Here’s Why You Need To Know About My Infertility

This week is National Infertility Awareness Week.  RESOLVE, a National Infertility Association, chose the expression Resolve To Know More as their campaign theme for 2014.

Jesse and Lauren, at Our Crazy Ever After, are doing their part to raise awareness by pairing up bloggers, having the ones with experience dealing with infertility guest post on the ones without.  They’ve compiled all of the posts in a link up here.

I’ve written quite a few posts about our infertility journey here on my blog, including a humorously bitter rant, our infertility story, with the happiest of endings, a view into my refrigerator, the heartbreak of our first miscarriage, and the emotional roller coaster of the early loss of two out of our three triplets. I’ve written about my successful pregnancy, the immense gratitude we felt about finally becoming parents, and how it turns out that infertility prepares one pretty well for parenthood.  While you can’t seem to shut me up about it now, I wasn’t always so open about our infertility journey.

It wasn’t until three years after we initially started trying to conceive, and I was already pregnant past my first trimester, that I was brave enough to share any of our struggles, even with most of my family and friends.  Looking back, it was crazy for me to keep silent, to try to rein in all of the emotions that surrounded my infertility.  But, I felt alone, a little embarrassed, a lot depressed, and didn’t realize the abundance of support that existed, if only I was willing to put myself out there and seek it.

So, now I’m pretty outspoken about my infertility, making sure that if someone else is going through similar circumstances (and they’re out there, I know that), they know they aren’t alone and that I am someone they can reach out to, if and when they’re ready.

Below is a post I wrote for Kelsey’s page, Randomly Randts about why you need to know about my infertility (and everybody else’s, all around you).

 

Here’s Why You Need to Know About My Infertility

To someone who hasn’t dealt with infertility firsthand, the question, Why do we need Infertility Awareness? may come to mind.  The answer is pretty simple.  It is easy for all of us to get wrapped up in our own existence, our own experiences, as we are all egocentric at the core.  Even so, most of us want connections with other people, need them, really, for our own well-being, and find that nothing is more important in life than our network of friends and family.

The good thing is that most of us can be wakened, relatively easily, from our narcissistic slumber by learning about the experiences of others, and connecting something within ourselves to something within them.  The more we understand others, the more we understand the world around us, and when we assimilate information from others into our mental repertoire, if we allow it, we end up learning more about ourselves. Convenient for the egomaniac part of us that it all comes full circle and we get to think about ourselves again, right? Ultimately, integrating the accounts from others with our own experiences is how we grow into better people, and that’s pretty damn important.

The problem is that when it comes to infertility, most people remain silent about the issue, one that has taken over their private lives, is eating them from the inside out, causing them to turn into bitter, crumbling, empty shells of themselves who feel like they might not make it through the day.  They hide it.  Put on a brave face.  Say, Great!when someone asks how they are doing, even though they are NOT great.  They are fragile vases, full of water but devoid of flowers, who could easily shatter and collapse into a puddle of tears the moment they reach their car and shut the door behind them, after leaving one of the many doctor’s appointments, after leaving a baby shower, a family gathering, or even after leaving an afternoon coffee with a friend, who just happened to say the wrong thing.

There are SO MANY people going through their own personal conception-seeking hell. SO MANY!  There are currently over 7 million individuals in the U.S. alone who have a medical condition making it difficult, or impossible, to conceive, or carry a child to term.  That’s 1 in 8!  They surround you.  At your workplace, at your gym, at your knitting club, in your classes, in your own family.  Usually, you aren’t even aware of this, yet it’s impacting you.  It is impossible to make those true connections we all seek with others when such an all-consuming piece of oneself is ensconced in fear, shame, anxiety, and ignorance.

It’s important for us to know about the infertility struggles that exist, so that we can better understand the reality around us, the people around us, and are able to reflect, respond and react in the best way possible.  In other words, so we can grow ourselves.

It’s important for us to know about the infertility struggles that exist, so that we can be informed, and aware, to know how to support our siblings, friends and coworkers when we find out they are dealing with something we haven’t dealt with firsthand.

It’s important for us to know about the infertility struggles that exist, so that if it turns out that we are suddenly one of those people who is fighting this exact same battle (that we never before thought could be possible) we are better prepared, and don’t feel so alone.

The barriers that get in the way of making authentic connections with others can be combated with information, with awareness.

All of us infertiles who have “came out” have had friends and acquaintances emerge out of the woodwork, contacting us publicly or privately, sharing their own experiences, sometimes to let us know that we are not alone, sometimes to talk so they can continue healing and processing their own grief, sometimes to thank us because up until we spoke out, they felt isolated, solitarily suffering, with no support in sight.

