If you've ever struggled with infertility, or had miscarriages, you've probably been at that fork in the road where you had to make a decision: to keep it to yourself or to talk about it. The choice of sharing is often the road less travelled, and many people keep their stories close to their hearts - which is why it is so important and powerful when articles about miscarriage are shared. Whether in later stages or earlier stages, or loss after being ambivalent about the timing of the pregnancy, or stories where any infertility issues are shared, these are often difficult subjects to tackle and considered "off-limits" by many people. But what about the others? People want to connect with others, but aren't always able to. The privacy of their experiences often send them to computer screens to find others who share the same feelings.
I have been asked what the reason for this is. I know the answer, both professionally and personally: It's Shame, and it's toxic.
In John Bradshaw's book Healing the Shame that Binds You, he describes that to have toxic shame as an identity “is to believe that one's being is flawed, that one is defective as a human being.” And when your body is failing to take pregnancies to term, failing to become pregnant month after month, or when you learn it never will, defective is exactly how one can feel.
The feeling is age old with historical roots. Take the many wives of Henry the VIII: The main problem with the wives? They failed to produce the male heir and sometimes failed to produce period. They were shamed, deemed cursed or disobedient to the throne and you know the story— off with their heads! That Henry's sperm dictated the sex or the theory that he had a blood disorder wasn't known or even considered, but women have long heard this message. To be valued, you have to produce.
People get married and plan on having children often thinking it is just a matter of trying, But for many this isn't how it works and they are not able to have children in a traditional way. Others also expect you to get down to business and not many anniversaries in, the questions start. Zeba says that relatives often questioned her as to when they were going to be having children but she didn't feel comfortable sharing her fertility struggles with the family and would just say they were waiting until the time was right. On the other hand, Zeba says she felt quite open to talk to others about the fertility treatment, stating with some she simply didn't want to be a topic of discussion and certainly didn't want the pity.
And when you've tried and it isn't working, it is frustrating. Jackie says that she was angry at her body, stating that she still really resents her body for continuing to give her her periods and PMS when its obvious that her "entire gyno system was there for decoration"and she felt ashamed that her body wasn't cooperating with her “gender-destiny”.
In my own life, I have kept my journey to motherhood close where and when I could and asked others to do the same. Again it was shame plus I had an array of fears. I was afraid of others—their opinions, their pity, and maybe even schadenfreude. But the biggest part of me feared identifying with a feeling that I was broken. That I was defective. I resented my body not being able to do what it should be able to do and I couldn't wait to figure it all out, be a mom and never think about it again.
Even others that knew my rather obvious story didn't always share about their fertility struggles with me which surprised me. The shame and stigma remain. One woman rather insensitively shared with me how irritating she found it to have people assume she needed reproductive assistance just because she was carrying twins. Even those without the issue want to steer clear of such an association.
How can you combat the shame and get support? First, consider re-framing the narrative, you aren't broken rather you are on your own path. The truth is a lot of people struggle with fertility for a lot of reasons. I doubt you would judge others as broken or less than, so why do you extend that to yourself? Secondly, if you are struggling consider sharing, in your own time, in your own way, with someone you trust and with as many or as few details as you want. More often than not, when you do share, people come out of the woodwork with their stories of loss, struggle, medications, IVF, plans to foster or adopt, their considerations about being a surrogate, etc. We share and bond knowing everyone has a story and many had a journey with many crooks and bends in the road to become a parent. It all helps and we walk away feeling a little less different and a little less ashamed.
Want to read more about relationships and fertility? See Relationship Rescue: Fight Stress, Not Each Other and 10 Cute Ideas for New Non-Traditional Baby Announcements and visit me at my Facebook page where I regularly share relationship articles and resources.
Remember the early days of your relationship? Back when you have time for yourself and your partner? I imagine that if these days were a song they would sound like this.
It's normal for a relationship to evolve, and as it (and you) grow and mature, many things go from novel to the norm. Intimacy develops, both for the good (your heart is open and loving despite flaws) and also for the "not so good" (the bathroom door now stays open) But this is all a part of the relationship growth cycle and as long as we keep things balanced between "good" and "not so good," then everything runs pretty smoothly.
Except real life doesn't care much for balance and stress is a fact of modern living.
When it is just the two of you in a relationship, you still have all of your stress and your baggage, but you also have each other to lend each other support. Before children your relationship generally has its place at the top of the priority list. Then, enter kids and life starts throwing stressors at you like a tennis-ball server gone berserk. Each ball causes only a small bump, but over time the cumulative effect can cause the relationship to gradually slip down this list until it hovers somewhere between "Have planter wart burned off," and "replace furnace filter."
I’ll bet your head is nodding - your relationship could work better, no question. Maybe you’ve even started to make your marriage more of a priority. But if stress is still causing cracks - it’s not letting up and the demands pile on - yours, mine, and ours, you can get lost in the stress and you will miss each other; I know my husband and I often do.
And it’s not just kids and the stress they bring (good and bad) who compete for your time; financial crises, career struggles, extended family frustrations, aging parents, illness of a family member, death and grief, life transitions, starting a business, moves etc all compete for time, energy, and prioritization. Take a look at the Holmes and Rahe StressTest to see how “stressed” you score. A score of 300 + points is common for many for most people, and it’s a score that suggests you are likely going to stress-out and even get ill in the near future.
