving. Ryan insisted we go back to the hospital, but I was afraid the contractions would just stop again, so I said “let me take a shower first and try to calm down.” 20 minutes in the hot water and I was much more in command of my body. I got in bed to watch SNL but quickly realized I couldn’t just lay there. I spent a third sleepless night in our tv room, balanced on the edge of Ryan’s chair or in a squat, timing the contractions.

At 4:30 am they were still irregular, but anywhere from 7-3 minutes apart, and I couldn’t sit another sleepless minute in that room. I woke Ryan up and said “We are going back!” I was certain I must be up to 5 cm by this point. We loaded up, said good bye to the cats, and checked in again at 5 a.m. Back into the gown and belly band, and this time the contractions did not slow. When the nurse was asking me questions, a contraction came on hard and I suddenly felt a gush of warm water. “I think I peed my pants!” I told her. “That’s ok” she soothed me. I clarified “No, I really think I peed a lot, this could have been my water breaking.” She used a test strip on my wet gown and sure enough, I had ruptured. They didn’t check my dilation at this point but I was admitted. 3 sleepless nights of this business was not straightforward and I’d had enough; I asked for an epidural but said I wanted to wait as long as I could, fearful it would make the whole process slow to a stop.

Once checked into our room, I got comfortable on a birthing ball with the nitrus gas at my disposal. Ryan brought his jambox and got relaxing spa music playing in an effort to keep me calm. The nitrus was kind of a joke. The plastic mask smelled awful, and it did nothing for the pain, just made me a little loopy so I mentally bounced back from each contraction quicker. Ryan’s favorite part to tell is when I ripped the mask off post-contraction and exclaimed “this is bullshit!” In my defense, it was rather annoying to hear the nurses continuously say “just take a deep breath, breathe into the mask, relax,” when that stupid mask was no help at all.

I made it to about 9 a.m. when the nurses encouraged me to get up and walk around. However, standing up and the shifting of my body and organs set off a series of contractions so paralyzing I got stuck in the bathroom. I couldn’t move to get myself out, and I couldn’t talk or yell due to the overwhelming pain. When I finally cracked the door open, Ryan saw my face and told the nurses to get the epidural. Fortunately, the epidural man was awesome and came right away. In about 30 minutes I was feeling significant relief. And let me tell you, that epidural was the best decision I ever made. A total game changer. Once it had kicked in the nurses checked me and said I was at 8 cm! I was so glad I was close and felt proud to have made it that far. The nurses left Ryan and I alone after that, told us to get some rest since they knew I’d hardly slept in 3 days.

While we were “sleeping,” the nurses kept coming in and looking at the heart monitor. The baby’s heart rate was getting dangerously low during contractions; they thought maybe she was leaning on the umbilical cord. Since my waters had ruptured, their solution was to pump fluids up my vagina into my uterus to add some buoyancy. They also put an electrode on the baby’s head to better monitor her heart rate. All decorum and feminism mystique was officially gone with the catheter and these new additions to my lady parts. Labor at its finest. Ryan witnessed it all.

I didn’t sleep well during that “rest” period. Adrenaline had kicked in, and I was cold, and something in the epidural made me itch. I kept whispering over to Ryan “when are they going to come wake us up? Aren’t I fully dilated by now??”

At about 1:45 pm the nurses came back in to check me and said not only was I fully dilated, but the baby had began to descend down the birth canal. I was ready to push! The midwife gave me the statistics: a white woman with an epidural typically has to push for about 3 hours on her first pregnancy. But once they walked me through the first couple practice pushes, she said “oh wow, you’re really good at this! It won’t take 3 hours!” Worst encouragement ever, because it still tool about 2.5 hours. Pushing was reaaaalllly hard. I spent about 2 miserable hours pushing with my fever steadily rising. I got increasingly congested and discouraged. Finally, a stout, bossy nurse came in and put Ryan to work with holding the oxygen mask to my face and commanding me to push harder, telling me what to do and when, shifting my legs around. I got a second wind and thanked her for the motivation, and she said “the call me “the closer” around here.” It felt good to laugh and it was so true – soon after the midwife and several others came in with various equipment and suited up. At 4:23 pm on Sunday, April 29th, I finally pushed that baby OUT.

