A Breath of Fresh Air

One of the things I love most about the ALI blogging community is how much I have learned from everyone. I have learned from the advice of the trailblazers who started their journey before me and had the courage to blog about it, I have learned from the encouragement and support of those going through it with me, and I have learned from the people who are following in my own footsteps who now reach out to me for support. We can learn a lot from one another, and with that knowledge, I am SO excited to be doing a tandem post today with Cristy of Searching for Our Silver Lining. After a recent post of hers, we started an email discussion and decided to  throw our thoughts into the ring about the crucial difference between Infertility Amnesia and Healing. Here is my contribution to the discussion – please check out Cristy’s blog for her thoughts on this important distinction!

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Posts of substance.

I think they are easier to come by when your life – your world – is full of turmoil and pain. At least for me, it has been easier to sit down and write deeply about the times that have made me cry in life than the times that have made me rejoice. I don’t know if it is because as children we are taught that gloating is bad and we shouldn’t rub it in, or if it’s simply because I often feel the need to work through my painful times with words and journaling but during the joyful times I tend to just revel in the moment. For whatever reason, I have to make a conscious effort to chronicle the good times as well as the bad, and slowly by surely, that is becoming easier.

As anyone who has experienced the ALI (Adoption/Loss/Infertility) journey can attest to, it is a supremely difficult road to go down, and often, it just plain sucks. You spend days, weeks, months, and years second guessing every decision and (not) planning events just in case. Should I have tried that supplement? Can we plan that vacation? Should I focus on my career? Can I have that beer? Should I have insisted on a specialist sooner? Can I take that hot yoga class? Should I have started the adoption process sooner? Is it okay to just take a break? Should I have taken a step back and focused on my marriage?

The “What Ifs” of the situation lend itself to creating women who are chronically self-obsessed and worried about everything. Take it from me.

However, there is hope – there is a light at the end of that blasted tunnel. Resolution and healing come in many forms, and everyone’s journey will be different. For me, I still identify as an infertile, but the last two years of pregnancy and then parenting have allowed that focus to slowly shift as who I am has changed and evolved. As someone who is now parenting after infertility, I can honestly say that I no longer think every day about the sad part of our journey. I feel happy and content. That doesn’t mean that infertility isn’t always a part of me. Knowing that I am in my first full cycle post-pregnancy has thrown me for a loop, and I am already struggling with finding the balance of how obsessed to be about it all. We want another child, yet we know there is a good chance we can’t afford to have another child via ART treatments or Adoption, so what is the good in obsessing? I feel a little helpless, but overall, I am happy. SO happy. The ALI journey is a hard path to be on, and I am so thankful that I’m no longer in the middle of it.

When we found out that we were expecting, the initial feelings of shock, fear, excitement, and disbelief were all quick to rise to the surface. Although I spent much of those first weeks of pregnancy being afraid of loss and afraid of things being too good to be true, I also spent a good portion of that time trying very hard to be mindful of the moment and to try to surround this little being inside of me with joy and love instead of fear. The mind is a powerful thing. Because it had been a long time dream of mine to take those weekly belly progression pictures, I immediately started taking taking them at week 4. Granted I was too superstitious to start posting weekly bump updates for the first couple of months, but something about the act of taking those pictures and then eventually posting the updates made both the pregnancy and the baby seem more real, and it felt like every week I got to post another update was another week that I was healing a little bit more and getting a little more of my spark back.

Something else that really helped me to heal and to reclaim my faith in myself and my body was allowing myself to dream and prepare for my ideal birth experience. It makes me so sad when pregnant IFers say “I just want a healthy baby” when asked about their birth plans – as if they no longer deserve the right or have the confidence to hope for an experience that entails more than that. I don’t come from a journey of loss, so I’m sure that affects my feelings on this, but it just makes me sad that many people from an ALI background seem to feel that they are not allowed to have the hopes and dreams that your average pregnant woman takes for granted. It sends the message that we should have to give up any of those hopes for a particular type of birthing experience just because many of us had to give up the dream of getting pregnant in bed with our partner with no drugs involved. The fact that I allowed myself to dream about and prepare for my ideal birth experience went SO FAR towards healing my old IF wounds. I know that no birth goes exactly according to plan, but I can tell you that having a husband and a care team around me that supported my wishes 100% while my baby was being born into this world – that was a powerful and healing moment for me. I truly believe that all women deserve to have nothing but love and respect surrounding them as their child enters their life for the first time – be it through adoption, vaginal birth, or a Cesarean.