Those of us that are recovering infertiles, who now have children of our own, need to let those still stuck in the trenches know that hope exists. Real living and breathing hope, not the grasping-at-straws-hoping-yet-hopeless feeling that we get from the doctor’s office alone.

Those of us who are recovering infertiles, who were never able to have children (we don’t hear too much about these people, but they’re out there, too) need to let others know that modern medicine doesn’t equate to miracles.

It is so important for those of us who have struggled, to speak up.  

For the naysayers who use the excuse that people are overly sensitive or that everyone gets offended by something, let’s be clear about this one thing:  This is not about being exceedingly politically correct.  This is just about not being an insensitive jerk.  Resolving to Know More doesn’t have to apply solely to infertility.  We could easily replace all of the “infertilitys” within this post with Sexual Orientation, Depression, Grief, Eating Disorder or Addiction.  By resolving to know more about OTHERS, and their experiences, we are resolving to better understand the people all around us, and to become better individuals for having done so.

Resolve to know more.

 

Need a basic understanding of the disease of infertility?

Learn more about National Infertility Awareness Week.

 

Here's Why You Need to Know About My Infertility.

Here’s Why You Need to Know About My Infertility.

2014-niaw-image

 

The Accidental Marathoner

A Morning Grouch:

Thirty-two weeks pregnant, and hardly able to walk more than a couple of miles at a stretch, it’s a little hard to believe that a year ago I ran my first marathon. My already-heightened set of emotions surrounding the race skyrocketed when the Boston marathon bombing occurred, six days before my race. As is true with most runners, ever since that day, every time I am out on a jog there is at least one moment where my mind turns to the bombing. While the thought saddens me, and makes me feel for the individuals and families affected, it also reminds me to be grateful for the legs carrying me, grateful for the people around me, and gives me energy to push on. Runners are a willful, dedicated bunch, full of strength, stamina and commitment, and the Boston bombing, instead of tarnishing this, cemented it.

Originally posted on A Morning Grouch:

I have two Mes.

Real me is caring and giving and kind.  Real me is never bored, because there is always someone to love or something to create or something to enjoy.  Real Me relishes weekends, family, friends and manically pursuing hobbies.  Real Me even loves horribly gray days and days when the basement floods and days when a baking dish explodes in the kitchen because there is always so much more to be grateful for.

Monster Me is angry and fearful and inadequate.  Monster Me is so depleted of energy that  the effort required to attempt to enjoy a hobby or a person or even myself is insurmountable.  Monster Me wants to cut and punch and scream.  Monster Me feels completely hopeless.  Monster Me thinks leaving the car running and shutting the garage door might not be unreasonable.

Real Me sometimes thinks Monster Me is gone for good.  But Monster Me is sneaky and always creeps back around, eventually.

When the two Mes got pregnant, Real Me decided…

View original 542 more words

How Vaccinations Are Like Wool Blankets

All of this nonsense about diseases that have effectively been eradicated starting to pop back in the picture due, at least in large part, to people choosing not to vaccinate is getting ridiculous. Unfortunately many are uninformed, misinformed, or have developed some crackpot conspiracy theory, which is wreaking havoc on such a simple and effective method of preventing the spread of infection. Let’s look at an analogy involving a wool blanket and a bitterly cold day. The wool blanket will represent the vaccine and the bitter cold will represent the infectious pathogen.

Wool blankets keep people warm.  Just like vaccines prevent disease.  There isn’t a question about this, this is fact.  Wool blankets aren’t magic suits that can protect against temperatures hovering just above absolute zero, or exposure to blizzard-like conditions for decades at a time, just like vaccines have their own limitations.  People aren’t given a one-shot deal at birth, becoming magically protected from communicable disease from day one.  Vaccines often given in a series and take time to kick in.  Vaccines don’t guarantee a 100% protection rate and they may not last a lifetime. Even though they aren’t magic, there is still no question that wool blankets keep people warm, just like there is no question that vaccines prevent disease.  My father-in-law says that wool from goat hair makes the warmest blankets and the entire scientific community says that vaccines are the most effective method we have to prevent certain diseases, as of now.  Scientists are continuously tweaking and changing and adjusting as more information is gathered, and over time the evidence has remained the same – vaccines prevent disease.  It would be dangerous to purposefully sit outside in a blizzard and refuse a wool blanket, just as it is dangerous for most people to refuse vaccination for themselves or their children.

