Kristina (Tina) Jacobs joins me on the show today. Tina bravely shares her fertility journey and loss. So many women and men suffer through this process in complete silence. It is impossible to know how this process would feel without going through it yourself. Tina is amazingly honest about the really hard parts and shares recommendations on how to support friends and family through a similar journey. I am so grateful for Tina! www.lss-nd.org/aboundcounseling
Hey guys! Welcome back to the podcast! I am so excited. I’ve got Tina Jacobs on today. I met Tina probably over a month and a half ago. She works with me through Abound Counseling and she - I just got done talking to her so my mind is reeling with trying to summarize how truly amazing she is and her story is and her willingness to be open and honest with you - so I hope that this is helpful for you. I hope that it is healing for you and I hope that it will give you a better understanding if you are going through the journey to know that there’s solidarity there, that you’re not alone and if you’re not going through the journey, certainly how to be able to be supportive for other men and women who are. It’s a great episode and I really hope that you love listening to her. Thank you!
K: Tina, thank you so much for being on the show today!
T: You’re welcome! Thank you for having me. Um, yeah, if you want me to introduce myself, my name is Tina Jacobs and I am new at the Abound Counseling program as the Coordinator so I know you because you are one of the therapists with us and it’s so lovely to be a part of your team so thanks for asking me to do this.
K: Yeah, absolutely! I appreciate that. So, I know when we were discussing the podcast, you had started listening and we were talking about different topics that might be really beneficial and you mentioned fertility difficulties and loss that was a topic that you really wish you would have been able to have when you went through] in your fertility journey so I'm wondering can you talk us through that process? What was the journey like for you? And then we'll get into it a bit more.
T: Yeah, no problem. I guess when I was listening to your podcast, I just thought “Oh hey!” When I was going through my experience, I really didn’t come across a lot of those podcast, those more audio type things that I was listening to. It was more so blogs and I find that there is a disconnect between reading things versus listening to people have conversations or just listening to someone talk about it and certainly there’s stuff out there. I probably just didn’t come across it and I thought it might be helpful to share that. Everyone’s story is so different and so I thought that part of my own journey in processing it which you know I have but this is even more so an opportunity to process it. So, I thought it would be really fun to do that.
For me, my journey started when we got married and about a year later we really started wanting to have kids and for us we got pregnant right away to our surprise and I was very fortunate for that but shortly after I had a miscarriage. I didn’t tell anybody about it because I thought we would just get pregnant again, no big deal. It is fairly common for people to have miscarriages but people don’t talk about it so it doesn’t feel like it and it is very isolating. I didn’t tell anyone - I didn’t tell our families, didn’t tell our friends. And then we obviously didn’t get pregnant, didn’t get pregnant and we did that for months and months just trying naturally. We ended up going to the doctor and doing the testing and started our fertility journey which was rounds of fertility meds. We eventually did four rounds of IUI. All of that was unsuccessful. I’m kind of giving you the fast version but we can get into it further, too.
K: Yes, absolutely.
T: All of that was unsuccessful. Financially, we were burnt out. Emotionally, we were burnt out and so then we kind of stopped. I had hear, I don’t know where, but that going to a chiropractor can help for fertility. There was also some other things I wanted to improve on that I knew a chiropractor could help with. So, I went there, discussed that with them and they were like, “Yeah, we have people who come here all the time and end up getting pregnant because we help them with XYZ problems that lead to fertility.”
For us, I think it was like two and a half months of chiropractic treatments, I was going quite often, and we got pregnant on our own. It was just kind of a crazy journey for me. Now, we have our little guy Drew who is four months old.
K: Oh, so fun! Well, thank you for talking us through that process. I love so many things that you said and I really want to dive into them.
T: Yeah! Totally.
K: One of the first things I love is that you mentioned how everyone’s story is different. I think that a lot of times when we’re looking at one story, that can be dangerous for other people because if we don’t have the same outcome or their situations just a little bit different, that comparison can be really difficult so I’m so glad that you mentioned that portion of things. So, can I ask, did you and your husband talk about wanting to have kids before marriage or is this just something that I know you said a year into it you talked about it more but have you always wanted to be a mom?
T: Oh, yeah! I’ve known that and my family and friends have known that I was kind of the mother of the group and also always had that kind of instinct from a very young age. Of course, in my mind I was like, “Of course this would happen to me.” But although, like I said, it happens to so many people. But yeah, I always knew that I wanted to have kids. Shortly after my husband met me, he knew that and he wanted them to so it was more so just timing. For us we did the standard - you graduate from high school, you go to college, you get married - kind of that line of things that people are “supposed to do.” For us, it was the next step. We were ready for it and then when it just didn’t happen for us right away, it was really, really hard to deal with. We always knew and again, I’d kind of like to go back and preface this conversation too with yes, every story is very, very different and unique to the people who experience it. It’s not just the woman, it’s the man as well or the partner that goes through this.
It’s not always healing for people to share their story and that’s totally fine. The whole comparison, like you mentioned, is a totally dangerous thing and we’ll probably get more into that today too. But everyone's journey is very beautiful and heartbreaking in it’s own way. It’s not a competition. Your story is just as powerful as the person next to you. I say that because in my own experience, there was a few occasions where I was told that, “Oh, eighteen months of infertility. That’s not long at all! I know someone who had five years!” And there’s just...yeah, there’s just some very, very dangerous things that can happen within your own mind when you come across some of those perspectives.
