Cheers, dear readers,
As I write my final post for our humble blog here at Slow Swimmers & Fried Eggs, I find myself feeling blessed and so grateful to have had the opportunity to have this platform, to share my experiences with you all, and to heal myself through the power of reflection, honoring our shared humanity, and building community. I also find myself feeling wistful… about all of those beautiful folks reading these posts going deep into their souls to find hope, about my husband sharing his vulnerability and courage, about the folks at Conceive Hospital desiring to help their patients in every possibly way that they can, about the woman I was over 4.5 years ago – hurt, broken, scared, and sad – and the woman I am now – strong, healed, confident, and hopeful.
What am I hopeful about? I’m hopeful not only about my own future, the future of my family (with or without children), but the future of the patients of Conceive Hospital and ALL of the fine folks who find themselves facing an infertility diagnosis with all that happens after that.
As the great Maya Angelou once said, I dare you all to give yourself this mission as I did:
“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”
I ask you:
What would be possible for you if you allowed that statement – or one that has incredible and powerful meaning to you – be your guidepost?
One of the greatest challenges of my life has been accepting that I’m not who I thought I was supposed to be or who I always pictured myself being. And realizing… that’s OK.
Sometimes those of us who struggle with infertility – or any struggle – we thrash and throw ourselves into the fire. The struggle is real. The pain is real. Yet sometimes I believe we allow ourselves to suffer more than we need to or for longer than is required. What if we set ourselves free from struggle at the appropriate time?
That brings me to five things I learned through my journey here at Slow Swimmers & Fried Eggs, and through the challenges I have faced – such as infertility – challenges that have made me stronger, wiser, and more in love with my life than ever.
1) Change Everything Without Changing Anything, But Your Beliefs– Attitude is everything. As again Maya Angelou shared with us all so eloquently:
“You may not control all of the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”
On your worst days, I want to encourage you to push through it! Push through your fear, your despair, your struggle. You can choose not to be defeated by your struggles. You can choose to learn from them. Share them. And press on.
Try this inspirational videoon for size to help you.
2) Community Is Everything– The power of community cannot be understated. Self-care during stressful times includes surrounding yourself with those with empathetic ears for your tough situation. As a minority in the world (about one in eight experience infertility), it is quite natural to feel “left out” and misunderstood. Who wouldn’t? Thanks to modern day technology, we have the ability find blogs such as this one; online support groups; in-person supportive meet-ups in your local area if you are lucky enough to have one; and friends who have also struggled through infertility, subsequent treatment, and the challenging emotions and sadness that can lead to depression. It is natural and human to want to flock to others who have the same experience that we do. Find them! Find your tribe. Find those willing to listen without judgment. You know why this is critical? Because…
3) Loneliness, Isolation and Depression Are Life-Threatening– Did you know that studies have shown that loneliness is more dangerous to your health than obesity, smoking, or alcoholism? Did you know also that my blog post about suicideas it relates to infertility is the most commented-on blog post I have ever written in my life? This is tragic, sad, and true. Combat loneliness and depression with community. This is an absolute MUST for your survival! First we must survive before we thrive.
4) Give Yourself Permission To Grieve– For some reason, we all “get” other diseases, ailments and handicaps that afflict us (such as cancer, diabetes, losing a limb, etc.), and offer words of sympathy, encouragement, and even a casserole. But the invisible loss of our unborn children (whether stillborn, miscarriage, dead embryos post or pre-transfer) is not regarded in our society as actual LOSS typically. Yet to those who experience it, it can feel as painful emotionally as losing a limb, or a family member through death, or getting a cancer diagnosis. It can even be life threatening, whether society realizes that or not. This reminds me of the quote “Science: It’s true whether we choose to believe it or not.” The losses are real and can be numerous and over a long period of time.
As I shared in an earlier post,
“I want to be active in working towards a world where miscarriage [and infertility]isn’t swept under the rug; where women can openly acknowledge (and grieve) their losses without feeling uncertain as to the validity of their feelings. I want to be a person who others can come to for information and advice. I want to be at the forefront of a movement which purposefully demystifies miscarriage [and infertility]and aims to establish helpful dialogue on the subject.”
Please know that your feelings are valid and completely normal, though they may at times be uncomfortable. It helps to remember that we all have things in life that we struggle with. Some are just more easily understood readily than others.
5) We Are All Greater and Stronger Than We Think We Are– Remember this is true too at any age. Does our worth only come from parenting? From co-creating a human life? Or does our worth extend far, far beyond that?
More gems from Maya Angelou (this woman ROCKS!):
“You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anybody.”
Please always remember that, in your darkest hours, and your most challenging moments…
“My wish for you is that you continue. Continue to be who and how you are. To astonish a mean world with your acts of kindness.”
I was so touched by my incredible husband’s ending to his last post, that I want to re-share it. It exemplifies what I aim to say here perfectly:
“I’d like to leave you with an interesting tale I recently heard, and it really tore me up after years of reading about infertility’s affect on our readers and many others. It’s a Japanese folk tale about an elderly school teacher who falls ill and, in a coma, travels to meet her ancestors on the very edge of death.
- “Who are you?” they ask her.
- “I’m the mayor’s wife,” she answers.
- “That isn’t what we asked you. Who are you?”
- “I’m the mother of four children, and grandmother of many more.”
- Again the reply comes: “That isn’t what we asked you. Who are YOU?”
- On and on it goes until she finally stops casting about with identity trappings and ornaments and understand that the question is who she is herself, as a human being, independent of her role in others’ eyes or others’ lives. Only then do her ancestors decide to allow her to recover and go back to earth to continue her important, if humble, work.
“In the end, you are NOT first of all in life, a parent (current or future). You are, first and always, you, and a human being, a life and a soul of value, a manifestation of a living spirit, and independent greatness. We may all wish to be parents, but as we’ve written about many times here, it is never, never all you are.”
And with that, I will drop the mic. Though Eric and I will no longer be writing here at SS&FE, please feel free to reach out to me personally if you need support here on Facebook, or at my email: firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to speaking with you. As always, I wish you the best on your journey. Go forth and love (starting with yourselves).
This post is also available in: Arabic