So who am I?

  • I am an IFer who proudly posted belly pictures and ultrasound photos on my main page throughout my pregnancy – because it was always my dream to do that and because it was okay for me to rejoice about that blessing.
  • I am a mother who is parenting through the journey of infertility and loss, yet I don’t begin every baby related post with a disclaimer, because if you know me, you know that I am at heart a grateful parent who is still praying for her friends in the trenches, and I trust that you know that my feelings aren’t hurt if you need to “click away” that day.
  • I am someone who tries to be considerate of my friends who are still in the midst of TTC, but I am also a mother who doesn’t  hesitate to post about the trying times of parenthood – because that wouldn’t be real.

Does this mean I have “Infertility Amnesia?” Or does it mean that I am healing?

This thought first occurred to me when I read a fantastic post by Arch Mama entitled Never Going Back Again. In it, she discusses the fact that so many ALIers do themselves a serious injustice by resisting healing. I read that post with tears in my eyes and a light bulb going off in my mind, because WHOA, that’s what I’ve been feeling, and sometimes it’s even what I’ve been feeling guilty about.

I am in a place where I can (usually) be happy for people who conceive on their first month of trying. I am in a place where I can laugh at something my daughter did without immediately mourning the fact that she might never have a sibling to experience it with. Do I still struggle with our infertility issues? Sure. Do I still have moments when I cry at the “unfairness” of it all? Of course. I often wish I could just plan our next child and be blissfully unaware of the issues that so many of us…1 in 8 of us…will face in our lifetimes.

At the end of the day though, that’s not me. I am no longer in that place. Every day of my daughter’s life I heal a little more, and I am sad a little less. I am passionate about helping others through the ALI journey, and not a week goes by that someone in real life or through the internet contacts me for advice and information about Infertility. It is something I enjoy doing, and I am thankful that all of my pain and resultant research can be helpful to others. I love the work I do for PAIL and that I can use my history and experience to help other through the ALI journey – be it during the TTC years, the pregnancy years, or beyond.

However, I know that I won’t always be this involved with the ALI community, and I honestly don’t think it would be healthy for me to stay here forever. Just because I won’t always be this involved though doesn’t mean I’ll have forgotten or that I have Infertility Amnesia. Right now, at this point in my life, it feels right to be so involved, and I am grateful to have been welcomed into a community of women who understand that the ALI journey doesn’t just end once you get that positive pregnancy test or have that baby in your arms. This is a community of women (and a few men!) who are as diverse as one would expect. Some have residual fear that lasts throughout pregnancy and beyond – some are ready to post that belly picture at 4 weeks and try to just live in the moment and be happy – and most are somewhere in between. What we need to remind ourselves is that any and all of those reactions to pregnancy and parenting after adoption, loss, and infertility are normal and okay. With the support of each other, we are all ultimately moving towards a place of healing and peace, and that is such a good thing.

For me, the band aid has been ripped off, and Stella was the breath of fresh air that helped me to heal.

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27 comments

  1. “The ALI journey is a hard path to be on, and I am so thankful that I’m no longer in the middle of it.” I think this thought is critical when discussing ALI healing – the path is long, and our reactions and handling of our emotions all depend on where we are in that path. The middle of the path, in my opinion, is the absolute worst. You have a diagnosis (or not – you may be “unexplained”), you know you’re truly infertile, and you’re dealing with the uncertainties that treatments may work for you. You just don’t know how things will turn out, and it’s hard to be hopeful because you know so much when you’re in the middle of the ALI path. I think being in the middle of the path is the darkest time. For me, post-delivery was difficult and dark because I wasn’t over the pain from the middle part of the path, but now being at the end of the path, I feel better and better every day. It’s so important for people to recognize that at any given moment, we’re all at different points on the path.