K: That’s very dismissive too, to be like, “Oh, it’s no big deal! It hasn’t been that long!” When really, that’s extremely impactful in your life and hard to go through for sure. I’m so glad that you mentioned too that it’s not just the woman’s journey either. It’s the partners, the husbands, even parents watching and witnessing their own children trying to have children and struggling with it. I mean, it’s hard for a lot of people involved so I love that you mentioned that as well. I’m sure, in a way, each person that has been impacted probably has their own portion of the story as well.
T: Oh, for sure. Bless my husbands heart, he was a rock through it all and yeah there was difficult times but it really did make us closer. It sounds kind of cliche but we were newly married and young within our relationship as a marriage but it really set the foundation I think for kind of a lifetime, I think. You go through that with someone and yeah, it’s almost indescribable in terms of how it brings you closer and tests you in a lot of ways for sure.
K: You know, I often have had people say to me different things, not necessarily about this, but things that my husband and I might go through like, “Well, if you can get through this, you can get through anything, so you’re good.” On a much, much lighter note, we had actually done a road trip when we were pretty early on in our relationship and we were going to be together for like a week and a half, two weeks at the most and everyone was like, “If you can stand each other at this point, your relationship is golden.” (laughing) And although I think that again, that’s a really light circumstance, I do think that when you go through really hard things together, that is kind of that make it or break it moment. You know, either you’re able to really rally around each other and hold each other together. Not that every moment is like that by any means but just overall. So, I’m wondering if we can back up a little bit because I’m not super familiar and there’s probably people that are listening as well, so I’m wondering if you can talk a little bit about the difference between IUI and IVF.
T: Oh, sure. IUI is where they take the sample from the husband or the male and then they insert that into the female. We just did that because it’s kind of like...you can decide what you want to do. You can jump to IVF, I think, if you really wanted to but it’s really expensive. First we started with just fertility medication to help with the different levels in my body so that was kind of the first step and when that didn’t work the second step was IUI.
Then next step after that was probably, well there’s probably other steps for other people depending on their circumstances but for us it would have been IVF. IVF is where you take samples from both partners and then insert that into either a surrogate or into the mother herself. I think we would have done that step but we had recognized that we needed a break and financially everything was out of pocket anyway so we never got to that point. And it’s not guaranteed. Obviously, for us, we were diagnosed as unknown infertility. They didn’t know why. Everything seemed fine and kosher from both ends so it was just completely unexplained which is a whole other dynamic in terms of trying to accept something and deal with it or find a solution. So, yeah, that’s kind of the difference.
K: Sure. Do you feel comfortable talking us through that process of not really knowing why and trying to accept the unknown? What was that like for you?
T: It’s kind of a loaded question because with my experience, we had started with one doctor at one hospital location and again we were very new to all of this so of course you go into the black hole of the internet and you try to each yourselves all of these things. There’s an element of wanting to trust your doctor and what they tell you and suggest to you. So, we were on the path with the one doctor and I don’t remember exactly what happened but there were just kind of some bedside manner things that I didn’t agree with and also, it just wasn’t working which wasn’t their fault. I think that I was maybe transfering that anger onto the physician but we did end up switching doctors and that was a little bit more of a better experience.
What we did was we started with the medication and then did the IUI and for us it was, I mean we were so desperate, not knowing if you should listen to your doctor or if you should ask questions that you find on the internet. We tried to do both but it was really kind of difficult in terms of just understanding why. I think we, as humans, just want to know the why for everything. Little kids, that’s what they ask all the time, right? I think it’s such an innate part of us but they couldn’t tell us why so for us, trying to problem solve something where we didn’t know what was the problem was really hard. Everything felt like a shot in the dark and it felt like we were just throwing mud at the wall and trying to see what would stick.
It also was hard for me to digest what was going on. I don’t know, other people who had reasons for infertility would maybe answer this differently. Like I said, everyone’s experience is so different and this is just my experience but I remember feeling like if only I knew what was wrong I could just accept it and move on. Or like, yeah...I just kept having that feeling pop back into my head where I just wanted to know what was wrong. If I can’t have kids, fine! I just want to know that so I can be done and just move on with it.
We just never got that.
That was really difficult for us.
K: Absolutely. That makes so much sense. Like you say, it would just be like walking in the dark, hoping something might work and not really understanding what’s going on. I think, as a whole, we’re often taught to just trust our doctors and go with it but there’s so much information out there, it’s impossible for one doctor to know every possible thing ever that could be beneficial. I think that it’s great to be able to seek other sources but I also can imagine that google...I mean, it’s scary. Even if like, I have a sore throat. What could this be? The next thing you know, it’s like you’re dying tomorrow and it’s like, “Oh, how did I go down this hole??”
That makes a lot of sense that you would be trying to balance that.
