Thinking before you speak when it comes to infertility

Unsolicited comments are a constant in today’s society, especially with the prominence of social media. Thus, during my time undergoing fertility treatments I experienced no shortage of, let’s call them “unfiltered” remarks. Similar to that of comments made to a pregnant woman (minus the lovely ones like “don’t you look beautiful” or, “congratulations”), comments made to those struggling with infertility should, for the most part, be kept to yourself. Actually, I might even go so far as to say any comments regarding a woman’s body, unless solicited, are better left unsaid! While these comments are often well-intended, they usually translate as hurtful and annoying.

The vast majority of infertile women and couples keep their diagnosis to themselves for this very reasons! Thus, you may not know that someone you are communicating with is suffering from this otherwise invisible disease. But, if you are one of those people that just can’t seem to keep their mouths shut, I have compiled a list of things to never say to a couple struggling to build a family, or any female of what you would classify as “prime child-birthing age” who has not yet conceived.

  1. Just relax!! Oh how I HATE this one. As someone who suffers from generalized anxiety disorder and OCD, relaxing is about the last thing I can ever do. And you telling me to relax just brings out more crazy. Studies show that everyday stress does not cause infertility. And honestly, most of us probably weren’t so stressed out until we realized we weren’t getting pregnant easily!
  2. Why don’t you just do IVF? IVF is often seen as ‘the end of the road” when it comes to fertility treatments. Most couples go through multiple tests, treatments, etc. before finally taking the IVF leap. And actually, many couples get to the IVF crossroads and do NOT take that leap. IVF is extremely expensive, approximately $12k per cycle in the USA – not including genetic testing! And a lot of times it takes more than one round. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t just have $30k lying around. We had to open a new credit card, save money, and look to family for assistance. Many people don’t have those options! And some need donor eggs, donor sperm, donor embryos or surrogates, which can increase one cycle by tens of thousands of dollars!

In addition to being expensive, IVF is emotionally and physically draining and it is not the ultimate solution in every case. Some couples go through multiple rounds without every carrying a pregnancy to term! Not to mention the rigorous injection schedule, numerous ultrasounds, body and health restrictions, mood swings, and more. So don’t just assume we can “do IVF”.

  1. You can always adopt! Adoption is an amazing option for some families. But it is not one that most people jump to. The adoption process takes a very long time, and again, it is not a guarantee. And it is extremely expensive. And it doesn’t erase the fact that it is not a biological child.
  2. You already have one. So what if I have one? Or two or three of four? It doesn’t make the fact that you are not conceiving any less hurtful! Secondary infertility is a real thing. It is still a dream dashed. I hope to live in a world where someday all families can be as big as they would like, and are capable of providing for. Some people have SO much love to give.
  3. Count your blessings that you don’t have a real illness. Fact check! Infertility is a disease recognized by the World Health Organization! Of course it is not on the same level as cancer, but it is still a disease that causes pain and requires intervention. Don’t be the judge of who deserves sympathy and prayers, and who does not.
  4. You’re still young, you have plenty of time! That is not always the case. While a woman’s ovarian reserve diminished as she ages, conditions like endometriosis, PCOS, premature ovarian syndrome can occur early in very young women. Some, like myself, have unexplained infertility.
  5. Stop trying and it will happen. Ah, yes. One of my favorites. How the heck are you supposed to get pregnant in the first place if you aren’t doing the baby dance? I mean, I know you don’t have to technically have sex to get pregnant via IVF, but at that point you are really trying. And for many couples tracking ovulation, fertile days, etc., are how they get pregnant. Sex is key to getting pregnant. Stopping surely won’t improve your chances.
  6. Who is the problem, him or her? REALLY?? Does it really matter which person is having the issues? Maybe it’s both. Maybe it’s neither (unexplained infertility), but we don’t need you poking and prodding into our personal lives. What matters is WE are struggling.
  7. Oh, look at that little bump, are you pregnant? NEVER ask a woman if she is pregnant if you aren’t 100% sure of the answer. Do you really need to know that badly? If so, ask someone else close to her if they know. If you don’t know anyone close to her, you probably don’t really need to know. Or you might get an answer you don’t expect. Like, maybe I’m just bloated from all the shots I’m giving myself in the stomach each day and I gained 5 pounds from my last unsuccessful round of IVF. Oh, and my ovaries feel like they are going to explode. And I have gas.

 

I know we are all curious about what is going on around us, but infertility is an invisible disease and you never know what feelings you might stir up by asking a simple, unsolicited question. Rather than asking these questions, start advocating for infertility treatment and coverage. Share your sympathy with a friend. Bake them cookies or send them a card. Let them know you care and that you are thinking about them.

Understand that they may not want to go out on Friday night because they are afraid that one glass of wine will ruin their chances. Recognize that they may not want to go to a baby shower because it will hurt too much. Let them know it is OK to be upset that your best friend is pregnant, after all, you’re happy for them but sad for yourself.

