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The “Sunflower Strategy”

Whenever you ask yourself, “Where is Jay? Why hasn’t she blogged in a while?” (Not that any of you have actually asked yourself this question but humor me for a moment), I want you to picture me sitting at my desk at Fertility Authority fielding such questions and comments as:

“I’m calling about fraternity treatment.”

“I mean – doesn’t EVERYONE have Chlamydia???’

“I don’t have fallopian tubes. Can the sperm work around that though so I can get pregnant naturally?”

“I need futility treatment.”

“I’m not infertile. I just don’t want to have sex with my husband.”

Luckily, not all of our calls and inquiries are along these lines. I would say these are the occasional colorful surprises throughout the day.

I’ve been at this job for over a year and some of the patients I’ve worked with early on are now giving birth. There’s one story (and I hope she doesn’t mind me sharing this as she reads this blog often) that particularly touched my heart that I’d like to share briefly.

She and I met through this blog and through emails, phone calls and texts became friends in real life. She would produce perfect embryos but kept having miscarriages. Her doctor at the time said it was just “bad luck”. She had two embryos left for a frozen embryo transfer (FET) cycle, but she lacked the strength to go through yet another heartbreaking cycle.

I did some research and found a doctor not far from her that specializes in recurrent miscarriages. After much conversation and understandable hesitation, I convinced my dear, lovely friend to go for an appointment.

The doctor ran some tests and found what she believed to be an autoimmune issue. They addressed it, did a different protocol and did an FET using the last two embryos. Over a month ago, she gave birth to those two embryos: a healthy boy and girl.

In just the past month, I’ve received emails from 6 different people letting me know that they are now pregnant or that they’ve given birth.

I’ve written more times than I can count about the importance of getting a second (or third) opinion (especially when some asshat tells you that you’ve just had bad luck). I’ve also written A LOT about how I have a hard time saying that I’m grateful for infertility. Really – who would ever choose to go through any of this? Who can ever say, “Yaaay infertility! I’m so glad you knocked on my door, set my relationships, self-esteem and finances on fire! Thanks!” Certainly not I.

However, there was an incident through my son’s music class that got me thinking… AND LET ME BE CLEAR: This is not a mommy story so never fear!

On Saturday mornings, I take my son (my lone perfect embryo from my 3rd IVF) to a music class for toddlers. If it’s at all possible, I may love this class even more than my son does. The teacher is passionate about teaching, about the true joy of music (which next to Starbucks and blocks of cheese, music is my only real addiction) but he also has a genuine enthusiasm about life that is simply infectious.

Outside of where the class is held, the teacher decided to plant, cultivate and grow sunflowers. In one of our recent classes, we were looking out the window at the result of his hard work. The sunflowers had grown to be quite tall, strong and frankly, absolutely gorgeous. We watched passersby stop to admire them and even in some cases, pose next to them to take pictures.

A few days after this, my husband and I received an email that someone in the middle of the night cut down all of the sunflowers for no discernible reason. This was so upsetting as we knew how much work was put into them and how very well intentioned those flowers were. In the email, it was requested that as a show of support, we all bring sunflowers to our next class.

When I arrived the following Saturday, there were sunflowers floor to ceiling, in the windows and on every counter top. Several children even drew pictures and made collages that looked like sunflowers.

I spoke to the teacher about the incident and he said, “I’ll be honest – I was absolutely livid when I saw what happened… but really, this turned out to be one of the best week’s ever. I’m overjoyed!” He went on to say how touched he was by all of the people who came by, who brought flowers or artwork, the emails he received and the wave of affection that was given to him. And if you think about it, even though the flowers around the room were not the ones he grew, they did come from the relationships he cultivated and nurtured through his work.

So really, what started out as a negative act became a positive reaction.

What struck me most was the teacher sincerely wasn’t bitter. He was definitely hurt and disappointed at the loss of the sunflowers but he so genuinely felt that the positive outweighed the negative. And really, isn’t it better to focus on the many, many people who showed him love rather than think about the one person’s cowardly act?