Large wool blankets keep people warm, and when many people crawl underneath the blanket together, the collective body heat keeps everyone even warmer.  It’s hard to freeze to death when it’s not just your own body heat being trapped underneath, but you have your entire community’s body heat surrounding you as well.  Vaccines are most effective when everyone is vaccinated – everyone is safer when they are surrounded by others who are also protected.  It’s hard to get measles when your fellow neighbor isn’t breathing measle germs onto the grocery cart handle you touch, the rolled silverware you pick up at the restaurant or on the desk you sit down at when you go to parent-teacher conferences.  The whole group is protected by all (or most) of the group being protected. This is called herd immunity. When you separate yourself from the herd, you’re effectively ripping off the warm blanket while you jump out, and taking your precious body heat with you.  Even if others are still under the blanket, you’ve put them at greater risk.  The more people who leave, the greater the risk.  This is why your neighbors want to stab you in the eye when you tell them you aren’t vaccinating your children. Assuming you aren’t quarantining yourself in some anti-vaxx compound, you’re putting them at risk.

Some people are more susceptible to damage from the cold than others.  Like, say, newborns, the elderly or someone who is otherwise immunocompromised.  For many, individuals being exposed to bitter temperatures might be an inconvenience or an experience that causes no more than temporary discomfort.  For some of the population, however, exposure is more dangerous and is potentially lethal.  Let’s take measles, for example, for many of us, getting the measles might be an inconvenience, but for some it can result in lung infection, seizures and swelling of the brain.  Even if the odds of serious or fatal damage are low without the protection of the wool blanket, they are so much higher than they would otherwise be if the damn wool blanket were there, just in case.

Wool blankets make some people itchy.  And vaccinations may have side effects. For the most part, the side effects are not severe.  A sore arm.  Tiredness.  A fever. But there are potential side-effects that can be devastating, and very rarely, even life-threatening (remember, vaccines are not magic potions).  However, the overall risk of not vaccinating FAR OUTWEIGHS the overall risk of vaccinating.  There is zero scientific evidence that suggests otherwise. For the world community as a whole, wool blankets are a warm, fuzzy, comfy, protective layer.  If you think you’re rolling the dice by vaccinating, it’s important to look at the big picture and recognize that the odds are overwhelmingly in your favor when you choose to wrap up you and yours in the wool blanket. By not vaccinating, you’re absolutely putting yourself in a situation of greater risk, standing in the cold shivering, and exposing those around you to elements they would otherwise be protected from.

Wool blankets aren’t the only protection from the cold.  However in this mediocre analogy, they are the best defense we have.  We have heating packs and shelters we can build, but in our little hypothetical here, the wool blanket is the only tool everyone has access to, and is the one that has proven to be the most effective. Good nutrition and hygiene, and other preventative health measures are all crucial, of course, but alone they are not enough, proven both by pre-vaccine rates of infection, and by the fact that we simply can’t make everyone else take care of themselves like they should, or make them stay home and away from everyone else during their times of illness.

Vaccines aren’t given to newborns on the day they are born, they may not last a lifetime, and some people have legitimate medical reasons why they cannot receive them. These individuals have no way to wrap the wool blanket around themselves, and really depend on the rest of us around them to tuck them in.  I’m not trying to pull the wool over your eyes here.  It really is this simple.

How Vaccinations are Like Wool Blankets.  Protect yourself and your community - wrap up!

How Vaccinations are Like Wool Blankets. Protect yourself and your community – wrap up!

Broken Machinery

The floor is lined with well-oiled machines.

They are gleaming models,

producing perfect products.

They hum, whir, purr.

 

Smile.

 

They are lustrous, polished instruments

with safety valves releasing steam,

and automatic shut-offs.

They are controlled and efficient.

 

But one machine is not like the rest.

A single rusty clunker,

worn out, broken down, wearing thin.

It screeches, bangs, clanks.

 

Snarls.

 

Gauges tarnished, valves corroded, sealed stuck,

it is unreliable and dangerous.

It will cough out mangled wares

’til its inevitable collapse.

Image credit: Wikipedia

Image credit: Wikipedia

The Bad Words We Are Teaching Our Children

Our words matter.  As parents, we know we are responsible for teaching our children how to respect themselves and others, and that our words help shape their life-long inner dialogue. Some of the “bad” words we try to shield our children from at an early age are obvious, such as swear words or hate speech or rude, nasty comments.  We would never purposefully and passionately teach young, impressionable minds words like, shi*t, a**hole or *n*gger, or phrases such as, “you’re stupid” or “I hate you“.  Even if we know they’ll hear those words eventually, we shield them while we can since those aren’t the kind of harmful messages we want to promote.