Offer to be there when they need you, but don’t push when they don’t want to talk about it. Try to talk about things other than your kids. Don’t let the conversation always revolve around pregnancy and babies. They will appreciate your effort and kindness more than you know.


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Road-Tripping with Toddlers

Well, we made it to Florida and back….barely. The drive there wasn’t too bad, besides the fact that it was pouring down rain for about 70 percent of the drive. The girls were pretty well-behaved, and we had the assistance of my parents. That, coupled with free move downloads from Netflix and the excitement of warm weather made the trip there manageable and rather un-eventful (besides a small puke incident from Rowe and a brief 25 minute bout of being “lost”, and my mother cutting open her head in the van).

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The drive home, on the other hand, was pretty much a nightmare. We left my grandparents’ house in in N. Ft. Myers at around 7:15am. It usually takes 5ish hours to get to Georgia. We had our luggage carrier strapped on (this carrier is about 20+ years old, by the way), the girls in their seats with their morning milk, and some tunes on the radio. Our goal was to stop for breakfast just north of Tampa, so around 9am-ish.

Well, about an hour or so into our drive we hit some traffic. Our GPS gave us an alternate root so we thought maybe we would take it. No sooner had we pulled of the highway that we realized that Rowe had puked on herself! We pulled over on the side of a road, cleaned her up, changed her close and Nick checked on the luggage carrier. It was getting loose! And the car was beginning to smell. Ugh.

Rather than risk getting lost off the route, we decided to hop back on the highway. 9:00 came and went and we STILL hadn’t made it to Tampa, thanks to traffic. We finally passed Tampa at around 10:00, pulled off to get gas and breakfast. While we were getting gas we realized Lennon had thrown up! I stripped her down and took her into the gas station to clean her up. The women’s restroom was “occupied”. I waited a bit but I had a practically naked toddler covered in puke so I just went for it and took her into the men’s. I cleaned her up in the nasty sink and changed her clothes. There goes another half hour.

We actually had a rather enjoyable breakfast at Cracker Barrel, and then decided to find somewhere to buy more ratchet straps for the luggage carrier because we were convinced it was going to fly off the top of the car and cause a major accident. Luckily there was an auto store nearby, and Nick was able to re-secure the carrier in about a half an hour. We were now 4 hours into our trip and only about 1.5 hours from where we started.

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I forgot to mention, we bought a tiny can of Lysol for $5.00 at the gas station and doused the car in it. Best $5.00 I ever spent.

Throughout the rest of Florida we hit traffic jam after traffic jam after traffic jam. I think we FINALLY made it to Georgia around 4:30/5:00pm. It took us twice as long as it should have to get through Florida. At around 6:15pm we stopped at a McDonald’s with a PlayPlace so that the girls could move around and release some energy. Well guess what…there was a bus load of kids inside and in line! We didn’t even get to place our order for about 20 minutes. While we were waiting for the crowd to thin, we changed the girls. But I had left their night diapers in the car. Nick ran out to get them and THE KEYS WERE LOCKED IN THE CAR. Our van, a Town & Country, isn’t supposed to even allow that to happen.

Thankfully I have AAA. We called, and were told someone should be there after 8:00pm. That’s 1.5 hours to spend at a McDonald’s with two tired, cranky toddlers. Oh boy. We even tried calling the local police station to see if they could help….no dice. After we ate Nick decided to go and check the car doors one more time. By some miracle, the passenger door opened and we were able to get the keys! Hallelujah. Back on the road around 7:15.

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The rest of the trip included cranky babies who we refused to give milk again in fear of another puking episode, rain storms, snow, and a very tired mom and dad. We finally made it home at 7:30am. Our 18 hour road trip took 24 hours. But hey, we survived!

Will we do it again? Maybe. Will we be prepared should there be a next time…you know it! Here are some of my recommendations before you venture out on your next toddler-accompanied road trip.

TODDLER ROADTRIP ESSENTIALS

  1. Multiple changes of clothes
  2. A bag with wipes, diapers, snacks, Tylenol, diaper cream, etc. that is easily accessible. I recommend overnight diapers or to size up for the drive. Less leaks!
  3. Multiple bottles/sippys so you don’t have to wash them all the time
  4. LYSOL and disinfectant wipes
  5. A tablet with movies and tv shows pre-downloaded (and a charger)
  6. Dress your kids in layers and bring blankets
  7. First Aid kit
  8. Extra bags for trash, puke clothes, dirty wipes, etc.
  9. Busy bags! Below is what we had in ours. Each of the girls has their own backpack, and the contents below were in each pack. Except for the LeapPad and the driving simulator toy – we only packed one of those.

