7 Ways to Get the Most out of Fertility/Pregnancy Forums

 

I pulled an emotional all-nighter on the fertility forums a few years ago. I discovered that there is a right way and a wrong way to approach these sprawling archives of hypochondria and obsession.

Close-up of a positive pregnancy test.  Shallow depth of field.
photo credit: everydayfamily.com

 

Timing is everything

The subject of your worry undoubtedly occurs to you in the middle of the night, but don’t lose sleep waiting for someone in Europe to answer your anxious forum post at 3 a.m. Their advice usually involves the metric system and a 24-hour time stamp. It’s best to post, rest, and start refreshing your browser once people are waking up in Maine.

Let grammar be your guide

If someone is telling you, “trust me i c u having pain in adomen at 4 mo don’t worry it not ur baby u have gas,” followed by 15 emoticons that include fireworks and a soccer ball (?), then keep reading before you grab the Beano. This person is not an OBGYN.

Use the friend test

Is your concern something that you would share with a friend? If not, post on the forum and feel the exhilaration of anonymity. There are, after all, only a few people whom we can call to ask what the difference is between a hemorrhoid and anal prolapse.

If your concern is something you would ask a friend, start there and then use the forum as a second opinion if you think she is wrong. Be sure to follow up with that friend if you discover that 83 people on the internet disagree with her. She needs to know that you really can be 9 months pregnant without knowing it.

Don’t use your real name

The last thing you want is for your post about how many times per month you obsessively pee on a stick to go viral.  Unless, of course, you are prepared to explain to future employers that this behavior demonstrates your determination, your willingness to challenge the assertions of others (“Reliable up to 6 days before your expected period,” my butt!), and your ability to continue making an investment when the return is not immediate. Otherwise, stick to using the name of that former boss you don’t like or your mother-in-law.

Learn the lingo

There is nothing more frustrating than trying to decipher posts that read, “My DH and I are ttc after our DD. I have POS 2x PO, but BFN. Pixie dust, please.” I initially thought this person’s designated driver made a purchase order for something from Tinkerbell. Once you learn the shorthand, you can scan posts efficiently and feel like an insider. There are glossaries. Learn the shorthand and feel like one of the cool kids.

Avoid the snowball effect

If you search for a forum post about “feet swelling during pregnancy,” but land on one so worrisome that it prompts you to start googling “foot cancer” or “gangrene,” back up a minute, go to your bookmarks, and look it up on the Mayo Clinic website. There are always people out there who share their oddball scenario on a forum that just doesn’t apply to 99.99999% of the world.

Just call the #*^& doctor

As my sister would tell me repeatedly during my pregnancies, your OBGYN chose this profession. They signed up for something that requires on-call hours and anxious women. Make them feel useful. There is no way you can possibly have a question they haven’t heard before, and you won’t see them answering questions on forums. This is your one way to know for sure if you are a hypochondriac or not.

Seriously. You can fret and rephrase your forum question over and over about whether your extreme nausea is a sure sign you are carrying quadruplets, or you can make one phone call and get some help with the nausea as a bonus.

I am a fan of forums, and I use them for comfort, as long as they remain comforting. I use forums as a place to gather more questions, but I don’t use them as a place for answers. I can share my pain, my joy, and my hopes without a filter, and the community (usually) responds with support and love.

 

Not everyone has that kind of support in her life, so by all means- lean on each other, anonymous moms. Then go call your doctor.

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How to Climb a Mountain in 5 Easy Steps

Please note: the steps I follow below will work for anything you wish to accomplish. Just substitute “climb a mountain” with “do taxes,” or “learn to knit.”

  1. Decide you are going to climb a mountain– This is obviously the game changer. No waffling. Tell everyone you know. Ask them to hold you accountable and to ask you about it later. You should no longer question, “Can I climb a mountain?”
  2. Name the mountain– There is something about naming the goal to make it part of  your destiny. Feel the word roll around on your tongue. Mount Bierstadt is more of a series of hops than a roll in my case, but you get the picture. Because I like to write, I imagine the way it will feel to write the word in a future blog post that shares the news that I made it.
  3. Start exercising-Whatever your goal, this is the messy part. The doing part. This is all the preparation you need to do to reach the goal. It’s usually physically and/or mentally painful, and this is where most people don’t pay attention. You have to be your own motivator. Keep doing it for yourself even when others aren’t watching.

    Backpack
    Happy Mother’s Day to me!
  4. Buy some gear- Invest in the goal. Then you know that you have to do it. I don’t want to be staring at an unused day pack in the corner of my room for the next year. It will just be a reminder of what I didn’t do.

    If you have substituted “do taxes” or “learn to knit,” in this post, it may be helpful to imagine an IRS auditor or an unshorn sheep in your bedroom corner. See how uncomfortable that feels?

  5. Tell a preschooler near you that you plan to climb said mountain.- I guarantee that within a month you will just climb the dang mountain to get them to stop asking you when you are going to do it. I’m thiiiis close to just doing it this weekend to get my eldest son to focus on something else.