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately after my last therapy session, and I’ve meant to blog about it but don’t have the words quite yet. Dr. Dan and I were talking about my IL’s and how every good thing that happens to B and me is then countered with how our SIL’s aren’t “as lucky as us.” This drives me mad. Dr. Dan said that there are two types of guilt – justified guilt and unjustified guilt. The guilt my MIL dishes out is unjustified, and it does not deserve a moment of my time. Justified guilt is the guilt we need to think about, and internalize, and remedy in some way. I immediately applied this to the ALI world and realized that the guilt we feel when we finally do get pregnant is unjustified guilt. We didn’t do anything to make other ALI-ers unsuccessful. Our success didn’t make them unsuccessful. We didn’t steal other ALI-ers BFP’s. I applaud you for not taking on unjustified guilt when you were pregnant with Stella. There is no right or wrong way to do things in this space, but you blazed a new trail and I think that’s great! If I could re-do anything about my ALI journey, I would remove the unjustified guilt I felt both times. That’s not to say that I would be less sensitive – just that I would not feel responsible for my ALI sisters’ pain.

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    1. I just went out and read the post that triggered this discussion. What gets me is how there is so much judgement out there – that so many people concern themselves with how others react to, and embrace, their own BFP’s and pregnancies post-treatments. Who cares! If you don’t like it, click away. There is nothing wrong with how others choose to travel the course of their pregnancies once they get pregnant, and it certainly should have no impact on the blog reader who is, afterall, a guest viewing that blog.

      The ALI “community” (I have a hard time calling it that lately) is becoming way too judgemental for my taste these days. It’s so disappointing.

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    2. I really like this concept of justified guilt vs. unjustified guilt. I’m going to have to think more about this, but it makes a lot of sense….

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  2. Great post, and what a wonderful place to be in – one of healing, gratitude, and happiness. I think people think we shouldn’t forget – actually, as part of healing, the emotional memories really should fade… we SHOULD “forget” the gut wrenching, tear inducing pain. If it stays with us at that same level of intensity, healing isnt happening. Remembering on a mental level is different than maintaining the same level of pain. Meh, it’s hard to explain… I’m just glad you’re at the place you are at. 🙂 I find myself in a similar place and am rejoicing that, nearly two years after the birth of my girls, I feel pretty whole again.

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  3. So beautifully and insightfully written, as always, Josey!!! It’s an ongoing journey of accepting the joy fully, moving on, while remembering where you came from and how it changed you, and rejoicing/realizing in the personal healing that has taken place. So thankful for your continuous honesty!

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  4. Wow. This may be one of my most favorite posts that you’ve ever written. I feel so much like this… except almost even more extreme. The pain time that it took to get EK here has become so irrelevant, so necessary, no meaningful to me that it’s not painful for me anymore. But when I see my close friends struggling with IF, I’m taken back to it and I remember the pain and my heart aches for them in a way that it otherwise could not. I don’t want more children so that pain doesn’t exist. I am completely in the moment that it is EK. I recently revamped my “necessaries” – the blogs I read daily. While I’m certainly not disinterested in the ALI community, I know the importance of following and learning from bloggers who are at my same point in life. And while my experiences are rarely beneficial to my online friends going through IF, my experiences have made me a sounding board for my IRL friends who are now going through the same thing. I’ve made it less of a secret for them because I refuse to keep the secret that I once felt forced to keep.

    Good job, J! Love the post! Love you. Love Stella! 🙂

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  5. I always love your posts but this has got to be one of my favorites. It’s such an important topic, especially the piece about how you unapologetically post about Stella. Maybe it’s easy for me to say because, like you, I have a child, but I totally agree with this. I think it’s important for all of us to uphold our own boundaries by clicking away rather than expecting other bloggers to censor themselves and protect us from their joy. I have to admit that I sometimes skim or click away from entries about surprise second pregnancies because there are days when I just want that so bad. But there are other days when I’m totally fine reading about it. I appreciate the bloggers that let me make that choice rather than making it for me by choosing not to write about the good stuff.

