Love, Joleen

Thursday, July 20, 2017

8 Things You Should Never Say to Your Friend Going Through Infertility

Today marks one year since I had to have a D&C for a missed miscarriage. I knew the date looked familiar but it wasn't until my mom called to check on me (bless her) that I realized why. The crazy thing is that I was just sitting down to start writing this post when she called. I don't believe any of this is a coincidence. This blog post has been on my heart for months. I've discussed it with friends and received input from ladies in my support group. I only hope I can do the subject justice. 
The thing is, before I had my miscarriages and when I wasn't dealing with infertility, I really never even gave any of it a second thought. Infertility? Miscarriage? It happened to other people, certainly not me. 

I was 25 the first time a doctor told me it would likely take fertility treatment to ever conceive. By then, I had been trying for over a year and knew in my heart that something was wrong. For many reasons, that was a difficult time for me and I spent much of the next several years suffering from depression. My marital status changed (I got divorced and remarried) and I was surprised/blessed with my son just months before my 30th birthday. Since he was unplanned (but oh, so loved!) I took my time of infertility for granted. My husband and I held off on starting to try for a second child until Benjamin turned 3. I got a BFP (big fat positive) on February 20, 2016 and 8 days later, at around 6 weeks, I had a miscarriage. We decided to start trying again right away and I got my next BFP on June 18. I was able to surprise Ben with the news for Father's Day. Unfortunately, I had a missed miscarriage which we discovered at my 7 week OB appointment. It ended up being a blighted ovum and I had to have a D&C on July 20 of last year. 

After the second miscarriage I was pretty much a wreck. I tried so hard to be positive but I sunk into such a deep depression, I'm still not fully recovered. I gained 60 lbs. and am currently the heaviest and most out-of-shape I've ever been. (We've got a gym membership and I'm also trying to embrace #selflove, but that's a story for another time.) I needed to take time off mentally because I was sure I wouldn't be able to handle another miscarriage. 

We started seeing a specialist at the start of the year. Ben and I both underwent testing and then sat down with our provider to make a plan. I've mentally and emotionally been healing over time. It's sad to think about but I finally feel like I've reached a time where another miscarriage, though unlikely according to my doctor, wouldn't absolutely destroy me. That being said, another year has passed and that's just hard. [Secondary] infertility is hard.  

Which brings me to the title of this post. In discussions with friends going through similar situations, a common theme emerged. Friends, family, and acquaintances of ours, though possibly all well-meaning, would say very hurtful and intensive things. This list is a culmination of suggestions I've received as well as my own experiences. Disclaimer: My tone is snarky and meant to be funny but I also hope you see my sincerity in it.

8 things you should never say to your friend going through infertility:
  1. [This applies to those who've had a miscarriage and/or are suffering from secondary infertility.] "At least you know you can get pregnant." - Please don't say this, especially after a miscarriage. I had to smile and nod through this too many times. Believe me, we know this. We know how blessed we are when so many women are unable to ever conceive. We know how blessed we are by our sunshine babies. They're what helped us keep it together and keep going every day. That doesn't make it any easier. It doesn't make the desire or the heartache any less.
  2. Don't followup asking about a failed cycle of IVF in jest, by saying, "You can just have one of my kids." Really? Can I pick which one? *side eye*
  3. Do NOT make jokes about how crazy/emotional your friend is due to fertility drugs. It's really messed up. We can say we're crazy; you can't.
  4. Don't suggest your friend should/could adopt instead of seeing a specialist. Everyone has the right to see something through to whatever length or option they want to.
  5. Don't say, "You're so lucky not to be dealing with a newborn right now. Enjoy your sleep." I guarantee you that's the scenario we'd rather be losing sleep over.
  6. "You should just relax and it will happen." Who knew I could get pregnant reading a book by the ocean?
  7. "I can't imagine how you feel, I got pregnant by accident every time." Ouch. That's one you should probably gab about with your other friend with 6 kids. GTHOHWT
  8. "Maybe it wasn't God's plan for you to be a mom." Lawd, Jesus, never EVER say this. It's not your place to speculate what God's wishes are for another person. #sorrynotsorry
So, what's left? There are so many ways you can encourage your friend. The number one way is just to be there for your friend. How can you do this? What can you say? You can check in with them randomly - "Just thinking about you! How are you doing?" It really meant a lot to me to have people check in with me months after loss. Sending flowers (so sweet!) and providing meals (the best!) right after a miscarriage is amazing, but don't forget your friend months down the road. The emotions of loss and fertility treatment are an absolute roller coaster, and they don't go away right away. It helps knowing we have people emotionally with us through it. It's touching when you remember and recognize dates of loss. You can offer a cup of coffee and an ear. As a loved one, I would encourage you to be a safe place for your friend to vent, cry, and share with. Say less and listen more. 

