A Standard of Merry

Ah, the holiday season.

 

It should be full of cozy nights in, and festive nights out. It should be peace-on-earth and joy-to-the-world. It should. Right?

 

Carrie Bradshaw was right when she said, “Maybe we should stop should-ing all over ourselves.”

 

Expecting that things should be a particular way inevitably leads to disappointment. Expectation leads to exasperation. Before you sit down to another family dinner, attend the office cocktail, or turn up for your nephew’s part in the school pageant make a double list. List your expectations for the holidays vertically down the page, and next to them list what standard you are trying to achieve. An expectation is what you think is fair (read: ideal) in a situation, like you expect there will be no shouting/crying/criticizing at Christmas dinner. A standard is the larger goal. Why is it that you expect your family to mind their emotions during the meal? You probably want a standard of respect/listening/acceptance at dinner, not a disingenuous exchange. There’s a difference. Start with that end goal in mind. Expect that things may be emotional at dinner, and be prepared to help the situation stay on course to meet your standards. Don’t waste time being upset that things “should” be otherwise. It’s a waste of time.

 

Last night I was at a holiday cocktail at someone’s house. The food was tasty, the hostess had on great shoes. The dishes from breakfast were still in the sink, and the kids had a pretty loud fight over whose turn it was to hold the iPad in a back bedroom. It was a party that was special, intimate and memorable because of the wabi sabi—the perfection in the imperfection. The kids, the dishes—they should have been otherwise, but it was much more charming that they were exactly as they were. The standard of a warm holiday gathering was enhanced because of them, really.

 

There is no perfection in human interaction and relationship. We all fall short, get tired, feel hangry, and are a little too sensitive (or aren’t sensitive enough). The wrong thing gets said, an even worse thing follows it up, we shut down or flair up and in the end feel sorry for hurting the ones we love most. Give yourself the gift of realizing that “should” is part of the problem. Stick to standards, take a breath, smile before speaking, speak only what you’d want to see printed on the front page of the New York Times. Be merry.

Cheeseburgers at Midnight

Last night I was in bed with a novel when my phone started buzzing with incoming texts.

 

I’m here.

 

 

Grab a sweater, put on some sneakers.  

 

It was a friend, who had just flown home from a two week Hawaiian vacation. It was almost midnight. I’d been really stressed out for a couple of days. I’d left some long voice mails on her phone.

 

We drove to In-and-Out Burger, and went inside. I flipped through vacation pictures on her iPhone, she ordered us cheeseburgers and fries animal style.

 

Her house is in the opposite direction from mine leaving long-term airport parking. Her flight was delayed, and populated with crying babies. She drove to cheer me up as soon as she landed, and didn’t call ahead because she knew I’d try to dissuade her.  It was a striking act of kindness. She’s consistently that sort of friend.

 

As I tried to jog away my sleepiness this morning, I thought how much less I was stressed. Either I really needed a cheeseburger, or there isn’t much that can’t be helped by an act of real friendship.

 #stressrelief #friendship #health

Yes, female orgasm contributes to conception. Just not how you might think.

I get asked pretty regularly if making a woman orgasm increases her chances of getting pregnant.

 

There is a big part of me that is tempted to perpetuate this urban legend and talk about orgasm-produced vaginal, uterine and pelvic floor contractions propelling semen at a conception enhancing velocity toward the cervix. Ejaculate travels at about 10 MPH, however, and doesn’t need the extra help in speed or direction. Alas.

 

Even though there is not a measurable connection between whether or not a woman orgasms and her likelihood of conception from that specific act of sex, orgasms are all up-side in the quest for conception. Two reasons.

 

First, orgasms are relaxing. Our brains have a chemical stress response, and this chemical makes it very difficult to get pregnant, or to stay pregnant long enough for us to realize when we are pregnant. Meditation and exercise can really help when we are stressed, and stressed about being stressed. Remembering to eat, drinking enough water, and cutting out caffeine are tested forms of stress relief. The chemicals we trigger during orgasm, though, can take stress relief and elevate it. Orgasms make us feel exhilarated and blissed out.

 

Second, orgasms promote intimacy. The oxytocin our brains release during orgasm causes us to feel attachment and connection. This chemical bonding is positive inside a nurturing relationship (and keeps us up at night reading old text messages and listening to sad songs when something more casual and fleeting comes to an end—we are right, we did feel something. We felt drugged by our brain). Orgasms, for most women in a loving relationship, are about more than this neuro-chemical intimacy.

 

Orgasms are about communication— what feels good, what feels bad, what we need more of and what sounds interesting but we’ve never been brave enough to try before now.  Respectful, caring communication builds intimacy, and vice versa. Practicing communicating with a partner during sex helps us be more comfortable communicating during other situations in life. When we’ve found the courage to tell our partner that his tongue is about six inches lower than we’d like it to be (especially if we’ve pretended otherwise in the past), it doesn’t seem like such a big deal to tell him his consistent lateness for couple’s pottery is hurting our feelings.

 

Exploration builds intimacy, too. Traveling to any new destination requires patience, and a certain amount of trust. Maybe you are traveling to Belize, maybe you are trying anal sex. Many people experience some avoidance around exploration, especially once we’ve “settled down.” We may pick up a backpack and travel through the jungles of Asia after college without overthinking what the future holds, and a few years later we put our passport in a bank box and take two weeks vacation to our home state for the holidays instead. Similarly, we tend to be more comfortable exploring our sexuality when we are single and uncommitted than with someone we are going to wake up next to every morning for the known future, a person we will run errands with all Saturday, who is in charge of setting the house alarm and buying our mother a birthday card. We mistake the familiarity of routine with the happiness of comfortability.  We worry about what this person whom we love and see all the time is going to think of us if we ask for something that could be tricky, uncomfortable, or turn out to be gross.  Intimacy is increased when we face our fear, open ourselves up to risk and have the positive outcome of our partner listening to our desire and accepting it as part of us.

 

There is an ongoing debate about which is better, orgasm during committed sex or single sex.  Some women, especially, have an easier time letting go during sex with someone they don’t know well.  It’s true that we experience an increased rush of adrenaline with someone new and mysterious.  There is something sexy about a hint of danger in the unexpected. We don’t think farther ahead than next weekend, or New Years Eve, and so aren’t afraid to put our fantasies out there. We aren’t risking more than party plans. So we relax, we are brave, we are bossy. We start feeling sexy in whatever mismatched underwear we threw on this morning.  We orgasm. Hard. Repeatedly.  Then we meet someone great, and sex changes. We are self-conscious. We want to smell nice. We wonder how many weeks we should spend at the gym before we can turn on a light in the bedroom. We are worried we either will seem like a pervert or a prude if we ask for what we want, so we say little. Or we pretend he’s everything we’ve always wanted in bed and can read our minds. We barely come, or never do. It starts this way and by the time we want to have a baby with this otherwise fantastic guy, we really dread having sex with him. It doesn’t feel good. We think about the single sex that was good. It makes us insecure in our relationship, which makes us wonder if we really want a baby, or if it’s just a matter of some peer pressure and phone calls from our mother.

