Have you ever been told “no”? Have you ever been told “no” from God?
I've been told no for years and it took just as long for me to finally say, “Okay God, you got this. I'm done doing it on my own.”
And you know what? Once I let it go and stopped worrying about MY plan for what I thought was good for me, everything changed. God helped me to stop comparing. I could see pictures of my friends with their kids and not get jealous. I could legitimately like a pregnancy announcement and not get mad and wonder “Why God? Why her and not me?” Once I accepted that God's will for my life was SO much better than I could ever imagine, I changed.
Don’t be lazy when it comes to waiting on the Lord’s direction. Don’t think that you’re so wise that you can guide your own life. See your constant need for His leading. Get alone with the Lord and say, like Jacob, “I’m not letting you go Lord until you bless me with wisdom and direction. I’m not leaving until you show me exactly what you want me to do and when! Because I want to be in your perfect will, I’m waiting to hear from you my God!”
“The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. ” Lamentations 3:25
God's plan is so perfect. He knew I wasn't ready for kids yet. He knew I needed the time to mature in Him. To trust in Him. To stop thinking I know best. I know my infertility journey is nothing compared to many, but God had me go through that time for a purpose. Now I have empathy for those struggling. I can relate to them. I feel for them. And I am thankful for that. Thankful for views like this. Views that serve as reminders that I am not in control. Reminders that God has got this and I just need to trust what He's got planned.
No one chooses to be infertile. No one wants to discover their journey to parenthood will be more difficult than they imagined. Not one friend or client has confided that they are excited to face so many obstacles on the way to their dream.
But everyone who has walked this path has grown in ways they couldn't have imagined.
I certainly did not ask to experience infertility, but in the process I have learned a great deal: compassion, humility, resilience, and an awareness that it is impossible to know the silent struggles faced by others. I have discovered that maintaining a positive perspective is easiest when my time and energy are directed outward. I have been forced to accept I am not ultimately in control of my future - and I am (still) learning to accept that reality with grace.
Wherever you may be in this process I encourage you to be gentle with yourself and the way in which your story is unfolding. There is no single pathway to parenthood: our stories are as unique as we are. As you travel, I encourage you to pause and look for the lessons. The chances to grow in grace and faith. The opportunities to bless other travelers. We are all on this journey together, and there is much to discover.
My husband and I got married in 2010. I was 32, he was 29. Like many of us who believe we are ready to start a family immediately, we thought for sure we had hit the target during our honeymoon. When that didn't pan out we were confident again that the next month was it. This continued on for about 9 months. Around this time my mother had surgery, and we paused "trying" so I could care for her. When we resumed, I joined an online forum for women trying to conceive and a number of women on the forum eventually became part of my core support group.
A visit to my general practitioner propelled me to make an appointment with a Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE). I remember her telling me in a very matter of fact manner, "Listen - if you are over 30 and its taking you more than 6 months to get pregnant make an appointment with an RE immediately. Forget waiting until you are 35." She herself had struggled with infertility and was currently pursuing treatment for her second child.
My husband and I were diagnosed with unexplained infertility. Our RE recommended we start with medically assisted timed intercourse. After three months without success I was already emotionally exhausted and asked to move on to Intrauterine Insemination (IUI). After another three failed rounds, I was done! I switched clinics and decided to pursue In Vitro Fertilization (IVF).
With IVF on the horizon, I felt giddy with expectation. At least four of the six other women in my fertility support group had become mothers, and some were starting to think about their second. The year was 2013 and I was 34. Our first IVF cycle seemed picture perfect, but it failed. I was devastated, and my husband went into shock. We pursued second and third opinions. I recall reading a blog about a mother who had struggled through many rounds of treatment. She wanted to give up, but her doctor encouraged her to stay the course, and she ended up having triplets. That story inspired me and gave me strength and perspective to continue as I finally came to understand that this journey we were on may be a very long one.
