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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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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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.

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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.

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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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Back in the saddle again

You heard that right; I am back after nearly a year and a half hiatus! Back in the writing saddle, and back in the TTC saddle (say what?!).

As you can probably guess, I had the twins and now they are now approaching 15 months old. It really is crazy how time flies. I apologize to my followers for not posting since the girls’ birth, but as you can guess, having twin infants takes up a lot of time! In addition, if I am being completely honest, once I was no longer pregnant and I had the girls, I wasn’t sure if what I had to say would be relevant or have the same impact as TTC did. After all, I wasn’t really struggling anymore or trying to conceive, and I basically had the picture perfect life!

However, here I am a year and a half later writing my feelings once again. I can’t really pinpoint what motivated me to come back to the blogosphere…it may have been that we are approaching the two-year mark from our successful in vitro procedure that brought us the twins; or maybe it’s because I finally have some time on my hands! I’m no longer nursing, the girls are a bit more independent and our new house that we moved into six months ago is finally coming together. But I think what it really comes down to is the fact that we are trying to conceive one more little miracle baby. And blogging is my therapy (and I hope it will keep me from going crazy on my husband). Whatever the reason, I am back (for at least a little while) and ready to fill you all in.

In the coming weeks and months I hope to update you all on the past 15 months of my life and give you the inside scoop on it’s like raising twins, being a new mom, nursing, working full-time and all that fun stuff. And I’ll obviously update you on our journey to have one more baby. I can’t promise I will post regularly, or even that what I post will be as well thought out as it was in the past. Odds are one of the twins will be banging on my keyboard as I type or grabbing my attention mid-thought. Or I will be writing the same way I wrote this post; talking into my cell phone on my half hour drive into work, and throwing in some punctuation at the end! What I can promise you is that what I post will be honest, emotional (happy, sad, fun, scary, etc.) and real. I look forward to being back in the writing game!

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Happy Transfer Day! NOT.

Transfer day was Thursday, January 21, 2016. We went into the day super excited, and I was especially excited for a four day weekend of binging on Netflix and napping. We would be transferring one embryo at 10:45 am and 11 days later our pregnancy test was scheduled.

This time Nick came with me, there was no way I was going to let him miss the big moment again. We goofed around in the waiting area (thank goodness I didn’t wet myself because a full bladder is required for transfer) and once again it took the nurses a good three tries before they were able to draw my blood for testing. Nick looked very dapper in his hospital gown and hair net (see below) as we prepared to see our little embie on the big screen.

Once in the operating room the embryologist checked my bladder and actually let me get up and let a little bit out in the restroom which was AMAZING. When I returned they showed us our little cell blob on the big screen and then transferred it right on into its home for hopefully the next 9 months. As I laid there for about 10 minutes after the procedure, the nurse brought us a picture of the embryo and one of the ultrasound after the transfer had been made. We were SO excited.

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Then the bad news came. A nurse handed me a piece of paper to sign, and being the good girl that I am, I actually read it. It was a form stating that we had one embryo left frozen from our October cycle. Immediately my heart fell. One embryo? I thought there were 5 left, total? One from the October cycle and 4 from this cycle. After all, five had made it to freeze back in December. A great number. I asked the nurse what this meant and she told me she wasn’t sure.

We went back to my waiting “room” where I was to lie down for another 20 minutes or so. I asked the next nurse I saw why I only had one frozen embryo listed on my sheet of paper. She too was unsure and said she would call back to the lab to ask. After about a half an hour we were FINALLY visited by a representative of the lab.

If you recall, our cycle was part of a clinical study where the embryos (either all of them, or all but the best looking one, would receive Preimplantation Genetic Screening). Apparently all 4 of the other embryos tested from our December retrieval came back genetically abnormal and were thrown out. WHAT!?!?!

Well what about the one in me? Was that one normal or abnormal?? Because of the study, we were not allowed to know what group we were in, so there was no way to tell. Four out of five were for sure abnormal. All I could think of were, what are the odds that one out of five was normal, IF it have been tested? I was devastated. Basically this was our only shot because we did not have any genetically normal embryos leftover. Yes, we have our little guy from October, but the quality was weak and probably not worth an FET on its own.