But some bad words are hidden.  Some words are so entrenched within our society that they are glossed over and appear seemingly benign, even though they are stealthily destructive and dangerous.  So, besides holding back on the swears and derogatory remarks, let’s also hold ourselves back from spouting off this kind of language as well:

1)  That’s for girls.  This one breaks my heart.  BREAKS IT.   I’ve witnessed way too many little boys pick up an object and hear, “that’s for girls” and have the toy taken away, or have an item they choose (or color – guess which one?)  pointed out as being “not for them”.  The puzzled look on their young faces is a good reflection of the fact that there is no logical reason for this distinction.  Why shouldn’t a boy play with a doll or a crown or any toy that’s pink?  Is there something wrong with playing with these things?  Something shameful?  If not, what’s the big deal?  By using this phrase, we’re doing nothing but teaching our boys to feel badly about, and possibly hide, their own likes, preferences and emotions from an early age. Even scarier – we’re teaching that there is something wrong with someone who doesn’t make the “right” choices we arbitrarily assign to their particular sex and might be teaching that any choice labeled as “girly” is “less than”.

2)  That’s for boys.  This one you don’t hear spoken out loud as much, but you see it just as often in actions.  Even little girls, like my toddler, who are showered with gifts often find themselves lacking when it comes to things such as basketball hoops, t-ball games, or sports equipment of any kind.  Last I checked, toddler girls need to work on their motor skills to the same extent as toddler boys.  And no one is drafting anyone’s toddler for the NFL just yet, so I don’t think this is about the need for the little lads to hone their skills. Think kids aren’t getting the drift just because this phrase is said with actions instead of words?  Think again.  Children of both sexes can figure out “what’s for them” at a very early age without needing to be told directly.

3)  Oh, he’s just being a boy.  Um, maybe.  Or maybe he’s just being a little sh*t. This phrase is often associated with poor manners, poor self-control or poor discipline.  Let’s not condone bad behavior in our children and excuse it away with a flippant remark about the child’s sex.  Rowdy boys are often described as “just being boys” while rowdy girls may be called “obnoxious”, “bossy” or “bad”. We too often accept certain behaviors in boys, but reprimand the same behaviors in girls.  Is he REALLY being a “boy”?  Or is he just a little energetic?  Or is there another more appropriate adjective that would actually describe the behavior at hand?  Off the top of my head I can think of a sister, a cousin and an aunt who were wild, hyper kids, and several male cousins and nephews and who were calm and quiet little bookworms, and I’m confident each and every one of us can bring to mind examples such as this.  Generalizations don’t do anyone any good (keep reading below, if you’re still not convinced), particularly when they result in fostering poor behavior.  These bad words might be spoken about our kids instead of to them, but they still get the message.

4)  You look so pretty!  This one doesn’t seem so bad as a stand-alone sentence.   But when repeated multiple times, by multiple people, at the expense of other, more valuable comments, it’s incredibly dangerous.  The other day I put a headband on my daughter’s head, in order to keep the hair from falling into her eyes, and my aunt said, at least 4 times, “Oh, look how pretty you are! So pretty!”   Other than the excessive commenting about the hair piece, my aunt didn’t make many remarks about anything else my daughter was doing, even though she was actively playing, talking and dancing.  My daughter didn’t give much of a reply – at one year old she doesn’t even know what “pretty” means.  Yes, I occasionally tell her she’s beautiful, and sometimes this is referring to her outside looks, but typically when I describe her looks to her I use words like “clean” or “neat”.  A majority of our conversation revolves around topics such as singing, reading, stacking, sorting, or exploring.  Who she is does not equate to how she looks.  We find a lot of ways to talk to boys about what they think, what they do and how they act.  We often ignore all of those things when we talk to our girls and focus on the superficial, resulting in long-lasting insecurities about self-image and self-worth.  Enough with the you-look-so-pretties.

As parents, we know a lot about our children – what they like to read, to play with, to eat, what their habits are, what comforts them.  But we don’t know everything about them. We don’t know who they’ll be as adults, as sexual beings, or what gender attributions they will take on as their own as their identities emerge.  Not only do we not know everything about our own, but we certainly don’t know all of the other people our children will encounter in their lives, whom our kids will judge or accept, based on what they learn from us.

A recent Psychology Today article written by Christina Brown titled, The Way We Tak About Gender Can Make A Big Difference, described a study that showed how children exposed to only four weeks of gender-labeling in their classroom environment were more likely to express that ONLY men or women could attain certain types of jobs (think astronaut, engineer, politician) or act in certain roles (think nurturing, or as a care-taker). She points out that this should be incredibly worrisome and that, “parents who want their daughters to aim high in their careers should take note, as should parents who want their sons to become nurturing, caring fathers”.  These differences resulted from gender labeling alone – meaning name tags and other school-related items were labeled with pink or blue to indicate boy or girl, or comments to individuals or groups in the class included a reference to sex (“what a smart girl” or “I need the boys to settle down) instead of using student names or referring to the class as a unit.