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  6. mcmissis · · Reply

    Healing is such a fascinating, personal thing. Something completely different, my parents’ divorce, comes to mind reading this. My siblings and I are all in different places emotionally in regards to their split my junior year in college. I am so over it. I never really had a huge upset over it and don’t really think about it all that much. It’s been so different for my brother and sister, though. It actually makes me scared that I am/have been in denial this whole time and something bad is going to happen sometime in the future.

    What happened to you and Charlie happened to YOU AND CHARLIE. Sure people all over the world (or Internet) have had/are currently having similar issues, but no one else will ever have what you have/had. This post is a fabulous acceptance and welcoming of your current state of healing, something no one else will ever fully understand and certainly doesn’t need to agree with.

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  7. Great post – I really appreciate hearing your perspective and I can feel how grounded your feelings are about what kind of person you are and want to be. So inspiring!

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  8. This is so perfect, Josey. Yes, yes, yes to all of it. Popping over to see Cristy’s post right now 🙂 thank you both for collaborating on further discussing this important topic.

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  9. Love this Josey. I know that healing can only begin after pregnancy and I know that you only understand this after you’ve had the baby. My still trying self would never have understood this but I’m glad my after self is big enough to realise it and brace enough to apologise about my bitter self. Good ole hindsight and all 😉

    Who knows. We might get a sibling.

    And it’s nice to feel happiness every once in a while!

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  10. I wanted to read Cristy’s post before I commented. I love both of these posts. Allowing ourselves a chance to heal is a challenge. I struggled to embrace my pregnancy with Raegan. I have one belly pic. ONE. and it was for my photography class project at 33-34 weeks. I never posted an ultrasound pic or a belly pic EVER on my blog. In the 2 years that have passed since I got my BFP with Raegan, I have healed some.This time around I’m embracing the pregnancy from the beginning. I have already posted an ultrasound picture. I took my first belly shot at 10 weeks. This is all part of the long drawn out process of healing from this journey. And it’s important to remember it is a process. Each of us walks our own road on this journey and our healing process is just as unique. It’s just as important to respect the journey as it is to respect the healing process as they may be parallel, but not always the same for you or me.

    Wonderful posts!

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  11. Yeah… I don’t even know what to think of this, I’m glad you and Cristy had a good convo and it spurred these ideas. I admire you for being able to so eloquently verbalize your feelings. As you know I definitely identify more with you on the pregancy updates. I always enjoyed those posts when I was infertile, it gave me hope. I mean it’s what I ultimately wanted, a pregnancy and baby.. I loved all the details and learned a great deal from you and others about pregnant and parenting.

    I think it is up to each ones self to only follow people they wouldn’t be offended from, and be able to click away on their own. Blogging for others feelings completely defeats te purpose of blogging.

    I don’t know, tough subject! Thanks for tackling it and standing up for those PAIL who do post belly shots an compare to fruit. 🙂

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  12. I think the part of this post that got to me the most is where it says “You spend days, weeks, months, and years second guessing every decision and (not) planning events just in case. Should I have tried that supplement? Can we plan that vacation? Should I focus on my career? Can I have that beer? Should I have insisted on a specialist sooner? Can I take that hot yoga class? Should I have started the adoption process sooner? Is it okay to just take a break? Should I have taken a step back and focused on my marriage?” I think back on the last 6 years and wonder how much of life I have missed out on because I was putting all of my focus into trying to conceive. What relationships were harmed, what opportunities did I miss, and so on.

    I appreciate your thoughts on the importance of having control of the birth plan — as I am preparing to give birth sometime in the next 12 – 14 weeks (hopefully!) I hadn’t thought of it that way and it’s something I am going to give more serious thought to.

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    1. Yep, you definitely can’t control exactly how the birth experience will progress, but you can control how educated you are about your rights and your choices and it will help immensely to surround yourself with people (husband + providers + nurses, etc) who are supportive of your hopes & desires!

