Tag Archives: infertility awareness

Thankful

img_0746

Thanksgiving is our holiday to host; it was also the first holiday after we were given our infertility diagnosis. So while I’m caught up in the hustle and bustle of preparing a feast for 30+ guests, I couldn’t help but stop myself to sit down and write this post. Thanksgiving is a time for family and friends, giving thanks and counting our blessings as the most magical time of the year commences; however if you’re in the midst of your struggle trying to conceive, it can also evoke other feelings. While my blessings are abundant this Thanksgiving, I can recall all too well just how difficult it was to get through another holiday sans baby, or without even a bump.

There’s nothing better in this life than memories made around the table, toasting one another, feeling nostalgic devouring family recipes, and carrying on traditions. There’s belly laughs, happy tears, and if you’re like us, probably a minor casualty or two. Besides remincising about the good ‘ole days, there are also usually discussions of what’s to come as children run through the hallways, holiday bests are dirtied, and fleeting kisses are snatched.

If you’re in baby limbo, it can be an uncomfortable place. While you are so grateful for the love that surrounds you and all that’s good, there’s still something missing. Some people can sense it; others can’t and more likely than not the opportunity will present itself when someone says “Bet you can’t wait for that” or “When are you having one?” as you watch the littles playing about. The hardest part of it all is trying to keep smiling, when your heart is sobbing inside.

Don’t get mad at yourself for feeling that way. As much as you appreciate your life, it’s only natural to feel this way. It doesn’t make you a selfish or bad person-it makes you human. These warm and fuzzies we feel inside are human, just like sadness, emptiness, even jealousy. It’s okay if you need to excuse yourself from a conversation or even have a quick pity party in the bathroom because while you are thankful for your beautiful life, you’re still waiting for your time to receive the greatest gift of all.

In your circles these holidays you’ll find there are some who have received that gift and thank God everyday. There are others who have received it unexpectedly, some who take it for granted, and probably some still waiting like you, whether they’re open about it or not. We all have our different stories and outlooks on life and while we might not always understand one another’s words or actions, we can all agree we are only human. We all make mistakes and have weak moments, in the same way that we can all forgive, regroup, and move forward.

It took me a long time to come to this realization. There are times, even now, I have to remind myself it’s ok to feel. I would often be disappointed in myself or guilty, especially when there are people without family, food, and shelter. There are people going without a lot more than I had, and while I can’t fathom that, those material things are nothing compared to the gift of life.

Maybe rather than worrying about finding the perfect present or snagging that Black Friday deal, we can give each other a better gift this year. The gift of time, the gift of support, the gift of acknowledgment, the gift of understanding and forgiveness. The gift of hope, the gift of community. The gift of realizing we are all just human, going through the motions of life, fighting some battle or another, giving it the best we can at this given moment.

My gift to you is validation-that what you’re feeling is okay and warranted. By other’s opening up, I’ve come to learn this is something we all experience and are not alone in. For that I am eternally thankful.

MFI: Male Factor Infertility, Major Female Issue or Both?

As if infertility isn’t hard enough to deal with, it’s seeming more and more that Male Factor Infertility (MFI) is the primary or sole cause. From experience, I can attest that MFI adds a whole other layer to deal/grieve/cope with. It may as well also stand for Major Female Issue.

Traditionally speaking, infertility has always been thought of as a female disease. For decades, it was even uncouth to suggest that it could be the male partner with infertility concerns. While the majority of women still blame themselves if their lady parts aren’t cooperating, it’s less taboo than if the problem lies within the man. As women, we believe that we should be capable of conceiving and carrying a baby to delivery. An inability to do so can be heartaching, damaging, and cause feelings of uselessness.

Manliness, however, seems to be judged based on what you’re working with down below. So much of guy talk revolves around how you work it that even young boys hone in on the social expectations of what having man parts means. It becomes a standard measure of how much of a guy’s guy you are. Therefore, when MFI comes into play it can be a huge blow to a guy’s ego and even their identity. There’s a shame and inadequacy that goes beyond that of a female in my opinion because as women there’s so much else that plays into our femininity.

In our case, what was initially thought to be the problem was my inconsistent ability to ovulate. It turned out, though, that MFI was the main concern with why we’re unable to coneveive naturally. Thus, I experienced both firsthand. Mind you, anovulation is fairly common and easily treated, so I didn’t go through any guilt or self-worth issues. I figured, like anything, if it’s broke, fix it. Yet when I learned the news of my husband’s diagnosis I felt as if the world was coming crumbling down on me. It wasn’t that it just meant there was a possibility of never having a biological child, but even more in that moment, that I had to tell him something was “wrong” with him.