I spent the entire drive home crying, and convincing myself we were going to have to either start all over from scratch or begin pursuing adoption. The clinic sent over some paperwork explaining what was abnormal about the other four embryos but it didn’t make any sense to me. I was just for sure that I did not produce any good eggs and that I would never have a baby of my own.

As much as Nick tried to get me to think positive, I could not. I spent the next week plus depressed, sporadically crying, researching infertility grants and seeking information on adoption. I am nothing if not prepared. But nothing could have prepared me for the miracle that happened next.

Thankfully waiting….

While trying so very hard to conceive, it is easy to get caught up in all of the pain, loss and hurt we have been put through. Between the ultrasounds, blood work and injections, the 3am Google searches, and the constant envy, I find that I often overlook all of the wonderful things I have in my life and that this journey has brought me.

There is more to life than babies (as hard as that may seem to believe!), and I am lucky to be blessed with many other gifts that have made my life, and this past year especially, fulfilling. So, with Thanksgiving quickly approaching, I would like to take some time to reflect on what I am thankful for:

  1. My husband Nick – Nick has been my rock throughout this entire process. He manages to make me smile and laugh every day and he never forgets to tell me what a strong and beautiful woman I am (even amidst full on temper tantrum). He appeases my every superstition and fertility trick an he assures me that all will be right in the world if we just continue to think positive. He is my everything and I am so thankful that he makes up the other half of my whole.
  2. My parents and in-laws – Their positivity is a force to be reckoned with and their support has been astounding. They have gone above and beyond their parental duties. As much as I know this process pains them too, they manage to wear a smile day in and day out and to help me through my darkest hours when I think nothing in the world will ever go my way. They make me want to be a parent even more with every day that they show me their love, and they help me to believe that I can do ANYTHING.
  3. My puppies –  The two furballs of cuteness make my everyday a blessing in so many ways. Their unconditional love and devotion melts my heart. They seem to know exactly what to do to cheer me up and their constant companionship keeps me sane. They have made me parents in a less traditional manner and I love them as though they were human babies. Together with my husband they have taught me the meaning of family.
  4. My friends & family – I could not do this with out their support! They put up with my constant complaining and crazy TTC methods, they understand and forgive me for saying things in the heat of the moment that I certainly don’t mean, and they continue to pray for us. They take me out when I need to let loose, stay in with me when I’m feeling extra emotional, and send me positive thoughts on a daily basis. Through all of the ups and downs they treat me the same as they did before my diagnosis. Which is just what I need to keep me grounded.
  5. That my close friends have not had to experience infertility to the extent that we have. I am thankful that they remain naive to the process and unscarred by the pain. I would not wish this upon anyone.
  6. Those who are going through this journey. On the flip side, I am thankful for the women I have met (and those who I already knew who have reached out) that are going through IVF and similar situations. They can relate to my emotions and help to provide a sense of normalcy in my life. These strong, courageous women are a blessing in my life and I cannot wait to watch all of them become the mothers they were meant to be.
  7. My beautiful home that provides a cozy (and exquisitely decorated, I might add) setting for spending time with family and friends, laughing until I cry and even crying until I can manage again. I always feel safe here.
  8. The doctors and nurses at IVF Michigan –  they are helping me to realize a dream. They are always reassuring and eager to answer my texts and calls at all hours of the day. I feel as though my future is in the best hands possible and I am thankful for the knowledge and skill that they bring to the table. Science is amazing and these experts know what they are doing. I trust them.
  9. My job –  I am lucky to have a job that I love that allows me to work flexible hours and offers another support system in my life. They are so understanding and are rooting for our success as much as anyone else.
  10. My health & the health of those around me. I may be suffering from infertility but my general health is fantastic (minus the anxiety, of course), as is that of most of my close family and friends. I am blessed to have my parents and both sets of grandparent still in my life, and Nick to have both of his parents as well. We have a bright and healthy future. A healthy life is a gift we often take for granted.
  11. My faith in God. I do not pride myself on being the most religious person on the planet, but throughout my journey I have found myself becoming closer to God. I am slowly building a relationship with Him and I know He has a plan for me and my family. I have faith that my life will turn out exactly as he planned it.