 

For women trying to conceive, orgasms help us feel reassured that this family we envision creating is not a doomed project. They show us we have already started a family—a family of two—loving and strong. Communicating, exploring, being vulnerable and brave together allow us to be emotionally capable of reaching a deeper level of orgasm. The comfortability of passion we achieve inside that intimate connection is an ideal foundation for the conception of your baby.

 

 

Emotionally Slutty

Like most people, I’m pretty bad at taking my own advice sometimes. So, when a close guy friend’s New Girlfriend started to be pretty unfriendly toward me last week, instead of looking at the situation from her point of view like I would suggest someone else in the same situation do, I just rolled my eyes and called her insecure behind her back. Then I waited a week to ask her about the shift in our dynamic, instead of immediately starting an uncomfortable but necessary conversation. “What is your problem?” I thought as I smiled and instead said, “this might be totally be in my head, but something seems different lately between us. Is something different?”

 

New Girlfriend responded with something I hope I would have figured out if I had stopped to think about the situation from inside her fall boots: “Brian[1] is emotionally slutty with you.”

 

Here’s the thing. I was chatting with Brian in his office one afternoon last week when this girl popped in for a visit (much like I had popped in for a visit an hour before, and had stayed). We were talking about baseball, costume cocktail parties, and his dead mother. I was throwing an occasional peanut M&M at Brian, calling out where I was going to hit him next, and he was picking out the yellow ones because he hates them. Always has. I thought Brian’s New Girlfriend was under the mistaken impression that something was going, which she stumbled on just in time to stop.  It turned out that Brian had never opened up to New Girlfriend about his mother, even though he keeps pictures of her on the fridge, in his wallet, and in the guest bathroom. New Girlfriend was hurt that emotionally, I had access to a really vulnerable side of my friend/her boyfriend that she had yet to see or be trusted with soothing.

 

It’s much easier to open up a bottle of wine and a hard day’s emotions with a person we already trust. Friends are important, full stop. I knew Brian’s mom, I was at the hospital, the funeral, and I gave him the frame that holds him mom’s picture in his guest bathroom. That will always be the case. New Girlfriend is smart to flag the fact that Brian is emotionally open with me. From this she can see he is capable of being vulnerable and emotionally available. For things to go the distance, these are necessary qualities to find in a romantic partner. In any new relationship, there is a period of time in which we don’t really know someone, and they don’t really know us, but we would like to know each other. It’s scary to let someone see our scabs and scars and dandruff, let alone hear the story about the day mom died.  It’s important to take a risk and leap, expecting a net to appear. If it doesn’t, the fall won’t be far. Our friends and family will be there to catch us. For a new relationship to become something more than a flame out, we have to push past the limits of  “what appetizer should we share” and get to a spot where we are brave enough to show this new person (carefully, in time) our tender, fearful spots of anxiety and disappointment.

 

The exposure of our pain is not our ultimate destination, though. The structure we put around that hurt is. No one has the emotional capacity to share the upmost level of intimacy with everyone in his or her inner circle. We have to have boundaries. Our romantic partner becomes the safe space where we take off our bandages, clean our wounds and air them for a while so we can heal. Uncovered open wounds get infected. You get the picture. New Girlfriend is in the precarious position of not being around when Brian was wounded, but she would like to be around now to hold the Neosporin. She might not have put it elegantly, but she gets that Brian sharing this intimate space with me means that his emotional need in this situation is being met, and not by her. 

 

A soulmate is not, as my grandmother once told me, someone who is going to be selecting tomatoes one day at the grocery store when I am also looking for tomatoes, with whom I will want to take the tomatoes home and make something with all our collectively selected tomatoes. Or maybe a soulmate is—and I misinterpreted what she actually meant and spent the better part of autumn 1999 touching up my mascara after class before shopping for tomatoes.  A soulmate is not a guy who puts his hand on top of mine as we both reach for the same tomato. A soulmate helps me avoid my allergic reaction to strawberries, calms my fear of mall escalators, and runs to the drugstore in the middle of the night to get me yeast infection cream, and the latest batch of gossip magazines. We pick up tomatoes and toothpaste at the market, even when I’m not wearing mascara. We get food poisoning from the new bistro down the street together and sweat it out in our tiny, two-room apartment. Soulmate is a hard won distinction. It’s an hourly, temp-to-perm job. It takes someone willing to show up and take responsibility for adding to our #happiness while slugging through all our really terrible days (even when tired, sick, or really pissed off at us).

 

In the end, I told Brian he should try talking to New Girlfriend about his mom the next time he’s sad and missing her instead of immediately phoning me. I know that’s a hard thing for him to do, especially because some people have disappointed him with their uncomfortability around the topic of his mom’s death.  The thing is, New Girlfriend is interested enough in starting to work on the very challenging project of intimacy to be upset by the fact that someone is already in Brian’s emotional space (instead of, say, being relieved that he’s already having a certain need met). Brian has to be brave enough to offer a sizable part of his emotional space to New Girlfriend (and take part of that space from me) if they are ever going to work in a substantial way. He has to protect this emotional space as a sacred, intimate space shared between two.  Brian will always be my friend. Friendship has to have certain limits, though, for romantic partnership to be fully realized with other people.

 

When I talk to people having trouble conceiving, I often hear some version of a story about the boundaries of intimacy. A husband feels like his wife tells her sister too much about them as a couple. A wife feels her husband’s female coworker is a little too familiar with their recent fight. “It’s not the sex, it’s the closeness that I can’t get past,” a girlfriend of mine told me after her husband of seven years cheated on her. It is about the sex, of course. Yet, the “closeness” my friend is tortured by most is the emotional bond her husband built with someone else. It happens all the time. We get aggravated, we feel distant, we resent this supposed soulmate of ours. Our partner amasses a lengthy list of faults we might as well be writing on the living room wall in Sharpie. We go to work, and the spin class he refuses to take with us.  Someone laughs at our stupid jokes (see, we are funny) and tells us or hair makes us look like a supermodel (maybe that wasn’t exactly the phrase, but that was the intension for sure winky face, triple exclamation mark). Three weeks later we have vented about our soulmate’s habit of falling asleep naked on the sofa, which was pretty cute at first but now seems unhygienic and gross. We have shared that thing that happened junior year in college we have only ever told people sitting next to us on airplanes.  We are excited to get a text message with a weird number of emojis instead of another list of chores, and send some back. We have become, as New Girlfriend would say, emotionally slutty.