I heard her cries immediately in the dark hospital room, and a moment later she was on my chest. She was the tiniest thing I’d ever seen, screaming and pushing and rooting around on my chest. Later we’d find out she was only 6 lbs 2 oz, and nearly perfect, with APGAR scores of 9 and 9. They joked “We would have given her a 10, but only doctor’s babies get a 10.”

I layed in the hospital bed helpless for probably another hour with my legs spread eagle as they stitched me up. I recall them telling me I was getting Pitocin to birth the placenta, but didn’t even notice when it passed. We found out later she had the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck twice – this was why her heart rate was dropping during contractions and why she was so difficult to push out.

Ryan and I were hearing this all but were totally enraptured with the new life on my chest. She was soooo cute, with a perfectly round face, and her head covered in a dusting of copper-red hair. She looked nothing like me. Her eyes were large and wide-set, her miniature mouth wailing healthy cries beneath a little turned up nose. We named her Abigail Lake. Abby, Ryan’s choice of name, with my approval because Abigail in the bible is a noteworthy woman. Lake is my choice, a nod to an astounding thing of natural beauty. Ryan approved because he loves to fish.

She is 2 months old now, our baby girl, and she completes our family. It has been a hard couple months, but getting easier. For some reason I naively thought an IVF baby would make us love her so much the difficulty of the first few weeks would pale in comparison. But nothing can prepare new parents for a newborn, especially one who isn’t exactly an “easy baby.” Breastfeeding has been a nightmare, sleep has been scarce, and the stereotypical resentment of the wife feeling like she’s doing everything very, very real. But Abby is growing and thriving, and each week easier than the last. Seeing Ryan love her the way I knew he would makes the last 5 years of navigating infertility so worth it. We are getting the hang of things – all 3 of us.

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Welcome, baby girl

Abigail Lake Conner

April 29, 2018 4:23 pm

6 lbs 2 oz, 19 inches long

Worth every minute of the wait.

Due Date

We’ve been told 2 due dates:  4/25 and 4/26, so today we are really here.  I started bleeding early on the morning of the 25th, and since then have had intermittent cramping.  Is the cramping contractions?  Hard to tell.  Regardless, I feel like I’ve been in some ambiguous phase of early labor for the last couple days.  As I’ve been told, first pregnancies often go late and labor is slow, and I am no exception.

I am one week into maternity leave as of today and it’s been AWESOME.  I left not a moment too soon; the very next day, my super easy pregnancy took a bad turn and I’ve taken on some terrible S.I. joint pain which makes it hard to walk.  I’ve been told this is a sign the baby is moving down, and along with the bleeding and cramping I can’t help but think the real thing is juuuust around the corner – but who knows.  I’m in no rush.  Do not mind AT ALL taking a few more days off where all that is expected of me is to rest and take it easy.

But if she comes today, we are ready for our little lady.  The baby room is 90% done (still need to hang pictures and unroll the area rug from overstock), baby laundry washed and put away, the freezer stocked with make-ahead meals, the hospital bags packed and everyone we’ve ever known is asking “is she here yet??”

The one piece of crucial preparation we are lacking is a name.  I hope we will see this baby girl, look at her, and just know.  Also still no luck with childcare.

It’s hard to believe I won’t be pregnant anymore in  just a few days.  I’m told the transition into parenthood will test my marriage in ways I won’t expect, and the hormones and the exhaustion will only make things worse.  So I am savoring these last few days of excitement and anticipation.  I love having an excuse to lounge around the house with my cats, let other people get things for me and insist I stay seated.  And this pregnancy metabolism has been remarkable.  Now that this kid is almost done, I’m less worried about eating healthy.  I’ll clean it up again once she’s born, but for the last week it’s been a delightful buffet of carbs and desserts and I’ve actually lost weight – it defies science.  Mind you I’m not exercising at all either, due to the pain in my joints and hips.  I’ve gained a whopping 11 pounds total as of this morning.  Pregnancy eating and cravings have been different; I’ve been satisfied easier, stop with smaller portions and can let my favorite foods go untouched in the cabinet for days or even weeks.  For the first time in my life I feel like I’ve bee able to eat what I want, feel satisfied as a result, and I haven’t packed on weight. This is how life should be.  What was it before? A mix of emotional eating, overeating, turmoil of what I should vs. shouldn’t eat and a general unhealthy focus on food.  I expect my hormones and metabolism to shift after I give birth, but I hope some of this positive food experience will stick with me.