The class as a whole not only began making devastating generalizations about future career options and abilities, they also began to notice less variability about the differences between all of the boys in the group or all of the girls in the group, and instead began to assert that ALL the boys in class or ALL the girls in class acted a certain way.  Not recognizing and appreciating variability within a group does nothing to promote learning and acceptance and does everything to promote bullying, ridicule and inaccurate assumptions by those who fit the mold, and anxiety, resentment and negative self-image by those who don’t.  Brown states that “if your child is different from the norm in any way, you as a parent do not want them to feel like a failure or a misfit”.  None of us want that for our own children, and we all need to work to ensure this doesn’t happen to anyone else’s.

Enough with teaching our children bad words with negative messages that lead to negative actions.  Lets encourage our kids to be good people. Not good girls or good boys. Good people.

Can you tell the sex or gender identify of this child?  Does it matter?

Can you tell the sex or gender identify of this child? Does it matter?

Cute Now, Creepy Later

As all mothers are, I’m obsessed with my own kiddo, Baby Grouch.  I am soaking up every experience and not trying not to take any moment for granted, since I know I am lucky, lucky, lucky to have my beautiful, smart, strong-willed, happy, goofy little Peanut and she will only be this age once.  As I’m relishing every bit of motherhood, there are a few habits I have that are cute now, but at a certain point, if I kept doing them, would be considered incredibly creepy later.  Here we go:

1.  I creep into her room when she is sleeping, and I sit in the rocking chair watching her sleep, hearing her breathe.  It calms me.  A beautiful moment, now, but I imagine myself doing this, when she is too old for it, and in my head I look like a creepy clown from a horror movie, with a deranged smile and unidentified red stain on my lips.

2.  I kiss her on the neck, face, mouth, belly.  All the time.  I can’t stop kissing her.  At some point, this will totally gross her out, and probably be very awkward.

3.  I spy on her with the monitor.  I listen to her when she plays in her crib and talks to herself, reads herself a book, and when she cries for 30 seconds or so right before she falls asleep.  I like that I can know what she’s doing without even being in the room.  At a certain age, I know that this will be a huge infringement of privacy, so for now I’ll enjoy the fact that I can explain it as conscientious parenting.

4.  I stare at her.  While she plays.  While she sleeps.  While she eats.  While she’s playing by herself.  While she’s in someone else’s arms.  While she’s discovering something new.  While she’s pissed off and tantruming.  While she’s making silly faces at me (ok, then I’m usually making them back).   I will ever stop staring, I do not care if I am creepy-peepy, I just love watching her.  I love watching her be.  I will be the eerie eyeballing mother forever.

5.  I call her my baby.  That was actually her first word – baby.  I didn’t realize how much we called her that until she started saying it, so well, and so often.  Good morning my baby!  Is my baby tired?  I think it might stem from the fact that while pregnant, Mr. Grouch kept saying, “we’re having a BABY!” because we couldn’t believe our good fortune after trying so long. For quite awhile after she was born he’d say, “We have a baby!” because we still couldn’t believe our little human windfall, who is so marvelous, and all our own.  

6.  I bite off pieces of food with my teeth and give them to her.  I know……it’s just that sometimes it’s easier than using a knife. Bonus: I can simultaneously make sure the morsel isn’t too hot.  Still, I have no true excuse for this one.  I would like it to be noted that I do NOT chew it up.  I’m no mama bird.

7.  I analyze her poop.  And don’t think too much about getting it on my hands or clothes. And I talk about it with other parents.  Runny?  Hard?  Brown?  Orange? Coming up out of the back of her diaper coating her scapula?   It’s not gross, it’s just the process of how the body functions (and how sometimes diapers don’t).  I am happy to wipe her dirty little bum, so she’s clean and dry.  I want her to be taken care of – even if this sometimes requires a direct plunking into a tub full of suds.

8.  I stick my fingers in her mouth.  Do you have a tooth coming in?  OMG did you put a chunk of grass in your mouth?  OMG did you reach in and pick out a chunk of foam from your car seat liner and shove it in your mouth? OMG are you chewing on cat hair/a bobby pin that fell out of my pocket/an eight-day old Cheerio?  Most of these don’t sound cute, even now.

9.  I’m a stalker.  I want to know everything what she’s doing and how she’s doing it, no matter how trivial the activity may be.  Playing at daycare?  With who?  Does she share? Is she a leader? An observer?  A follower?  Is she having fun?  Is she happy?  How does her behavior change day-to-day? What did she eat?  How was her poop?  I am quite sure that I will still want to know most of the seemingly monotonous details later in her life (maybe not the poop one), even if she asks me, “Why do you care, Mom?  It’s my life, not yours”.  But, when she asks me these things, I know it’s because she just doesn’t get it. She is my life, too.

I know these habits are totally normal for the mother of a one year old, but at what point do these become absolutely creepy?  What are your cute/creepy habits?