I don’t even like using that term in quotations because in infertility, blame is the root of all evil. There’s no sense in placing blame on who’s fault it is because either way you can’t do it without one another. Don’t get me wrong, are there moments in which “I wouldn’t have to do this if it weren’t for you” thoughts happen or when you’re tempted to pull the “blame” card out in the middle of a fight? Of course, because we are only human. However, avoiding ever labeling one another as the issue is crucial. That, mixed with the associated emotions of struggling to get pregnant, is a deadly potion for any relationship.

Yet, the question comes up more often than not, “Is it you?” Or “Has your husband been checked?” We found it helpful to come up with a blanket statement in the beginning before we were comfortable disclosing the details. “We are both having issues but are seeing a fertility specialist,” usually was enough to keep the inquiries at bay.

I vividly remember asking my poor husband at 6:30 in the morning, before I left for work one day, what I should say. I offered to say it was all me because, lets face it, that’d be easier. In fact MFI is also a Major Female Issue because I believed that wholeheartedly~that if I were the “problem” it’d be simpler. I wouldn’t have had to lie or keep the details of our diagnosis secret. I wouldn’t have had to be vague about what was going on. I wouldn’t have had to worry about scheduling, and doctors appointments and relaying the information because I’d be the one there. (My husband felt more comfortable going to his urologist follow-ups without me; I’d attend the “major” ones and all appointments with our RE.). I could be the one doing all the leg-work, all the tough stuff and he could just be on the side-lines to support me. I would be the only one having blood work, shots, and procedures which physically, mentally, and emotionally seemed more manageable.

Instead, I had to prod to get him to go to the the doctor. I had to pry to get more answers and plea for him to ask the doctor my questions. I had to watch him inject himself with meds that insurance wouldn’t cover and repeatedly be anxiety ridden over semen analyses. I had to tread lightly between being too over bearing and not attentive-enough all while trying to ensure that he was okay. That he didn’t blame himself or worse off think I did. MFI adds a whole other layer because besides worrying about yourself, or you as a couple, you’re constantly worrying about him as an individual. How is he coping? Is he as sad as I am? Is he about to reach his breaking point? When will he say enough is enough? Does this consume him the way it does me? Why can’t he talk more about it? Why is he sleeping and I can’t? Is this what’s keeping him up tonight?

That’s what love is, though, worrying about another more than yourself. And while he may not have been as open or chatty about it, his actions said it all. They said that he loves me so much he’d do anything to have a baby with me. They showed me that he was selfless and willing to sacrifice it all, even some of his dignity, if it’d make me happy. They showed me that he was more “manly” than any guy I’d ever met and if guys were as half a man as he, the world would be a better place.

Fertility is hard. I think in some ways MFI can make it harder on you both. It has shown me though, that having a family was just as much a priority for me as it was him. MFI forced my husband to get to that place mentally where I had been for a long time. He had finally come to realize my longing and felt the same fears, grief, sadness that I had. Just in the way that it has shaped me as a mom, infertility also shaped him into the amazing daddy he is. What an example for our son to see what it means to truly be a man.

A Letter to My Son as He Turns 2

 

image

{One of my fav pics of the two of us // 5 months old}

To My Son on Your 2nd Birthday,

It doesn’t seem possible that the best day of Mommy and Daddy’s lives is that far behind us; it seems more impossible to encapsulate in words all that I feel as I watch you become a two-year-old right before my very eyes. But just like we do everyday for one another, I will try my very best.

I always say that from the very first moment I held you in my arms, I was so proud to be your momma. I would’ve never imagined having the chance to experience that same sensation every. single. day of your life. Do we do time outs and attitude changes? Do we do “No thank you’s” and “excuse yourself”? Of course, but yet still everyday when I put you to bed I’m so proud of the little boy you’re growing to be.