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  13. It is such a very personal journey and each journey is different. I am not able to enjoy early pregnancy at all due to my two first trimester losses, the best I can do is keep the worry at bay and tell myself that I will be okay no matter what happens. (which is why I don’t post much in the first tri of pregnancy, I would just be focusing on the worry, and that’s not what I want to do!) During my first pregnancy after 1 yr 6 months of ttc and one IUI I was without fear. I think everyone should be able to talk about pregnancy however is cathartic for them. We should be able to celebrate if we want! Or complain, because pregnancy can also really suck ass. We fought like hell to get it, so I wish we would all be supportive of each other needing to talk / deal / document it in anyway we see fit. It’s also okay for a reader to click away if they’re not in a good place to read about the topic.

    Anyway, yes to this post! Healing from infertility should be the goal for every single one of us. It is healthy natural and normal to heal. I can tell you even after 3 failed IUIs and an IVF post L, I was in a very different place than I was before him. Even though I was fighting IF, I was simultaneously healing in someways by watching my son grow and thrive. And now I am healing even more that I am pregnant with a second. I don’t know what the rest of the journey will be like, but I will write about it honestly – stuffing all of the hard / honest / important stuff under the rug does nobody any good.

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  14. mandski · · Reply

    I’m so impressed by the dialogue that you and Cristy managed to have. It’s people like the two of you who really do create community.

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  15. Wonderful posts… and a lot of what you so artfully depicted has been jumbled in my head. As we dare thing about baby #2, I wonder if the pain of IF will go away ever… and I, like you, feel less obsessed and pained by IF when my daughter smiles each day, reaches new milestones, and calls me momma. — yes at 5 months she says momma and that makes myheart swell! I wonder — do cancer patients that beat their disease recover from the pain? I think so for the most part — but the memories are always there. For me, the memories of IF will always remain but is muted by the joy that my Cecelia brings into my life. I’m sure some of those memories will resurface more that I want them to as we take steps for IVF # 2 or really #6… but whether we wind up beating IF again, I know that the odds are already in our favor everytime I see my baby’s smile…

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    1. “… but whether we wind up beating IF again, I know that the odds are already in our favor everytime I see my baby’s smile…” <– this is SO, so true. As much as I hate when people say "we should just be grateful that we at least have Stella" when I express concern over #2, it really is true. I AM beyond thankful that she is in our lives, and a sibling would just be a wonderful, amazing, awesome bonus. We are lucky.

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  16. […] this Tuesday’s tandem posts from Cristy of Searching for our Silver Lining and Josey of My Cheap Version of Therapy.  The posts discuss the stark differences between healing and finding resolution from infertility […]

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  17. Such a great dialogue. Thanks for the posts, Josey and Cristy. Healing is such a strange thing and I think it’s important to stop living in pain because you can’t really live if you are so focused on the pain and not the joy of life.

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  18. […] this post was inspired by Josey’s amazing post on healing. Thanks for making me think happy thoughts about this all […]

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  19. […] (Today’s post by Josey was originally posted here.) […]

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  20. […] recently Josey and Cristy did tandem posts because of an email conversation. The best thing about this community is how one post can lead to […]

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  21. What a wonderful post. I’m glad you’ve come to a place of healing. I hope everyone in this community arrives there eventually. I know I am well on my way, and I’ve wondered, recently, what it will look and feel like when I finally arrive and I can put this part of my life behind me. I will never forget and I’ll likely always involve myself in this community but I do hope to feel that distance from it, if only in my own heart.

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    1. Yeah, I’m definitely not “healed” by any means, but to at least be ON this path of healing… it’s awesome. There are still days that I cry at the unfairness of it all and get pissed that the jury is out on if we’ll ever get to have another child, but then I remind myself that life isn’t fair, and I take a deep breath and hug my daughter and kiss my husband and realize that life is pretty damn great. Slowly but surely, I’m healing.

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  22. […] – In April I wrote A Breath of Fresh Air about the crucial difference between infertility amnesia and healing. It was also a fun month of […]

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