 

Designating someone as our soulmate is the formality of a moment-to-moment practice. New Girlfriend might be Brian’s soulmate, or maybe she’s not—but he owes it to her, himself and them together to provide the emotional space to see what can happen. You might have met someone, possibly while buying tomatoes, who is your soulmate. If you want your love to grow into a family, you’re going to do well to keep your emotional space intimate, and hang on to the Neosporin accordingly.  

 

 

[1] His name isn’t actually Brian, but for this it will be.

Relationship Advice from the Ancients: Part III

To Cleave: Advice from the Ancients Part III

 

We can safely assume that gratitude toward parents has, throughout time, not been as readily given as they deserve. Why else were people specifically told to honor their parents as one of only ten rules to live by? However, we can also conclude that there has been conflict about the ordering of relationship priorities over time as well.  The next piece of relationship advice we read in Genesis 2:24 is to “cleave” to our partner. This bit of wisdom is suggesting that while we are grateful to our parents, we will be best served as adults to construct our closest connection with our partner.[1]

 

Cleave means to be stuck or glued to something so closely that there is no possible way to be closer.  We have developed a social dread of this type of closeness to a romantic partner. We portray people as “glued” to a smartphone, or as “die-hard” fans of a local football team in a way that isn’t entirely good but we negatively characterize people who are totally committed to a romantic relationship as “lost” or “whipped”. While hyper-protective “helicopter parents” are given an obligatory eye-roll, but really seen as nurturing partners who are intensely connected are seen as needy or weak.

 

According to Genesis 2:24, a partner should be the primary relationship of our adult lives—closer than any friend, sibling, child or parent and more important than any job or hobby. Given the climbing contemporary divorce rate, we should consider what this piece of ancient advice could contribute to the health of our romantic relationship.  

 

Before we talk about what healthy cleaving looks like, let’s talk about what it’s not. Relationships are unhealthy when we rely on people outside of ourselves for the bulk of our happiness. This is called codependence. Just as codependence in a parent/child dynamic is stifling, codependence in a romantic partnership does not allow us to grow individually or together in our full capacity.

 

We live in a culture that values personal achievement and independence. Neither are bad things on which to place importance. However, a relationship is strongest when it is made up of two people who are leaning into each other’s strengths, talents, and capacities in trust and vulnerability.  Two individuals who are each relying primarily on themselves create a weaker partner relationship. I think about these relationship types a tent versus pillars. 

 

In a tent relationship, two people who are capable of existing as happy and successful individuals chose to lean in to their relationship in a spirit of teamwork.

In a pillar relationship, individuals celebrate their separateness and stand alone—sometimes close together and sometimes far apart. What happens when a snowstorm hits or a boulder falls on either of these structures? Tents protect each other from the snow, and shelter those inside. A boulder may fall on either side of the tent or at its fulcrum and a tent with a solid structure will bounce the rock off its façade, or at least retain stability. A snowstorm can unload a snowpack that keeps things cold between the two pillars, and each pillar plus anyone between the couple is unprotected in the elements. A boulder creates a substantial barrier between pillars, and can weaken or even flatten the pillar that is directly hit while the other suffers little or no impact. Two pillars are independent. Two people forming a tent are interdependent. Members of a pillar coupling are separate in their happiness and struggles. They might share in the emotions of their partner on a sympathetic level, but do not experience the situations and emotions of their partner as their own. Tents are happy separately, but are empathetic. They feel the emotion of their partner as part of their own emotional constellation and because of this investment more naturally and eagerly work to promote the happiness and wellbeing of their partner. They share in the hopes and endeavors of their team member.  Pillars exist relationally to one another, while tents are in an active relationship.

 

To cleave is to have a tent relationship.

 

It’s likely that each member of a couple has personality aspects of a tent and a pillar. It’s important to identify what sort of relationship structure goal you have as a couple, and then constantly work to create and maintain that structure. If you decide that each of you is a pillar and neither of you is interested in being in a tent relationship, start a conversation with that goal in mind and ask each other what this structure means in practice. How will you celebrate holidays? What happens if someone gets really sick and needs care? Do you want to bring children into this relationship and if so who is responsible for their care and wellbeing? Many people in our society have constructed marriage relationships that are two pillars, existing together only to find out that two resilient yet separate people do not share a structure beyond a legal binding. Never having prioritized the relationship over work, family of origin and friends, it is not difficult to undo a marriage because there is not a deep level of commitment and care. Pillars may not like the idea of divorce, but would take the loss of a job or the death of a family member much harder than the undoing of their marriage. Acknowledge that. Be open to discussing how you prioritize, and be honest with your partner and yourself.

 

A tent relationship, or cleaving to a partner is something that can feel scary. Giving up some of our control and placing some of our balance with another is frightening, but it is also freeing. Forming a true partnership that involves the constant participation of another is an act of courage. We can each think of a million things that can go wrong in such a situation, because we have been hurt before and we do not want to be hurt again. What if it doesn’t work? Fair enough. But what if it does? We talk of love as a type of falling. Falling is the stuff of nightmares, action movies, and playground fights. Real love supports us, it doesn’t let us fall. Support of this type helps us rise up to be better individuals and partners. Cleaving to someone offers us support in the strength of another, and allows us the opportunity to extend ourselves beyond our individual needs and be present for someone else. By growing our vulnerability and being compassionate toward another at a very intimate level, we become a better version of ourselves. If you are constructing a tent relationship, talk with your partner about your goals and see which of these goals you hold in common, or would like to make into a common goal. As one side of a tent, you gain the support of someone who will make your promotion at work part of their goals, for instance. The health of your aging father becomes a situation both of you are committed to handling.  Having children is an adventure you take together, acknowledging your fears and supporting each other in the scaling of doubts and difficulties.

 

While pillar people are more socially celebrated, a tent relationship is ultimately more personally rewarding. The ancients might just be on to something.

