“You have a story and your story is your gift.”
Before I thoroughly dive into the dramatic changes that infertility has done for me and my family, let me first describe how my story will be told.
I have categorized my story based on specific elements in my life, money, happiness, movement, love, food, relationships, and home. Doing it this way allows me to explicitly explain the impact that infertility has had on my whole lifestyle. "Infertility Sucks?" seemed like a very appropriate title to my story because it actually does suck. But, like any challenging event in my life I will eventually find a silver lining, a path for learning and growth. If I could give anyone advice about dealing with a "sucky" experience, I would tell others to be intentional in finding ways to make yourself happy every day. YOU and only YOU have the power to make yourself live a sad life or a really happy one.
Infertility = cha-ching $
"Infertility is cheap," said no one ever. This experience made me even more mindful of my budgeting. It made me look carefully at my monthly, weekly, and daily expenses and spending. Luckily for me, my husband made this amazing Excel spreadsheet that lays out all of our expenses and bills. The problem was that I had only looked at this beautifully organized spreadsheet once in my life. Over the three years we have lived together I should have referred back to this resource at least once to reflect or reevaluate our expenses. Well fortunately for us our new infertility bills had led to me to finally reflect and reevaluate our expenses (like I should have done to begin with).
My priorities were changing and it was time to adjust my monetary life to decide what was worth keeping and what was not. To make a long story short, I sold my "new" used SUV (which had a large monthly payment) and traded it in for an older car ($100 less than my previous car's monthly payment). I started selling furniture that never got used in our house in yard sales and on an app called Letgo, which was extremely freeing! I planned our family's meals for the week very carefully making sure only to spend what we needed at the grocery store. Let it be known that I don’t skimp on buying the best, real food ingredients :).
In addition to all of these changes I also had stopped my careless shopping habits. See blog post on simple strategies that helped me shop less.
My shopping habits involved visiting Target and Marshall's monthly to buy new clothes or decorations for the house. These things that I bought I didn't really need, it was just a thrill to purchase new items. All of these changes that I had made seemed to develop nicely into a strategic plan to spend my money in the most intentional way possible. Infertility clinics are expensive and my lifestyle had to change to adjust to this new future baby bill. It felt good to take control of my money, so it was being used purposely to make my life better.
My idea of getting pregnant: It's this magical experience of it “just happening” naturally on it's own.
This wonderful vision I had of how I would get pregnant just didn’t happen for me. When you're infertile it actually takes a lot of practice and commitment mentally and physically. Like anything in life, when things don’t come natural to you, you have to make an effort to practice and have patience that all of your hard work will pay off. Unfortunately, I only have so much control over my body's functions (what goes on inside) and my patience was wearing thin due to daily injections of medication and the emotional stress of it all. The injections weren’t that bad physically, but after two to three months of your body not responding the way you wanted, it finally takes a toll on you. The injections were starting to take control of my travel experiences too.
When my body was getting to a certain point (close to ovulation), it had to be carefully monitored and leaving the local area wasn’t an option. Luckily for me I only had to cancel one trip with some girlfriends due to this experience. And let’s face it, the monotonous injection routine every night at 6 p.m. was no fun either. The more I received injections the more I thought about how I’m never getting pregnant. These negative thoughts consumed my mind even though I consider myself a pretty positive person. Apparently, infertility was trumping my happy thoughts.
But here comes the silver lining! These daily injections changed my outlook on finding daily happiness. Because I dreaded these injections, it forced me to structure my day to include lots of daily activities that brought me joy. At first it was difficult, because it meant saying “no” to people. Saying “no” to people is hard when all you ever want to do is please people and be liked. I never realized just how much I had said “yes” to people, practically 90% of the time.
Before infertility, I would attend all types of events and parties without thinking twice about it. I’m talking about birthday parties, LuLaRoe parties, late night group dates of drinking and eating, committee functions at school, and the list goes on and on. I never thought that a measly five minutes of my day of injecting medicine would be so spiritually and emotionally depleting. This daily depletion of happiness had to be replenished with incorporating more things that made me feel good. My new plan was that if I was asked or invited to attend something, it had to be a “hell yes” or I would just say “no thank you”. From here on out I had decided that I would only do things that brought me joy. I felt empowered and excited for this new person I was becoming.
My workout habit turned into this idea that I had to maintain a tight, defined stomach so I felt confident in my body and looked good around others.
I was a stickler for my three day HIIT workout routine and nothing was going to get in the way of that. Working out made me feel strong, sexy and energized. But my extreme HIIT routine was no longer helping my body or my hormones in this season of my life, but stressing them out instead.
It was time for me to slow it down. Which is really difficult to do when you live a go-go-go kind of lifestyle. The new plan was that I had to stop my intense routine and find more relaxing ways of getting my sweat on. My new movement routine would consist of low-intense workout moves, lots of walking, random push-ups and squats throughout the day, and some monkey bar climbing with my students at recess time. This change in my daily routine transformed me emotionally and physically. I gained about 10 pounds and still felt confident and sexy. I no longer stressed about my aesthetics of having to maintain the leanest stomach. My workout routine went from go-go-go in a short amount of time to being intentionally active throughout my whole day. Stress relieving movements were part of my day now and that made me feel good while still keeping myself strong.
