This blog addresses various emotional aspects of experiencing infertility. It is written by a clinical psychologist who specializes in infertility counseling. Thank you for reading, and best of luck with your journey!

Monday, March 23, 2015

The art of being infertile in the internet age: When not to pay attention, and why

Last week there seems to have been a little bit of a kerfuffle about Dolce and Gabbana's expressed opinions on children born via IVF and on non-traditional families.  I'm only hazily aware of what they said, and I think I'm going to keep it that way, for the sake of my own mental health.  This is an acquired skill, ignoring comments made by anyone from important celebrities to random strangers.  I have a long history of being what my parents called "overly sensitive"-- being hurt by what others have said, and consequently of nursing a grudge.   Naturally, this made the experience of being infertile and an adoptive parent more painful than it might have been otherwise.  If I've learned one thing through my infertility, it's that people feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and opinions, even if they are uninformed, unwelcome, and painful to hear.  

What I realize as a result of these experiences is that I was putting too much value in the thoughts and opinions of others. I think this resulted from my own insecurity about myself.  I frequently have walked around thinking, "That doesn't make sense....I must be stupid because I can't understand why so-and-so said that!"  However, as a result of hearing so many stupid opinions and comments, I came to see that on certain topics. I should privilege my own thoughts and opinions.  Now, I feel that if someone is an expert in an infertility-related field, or has a lot of life experience with infertility, I will seriously consider what they might have to say, even if it differs from my own initial thoughts.  If they don't have that experience, their thoughts and opinions are most likely irrelevant to me.  This is why I don't care if Dolce and Gabbana might feel that two of my children are "synthetic".  They haven't experienced the same things as me, and it isn't their area of expertise.  So they don't get to have an opinion on it that I value!  

I do try to be fair about things.  So please don't take any fashion advice from me.  I don't know anything about it.  Seriously, my fashion goals are to be able to wear my pajamas to work and to find only marginally ugly shoes that will fit my clunky custom orthotics.  Any clients of mine who might be reading this will back me up on this one.   Dolce and Gabbana are your go-to folks on that subject. 

It used to be that we just had to worry about the uninformed opinions of those we might run into in daily life.  Now, with the internet, we are bombarded with the opinions of everyone, whether they be famous or anonymous.  And it seems that the more outrageous they are, the more they will be promoted, so that we will click on them and generate advertising revenue for someone.  If I see something that looks especially controversial, I try not to click on it.  I don't want to encourage that sort of behavior, and I certainly don't want anyone to profit on it.  

Ruth Bader Ginsburg spoke at my graduation commencement.  She said something that I have increasingly come to see the value of as time has passed.  In referring to marriage, she said, "Sometimes it pays to be a little deaf!"  I think this is true not only in relationships, but increasingly true for the world in general.  Ignoring things can go a long way in terms of saving us some anguish.
Consider the source before you roil yourself into a fit of self-righteous outrage!

I  hope you all have a great week and welcome your opinions and experiences in the comments section or at lisarouff@gmail.com.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Thoughts on "older" motherhood: delayed parenthood after infertility

One things that many women who experience infertility find is that their entry into parenting is delayed...often by several years.  Such was the case with me.  Despite all my efforts to the contrary, I have found myself in the older mother camp, having my last child at age 42.  (With lots of help, of course.  Let's be real here.)  My parents and grandparents both had their children in their early twenties, so it's kind of mind boggling to me that I can remember when my grandmother had her forty-fifth birthday!

People have lots of opinions on what age someone should be when they have a child, and particularly about entering into parenthood in the forth decade and beyond.  I can't tell you the number of times I have heard women tell me that they never wanted to be "old parents".   I hear them often express a fear that it will not be fair to the child to have older parents, and that it somehow isn't "right" or "natural" to have a baby later in life.  And yet, like me, they find themselves in that very situation.

The impact of having older parents on a child is an important issue.  Like so many things in life, there are no clearcut answers about the effect having older parents may have on a child.  It is true that the child may have less time with their parents, although there is never a guarantee of longevity no matter when a person begins to parent.  On the other hand, older parents are usually more financially stable and emotionally ready to take on the exhaustive and difficult task of parenting.  I think the main thing is to recognize that there are really no ideal situations for children.  Every child will receive blessings and face challenges based on their circumstances.  The most important thing is to try to help a child cope with and work around the limitations of their situation.  For example, if you are worried that your child will be alone later in life, you could make the effort now to ensure that there will be other supportive adults available to them.

As for the actual experience of parenting after forty, I would say that I have noticed I have felt out of sync with my peers.  Some of my high school classmates have grandchildren the same age as my youngest child! As their children are older, they are getting back into the swing of adult life--focusing more on careers, and having a more active social life.  Meanwhile, I'm still sleep deprived and changing diapers.  Sometimes I feel a bit envious of their relative freedom, but then again, I still have a lot more of my parenting journey to anticipate.  Many of my friends have noted some envy of me, as they miss the baby stage and the cute entertainment small children can sometimes provide.  Perhaps in the end it all balances out?

 I also have noticed that many of the parents of my children's friends are quite a bit younger than I am, and that we don't perhaps have as much in common.  The older parents I know tend to congregate towards one another with a sense of relief, perhaps feeling that another older parent will better understand their experiences.  But I think this may be our own insecurity, as I've never had a younger parent say or do anything that would indicate criticism or a lack of acceptance.

For me, I think the most challenging part has been the physically grueling nature of parenting a young child.  My husband and I both agree that the sleep deprivation after our youngest child was born was devastating, more so than with our oldest daughter a decade earlier.  I think we were so sleep deprived that we couldn't even realize that we needed help.   Thus, I highly recommend night nurses, grandparents, friends, or anyone you can get to help you at night.  You can fake a lot of things over forty, but dealing with lack of sleep isn't one of them!  

As for the rest of the physical demands, I've had to make sure that I exercise consistently in order to be able to keep up with my children.  I think that base level of fitness keeps me feeling and acting younger, which I need because my son is at a stage where he enjoys running away and hiding...and I need to keep up with him.   Exercising also helps me feel like I am doing something to increase my chances of living a long life, so I will be around for all of my children's milestones.  I also see my doctors for my annual checkups religiously, try to eat a balanced diet, and do whatever else I can to reduce my risk factors for early morbidity.  Although we cannot see what the future holds for us, trying to live a healthy lifestyle reduces some of my anxiety around leaving my children too soon.

I haven't yet had the experience of being mistaken for my child's grandmother, mostly because I keep a hairstylist in business trying to get all my grey hairs hidden from sight, but I feel that may be coming soon.  I don't suppose there is much any of us can do about that one.  After all, throughout my journey to parenthood, I have endured many tactless comments, and I guess it only makes sense that it would continue.

For many more thoughts on parenting after forty, I recommend this blog A Child after Forty, which has lots of great stories and resources.

Thanks for reading!  I welcome any comments or suggestions for future posts.  Feel free to comment below or email me at lisarouff@gmail.com.