 

 

 

[1] Parents, in this process, should be mindful of not just allowing their children to “leave,” but encouraging and resourceful in the process. Just as it can be difficult for children to leave the familiarity of a family that has supported them emotionally, financially, and spiritually to be with someone who is loved, but doesn’t have the same amount of “road testing” as members of a family of origin, it can be upsetting for parents to see the priorities of grown children shift. Parents who consistently acknowledge their original goals for their children keep healthy perspective.  Instead of feeling jealous that her son took a couples’ holiday with his partner instead of vacationing with the entire extended family this year, a mother would do well for herself as well as the relationship she has with her son and his partner to remember that she raised her son to be a caring man who would be a good partner and father when it was time.  In place of hard feelings, the mother should let the warmth of her success as a woman who raised her son to love and prioritize his partner fill her mind and heart. 

Relationship Advice from the Ancients: Part II

To Leave: Advice from the Ancients Part II

 

Genesis 2:24 states, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and they shall become one.” This ancient advice has something helpful to say to modern readers that could have come from a contemporary therapist or relationship expert.

 

The first action Genesis 2:24 instructs is for a person to “leave” their family of origin when making a romantic relationship commitment. It seems simple enough, but entails more than moving out of your childhood bedroom. A family of origin is where we first learn about social dynamics, and in that space we experiment and grow. The family ideally gives us a safe space in which to learn who we are and grapple with what place in the world we wish to inhabit. This space can only nurture us to develop to a point. To continue our growth, we necessarily have to meet ourselves as people out in the world, interacting with others who don’t have a familial connection to us. 

 

Part of human development is a degree of rebellion against home and family. That process starts when we are about two years old, and act out against our parents for the first time. It continues through our childhood development and spikes again as we are teens who test and question the foundation our parents have provided. It’s common for children in their early-twenties to start valuing parents and family members with a newfound gratitude for their love and guidance once this maturation process is completed.  While humans experience this space of re-valuing their family of origin, we continue to develop our potential as we strike out to create important relationships and begin the process of creating our own family.  We began leaving our parents by testing boundaries and rebelling, we continue it by becoming self-sufficient and physically moving away from them. This “leaving” is a long developmental process.

 

Physical separation is more difficult for some families than others. Some parents instill in their children an expectation of independence, and see successful separation as a sign that their kids developed the skills to exist without needing them. On one side of a family separation spectrum, some kids are encouraged to attend boarding school, study abroad, or get a job and start paying their own expenses. On the other side, codependent parents foster a relationship with their children in which the child feels she cannot be successful in life without her parents constant presence and the parent feels no one can ever make him feel as necessary and loved as the presence of his child. Either side of the spectrum can lead to challenges in romantic partner relationships. “Leaving” parents is as much (or more) about maturing past a certain dynamic as it is about moving beyond a physical space, so it’s important to consider what side of the spectrum you grew up thinking was the common sense way a family works.

 

A healthy relationship between parents and their children is one that helps children to grow into self-sufficient, interdependent people. Interdependence means that a person is self-sufficient and capable, yet is able to trust and be vulnerable with others. Parents who do not actively encourage their kids to develop past the family dynamic of childhood not only stifle growth and development, but sabotage their future relationships. Daughters who overly rely on their fathers and continue to hold him as the most important and trusted man in her life cannot be ultimately successful in a partner relationship. Sons whose mothers run to their side every time there is a setback or illness instead of allowing him space to struggle and grow restrict his potential to be fully available to a potential spouse. Women who grew up learning that they don’t need a man for anything, and men who were raised to think that they shouldn’t rely on anyone for support have difficulty in a close partnership as well.

 

On the one side, there must exist some space for a partner to step in and fill. Where there is no space, we either have no desire to have a true partnership relationship because many of our needs are being met, or we feel so guilty about our existing relationships possibly being let down that we sabotage the new possibility in the name of respect. On the other side, it’s useful to consider the difference between what we want and what we need. We most likely don’t need to be with someone, let alone have someone open the car door or do our laundry occasionally. It’s not bad to want those things, though. Having someone who shows us small actions of affection feels good, and there is nothing wrong with wanting to feel loved.

 

Ideally, parents model a strong couple relationship for us as children, and we grow up with the goal of having that sort of relationship for ourselves one day. We anticipate a partner. We leave room to have one in our lives. Not everyone holds this space. When the primary couple relationship we witness as a child is tumultuous, we grow up with a fear of commitment. We don’t want to start a relationship that further exposes us to the chaos, anger, and noise we’ve already experienced.   This is the common problem called fear of commitment. We aren’t actually afraid of committing, we are afraid of having whatever we have learned comes after the commitment. We are familiar with our family dynamic. Even if it is flawed, it is comfortable. We know how to navigate it. As adults, we seek out romantic relationships that provide that same dynamic. Kids who grow up with the goal of not falling into the relationship trap their parents are in usually date people who perpetuate that fear. In this way, they are able to tell themselves: see, I tried to have a relationship, and sure enough it didn’t work out. People on either side of the separation family dynamic fear commitment. Fear of commitment, often coupled with fear of change (even good change is uncomfortable) team up to be destructive to any real form of significant bonding with a potential partner.

 

Add to this fear a fairytale. As an adult, childhood can seem like a wonderful fantasy. When we have a long day at work, come home to a messy kitchen and bills to pay, we may wish in vain that our lives could be as uncomplicated as a child. We wish dad would make us dinner and do our dishes while mom pays our bills. Too often we forget that as children we fantasized about being an adult, in charge of our own schedule and free to make our own choices. In a fantasy childhood mindset, we become angry that our partner doesn’t take care of all of our needs like our fantasy parent would.  We don’t stop to consider that the childhood we fetishize never existed in reality.

 

The over-idealized view of childhood some people have is similar to how some guys fetishize porn. Women in porn are fantasies—part of their occupation is to spend hours at the gym, under the knife of a plastic surgeon, and in the chair of a make-up artist. These women act out stories using a script, and are employed to be believable and beautiful. Even armature porn is scripted, more fantasy than reality. In real life, the ladies who star in porn videos change out of their skimpy school girl outfits, put back on their jeans and sweaters, wipe off the make-up, go grocery shopping and walk their dogs and take out the trash like a women with any other occupation. They might have woken up with bad breath and grumpy attitude, but for a few hours they are professional actresses, pretending to be a fantasy woman they are not, and will never be.  These women provide a break from reality to the men who use porn, but they do not offer a relationship like the one his partner can give to him, even if they are in his life daily. They create an unrealistic expectation of how women look and how their bodies behave. This can lead to dissatisfaction with a loving, loyal partner.