Already, we have been asked by many people how many kids we will try for.  Really?  It’s an innocent question to many, but for those who know our history I just want to tell them to back off.  I know we are in a better position now than when we started, but asking an infertile couple about their procreation plans is just never ok in my book.  It took us 5 years and tens of thousands to get one, and I feel blessed and lucky to almost have this little girl home.  Let us enjoy this.  I’ve learned to expect the unexpected with infertility; that closed doors may open, and open doors may close.  I’ve learned to take each step authentically, with prayer and humility and an open heart.  I don’t try to make plans or goals because this journey is touch-and-go.  And for today, we are expecting one miracle baby who is on her way to see us very soon.  This in itself is enough to satisfy my joy quota for a lifetime.

Can’t wait to meet you, little girl, and see what your very special story has to say.

1 week to go…

Technically it’s 1 week 3 days, but who’s counting?

Also- posting on my iPhone today, so please excuse any typos or technical difficulties. This is what happens when you are collapsed on the fluffy chair on a Monday after work, 39 weeks pregnant with 2 cats on your lap. There is simply no chance of getting up.

My last day or work is Wednesday and I am sooooo excited. One regret I have about this pregnancy is not taking time off work sooner. It’s our busy season and hard to pull myself away, and I wish I had. Almost there.

This week I’ve started to have decent pain in my left hip which makes walking a little difficult and exercise sound miserable. It’s really the first ailment I’ve had, so I can’t complain. I continue to hear the reaction of “you’re so small!” When people learn I’m about to have a baby. I’m sure it’s partially my body type, partially what I’m wearing and also just luck of the draw that my stomach didn’t grow much. Whatever it is, it’s wonderful to hear and really unexpected that I’d get such and easy time of it. Weight gain has held steady this last month at about 13 lbs.

so that’s my body. My baby snuggles inside of me and is most active mid-morning and late evening. I love to feel her move and know she is safe in her warm, dark place. I wonder if people can sense a child’s personality before they are born. I feel like I can tell what this little girl is about; she is independent, self sufficient, and doesn’t need any coddling. Her dad and I are going to love her to pieces and absolutely smother her, so we will see if my hunch is correct.

We are so excited to meet the little lady! I wonder what she looks like and if she will have Ryan’s curly hair. Will it be blonde, like his as a child? Or fire engine red, like mine? (As adults, I think we are both considered to have “brown hair.” Yawn.) I want her have Ryan’s dimples and his (perfectly long and lean) legs, and get his ambition and his ability to make friends with everyone in the room. I hope she gets my discipline and work ethic and ability to be content with your imagination and little else. Ryan and I are both serious animal lovers, road trippers, fans of comfortable beds and blankets and good music, so she will be bombarded from both sides. Whoever she is, she is completely unique, entirely her own and will show us her personality little by little. We’ve waited so long for this and it’s hard to wrap my mind around the fact that she’s almost here.

Ryan is worried for the adjustment he will face of having less time for himself, golf and socializing. He is excited about meeting her and introducing his little buddy to the world. I am nervous about the birth and finding childcare about how our beloved cats are going to adapt (seriously- they run our lives. It’s going to be hard). I am excited to FINALLY be joining the ranks of parents and adults. I never knew how to function in the adult world as a home body with an inner 80 year old. Having a family to put first I think will feel natural.

I am thankful for the 5.5 years I’ve had with Ryan as his wife. We’ve been through many ups and downs. We’ve learned how to communicate better and how to be gentle with each other. I love him considerably more now than when we got married, which I believe is nothing less than the most gracious gift from God. So much hardship and struggle at times felt like my marriage was bad joke, but I see now it was all to strengthen us, to show each other our worst and our most broken, only so we could rise up together. This next chapter will bring its challenges and new roles and I feel like we are prepared to navigate the uncharted territory side by side. With another little mini in between.

35 Weeks and Nesting

35 Weeks! It occurs to me this is it. Pregnancy is basically over.  I am trying to enjoy it and savor these last 3 weeks, knowing very well this could be the only time I am ever pregnant.  It went by fast.