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Items in each busy bag: Blocks, memory cards, books, silly frog, bunny clapper, lightup bunny wand, toy phone, toy remote, stickers, stuffed rabbit, finger puppet, books, new McDonald’s toys (I didn’t open these until we were on the trip so they were “new”), snacks. Not pictured: sippy cup, princess tambourine, blanket, wubbanub.

  1. We did not have these for this trip, but will be a necessity next trip…the girls love them!
  2. Kids songs radio station and/or playlist
  3. Calming bottles – I attempted to make one of these and failed. I think I messed up the glitter glue/water ratio. Then I never found the time to try it again!
  4. Grandma & grandpa – I highly suggest multiple adult travel companions if you have the space. My parents were unbelievably helpful on our drive down.

Good luck to you on your next road trip, may your adventure be smooth and uneventful!

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A Festivus Miracle!

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We are pregnant. Naturally. Even writing it down I still can’t believe it. Even after multiple pregnancy tests, blood draws, and ultrasounds; I still find myself doubting that it is true. I just never thought a natural pregnancy (or even another pregnancy at that matter) was in the cards for us. But here, as I live and breathe and type, I am pregnant.

When we first visited our fertility doctor, we were given about a one percent chance of conceiving naturally. It may have even been less, I don’t fully recall. All I know is that that one tiny percent…I threw it out the window. I cast it away as a never. A not possible. And we dove straight into fertility treatments. And as you all know, they worked. Not right away, but those treatments, all of that money spent, all the tears all the heartache, they brought us our sweet, beautiful miracle baby girls. All my dreams had come true. And it was enough.

However, growing up I had always imagined having three kids. I grew up in a family with three children, and it just seemed like the perfect amount. So when the girls turned one, Nick and I had a discussion and agreed to try for one more baby. We were going to TRY to expand our family. We knew it was a long shot, and I promised that if in the end, we were still a family of four, that I would be OK. Because they were ENOUGH.

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But I knew a part of me would always wonder, “what if”, if we never tried. I figured we would try naturally for about a year, and then try some fertility treatments. But IVF wasn’t really an option, at least not for the foreseeable future. After all, we spent a LOT of money the first time around, and had just bought a new house and a new car. We didn’t have $12-15k+ to spend on IVF again. And that would be assuming it worked the first time around. So, while I was very excited to try, I had VERY low expectations.

I had my first post-partum period exactly 29 days after I stopped nursing the girls on their first birthday. For me, that was amazing! My cycles had always been 34+ days, so 29 days was astonishing. We “tried” between my stopping nursing and that first cycle, I was REALLY hoping that if we could catch that first egg it would be perfect. No such luck there.

The first cycle after 22 months without a period is NO JOKE. Holy cramps, holy murder scene, holy hormones. It was a rager (I know, TMI, but pretty much everything about TTC is TMI, right?). I stocked up on OPKs, pregnancy tests and began to track my cycle again. Except, I couldn’t temp accurately because I was up at least once a night due to the twins’ sleep regression. So I put all my TTC eggs in the OPK basket. It looked like I ovulated around day 23. Pretty typical for me.

Once I reached day 40 with no period, I allowed myself to get kind of excited. I was “late”. Maybe this was it?? When trying for the girls, I was almost never late. Maybe one day once or twice. But there I sat, staring at my stark white pregnancy test. And all of the emotions and heartache and disappointment came flooding back. It was like they never left. And If I’m being completely honest, I don’t think they ever did. Once infertile, always infertile. It is a time in your life that you never quite get past.

So, because I am always one who needs to try something “new” each cycle. I did a bit of research on some vitamins I could add to my diet, and came across Vitex (more on this in a future post). From what I had read, it could help to shorten and regulate women with long, irregular cycles. Sounded perfect for me. Reviews said it would take about 3 months to make any real difference, but with a small price tag what did I have to lose?

It was that cycle, that I got pregnant. The SECOND real cycle postpartum. I bet you are as shocked as I was! I ovulated 3-4 days earlier than usual, and took a pregnancy test the day before Christmas eve. At that point, I was a couple days “late” but didn’t think anything of it. I took the test because I knew I would be drinking wine and mimosas galore over the Christmas holiday.

Nick ran out to pick up breakfast for me and the girls, and while he was gone I mustered up the courage to take a test. I watched the control line change to pink but the rest of the test remained white. I cursed, I cried, and asked God why he was getting my hopes up (like it was His fault?). I washed my hands and came back to the test to throw it away, and that is when I saw it. A second, pink line. HOLY CRAP. Was I imagining things? Was this really happening to me? No way!! But there it was, as real as could be. I dug through my bathroom cupboards and found an old digital pregnancy test that was expired, but I took it any way. And that was positive too!!

