By: Naomi Less
“Announcements, announcements, a—nouuunce-ments.”
You made it here. Thank you for showing up. And thank you in advance for reading till the end.
People’s announcements are often made on fb. I’ve had my share of my own – some sad, like announcing the loss of my mother. And some joyous – releasing a new song or performing at a gig. Whether it’s a new job, relationship status, marriages and engagements, gig bookings, pregnancy or birth, buying a home, getting into college or a graduate program, a year of sobriety – with each celebratory announcement – your friendship circle has myriad reactions. Your friends will “LIKE” and “LOVE” your updates, but a good percentage of your network will also struggle with that announcement – indeed, happy for you, but wrestling with an ache inside as that announcement may reinforce something they yearn for and/or haven’t achieved.
And TRUST me – I have lived those moments…in total honesty – it happens career-wise for me – as if somehow someone’s success in their career reflects on whether or not I’m doing well enough in my own career. It’s a practice of deep ego work.
Or for the last 6 and a half years – seeing birth post after birth post for well deserving friends of mine – and my internal reactions: aching, feeling sorry for myself, wondering when it would be my turn, jealous that they didn’t have to put their bodies through the fertility treatment wringer or spend over $100,000 of our and our generous friends’ money, hopes continuously crushed from pregnancy loss or failed treatments, despair that my mom will never know a future grandchild, seeing my age increase and with that, the risks and challenges of birthing and being older parents. So yes, each announcement I truly celebrated publicly, and on my own, I cried.
And that’s the truth if we are being honest here. And we are. And I always will be when it comes to fertility conversations. Because fertility journeys are isolating and pervasive at the same time. And we need to cut through that isolation for all of our sakes.
So it is with deep trepidation and sensitivity and some significant fear that I announce Glenn and I are 5 and a half months pregnant.
Deep breath. Pause. Ok.
And for you to understand what this means, I feel the need to share the story and make a few requests.
Are you still with me?
Glenn and I traveled to Syracuse to a clinic specializing in lower-cost Egg Donation. (Did you know that donor eggs + IVF in NYC is $26,000-36,000?) After 7 IVF treatments, countless IUI’s and two failed pregnancies, we moved to egg donation, had a failed cycle in October and went for it again in January, 2017. This time, working with a reproductive immunologist – I’ll say more about that field in the next post. Yes, there will be another post.
We were flipping out in February when we saw my hormone levels skyrocket and knew both of the embryos implanted took – TWINS! But then, during Songleader Boot Camp – I began to bleed – majorly. I will spare you the details but I assumed I was having another miscarriage. And because I was on immunological drugs, including blood thinners – the bleed I had ended up being larger than typical spotting. (For those of you at SLBC – that’s why I sat down the entire Jewish Women Rock performance and cancelled my teaching session.) A few angels (you know who you are) helped me in my panicked state during that conference – and upon my return to NYC – I was quarantined at home. No big movements, no songleading, no major singing, work from home. My colleagues at Lab/Shul were beyond helpful and supportive. I am truly blessed.
But every day ran the risk of miscarriage – every week a panic attack at the doctors before we reconfirmed the heartbeat. I lived in fear not faith, tears not trust. Each week we watched that clot continuing to compress one of the fetuses. Eventually the clot stabilized and then shrunk. But not before we lost the 2nd fetus.
I was terrified. I kept all of this with a small circle of folks. And as more time passed, I became less and less eager to share with anyone – after all, if something went wrong, I’d have to be in contact with all those folks to share what happened. And I just couldn’t handle that.
But here we are, five and a half months in – it’s still growing, passed all the “tests” – and while there’s no guarantee, of course, things seem to be progressing positively. (Can I get a “poo poo poo” out there?…or knock on something?)
So that’s the story.
Now come my requests. And let me be clear that these are my requests. I speak for myself and not for Glenn – we are different people and that’s the thing about these journeys – everyone will have different support needs – so best to check in with the person on what their needs are…
Are you still with me?
Reactions and Responses:
When I share the news with individuals, I receive truly emotional responses – from tears, to laughter to huge smiles, hugs. Sometimes, to be honest, it’s hard to take in because I haven’t let go of my own fear or disbelief that this is happening. It’s been such a long road and I’m afraid to feel joy and positivity. And so I feel guilty that my emotions often don’t match what my caring friend or family member shares with me.
Request #1: I really appreciate your responses, BUT I often can’t match the intensity of your response. A “Like” or “Love” on fb definitely tells me you care– and if you do write a comment, I’ll try to respond, but may not be able to for a while – just know that I’m reading every one.
We need to talk about bodies. I’ve noticed, and not just with my situation, that folks may be so excited for a friend/loved one – they reach out and touch your belly. It always seemed strange to me because we don’t do that with non-pregnant people’s body parts. Even hugs need permission, right? Touching someone’s belly, I would think DEFINITELY needs permission. And not that I need to explain, as no one should touch your body without permission, but because of all of my shots, my belly is actually super bruised and sensitive…I know, I know, no explanation needed.
Request #2: Please don’t touch my belly without asking. Thanks!
What to Say:
In the Jewish tradition, there are expressions for EVERY occasion…death, birth and everything in between. For pregnancy, Jews typically don’t say mazal tov / congratulations – and as a superstitious Cubs fan, I concur. The expression often used is “b’sha’ah tova” which means – in a good hour. It’s a blessing that birth should be in a good hour.
Request #3: First off, say whatever you want – but if you’re looking for a suggestion, I think “B’sha’ah tova” is a nice expression – but not everyone speaks hebrew and I don’t know if it gets at the essence. A simple “best of luck” or “wishing the best for you” works if you don’t do the Hebrew thing – (a lot of this IS luck, out of our control) – or if you like Hebrew/Jewish expressions, another beautiful one I like is “b’et ratzon” – that things should happen at just the right time which of course is different for everyone.
Checking in on how it’s going:
I won’t most likely be posting FB status updates or pictures of sonograms. I just know how painful it is for so many people out there, even though this is exciting news. At the same time, it’s very overwhelming to be inundated by inquiries. AND, just like I don’t want my looks to be the first thing out of someone’s mouth when they see me (“you look great”, “nice outfit”, etc.), I don’t want my belly to be the first topic of discussion out of one’s mouth when you see. Meaning – yes, it’s there, we can’t ignore it – but we may have other things we want to talk about in our relationship, too – music, family, career, friendship, the Cubs, when we’re meeting for coffee…
Request #4: When you and I see or talk to each other, please don’t “lead” with pregnancy or body talk – if that’s possible – and don’t worry, I’ll most likely bring it up early in the conversation anyway. Would you help me to feel my full self when I’m with you? – and that means my whole self, not just pregnancy?
I’m so appreciative that you read this far. TRULY.
And fyi, two other posts (at least) are coming – don’t worry, much shorter than this one. The first topic will be how to navigate being an advocate for fertility support when you’re pregnant. The second will focus on fertility finances and medicine. Each of these issues are deeply sensitive and important.
Thank you for keeping these conversations alive and for making the journey of fertility less isolating for so many, including me.
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