Letter to My Younger Self – It’s Not Perfect

medium_4698434786Hi, it’s me. Just thought I should check in. I know you’re busy right now. College classes, shows, activities, friends – you’re having a blast, aren’t you?

I know you’re thinking ahead – thinking about the “adult world” and having a family. Looks like a great plan, doesn’t it? Finish college. Get a job. Find the perfect husband. Have the perfect wedding. Buy the perfect house, and have 3 kids running around all while you keep your career, do your hair every morning, and all before you’re 30.

It won’t be perfect.
I’m not trying to shatter your dreams, because it’s not necessarily a bad thing. I just want to warn you – It isn’t perfect. You can’t control who you fall in love with. The first house ends up being a lot more work than it seemed like it would. And you won’t get pregnant right when you want. In fact, it will end up being such an ordeal that you will almost be at the point of giving up. But don’t – it will happen. And when it finally happens, you’ll be a lot older than you hoped, but you’ll be ecstatic. You’ll treasure each moment so much more. You’ll be in complete awe of everything miraculous. Everything you will ever need in life will be wrapped in that little, tiny blanket in the hospital that day. But it still won’t be “perfect.”

You’ll be tired.
So. Very. Tired.
You’ll have feelings of extreme inadequacy. There will be many days that you won’t do your hair. Some days, you won’t even shower. It took so long to get the 1 kid, that the thought of 3 will go right out the window.

You are going to do a good job.
You’re a great mom and you find your way, but you will have moments of extreme Mommy guilt. You’ll feel like no matter how much time you spend with her, it won’t be enough. You’ll feel like this precious preschool time is just slipping away from you before you even get to experience it and you’ll want to hold on to each moment as tightly as you possibly can. You’ll try desperately to do anything you can to slow things down, to do it all right. You’ll make mistakes – you’re human – but you’ll do a lot of things right too. And you and her will have an incredible bond that will pull on your heart every time you look at her.

You won’t have the career you thought you would – at least not yet. You’ll feel torn by that one for a while – on one hand, you want to be home with her as much as possible to take full advantage of these precious first few years. On the other hand, you want to show her that women can do anything they set their minds to. They can be a great mom and still have a passion outside the home they can follow successfully. After a while struggling with it, you’ll realize that you’ll still have plenty of time to follow your outside passion later. For now, you’ll follow your heart’s passion and find a way to make it all about her.

You’ll be content knowing that you are doing all you can, but you will still feel like you’re making mistakes. Just remember that you’re doing a great job. Everyone can see what a fantastic kid she is. She’s so smart and playful. Imaginative, inquisitive, creative, strong, funny, and kind. And that’s because of you – she learned that from you! She doesn’t know that you’re making mistakes. She just knows that you’re mom – Super Mom in her eyes. You can see it every time she looks at you. And she’s happy and so full of love. Your heart will melt every time your eyes meet, and your soul will fly every time you hear her laugh.

No, it will not be perfect.

But the thing is, when you look at her,
It Is.

 

Photo Credit: Www.CourtneyCarmody.com/ via photopin cc

Under-Prioritizing Families: American Exceptionalism at its Worst

FMLAI study American government, and I’ve spent years being told that America is exceptional in its politics, in its history, in its social, racial and intellectual diversity. But there’s another way that we’re exceptional, a way that we don’t learn about in school and that politicians don’t brag about for political capital.

There are 178 recognized countries in the world. 175 countries require employers to offer paid maternity leave to new mothers. The United States is one of the three exceptions, and the only first world country without a paid maternity leave law. (The other two countries are Swaziland and Papua New Guinea.)

Within the US, just two states offer paid family leave to men and women—New Jersey and California—but the statutes do not guarantee that employees who use their paid leave can’t be fired as a result.

Now, every state is required to follow the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA), a piece of legislation that requires qualified employers to provide up to 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave to workers who need to deal with medical and family issues.

Twenty years ago, the passage of FMLA was rightly considered a huge victory for former president Bill Clinton; but the victory should have been considered the first step, not the last, toward ensuring that no one is ever forced to choose between their careers and their family.

FMLA cannot be the last step because if you work for a company that employs fewer than 50 people, or you work part-time, or you’ve worked for a company for less than a year, or you need to take care of extended family or grandparents, your leave isn’t protected under the law. In fact, a staggering 40 percent of the workforce isn’t protected.