You’ve learned so much over the past year, from walking and talking, to counting and colors. What I’ve loved watching most though is your special spirit emerge and your unique personality shine through. You’re non-stop with the exception of your Nicky-Nicky (aka solid 2-2.5 hour nap).  Your face lights up when you see the ones you love most. When you’re uber excited about something, you scrunch your nose and put your hands under your chin which always makes my heart smile. Our days are mostly fun-filled and jam-packed with activities like library, music and your current fav, ball class with your BF Paulie. Yet, the best times are when I glance back at you in the car and I catch you staring at me as if to say “I adore you,” or we slow dance to country music in the living room. I especially enjoy when it’s bedtime and you say “Mommy stay.  Me lay rocking chair.” You never cease to amaze me with the things you remember, the way you connect with others, and how you’re always even-stephens. When you hold daddy’s hand, you hold mine & when you cuddle with me, you make sure to lean over to squeeze dada every once in awhile. My heart explodes when I hear you say “amen” during prayers and I love the way you wave to our church when we pass by.  I secretly love when someone talks about the pool and you say “Me cry mommy” because you don’t want to be away from me even for a short time. The way your laugh is contagious and how you understand our humor is beyond your years.

You’re a lover of trucks, tubbies and all-day snacking. You’re a giver of huggies, “I love ooo’s” and smirks before you do something fresh . You’re obsessed with Paw Patrol, Dora, reading Little Blue Truck, and playing outside with “me girls” down the street. You’re a creature of habit like daddy and a galavanter like me.  You can’t live without your wuby, hot dogs, lollipops and park trips. And your day isn’t complete unless you have a breakfast appetizer in bed watching your programs and daddy screaming “Not-so-fast”, “Hi-yah” and “one last time” as he shuts the lights for bed.

I can’t live without the sound of your voice calling my name, the touch of your hands on my cheeks, and the look you give me that tells me you know you’re so loved. You’re my day date and daddy’s mini-me. In all the time we spent waiting for you,  I couldn’t have envisioned a more perfect and precious son for us.  You, my child, are so special that every night after I kiss the “crown on your head”, I close your bedroom door and thank my lucky stars that I get to be your mommy.

May your soul always be this pure, your spirit this free, and may your heart always be this full.

Happy 2nd Birthday Baby Boy!

When IVF Is Your Best Route

I jumped a little ahead of myself last time with The Box on Your Doorstep post, but it was appropriate for a few of my gal pals at the time.  The majority of the e-mails and messages I receive, though, are along the lines of “I think were going to have to do IVF…,” “We’re having trouble getting pregnant.  What’s IVF like?” or “My doctor said IVF is our best route…”  But what does that actually mean?  I think I’ve  touched in previous posts primarily on the emotional facets of IVF and less on the physical.  So, I thought it was time, to take a step back and explain, at least from my experience, what IVF entails.

I can’t proceed without reiterating that everyone’s experience with IVF differs from protocol to outcomes.  Yet, I’m sure we’d all agree on one thing:  Regardless of whether you had no symptoms at all or you suffered from the list of them, the physical pain you endure is incomparable to the emotional suffering.  I’d be able to do an IVF cycle every single month for the rest of my life if I had to, if it weren’t for the associated roller coaster of high’s and low’s.  With that said, there is some solace in knowing what to expect and having someone to confide in who has been there before.

When IVF is your best route, or as in our case, your only route, the acronyms start flying at you: IVF, ICSI, HSG, HCG, FSH, ER, DPT, TWW, and my personal favorite, PUPO.  It’s all so much information to process and I feel as though, once you’re at the point, time finally seems to fly until the dreaded wait of course.   I, obviously, am not a doctor or nurse of any kind and was fortunate to have only undergone one IVF cycle.  Therefore, while I’d like to consider myself fairly knowledgable in this area, there is so much I continue to learn by being part of this community.  The following is a generic timeline for an IVF cycle that includes my specific protocol.

Ovarian Suppression  This is the initial step once the month of a cycle has been determined. Different clinics prefer different protocols, but typically the way in which ovarian suppression is achieved depends on your ovarian reserve, or the number of eggs you still have.  This is determined by Day Three blood work (day three of your period) which evaluates your baseline levels of Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) and estradiol (E2).  There are several means of addressing this based on your baseline results.

Three years ago when I was undergoing IVF, I began by taking birth control pills (BCP) for the month before.  However this is less of a common practice now, unless they’re accompanied with an overlapping use of a GnRH agonist (most commonly, Lupron).  Regardless the purpose is to better regulate your hormone levels, while also minimizing the potential for cysts to develop.  To be completely honest, this is the phase of IVF I’m least familiar with.

