When/How did you first realize you were struggling with infertility?
After trying for 6 months, I was not feeling myself and had put on some extra weight but was still very active. In order to better understand what was going on, I decided to go to the fertility clinic that my doctor recommended for a general assessment which revealed that I had a serious case of hypothyroidism. Thankfully there is a simple solution with a daily medication to treat it, however it can take some time to get the dosage and hormone levels in the optimal range for pregnancy so it took a specialist and some patience. A year later my blood work revealed that I have an autoimmune disease that led to the under-active thyroid. While it was helpful to find out the source of the problem, it was hard to add this news to the mix while trying tirelessly to get pregnant.
What was most challenging about this realization/diagnosis?
The fear of the unknown was most difficult. I wasn't confident that I'd be successful or what lengths we might have to go to in order to get pregnant, if we could at all. It was also really tough to understand all of the information and terminology at first. We did a couple of IUIs to begin with but soon realized the chance for success was very low and I was disappointed we spent nearly 6 months on something that wasn't likely to work. Finding trustworthy sources to educate myself with was difficult at first.
What gave you motivation and confidence to move forward?
My faith in God and the support from my husband. While I was really anxious and scared throughout the year and a half long process, I kept having an overwhelming feeling that God made me who I am for this very reason. I'm a focused and driven person and I truly believe that these qualities helped me persevere, along with the unwavering support from my husband. While he certainly couldn't fully identify with how I was feeling, he never made me feel badly for the struggles and he always agreed with my choices as we navigated the options. I know without a doubt that I could not have seen infertility to the other side without God and my husband.
What types of therapy/ies did you pursue (reproductive endocrinologist/acupuncture/yoga/herbal therapy/etc.)?
YES! I did it all. I relied heavily on my endocrinologists and even sought out second opinions for my thyroid and my fertility. In hindsight I'm glad I asked tough questions, went looking for other opinions and didn't stop until I felt like a plan was developed that felt right. While acupuncture was a nice way to force me to take a break during the workweek, I truly believe that yoga helped me to listen more closely to my body, to feel comfortable with myself during an unpleasant time physically, and to exhale the negative thoughts that would creep into my thinking at the least helpful times.
What is the best piece of advice you received during your journey?
Someone I do not know personally but had a strong inclination to reach out to via social media kindly wrote me and shared that it's overwhelming to think of the process from start to finish. Instead, she recommended that I have a plan for one step ahead. For me this meant having a game plan should the thing we were about to do not work out. That way I could give myself some time to grieve but then would be able to dust myself off quickly and get back in the fight. I truly believe it is a journey of endurance. You really find out how strong you are when you are going to almost daily doctors appointments and receive repeated test results all while trying to juggle your career and trying to appear like you have it together. I now realize that IVF was great preparation for being a mom because the challenges and exhaustion never ends!
What do you know now that you wish you would have known when you began this journey?
I wish I would have reached out to people who had experienced infertility and tackled IVF, successfully or not, sooner. I waited for some reason but it helped tremendously once I had developed a nice circle of people who were willing to share the nitty gritty of their journey, listen to my worries/fears, and allow me the space to be upset whenever I needed. It was a lot for my husband to constantly hear about my thyroid problems and the IVF process so having others to vent to was crucial for him and I both. I think it's important to take some pressure off of yourself and your partner in order to get through the journey.
What encouragement can you offer someone who is struggling with infertility?
One of my dear friends who also struggled with infertility and ultimately chose adoption said to me, "Jamie, if you want to be a mother you WILL be. You will be a mom one way or another and you have to remind yourself of that." At the time I found it hard to understand how she could be so certain but she was absolutely right. I repeated this to myself once it sunk in and it was a mantra that really helped me stay positive. And here I am today writing this as a new mom to a little girl who is more beautiful than I could have ever imagined.
Each year during National Infertility Awareness Week, we devote a week of content on the blog to sharing stories, encouragement, and resources for women and men experiencing infertility - and those who support them. This year's theme, #InfertilityUncovered, seeks to highlight awareness of the significant lack of access to family building options and emotional support for the millions of women and men struggling to build a family.
Throughout the week, I invite you to visit the blog to hear from individuals who have chosen very different paths en route to parenthood, as well as tools for those who continue to struggle. Please also feel free to reach out to share YOUR story and the resources helping you navigate your own journey.
