Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Heroes and Happy Endings

So, we have finally approached the point in our pregnancy journey (24 weeks!) where we begin childbirth classes.  As both a class-taking type of person and an admitted “birth nerd,” I was extremely excited for this step.  So much so that I signed up for not one but two multi-session childbirth classes.  We have started both, and I am excitedly learning so many new and interesting things.  John is, too, though he might not admit it.

One of the concepts we explored last week is how your “birth narrative” plays into the type of birth you end up having.  We were told that every experience you’ve ever had related to birth – your own birth story, Hollywood movies of screaming women in labor, the gruesome details from your friends who’ve given birth – all play into the story you have in your conscious and subconscious mind about what it’s like to give birth.  And, consequently, this narrative can influence your own birth outcomes.  I think the same may apply to the fertility journey.  The more you hear happy success stories, the more likely you are to believe that it will happen for you, too.  And, as with birth, there are many, many more upsetting and discouraging stories out there about fertility treatment that will induce fear and aversion.  Let’s be clear – I’m not suggesting that failure or success in conceiving (or in having an intervention-free birth, for that matter) is purely mental.  But I do believe in a powerful mind-body connection.

In an effort to keep focused on the positive, I want highlight both the heroes who’ve inspired me in my journey, and the happy endings that have provided hope and confidence as I’ve forged ahead.  I credit these people – both known and unknown – with giving me the strength to face the intimidating IVF process and the even greater uncertainty of pregnancy. 

One of the first places I found support once I realized that I was unable to conceive as quickly and naturally as I’d planned was a specialized yoga studio called Pulling Down the Moon.  There I enrolled in a 6 week program called “Yoga for Fertility” which was equal parts support group for women trying to conceive and yoga class with a special emphasis on fertility.  We were led by a compassionate and encouraging teacher who helped us to focus on our intention rather than our feelings of failure.

When I first started, I remember looking around the room at all the other women and marveling at their stories.  Most of them were much further along in the process than I was at that time.  Many had lost babies and/or experienced failed IVF cycles.  Many had been taking meds and shots for months and years, trying desperately to do whatever it took to make a baby.  The thing we all had in common, though, was how much it meant to us to be mothers.  And how genuinely sad we all were that it hadn’t happened yet.  I’m happy to report that I’ve kept in touch with several of the women from that class and all have gone on to have healthy babies.  It makes me want to go back in time to that room and say – don’t worry!  It takes time, but you’ll get there!  I learned a lot about perseverance from being a part of that special group. 

Another place I found strength, once I began fertility treatments, was an online support group (actually, two).  Though we never met in person, I felt connected with my online sisters who were going through the same anxiety-ridden process as I was, at the same time.  We followed each others’ daily progress and cheered each other on.  Again, there were women in that group who had suffered many more losses and injustices than I had.  I admired their strength and willingness to go forward.  It made me proud to be among such strong willed mothers in the making.

Another couple that inspired me from afar was Giuliana and Bill Rancic.  For those of you who do not follow their reality TV show, they are a celebrity couple who has made public their struggle to conceive and their experiences while undergoing fertility treatment.  Yes, they’re rich and yes, there are things about their lifestyle that we commoners just can’t relate to.  But their openness about their fertility issues really won my admiration.  They brought a very “hidden” problem into the public forum and made it okay to talk about such an intimate subject.  They also gave people like me the courage to say – me too!  I’m struggling too, and here’s what it’s like…

And now, as I approach the last trimester of a pregnancy I often feared would never happen, I look at the happy endings around me and know that IVF works.  My twin nephews are my most joyful reminder that what is meant to be, will be.  I know that my sister-in-law and brother were meant to be parents, and they were doubly blessed with two precious boys.  But it didn’t come easy or without pain.  Same goes for my friend from that first fertility yoga class.  Her twin girls were born just last week, and the family she has been waiting for (and working for) has finally begun.  And then there’s me and John.  Our happy ending is just around the corner.  And it does not erase the memory of the struggle or the pain of the month-after-month failure.   But it does fuel my fire to share the hope and the encouragement of pushing forward. 

If you want to be a parent, you will be a parent.  I know it, because it happened to me.
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