I could go on and on about all of the things I am thankful for, but my fingers are getting tired of typing. As I sit here and review the list I just compiled I realize just how lucky I am. This list is proof that if a child is not in our future that we CAN and WILL find happiness and purpose in all of the beautiful blessings that already surround us.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO ALL!!!

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Anxiously waiting

I have mentioned before how much I hate waiting, have I not? And I think I have brushed on the topic of how anxious it makes me. Well, now I would like to share a bit more about that with you. I am a sufferer of generalized anxiety disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder (self-diagnosed with the latter). This is not a condition I have dealt with all my life. It comes and goes and usually I have no symptoms. However, the pressure of TTC has caused it to worsen over the past year.

People often chose to dance around the subject of mental illness. And I actually hate to describe what I have as a mental illness. But it is what it is. And it is so very common with approximately 18% of the population suffering from some form of anxiety disorder. Actually, a good handful of my friends are as anxious as I am (I still think we should start a club)! It is nothing to be ashamed of, and is very treatable! Like infertility, there is a stigma around mental illness that needs to be addressed. I hope by sharing my story I can encourage others to get help, because that is the most important thing!

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For as long as I can remember I have been a perfectionist (perhaps not in cleaning my room, my parents will attest that it was always a mess) in the areas of school, sports, games, etc. I strived to be the best at everything, and if I was not, or if I was not properly recognized for my talents (take soccer for instance) I would quit so that I would not have that “less than perfection” on my record. Anything less than an ‘A’ in a class angered me. My clothes are all organized by color and categorized by style (short sleeves, organized by color; long sleeves, organized by color; skirts, organized by color; I think you get the picture). I make lists on top of lists on top of lists so that I never forget anything. I often check to make sure the door is locked several times, or that my heater in my office is off (even though I am positive I turned it off and checked it three times already). That may all seem silly to you but to me that is life! Thus I am pretty sure I have OCD.

My OCD feeds my anxiety. I have always felt nervous before taking a test, or performing a gymnastics routine in front of the judges, but that is pretty normal. It was not until my sophomore year in college that I truly began to feel anxious. I blame it all on my Precision Language course. This is a course at OU (in the Scripps College of Journalism) that students dread. I was told before the first day that it was one of the most difficult courses on campus. I psyched myself out before even looking at the syllabus. And all because of a grammar course. I began to feel panicky before exams, which lead to me not being able to eat or sleep for long periods of time. I had also recently broken up with my boyfriend, so that didn’t help either. I was miserable.

Finally I couldn’t take it anymore and went home for the weekend and visited a doctor who diagnosed me with anxiety disorder. In fact, my cortisol levels were through the roof! I was prescribed Celexa and visited a psychiatrist a couple of times. The psychiatrist kept trying to blame my anxiety on my parents and the pressure they put on me, which was not the case. Needless to say I went to two appointments and then quit. All I wanted was to pass this damn class!

The Celexa really helped. I was back to my old self in about a month. There was a warning sign on the bottle that alcohol could increase the effects of the drug, but being a Bobcat I didn’t let that stop me from going out on the weekends (or weekdays)! I became a lightweight and attribute a lot of confusing mornings and headaches to the mixture. But that was all worth it to finally feel free again. And guess what? I received an ‘A-‘ in the class! So all of that anxiety was for nothing….right?

I stayed on my Celexa throughout the rest of college, because I knew my course load was only going to get larger and the pressure would continue. After graduating I weaned myself off the meds and felt great. It would be another 6 years before the real anxiety hit again.

Cue the summer of 2014. I began a new job (which I love) and we also began trying to conceive. It wasn’t long before I began waking up in the middle of the night and couldn’t fall asleep. Eventually I couldn’t sleep at all, because I couldn’t turn off my brain! There were weeks where I would go three full days without sleep, and sometimes I would drink a couple glasses of wine before bed just to knock myself out. What I thought was insomnia for over a month (I tried melatonin, velarian root, lavender, Benadryl – which had the opposite effect – meditation, sleep hygiene, etc. Nothing worked.) before visiting my doctor again and realizing it was the anxiety returned. I went back on my Celexa.