Ovarian Stimulation  In infertility lingo, when we say we are beginning stims, this is the start of using hormones(s) which stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple follicles.  Each follicle is fluid-filled and houses an egg.  Ovarian Stimulation begins around day 3 of your menstrual cycle and can range for 8 to 12 days, depending on how you’re responding to the medications.  Common side effects include drowsiness, headaches, fever/chills, joint aches, injection site reactions.  Typically, monitoring begins around the fourth day of stims and occurs every other day, until you get closer to the point of trigger.  The purpose of these frequent visits, which include internal ultrasounds and blood work, is to determine how your body is reacting to the hormones.  Estrogen levels are assessed through the blood work and the follicle quantity and size are recorded.   It is anticipated that at 12-14 millimeters, the follicles will begin to grow at a rate of 2 millimeters per day. The larger the follicle, the closer it is to maturation.  Depending on your results, the medication protocol may be increased or decreased.  In many cases an Antagon is added to suppress premature ovulation.  This is usually administered during the latter half of the stimulation phase.   Once the follicles reach between 16-20 millimeters they are ready for the next step, retrieval.

 

I began taking Estradiol by mouth (0.5 mg once in am/once in pm) and two hormone injections daily around day 3 of my menstrual cycle (February 8, 2014).  My protocol included 150 units of Follistim (FSH) and 75 IU of Menopur (HMG) injections which I had my husband give me around 6 pm every evening.  He had already been injecting himself for almost two years, so I was lucky enough to have a skilled injector.  For this reason, I’m sure, I found the injections to be completely tolerable with only slight burning and minimal bleeding here and there.  My husband would squeeze the injection site (my lower abdomen, below my belly button) and inject on alternating sides.  I never needed to ice the area and had very little bruising.   We did add Ganirelix to the mix, but I can’t recall when and for how long.  I do know that I had Ganirelix leftover.

image

I continued on these meds for 10 days before triggering.  Between 7 and 9 follicles were monitored and measured.  The greatest advice given by the nurses was quality over quantity.  I had read so many stories online of women with 20-30 follicles and wondered why my quantity was significantly less.  I’d go on to find out that many of these women hyper ovulated, which from what I’ve heard can be very painful.  Over-stmulation occurs when estradiol levels soar too high, too quickly.  Typically if a women suffers from Ovarian Hyper Stimulation Syndrome (OHSS), the transfer may be postponed to allow the ovaries and lining of the uterus time to get back to normal.

image

HCG Trigger  Triggering refers a shot of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) which stimulates the eggs’ release.  Precise timing of triggering is imperative for successful egg retrieval, which occurs within 36 hours of the injection.  This time is crucial as it allows the eggs to go through the final maturation process; without this they’d be incapable to fertilize.

I took the trigger shot, Ovidrel, on February 18, 2014 at 10 pm in the evening.  Like the others, I didn’t experience any side effects.  At this point, the only way I could describe  how I felt was as if I was carrying a fanny pack of golf balls.

Egg Retrieval  For this procedure, you are given intravenous anesthesia because it is considered minimally invasive.  A needle is inserted into each ovary and using an ultrasound to guide them, the doctor is able to aspirate the fluid and egg from the follicle.  It is a fairly quick (20-45 minute) and painless procedure.

My egg retrieval was late morning on February 20, 2014, two days post-trigger.  It was my first time going under and I can only describe it as the best 15-20 minutes of sleep I’ve ever had.  Within no time, I remember waking up and being pushed to the recovery area.  I spent less than a half hour waiting for the anesthesia to wear off and the doctor came in to give us the number of eggs retrieved.  While the nurse had been monitoring between 7 and 9 follicles, 11 eggs were retrieved in total.  We were advised that we would receive a fertilization report the following day via e-mail.

image

We also got the green light to begin those oh-so-lovely progesterone shots.  My husband injected me in the bum, alternating sides every time.  They were, by far, the most painful of all the shots, but of course you’ve probably heard by now how I had him stick me with the 18 gauge needle, so that may have traumatized me!

On a serious note, of all the days within my IVF cycle, this was the most stressful.  However, much of that was due to our circumstances.  My husband’s surgery was the morning of my egg retrieval, so you must remember I was going to have the eggs retrieved without knowing for certain if there’d be sperm to use or if the eggs would have to be frozen.  Again, it wasn’t the physicality of the procedure, it was the emotional duress that made that day the most difficult.  Fortunately, they spun the sample extracted during my husband’s surgery and were able to find viable sperm to perform ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection).