“Nesting” mode has kicked in and it’s been awful. I thought nesting meant surges of creativity when decorating the nursery, or the insatiable urge to clean out closets, but not for me.  For me, “nesting” is this overpowering sense of urgency to get everything done.  I have a web of to-do lists ranging from at-home to at-work to baby-related to insurance and admin, and they are all stressing me out.  Every evening after work, every weekend all day long, I am making phone calls and running errands.  There is no rest, and I feel enslaved to this instinct. I am stretched thin and the sleepless nights have returned.  I’m hoping I have a breakdown soon enough so I can throw in the towel and just ignore responsibility and not feel stressed about it.

Although I have slowed down and gained some weight, the super-easy pregnancy continues….

Month: Just shy of 8 months

Week: 35

Weight gain: As of this morning, + 12 lbs, but in all honesty, there have been higher days

Physical changes: Not a lot of changes, aside from the pregnant belly which appeared around week 32 and have been growing steadily since.  Fortunately, no stretch marks, no water retention, no swelling.  I am carrying low.  No changes in skin pigment or linea negra.  I do feel like I have an extra ½ inch of fat all over my entire body, though.  Arms, legs, back, face, everything is a little more squishy.

Mental/ Emotional changes: The nesting synopsis above pretty much covers it.  I haven’t experienced any “pregnancy brain” and the moments of weepiness or unexplained rage have been few and far between.

Maternity Leave: My first day of leave is April 19th, 4 weeks from today, and 1 week before the due date.  I’ll be taking 14 ½ weeks off to begin with, with another 4 weeks off later in the year over the holidays.

Biggest Fear:  Right now, I am worried because I’ve been having a really hard time lining up child care for when I go back to work.  Labor and delivery I’m not so concerned about; it will be what it will be.  Parenting, too.

Most looking forward to:  Seeing what she looks like!  Taking time off to just sit at home alone with my family, quietly, and soak up every moment of infant bonding.

Nursery prepped:  We have it painted and baseboards installed, but no furniture yet.  We have a baby shower this weekend that I hope will yield a big-ticket item, and help us determine what we still need to buy ourselves.

Food/ Cravings: Same as usual – carbs, sweets, fruit, dairy.  I am kind of over the Asian soups and ginger, finally.  Still not very interested in meat.  In fact, I find myself often saying “nothing sounds good.”  Water is a MUST.  I can go from belly full of water to dramatically dried out and thirsty in no time flat.  When I am no longer pregnant, I am REALLY looking forward to a deli sandwich piled high with turkey.

Coffee/ Alcohol: No booze, but I do drink 10 oz of coffee every morning.  Two or three times when I’ve been having a particularly exhausting day I’ve been bad and gone for an extra 4-6 oz in the afternoon.  Sssshhhh.  When I’m no longer pregnant, I am REALLY looking forward to a glass of good red wine and a tall, bitter IPA.

Exercise: I’m still moving.  Still walking, still taking 1 weight training class a week, and doing prenatal yoga.  I’m learning to turn my knees out when I squat or bend over, and just embrace the change of being out of breath and slower and weaker.

Birth Plan: This may sound bad, but I don’t really know what a birth plan is or even much about childbirth.  Ryan and I are taking a birthing class next week.  My philosophy is that this is natural, women have been doing this since time immemorial, and there will be doctors to guide me, so no need to stress myself out or over-educate.  I know Ryan will be the only one in the delivery room, and we will be giving birth at our local hospital.  If it’s a straightforward birth that progresses steadily, I will try to do it without an epidural.  If it last for days, I’ll probably be begging for anything they’ve got.  As a licensed paramedic, Ryan has actually delivered several babies, so he may know more about the process than me 🙂

What I will miss most about being pregnant:  Maybe always having my little girl with me, snuggled under my skin in her safe place.  Or always having the excuse to take it easy and get out of obligations due to my delicate condition.  It’s been affirming to see my body change and do what it does, naturally and without direction.  Especially after truly thinking I would never experience pregnancy, I have been pleasantly surprised at how easy, natural and at times subtle the whole experience has been.  I hope it’s an indication of what it to come.