Celexa takes about a month to start feeling the effect of the drug, and in the meantime I suffered my first panic attack triggered by someone close to me revealing they were pregnant. I now knew what my trigger was. Now, every time I find out a new person is pregnant I seem to have an attack. They have gotten fewer and smaller since the Celexa has kicked in, but as you can see TTC is very stressful.

Celexa is a Pregnancy Category C drug, meaning that it could pose a potential risk on a fetus but not enough studies have been done. I have chosen to continue taking my Celexa because the benefit outweighs the risk right now. I am not pregnant and had I not taken the medicine for the past year I would be in really bad shape. I need to be at my healthiest to carry a child, and for me, right now, my healthiest is when I am on my Celexa. I plan to go off of the medication as soon as I see a positive test, although several women have continued taking throughout their pregnancy and had healthy children. I just don’t want to risk that right now.

In addition to the Celexa, I have seen a counselor and tried yoga. Both have helped a bit. What has helped the most is trying to focus on the positives in my life and keeping myself busy. I couldn’t do this without the love and support of my husband, family and friends.

We all fight our own battles, and we should not be ashamed of that. I encourage anyone with anxiety to please get help, you CAN feel better.

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Finding the beauty in the pain

IVF is a long and painful (both physically and mentally) process. I know this already and I have not yet completed a full cycle! Every day we wake up and look at our schedule. We administer our injections, we take our oral medications, we visit our RE for ultrasounds and bloodwork. Some days we have procedures. We wait for results, we wait for answers, and we wait for the next day knowing that it might be one step closer to bringing home our miracle babies.

We do all of this while staying strong so that our peers don’t know the real struggle we go through on a daily basis. We try to stay positive while on the inside we are constantly mulling over the “what ifs” or the “how could this possibly work” thoughts. We look forward to our injections, because we know the pain will be worth it, and the pain makes it feel real. We look at our embryos as children, and we question how we have been Pro Choice for our entire lives but now that our future is in the hands of these tiny little blastocysts we can’t imagine why anyone would ever want to terminate them (I am still Pro Choice, but it does get me thinking). We are both excited and afraid of D-day (pregnancy test day) and have already planned out what we are going to do that evening if the results are positive (celebratory dinner!) or negative (down a bottle of wine and watch ourselves cry in the mirror).

But through all of this pain and mixed emotion there is beauty. The female body is an amazing thing, and science even more so. A human being can be created outside of the human body, carried to term, and result in a beautiful child. The scars and bruises from medication signify our struggle, but also our determination. There is beauty in the hope and strength that we develop as women. There is beauty in the relationships we build with our partners. There is beauty in the bonds we create with women like ourselves on forums, chats, in waiting rooms, or just passing by. There is beauty in the amount of love we pour into the tiny chance that we may someday have our family. And there is beauty in the idea the infertility is not a stigma or defining characteristic, but a journey that we are blessed to travel.

Many of you may have come across this image/story below in recent weeks, but I wanted to share it regardless. The thought behind this image is both beautiful and thought provoking, and I believe it will help bring the awareness that infertility so desperately needs. Please take a moment to read the story here http://abcnews.go.com/Lifestyle/incredible-story-photo-baby-surrounded-syringes/story?id=34339669, if you have a moment.

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This image was shared on the Sher Institutes Facebook page with the text, “Wow, what a photo. Thank you to Sher Fertility St. Louis and Dr. Dayal patient Angela, who shows the true definition of love that went into making this gorgeous new baby girl.” Photo courtesy of Sher Institutes

In response to this image, I wanted to create my own. Though I do not have my take home baby yet, I created this image using some of my syringes and my embryo/ultrasound photos. The quality is not great, and I don’t have nearly as many syringes, but I think the message behind it is just as beautiful. HOPE.

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I was feeling pretty emotional today…..could it be symptom??!! Haha.

Thing 1 & Thing 2

We are officially PUPO (Pregnant until Proven Otherwise)!!! I am beyond excited, as this is the closest I have EVER come to real pregnancy. It all seems so surreal!

Sunday morning we went up to the clinic for my embryo transfer (ET). Nick couldn’t make it so the next best person came with me, my mom. It had to be one of the coolest experiences of my life. My mom was allowed back in the operating room with us, where they pulled up my two strongest embabies on a large screened TV so that we could see them.