Egg Fertilization  The embryologist prepares to fertilize the eggs within hours of the retrieval.  Traditionally, a sperm sample is placed around each egg to allow for natural selection.  With ICSI, a single sperm is injected into each egg.  Fertilization rates with ICSI have been found to be slightly higher.  The following day, the embryologist will notify you with an embryology report that discusses how many eggs were mature enough to fertilize and out of those how many actually did.  The embryos remain incubated until day 3 or 5 depending on when the transfer will occur.

In our case, 6 out of the 11 eggs were mature enough for fertilization.  Out of those 6, using ICSI, 4 fertilized.  We received these results on a Friday, the day after retrieval, and were elated to have even gotten to that point.  The report indicated that we would hear from them again within 1-2 days.

image

The next day, Saturday, I received a phone call while working with my husband.  The nurse relayed that all 4 embryos were still progressing; however it appeared that only 3 would be quality enough to transfer.  I had prepared myself for the more common day-5 transfer (at which point the embryos are considered blastocysts), so when she went on to say that we would be transferring the following day, day-3, I was discouraged to say the least.  The decision was made based on the number and quality of the embryos at that point and I was told that they’d best survive in the most natural setting.  Unfortunately, this did not put me at ease and I’d consider this the second most difficult day of our cycle.

Embryo Transfer  This procedure involves placing a flexible catheter  into your cervix to inject the embryos.  The number of embryos is decided prior to or the day of transfer and depends on various factors (e.g. patient’s age, number of previous cycles, quality of the embryos, etc.).  Post-transfer, recovery usually takes about thirty minutes before going home.  Every clinic’s recommendations vary, as you’ll read.  However, research suggests that strict bed-rest is counterproductive, but heavy exercise and intercourse should be avoided.

image

Meeting with our doctor beforehand and making a final decision on the number of embryos to transfer was the most difficult part of the transfer.  Our circumstances are not common; nor is the recommendation of transferring three embryos.  However, based on the embryo quality and our openness to twins, the doctor assured us that transferring all three would not result in triplets.

We both dressed for the procedure and entered the surgical room on February 23, 2014 (three days post retrieval).  Within a few minutes, the embryologist knocked on the door and presented a catheter containing our three embabies.  She confirmed our last name and the number of embryos before passing it over to the doctor.  Within minutes, the catheter was inserted and we saw as our three embryos were transferred into the cervix.  It was one of the single-most surreal and magical moments of my life.

Recovery was again less than thirty minutes and I went home to let my embabies stick.  Pineapple core, warm socks, laughter and all for the days that followed.  I took full advantage of having meals made for me and laundry folded, but I did make sure to move around and engage in some activity.  I took an extra third day off, as I felt a cold coming on and since I worked with kids at the time, I did not want it to worsen.  Other than that, and a tug around my belly button here and there, I did not have any symptoms.  Given that early pregnancy symptoms and the onset of your period mimic one another, it’s often hard to differentiate.  Please refer to my TWW Survival Guide for enduring the longest 9-14 days (depending on transfer day and clinic) of your life.  Naturally, I continued Progesterone injections and went in for blood work once during this time.

Beta Day  If implantation occurs, it starts to release the pregnancy hormone, HCG into your bloodstream.  It’s imperative for the most accurate results to wait at least 9 days after a day-3 transfer and 7 days post day-5 transfer to ensure that the HCG trigger is out of your system.  Initial beta numbers can range from single to triple digits depending on length of time since transfer and when implantation occurred.  Regardless, the level should double every 48 hours for a singleton pregnancy and even faster for multiples.

image

For us, Beta Day was March 10, 2014  and as it turns out was one of the most cherished days of our lives.  We both went for the blood test together; however I received the call that it was in fact positive with a beta of 816, fourteen days post day-3 transfer.  The second beta, a few days later was over 16,000.

image

With such high numbers, we were able to finally breathe.  However, we were far from out of the clear.  Unfortunately, especially with IVF, it becomes hard for you to accept positive news and you remain guarded because you’ve encountered so much disappointment.  It wasn’t until we actually saw a heartbeat at 6 weeks and then got past the 9-10 week safety zone, that we truly acknowledge that we were an IVF first timer success.