T: And not to complicate the conversation further, but I do have to say this because it was part of my journey. The whole why and answering that question for us, there’s two sides of my brain, one that was kind of the scientific part and the other was like the religious part. So within our marriage too, it was kind of like if the timings not right for us what is part of our faith plan that this isn’t happening for us right now? We had to ask ourselves that question because that is part of our lives and part of our marriage and so a couple things in hindsight now because it did work out and we do have a little one, we thought that maybe we would have become foster parents which was also part of our journey...I should back up, I guess.
Because it wasn’t working and we had kind of given up after eighteen months of infertility, I knew that I wanted to be a mom and I couldn’t just sit and wait. I couldn’t wait on god, I couldn’t wait on science. It was hard. I had to be doing something that was active towards becoming a mom and for me, my whole life sure, I wanted to have a child but I also envisioned adopting too so we made steps to become foster parents because it was something that we could activly do and be in control of to become parents.
So, we did that. In hindsight, like I said, the whole “why’s” perhaps we as a couple wouldn’t have become foster parents as quickly as we did if we didn’t have difficulties and because we did that, we’ve already been able to help two babies and hopefully in the future more and maybe adopt a child through fostering or whatever.
Maybe part of it is that, you know? Sometimes I can accept that and feel okay that we went through that because of maybe that was our plan?
But again, not everyone has that strong of a faith brain in it and that’s okay too. I think we grasp onto different things in what we need in that moment and I definitely would go back and forth within my journey. I just kind of had to mention that.
K: No, I love that you mentioned that. Thank you so much. And I’m wondering if we can talk a little bit about although now you have Drew who is so cute, by the way. He is so precious! But even though he is here now, is there still times where you think back to that and kind of struggle with that why? Like why did this happen? Why did we have to go through this?
T: Oh, for sure.
K: Can you talk a little more about that?
T: Yeah. It’s funny because in thinking about this podcast I was like, “How do I condense my journey in talking with you in an hour and try to keep it somewhat in an orderly fashion.” Naturally, we jump around so totally just lead me wherever you want. I am glad you asked that because I think it’s very important for those who are maybe listening to this podcast for themselves in their own journey or maybe someone who’s going through it and they don't’ know how to get help.
For us, I think people and I, for myself, didn’t realize this either, it is still hard. Even Though I have Drew, that journey is still very much a part of me and will always be a part of me so even though I was, thank God, able to have a child a biological way, it does not lessen the hurt that we went through and I still think about it because I would like to have more kids so I still think about if I should go back on birth control, should I not, what if it messes things up? Should we try to have a child right now, right away because it could be a couple years before we can and I think of that stuff all the time. It doesn’t go away. It is still very hard. I still have feelings of resentment sometimes of a higher power or sometimes I get frustrated at people I see whether it’s social media or in my work that have kids and I’m like, “They shouldn’t have kids.”
You have all these thoughts which are all very normal in terms of someone who goes through his but it doesn’t stop after you have the baby and I think people do forget to think about that but that’s because they haven’t been through it or they haven’t been close to someone that’s been through it. I wouldn’t have really realized that those feelings linger like they do.
K: Right. I’m so glad that you brought that up. I think that, just in general, a lot of times we think that when I just get this. So like, “When I just get my new house” or “When I just loose weight” or “When I just get a new car” then everything's going to be fine and then we reach that point and we realize that no, everything’s not fine. There’s still some things that we need to work through and just getting to that point doesn’t necessarily mean that that’s going to solve everything that we’re going through so I’m so glad that you brought that up.
T: And that theme is true in a lot of different areas of people’s lives Especially this time of year, like you said with New Year's resolutions, right? Well if I could just save up enough money to do this and I think it’s just as humans we always want a goal and to try to reach things which is good but it’s good to take a step back sometimes in our journey and it really made us do that. You learn a lot of patience in that regard.
K: Absolutely. That makes so much sense. Would you mind if we go back and talk about the injections that you were taking? I know that I have an acquaintance from home and she went through that process. She was so bravely open and honest about that and a lot of...there were a lot of side effects for her and so I’m wondering, did you have a lot of side effects as well?
T: Yeah, actually no, we didn’t. I think my journey was pretty mild in terms of others that are out there and again, anyone who’s listening don’t compare yourself and try to put yourself on any type of scale in relation to my story because every story is just so different. For us, luckily I didn’t have a lot of side effects, even with the medication. There’s some normal things that happen like with your cycle but I didn’t have a lot of cramping or I don’t even know, to be honest, I can’t remember what the side effects were that they mentioned because I didn’t have them. I think more of the emotional thing it was for me.
The injections that we did for the cycle were fine. There are needles that you put in your stomach and there was more of just like site pain. It wasn’t anything, really. I got some hot flashes here and there but it was pretty mild for us. Even the oral medication that I was taking was alright.
There are so many kinds of interventions out there in terms of someone’s medical fertility journey but yeah, it’s just kind of crazy. I will say though that the emotional aspect of it for us, the side effect was desperation and kind of wanting ot just say yes to everything and not care about the money or not care about what it would take or whatever. At one point, and again I thank God this didn’t work out, but at one point we had tried with four eggs.
One of the side effects too is exhaustion. The doctors appointments and having to do internal ultrasounds and just having to be in that vulnerable position all the time with or without your husband or your partner and he did come to most of my appointments with me but there were a couple times where he just needed to be at work.