And stories reported by those that are covered indicate that the law is loosely enforced and often inattentive to the actual needs of employees: a new mother will take her three months of leave to care for a newborn, only to return to the workforce with a decreased salary, a demotion, or an office half the size of her old one. A mother put on bed rest prior to the birth of her child is fired for not returning to work when her leave is technically up but her child is only 12 days old. A man is fired for just requesting leave in order to care for his ailing, elderly parent. Another is fired for requesting time off to take his dying father to the hospital.

Where are our priorities?

After all, the Department of Labor, the administrative body responsible for overseeing FMLA, has stated that the law is intended “to balance the demands of the workplace with the needs of families,” but it sounds like the demands of the workplace, specifically the demands of employers, are being prioritized over families.

When the law was first under review, lobbyists for the business community demanded that any legally mandated leave be unpaid. Their reasoning? Monetary benefits, they said, would encourage employees to abuse the leave policies.  And of course, they also argued that paid leave would economically punish the employers while rewarding the employees.

But if the purpose of the law is, in fact, to help balance the demands of the workplace with the demands of families, is unpaid leave really enough?

The types of situations that warrant leave under the FMLA are all costly: a new baby, a close family member in the hospital, an employee’s own medical needs. Unpaid leave might guarantee that these people don’t lose their jobs as the result of a pregnancy or unforeseen medical issue, but it certainly doesn’t help cover the costs of supporting the very families they’ve taken time off for.

Let’s go back to maternity leave as an example, and let’s think of the average middle class American woman. 12 weeks of leave might give her enough leeway to prepare for a new baby, recover from delivery, and bond with the newborn. Maybe. But what if she’d previously provided 47% of her family’s income, as so many middle class women do? In all likelihood, that family is going to be severely impacted by three months with only half of the earnings it’s used to. Is that family’s needs really being met?

All of this isn’t to say that FMLA is a bad law. According to government estimates, 100 million workers have taken advantage of government-guaranteed family leave. The problem is that FMLA doesn’t go far enough, it doesn’t prioritize families. As a country, we’re not doing as much as we can to ensure that people who work hard every day are never asked to choose between putting food on the table or being with a sick loved one in the hospital.

We must put pressure on our politicians to reevaluate family leave laws. Call your congressmen. Write to your senators. Share your stories. Insist that your lawmakers listen to your stories, that they know how your family is impacted by a lack of useful family legislation. Tell them that this is an area of public policy where America can no longer stand to be exceptional. As Best for Babes co-founder Danielle Riggs puts it, “[Family and maternity leave] is very serious. This is not a woman’s issue; this is not a sideline issue. This is a front and center issue, a human rights issue.”

Lets stand up for our human rights, and for our families.

-Jean-Ann Kubler

Photo Credit: babasteve via photopin cc

In a Nation of Fear, United We Stand

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me,
‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’
To this day, especially in times of  ’disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing
that there are still so many helpers –
so many caring people in the world.”
-Fred Rogers

Flagedit

I purposely try to stay away from the news lately. It seems like it is worse and worse each day and quite frankly, I just don’t want to hear it. I know that’s not a very responsible, adult thing to say or do, but it’s true. I don’t feel the need to constantly subject myself to all the other ever-increasing craziness in the world when I have more than enough of my own right now. Not to mention that when there is a huge tragedy, the media sensationalism gets me almost as upset as the event itself.

Yesterday’s tragedy at the Boston Marathon made my heart jump into my throat yet again this year. A swirl of emotions and reactions went through my body as this latest disaster unfolded before my eyes. First, I experienced the shock of hearing the news and the tears of sympathy for all the people affected. I feared for my family and friends that live there. Then I got mad.

Why?
Why do these crazy tragedies continue to happen at a more and more frequent pace now? 

CONTINUE READING

The Infertility Injustice

Insurance-money

Both the American Society for Reproductive Medicine and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have classified infertility as a disease affecting the functioning of the reproductive systems, although many couples have no actual disease or explained reason for their infertility issues. Over 7 million people, or 1 in 7 couples of reproductive age, are afflicted with infertility issues. Yet, in the United States, only 15 states require insurance companies to offer any coverage for fertility treatments. And in many of the states that do require some coverage, insurance companies are able to use loopholes and restrictions to make access nearly unattainable anyway.