 

Best Books for a Preschooler’s Big Emotions

There is nothing like my 4-year-old son’s big emotions to make me feel completely unprepared to be a parent. I feel insecure. I try to be compassionate. I try to be still and near. I demonstrate strategies for managing anger and disappointment. I buy books (some of my favorites to follow). I make sure he gets exercise and fresh air. I try to be on the same page with my husband who has a shorter threshold for patience during meltdowns. I’ve tried a chart. I worry. I analyze. I lose sleep.

These are the formative years, they say. Now is when kids start to build patterns of behavior and self-regulation. No pressure.

hiking
Not all parks have playgrounds, sweetheart.

I have been partnering with his very patient and caring teacher to try to understand what is causing a recent uptick in incidents of shoving, name calling, etc., but yesterday was much like the days before. A little improvement followed by a brawl at the end of the day. I ended my day crying before bedtime. It was too late to call a fellow mom. I felt alone, although my husband was reassuring. There is just something different hearing the same words from a fellow mom. My son is not a bully. Is he?

This morning after our jog at the crack of dawn, my neighbor and fellow mom kindly lent me the book, Have You Filled a Bucket Today?: A Guide to Happiness for Kids. I had managed to both cry and laugh during a two-minute sprint.

Shortly after returning from my run, my kiddo stumbled downstairs from his room to say, “I don’t want to go to school today. I hate my school.” He saw the book in my hands and asked me to read it to him.

The theme of the book is that everyone in the world has an invisible bucket. When we are happy, our bucket is full. When our buckets are empty, we are sad or angry. We can be a bucket filler (doing nice things for others, or saying nice things, even small stuff), which fills our own bucket as well as that person’s bucket; or we can be a bucket dipper, which is when our words or actions take away from the other person’s bucket. As you can guess, that also makes our own bucket less full.

Something about this book really struck a chord with him. He immediately started telling me that snuggling with him filled his bucket. His baby brother waving at him filled his bucket. He asked if using his manners filled my bucket. He got it! My husband asked my son’s teacher if she was familiar with the book, and she was. She is going to try to use that language with him today to see if it helps. I hold my breath and hope for a breakthrough.

Will I ever know what is going on with my son’s emotions right now? How long will this last? Is this a sign of a larger problem? These are things that are going through my head for now. Because I run to books for answers for both of us, below are a few that I/we have read recently and enjoyed.

For him:

  1. Angry Octopus: An Anger Management Story introducing active progressive muscular relaxation and deep breathing – by Lori Lite and Max Stasuyk: I did not have to tell my kiddo to try these techniques as I read the story. He did it automatically. I have tried this type of relaxation myself, and while it is effective, I am not sure that he will try these techniques oIn his own in the midst of a meltdown, but perhaps if we keep this in rotation, it will be on his mind.
  2. The Best Behavior Series:  Words Are Not For Hurting –  I like that this book balances the message that words are not for hurting, but our words can be used for positive reasons. Hands Are Not For Hitting – Same series, same idea. We bought this board book when he was much younger before he could express himself at all. I never imagined we would have to bring it back out again. Even though this is more simple, the message is clear about what we use our hands for, such as helping, staying safe (crossing the street holding hands), staying healthy (washing hands), playing (making mud pies), and what we don’t use our hands for (hitting).
  3. How do Dinosaurs Stay Friends – by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague: Because dinosaurs.
  4. A Sick Day for Amos McGee – This is quite possibly one of the sweetest books I have ever encountered about caring for other people. The illustrations are precious and the message of the zookeeper being cared for by all the animals he normally looks after is a great way to talk about reciprocity.
  5. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day – A classic, I did enjoy reading this with my son because he loves the long sentences that make the reader speed up and gasp for air to finish. My only complaint is that it covers the What? (Alexander is having a bad day), the So What? (Nothing is going as planned, and he wants to move to Australia), but there is a lacking Now What? I filled in my own discussion afterward, but it falls a little flat at the end.
  6. Kids Yoga Stories: This series by Giselle Shardlow is phenomenal, and is helping my son with calm down time during transitions. A new favorite in this series is Good Night, Animal World: A Kids Yoga Bedtime Story.

For me:

  1. Positive Discipline for Preschoolers: For Their Early Years- Raising Children Who are Responsible, Respectful, and Resourceful – I love this book. I don’t think I am doing it right, because many of the approaches have not worked, although in general terms, it has helped me have the courage to remain calm and create a safe space for him to have his feelings.
  2. Strong Moms, Strong Sonsby Meg Meeker: This is a book I will probably return to over and over, as the advice covers childhood, adolescence, and beyond.
  3. How to Talk So Your Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk – by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish: This is a book I read and recommended to a dear friend. We both agreed that there are some great pieces of advice for how to listen to and respond to anyone you love-not just kids.

I would love to hear about books that have helped you, your children, or your mom friends work through the preschool phase of giant emotions in small packages. Share your favorites in the comments section!

 

 

Call a mom and set a goal!