So, um, the emotional piece - the doctor had said, I think this was our last round that we tried with four eggs and they give you the medication. I can’t remember again the names of this but they give you the medication to mature your eggs and to have them released and at one point, there was four then. All of our three other rounds of IUI before that had failed so we were like, “Okay, let's do it. Let’s do a cycle. And let's introduce his sperm to these four eggs and see what sticks.”
They did tell us it is possible that you could have four babies or the rarest thing in the world could happen where they could split and you could have six. I’m thinking, in hindsight, as much as I would love it, that would be insane. So, I’m glad that didn’t work. But you get in that position of desperation and you’re just like, “yes!” That’s how people get like six babies, five babies, four babies.
K: You just stunned me with that one. Like stunned me to silence. I’m thinking, “Oh, my Gosh, how would anybody?” I know that people do but oh, my goodness.
T: Yeah. So in hindsight sure, we thought it was kind of crazy but we also didn’t even think it would work. There was this form of, “It’s not going to work anyway. Let’s just do it. It’s our last chance.”
K: I love that you brought the desperation factor up because I think that happens to us in life throughout certain situations we become so desperate, we start grasping at straws and maybe make decisions that we wouldn’t make otherwise.
So, how was that for you when you found out that the four eggs didn’t work? How as that for you?
T: So, each cycle was so timed because they would have you test on a certain day. Everything’s so methodical and that’s so hard too. Even in having this conversation I think that we can’t have the conversation without talking about the sex aspect of it too.
So, the...talking about everything being methodical it’s the timing of everything. You have to have sex on this day or you have to, and that’s just when we were doing the medication for fertility. With the IUI it was a planned appointment and I’ll get to that in a second.
I want to back up to the whole sex peice of it because there’s also people out there who would say, “Well, I guess you get to have sex whenever you want or all the time.” And the thing is like, when your pressured to do it, it’s not fun. It’s really difficult sometimes and I, in hindsight, thank God we didn’t have any terrible experiences with it. Of course, he and I both agree that there were sometimes we just had to get it over with and it was like a mutual thing that we verbalized outloud where we were like, “Let’s hurry up and get this done. I don’t care how quick you go, just go for it.”
Thankfully, Andy and I had that kind of mutual outwardly verbal conversation about it where there are people who don’t. There are people who don’t have that level of communication with their partner which is really hard too because when you’re in that journey and you feel like you’re alone, even without your husband or your partner, that’s hard too.
The timing of everything was really hard too because we had to plan it around weddings or functions or work or things like that and that was really difficult.
With the IUI, getting to that aspect of it, it was like timing around doctors appointments and one thing that I didn’t realize until I went through it was that with IUI, you take the medication, they test to see how ripe it is and the right time to do it and you set an appointment. Well, the male has to provide a sample that is supposed to be handed in x amount of time or hours, I can’t remember now but like an hour or two before so I can imagine for any guy this would be hard to provide a sample.
It’s like here’s your cup and that whole-.
K: It’s a lot of pressure.
T: Yeah. So, you can do it at the facility. He chose to just do it at home and you have to keep it warm so you have to keep it, they suggest inside your coat pocket before you go in and hand it in and that’s kind of awkward for them. I remember, as the partner, the woman on the side of it, I remember being very conscious about not putting too much pressure on him. The doctors at one point had told us that there were people they served that the man couldn’t produce a sample for whatever reason and therefor they had to forego that entire cycle.
Now, imagine that.
You missed out on an entire month and then you think about the emotions attached to that and the resentment towards your spouse and all the complications that go with that.
Thankfully I had had that conversation or we both had with our doctor before coming across that because that would have been really terrible for me to put even more pressure on my husband to say, “Don’t screw up and make sure you don’t contaminate it” and yada yada yada and they put all these rules around it. Something that’s supposed to be a natural thing.
I think with that, again, it’s just one of those aspects that people don’t realize. Fertility isn’t just you have sex and figure it out - it’s so much more than that.
K: I’m so glad. Thank you so much for bringing that up and being willing to have an honest conversation about that. Quite honestly, not having been through this, I wouldn’t have thought about those really particular, really intense scheduling of everything. It makes sense that that is how it would need to be but that pressure that you would feel and, like you said, being open and honest with your husband to have those conversations about sex and saying this is what we need to do in this moment.
But some people maybe don’t have that ability or depending on what traumas they’ve been through maybe in life, I can see how feeling forced into having sex or forced into really any part of it would feel really uncomfortable in a lot of ways so I’m glad that you bring that up so that if someone goes through it, they know that they’re not alone.
You know, a lot of times I do think that we focus on the woman in the situation but for, especially the husband, significant other, whoever it may be, that is quite a bit of pressure and that’s really vulnerable I’m sure in a lot of ways for them as well.
T: Yeah, and I think we’ve reflected on it multiple times and like I think in general we’ve both been very open with each other just even previous to this experience. Emotionally, and he’s a pretty emotional guy, or at least where I’m at sometimes because I can be over-emotional at times but like, he meets me where I’m at fairly well or at least he can say, “How can I help you?” Or I can verbalize help in some kind of way so I think that foundation was really important to us.
Not for better or worse, others maybe aren’t like that as much or some maybe even more, that might be more helpful but it definitely plays a role into how couples process this.