What we do as parents is cute now, but would most definitely be considered creepy, later.

What we do as parents is cute now, but would most definitely be considered creepy, later.

Beautiful Moments Aren’t Always Pretty

Baby Grouch woke me this morning with her chatter and her happy squeals and periodic shouts of “Mama!” coming from her crib.   I padded to her room, in my pajamas, and smiled at her when she exclaimed, “Morning!” as I walked in.  “Book. Book. Cookie”.  We had the time, so I acquiesced to her demand that I read her “The Best Mouse Cookie” before bringing her downstairs for breakfast.

She ate some steamed broccoli (might as well squeeze in a vegetable wherever you can, right?) and a few bites of peach yogurt before asking me to make her a waffle.  “Bite.  Faffle!”  Again, I complied with her request, because today was technically a holiday (President’s Day, but whatever, I had the day off) and most days I’m the one calling the shots. Before walking to the toaster, I turned on Pandora’s Nursery Rhyme Radio, one of her favorite stations.

I came back with the waffle for her and sweetened black tea for me, and before I could set down her food, she held out her arms, saying, “uppie”.  Instead of telling her to finish eating at her seat, I unbuckled her from the booster and swooped her onto my lap, placing the waffle in front of both of us.  And there she stayed for the next hour and fifteen minutes.

Compared to our normal rushy-rush attitude, we lingered.  She tickled my knees and I gave her some laughs and tickled her back.  She sat on my lap, turning to face me, placing her feet on my pregnant belly, my arms supporting her back.  Every so often I’d get a hug, or a pat, or a stare up at my face and a “Mama!” coming out of her mouth.  We sang and we sang and we sang, me, completely off-key, she, with an impressive number of correct words or close-to-it sounds, to the nursery rhymes she loved – her favorites (I could tell they were her top choices because of how much she sang along and the “yay!” she shouted after they were done) included, Wheels on the Bus, Somewhere Over The Rainbow (the Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwo’ole version), Skidamarink, The ABC’s and Apples and Bananas.  She does not like Hakuna Matata, “don’t like it.  Uh uh”.  Between songs we tickle-tickled and peekabooed and then went back to singing, as she slowly continued to munch on her waffle.

Midway through our special time at the kitchen table, I thought I could capture our moment, as beautiful as it was, and snapped a couple mother-daughter selfies.  And EW. They were not pretty. They showed me in my black skull pajama pants and clashing blue and white striped tank top, with my splotchy skin and puffy eyes and protruding stomach. She’s pretty darn cute, but in these pictures, her hair was all over the place, her eyes half-shut in the photos.  The angles were awkward and, well, we just weren’t so photogenic this morning.

After a few attempts I realized there was no way to capture the moment, and that was okay.  I put away the phone, and we went back to focusing on each other and I thought to myself, what a good lesson this was for both of us.

Sometimes the most remarkable moments are the ones that look unremarkable.  The ones with so much beauty coming from the inside, there isn’t any left for the outside.

Physical beauty is overrated.  We sat, for what simultaneously seemed like an eternity, and also just an instant, soaking up the relaxation and comfort of each other’s company. When she finished eating, we got up and danced the Hokey Pokey before it was back to reality, and I started cleaning up the waffle crumbs that had fallen to the floor and started putting on her coat and shoes so we could head to the grocery store, resuming the typical busy-day-schedule we are so accustomed to.

Beautiful Moments Aren't Always Pretty

Beautiful Moments Aren’t Always Pretty

The One Question Every Teacher Needs to Ask Their Students

When I completed my year-long student teaching internship, in a 10th grade biology classroom,  I was lucky enough to be paired with a true master teacher.  She had previously worked as a researcher for NASA, and while her extensive knowledge base, her meticulous nature, and her steadfast attitude made her more than a little successful on the job, she found the work to be too mundane, and too unfulfilling.  So she brought her expertise, her limitless patience, and her diligence with her to the high school setting.

While I learned a great deal from her in terms of the content (she had so much to offer!), I learned even more from her in terms of character.  I remember her sitting me down one day and telling me that while she could tell my understanding of the material was sound, my lesson plans were well thought out, and my delivery of the content itself was smooth and efficient, there was still something missing – and it was resulting in my students not learning.

I was missing a connection.

I was so caught up with making sure I knew the material and was delivering it the best way I knew how, I wasn’t directing enough attention towards who I was delivering the content to.

As soon as she gave me this honest and direct appraisal, I realized I had been neglecting to work on the relationships I was establishing with my students, so I began to actively include this focus when I worked on planning and delivering my lessons.  It paid off.