This got me thinking about whether you really can see the positive in even the worst situations. Some things happen that are just beyond awful. One example that comes to mind is the shooting that happened in Connecticut at Sandy Hook Elementary. It still haunts me often and I can’t even bear the thought of what those parents must feel.

I read an interview several months ago with one of the parents whose son was killed in the tragedy. He apparently died in the arms of a teacher. The parents expressed gratitude for that – that at least he wasn’t alone and someone was holding him. That they would take that detail and find the comfort in it gets me every time I think about it.

Now obviously, someone cutting down your sunflowers, struggling with infertility and losing a child in a violent, horrific act are all on completely different parts of the spectrum. What I’m now toying with though is thinking about all of these negative things in my life and not necessarily being grateful for them, but just trying to see what good you can focus on in each.

Lately, when I’m stressed about something, I ask myself, “What’s the positive here?” I’m not saying there’s a reason for everything and I’m certainly not saying that I always come up with some positive take on every situation. What I’m saying is that problems just feel more bearable when I at least try to see the good.

If I take infertility for example, I could say that it made my husband and I stronger, it made me more compassionate in general, it connected me with so many women I now consider my friends, it changed my entire career and in a very small way as evident in recent months, it prompted me to play a minor role in helping other women like me hopefully achieve their goals.

No matter what your situation or even the outcome, do you think this is possible? Can you take some of the worst things that have happened and find the good? I don’t know the answer for sure but again, I think it’s worth the effort.
Even though I don’t blog as much as I would like to, whether I’m dealing with questions like, “Why can’t I get pregnant doggy style?” or whether I’m home trying to remember where in the holy hell I put my glasses when they are usually on my face, I am thinking of all of you. We have all dealt with or are dealing with the same issue and that bonds us. I sincerely hope all of you can find moments of good in each of your days.

31 thoughts on “The “Sunflower Strategy””

  1. I was telling a friend just yesterday about a Chinese proverb I heard about a man who bemoaned his son's being lame, until in a time of war all of the young men of the village were recruited into the army, but his son was spared, and he alone survived. I often think about what phenomenal bad luck I had in buying an investment property in New Orleans just days before Katrina struck – but being caught up in that mess for three years meant I couldn't sell my small, affordable house and buy some crazy expensive house with all the home equity I earned during those years, only to lose it in the economic downturn immediately following. So, I personally don't believe things happen for a reason or that bad things always lead to good things, but it is comforting at times to think at least that the bad thing got us to where we are now, which (hopefully) is good.

  2. OH how I've missed your writing…and well this is why. When you do get a chance to post, the piece is so poignant it generally causes me to laugh and cry all at once. Finding the positives can be the hardest thing, but when you find it, it can be the most amazing. I've often thought about coming to work for fertility authority. I've taken it upon myself to be several women's IF advocate and helped them find new RE's or been their support while struggling with failed treatment after failed treatment. There's a big part of me that thinks about it every day. IF has brought some of the most amazing women into my life. I want to give back and reach a broader spectrum of people struggling with IF. You have found a way to find the positives in infertility and in other aspects of life. Definitely something to be grateful for….thank you for the reminder!

  3. I still struggle with the positive side. It is hard to look past the things that hurt and find the silver lining. Most of the time, the "positive" side is brought forth by my inner sarcastic B! Thank you for posting this xoxo

  4. I'm glad to see you post again! The moral of your story is so true, even though infertility sucks, it has brought some good into my life. My relationship with my husband is stronger, I've made so many good friends through my blog, and I'd like to think that I've pushed some women to get the help they've needed by being open about my IF. On my really bad days, I need to come back and read this post to remind myself that even though this sucks, its certainly not the worst thing that could happen.