Can I ask you a question? Is reading this newsletter just one more thing on your to-do list? Is it adding to your already unmanageable inbox overflow? Are you just plain over it? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, I encourage you to unsubscribe. Truly. It won’t hurt my feelings. I promise.
But that hasn’t always been the case...
When I launched this newsletter nearly five and a half years ago (?!) I sent it to an assortment of family, friends, colleagues, and students. The response was warm and supportive (as one might expect from a hand selected audience) - and I was encouraged.
Over time, the audience grew as members of that initial group recommended the writings to people in their network. Others stumbled onto my website and found the content a good match. Members of the infertility community, new students, and complete strangers reached out to say they found value in the offerings, and it warmed my heart.
But some early members decided the content wasn't relevant to them. Others determined after joining that the material wasn't what they needed or wanted. They unsubscribed. And my little heart hurt. EVERY ONE one of those rejections felt personal and consequential.
I began to fixate on the attrition. What did I do wrong? Was the most recent posting too personal? Not personal enough? Did it fail to connect? Was I merely spouting derivative drivel? Even when the losses were more than offset by new subscribers I was convinced my efforts were futile. Who was I to think I had anything to say?! I should really just stop wasting everyone's time...
But little by little, I found myself less distressed. When I let go of my fear of rejection, I became better able to enjoy the process. I decided to reduce the frequency of my output to a level that felt sustainable and allowed ideas to steep a little longer. I gained greater confidence in discerning what I wanted to say and knowing the message would reach the audience who needed/wanted to hear it. It took time, but the transition was immensely freeing. And I think it has applications far beyond newsletter readership.
Rejection is part of the journey for us all. People enter and leave our lives for reasons as diverse and varied as the individuals themselves. And while these transitions can at first feel uncomfortable, we have a choice: we can allow rejection to send us into spirals of self-doubt, or we can try to learn from it.
Consider your current relationships. Is fear of rejection causing you to second-guess yourself or try to be someone you are not? Try letting go of your need for approval and instead invest that time and energy in relationships and endeavors that encourage you to be YOUR best self. Or maybe you are reluctant to part ways with someone because you fear the effect of your rejection on them. Consider whether you can do them - and yourself - a favor by flexing your rejection muscle (gently), thereby enabling them to grow on their own terms.
Every rejection we experience creates space for growth and a fresh perspective. It also frees up time and energy to invest in those few, rare, enduring relationships and endeavors that ground us and provide true value. As we enter a new month, I encourage you to explore the idea of rejection and consider what lessons it may hold for you...
It has been an emotional week in the New Beginnings household. I celebrated a milestone birthday over the weekend, and I felt all. the. things.
I fully recognize I am neither the first nor the only human to enter a new decade. This is not uncharted territory. I have been privileged to witness firsthand as family members and friends navigated this shift - setting beautiful examples of graceful transition. Some were intentional and proactive: declaring bold goals and embarking on new adventures. Others took it in stride: acknowledging the day as nothing more than another step on their journey.
Until last week I was in the latter camp. Life is moving forward - and it’s good! I have an incredible kiddo and a wonderful husband. I enjoy what I am doing and have bandwidth to explore my interests and invest in my community. Another decade of the same seemed like a perfectly lovely continuation...
But as we bid farewell to the latest of our series of houseguests - sandwiched between a flurry of fun weekend jaunts both near and far - I took a deep breath. And as my body and mind truly settled for the first time this quarter, I was seized by panic: I’ve done no planning! I’m not prepared! I’m missing a huge opportunity for intentional living here!
How can I achieve goals I haven't even set?! How can I fix everything that is wrong if I don't identify it? I've read the books and listened to the podcasts: If we want to be successful, we MUST be prepared! We MUST retreat, reflect, envision, and execute! And we MUST document the process and pristine outcome with an effortlessly flawless photo on social media!
As strongly as I felt the pull to wallow in regret for this missed opportunity, life's rhythms didn't accommodate a distraction-free retreat to figure it all out. Instead, the routine events of the week propelled me forward. I found joy in helping a friend with a project, gained confidence by pushing myself out of my comfort zone professionally, and reveled in the presence of a not-so-tiny-anymore miracle who will be celebrating a birthday of her own next week.