My second IVF cycle was, indeed, challenging, and I leaned on my core support group. One friend in particular called me daily to check in. As fate would have it, that was the cycle that worked and gave us our beautiful son.
The love and support from and for others is what gave me strength during the many bleak days of infertility. Not being consumed by feelings of "woe is me" because I became vested in other people's journeys became critical to my ability to carry on. Their successes became my successes. I was able to tap into their knowledge base and learn far more than I could have on my own.
The power of community is what sustained me throughout. I've since started a free program in Washington DC called Fertile Ground Growing Families as a means of giving back to others still in the trenches. The goal of the 8-week program is to both educate those trying to expand their families on all of the options that are available to them and create community. We go over the fundamentals of getting pregnant spontaneously and through assisted reproductive technology, and bring in speakers who've pursued other options such as adoption, fostering, and surrogacy as a means to grow their family. I'm currently in the second semester of piloting the program. My advice to those still in the trenches is to know you are not alone and that you do not have to walk this journey alone.
One of the biggest challenges of navigating infertility is the accompanying feeling of isolation and powerlessness. Despite the fact that one in eight couples struggle to start a family, those walking through the experience often feel as though they are alone. Finding a community with whom you can share your experiences, learn from theirs, and feel supported can be incredibly empowering.
Fortunately, in recent years, opportunities to make such connections have expanded dramatically. Below you will find a round-up of fertility-related resources in the D.C. area. Read on to learn more about these community-building offerings - and please share with anyone you know who might benefit! If you know of other opportunities to add to the list, please let me know!
New Beginnings Yoga: Monthly Yoga and Fertility classes take place the first Monday of each month at 7:30pm at the Viva Center. These drop-in classes bring together women who are sharing the infertility journey - from those who are beginning to explore their options to those who have been struggling for years. Seasoned yogis and newbies alike will benefit from a therapeutic asana practice, time for reflection, and the opportunity to create community. Details and registration are available here.
Heal from Within: Licensed acupuncturist Lisa Eaves hosts an infertility support group the second Sunday of each month from 9:30am-noon in the Tenleytown neighborhood. More information and a full schedule of meeting dates for 2019 are available here.
Jessica Burdge: Local photographer and blogger Jessica Burdge is hosting her second annual one-day retreat for women struggling with infertility. The event will take place in Lancaster City, PA on August 3. To register or learn more, visit her website here.
Fertile Ground Building Families: D.C.-based mama and fertility warrior Soundia Duche has developed an eight-week program designed to educate those trying to expand their families about all available options. Additional details about the program are available here.
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.
No one chooses to be infertile. We don't desire drama, hardship, or unfulfilled longing in our pursuit of a family. No friend or client has ever confided that they are glad to have found so many obstacles standing between them and their dream.
While I never would have opted to experience infertility, it has taught me a great deal: compassion, humility, resilience, and an awareness that it is impossible to know what silent struggles other people are facing. I have discovered that maintaining a positive perspective is easiest when my time and energy are directed outward. I am learning to be patient with myself and others and to stop clinging to the illusion of control.
Wherever you may be in this process I encourage you to be gentle with yourself and the way in which your story is unfolding. There is no singular path to parenthood: our journeys are as unique as we are, and each struggle holds valuable lessons. As you travel, you will learn and grow - and perhaps have an opportunity to be a light to others who are struggling. We are all on this journey together, and there is much to discover.
It can be hard to admit you are struggling - let alone ask for help, but when you decide you are ready to flip the script of your infertility journey, a wealth of resources await! I am particularly excited about two offerings taking place in D.C. next month:
On Monday, May 7, I am thrilled to launch the FIRST weekly fertility yoga class in Washington D.C. These weekly offerings will bring together women who are sharing the infertility journey - from those who are beginning to explore their options to those who have been struggling for years. Sessions will combine a therapeutic asana practice, time for meditation and reflection, and an opportunity to create community. Registration for these small group classes is available online.