  5. This post has come at the perfect time. Nine month ago today I gave birth to two beautiful boys. 15 days later one of those boys passed away. The last 9 months and the months leading up to their birth my husband and I have been very purposeful in choosing to be present and positive. Some days are better than others. The last few haven't been so great. I'm bogged down at work, the baby's not feeling well and no one is sleeping. I miss E every day. But knowing him for even a short while brought so much to my life. Tonight I will remember those things. I will hold A close and tell him about his brother and how special he is and how we are better because of him. Tomorrow, I will laugh more because there is a lot of joy and humor in my life that I am so grateful for.

  6. I need futility treatment… hahaha… that's awesome! I couldn't do your job. I'm much too sarcastic.

    This is a wonderful post. It's not always easy to see the good side of a bad situation, but the good side is almost always there somewhere. Finding it is a choice we all have to make.

    From ICLW…

  7. First of all, WOW. How can you keep a straight face when you're talking to some of these people? HA! Second, thank God for our bloggy friends! What a great thing you did for your friend. She may have given up if you hadn't pressed her to get another opinion.

    Stopping by from ICLW…

  8. I agree about not giving up and trying different doctors, that certainly worked for me. It must be heart warming to hear the success stories, what a rewarding job.
    What an amazing story about the sunflowers and good for you for looking for the positive in situations- that's what keeps us going.

  9. Happy ICLW! Me too, I have made some very special friends and met many interesting people because of infertility and loss, both online and live. That certainly is something to be grateful for!

  10. The beginning of your post took me back to when I worked at an optometrist office and had to listen to crazy/silly statements from patients. I will say it gave us something to laugh about on break sometimes.

    This is a great post and I love the picture of the sunflowers 🙂

    here from ICLW

  11. Hi from ICLW. I love this post and just started practicing finding the positive in a daily gratitude journal. Also, it's good to hear confirmation to seek a 2nd or 3rd opinion since our first RE might not be the best fit for us.

  12. Wow! What a great story and experience. As you said, I'm not "happy" I'm infertile and never would wish this on anyone, but it is what it is. If I look for something positive out of it, like many others I have met some great women writing blogs from around the world. By finally be somewhat vocal, at least not hiding, about my IF and the journey it took us to get pregnant, I have been able to help a few others who have since found out they are infertile also. That is definitely a positive!
    I will take this story and moral to heart and try to practice it!

    Happy ICLW!

  13. First off, let me say how fantastic it is that you're able to do a job you're passionate about! Wish I could find the same.

    Secondly, I think trying to find the positive in situations is really the only way to keep your sanity. It certainly was for me when we were in the midst of our infertility journey.

    Keep up your "Pay It Forward" approach =D Happy ICLW!

  14. wow, those patients are so lucky they had you in their corner… I am a firm believer in second and third opinions. It is sad how many people just trust one opinion…
    Happy ICLW – I am a bit early 🙂

    To celebrate the publication of my book there is a giveaway on my blog to celebrate the publication (autographed book, $25 Victoria Secret Gift Card, Sandi Rose CD) – I'd love if you can check it out…

  15. Oh, the crazy questions. It boggles the mind the way some people think. Speaking of… I am a big believer in the power of positive thinking. I've been through a lot of crap in my life, but it is so much easier to deal with if you strive to be happy instead of focusing on every reason to be miserable. Great post.

  16. That's my attitude with my recurrent pregnancy loss. 3 losses. Baby. 3 more losses, looks like a baby this time. At least hcg results are much better. I think of my uterus as equal opportunity and giving everyone a shot, regardless of their crappy make up.

  17. Hello from ICLW! There is so much positivity in this post that is certainly true. I have to admit that I have often seriously considered getting involved in the infertility community in some way to help. I read about your blessing, congratulations! ….Oh, and I bet you get some of the best questions and responses sometimes! I'm sure you have to hold in some giggles!

  18. Hi from ICLW! I'm devouring this blog 🙂 And I do love this sunflower story. I get annoyed when people ask me to look for the positive in IF because it has been a soul-crushing experience, but I agree with you that my marriage is stronger and I have connected with incredibly women and developed a much greater capacity for compassion. I would just like to think I could have done all that some other way lol. Keep writing so I can keep reading!

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