The result of these often arbitrary insurance guidelines is that for many couples and individuals coverage for infertility issues is as hard to come by as coverage for elective procedures, if not harder. Most insurance companies site cost as a reason to limit coverage; others argue that fertility treatment is elective because the inability to conceive does not threaten the overall health of the patient. But both arguments ignore the very tangible negative effects a battle with infertility can cause.

The effects of infertility reach beyond the inability to conceive. Infertility has been connected with increased rates of stress, depression, and anxiety, as well as strained relationships with partners, family, friends, and employers. For many, the inability to conceive has the same detrimental impact on psychological health as a sudden traumatic experience.

Yet despite the overwhelming evidence that infertility is a psychologically and physically debilitating problem for many, when the Institute of Medicine (IOM), an independent medical advisory board, met in 2011 to offer advice for the new state-by-state coverage requirements under the Affordable Care Act, their report made no mention of fertility treatments.

The report does emphasize the need for required maternity and newborn services, mental health services, preventative and wellness services, as well as chronic disease management. But the report also encourages insurers to weigh treatment costs with their effectiveness before providing coverage. Most companies cite costs as their primary reason for not currently offering coverage, and though the success rate of fertility treatments range from 59 to 85%, insurers could still argue that the costs outweigh the risk of ineffectiveness.

The potential for this report to further hinder the coverage of infertility treatments is especially tragic in light of some additional data: over 90% of insurers that cover fertility treatments (including fertility drugs and, in some cases, in vitro) report no additional overall health care costs.

It makes sense that health care costs would remain relatively stagnant despite coverage of fertility treatments. First, the availability of coverage does not negate the psychological and physical toll conception through IVF or similar treatments usually requires. For most people, the decision to go through treatment will still be a tough one, and the likelihood of a sudden, exponential increase in the use of fertility treatments seems slim.

Second, the availability of treatment for those who have spent years navigating the heart-wrenching waters of failed attempts at conceptions—weighing the deep, unshakeable desire to have a child with the potential of a string of physically taxing procedures, financial instability, and further disappointments—may lead to decreased use of mental and physical health services down the line. Much of the psychological stress (and resultant physical stress) fertility patients experience is directly related to the financial difficulties many face in trying to pay for treatment. Subsidized or fully insured coverage could relieve a lot of the stress-related medical costs associated with fertility treatments. And, in the face of something as emotionally and physically taxing as an infertility crisis, medical bills should not have to be an added stressor.

In light of the available information, resistance to fertility treatment coverage seems to have little grounding in medical or economic research. Yet we don’t seem to be any closer to guaranteeing access for the 7 million people suffering from infertility issues. One light at the end of the tunnel might exist, however: the same IOM report suggests that the coverage guidelines be reworked every year to fit the changing demands of the medical industry.

As responsibility for insurance guidelines shifts to the states in the aftermath of the Affordable Care Act, the issue of infertility coverage will become increasingly political. And in this case, the politicization of an issue could be beneficial—because political means public, and public means public-influenced.

So now, it’s time to rally for the cause. Join (or start) a support group; write to your congressmen, state representatives, and senators; attend a National Infertility Awareness Week event; encourage your friends and family to learn about infertility. Whatever you do, make it clear to your local and national leaders that infertility treatments need to be covered, that those afflicted need support, not added costs and stress. Let’s spread the word, spread awareness, and make sure the next IOM report provides a little more justice.

-Jean-Ann Kubler

Photo Credit: 401(K) 2013 via photopin cc

“Just Relax!”

You know that nails on a chalkboard, animated steam coming out of your beet red ears as the sound of a runaway train barreling towards a cliff blares in the background feeling? It’s amazing how a simple phrase can sometimes send you instantly to that spot. That phrase for me is, “Just relax!” If you want to see me climb the wall, then please, tell me to relax.

It seems like such an innocent phrase. Never really bothered me back in the day, but once it started to take us a little longer than “normal” to get pregnant, I started to hear that phrase a lot, and it ANNOYED THE CRAP out of me. Even if I was in a perfectly relaxed state, I still heard about it:

“Oh, it’s probably just because you do so much, you need to slow down and relax.” “Don’t get stressed out it hasn’t happened yet. You just need to relax.” Fast forward a couple of years and a fertility clinic later and it turned into, “Just relax! As soon as you stop thinking about it, it will happen.” “You don’t need to go to that clinic, you just need to relax.” “All you need is one quiet night and a bottle of champagne. Just relax and Voila!”

