Last month we enjoyed our annual escape to the mountains with dear family friends. In the weeks leading up to the trip each year both families create and execute a detailed plan to ensure we have everything we could possibly need to eat, wear, and play for the week. With cars packed to their limits, we set out for the nearly four hour drive with logistical details and mental lists still swirling in our heads. But within an hour of arriving, our lungs are full of mountain air and our hearts are light. Before long, we lose sight of any agenda we had for our time together and experience a powerful shift into a more restful, peaceful state.
It was in this blissful mindset that my husband and I set out early one morning for a family "nature walk" with our budding explorer. Having become familiar with the wildlife in the area over the past five years, we prepared her for sightings of bears, deer, unique birds, and unfamiliar plant life. Less than five minutes into our walk, however, she spied a small worm making its way s...l...o...w...l...y... across the road. My husband and I acknowledged it and proceeded with our mission, but she was transfixed. "I think it's a baby worm! Where do you think its mama is? Can we follow it?"
My initial inclination was to push back. There are so many far more interesting things to see! We have worms in D.C. We haven't even reached the beginning of the trail. Let's go! I tried (calmly) to impart this sentiment, but she was having none of it. So we stopped. And followed a worm.
I would love to tell you I was able to tap into her sweet and sincere fascination with the simple creature. I tried to be fully present with her in that moment, but it was to little avail. I fell immediately back into planning-executing-checking-boxes mode and impatiently scanned the horizon for something more "special." I wanted her to see the beauty of nature I knew lay just steps ahead of where we stood.
It wasn't until we returned to the house and she regaled our friends with an elaborate account of our worm sighting that I was seized by a pang of regret. With the benefit of hindsight, I wanted to rewind time, abandon my agenda, and share her wonder. While a worm isn’t MY idea of unique wildlife, it was special in her eyes. And that should have been sufficient.
How often does our (often misplaced) focus on a particular vision of how things "should" be cause us to miss a beautiful moment? How many times have we failed to fully experience something special with someone we love because of our unwillingness to appreciate the simple pleasures in life?
As we enter the final month of Summer, I encourage you to pause, set aside your agenda, and open your eyes - and minds - to the simple joys around you. I am committing to let go of what I think is “best” and allowing the day/journey to unfold in surprising ways. Won’t you join me?
I recently had the good fortune of reconnecting with a dear friend from my youth. I remembered her fondly as a remarkably talented and accomplished young lady, and her path has continued along the same trajectory for the 15 years since we were last together.
We made plans to meet for tea while she was passing through our nation's capitol. I had a general knowledge of her aims and accomplishments, and as the date approached, I engaged in some social media sleuthing to fill in the blanks.
My initial enthusiasm began to wane as I envisioned our conversation. Here is a woman who not only pursued her passions but also excelled in the execution. From her prestigious academic pedigree as a student and professor at the most elite institutions of higher education in our country to her ambitious efforts to change the way music is experienced, I found myself feeling inadequate. We shared many interests in our youth and started our journeys at an academy focused on empowering young women to pursue - and achieve - their dreams while contributing to the greater good. She was doing just that. And I was doing...what exactly??
I entered our date with trepidation. She looked marvelous - more confident and composed than in our youth - and as I learned more of the details of her current station in life, I was in awe. Dividing her time between my beloved Big Apple and the idyllic climes of Northern California. A heady romance with a leading intellectual. A thriving career in the arts and academia. Achievements. Acclaim. Accolades.
But as we spoke, something within me shifted. It was wonderful to celebrate her success. It was captivating to consider an alternative present that more closely mirrored hers. But my desire to make excuses and justify my current path disappeared. I began to relax into an increasing certainty that where - and who - I am today is where - and who - I should be. I found myself at peace.
Each of us has a different path to follow, but we all share the same journey. Your life may be exactly as you imagined it - or even better than you dreamed, but no one is immune to comparisons. Next time you find yourself seized by the temptation to measure yourself against someone or something external, can you instead embrace and celebrate who and where you are today? Can you free yourself to experience peace?
For the better part of the past month, our nation's capital has been on the receiving end of record rainfalls. It started with SEVEN STRAIGHT DAYS of precipitation - much of it in the form of thunderstorms. After a brief two day reprieve, we were plunged back into gloom, where we have remained, wet and crabby (with no end in sight...).
Spring rain is to be expected, but awakening day after day to yet another grey sky - another day of cancelled outdoor activities - another flowering plant surrendering under its own waterlogged weight - begins to take a toll on even the most ardent all-weather-is-good-weather enthusiasts.