 

In a similar way, a mother may show up from out-of-town and offer an adult man the things he sometimes enjoyed in childhood—a clean house and an endless supply of hot meals—but having those things daily is a fantasy as well.  The reality of childhood was likely a mother who sometimes was too tired to make dinner, let alone keep the house spotless or even a largely absent and neglectful mother.  A romantic partner cannot compete with the fantasy of the perfect childhood mother, nor should she want to. A partner is not a parent, and a healthy romantic relationship dynamic, while caring, shouldn’t be caregiving (except in special circumstances). Yet, when a parent comes to visit, it is common to regress, and in this regression it often happens that we see our partner in the light or shadow of our opposite-sexed parent.  If an adult child hasn’t made progress in “leaving,” all too often this type of parent visits leads to anger and distancing on both sides of a romantic relationship.  

 

Parents and their adult children must be keenly aware of their actions, and their consequences. It is likely not the intension of a parent to disrupt the child and cause strife, but “leaving” is a choice of priority that needs to be constantly upheld. Parents who go beyond the healthy bounds of a parent/child relationship by leaving their kids no room to comfortably develop and sustain a primary relationship with a partner.  Sure, kids leave home and move far away—and long visits replace frequent in-person interactions. Parents age, and we don’t want them to be alone, or they aren’t able to be.[1] Leaving doesn’t mean deserting or disrespecting. Leaving is a shift in primary relationships. Parents and grandparents are a wonderful part of family life, but everyone should be clear about what each family member can do to create a more harmonious family in which adult children are given (and also claim) healthy space for evolving family structures. 

 

Sometimes we can’t see our own patterns, and it is hard to hear them from our partner. Family dynamic is something that affects every couple and is likely a source of contention even in the closest of relationships. Sometimes it helps to talk to a sibling or in-law about the dynamic your family of origin has in their relationship. A brother’s situation might not directly translate to your own, but you will hear some themes that sound familiar. Consider the dynamic and set a time to talk to your partner about the issues it brings up for you both.

 

 

[1] Adult children of ill or aging parents are faced with being the parent to their children, and also possibly the caregiver to their parents. Even though both members of a couple probably agree that family is important, and the wellbeing of both sets of parents is a top priority, it is common for partners to struggle with what this care means in practice. I see the most upset between couples from different cultures. A WASP from the Midwest whose parents visit yearly for four days over Thanksgiving struggles when the parents of his Indian wife expect to move in with them for good. The husband’s experience of family time and proximity are very different from his wife’s, who grew up with her grandparents living in her childhood home and sees her parents’ move as a wonderful addition to the household for her own children. In this case, neither cultural expectation is right or wrong; one is just more familiar to each person. For the relationship to be as harmonious as possible, it is necessary for the partners in the couple to be open and honest about their needs and wants. Set a time to talk, and a time limit. Expect such a weighty conversation to take several sessions. In between sessions talking about the issue, don’t withdraw physically or emotionally. These conversations are scary and hard for everyone involved, and are made worse when one person becomes less present in the relationship as a result. Keep in mind that at the base of most relationship discussions there is the question: do you really love me? Be present with this question and bear in mind that you love the person you are trying to discuss things with no matter what the topic. 

Relationship Advice from the Ancients: Part I

 

I travel frequently for long periods of time. When I do, I sublet my apartment.

 

Subleters have left behind a variety of treasures: wind chimes in my kitchen window, LPs of bands I’d yet to discover, a spotted orchid planted in the bottom half of an otherwise empty shampoo bottle in the shower. As I was settling back into my apartment after several months away, a Buddhist friend called me up to ask a question: did I know what verse in the Bible talked about a man leaving his parents’ and becoming one with his wife? I had a general idea where the verse was in both Genesis and the Gospel of Matthew, but needed to look at a Bible to double check. I was sure my well-used Oxford Study Bible was in a storage box, and told my friend as much as I walked over to the shelf where I shelve my more decorative philosophy books. As I suspected, my Bible wasn’t there.

 

I made my way over to the sofa to settle in and listen to the details of my friend’s latest disagreement with her very sweet husband. The spot on the coffee table where I wanted to stick my feet was occupied by, of all things, a Bible. I flipped it open and discovered that many of the pages throughout the book were colored over with pastel, bubble-lettered, anonymous quotes. “We accept the love we think we deserve” it said in pink and green letters atop the second book of Genesis.

 

Before there was a canonical Bible, there were scrolls containing wisdom that were circulated throughout religious communities. A small piece of wisdom, what we would think of as a few verses or a short parable, was written in the middle of an otherwise blank space. As the piece of wisdom circulated, the leading rabbi in each community would respond in writing on the scroll to what had already been written. Wisdom was thus accumulated, debated, enhanced, and nuanced. What I had in this parting gift from my tenant I read as similar, although that may or may not have been her intension.

 

I’m not a “true believer” when it comes to any book believed to have been divinely inspired. I don’t pay much heed to any deity who is a part time nonfiction author. Yet, I find it pretentious when someone makes the counter-claim that scriptures are socio-historical pieces of propaganda, full stop.[1] When a piece of writing has not just lasted through generations, wars, shifting world-views, and global migrations but has also made an impact on cultures, norms, identities, and systems we should not dismiss it.

 

I had to wonder, what did Jewish people find important enough about the verse in Genesis to write it on a scroll and pass it from community to community, through generations, until a similar verse came to be written in the Christian Scripture? Could my Buddhist friend and her husband learn anything from its message, or was it just a stone being thrown in a marital spat? And could anything be learned from the quote drawn over the passage? My friend isn’t alone in experiencing friction with her spouse over family priorities—it’s an age-old conflict that comes up in the very contemporary context of my work with nearly every couple I see for fertility issues. 

 

Genesis 2:24 instructs, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and they shall become one.” If you read the passage closely, there are three steps to this ancient relationship advice. Before I discuss these steps, a word or two about the context of looking to the Bible for life advice. People who see the Bible, in part, as a guide for correct action, often use the Ten Commandments as a baseline. Don’t steal, or cheat on your partner. Do respect your parents. The commandments, however, come up a lot in conversations about relationship conflict even when I am talking with avowed atheists.  The Bible holds a place of importance in our culture not only as a book of scripture, but as a part of the literary cannon and a basis for some of our moral codes and laws. In parts, it’s a tedious list of genealogy. At times it advocates things we as a society have come to realize are wrong. Elsewhere it is sprinkled with useful advice, and Genesis 2:24 is one such place—so come back and read more about what wisdom we can gain from the ancients in the passage.   