Are you effing kidding me?!? Don’t you think if I wasn’t so hopped up on drugs and hormones that I wouldn’t love to down a bottle of wine right now?!? I was relaxed when we started trying. Are you, with all of your medical degrees, seriously telling me to just relax when my life is nothing but hormones, needles, pills, stirrups, temperature charts, doctors, and timed sex like it is a 9-5 job? Just relax, huh….

I get that they are all very well-meaning statements. But, at least in my case, that was the last thing I wanted to hear from anyone. It always so annoyed me that people (who, of course, had no problems at all having kids of their own) felt like they knew so much about me, my body, and our lives as a couple that they really thought that “relaxing” was the only problem. Been there, done that, DIDN’T WORK.

At the height of my drug regimen, I seriously thought I would rip a tree right out of the ground and jam it down the next person’s throat who told me to relax. It got so bad that I didn’t even want to be around “normal” people anymore. It just took up too much energy to try to stay polite, smile and nod my head like this was the most genius advice I had ever heard and certainly why hadn’t I thought of that before? It was just too draining. I didn’t have enough energy left in me to deal with that too. And if I wasn’t supposed to be getting stressed out, then certainly removing myself from that stressful situation must be the way to go.

I was lucky enough to finally be blessed with my baby, but that phrase can still drive me up the wall. Now it tends to gear more toward other aspects of my life. Apparently, my happiness isn’t enough – I seem to be much too busy for other people’s comfort. And if I happen to admit that I’m tired, it certainly couldn’t be because I’ve been chasing after a 2-year-old all day. It must be because I just need to relax. Not quite sure how that works with a toddler around, one that I just want to soak up every second with, but apparently that’s what I need.

Maybe I do, but please, leave it to my yoga teacher to say it.
Deep breath….

The Reminder of the Holidays

It’s amazing how the holidays can add to your own personal emotional roller coaster.  On one hand, it is a great way to forget about some of the stress of planning for a family. There are a lot of other things that you are forced to concentrate on – getting the right gifts, decorations, parties, planning, travel, dealing with family, heartwarming movies and stories, the magic of the season.

On the other hand, the holidays are a time for children. They’re the ones that get to believe in Santa Claus.  They’re the ones that we help create the magic for. If you’re Christian, we celebrate the holiday in honor of the birth of the infant Jesus Christ. The baby who would change the world. When you’re at those holiday parties, often, everyone else’s children are there too. The discussion focuses on what they’re doing for their kids for the holiday.  The kids are talking about what’s on their lists. “Watch it, Santa’s watching,” is a term heard everywhere. When it comes to gift time, the kids open first. The kids have the huge stack of gifts.

If you have to travel, you realize that everything revolves around the family members who have kids. The timing of events, the days of travel, who’s house you go to, even the rooms where everyone sleeps are based around those with kids.

Frustrating when it’s never you, isn’t it?

New Year’s comes around and everyone else can’t wait to get rid of their kids for a night so they can go out and party the adult way. When that ball drops and the two of you kiss, the only thought on your minds are, “God, I hope this year is it.  This is the year it’s going to happen for us. What I wouldn’t give to have my baby with me right now.”

It seems like no one understands. And how can they really, unless they’ve been in the same situation as you?

I know I felt it more than usual this year.  Other years, I still had a lot of hope. The holidays weren’t a really big deal.  This year, it hurt more than usual. I guess because we’ve been trying for so long now.

I’m not saying that I don’t still have a lot of hope.  Because I do.  In fact, maybe even more. But I’m also more frustrated, and maybe that was part of it. The holidays have always been a magical time for me, even in recent years. So I know that despite what seems like kids being thrown in my face, I still have to hold on to that magic. I still have to enjoy that New Year’s kiss, and I still have to wish on the sparkly ball, or that sparkly star in the sky that this year IS going to be the year. This is going to be the year that changes everything!

Here’s to a hopeful New Year for all of us! (I’m tipping my pretend glass of champagne to you)

Happy New Year!

Welcome!

Welcome to The IF Factor!  
This is a blog related to infertility, the many questions that surround it, and the emotional roller coaster ride that it presents. Keep checking back for first-hand accounts, articles, tips, and an overall supportive & positive community to help you and those around you make it through to the end of the ride.

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