So, I think for us it was just really being open with each other with where we were at and being patient with it and understanding that this was happening to us together and I wasn’t alone as the female and he wasn’t alone as the male and even recognizing that our experiences were very different for it. I think, biologically and some may disagree but my opinion is biologically I had more of the instinct to be a mother, to carry that within me, to carry a child and all that stuff where as he knew he wanted to be a dad, he’s always wanted to be a dad but I think maybe biologically I think maybe it wasn’t the same for him.
And also, you have to keep in mind that he was not bombarded with these feelings of infertility every minute of every day. I can’t do this conversation justice without talking about some of these things, is that every time you go to the bathroom, you look for blood. Every single time you’re scared. And just the constant anxiety that that provokes within you sometimes I think was hard. Every change I would feel, whether it was just a digestion thing, I would be like, “Am I pregnant? Is that what that is?”
Or even when I did become pregnant the second time that was successful for us, every single feeling I had was a worry of am I going to lose it, do I need to be concerned about that feeling?
For him, he obviously didn’t have that because he wasn’t experiencing it. I would probably overly share things with him but I wanted him to be on the same level as me or at least understand where I was coming from if I was maybe short with him one day because I was crampy or whatever it happened to be.
K: I love that you were able to really communicate so well with him about that and that you were willing to be honest. I’m glad that you brought up things that at times are really hard to talk about but truly being able to offer your story and some potential healing for those that are listening and even if they haven’t been through something like this, maybe there could be some understanding for people who may have been through situations somewhat similar so I’m so glad that you brought that up.
Do you feel comfortable maybe talking a little bit about the miscarriage?
T: Yeah, for sure. Again, it was fairly mild for me. There’s a lot of people I know now after the fact that I kind of shared my story. Like I said, we didn’t tell anybody for a long time because I just thought it would happen again. I knew that miscarriages were more common than people think they are but I just didn’t think a. I didn’t think it would happen to me. B, I didn’t think it would happen to me or this fertility thing would happen to me even further. And I wanted there to be an element of surprise when we told our family that we were pregnant. So, in doing that though, I myself further because again, I wanted to surprise my parents and my family so when I came out...I kind of announced it on FaceBook that we were going through this and that I had kind of given up.
Basically, I was sick of the pressure and faking a smile for everyone who said they were pregnant or who were asking me if I was going to have a baby any time soon because that was the next thing on my checklist. When I had shared that with everybody, I had so many people reach out to me that either I knew they had gone through something similar or people that I didn’t know and I was so, so grateful for them who reached out to me. Even though a lot of them didn’t say much, it was just the fact that they said hey, I hear you and I’ll be thinking of you or whatever. I’m not one who wants or needs something like that but it was so validating after such a long journey with it.
My miscarriage happened during the week. I think it was like overnight or in the morning. I had to call into work. I was pretty sure that’s what it was. I went into the doctor and did the whole levels and stuff. They test the levels to see where you’re at based on where you should be and that’s what it was. Luckily for me, I didn’t have a ton of pain. I would say it was more...there was definitely cramping and bleeding but it wasn’t as crazy as I’ve heard some others have been. I didn’t feel like I was dying. It was just a really, really intense cramping. Some people get that with their cycles anyway but nevertheless, it was hard because I think, I didn’t know why Andy didn’t stay home with me that day. I probably told him not to. I probably just wanted to stay home in bed by myself or with my dog and just experience it. I think I slept most of the day.
I was able to call into work and check out. I went back to work the next day. I don’t know why. I probably shouldn’t have. I didn’t really know where I was but it was kind of done and over with fairly quickly. I had, after that initial day, it was just like a normal cycle after that but then again, I think my feelings went right on to the next time, the next month, it’ll happen.
I think I was just so surprised because this was the first time we had tried and the first time we’d gotten pregnant and I thought it’ll just happen again.
I don’t know, it’s funny...I don’t know much about how I felt then. I just know that I was so ready to try again.
For me, like the whole physical piece of it wasn’t as hard as it could have been. I was thankful for that but it was also kind of a hard time for me because shortly after I was also in school at the time so I had the pressures of that and needing to tell my professor “I’m not going to hand this in on time” and how physically I just could not do it. My grandfather had also died shortly after so there was a lot of feelings of, “I’ll never get to tell him.” It was hard for me, plain and simple.
And then when it just continued to not happen for me it seemed like there were so many pregnancy announcements around me, that they were becoming more and more difficult to accept because I wasn’t pregnant. That’s kind of how that journey continued to go for those months.
K: Thank you for talking us through that. I think one thing that you hit on right there at the end is a lot of times when you are bombarded, as it seems - at this time in life it seems people are either getting married, getting divorced, or having babies and so...well, maybe new pets every now and again...but those are the main things and so if you’re struggling with your own divorce or you’re struggling with being single or your struggling with wanting to be a parent and having some difficulty with that and you’re seeing that in your face at all times it feels like, that can be really overwhelming.
I had a friend in the past and I really want to be careful to protect her story so I’m just going to say one portion of it, even Mother's Day was really hard for her and so I’m wondering, did you have that same experience? Was it challenging for you?