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I quickly thought of a way to surprise Nick before he got home. The twins’ Advent calendar! It was a Santa Claus that hangs on the wall, with a little velvet sack filled with magnetic cotton balls. Each morning they would take turns pulling out a beard ball and sticking it on Santa’s beard. I stuck the test in the bag, and when Nick returned home I told Nick we had to do the Advent calendar before we forgot. Rosie (or was it Leni, haha) pulled the test out and handed it to a confused Nick. It took a minute before he realized what it was (that’s why I took a digital, because two lines on a pee stick would have meant nothing to him) but when he did, boy was he shocked! And excited. And terrified.

We spent the next couple of days surprising our family. This was how I had always imagined pregnancy would be. Surprising family members. Not waiting for scheduled beta tests, when everyone already knew the date we would “find out”. It was so exciting.

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Fast forward to today and our announcement. It has not been any easy several weeks, but so far, the pregnancy is progressing perfectly, and the baby is healthy. Which is all we could hope for.

I still question why we are so blessed, when there are so many others out there still trying to have their first child. We are good people, but by no means are we saints. Do we really deserve this miracle? Are we worthy? I am excited, but so saddened and heartbroken for others.

We promise to never take our children, natural or IVF, for granted. And we vow to be the best parents possible, and to love them unconditionally. For we are blessed beyond measure, and for that we will be forever grateful. From 1% chance to 100% miracle.

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Baby C #3 is due August 26, 2018.

More to come.

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Birthmarks – Finding beauty in our differences

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Identical twins. Two children, of the same sex, that look exactly alike in their external features, and share the same DNA. That is what I was prepared for. I was prepared to have trouble telling the girls apart. I was prepared for people always asking “who is who”. I was prepared for Parent Trap inspired switches both at home, and at school. What I was not prepared for was one child having a birthmark on her face.

When the girls were born, they looked exactly alike. So much alike that we had to paint one toe nail on each girl a different color. I had purchased gold bracelets with their names on it, and each baby was assigned a binky color. Rowe’s was pink (like a rose!) and Lennon’s was purple. Actually, they still are. In those first few weeks my tired eyes definitely mixed them up a few times. But only for a minute, haha!

Then, around when they were 5 weeks old, a birthmark on Rowe’s face began to appear. It started out below her right eye, and grew up to her eyebrow. It was light brown, but noticeable. To say I wasn’t devastated was a lie. My daughter’s face was now permanently marked. You never think of those things when anticipating the birth of your child. This post is hard for me to write, because I am ashamed at how upset I was by this birthmark.

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At first, I was in denial. Maybe it was a bruise, or just a weird skin disorder that would go away. When it was still there a few months later. I became a sad wreck. She was still the most beautiful baby in the world, in my eyes. But I began to fear what others would think and say about it. Would she grow up being teased? We all know how big of an issue bullying currently is. And I dread the day my sweet little Rosie comes home from school, crying, because someone made fun of her birthmark.

Then, I was sad because she no longer looked just like her sister. Would people call her the “ugly twin” because of this mark? And I hated the fact that this would be a tell-tale way to tell them apart. Not the pink binky, or that she is slightly smaller. Would people always favor one over the other because of this?

Everyone tells me, “It can easily be covered with makeup when she is older.” – but that’s the thing. I don’t want my daughter to feel like she has to start wearing makeup in elementary school and then, at all times!

We took her to Detroit to a pediatric dermatologist when she was about 7 months old. They checked her body for any other similar spots, but this was the only one. Which was a good thing! She was diagnosed with a café-au-lait macule (a very common type of birthmark), and it was highly likely that it would not fade. There are laser treatments that can be done when she is older, but they will hurt, and there is no guarantee it will lighten the birthmark. While I am glad she has options, I am still unsure where we stand on this.

Would she want us to get the treatment done at a young age to avoid any potential bullying? Or would she want us to let her make the decision. As a parent, you always want to protect your child, so I am leaning toward attempting the laser treatment on a small area to see how it works. Then moving forward from there. But does that make me selfish???

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I’ll never forget the few times strangers, and even people I know, have looked at her and asked “what happened to her eye?”. It makes my heart sink and my stomach churn. I then explain that it is a birthmark, and that we think it makes her unique.

I actually didn’t truly come to terms with the birthmark until she was about one-year-old. Of course I still thought she was adorable and beautiful and perfect. But I still feared for the future, the name calling and the tears. Until a little girl, maybe ten years old, told me that it was the most beautiful birthmark she had ever seen. It was in that moment that I knew my amazing miracle baby girl was going to be loved, and accepted. I know there will still be comments, I am ready for those. But my child is going to have a wonderful life. I will be certain of that.

A lot of people are very surprised when they first notice the birthmark. It is very light, and sometimes not very noticeable in indoor light. And especially in a lot of photos. But out in the sun light, it is definitely more apparent. I know we must be careful with the sun, as it will make it darker in the summer. But the most important thing is that she is HEALTHY, she is HAPPY and she is LOVED.

