Five Tips for Holiday Self Care

Embarking on the next couple of weeks of holiday celebrations, we offer you five tips that we find ourselves practicing as a method of surviving the celebration of a miraculous conception while dealing with infertility.

#5 Send a holiday card. Really! Tired of getting pictures of new babies and growing families in the mail? Send your own card! Remind others that you are a family! Maria does this frequently sending cards featuring herself, husband, and two puppies. For her, this is a form of infertility advocacy.christmasphoto_2016

#4 Treat Yo Self! Take time out and pamper yourself. Get a massage. Get your nails done. Make yourself feel good!

#3 Talk with your partner and ask, “What are we going to do to make the holiday special for us?” Maria recommends this especially as much of the holidays revolve around the excitement of nieces and nephews waiting for Santa to come. Maria tries to go out for a Christmas Eve brunch with her husband to block out a set time for just the two of them.

#2 Remember it’s okay to just say “no”. Not everything is going to be something that you are going to want to attend. Just like baby a baby shower, remember you don’t need to attend every holiday party or every family event. Sometimes you just need to say no. And that’s okay! Elizabeth said no to her extended family Christmas party this year and spent time with child free friends instead.

The lone decoration at Elizabeth’s house, which wasn’t put out until 3 days before Christmas.

#1 Try to step back and enjoy the simple things. To say infertility is complicated is an understatement. Balancing infertility with the holidays can sometimes increase anxieties. We suggest taking a night and escaping. Make a fire, turn on some holiday tree lights (or don’t if you’re on a decorating strike like Elizabeth), cozy-up with a cup of tea, blanket, and a good book to escape. Sometimes taking a moment to remove yourself from it all allows you to better process and handle the ups and downs that will no doubt come with your infertility diagnosis.

We hope some of the suggestions we have implemented over the years will help you navigate the holidays and new year. Most of all, we want you to know that you are not alone.

Wishing you peace this holiday season,

Elizabeth and Maria

Reflections on Practicing Self-Care This Mother’s Day

For Mother’s Day, Elizabeth and I decided to practice some self-care. The past year has felt a bit like riding a rollercoaster (hoping to hang on) in both our personal lives and the ART of IF. Next week, we will be in D.C. for RESOLVE’s Advocacy Day as well as collecting some more stories for the project. In preparation for another busy week and as a way to refuel our batteries, we are posting our Mother’s Day reflections a few days early. On this Mother’s Day weekend, the two of us will be taking time away from social media. This is for two reasons. One, we know how hurtful social media posts can be around Mother’s Day (and Father’s Day). Two, we are both practicing self-care this weekend — taking time to breathe and reflect on where our infertility journey’s have led us. Below we share our reflections on how we are embracing a moment of self-care during, what can and historically has been, a very difficult day for us to get through. – Maria & Elizabeth

Elizabeth’s Reflection:

Scott and I got married on May 1, 2004. I had dreamed of a fall wedding but in order to get the venues I wanted, I would have had to wait nearly two years after our engagement to tie the knot.  I wasn’t willing to wait that long. I was ready for us to be family.

We didn’t set out in our marriage to have children. We were both undecided. Five years in, we took the plunge and decided to try for a baby. That was just over seven years ago but can feel like a lifetime. I have a photo of the two of us in a silver plated frame on my desk, embracing on our wedding day. Sometimes I look at the photo and barely recognize the people smiling back at me.

Photo by Elli Gurfinkel

Photo by Elli Gurfinkel

It was May 2013 when I had my first frozen embryo transfer. We’d planned on a fresh a couple of months earlier but I had internal bleeding and ovarian torsion after my egg retrieval, requiring surgery. We’d have to wait. Scott gave me my first ever progesterone in oil shot on Mother’s Day. It was both fitting and horribly cruel. As mothers around the country were receiving bouquets of flowers and home made cards marked with their babies’ hand prints, I was being stabbed with a giant needle, just to have a chance that my future would include being celebrated on Mother’s Day.

Later that month, I was surprised to see two lines on a home pregnancy test. I’d broken down and tested the night before my beta and I’m so glad I did. It allowed me extra time to enjoy finally being a mother.  I found out I was pregnant on Tuesday night. By Friday afternoon I knew my beta numbers were going down instead of up. I was experiencing an early miscarriage.

This weekend, Scott and I are traveling to New York City to celebrate our wedding anniversary and, hopefully, give me a chance at avoiding the emotions that come along with Mother’s Day. I hate Mother’s Day. I feel badly because I have a mother and a mother-in-law I love and who deserve to be celebrated but it’s just so hard to do on a day that excludes me. So, we’re mixing things up this year.

Another thing I did differently this year was bought myself a Mother’s Day gift. I’d been admiring some necklaces by Lisa Leonard Designs in my Face Book feed for awhile when the Mother’s Day ad onslaught began. One ad told me that Mom would love a necklace personalized with her child’s name for Mother’s Day this year. I started thinking about how crappy that made me feel and then decided that I deserved a necklace with my “baby’s” name too. So, I ordered Mother’s Day necklaces stamped with artofif for both Maria and me. They arrived last week and we’ll wear them for the first time in D.C. on Tuesday.

art of if necklacesI don’t know what the Mother’s Days of the future hold but I’m glad that I’ve learned to take care of myself on what can be such a difficult day. I hope that you are kind to yourself this year as well and would love to hear about anything you are doing to make Mother’s Day a little more bearable.

Maria’s Reflection:

My mom would normally be with Kevin and I on Mother’s Day weekend. Every year, she travelled from WI to MI for the International Congress on Medieval Studies. As a medieval scholar, this was her “big” conference for the year and it just so happened to take place close to my home in MI during Mother’s Day weekend.

Maria's mom, Therese, helping Maria put on her veil on her wedding day.

Maria’s mom, Therese, helping Maria put on her veil on her wedding day. Photo by Sarah Stephens.

If it were just the two of us, Kevin and I would not venture out that weekend — taking strategic steps to avoid the promotional “Mother’s Day” brunches and “Mimosas for Mom”. But with my mom in town, we always felt obligated to take her out.

This year though, we won’t be celebrating with my mom. Shortly after her visit last May, Kevin got a new job and we put our MI house on the market. Ironically, we ended up back in WI — but not near our parents. As we pondered purchasing a home near Kevin’s new job in Madison, WI, we made the decision to make a different type of purchase — one heavily influenced by our journey with infertility.


A picture of Maria’s dog, Gia, standing on the dock at her cabin.

In September 2015, Kevin and I signed papers for a small cabin in the woods of Northern Wisconsin. This had been a dream of ours for years, yet we never thought we could actually make this move until we were nearing retirement — not nearing 30. But sitting on top of the hill overlooking a small but pristine lake with our dogs wrestling around in the yard, we looked at each other and new this was the best decision we could have made.

The thought of moving into a suburb filled with young families, the thought of continuing to feel not quite normal because we didn’t have kids, the thought of being judged as “dog parents” — deeply influenced our decision to buy a place that could nurture ourselves, nurture our relationship and nurture our path towards the future (whether this is with children or not).

This Mother’s Day, we have opened up our little cabin to some close friends of ours. They recently experienced loosing their child at 20 weeks. Kevin and I were at the cabin when we got this news. It brought us to tears. While we never experienced a miscarriage, we know all too well what that type of lost feels like. Its guttural, its beyond pain, its total and complete numbness.

And so anticipating how hard a Mother’s Day weekend may be for our friends, we invited them up north. Our hope is that this weekend, we can all practice some self-care by taking time to breathe, reflect and nurture ourselves for the future paths we may embark.