T: I tried my best not to get carried away with those feelings because it’s so easy to do that. And I certainly did at different point but my sister um, who was a really big support for me through all of this. She had friends, she’d already had a kid too and although she didn’t go through this herself, she was helpful with it. She had actually sent me flowers for Mother’s Day and I really appreciated that. Even though I don’t have a child, I’m a mother and I will be a mother one day, you know? In whatever way that’s meant for me to be. I think towards her I can be motherly sometimes so maybe it was that. (laughing) Or my nephew who I love as a child anyway. But that was nice. I appreciated the acknowledgement of that and I wasn’t really expecting it by any means. But it was nice. It was nice to be able to experience that.
What I will say is there’s a part of it where the feelings of the different...like, I don’t even know the day that I miscarried because I purposely try not to memorize it. I know it was sometime in June but I don’t remember the day. I purposely tried not to so I wouldn’t have that feeling all the time.
I know that people do with the death of people and that’s totally different or maybe for some people it’s not but yeah, I tried not to hold onto those things because it was hard enough at different aspects of the journey.
K: Do you think in some ways, that helped you not completely disconnect but you know what I mean, gave you a little bit of space to be able to continue on but also acknowledge that that happened without becoming absorbed in it?
T: Yes, for sure. Again, I don’t know why I did these things. Maybe it was just something I read, who knows. There’s a lot of things that I consciously made the decision to protect myself with. I unfollowed a ton of people on FaceBook. Even close friends and family members because I recognized that it wasn’t just enough to tell myself not to go on FaceBook because I think that’s such a muscle memory thing now - you pull up your phone and you pull up social media. And I didn’t want to be completely disconnected from the joys of the random cat videos that people share. I had to unfollow people because I just couldn’t handle it. It’s such a weird thing - I at times would feel judged by people that maybe their perspective was that I wasn’t happy for them and to be quite honest, to be very honest, there were times in my journey where I had awful, awful thoughts towards people. I’m just going to go ahead and say it, I wished that people wouldn’t get pregnant. I wished that they would have miscarriages. That’s a very scary thing for me to say outloud but I have to be honest for those that are going through this that if you have those feelings, it’s okay and it’s normal.
One of my sister’s friends who reached out to me who I thank her so many times over because she, and maybe other people told me this too, but because she had went through her own experience, I just really absorbed what she told me. She said that anything...like it’s okay not to be okay and every emotion that I experience through this journey at whatever time is completely normal and it’s okay and I should never feel otherwise.
And that alone was so freeing for me.
Like I said, I had awful thoughts that made me feel so shameful for thinking them, right? Like, why would you ever wish that on anybody? And I don’t. But when you’re in the middle of that darkness, your brain, your whatever mechanism you try to cope with, you go through some crazy feelings and thoughts and yeah, I had to protect my own heart from some of the things I was seeing on social media or just from people’s things that they would share.
I don’t apologize for that, for being disconnected from people, because it was part of protecting myself from a really difficult situation.
K: I think that’s great and I’m going to say this like twenty times as we talk but I think it is so wonderful that you are so willing to be so brave and say those things because those are things other people feel as well so that solidarity, saying I’m there with you, is like your sisters friend reaching out, that can literally change the experience in your life.
T: It did! It was so early on, too. I really don’t know where I would be without that conversation that we had and her freeing me kind of from the chains of my own thoughts. You can’t imagine the things that go through your head. That was really important for me to hear that and also verbalize it out loud and I think I never imagined some of the things that I would have feelings about.
K: Absolutely. That makes sense. How are some of the ways you think we could best support somebody, whether it’s a close friend or just an acquaintance. What are some of the ways they can move forward with that.
T: Again, my perspective is just my perspective. I want everyone to take just for a minute what they need or what they can and also not have my story be compared to anyone else's because you can’t. You can’t compare it. The hurt is the hurt, no matter how you look at it.
I think for me, even though I’ve already went through this in my own journey, I still don’t know what to say to people who are going through it.
You can’t get caught up on the words you should or shouldn’t say. I think the most important thing to say is to just say something. Or to be honest in saying that you don’t know what to say. If you’re going to reach out to someone, just say “Hey, I don’t know what to say to you. I don’t know what might be helpful for you in this moment but I want you to know that you’re on my mind or you’re in my prayers or whatever kind of phrase you want to use but just letting people know that it’s okay. It’s okay if they don’t attend that family function. It’s okay if they don’t go to that baby shower because definitely, I didn’t do those things.
And part of it is, I don’t know, allowing that person to share what they want and maybe not being too nosey. People will share with you what they want and I think just reaching out and asking how it’s going.
Also, I think it doesn’t have to be, it’s kind of like...you know that people are going through a couple things like lets just say depression or whatever, that’s not all that person is, right? A person that’s going through depression, that’s not all that encompases them. There’s more to them than just that so you can talk to them about normal things too. I would suggest try not to change maybe what your relationship was but also I think I would have appreciated or at least I had feelings of kind of hurt that certain people, maybe family members I’ll say, didn’t just ask how Andy and I were doing as a couple. It didn’t have to be just about me or about the actual process of “Hey, when’s your next cycle coming on?” Can you just ask how we as a couple are doing? That’s really important too.