On Wednesday, May 16, I am honored to again be part of the Pathways to Parenthood event at the DCJCC. This community-wide event will bring together experts in fertility, adoption, mental health, and more for a discussion of the different pathways to becoming a parent. It will also provide an opportunity to connect with others who are in similar circumstances.
If you live in the D.C. area, I would love to see you at either - or both - of these events. If you are live outside DC or are otherwise unable to attend, send me a note. I would be happy to help you identify resources in your area and/or tap into a virtual community to support you along the way.
Together we can flip the script!
We all have regrets. And most of us spend a fair amount of time wondering what life would be like if we hadn't made that big mistake...said that hurtful thing...missed that great opportunity. Or we dwell on the other side of the equation - assuming things would be better if only we had taken that job...accepted that date...went on that trip.
When working with infertility clients, I often ask them to write down the facts of their journey so far. Some make lists of procedures, results, and disappointments. Others produce poignant reflections on the pain they have experienced. Most often, each person concludes their work with a sigh. We spend time processing the emotions that surfaced as well as any new discoveries or ideas. And then I remind them that what HAS happened in the past does not define what WILL happen in the future.
Yes - most of us could have made better decisions at different points in our lives, but the only decisions that matter moving forward are those that lie ahead of us. Today is the only day we can begin taking better care of ourselves and our loved ones. Right now is our only chance to tell our family and friends how much we appreciate them. This moment is our best and only opportunity to do things differently.
There is benefit in reflection and learning from the past, but our time and energy is better spent looking at what lies right in front of us and responding in the most kind and loving way we know how. Next time you catch yourself looking backward, pause and reset your focus. Shift your gaze and your attention to what lies ahead.
Sarah Hummer didn't let her experience with infertility define her. Instead, she drew from what she learned and flipped the script of her entire life. Read on to learn how Sarah turned adversity into an opportunity to encourage others and create a life she loves.
About this time two years ago, I spent many mornings at the fertility clinic as I underwent IVF treatment--my last hope for getting pregnant after nearly four years trying other unsuccessful avenues. The waiting rooms were filled with anxious-looking women (me included) and some men. I always left thinking how isolating infertility and the treatment process felt, but also confused by this, considering so many others were in the same boat.
Infertility is a tricky thing. While millions of women experience infertility—6.1 million says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC))—it is a private issue that generally is not talked about openly. It is mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausting, compounded by uncertainty and pumping hormones into your body multiple times a day during treatment. This is a journey that requires a support system, preferably with those who’ve been there before or who are going through it, too.
At the time, I was a healthcare consultant and taught yoga in the evenings and on weekends. Yoga was my refuge. It helped me stay healthy, strong, calm, and connected with myself through the stresses of infertility, work, and life in general. While I also received support from my family, friends, and acupuncturist, I didn’t have anyone to talk to who was in or had been in my shoes, which would have been incredibly helpful.
Fast forward to today, we celebrated my daughter’s first birthday on March 25. Yoga is now my full-time job. Shortly after my daughter’s birth, I started Yoga with Sarah Hummer, specializing in fertility, prenatal, and postnatal yoga. I also continue to teach workplace yoga, one-on-one yoga, and hatha yoga classes at Yoga Del Sol in Georgetown. Practicing and teaching yoga has been critical in helping me through my journey to and into motherhood and I feel empowered and obligated to share my experience with other women. I have candid conversations regularly with women who are trying to get pregnant, undergoing fertility treatment, or pregnant through fertility treatment, helping to provide that support system I was seeking.
Women’s bodies and minds go through the gauntlet from infertility treatment through the child’s first year. National Infertility Awareness Week is a great reminder that there is too much that is not talked about, maybe because it’s uncomfortable or personal, but this leaves women to feel isolated and suffer alone. This does not have to happen. We need to look out for and help each other when we can, simply by sharing our experiences.