I also folded laundry, washed the car, paid bills, and stocked the refrigerator. And I was reminded that as much as we may crave some externally defined ideal, we live in a real world where sometimes the steps come out of order - or late - or not at all. The earth continues to rotate and revolve, kiddos continue to grow, lists and to-dos continue to accumulate - and this cycle is its own version of perfection.
Every one of our inconveniences, unremarkable experiences, and complicated relationships are part of life. And all carry within them the potential to help us grow in wisdom and grace - expanding our perspective beyond ourselves and the microscopic corner of the universe we inhabit.
At some point, I will take time to consider whether I could benefit from simple changes to my rhythm in this new chapter. But in these opening days of a new decade, I am resolving to conclude that life - with all its imperfections - is exactly as it should be. Whether you are in the midst of transition or a period of stability, I encourage you to explore the idea that your life - just as it is in this very moment - IS perfect. Won't you join me?
Those of you who know me can attest to my love for planning, order, and organization. The same is true for my husband. And - for better or worse - we have passed these traits down to our daughter. After returning from the second of two back-to-back weekend vacations, our daughter announced at the dinner table, "Isn't it so nice to get back into routine?!"
As much as her father and I love travel, we couldn't disagree. Reliable rhythms are important to us. Weekends, in particular, follow a schedule that bring us great joy: Poetry Saturdays, Dance Party Sundays, and relaxing afternoons with neighbors in the courtyard are something to which we all look forward.
On a recent weekend, the weather prevented a courtyard outing, so we brought the playdate into our home. While my daughter and her friend invented their own imaginary worlds, I started preparing dinner. An hour later, the friend's father arrived, with his son in tow, to pick her up. The girls pleaded for "five more minutes" to finish up their latest adventure, and we offered our neighbor a glass of wine. Not much time had passed when his wife arrived, wearing their third child, to check on the status. As I poured her a glass I heard myself say, "Would you all like to stay for dinner?"
I didn't know whether to be delighted or terrified when they accepted. What followed was utter chaos as we attempted to stretch our three-person menu to accommodate our new party of eight. Mixing bowls and cutting boards cluttered the countertops. Dishes piled precariously high in the sink. Energetic kiddos ran rampant at volumes rarely heard in our home...
But the spontaneous nature of the gathering overrode the pressures of perfectionism. We hastily threw together a snack plate to keep everyone sated while we worked. Our neighbor disappeared and returned with cheese and wine to share. Laughter filled the air.
When everything was ready, we sat down to a table set with mismatched plates and napkins. By the end of the evening, the floor was littered with crumbs. But a lovely evening was enjoyed by all. One spontaneous invitation yielded a wonderful opportunity to connect with people whose company we enjoy and offered a glimpse into a different way of being that felt at once both exhilaratingly novel and surprisingly comfortable.
At the forefront of a new year, I am aiming to experience more of this. To be more spontaneous. To extend - and accept - more invitations for impromptu connections. To leave more uncommitted windows in our family calendar and let go - if only occasionally - of the plans and routines that ground us.
How about you? What would it look - and feel - like to let go of the tight grip you wield over your schedule? To extend an invitation before mapping out a menu? To accept a last-minute offer of a glass of wine or cup of coffee? Can you allow yourself to explore spontaneity?
A new year. A blank slate. A fresh start. Sounds wonderful, doesn't it? Something embedded deep within us craves the chance to brush ourselves off and start over. And at the outset of a new year, the possibilities seem endless.
In the New Beginnings household, the year ahead is brimming with potential. We will celebrate a milestone birthday and a significant anniversary. We will help the babe navigate a major transition. We will attend more (?!?) weddings and embark on an epic family adventure. In between, we’ll pause to acknowledge some quarter birthdays and (hopefully) settle into a life rhythm that serves us well. Along the way there will undoubtedly be unexpected delights. There will be moments of monotony. There will be disappointments. We will rejoice, we will rest, and we will grieve.
And as these experiences arise - from the marvelous to the mundane - I am embracing a spirit of exploration. Welcoming the opportunity to fully experience each development - whether good, bad, or indifferent. To relish the thrill of soaring, learn the lessons that come from falling down, and absorb the replenishment of the quiet interregnums. To enter situations both new and familiar with curiosity.