 

 

[1] I should explain that just because something lasts in written form doesn’t make it right, but it’s worth exploring how the information is useful. For instance, the Bible advocates slavery, something that is evil. By acknowledging that slavery existed and was seen as normal, we confront the fact that social norms are not necessarily right or good and this reminds us to approach ideas and practices we take to be common sense with a healthy skepticism. Just because something is practiced doesn’t mean it should be practiced, in this case. Reading about slavery in the Bible, we should be reminded that humans are evolving not just biologically, but also morally, and have the capacity to do and be better. 

10 things to remember when it seems like everything is wrong

One thing that is true about relationships: when they are going right, other things in life don’t seem quite as bad—but when they are going wrong, everything seems a whole lot worse.

 

Here are 10 pieces of popular wisdom to remember when everything seems to be going wrong (including your relationship):

 

1.     Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.

2.     Every time it rains, it eventually stops. The sun will come out tomorrow. This too shall pass.

3.     Worrying is wasteful and useless. Don’t be made useless.

4.     The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.

5.     Success in life isn’t about the setbacks—it’s about how you handle the setbacks.

6.     Other people’s negativity is not your business.

7.     When you’re going through hell keep going. The only way out is through.

8.     Some things are going well. Count your blessings.

9.     You have control of your attitude and reaction—something good will come out of this if you decide that it will

10.  You do you. Take care of yourself.

 

Alcohol and Skin Health

People often ask how some food and drinks on my avoid list impact their health outside of fertility. I just read a great a great article in the HuffPo about alcohol and skin health I thought I'd share in that spirit.  

Here it is:  

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/24/alcohol-skin_n_4146391.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000003&ir=Healthy%20Living

The Intersection of Infertility and Intimate Partner Violence

This is an interview with me by Pierre Berastain, published today (10/22/13) by The Huffington Post. Read it at: 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/pierre-r-berastain/infertility-and-domestic-violence_b_4101489.html

Or below: 

In the spirit of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I spoke to Dr. Linda Ellison who, through her practice "Love Creates Life Fertility," specializes in helping couples with infertility problems. Based in New York City, Dr. Ellison explains the shifts in power dynamics that can occur in couples who have problems conceiving, and how this shift can materialize to intimate partner violence.

Pierre R. Berastaín: Tell me a little bit about your background and the work you do.

Linda Ellison: I grew up in a close Mormon family packed with siblings and cousins who felt like siblings. I lived in a town of about 500 people way up in the rugged mountains of northeastern Utah -- there were more cows than people. Being in a secluded place surrounded by boisterous, mischievous, creative, funny and extremely loving family members, my relatives were my world. I think it's because I had such a close connection to them that I feel motivated me to help other people create a unique and wonderful family of their own.

Having earned several degrees from Harvard, I gained insight and expertise in several fields ranging from women's health to medical anthropology to religion in culture. Yet, the most profound knowledge I have, I learned from my family. My grandmother was fond of saying, "Home is the people who love you." I help couples grow their love into a family and a more expansive feeling of home.

There exists this idea that planning a family is a happy time in the life of a couple. How does infertility impact a relationship?

Experiencing infertility can bring about a more gentle and compassionate interaction between partners. Yet, as time passes, anxiety and resentment often builds. There is a shift in the dynamic of the couple. The foundation of a relationship is unsettled for a variety of reasons. For instance, one person is medically absolved and the other is labeled the "problem." There is a difference of opinion about how much time and money should be invested in overcoming infertility, and sex becomes a chore instead of an intimate connecting experience. These strains introduce emotional distance into the dynamic of the couple and can escalate into psychological abuse.

So from observations in your work, do you see a link between intimate partner violence (IPV) -- you mentioned psychological abuse, for example -- and issues with infertility?

It certainly happens. Intimate partner violence is not limited to physical abuse. I've been present for discussions in which one partner tells the other that conversations about infertility have become so hostile that talking "feels like being punched in the gut." One woman sobbed to her partner, "Why don't you just slap me in the face? That's what your words do anyway." Words pierce, wound and leave scars. A particularly violent conversation gets rooted in memory like a shard of glass embedded in skin. Emotional abuse has serious repercussions on a couple's ability to conceive. Stress hormones negatively impact fertility and obviously any type of abuse triggers a stress response.

Do you see an effect on power dynamics when a couple is infertile?

Yes. In a healthy relationship dynamic, each person in a couple is interdependent, while maintaining his or her own sense of independence. Both interdependence and independence are necessary.

Infertility can shift the dynamic in such a way that one or both partners in a couple start thinking and acting as independent people, not part of a larger loving whole. This throws the relationship off balance. People sometimes stop acting like their best selves and resentment and fear overshadow love. Money is frequently a big point of tension. When one person is primarily financing infertility interventions, "our money" starts to be spoken of as "my money."

I've worked with couples in the midst of IVF, when the woman is taking lots of hormones. Commonly there is some weight gain during this process. I've heard men tell their wives they "aren't paying" for her "to get fat" and then demand that the wife spend more time at the gym as a condition of him continuing to cover costs of treatment. Sometimes one partner has adopted a strict diet and exercise plan and has cut out things like alcohol, nicotine and caffeine. These are healthy choices, but making demands and placing pressure on someone damages the couple's dynamic. The other member of the couple can start to feel like "home is boot camp," and they are "taking orders" instead of getting encouragement.

Feeling attacked and berated, a husband exploded at his wife saying, "It's my money and I could have gotten a boat with it instead of all this criticism from you." Defense often flips around to offense. Both people feel powerless in a situation that seems beyond their control, and want to gain some power over the situation. When a person approaches infertility from an individualistic position, the mutuality of the couple is ruptured.

Let me shift the conversation a little bit. We usually think of infertile couples in heterosexual terms, as we have been speaking thus far. However, you also work with LGBT couples

Right. I do.

How does intimate partner violence come into play in LGBT couples that are infertile?

A couple is a couple. The make up of a couple -- two women, two men, or a woman and a man -- doesn't mean that people in relationships don't face common sets of challenges. Relating to another person is tricky and involves a lot of compassion for our partner and ourselves. That said, LGBT couples have some unique challenges with fertility. Gay men obviously aren't able to carry a pregnancy, but they still face financial questions, they need to agree on an egg donor, a surrogate and they have to decide who is going to be the biological father. Those are all high stakes issues.