Despite my own well-documented disdain for all things rain-related, I tried to make the best of it. I donned my rubber boots, grabbed an umbrella, and charged out into the gale. I took the babe for a puddle-splashing stroll, patted myself on the back for commuting by foot despite the downpours, and force-marched my family to the farmer's market on Mother's Day. But on each and every occasion, rather than returning refreshed, I ended up soggy and frustrated.
While commiserating with a client, she pivoted, "Oh well - there's no point in complaining about something we can't change." The simplicity and veracity of her statement silenced me. She was right, of course: grumbling is no more effective in changing the weather than in transforming other inevitabilities in our lives. Your baby will eventually grow up and leave home. Someone you love will hurt you. You will hurt someone you love.
Whether we are inconvenienced by something as trivial as the weather or devastated by a significant loss, sometimes we simply need to abide in our discomfort and acknowledge our lack of ability to change circumstances. Yes - there are times to fight and refuse to accept no for an answer. There are occasions for pep-talks from your “better” self. But we too often waste precious time and energy battling something over which we have no power.
We all encounter circumstances beyond our control. Next time you find yourself up against something inevitable and unpleasant, how will you respond? Can you release your resistance? Can you preserve your precious time and energy for what matters most?
The first few months of this year have been marked by loss. Between the two of us, my husband and I said goodbye to a beloved Grandfather, a Great Aunt, a friend, and a business partner. Some of the passings were expected - the end of long lives filled with love and devotion to family and dear friends. Others were untimely - a man in the prime of his life who left behind a wife and two young children, a successful business woman with much left to give.
While the lives of these men and women couldn't have been more different, the remembrances held to commemorate them shared a common thread. At each gathering, people huddled around collections of photographs capturing the moments - big and small - that comprised their lives. These snapshots provided comfort to those who grieved. They sparked joy among those who spied themselves in the scenes and celebrations depicted. They elicited laughs at the styles of years past. They offered closure for those who wanted to say goodbye.
In each instance, the images that most moved those gathered weren't the stylish, staged family portraits or the postcard-quality scenes from epic travels, but rather the spontaneous shot of children at play in the backyard, hands held while strolling down the street, a little girl smiling on her Great Grandfather's lap while riding his scooter on a sunny afternoon. Full of silly faces, messy hair, and unflattering angles - these were the pictures that caused onlookers to linger.
We all have in our minds an idea of how we want to present ourselves and what memories we want to leave behind. We take great pains to project our best selves and fill our lives - and the lives of those we love - with meaningful experiences, travels, and activities. But our most foundational memories and enduring connections are forged in the seemingly uneventful days that lie between - tucking in for a reading marathon on a rainy day, spending a lazy afternoon around a jigsaw puzzle, lingering at the family dinner table - the easy, unforced rhythms that make up our lives.
As we approach the expanse of Summer and all its potential for memory making, many of us seek to fill our calendars with great experiences and grand adventures - and why not?! But as you map out your agenda, I encourage you to give equal attention to the everyday. Allow space for the unexpected - impromptu park visits, spontaneous dance parties, a glass of wine with a girlfriend that turns into dinner - and give them your full focus. Capture these images in your mind and heart (and maybe even a camera). Create joy in the present that leads to fond memories in the future.
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.
One question I hear often from my clients who are struggling with infertility is what they should - and shouldn't - be eating while trying to conceive. I am SO excited to share the following advice from Kendra Tolbert, a registered dietitian nutritionist and all around beautiful soul! Her intuitive, commonsense approach to how we nourish ourselves offers wisdom whether or not you are trying to conceive. Read on to learn what she thinks is the most important ingredient you should be adding to your mealtime routine...
One of my earliest and fondest memories is that of my Nana bringing me a bowl of chicken noodle soup when the flu left my body too tired and weak to go to school. You probably hold a similar memory near and dear. That bowl of soup warmed me and strengthened me. And not just by imparting heat through its steamy broth or protein and calories to fuel my recovery. But also through, or maybe more so through, the love it symbolized and the way it delighted my taste buds.
That memory often comes to mind when I’m chatting with a client about the ways nutrition can support her on her journey to motherhood. Food has always been and will always be one of the most powerful allies we have in this life. It offers micronutrients and comfort. Macronutrients and delight. Both tangible and intangible sustenance. All equally important to our reproductive and overall health.
