Hi friends! Happy Thursday.
Natalie + I received an incredible response from her post on Tuesday. She feels empowered, uplifted, + incredibly supported from sharing her story. Thank you to those that felt moved to reach out to her.
Today you’ll meet Jenna + hear about her journey to becoming momma to her son Jaxon. I met this beautiful + incredibly talented woman when I lived in Chicago. I was blessed with the opportunity to personal train + become friends with her.
She did me the honor of sharing her story of infertility with us. Whether infertility impacts you in some capacity or not, her message is an important one.
Here is her story:
Infertility sucks. It can bring with it a veil of fear, anger and blame during a time that many feel should be one of hope, joy and love. It’s unexpected. It’s complicated. It is a life changing experience that is never quite “fixed,” regardless of whether a couple is able to conceive or not. And it is so hard to know how to say the right thing to someone who is struggling.
I vehemently resisted my infertility diagnosis through two years of oral meds and IUI’s. I was convinced it was a fluke and dialogued as such to my friends and family. I accepted their urgings to “just relax” and “stop trying and then a baby will come!” I went to acupuncture, fertility yoga, the crystal shop, meditation sessions, cranial sacral therapy, pelvic floor therapy and even counseling, in the hopes that one of these things would give me the push I needed. I thought I just needed a nudge, a shift in energy and believed that it was me who ultimately had control over the situation. It was only when we “graduated” to IVF and had our first unsuccessful cycle that I accepted my diagnosis, along with the fact that this was not a thing that I could control into happening.
As an accomplished Pilates professional and business owner, accepting a lack of control was new territory for me. I had no idea how to navigate through this next stage and felt a sting when someone offered a story or solution to my problem. Their advice was so well intended and I really wanted to accept it. I wished that I could live with blissful hope that a miracle could happen, but I had learned through my experience with infertility that there were no guarantees and that hope was a dangerous word.
It wasn’t until I was in the midst of a chance conversation with one of my colleagues that I knew what I needed to do to work with the fear, anger, blame and resentment that had become part of my journey. The answers came from a simple question: “What would be the most helpful to you right now?” I was stopped in my tracks because I had no idea! I never considered the fact that while I couldn’t “fix” my infertility, I could certainly support myself and ask for specific support from others. This simple question cracked me open and helped me to understand that I had real needs. I was able to define what was helpful and what was not and this provided the opportunity for my friends and family to show up for me during the really hard times. By communicating my needs to those who wanted to support me, it allowed me to feel like I had a voice and a tiny bit of control over this experience.
Our final IVF cycle was a “hail mary.” We were ready to move on to options that included Third Party Conception (donor eggs/surrogacy/adoption.) I entered into the cycle with low expectations and asked my supporters to refrain from asking questions. I asked them to pretend like everything was normal, even though an IVF cycle is anything but normal, and I asked them to take me out for some distractions during the waiting period before we would know whether or not the cycle worked. I also asked that if people were going to ask how things were going, that they focus the question on how things were going with me at work or with our new house – things that didn’t make me feel like I had to explain or defend what was going on with my body – things that felt more “normal.”
I learned through this process of speaking my needs for infertility that I could also speak my needs for other things in life as well. I now know how to express, what’s helpful and what’s not, because I’ve defined them for myself. I can invite more people into my life’s happenings, but on my terms. And, I know how to offer the same support to others, simply by asking “What would be most helpful to you right now?” As the mom of a miracle two-yr-old-son, this has proven to be a valuable skill, both in life and in parenting!
It’s difficult to watch this journey from the sidelines. Unless you are in the day-to-day headspace of a couple going through a diagnosis or treatments, it is challenging to empathize fully. What you can do, however, is remember the question: “What would be most helpful to you today?” Through listening to their needs and doing the best you can to meet them where they desire to be met, your support can offer a lifeline during a situation that is often bleak. I urge you to practice this not only with your friends that may be in the journey through infertility, but also with all of the people in your life. Without an open dialogue about our needs and ability to meet others, we can default to clichés and anecdotal advice. It is such a gift to be able to help someone in a way that is truly meaningful. Sometimes, all you have to do is ask. J
An enormous thank you to Jenna for sharing her story. I loved that we all have the ability to say, “what would be most helpful to you today?” + let our friends pinpoint the way to best support them through infertility or another tough life event.
Jenna’s website: www.jennazaffino.com
A resource she wanted to share: www.shinechicago.com
Amy + Jenna