Shifting power dynamics can lead to some hurtful verbal sparing. For example, gay couples frequently come to a decision that one man will contribute his sperm, while a female relative of the other man is used as the egg donor or surrogate. I've seen heated conversations over whether to financially reward the female family member beyond medical expenses. Once, the allegation, "Your family is so greedy," was met with the response, "Your family has no concept of love!" Barbs about family turned personal. "I'm not greedy, I'm successful. You wouldn't know how that works, though. Remind me again where you went to school," was answered with, "I wouldn't expect a child of parents who both cheated to understand that love is more important than money."

Disparaging each other has a lasting impact. Eventually the couple decided on an amount to put in the sister's own child's college fund instead of giving her cash, but the each man still stung from the verbal fight months later.

Lesbians experiencing infertility face a complex set of questions. They have to decide who is going to donate sperm and how the medical bills get handled, but they also have the added discussion of who is going to carry the pregnancy and whose egg is going to be used. Sometimes one woman has always wanted to experience pregnancy, and the other is supportive of that. Among the most difficult challenges for lesbian couples is when the woman who plans to be pregnant experiences infertility. Does the couple proceed with infertility interventions, or does the other partner try to become pregnant instead? What happens if both women have infertility issues? Does a surrogate enter the picture, or does one or both women go through the IVF process?

Again, finances come into play, and economic imbalance is a difficult dynamic that can turn emotionally abusive. Everyone is capable of crushing someone with words. Sexual orientation doesn't make that more or less likely, and certainly any less damaging when it happens. However, sexual identity definitely introduces more layers into the fertility conversation.

What relationship advice would you give to couples who are struggling with infertility so that whatever the outcome, their bond remains strong?

First, a couple needs to be united in their desire to grow their relationship into a family. I often hear people say they "want a baby." A person is only a baby for the first year or 18 months of life. Having a baby is bringing a son or daughter into your life forever. Having and continuing conversations about what that looks like going forward is important. How will finances change? How will schedules need to shift? Will you need to move? So many people get in the middle of a pregnancy process only to start asking questions that would have ideally been addressed before they started trying to get pregnant. Second, many people make the mistake of placing the possible pregnancy as their primary joint focus. The foundation of a family is the love parents have for each other. We all exist because of love. The love you have with your partner is what builds the rest of your family. Focus on choosing your partner each day. Ask yourself how you can build him or her up, and be mindful of words and actions that tear your partner down. We are all responsible for our own happiness, but we are our best selves when we are contributing to the happiness of others. Last, reframe challenges that come up for you as a couple. Instead of investing in blame and criticism, spend time enjoying each other and being grateful for the love you share. Love creates life.

 

Stress and Fertility

Did you know that STRESS inhibits your fertility?

When we are stressed out, our brains secrete a hormone called cortisol. In many cases, cortisol prevents a zygote from attaching to the wall of the uterus. In other cases it causes a zygote to attach so loosely it does not develop properly and its growth stops. The zygote is then carried out of the body. 

How can you prevent cortisol from harming you and your pregnancy? 

Produce endorphins to counter cortisol. 

Endorphins are chemicals also produced in our brains that make their way throughout our nervous systems. The secretion of endorphins gives us a natural high feeling of euphoria, increases our immune response, and triggers the release of sex hormones. All of these things are AMAZING for fertility!

How do you get more endorphins?  

Exercise in any form releases endorphins, when it is strenuous enough.  Acupuncture, meditation, massage, and sex all have been shown to stimulate endorphin secretion as well. So, try new things. See what relaxes you and/or makes you feel happy and alive. 

Don't only have sex for procreation. Be adventurous. Mix it up. Have FUN. Your ovulation cycle is important, but so is your relationship. Afraid of needles? You won't notice the teeny tiny ones used in acupuncture (just close your eyes while they are being placed).  Think you can't meditate? Do it in a class so someone leads the way. Get a great massage, pay attention to what is done, then go home and give one. Hate the gym? Run, swim, or take a training class outdoors. Experiment with different endorphine producers until you find a few you enjoy doing ... and keep doing them. You will be less stressed, feel happier, and improve your fertility all at once! 

 

Food for Fertility part 4

Two more things to make sure you have in your diet:

First, Iron.

Iron is essential when trying to get pregnant, and also while pregnant and breastfeeding. Miscarriages and stillbirths have been linked to low iron levels, so be on the safe side and eat your iron! What can you eat to get your iron levels up?

1. Red meat. 

2. Spinach. Spinach salad, spinach smoothie, steamed spinach…is there a way spinach isn’t delicious?

3. Artichokes. Yum!

4. Dark leafy greens like kelp. Great in salads or smoothies. 

5. Beans, lentils, chick peas...oh my.

6. Eggs (especially the yolks). Yes, you and eggs are about to be really good friends.

Second, Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Omega 3s are beyond fantastic for you. Skip the supplements from Amazon, and go get yourself some:

1. Flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, and anything else flaxseed.

2. Walnuts. Put them in your baggie with almonds and sunflower seeds, and cut up some dried apricots to give the mix a little punch.

3. Cold water fish: salmon (wild!), trout, herring and cod. 

 

Food for Fertility part 3

Vitamin E foods are full of antioxidants, which deactivate free radicals in our bodies. Think of Vitamin E as a superhero who takes on all the bad guys in our systems and clobbers them. Vitamin E was used by the ancient Greeks to promote fertility. The Greeks classified foods rich in Vitamin E as “that which brings forth a child.” Skip the toga, or put one on while you eat some:

1. Almonds. You can take these little guys everywhere, or sprinkle on salads and soups.

2. Seeds … Sunflower seeds are amazing, and again, portable.

3. Legumes…grab some carrots, cut up chunks of butternut squash, get plenty of spices, and make some killer lentil soup.

4. Whole grains…so many fantastic options, but start with quinoa. It’s amazing in salads, soups, or as a side. Add in some veggies!

5. Dark green leafy veggies. Try a kale, spinach, and green apple smoothie. Bliss in a glass, and so good for you.

6. Unrefined and unheated healthy oils like olive and sunflower. Great to dip whole grain bread in, amazing on red leaf lettuce salads, or drizzled on lentil or butternut squash soup.

7. Free range eggs (noticing how some foods are very good for several reasons?)

 

Food for Fertility part 2

 

Vitamin A is excellent for fertility (and your eyes, skin, and nails…amazing side benefits!).  It helps with gene transcription, as well as boosted immune functioning. Vitamin A comes in two forms: plant-based Vitamin A, which you’ve probably heard of as beta-carotene, and animal products call Retinols. Retinols are easier for our bodies to convert into Vitamin A than beta-carotenes, so it takes a lot more plant product to equal a pretty small amount of animal product. If you aren’t a vegetarian or vegan, go for animal based options for maximum results.  Not that you should avoid veggies.  Try getting more:

1. Cod Liver Oil!  It also has LOTS of Vitamin A.

2. Ditto for eggs from free range chickens. Eat up!

3. Liver (ever tried turkey liver?). It is an amazing source of Vitamin A. Play around with preparations and you might fall in love with it!