How about you? What do you want to explore in the year to come? Is there a destination you want to visit - or revisit? Is there a skill you want to learn - or refine? Is there a person you want to meet - or get to know better? What is holding you back?
Whether a new activity, new relationship, or new continent - I invite you to join me in a year of exploration. Let's see what we can discover...
Next week marks a major milestone in the New Beginnings household: Our daughter turns five-and-three-quarter years old. You read that correctly - not five years old (been there and done that) - not five-and-a-half years old (checked that box too) - but five-and-three-quarter years old. And there will be a celebration!
Now before you roll your eyes and bemoan the way modern parents are raising snowflake babies who need constant adulation, let me scale back your vision of excessive indulgence. We are not hosting a party. She will not receive gifts. There will not be a cake (though a candle may find its way into something on the plate...). This tradition simply provides an opportunity to come together in the midst of an otherwise unremarkable day to reflect on the passing of time, share smiles, and enjoy each other's company.
I think we need more of this in our world right now.
Yes, we are in the midst of the "most wonderful time of the year" - full of festivities, family gatherings, and faith traditions. Celebration is never on more prominent display than during this five-and-a-half week stretch. But for many, the holiday season generates far more anxiety than joy - perhaps highlighting physical and emotional distance from family and friends, triggering painful memories of a lost loved one, or drawing attention to a lack of material resources enjoyed by seemingly everyone else.
But even these very real and deeply felt challenges do not preclude the ability to find and appreciate small, simple pleasures. It could be the release of a new book you have been eagerly anticipating. Tiny signs of improvement during a long and slow recovery from an injury. Eggnog appearing in the grocery store cooler (or is that just me?). The magnitude of the occasion and how you choose to commemorate it are less important than the simple act of celebration - making way for the holistic shift that occurs when you intentionally reorient your mind to the good that surrounds you.
Whatever your feelings about this period of pomp and circumstance, I encourage you to identify one reason to celebrate today. The exercise just might spark sources of joy you didn't know existed. Anticipate celebration - and watch as the opportunities for more continue to grow...
Can we start with a check in? How have you been? How was the past month? Did the breathing exercise help? If so, great! If not - or if trying to remember how or when to do it was just one more looming task on your list - then ditch it. It won’t hurt my feelings. Let's be honest: I won’t even know!
In fact, this month, I would like to invite you to get rid of a few things - perhaps even many things. Wouldn't it feel good to shed some of the unnecessary clutter clamoring for your attention as we hurtle toward the end of the calendar year? Doesn't something about it just seem right - even seasonal?
As it happens, the trees in Washington, D.C. are shedding more than their leaves this season. Acorn-strewn streets and sidewalks have transformed otherwise casual strolls into veritable obstacle courses.
The deluge is due to what arborists call "masting." Most years, oak trees produce just enough acorns to feed surrounding wildlife - playing their role in the circle of life. In a masting year, however, the oaks produce and shed more acorns than the squirrels and their furry friends can consume, ensuring some will take root and grow into new trees - replenishing and renewing the forest.
Why should you care?
Because I think it sets a beautiful example for us. Like the oaks, we bear a responsibility for the care and feeding of our wildlife - whether our families, communities, or workplaces. But unlike the oaks, we humans are not programmed to regularly invest in our own welfare. We instead pour nearly every ounce of our precious energy into our life and work. If we are lucky, we have just enough left over to meet our basic needs, but over time our wells run dry - to the detriment of not only ourselves but also those who depend on us.
Perhaps you are the exception to the rule: you already have replenishment rhythms in place and feel fully equipped to graciously and generously pour into those around you. But I suspect at least a few of you are feeling depleted - in which case, I recommend you enter your own masting season.
For many of us, that involves shedding those things that no longer serve us. It might be the monthly volunteer commitment that fills you with more dread than purpose. Maybe it takes the form of a relationship that produces more frustration than encouragement. Perhaps it is something as simple as choosing a beautiful treat from a local bakery for that upcoming holiday potluck instead of spending hours in the kitchen to bake it yourself.
Others may instead need a simple change of routine to create more space. Can you find time for meditation, contemplation, or prayer by turning off your headphones or car radio on your daily commute? Are you willing to swap out five minutes of social media to instead take a few deep breaths?
Whatever form it takes, I encourage you to take stock and take action. Identify one way you can renew your reserves for the month ahead. You - and those around you - will be glad you did.