But again, I say that with knowing that people who did or didn’t reach out, it’s because they didn’t know how. But I know in the moment I was like, “Why? Why haven’t they asked how we’re doing?” I’m speaking about certain people, not everyone as a whole. That was just kind of my experience.
Something else that you could do is to just be present. Try not to take things personally. I had a couple experiences with folks close to me that I think had a really hard time with me protecting myself in certain ways so I did purposely become a little more distant with people or I kind of laid it all out there in protecting my heart and saying what was on my mind and telling them that, “Hey, although you may be pregnant or trying to become pregnant, I just want to let you know that I can’t actively be a part of that with you like you maybe want me to be or are expecting me to be. I won't be able to comment on your pictures.” Or maybe I end up not following people. I did that with some people and it didn’t go maybe as I had planned but never the less I had to do it to protect my own heart because part of the journey is you have to have a place in your mind or heart to put the comments that you recieve, you have to have a place to put that because it’s such a vulnerable situation to be in that you may, in the moment, not be able to provide the education to that person or to even provide them with feedback you may want to provide them with.
That’s in hindsight for sure but I just remember making a conscious effort to kind of be aware of my own feelings because I didn’t want to be a Debbie Downer on people either.
K: You know, I think it’s tough for all parties involved to navigate. I have again I just have to be really careful because I want to protect my friend but I had a friend who had a loss of a child around the same time that I had my son so our kiddos would have been around the same age so one thing that I did and I don’t know whether it’s right or wrong but is that for about the first year and a half or so of my sons life, I didn’t send pictures or clothes, I didn’t talk about it. It wasn’t that I didn’t want them involved in his life but I just thought about it from the flipside. Again, I have no idea how I would feel obviously but if that would have been me or I would have known and been bombarded with things that reminded me of that, that would have been so hard for me.
And so I wonder in some ways if you have a close friend who goes through something, even if you have no clue what it feels like, just trying to take a step back and think, “Do I want to put my joy in their face?” essentially is how I kind of looked at it.
Sometimes I think too, even if you aren’t in that same situation, just to be able to say to someone, “This really sucks.” Like just call it like it is - this sucks. I don’t really know how to be there for you but I want you to know that I am and like you said, maybe checking in periodically with them without being...it’s just hard to navigate because you want to be there for your friend, you want to be supportive and you want to be as aware as you can be of the situation without side-stepping essentially.
T: For sure. I think that for me, had you done that for me, that would have been really appreciated because it is, it’s part of that. It’s not that that person isn’t happy for you. It’s that they couldn’t experience it fully in the moment because of what they were going through. At least, that’s how it was for me in the fertility journey. It’s really hard to kind of process in the moment and like you said earlier, it depends on what you’re bringing to the table too in terms of your past experiences or trauma or family issues or maybe your support system. There’s so many factors that play a role in how we get through it and so I...yeah, I definitely unfollow people because I also didn’t want people to feel like they couldn’t post it. I realize that I am a trigger for people or I could be for people that are in the journey themselves that are maybe on my FaceBook as part of my own journey too. I do post monthly pictures of him like he’s three months, he’s four months….I do that because I always wanted to do that. I waited to do that. It’s part of our social media whatever you want to call it - part of what we do now. We want to share our stuff but it’s kind of the joy I wanted to share. I do recognize that that’s probably hard for some people to look at just like it was hard for me to look at other people’s when I was going through it and yeah, each person just has to do what they need to do.
The one thing I guess that stands out is don’t, if you’re the person that’s on the other end of that, don’t take anything personally or have hurt feelings of whatever someone's reaction might be to you because they might not be able to help it. They may act in ways that you may be surprised in. They may act angry or they may act annoyed or distant. It’s just the experience that they’re going through and sure, we all have choices that we make and we all choose how we respond to things in our lives and our attitude but there is really a component of that darkness that you’re in that you just can’t control. And that’s one thing I would really want to stress is that yeah, people may choose the words in how they respond to you or whatever but there’s really an element of that darkness that you can’t really control how you respond.
K: I’m really glad that you mentioned that. So what would you personally say to somebody right now that is struggling with loss or fertility issues. How would you encourage them? Is there anything you’d like to say as we’re wrapping this up?
T: Yeah. I would say again, like that gal told me, everything that you’re experiencing right now, every emotion, it’s okay. It is a part of the human experience in any type of difficult thing in life. Try to find ways to not let the shame build up. There’s enough shame that we go through in this experience, whether it’s, “I shouldn’t have had that coffee this morning. I shouldn't have smoked. I shouldn’t have drank. I should have exercised more. I should have eaten healthier.”
You could play that game all day long. But let's be honest, there are people who unfortunately are on drugs and do whatever and they still get pregnant. Those are real feelings of anger that you may have towards those people.
So yes, I think there’s an element of we should all eat right and exercise right. That’s just life in general. But try not to add too much shame on your own plate for the things you should or shouldn’t do. Find something that can ground you. For me it was digging into my marriage and having that be my foundation. Finding a support system or it doesn’t have to be a group of people. It can be just one person. It can be a good blog post or something online that can kind of inspire you to get up and keep going.
But you also have to sit in the feelings too. You can’t avoid them or any other dynamic you think would be difficult to handle.