4. Spices: Cayenne, Red Pepper, Chili Powder, and Paprika all have lots of Vitamin A, and are fantastic sprinkled on all sorts of things. Experiment.

5. Sweet Potatoes…amazing Super Food! Eat, eat, eat.

6. Carrots. Your mom was right, they are great for you.

7. Dark leafy greens. Kale, spinach, collards…even red lettuce.

8. Butternut squash. Make it into soup with some sweet potatoes and a little butter and paprika…and eat hot or cold. Grab a container and take it into work with you.

9. Cantaloupe is a great Vitamin A snack. Bite-sized pieces travel well, too.

10. Dried apricots are also super portable and full of Vitamin A. Find a snack bag and carry them around with you!

Food for Fertility part 1

Prepping for pregnancy?  Wondering what foods you should be eating to help the process?

Let’s break it up by vitamins and nutrients that promote fertility.

Vitamin D

How much Vitamin D are you eating? Vitamin D is essential in regulating cell growth. Sure, you can spend time in the sunshine and get some vitamin D that way, but you are also inviting sun damage and premature wrinkling when you grab your board shorts or bikini and a bottle of suntan oil. Get some sun, but wear SPF, put on a sunhat, and enjoy good weather…then get the majority of Vitamin D from food. Your skin will thank you later, plus you will get more Vitamin D by ingesting it. Incorporate the following into your diet:

Fresh caught fish that are not bottom feeders. Try wild salmon and herring.

Cod Liver Oil. You can get this as a bottle of oil or in a capsule, and both allow your body to assimilate the oil quickly and easily. Why are you taking this? It is the richest source of Vitamin D we know of…so grab some today.

Pasteurized eggs…yolks and all. Yes. You heard right. You should be eating some cholesterol, and as long as you buy eggs gathered from chickens that run around in the sun (they absorb Vitamin D from the sun and pass that on to you), you are doing something great for your body. 

Butter. Don’t overdo it, but a little organic, hormone free butter from grass fed, free-range cows is fantastic for you. Try putting a little on veggies or whole grain bread. It will boost the flavor, and your cell growth.

Incorporate these things into your diet, and I'll fill you in on other fertility foods soon! Healthy bodies make healthy babies. 

 

What to avoid when you're (trying to be) expecting

AVOID. Yes, this is all stuff that you love…but they can be replaced with new favorites once you stop eating/drinking them and your cravings subside. That usually takes about three weeks, so hang on! Soon you will have new go-tos.  Remember, nothing tastes as good as the head of a newborn smells. Keep in mind why you are giving up these things for motivation and endurance.

1. Sugar. Gone. Done. No more. Gives you wrinkles anyway. Sugary foods and drinks cause your body to release insulin, which is a hormone. High insulin levels have a domino effect on your other hormones. Your endocrine system is all connected. You can’t cause a drastic change in the hormonal balance of your body without triggering other hormones to be in flux as well. This means that as you are making your sex hormones rise and fall every time your body tries to balance out the sugar in your system. Not good!

2. Caffeine. Yes. This is a real thing, not something made up to topple Starbucks. Studies show that women who have as little as one cup of coffee per day have a 50% reduction in their fertility. Three cups of coffee per day has been linked to early miscarriage. Give it up, people. Need to wake up in the morning? Hit the gym or go for a run before work. You’ll have an endorphin boost that caffeine can’t beat.

3. Alcohol. MmmHmmm. I realize that in other countries people drink before, during and after pregnancy. That’s a topic for another time. If you are focused on having a baby, do you really want to take a chance (and a drink?) or would you rather improve the odds of conception? In women, studies show that consumption of alcohol, even in small quantities blocks the production of progesterone, which is vital to conception and carrying a pregnancy to term. In men, drinking reduces the level of sperm-making hormones. One episode of heavy drinking can wipe out sperm production for three whole months…because it takes three months for new sperm to mature.

4. Processed Foods. Anything with high fructose corn syrup, MSG, trans fat, or that is otherwise a soda you need to stop eating/drinking pretty much yesterday, but today works too. Processed foods place toxins in our bodies, and our bodies in turn use up lots of nutrients trying to clean up the mess we have made. Use all the good things you put into your body toward good ends, not garbage removal. 

 

Pregnancy is a process

I see many women who all have the same basic mantra: "I am NOT a person who fails!" They are right. Several patients have attended elite schools, excelled in their careers, win awards doing competitive hobbies (like running marathons), and are elected to prestigious community boards.  However, when these same high powered, high achieving women do not get pregnant quickly it is common to hear they feel like failures. This is absolutely not the case. While you may have control over how well you did on you SATs (studied like crazy), what honors you graduated with from the amazing school you attended (again, studied like crazy), and how fast you made partner or director (this time worked like crazy), you cannot apply your work ethic to baby making and expect the same fast-tracked and positive results. It simply isn't biologically possible. Your body has its own pace, and your ability to have a baby isn't a success or failure, but rather a process. Accept that while you can control many aspects of your amazing, awe-inspiring life...you can't change your biology. At least entirely. 

Stress, coffee, your favorite cocktail, and smoking are all working against your biological process of conceiving a child, so eliminate them...and you will have an edge on your prospects for fertility. Otherwise, try to rest in the awareness that you are not failing—you are traveling on a journey. 

 

You can't download a baby

Almost everything is available to us instantly, if we want it. You download books, movies, and music within seconds, not even minutes. Yet, you can't download a baby. So, if you are trying to get pregnant and haven't yet, remember that it often takes longer to conceive than it does to carry a pregnancy. It's a long process that can't be rushed.

I've recently seen many women at my practice who have come in concerned about what they deem to be infertility. When I ask these women how long they have been trying to get pregnant, the answer is commonly a month or two without any pregnancy success. Infertility is medically defined as an inability to get pregnant after one year of trying (no birth control used), or two failed pregnancies. In women over the age of 35, this changes a little...the time frame is reduced to six months, but only to indicate that women and their doctors need to evaluate the situation sooner rather than later since fertility declines more rapidly at this age.   

You can grab a custom salad from the corner store in a New York minute, but you can't get a positive pregnancy result in that same amount of time. Be patient. Stay positive. Good things are coming your way!