Last week I had the good fortune to attend several workshops at the University of Denver during the DU Women’s Conference.

One of those workshops was designed for working moms, led by three working mothers at DU. Let’s just say that the circulating boxes of tissues were vital to this conversation. I sat there with my own tears of guilt and sadness and listened to the stories of so many women who are hurting in the process of finding their balance. Just like me.

The common feelings included fatigue, guilt, loss of self, feelings of alienation, regret that hobbies, housework or self-care fall behind in the priorities of daily life. These feelings are also common among my friends who are stay-at-home moms.

As moms, we often put others first, sometimes at the cost of our own well-being. I know that I do the same, moving through the daily routines until I crash, exhausted and with nothing else to give, night after night, only to go through it all again the next day.

I decided this weekend to interrupt that cycle by inserting a goal (or two) into my life. Although I don’t consider myself an athlete anymore, in another decade before children I ran a marathon. Since the kiddos have been around, I rarely exercise. In my earlier post At 20 or 40, tired is tired, I let you in on the secret that I am going to climb a Colorado fourteener (a mountain of at least 14,000 ft).

I would never do such a thing alone, so I proposed this goal to a neighbor a while back, and she accepted the challenge. This weekend after a 6-mile walk in beautiful Cherry Creek State Park (pictured below), we made the plan. We named our mountain. We will hike Mt. Bierstadt in late summer. Naming the goal has made it more concrete, and I plan to go stare it down in the near future.

FullSizeRender-5

My neighbor, unlike me, is a stay-at-home mom, but in our few weeks of training we have realized the impact of working with another mom for a goal that is outside of our family’s needs. To some, that may sound selfish. To me, I think it has everything to do with helping my family. Because it is healing me.

Not only is our regular walking routine improving my mental health through physical exercise, but the return of my confidence and sense of accomplishment is a nice bonus. My family will hopefully be able to see the journey to the summit as proof of what we as individuals can accomplish. I hope that my sons will carry with them the knowledge that women are strong, and that they will treat the women in their lives with respect and maybe a little awe.

Not a person to set just one ridiculous goal, I have been tempted by another friend who threw out an even more outlandish idea last week- what if we trained (in our respective states) for the 2016 Rock and Roll half marathon in Las Vegas in November?

Stay tuned to see if I accept. For now, I am working on hiking and cardio at altitude.

If you do not find running or hiking to be fun and rewarding, the point of this self-involved narrative is that goal-setting is important, but to achieve a goal with a fellow mom doubles the impact. You don’t have to start an organization or swim the English Channel to make a difference in the world or to feel accomplished. Make a difference for yourself and another mom by doing something together and celebrating it.

I’d love to hear what you and your mom friends achieve! Leave a comment if you wish to return later and share.

Sticks and Stones Will Break My Bones, Your Words Will Always Hurt Me.

Dear Eldest son,

Tonight you scared your mommy and daddy by leaving our backyard where you were having an after-school snack, and went across the street to our neighbor’s front yard to play with their kids without asking us first.

When we saw you across the street, we had the now-famous mix of elation and anger that parents achieve in times like this. I calmly called you back home, but you had to have known you were in trouble. You fought me coming back in the house, and once inside, you had the meltdown of your life. Believe me, we thought we had already seen the worst.

Normally, we don’t do time out because that just doesn’t work with you. We often do calm down time together, working on breathing, etc. Tonight, I was so angry with you and I had been so scared that I put you in time out because I needed a time out. You sat there telling me how mean I am, that I am a bad mommy, that you think I am stupid. That you hate me.

I took away your story time, something that I would normally not take away, but I wanted you to notice. I wanted a punishment that you would feel. I was reacting to my own hurt.

I managed to sit nearby so you would not feel abandoned during your big emotions and I went to my happy place. I tried deep breathing. I tried focusing on the sound of your little brother’s whining that was starting in the next room, no doubt in sympathy of your pain.

I realized that nothing worked. It hurt me to see you furrow your brow and hurl insults my way, and there was no getting around it with intellectualizing where you are developmentally, and that you don’t really mean those things.

You hurt me. The one who loves you unconditionally. The one who carried you in her belly, and who thinks of you 1 million times a day. The one who will advocate for you and love you every day of her life. My heart was broken.

But I stayed with you. I outlasted the wall punches and floor kicks. I braved the storm, and was there when you collapsed on my legs in pitiful heaves and moans as you sought the comfort that you find in me. I rubbed your back, I pulled you close, and I made you laugh. You are four. I get it.

We got through this, kiddo. It may not be the last meltdown, but I hope that we both learned something today. Me, that I have the strength to have my heart broken and still give you my big love without yelling back. You, that I will always be here for you, and that the best thing you can do for people you love is to sit and listen, and do your best to understand what they really need. Even if it is to just be near and quiet.

I am sorry I took away your books, but I had to keep my word. You get your stubborn side from me.

It’s my job to keep you safe, both physically and emotionally. It’s also my job to do the same for myself. Together, we will grow. I promise.

Love,

Mommy