Slowing down forces you to pay attention to EVERYTHING. I began to realize that there was way more value to that story of The Tortoise and the Hare. Slowing down and changing my routine showed me how to appreciate a simple neighborhood walk, being mindful of how I felt, what I saw, the beauty of nature, and friendly exchanges with people. Whereas before I was focused on just pushing my physical limits in a thirty minute time frame. I transformed from a workout robot to an observer, listener, and being more mindful of my surroundings; truly appreciating the world around me and my body way more than I ever had before.
When a partner supports you in all of your glorious personalities, that is true love.
I’ve always known that there is true power in communication, but boy do you really need it more than ever when your hormones are acting all kinds of crazy. Unfortunately, I can’t control what my hormones do when they are being medicated, but I CAN control being open about how I am feeling. My advice on dealing with any difficult event is to talk to your partner about all of your feelings, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Allow yourself to cry, be mad, or act crazy, just as long as you are open and honest. You need to give your partner the chance to at least attempt to understand how you're feeling, so he or she can be your #1 emotional cheerleader. Don't be fearful of your feelings, LET THEM OUT!
If your body craves it, cook it!
I have one body to live in and I will treat it with respect. That includes putting real, or as close to real foods as possible in my body. Eating real, whole foods make me feel energized and happy. Eating good food brings me joy, so dieting or restricting myself would be a severe punishment. It's so vital to fuel your body to do the amazing things it’s capable of doing, like walking, jumping, and having children (women rock!).
I really didn't understand how complicated getting pregnant was until it happened to me. Luckily, the nice doctor at my fertility clinic was able to break it down in terms I understood. Holy cow! There are so many things that have to go perfect in order for you to make a baby. It’s amazing how I am even alive here today with ten fingers and toes. Ladies, our bodies are truly magical beings. Forget the unicorns, because women are the real majestic ones! Bottom line, eat what will fuel your body to do what it does best, thrive!
Hormones control most of our body’s functions. They can make you feel really good or really bad, make you lose or gain weight. They can even make you feel angry, which may lead to the worst case of word-vomit ever. Let’s just say that through this fertility process I started to feel more confident about myself, and less about how anyone else felt. I was getting bolder and braver by the minute and beginning to not give a sh*t of what other people thought of me. The great thing was that my true friends understood what I was going through and forgave me when my mouth decided to run away with itself. Throughout life you will lose friends and gain friends, and this process really sheds light on the people around you. It sheds a bright light to help you spot the people you want in your life and the people you don’t.
Being open about my infertility made my true friendships even stronger, as well as introduced to me a whole new community of positive-minded people. Being honest and real about my ups and downs led others to share their stories and experiences. Connection to others is a wonderful thing. A sense of community and connection is what helped me stay sane and hopeful during this experience. Keep and build upon relationships that will only make you become your best self.
Cleaning bathrooms, laundry, cooking, dusting, vacuuming, fixing, and maintaining are all glorious parts of owning a home. Owning a home is an amazing feeling of both comfort and joy. It's the space that you get to create and customize to match your needs, wants and pleasures. It's the place where you can entertain, as well as try to impress others with your decorative taste and all the cool stuff you have in your house (my feelings about impressing others with our stuff have changed completely now). What I didn't know about being a homeowner before it happened to me is that it's actually a lot of work, mentally and physically.
Whether you have a small or a large living space, it can be very stressful to manage and maintain that space (if we let it). I had found that over the few years we had been living in our home we had acquired lots of stuff.
Some of this stuff sat in a room, closet, boxes or shelf for months or even years just collecting dust. Some of this stuff we used everyday and had a purpose in our lives. But why were we holding on to the dust-collecting and unused stuff? We realized there were several reasons why...
Reasons like not wanting to hurt the feelings of people who had gifted things to us. We kept a lot of stuff because we thought that maybe one day we would use it (but we never did). We also held on to stuff because some were family heirlooms that had been passed down generation after generation and we felt guilty saying "no". This is why it made the process of letting go of our stuff very difficult.
What I have learned during this journey is that STUFF = STRESS. Think about it, the more stuff you have, the more you have to maintain, clean, and worry about. The solution seemed simple to me. Let's GET RID OF STUFF that has no purpose in our life. Sounds simple enough, right? Wrong! This process was challenging and still is. Living intentionally requires constant questioning and reflecting. I am very proud to say that after six months of selling, donating, and getting rid of stuff that served no purpose in our lives we are now living a much happier and stress-free life. This journey will never be finished or perfect, but we are enjoying the process of letting go!
Hopefully all of my rambling has helped you get a much better understanding of how even the suckiest of experiences can lead to a much more meaningful and happier life. Whether you are going through the same journey as me, or you are dealing with other not so favorable events, remember that there is great growth and learning that comes with every life experience. It all depends on how YOU decide to handle it.