It is in this blog that I ask you – moms, dads, grandparents, friends, teachers – please educate your children on differences. Please emphasize how important it is to be different; not just in personality, but in appearance as well. Teach your children to be kind, loving and accepting. My hope is that if we can emphasize this to our children and peers, that my child (and yours) will have one less reason to cry as she grows older and begins to explore the world.

To my Rosie girl: I love you more than life itself. You are beautiful, kind and smart. You are silly, spunky and a crazy dancer. There isn’t a thing about you that I don’t love and cherish. You are going to rule the world someday, and I can’t wait to watch it. xoxox

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One More Shot – Documentary Review

I just finished watching the documentary, “One More Shot”, on Netflix.

Guess what?

I am still crying.

This film is so real. So truthful, so heart wrenching, so me. In 90 minutes this movie managed to completely transport me back in time and to accurately explain the roller coaster of emotions we went through just over two years ago.

ONE. MORE. SHOT.

A perfect title that can be interpreted in many ways. One more shot of medication. One more blow to your heart after another negative pregnancy test. One more attempt at conceiving. One more shot of tequila to numb the pain. Or, one more chance at a miracle.

The story follows a couple in their early thirties as they try to expand their family and navigate the uncharted waters that are infertility. They aren’t a glamorous Hollywood couple. They aren’t doctors or scientists who know all about infertility. They are the couple down the street that stop over on Thursday night for a glass of wine. The couple you pass in the grocery store while looking for a ripe watermelon (how DO you know if a watermelon is good??). And they are the couple that sits across from you at the fertility clinic, wondering how long you have been trying, if you were already pregnant, or if you had just suffered another loss. The ones whose eyes you meet before heading back for your consultation who can tell you with just one look that they understand.

There were several moments in the film that I could identify with, but there were also several that I could not. This couple suffered longer than we did, and more loses. But, some points that really hit home for me, were:

 

The fear of the unknown.

As an OCD, control freak, I spend every spare moment planning, making lists and setting goals. Infertility was something I knew nothing about, and treatment had no guarantees. Yes, there were dozens of options for starting a family, but nothing was guaranteed. I often thought to myself “I would go through this 10 times, spend $100k if someone, somewhere could promise me that it would all end with a baby in my arms.” But the truth of the matter is, they can’t. And the fact that I had no control over the outcome was debilitating.

 

Feeling broken.

Nick checked out OK. Borderline for sperm morphology but otherwise, good for baby making. This made me feel like it was all MY fault. That I was broken. I couldn’t do the thing women were SUPPOSED to do – make babies. I feared this would break our marriage, and I feared it would break me.

 

The shots hurt.

Those shot were NOT a walk in the park. They hurt like a b*tch! They left me sore, bruised and hormonal.

 

Punishment.

Was I being punished for sneaking out of the house in high school? Or for that time I swiped some beer mugs from a college bar? Or for all of the things I have taken for granted or selfishly just assumed would happen?

 

IVF is the ultimate “treatment”.

When we started at our clinic, we were given a less than 1% chance of conceiving naturally. So we jumped straight into IVF. And we were positive it would work. When it didn’t work the first time, it was an even bigger blow. The miracle treatment we had just shelled out $15k for was a bust. It’s hard to pick up the pieces after that.

 

Obsession.

The sheer obsession of all of it. I think infertility made me a hypochondriac/Google genius. I spent all of my free time Googling symptoms, or lack thereof, grants, adoption, embryo donation. I needed to constantly feel like I was being proactive.

 

The comfort of knowing I was not alone.

From the moment I made my blog public, it was like the heaviest weight was lifted off my shoulders. The out-pour of love and well wishes we received was amazing. But what was even more amazing was the number of women who messaged me and said, I understand. I too, am suffering from infertility. I too, find it hard to be happy for my friends having babies. I too, am scared.

 

This documentary was everything I never knew that I always needed. I think it is something that every struggling family should watch. And all of their friends and family. And everyone else. It is relatable, funny when it needed to be, and informative. I highly recommend that you check it out now on Netflix. You won’t regret it. The only thing you might regret is forgetting the tissues, or that you didn’t watch it sooner.

And for all of the women, men and couples out there trying to grow your families, find hope and comfort in the fact that you are not alone. Infertility is hard. It will push you, it will test you, and it will break you. But there is a light at the end of that tunnel. There is always another option – maybe it’s another crack at IVF. Or maybe it’s a surrogate. Perhaps it is coming to terms with never being parents. Or maybe it’s adoption. Whatever it is, make sure it is YOUR decision. Not anyone else’s. And let that decision be the one that puts you back together again.

Baby Steps (pun intended)

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#MOMGOALS series with guest blogger Ashley Jones

Now, to the taking action part…

Getting healthy doesn’t have to be all or nothing, or a complete overhaul of your entire life at once. I often encourage my clients to take a “stepwise” approach, especially if they are just starting out on their journey.