Thank you for allowing me this space to share my own story. I appreciate you. 
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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Kaleideum North Children's Science Museum | Winston-Salem, NC

Thank you Visit Winston-Salem for partnering us with Kaleideum and providing our family with complimentary admission. All thoughts expressed are my own. 

On Thursday we headed back to North Carolina for the bi-annual Pete Family Reunion. This year it took place in Winston-Salem, which we visited back in the fall. You may remember me sharing these 6 things to do on your weekend in Winston-Salem, which included a visit to Kaleideum Downtown. We were excited to learn that Kaleideum merged with SciWorks, becoming Kaleideum North, a children's science museum. 

This museum was completely different than the other, which was focused primarily on pretend play. Here, Benjamin was able to explore and experiment through various scientific exhibits. He learned about levies and pulley systems, used his own force to generate movement. The three of us stood in a triangle of mirrors and were reflected countless times. 
There was an entire area dedicated to puzzles for the entire family. One of my favorite puzzles to do with Benjamin was a giant "eye spy". 
An entire wing of the museum was dedicated to animals, both alive and not. Taxidermy isn't really "my thing" but I've never seen such an amazing collection. I was in awe standing next to a lion and other larger-than-me animals. Display cases were filled with butterflies, sea life, and so much more. Benjamin loved being able to look more closely at slides provided near a giant microscope. It was all so fascinating! 
It was honestly so much bigger than it looked from the outside. One giant room contained exhibits of the body. There was the display of how a growing baby looks inside the womb and giant teeth, so large we could get inside the mouth!  
There was so much more that I don't have pictured here, including a space to explore flight and an area for building with a giant foam blocks. One room was completely toddler-friendly and geared toward the under 5 crowd. 
If you find yourself looking for something to do with the kids in Winston-Salem, I highly recommend Kaleideum. You can easily spend two or more hours having fun here. Visit the website for more information regarding exhibits, events, and admission pricing. 
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Monday, July 17, 2017

The Anderson's Sunflowers 2017 Mini Session Favorites | Cumming, Georgia

Alternate title: The Sunflower Farm Mini Sessions That Almost Weren't. Seriously, I was worried there for a while. The news came toward the end of spring. Clients began messaging me to tell me that The Anderson's Farm was for sale and it didn't look like they'd planted this year. I was so sad because this is such a favorite photo session location for my clients each year. I was relieved when they announced that they'd still be planting this year after all. If you're local to Atlanta, you know that it can rain a lot over the summer. That's pretty much the understatement of the year this particular summer. That obviously makes it hard when you're talking about a two week window and the rest of the summer to plan. My clients are the absolute best! I had to reschedule multiple times because the flowers weren't ready. The farm finally announced that the first open weekend would be this last weekend. We were in North Carolina for my husband's bi-annual family reunion and had to head back a day early to make it. You should've seen how neurotic I was checking the weather app and answering emails as to whether or not we were a go. Wouldn't you know it ended up being the most perfect mini sunflower session day to date? The rain stayed away! The temperature was high 70's with a light breeze and all clouds. So, so good! Here are some of my faves from the day:

For more information regarding upcoming mini sessions,

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Monday, July 3, 2017

Colorful Rainbow First Birthday Session

Remember the City Girl maternity session I had last year? Her little girl just turned ONE, and we celebrated with a fun and colorful first birthday session. Here are some of my session favorites. (Check out the beautiful rainbow smash cake she had!)
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