Saying “No,” a Boost to Fertility: Saving Ourselves Before the Drying Worms


This morning in my little corner of Pennsylvania, I looked out the window to see snowflakes drifting down. While I was a bit disgusted at this reminder of winter on the cusp of spring’s blooming into yellow daffodils and pink tulips, I bundled up like Randy in “The Christmas Story,” and set out for my obligatory daily walk with Sophie and Isabel (our four-legged children).

I walked with determination, hurrying them along, my mind racing from one thing to the next, busy, busy, busy. Suddenly, I looked down and saw one worm after another lining the space between the sidewalk and the street. There were tiny ones, fat ones, wiggling ones, still ones, every variety, just there lounging in the luxurious snowy water.

When I was a little girl I felt wracked with responsibility for these little creatures. As the rain would abate and the ground would dry, I would walk along our neighborhood sidewalks stopping to pick up each creature destined for a dehydrating death and softly placing them into the welcoming grass. I simply could not pass a worm on the suicide crawl between puddles to the safety of dirt.

Why this was my life’s mission at the oh so grown up age of five, I couldn’t tell you. What I realized this morning however is how often we as women feel our heart strings pulled in so many different directions, picking up, saving, and caring for one friend or loved one after another, for one urgent assignment at work after another, for one student or colleague after another, for one pet, spouse or acquaintance after another. The list goes on and on. We as women are saving the creatures of the world one dehydrating crawl after another–endlessly.

Yet, when do we save ourselves? How do we carve out time for meditation, yoga, or a hot bath by candlelight? When do we give ourselves permission to say “no?”

When our bodies are under stress the normal “fight or flight” response kicks in. When we experience an accumulation of such stress, and thus over-activate our “fight or flight” response, our fertility can suffer. There is overwhelming evidence that the cumulative buildup of stress hormone is linked to disorders of the autonomic nervous system and to disorders of our hormonal and immune systems–not the most hospitable environment for conception.

So today I am left with the question, how do we save ourselves before the drying worms in a world that never stops needing our immediate attention? How do we make time for ourselves when the “to do” list just never ever gets any shorter? How do we reconcile letting people we love down so that we can stop letting ourselves down?

I wish I had the answer. Tomorrow however, when the snow has dried up and the worms have begun their caravan to safety, I will take a different route with the dogs; because even at the age of 35, I still can’t tell them no.

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