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Mom & me!

My doctor then inserted the catheter up through my cervix into my uterus (no pain this time, so the cervical dilatation did its job!) and found the best spot to deposit my babies. Once the optimal spot was found, the embryologist sucked up the embryos one at a time (still on screen) and brought them to my RE who then inserted them into another catheter that was woven through the first catheter. We were able to see the catheter on the ultrasound and then BAM, both embryos were transferred right into the top of my uterus where I hope and pray that they will make a home. My mom cried a bit, and I almost did. I have since cried a few times.

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I have to say that science is pretty darn cool! I now have two little embryos hanging out in my womb. I call them Thing 1 and Thing 2, and I have been talking to them daily. We were given a picture of both babies as well as the ultrasound to take home and they are currently hanging on my fridge. It makes me feel like I am really pregnant, having an ultrasound on my fridge like most normal woman TTC.

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Thing 1 & Thing 2!

Upon arriving back home on Sunday bedrest was prescribed, as well as Monday. I relaxed for two days straight and it was amazing. Monday I started taking (orally) 2mg of Estradiol twice per day, along with my daily morning progesterone injections. I went into my clinic this morning for a blood draw and was told that if I do not hear back from them that everything looks normal!

So now the torment of the 2WW really kicks in. What am I going to do to keep my mind off of things? I am only 2dp5dt (2 days post 5 day transfer) and I am already symptom watching (I have none, is that normal??). I am counting on my husband, family, and friends to keep me occupied, but not to pry into how I am feeling too often.

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Once we receive the results of our pregnancy test, Nick and I will decide in private how we will proceed with sharing the news. We ask that our friends and family at home please respect our privacy and know that we will tell them, no matter what the results, when we are ready. Everyone keeps saying that they are confident this will work, but I am so nervous that it won’t. But right now I am going to try to kick back and live as though I AM pregnant. So bring on the food and laziness!!

Mission Dilation = Success!

Yesterday I had my cervical dilation surgery and I have to say it went pretty well. The absolute worst part was not being able to have anything to eat or drink at all after midnight the evening before. And my procedure wasn’t until 12:15pm! The not eating was ok, but I was so thirsty! It’s amazing how much you crave water when you aren’t allowed to have it.

Anyway, my mother-in-law and I arrived at the clinic (my RE sees patients in his Toledo office but any procedures that require an OR must be done at their Bloomfield Hills, Michigan location) and it was so beautiful and clean! We were both very impressed with the facility. They were very quick getting me back to a “private” (a small room divided by curtains) room and changed into a lovely backless gown, has and slippers. The nurse hooked me up to an IV, gave me some antibiotics and antacids and I just sat around for a while.

When it was finally my turn a nurse came to assist me with walking my IV pole (not sure of the technical name for it) to the restroom so that I could “empty my bladder” before the procedure. This isn’t as easy as it sounds when you have an IV and pole attached to one hand and you are trying to hold up the gown in another. Needless to say I dropped the bottom of my gown into the pee water. Oops. I didn’t tell anyone though!!

After the quick restroom break the nurse walked me into the operating room, which was set up similarly to an OBGYN patient room, just with a lot more lighting and equipment. I sat down in the chair and put my feet into the stirrups like the expert I am, and then they started securing down my legs and feet, and talking my arms under blankets. I felt like I was in a mental hospital for a minute. Then the anesthesiologist put oxygen in my nose and asked me to take 4 deep breaths….I remember taking 2 and then BAM I woke up back in my private room to my RE telling me what a champ I was. The dilation was a success even though I had a very “tough” cervix. I was a little loopy from the anesthesia and Vicodin but was able to head out about a half an hour later.

All in all the procedure was pretty easy. I had some bleeding and pretty severe cramps throughout the afternoon/evening, but the pain killers worked wonders on that. Today I am back at work, still a little crampy with waves of nausea and some spotting, but I feel good. It is nice to cross another obstacle off my list. Monday it’s back to the RE’s office for my baseline ultrasound and blood work and then we really get this party started!

I also received all of my injections in the mail this week, so look forward to a riveting post on medicine organization. I can’t wait to categorize those bad boys by day!