I distinctly remember one of my students coming into the room in a huff, a couple of minutes after class had already started, slamming her books down on the desk as she looked up at me and said, “this school is bullshit!  This class is bullshit!”  I had never been in a situation like this before, and the whole class was waiting to see my reaction.  A few students leaned back into their chairs, excited for the potential of a drama full of screaming voices and reddening faces to play out before their eyes.  But, thankfully, I had listened to my mentor and had been working on making connections with my students.  Instead of yelling, writing a detention or demanding that she speak to me in a respectful tone, I asked the girl a question that changed everything.

 “Are you all right?”  

Before asking, she had been standing with her shoulder blades pinned back tightly, her chest puffed out, her chin jutting high, her hands at her hips, clenched into fists.  A fighter’s stance.  After the question, her fists uncurled, she let out an audible exhale, shoulders and chest deflating. And she answered me, “no, I’m not”, and proceeded to tell me how unbearable her day had been and how stressed out she felt.  I told her I could tell that something was bothering her by her behavior, and that I hoped the day turned around for her.  She thanked me, sat down and pulled out her notebook and pen, ready to start the day, and the rest of the class followed suit.

That was the day my students started learning from me and my well-thought out lesson plans.

Character, it turns out, is the most important aspect of teaching.  

No one is denying that content-area knowledge is a must when it comes to being a competent instructor, but simply having and dispensing knowlege in itself does not make one effective.  No matter how good the presentation, the worksheets, the technology or the wealth of knowledge a teacher may hold, without inspiring, supporting and connecting, there can be no learning.

And many of our students are in dire need of inspiration, support and connection.  Many of our students are not all right.  They’re children dealing with adult fears, anxieties, abuse, neglect, intense pressures, a whole magnitude of grievances beyond our scope, and they often don’t have the coping mechanisms to deal with their situations.

My fellow blogger and colleague, Sandwiches and Psych Meds recently pointed out that students can pull up information at the touch of a button, via Google, YouTube and Wikipedia.  We are no longer the only vehicle available for students to obtain information from.  She makes the statement, in regards to the future of the teaching profession and the teacher evaluation process,“If content knowledge … is all we care about as a society, then Google might as well be nominated Teacher of the Year”.  

Students, especially those who struggle, need to know we care in order to allow the possibility of learning to occur.  Master teachers understand this, and are sure to check in with their students periodically, asking if everything is all right.

Education, Qualities of a Good Teacher

The One Question Every Teacher Needs to Ask Their Students

10 Things Pregnant Women Do Not Want To Hear Coming Out of Your Mouth

It’s highly likely that you will encounter a pregnant woman at work, at home, at the gym or via your Facebook feed.  While she may enjoy engaging with you on topics such as hobbies, families, work gripes or nursery decorations, it’s important to be mindful of the fact that she may not want to engage with you on everything and everything under the “pregnancy topics” umbrella.

In order to prevent any mishaps (i.e. her hormonal self losing her shit and punching you in the face) – here’s a list of things she’s sure to NOT want to hear coming out of your face.

1) Oh my god, my labor was absolutely horrifying. Worst pain of my life.  She is perfectly capable of visualizing worst-case scenarios in her own head without any help, thank you very much.  No need to tell her some godforsaken story that will haunt her for the hours/days/weeks after she hears it.

2)  I only gained 17 pounds during my pregnancy.  I totally craved organic apples and rice cakes the whole time!  Yeah, you’re a freak of nature.  And also?  An arrogant braggart.  Step away from her and her Cheetos or she might place that crinkly bag over your head and strangle you with it. That is, once she creases the bag into a v-shape and finishes pouring the last of the crumbs into her mouth.

3) Oh my, your bump is getting bigger every day!  The cousin to the “You must be due any day!” comment.  Believe it or not, pregnant women are pretty attuned to their bodies and can tell when their skin is stretched to the limit, their organs are getting mashed and wedged into every available space inside their bodies and can really feel that extra 30+ pounds they are carrying with them every time they take the stairs.

4)  How long are you planning to breastfeed/pump/?  Or any other questions or advice at all related to the why/how/when/where she is going to nourish her child.  It’s none of your freaking business.  Until you’ve lived INSIDE her body and/or have analyzed her genetic makeup and/or lived through her exact life situation, you are in no position to offer unwanted advice or analysis.

5)  Are you supposed to be eating/drinking/doing that?  Unless she’s drinking a six-pack of beer or chain smoking cigarettes, I’d say it’s safe to assume that she’s making sensible decisions for her unborn child, based on advice from her doctor.  If you’re questioning something as ridiculously benign as feeding her baby salty/fatty Cheetos, refer to possible consequence as described in number 2.