31 Weeks

It’s a relief to be in the 30’s – not lost in the ambiguity of the 20’s. I know where I am now, and it’s close.  The baby girl kicks and squirms and pokes regularly throughout the day.  I find myself spending an inordinate amount of time just THINKING ABOUT THE BABY.  Where she will sleep, what we need to do, when she will come, etc.  They say this preoccupation is what leads to “pregnancy brain,” but fortunately I haven’t experienced any absent-mindedness. Yet.  In fact, things continue to be textbook, easy, and moving right along.  We had a hard time for many years, but once that IVF cycle started it’s been smooth sailing.

Due Date: April 25/26/28 (been told all 3)

Week: 31 weeks

Month:  7 months

Weight Gain: Last weigh in was 2/17/18, I’m up 9.8 lbs. I know this doesn’t sound like much so I always feel compelled to state that I also gained 7 during IVF.  I asked Ryan the other day if my butt is getting bigger and he said, “maybe a little bit bigger,” so that 9.8 lbs isn’t all belly.

Sleep: I’ve had a cold for about a week which is keeping me up, but I’m hoping my great sleep will return. Usually I get up to pee 1X a night, if at all.

Diet: I average 1 pineapple a week and 1 orange a day.  Still hitting the carbs and dairy hard and not really into meat.  Milk chocolate has been really tempting lately, too.  Overall, I feel like my metabolism has been more forgiving than usual.  I’m eating generously (but healthy) and not seeing the weight gain I’d expect.

Exercise: I’ve just started to drop off at Pilates, due to unusual muscle strains and generally feeling uncomfortable.  But I’ve kept up hiking, weight training and regular walks.  I count every week that I can continue to exercise as I used to a major victory.  It’s so good for my mental health and relationship with my ever-changing body.

Physical changes: I swear in the last week I’ve gotten a pregnant belly on me. It took a while to get here, but it arrived overnight. My center of gravity and flexibility are a daily learning curve, and getting in and out of bed a little more challenging.  Not much else to report though, no stretch marks or swelling, no widened feet, no dark line down my belly, no crazy hair growth.

Maternity clothes: Definitely maternity pants are needed, but I can still get away with a variety of pre-maternity shirts.

Nursery prepared: Not even close. We have to install baseboard in our front bedroom before we move the contents of the back bedroom (which will be the baby room), and then we have to patch/ paint walls and install baseboards in the back bedroom.  And THEN we can start to prep the nursery.

Alcohol/Caffeine/Forbidden Foods:  I drink a 10 oz cup of coffee every morning.  Any other caffeine intake may come from chocolate, but I’m not drinking any tea or soda. I haven’t touched alcohol for the duration of the pregnancy, either.  Steering away from the “bad” food list hasn’t been hard, but I will say I can’t wait to eat a gigantic turkey sandwich.

Names: We have a few.  It’s been a hard road coming to terms with the fact that I will not be naming my daughter a name I really like or want.  But it will be a name Ryan and I agree on, and our baby will give it a world of character and meaning all it’s own.

I have a nagging suspicion she will be early.  I don’t plan to go on maternity leave until about April 18th, which is probably why my paranoia is kicking in and telling me she’ll be born on April 15th.  As an accountant, Tax Day is a big deal.  Coincidentally, it’s also the day Ryan proposed.  So I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s also the day this independent little mover and shaker decides it’s time to make an entrance.  9 weeks and counting, and let’s hope she sticks….

Infertility advice to myself and to whomever may want it….

It’s been just over 6 months since Ryan and I got the news that our textbook fresh cycle worked (!!), and we gleefully lost the “infertile” descriptor and took on “pregnant.” While I count myself invariably lucky, the sharpness of infertility is still fresh.  Not to mention, Ryan and I are not magically cured.  Should baby #2 be a possibility, it won’t happen naturally.

For that reason, I wanted to take time to recount some of the most poignant lessons learned, advice to share, and survival tips. I may need them again one day.

In general:

Infertility is about as personal and as painful as it gets: It’s your sex life and your finances and your health and your marriage, all wrapped into one big bag of bad news.  For many, becoming a parent is what they’ve been waiting for since they were children themselves.  We all know family is the most important thing.  At its best infertility is searing disappointment, at its worst it is death, loss and grief.