Stress shows up in many ways— short fuses, feeling overwhelmed, couples taking it out on each other. It doesn't feel good and it isn't healthy. Or maybe you’re disconnecting and putting your head in the sand when it comes to stress and your relationship. If you ignore the problem and simply hope it will resolve itself, this will lead only to resentment and frustration. It’s like living apart while together. When you’re kids grown and leave the house, you’ll turn to a stranger, because no one can recall the last time they really spoke to the other.
So, stress. It sucks. But you can fight it, without fighting each other.
There are times when you might need something from each other in the height of the stress—reassurance, understanding, or help. Often you can extend it, but there will be times when you can't and the capacity for compassion just isn't there. It’s simply reality and reality bites! It’s important to acknowledge and lament this truth: there is nothing left for you or your partner to give in that moment and that needs to be okay for each of you to admit.
Check Yourself (Don’t Wreck Yourself)
Your partner's stress isn't necessarily your own and support and compassion can be provided without being pulled under by your partner. When someone empathizes with you they don't need to feel and react in sync with how you are feeling and reacting, it is healthier when they don't and simply provide support. If your partner returns home stressed it isn't okay to be flippant about it but manage your feelings not to lose your peace just because they have, rather tap into your strength, separate the issues and seek balance.
Express Your Needs - No Matter How Small
When you become aware of how much you need from your partner, see if you can provide it equally for them. When my husband desires connection with me, he often provides it. He plays with my hair or scratches my back, knowing that if he needs it, I likely do as well. Another thing you can do is ask for what you want and what you need. Don’t disguise it as a ticket for a guilt trip- no “You never want to have sex with me” or “I always give you back rubs but you never do for me” are allowed in this conversation. Instead, be clear about your desires and their level of importance to you.
Sometimes life isn't working out the way you had hoped, and tough decisions must be made so you can have more time and energy for your relationship. Make date night or even date lunch happen despite your hectic schedules. Make these events as important as other things in your busy date-book and they will happen. It might also be a time to look at what isn't working and think about possible solutions: Is there a career, scheduling, house, location move that could make a positive difference for your marriage?
When Julie Nowell of Three Chickens and a Boat and her husband Matt recognized their life wasn't working the way they wanted, they decided to make changes, risking security and lifestyle for their happiness. Julie says that they “tried multiple band-aid solutions, but in the end it took wiping our slate clean and starting over building the life we wanted together, and not because we “fell” into it in our youth.” The big move they made has been positive for their marriage, as well as for their children and their quality of life.
Although life presents challenges, and marriages will always face struggles, honest conversations help create a new lens which provide an honest look at your life, so you can create opportunities to do better.
For better or for worse we are in it together, so always be looking and striving for more of the better, together.
Want to read more about relationships? See How Not To Have An Affair, Part One and Two, and Conscious Uncoupling: Why the Phrase is Making a Comeback.
Please visit my Facebook Page, where I regularly share relationship articles and resources.
It is time to sort the clothes for my eight-month-old son again. You see, I have a big kid.
We pretty much had to skip over the 9-month clothes. And he was just too large for some of his toys and equipment. And don't even get me started with the shoes!
He has always been a big baby. I think the percentile charts make many parents a little nervous. What does it mean? What if it is different for height and weight? The other nerve wracking thing for many can be the comments from other parents. The “wow, she is so tiny!” can cause some mom's anguish; too tiny they worry? We need to address our anxiety and let ourselves relax — many kids even out in size and development and some kids are on their own special path. By letting go of comparisons we can embrace differences.
Kids are all different.
Recently an opportunity came to review a Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Smart Stages toy that has a wide age/stage range. I liked the sound of stages technology that comes with this toy. The technology lets the parent choose and manually set what is best for their kids and their play. Great idea!
My son fits with room to spare in the Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Smart Stages Crawl Around Car. He likes his own stationary space that he can sit still in, pull himself up on, and crawl around which helps his gross motor development. Plus, he is quite content in it, much like the happy babies that sit in laundry baskets. In addition to this, the beauty of Smart Stages technology is that it addresses the fact that all kids develop at their own pace. So there are three levels of learning that “grow with your child”; unlike the super short life of others toys.
The three different levels of learning content in the car can be adjusted when your child reaches a new stage:
The first level provides simple phrases, sounds, and songs. My son can explore the car and swat curiously at the different interactive controls on the dashboard now.
The second level gives opportunities to imitate, repeat, follow directions and answer questions. Eventually he will also be able to do the shape sorting activities, use the ball ramp which is great for the fine motor development, and respond to the sing along, noting the references to colours, letters, numbers, and shapes. He will also be able to fully recognize the cause and effect buttons which will mean more as he grows, although he already sees that if he pushes on the buttons they do something and if he leans on the side without the door too far he will fall over, which he did and was briefly mad at the Crawl Around Car, but all was forgiven quickly.
The third level inspires imaginative play with how the car works like a parents' car, and its songs, phrases and sounds are designed to encourage open ended play. Despite the range being up to 36 months, my five-year-old has actually been enjoying it too.
All in all I think it is a great grow-with-your-kid toy and not a one size or level fits all. In the case of my bigger boy, it is nice to have some options that he won't squash or have to be wedged out of. Plus, as you can see, it comes with a really great box.
This is proudly sponsored by our friends at Fisher-Price®.
To discover more about each level of learning within Laugh & Learn® Smart Stages™ toys, visit Fisher-Price® Smart Stages™. You can also find Fisher-Price® Laugh & Learn® Smart Stages™ toys at Walmart, Amazon.ca and Toys “R” Us.