And yeah, I don’t know, I think just know that there’s an end to your journey, whatever that might be and that you’ll get through it and that if you want something, just work towards it and find ways to be joyful in it. There are all these kind of cliche things, right? I think in the moment though, you’re not going to know how you’re going to respond to someone’s advice. There were times that people would tell me, “Oh, just pray about it” or, “Just relax and it will happen.” Maybe now, someone even saying, “Everything happens for a reason”...now, maybe that makes me feel okay but in the moment, some of those responses to me were kind of irritating.
You just have to do what you need to do for yourself. Not what anyone tells you to do, not what any person on some blog post read that worked for them. It may not work for you. You just have to find what helps you.
K: Absolutely. I love that. So there are a few questions I ask everyone that comes on this show so can I go ahead and ask you those?
T: Yeah, go for it!
K: Alright! So are you familiar with Brene Brown?
T: I am. I’ve listened to your other podcasts.
K: I know, I talk about her all the time. (laughing) She’s so great. I was talking with a colleague and a friend the other day and we were like, “Can I just go to lunch with her? Will she go to lunch with us?” So if Brene Brown ever listens to this, call me! We’ll do lunch! Kidding...kind of. (laughing) Anyway, she has a book where she talks about braving the wilderness so the concept is that you’re stepping out into the wilderness alone and as you work through that you do find others in there but essentially that first step feels isolating and so I’m wondering if you can share a time, it can be about the situation or it can be another time in life as well that you really felt like you stepped out into the wilderness.
T: I would say it was definitely this journey because this was the most significant one that has happened in my life. It was when I had shared with a friend what was really on my heart with my journey. She had also been trying to conceive and then was pregnant and that was a really hard one for me. I think I didn’t realize but for everybody there’s going to be those one or two or a few people where their announcement is hard to digest and for me this particular person, it was her and now and then I had really bad feelings about feeling badly about that. It wasn’t that I wasn’t happy for her, I just in the darkness, I couldn't experience things in a way that she or I may have wanted me to so there’s a lot of things that happened with that that I feel sad about but it was very, at the time I thought I was protecting my heart and I definitely was. I wouldn't do anything differently but I felt very isolated because I feel as though she didn’t understand and again, it’s nothing she did right or wrong, it’s just...she couldn’t understand because she wasn’t in my shoes and I thought I had explained my situation well but again, her perspective maybe was just different than I wished it would have been.
K: Sure, sure. That makes a lot of sense.
T: And so yeah, that was the isolating piece for me. I wanted someone to understand everything I was going through but understanding that they really couldn't because they weren’t in my shoes.
K: Right. That’s really insightful for you to be able to take that step back and see that even though it can be hurtful and hard for you but to see that truly no one can understand how we feel even if sometimes we wish they would.
So who would you say through this process or it can be throughout your whole life are your biggest ecouragers and it can be more than one person.
T: Um, well my husband first and foremost. He gets me which I am so appreciative of. He’s very patient with me. Prior to this with my fertility stuff or our fertility stuff before and after I think that it’s been great for me. My mom, my sister I think really...it’s an interesting dynamic with my sister because when I did become pregnant, she was also pregnant at the same time. Our babies are eleven days apart and that was really hard for me actually. I’m not one that needs all the attention on me. I think the only day I enjoyed that was on my wedding day. But when she was pregnant, I had the feelings of like kind of upset that she also got to have that joy at the same time. It’s really cool now and I’m over it now and I’m able to talk about it but at the time I was like, “What? This was supposed to be my time and my parents were supposed to be just focusing on me and this grandbaby.” I was glad that her and I were able to remain close before we both got pregnant and she was definitely a big encourager. She also...it’s just her personally...but she also went to school for social work so she had a lot of experiences She’s six years older than I am so she had a lot of experiences with clients and friends where she could provide a lot of help to me in processing it without being judgemental and without leading me to feel a certain way about something and so I really appreciated that as well.
K: I have a sister who’s five years older than me - five years and seven days but close enough. Sometimes I do think it’s nice just to be able to have that person who has more life experience but really understands your past as well. I think it gives them a different viewpoint and a different way to talk with us. You know if it’s sisters, brothers, friends you may have had in your life, friends you’ve had forever. They certainly aren’t perfect by any means, we’re all human but I think just being able to have a better understanding of us as a person and the experiences we’ve been through is super beneficial as well.
So we talked a little bit about this before we hopped on, you and I did. If somebody wants to contact you, maybe they have questions about your journey or maybe they’re just seeking some support and it sounds like you’re totally okay with them contacting me and then I can connect you guys? Is that okay?
T: For sure! For sure. Yeah, even a total stranger. Definitely. Put my stuff out there on different blog posts and stuff. Sometimes reaching out to people that you know is hard but yeah, I’m open for whatever.
K: I love that you said that because I think a lot of times that’s true - sometimes it’s easier to talk to somebody who doesn't know much about you and maybe has a little bit more of an open mind. Kristina, I am so thankful truly that you took the time to share your journey and your perspectives and I think it’s going to be really healing for a lot of people to know that truly they’re not alone in this process and there is someone out there that’s willing to talk with them if they need some support so I really appreciate you being on today.
T: Thank you for the opportunity. It was kind of my healing journey as well and my intention is even if I helped someone for a brief moment, it’s definitely worth it so thank you.