Everyone is different.  Each couple, each diagnosis, each personality with insecurities and hopes and fears are all unique.  Some people may need to share their journey, others may want to keep it strictly confidential.  Couples may not be on the same page, treatment may not be clear cut, and finances can be all over the board.  There is simply no one-size-fits-all for this camp.

For those in the trenches:

Get a second opinion:  I know, this means more time and money thrown down an endless well, and it’s hard to see the value when you are invested in a certain doctor or protocol.  It took me a year to work up the nerve and goodwill in my marriage to drag Ryan to another doctor, but it literally made the different from being told “you’re hopeless” to “you’re pregnant.”

Be gentle with your significant other:  In my personal journey, my marriage was the most treacherous terrain.  Ryan and I did not see eye to eye about 90% of the time, and the resulting opportunities for frustration and resentment were insurmountable. Be judicious with your battles and be delicate; carefully weigh the costs and benefits in this minefield.  Your significant other is your only teammate now and always, and you want to keep that relationship the best it can be.

…and be honest with yourself: Recognize the truths, and give them time to sink in.  This is unchartered territory; you aren’t an expert.  Give yourself time to grieve, to think, to determine what you need and want.  You may change over time, your opinion may change over time, and you may consider avenues you’d previously sworn off.  At each turn, think critically and ask yourself “will I regret this down the road? Will I regret not doing this?”

Lean on each other: As someone who still dreads sharing my infertility story, even at 7 months pregnant, I will say that the infertility community was a great source of comfort.  There was no salve to my wounds like knowing other people were enduring it, too, and to hear their advice and see their strength and not feel so alone.

Lean on your faith: If you are a person with a spiritual force guiding you, you will need it now more than ever.  Even in my darkest days when I didn’t understand why life was unfolding in such a disastrous pattern, I took comfort in knowing it wasn’t me calling the shots.

Speak up:  I wish I had spoken up more.  Communicate your needs, your fears, your questions and concerns to those you feel comfortable with.  Advocate for yourself and the support you need from others.  Your family and friends will only know what’s going on in your mind if you tell them.

For family/ friends of the interfile:

Follow their lead: Some of your infertile friends will want to talk about their journey, others will want to keep it private.  Please don’t dismiss the former and push the latter, or assume all are the same.  I realize this is asking you to sometimes be mind-readers and walk on eggshells, but your careful consideration can truly make or ruin a person’s day.

Don’t ask. Don’t ask a couple when they are having kids, or when they are having their second kid, or if they’re pregnant or off birth control or whatever.  This is like asking how much credit card debt they have or how much they weigh.  It’s simply none of your business.  You never know if someone is struggling with infertility, and these questions can be triggering and torturous.  I wish everyone knew it was bad manners to pry in this way; my life certainly would have been easier.

Don’t talk about how becoming a parent is the most life-changing thing ever:  I cringe when I hear those without children described as “selfish” and “immature.” I very well may have ended up childless, and resent mightily those who would think less of me for it.  The years of battling infertility and all the woes of finances, marital stress, self-doubt, bargaining, Dr.’s appointments, grief, disappointment, and uncomfortable judgment have brought about a great deal of maturity that those who conceived easily will never know.  And there is much selflessness in draining your emotional, financial and physical resources for the hope of new life.  Or agreeing to start or stop treatment even if you don’t want to, but your spouse is ready.  Perhaps well-meaning people mean their own lives were selfish or immature pre-children, but please specify that, and please be conscientious.

Don’t tell them “you will be parent one day:” A better alternative is “you will get through this.”  The infertile person constantly walks a thin line between having a positive attitude and not being delusional.  For some, being childfree is the best or only option after a long, embittered battle.  The easy-out, cavalier “you will have a child one day, I just know it!” can be dismissive and make us feel even more alone and misunderstood.

My infertility wounds are still healing. In some ways, I am still working on forgiveness and acceptance, but I know the scar will fade overtime.  I hope to always retain the sensitivity and kindness to be one less person in the world who doesn’t understand.  I hope you all are surrounded by a support group and sympathetic friends and family.  If not; find your community, and keep at it.  You may be just one more clinic visit away from turning the corner.