Most of the nutrition advice for fertility you’ll find is skewed towards the more utilitarian aspects of food. We tend to focus on the specific biochemical components that make a food “good” for our fertility. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but it’s woefully incomplete. Fertility enhancing foods are not just a tool to load up on vitamins and minerals (though they’re great for that too.) They’re also a tool to practice self-care, kindness, and compassion. It’s a way to support your body as it undergoes rapid changes during treatment. And a way to comfort yourself on trying days.
We’d be wise to pay attention to both the physical and emotional forms of nourishment food provides. In fact, we have research that suggests the pleasure a food gives contributes to our health as much as the food’s nutrient content. Plus, there’s research that suggests pleasure actually improves nutrient absorption. Those nutrients serve as the building blocks that our bodies use to create the hormones that govern our fertility, as well as build, repair, and nourish our reproductive organs. So anything we can do to help our bodies be more effective at taking them in benefits our fertility and wellness.
There are so many ways we can make our meals more pleasurable. Here’s a list of ten to get you started.
Couple enjoyment with nutrition science and you have a winning combo to nurture yourself along your journey to baby.
What image pops into your mind when you hear the word "infertility"? Perhaps a hardened, career-driven woman in her 40s? Or someone who has suffered from cancer or another debilitating disease? While age and health are two factors that can affect our reproductive ability, these stereotypes don't provide an accurate picture of the condition - or the millions of individuals who are currently suffering.
During this National Infertility Awareness Week, the New Beginnings blog is joining others from around the nation to "Flip the Script" and change the conversation about infertility. Because infertility doesn't discriminate. It affects men and women, rich and poor, urban and rural, gay and straight, old and young. And chances are you have a family member, friend, or colleague among the one in eight couples who face this challenge.
I invite you to check back throughout the week for resources and stories from individuals who are rewriting their own scripts and working to provide hope and healing. If you have a story to share or a question you would like us to answer this week - or in the future - send me a note. Together we can flip the script!
Beginning at an early age we were conditioned to answer questions about ourselves. From teachers to new friends to strangers in the grocery store we learned to converse by responding to simple queries: What is your name? How old are you? How are you doing?
As we grew, the questions become more complex - perhaps even requiring some introspection: What is your favorite subject? Why do you want to attend our university? What makes you the right candidate for this job? While they may at first have generated some anxiety, over time we learned to anticipate them, prepare a response, and deliver it with confidence.
At some point along our path, we also encountered questions we didn’t want to - or felt we couldn’t - answer. Questions for which there was no automatic response. Questions that may have been asked with the best of intentions. But they nonetheless triggered fear, guilt, and feelings of inadequacy: How are you still single? When are you going to get a "real" job? Are you sure you want that dessert? And rather than investing time in considering how to respond, we instead learned how to avoid the people and situations most likely to introduce the undesirable query.
Eventually - and usually when we least expect it - someone or something discovers a way through the fortresses we build to protect ourselves, and we are faced with the questions (and feelings) we fear. I found myself in such a situation recently while spending time with a dear friend in a houseful of rambunctious little ones (including my own). Standing in the middle of the chaos, she smiled and asked,"Aren't you glad you only have one to deal with?!"
It was a simple question. Posed without malice. But I went silent. Turned inward. And extricated myself from the situation as quickly as I could.
Later, in the comfort and safety of solitude, I seethed. I surrendered to the internal drama: Do you have any idea how many times I have dreamed of soothing sisterly squabbles or refereeing a wrestling match between brothers?! Do you know how much I mourn the opportunities my daughter misses for spontaneous silliness because she is stuck with me as her primary playmate?! Do you not realize I blame myself EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. for my inability to grow our family?!
After the torrent subsided I was able to gain much-needed perspective. While my pain was (and is) real and valid, it wasn't caused by my friend - or her question. But I needed to give myself permission to experience the full force of emotions in order to move past my pity party and prepare for the inevitability of the next time I am asked a similar question.
With the clarity of hindsight, I recognized that an appropriate - and honest - response could be as simple as, "Yes." Because I am grateful - even if not for the reasons the inquirer assumed. I am incredibly grateful for the gift of a smart, sweet girl. For perspective. For the tools to be present and soak up as much as I can of the incredible opportunity I have to parent.
Whatever your state in life, chances are you have been asked tough questions - and more than likely, you have realized you can't avoid them forever. Rather than will the questions away, can you allow yourself to sit with them and the emotions they evoke? I encourage you to spend some time reflecting on what lies beneath your resistance. Consider how you can respond in a way that is authentic and kind - to the questioner - and yourself...