Ways to take small steps that will get you big changes over time:

1. Eliminate one unhealthy meal/snack/beverage a day and replace it with something healthy. Do this for one week. Then in week 2, eliminate another unhealthy meal/snack/beverage etc. Continue doing this each week, until everything you are eating/drinking is healthy(ish).

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2. After you have built up some good healthy eating habits and are aware of how your body feels, start to move! If you are just starting out, you might want to chose 2 days to get 30 minutes of exercise in for the first week, then 3 days the next week and 4 days on week 3 and repeat until you are being active (sweating, can’t talk comfortably while exercising) for 30 minutes at least 5 days per week.

3. Now that you are eating healthy and being active, it’s time to step your game up. By now you have probably noticed some difference in how you feel and how your clothes fit you. Your friends and family might even be noticing a difference in how you look 😉 To make sure that you keep seeing change and getting healthier, you’ve got to push yourself. So up the weight you are lifting, push for an extra rep or improve your PR if you are a runner.

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4. Last, and most importantly DON’T stop!

Yes, it’s ok to rest and listen to your body, but don’t fall for your own old excuses anymore. You’ve come too far to back track.

Stay tuned for a little tough love next week 💜

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Ashley Jones is a Wife, Mama, Physician Assistant, and Health & Lifestyle Coach. Follow her on Instagram & Facebook.Instagram: @the_good_doctors_wifeFacebook: Www.facebook.com/nursingtankfitness

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Ovulation: An EGGsact Science

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Pinpointing ovulation is one of the most difficult, but most important aspects of trying to conceive. Your entire cycle evolves around and is categorize based on the one day.

Your follicular phase is the days leading up to ovulation – but you won’t know how long it is until ovulation is confirmed! Your luteal phase it the time between ovulation and the first day of you period. Again, you need to know when you ovulated to calculate it.

In order to become pregnant, you must have sex (or insemination) on or around the day that you ovulated. This is your fertile window… ovulation day and the five days leading up to it. You might even be able to consider the day after ovulation a part of this window, because the egg has a lifespan of about 24 hours after being released in which it can be fertilized. If it is not, POOF!, egg disintegrates.

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The five days prior to ovulation are considered fertile days because it is possible, given the right conditions (fertile cervical fluid), for sperm to live inside the female body for up to five days. So sperm that entered the uterus/fallopian tubes on the first day of your fertile window might just still be hanging around on O day. But your best chances of fertilization are the day of and the day prior to ovulation.

So, now that you understand how important ovulation is, how the heck do you know when it happens! On average, based on a 28-day cycle, ovulation would occur on CD (cycle day) 14. However, a good chunk of those TTC don’t have a perfect 28-day cycle. Some of us have short, 24 day cycles, others have 30, 35, or 40 + days (I average between 35-40). It can be estimated that you ovulate approximately 14 days prior to your period, because the average luteal phase is about 14 days long. If you have a 25 day cycle, you likely ovulate right around day 11. If you have a 35 day cycle, O is probably on day 21.

But what good does that do us after the fact? Especially for those of us who have irregular, fluctuating cycles?? Not much that’s for sure. That is why there are a variety of different ways to estimate/pinpoint ovulation that all TTCers should be aware of.

Below are some of the most common methods. Some are pretty accurate, others are just estimates. My recommendation is a combination!

1. Basal Body Temperature (BBT)

Your Basal Body Temperature is your body’s temperature in a state of rest, and is your lowest temperature of the day. It is taken first thing in the morning, upon waking, before you even get out of bad, take a sip of water, or even utter a word. You will need to get a special thermometer for tracking your BBT, one that calculates to two decimal places, because changes in temperature can be that small.

To track your BBT I suggest using a fertility app like Fertility Friend or Glow. You can track by hand and print of charts from the internet, but I think it is way easier to enter the temps into the app. Tack your temperature every morning, at the same time (you can take it orally or vaginally or rectally, just be consistent…I prefer orally) and enter it into the app chart. At the beginning of your cycle, your temperatures are on the lower end, and at the end of your cycle they should be noticeably higher.

bbtchart

Ovulation occurs when there is a noticeable shift of at least .4 degrees Farenheit after ovulation, which helps separate your chart into two phases – follicular (lower temps) and luteal (higher temps after ovulation). A lot of women have a temperature drop right before the increase on the day they ovulate. A couple days of higher temps will confirm ovulation, and most apps will generate what is called a “cover line”. Temperatures usually remain above the cover line during the luteal phase, and will drop back down when your period starts. Temps that stay above the cover line through a missed period are often promising. But it is not an exact science.

BBT charting is the best way to confirm ovulation, short of a vaginal ultrasound. Chart for several months and look for patterns.

The bad thing about BBT charting? It cannot PREDICT ovulation, only confirm it. So it is important to chart your BBT along with other ovulation prediction methods like ovulation tests, checking cervical mucous and position, etc.