Before you dive in to the following note, I invite you to take a deep breath. I mean it. Literally. Pause. Put your hands on your knees. Breathe in as deeply as you can (even more deeply than you think you can), and then let it out (with an audible sigh if you're willing!).
How did that feel? Maybe try it again. We all need this (and other tools) in our kit right now. I've heard it from clients over and over. I've seen it in the agitation simmering under the surface in routine exchanges at the grocery store and coffee shop. I have felt it myself: angst and anxiety about the state of the world. It feels heavy. It seems overwhelming. It's both vast and deeply personal. It is hard to know how to go about "life as usual."
So when the time came to board planes twice in as many weeks for weddings we had committed to attend, I struggled. After a season of heavy travel and on the heels of an unsettling tragedy just blocks from our home, I considered changing course and staying put. Though I wanted to be there for the brides and their families, the pull of home - of hibernation - was strong.
But as we considered the women we had the opportunity to celebrate, we decided to proceed as planned. And I couldn't be happier that we did: both occasions proved powerful (and greatly needed) medicine. For two weekends, we focused on incredible young women of character and integrity. We celebrated lives well lived and paths less traveled. We connected with family and friends. We met fascinating people. We explored a beautiful, historic Southern city and a rugged, rustic Midwestern retreat. We steeped ourselves in joy.
It felt like an escape from reality, but as the weekends unfolded it occurred to me that this, too, IS reality.
Because while turmoil, distress, and unease so often dominate our mindspace, they do not have an exclusive right to determine our experience of the world. Moment by moment, joy lingers patiently on the periphery waiting to be noticed. Ready to spring into action.
Sometimes it comes with great fanfare in the form of major milestones and grand events. But just as often - if not more so - it whispers through a sun-dappled day after weeks of rain, a chance to catch up with a dear friend, or an unexpected kindness from a stranger.
We cannot control our circumstances or environment, but we can choose where to focus our attention. As we head into a new month (with one more wedding celebration to go!), I am looking for more chances to smile. To surround myself with laughter. To breathe deeply. To anticipate - and share - joy. Won't you join me?
As we prepare for the official arrival of Fall, I find myself wistful about the season to which we are bidding farewell. The past few months have been magical. Our Summer was replete with travels to places near and far: training up to New York for a quick mother-daughter weekend to celebrate the end of the school year, taking in the College World Series with family and friends in the Midwest, relaxing in the mountains with dear friends, visiting others at their cozy lakeside retreat, and embarking on our first family trek across the pond. The brief interludes between these adventures were filled with time at the pool, playing at the park, and hours and hours of reading. It was a season of familiar joys and new discoveries. Exciting adventure and delicious boredom.
Upon our return from our final jaunt, however, I was ready for routine. I eagerly sat down with the calendar to map out our Fall. As I noted the events, engagements, and activities to which we have committed; sifted through the flurry of Fall wedding celebrations taking place from coast to coast (and points in between); and reviewed new professional opportunities that have presented themselves in recent months, my enthusiasm began to evaporate. The season had yet to begin and already I felt overextended and overwhelmed. Week by week I witnessed as all possible windows for a spontaneous coffee date with a friend or a lazy family weekend closed one by one.
My craving for the security of structure battled with a desire to carry forward the delicious ease of Summer. As I sat in the tension between the two, it occurred to me that what I really need in this season is neither a rigid routine nor a free flowing spontaneity, but a rhythm that incorporates both - a stable but flexible underlying design that provides predictability AND space for improvisation.
So I started over. I considered questions: What activities and commitments truly nourish me? What commitments give - rather than drain - my energy? How can I serve and contribute in ways that bless our community without leaving me depleted?
With those answers in mind I began saying "no" and "not now." I passed along enticing, but impractical, professional opportunities to fellow teachers. I declined invitations to appealing, but inconvenient, events. I decreased the number of enriching, but exhausting activities for the kiddo. I crafted (what I THINK will be) a more sustainable rhythm. With windows to connect. With space to be still. And an acknowledgement that when the balance shifts too far in either direction, I can revisit and revise.
Whether your Summer was full of delight or characterized by chaos and unease, Fall presents a wonderful opportunity to reset your rhythm - to pause and choose intentionally what elements will support you in living the life you desire. Join me in anticipating - and enjoying - the season to come...