6)  When I get pregnant I’m going to _________________.  (Insert eyeroll here).  Yea, shut it.  You have no idea what you’re going to do. Even if you’re already had one, the second (or third or…) time around can be a whole different ballgame.  In reality, you will do what the baby tells you to do. It’s nature’s prep for when the baby is here and is in charge in person.

7)  We’re out of donuts in the lounge.  The horror! The horror!  Even if she’s never enjoyed a peanut-covered donut is her entire life, there might be a day during her pregnancy when ALL SHE CAN THINK ABOUT is swallowing a peanut-covered donut, and hearing the news that the peanut-covered donut-eating-opportunity has been stolen from her can be devastating.  Don’t be the messenger.

8) How are you feeling? Pregnant. She’s feeling pregnant. Exhaustingly, whalishly, hormonally pregnant. She feels like shit and wants to stab everyone around her in the eye with a fork.  Even if she feels happy, she also feels like crying.  Frankly, it takes physical and emotional energy she doesn’t have to fake a smile and tell you she’s feeling just fine.  Don’t steal precious energy away from the baby by asking this question. Unless you want to harm her baby.  Stop harming the unborn babies!

9) Hi Mommy! Okay, hearing anyone other than your own flesh and blood call you mommy is just disturbing as hell. It’s not even sort of cute. Pure creepo, right there. If it’s said in a high pitched voice, it makes her think you might actually be psycho enough to try to murder her in her sleep. Stop creeping her out.

10) Shrimp. Raw chicken.  Mangoes.  Or any other word that conjures up even the notion of a smell so offensive that it makes her literally gag just from hearing the utterance. I realize you may not know ahead of time which word will cause this response (especially if it’s something seemingly ungagworthy, such as the word “dust” or “wall”), so just let the bobbing Adam’s apple be your guide.

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10 Things Pregnant Women Do Not Want To Hear Come Out of Your Mouth

10 Ways Infertility Prepares You for Parenthood

Infertility sucks.  But, while it depresses you, drains your bank account and almost kills you in the short-term, in the long run it can be good preparation for parenthood.  Some might say it even makes you a better parent than you would have become otherwise, if you let it. Here’s how getting the short straw before becoming a parent can be a benefit, once you finally are one:

Infertility prepares you for:

1.  All of the doctors appointments you’ll have once you’re pregnant, and for your new baby.  In fact, while other women are complaining about how many appointments they have, you’ll be rejoicing at the reduction of the number of times you have to go, and at the pleasure of going for such an awesome reason.

2.  The discomforts of pregnancy.   You’re guaranteed to not complain about the fact that you can’t ride rollercoasters or jump on trampolines and you’re less likely to dwell on the aches and pains you will experience as you morph into a whaleish host.  You may already have experienced nausea, vomiting, bloating, surgeries, and/or severe pain from all of the medications, self-injections, ovarian cysts and medical procedures you’ve went through.  Infertility removes any feelings of entitlement and you will be less likely to take things for granted. Even things like peeing through your pants when you sneeze.

3.  Unsolicited questions and advice.  You’re used to dealing with questions about when you’re planning to have children, comments about how you better not wait too long, and advice about how “just relaxing” will cause you to conceive within the month, so you’ll be well prepared for strangers asking you when you’ll “pop” (looks like any day now!), and telling you that formula feeding is basically the equivalent to poisoning your child.  Idiocy abounds.

4. Random stranger’s hands on your belly.  Just remember:  SO much better than the dildo camera.

5.  Dealing with any doubts or qualms about  becoming “tied down” with a child. Infertility gives you time to realize how badly you want to become a parent, so you don’t waste any precious time with your baby wishing you were still childless and “free”.

6.  How difficult parenthood is.  Infertility is hard.  Parenting is even harder.  The struggles you experience beforehand will help ease you into the time-consumption, expenses and exhaustion you’ll be graced with later.

7.  Working through with challenges and hard times with your spouse. Think of this as a litmus test for your relationship.

8.  The unknown.  Infertility reminds you that nothing is a guaranteed and any luck or happiness that happens to fall into your lap is a gift.

9.  All of the worrying. When you’re faced with horrible or scary scenario involving your child, instead of thinking that this is the worst thing that could ever happen to you, you know that the most horrific thing would really be not being in this situation in the first place. You’ll still panic (EVERY DAY), but at least there’s some sort of cosmic retribution for all of the anxiety you experienced before you had kids.

10.  Being a more empathetic person. People who have been through battles of their own tend to be kinder, more compassionate, more helpful to others. All traits any good parent wants to possess and model for their child.  Of course, this is only true if you don’t remain so bitter that you’re unable to see that others with different problems have had different battles to fight.

Infertility prepares you for parenthood in countless ways.

Infertility prepares you for parenthood in countless ways.

If you liked this post, you may also like my other infertility and pregnancy posts.