2. Ovulation Predictor Kit (OPKs)

These are pee sticks that detect the luteinizing hormone (LH). They work similar to pregnancy tests in HOW you take them, but differ in how you read them. For OPKs with lines, the test line must be as dark OR darker than the control line in order to be positive. Many women have LH in their systems throughout their cycle and may always have a faint line show up on these tests. When you receive a positive test, you can be expected to ovulate within 24 hours.

There are also digital ovulation tests, like Clear Blue, that give you no-nonsence results like smiley-faces and shaking smileys that help you detect your two or four (depending on the product) most fertile days.

Clear Blue Digital Ovulation Tests

Clear Blue Advanced Digital Ovulation Tests

Make sure to do the deed on the high fertility days, and then one day after.

I usually use the cheap test strips from Amazon because I like to take them every day and I am not a millionaire. Also, with the cheap sticks I like to tape them to a piece of notebook paper and include the date, time and CD (cycled day) they were taken so I can track progress and compare from month-to-month.

3. Cervical Mucous (CM)

Cervical Mucous (CM), AKA vaginal discharge (both are equally gross words to say aloud), is another way to predict ovulation. Your CM changes often throughout your cycle, and can help indicate when you are and are not fertile. When your cervical mucous resembles egg whites (EWCM!) you are most fertile, ovulation is impending and you should get down!

The best way to test your CM is around the same time each day with CLEAN fingers. Insert into  your V and then move the results around between your fingers. Yes, you will probably feel awkward at first, but eventually it will become habit. If you are like me you will check it every time you go to the bathroom.

The various types of CM (different sites/books will have slightly different names and descriptions) are:

Dry/nonexistent – this is infertile CM. Usually found right after your period. This is not a healthy environment for sperm

Sticky – After dry usually comes sticky. Again, this is infertile. It is almost like dry rubber cement! This is usually white in color.

Creamy – Similar to lotion in color and texture. This can be infertile or slightly fertile CM. This change is in response to the increasing estrogen levels in your body. It does not stretch or move much between your fingers.

Watery – Fertile CM!! Woohoo! This is likely to be clear or a little cloudy, and feel slippery between your period. This means ovulation is coming soon!

Eggwhite – The Holy Grail of CM! Eggwhite cervical mucous (aka EWCM) is the most fertile of all. It is clear and STRETCHY. When you pull your fingers apart it will likely stretch and inch or so. And it really looks like raw egg whites. This means ovulation is right around the corner, or occurring now. Some women never get EWCM but still ovulate. Which is why I will again emphasize that all of these methods should be used in tandem.

4. Cervical Position/Texture

The position of your cervix is another way to predict ovulation. Your cervix may be high, medium, or low. Become a cervical position expert and check it often so you know what is “normal” for you. Below are the stages of cervical position:

Low, hard, slightly open – during your period (infertile)

Low, hard, closed – directly after your period (infertile)

Medium, medium texture, slightly open (slightly fertile)

High (you should barely be able to find it!), soft and open (most fertile)

Medium, medium texture, closed – after ovulation (infertile)

High, soft, closed – this is what the cervix apparently feels like when you are pregnant, but everyone is different and I can’t even remember what mine felt like. And it could take a while to get to this position, even well after a positive test.

Hard texture can be compared to the tip of your nose, while soft texture can be compared to your lips (hopefully that helps). I am not very good at explaining the difference between open and closed.

5. Other symptoms

While there is no rhyme or reason to this method, many women experience that same symptoms aroundn ovulation from month-to-month. Some of those symptoms might be:

  • Cramping or twinges
  • Tender breasts
  • Increased sense of smell
  • Increased sex drive

Using all of these methods combined can help you to identify your fertile window and ovulation, which can greatly increase your chances of pregnancy. But even if you track everything, and time sex perfectly, there is still a big chance you won’t fall pregnant. SO MANY THINGS have to fall exactly into place at the right time in order for fertilization and pregnancy to occur.

I know trying for months and years can be discouraging. I have been there and I know how painful it is. So if you are under 35 and have been trying for a year, or are 35+ and have been trying for 6 months, it is recommended that you see your doctor (OB or fertility specialist). But that is no rule of thumb. You need to be your OWN advocate. If you think something is wrong, make an appointment. That is what I did after 7 months of perfectly timed intercourse. And I ended up needing two rounds of IVF! Don’t be ashamed, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Infertility affects roughly 1 in 8 couples, and is worth talking about.

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The birth story you’ve all been waiting for!

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Rowe & Lennon 9-12-16

You heard that right….I have finally posted my birth story! 15 months to the day after Rowe & Lennon were born. I was trying to add an element of suspense. I think that was a success!

Anyway, I added my birth to the top-nav of my blog, but you can jump right too it here.

It was a little rushed, and I have a hard time remembering some of the details, but you’ll get the picture.

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Noninvasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT)

Since announcing the gender of our babies to our family, friends, and on social media (video below!), several people have asked us how we knew the gender so early? We revealed at 15 weeks and 1 day. Usually the earliest that gender can be determined via ultrasound is 16 weeks, and many parents wait until their anatomy scans around 18-22 weeks. Well, our gender was not determined using an ultrasound, but rather with something called Noninvasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT).

NIPT is a simple blood screening, performed as early as 10 weeks gestation, which analyzes the fetal DNA in the mothers’ blood stream. Because our twins are identical, the test could be run the same as with a singleton pregnancy. I am not really sure how or if it would differ with fraternal twins. The test we chose is called the Progenity Verifi test, and it tests for chromosomal disorders such as Trisomy 21 (Downs Syndrome), Trisomy 18, Trisomy 13 and others. In addition to checking for these disorders, the test also looks for XX or XY (male or female pairs) so it can predict the sex of your baby! The Verifi test has a 99% accuracy rating. Similar tests include the Harmony Test, the NIFTY test, etc.

Our results came back normal and the office was able to give us an envelope with our gender results. I highly recommend NIPT for moms-to-be of any age. It provides peace of mind, and should the results come back with a chromosomal disorder, the parents will have ample time to prepare. For example, many may require special doctors on hand at time of delivery. Parents can join support groups and educate themselves on the condition so they better know what to expect. Whatever the parents decide to do with the information is their choice and theirs alone. Some prefer to pass on the genetic testing or screening, and that is their choice as well!

Other prenatal testing options include:

  • Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS) – This tests uses a biopsy of placenta cells to screen for disorders. This is usually done late in the first trimester, around weeks 10-12.
  • Quad Screening – Uses a maternal blood sample to screen for the following four substances: AFP, hCG, Estriol and Inhibin-A. They will use these results to estimate the chances of the baby having an abnormality. This test is usually performed in the second trimester, around weeks 15-22.
  • Amniocentesis – This is a procedure in which amniotic fluid is removed from the uterus for testing. This fluid contains fetal cells and chemicals produced by the baby. These cells and chemicals are analyzed to provide genetic and other information about the baby. This procedure is riskier than the others. Risks include leaking of amniotic fluid, miscarriage (a very small percentage, but a risk nonetheless), needle injury, Rh sensitization, infection, and the risk of transferring an infection to the fetus.

IVF #2 – Test Day

February 1, 2016. 11dp5dt. This was test day and I had never been more scared for something in my life. Leading up to the day I had experienced some cramping, and a “lightning bolt” stab of pain in my uterus the day after transfer. I had also hit a blood vessel in my stomach when administering my Lovenox injections so I had a huge bruise and was extremely sore for a few days. Besides that and being a bit sleepier, I had no symptoms. I spent days and nights praying for nausea, sore boobs, anything. But I just felt pretty darn normal!

I worked from home that morning, and took the afternoon off. I knew if I received the same news as last time I would just want to go straight home and cry and binge drink wine. I spent the morning doing work, crying and praying. After having my blood drawn that morning, the nurse had mentioned the results wouldn’t likely come in until after 2pm. My mom and dad were scheduled to come over to keep me company at 1:30pm. I kept my phone clear across the room while I worked so that I wouldn’t keep checking it.

I finally got up to use the restroom around 1:15 and noticed I had a missed text message from my friend who is also my nurse at the clinic. It said “Call the office ASAP, we tried to get ahold of you 🙂 🙂 :)”. Thank GOD for those smiley faces. At that moment I knew the news was positive. My heart was beating a mile a minute as I went outside to call the clinic. They gave me the most amazing news I had ever heard, the word I had been waiting 18 months to hear, POSITIVE. My first beta had come back at 697, and they look for 100! HOLY CRAP!!

After a few screams and some crying, I scheduled my second beta for two days later. Just as I hung up the phone I saw my parents pulling around the corner and into my driveway. I walked right outside and told them the news. I couldn’t contain myself! My mom even had a gift bag of baby stuff in the car because she “had a feeling” (why the heck didn’t I have that feeling??). I then proceeded to go upstairs to the bathroom and pee on a handful of pregnancy tests. Two lines and the digital “Pregnant” showed up right away. I dropped to my knees and thanked God. I then looked at the sticks about 8 million times and pranced down the stairs to show my parents.

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We then decided it would be fun to surprise Nick at work! I loved this idea because I never thought I would get to surprise him, since he knew the info was coming. But we received the news early and had some time. We drove to the store and bought a Congratulations balloon along with two pink and two blue balloons and drove to Nick’s school. He actually called while we were on our way and I had to lie through my teeth. I did a pretty good job and think there might be an acting career in my future. Below is a video of the surprise. I can honestly say it was some of the best few minutes of my life and I am SO glad that I was able to make it this special for Nick.

After Nick had heard the news I took some time to tell a handful of close family members and friends. After all, it was still early days. But for that day, at that very moment, I was PREGNANT.