As I re-read this post, it is certainly the most dry of my entries to date.    My hope, though, is that it brings some clarity to those who are approaching an IVF cycle or think that IVF might be in their future.  There are many common things about our IVF cycle and many unique parts too.  The fact that we were an IVF success the first time around places us in the minority.  Not a day goes by, where I don’t thank my lucky stars, that after at least 84 injections, over a dozen blood drawings, and more suppositories than I’d like to remember (and that’s just for our IVF cycle and doesn’t include my husband’s shots!), we finally had a child of our own.

The Box on Your Doorstep


image

You’ve decided, one way or another, that IUI or IVF is your next step. You’ve had some bloodwork and monitoring and probably some procedures. You may have started acupuncture, meds, researching, playing out every scenario in your head. Everyone has a different “aha” moment during their journey, but I’m sure it’s safe to say when that box arrives on your doorstep you realize this is actually happening-shits getting real.

It can be an overwhelming moment when you open that box and sort through its contents. Your nurses may have muttered off your laundry list of meds and they were probably reviewed again with you when you went to place the order with the pharmacy.

Yet there’s nothing that can truly prepare you for the box itself. There’s needles-💉💉💉lots and lots of needles, an overabundance of medications you can barely pronounce; some that need refridgeration and others that need to be mixed. Gauges and mgs, PIO, and suppositories (if you’re so lucky 🙄) that look like they could last you a lifetime of cycles.

With the variety of baby-making concoctions, comes a myriad of emotions. You’re nervous and intimidated. Will you be able to handle the shots? Should you go stomach or thigh? What if you miss a pill or don’t use the right dosage? You’re angry and self-loathing perhaps. Why do I have to go through all this? Why is this happening to us? What could all these hormones do to my body? Above all, though, you’re excited and hopeful. This box signifies that you’re that much closer to holding your baby. It’s a reminder of how incredible you are to have gotten this far and it’s a filled with endless dreams and possibilities.

Just like you have every step of the way during this up-hill battle: Take it one step at a time. Check that you’ve received all that you were supposed to and check them off as you go. Sort the medications in a safe place and once you receive your protocol organize in a way that makes sense to you. For me, I wanted to make IVF pretty. So, I hit up my holy grail aka Target and bought some fancy shmancy hanging travel bag and put my meds in accordingly (except for the refrigerated ones of course-I actually had to label mine and my husbands because we both had Follistim). Do something that makes it yours-for me it was the aesthetically pleasing storage case. For others if may be to keep all of the syringes and empty bottles for a future pregnancy announcement. It’s one way to make a seemingly unconventional
way of making a baby your own.

image


Infertility strips you of ever just being able to have intercourse on your fertile days and missing your period ~14 days later. I HATE that about infertility and I don’t use the H-word freely. I dislike that you don’t get the surprise of a BFP and that even when you are pregnant all of this makes you fearful that it could actually be true. I despise the fact that infertility makes you feel guilty for wanting a biological child or moreover for wanting another. Don’t let the infertility win.

Like Pooh said, “Promise me you’ll always remember.  You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.”

Now go on.  Open that box on your doorstep like a mother 👊🏻😝!

 

Lucky 8

 

image

For as long as I can remember, 8 has always been my lucky number. It’s no coincidence that my husband proposed to me on 08.08.06 at 8 something in the evening on a sunset cruise. And just this past Tuesday we celebrated 8 years of marriage. It felt nothing short of lucky this anniversary, as we toasted over Moscow Mules after our first getaway sans baby 🙌🏼 {we both now agree it was long overdue & did us good}.

This post may seem far removed from infertility but in all actuality it’s very much relevant. You see I’m one of those that still believes in the sanctity of marriage. It’s something I dreamt of as little girl and then even more as a smitten teenager. I planned in my head it would happen sometime in my twenties ✔️ to my soulmate ✔️ we would be settled in our careers ✔️ become homeowners ✔️ and then a few years later start our family 🚫 repeat again ~three years later 🚫 and again if it was right 🚫…and live happily ever after.  The more and more I connect with others in the TTC and infertility communities, the more and more I hear how I’m not alone in this so-well-thought-out mentality.  That’s partially why I felt inclined to write this post.  It’s a hard nut to swallow when your life’s plan doesn’t seem to be going as you envisioned; while you’ve been blessed with your significant other, have built your nest, and possibly even have landed your dream job, having to wait to start your family can be devastating.  Moreover, it can impact all the aforementioned positive things you have going on in your life and have already checked off the list.

Eight years of marriage has taught us many things:  commitment, compromise, priorities, communication,    conflict-resolution (all which are still a work in progress 😝).  It’s also important to be one another’s biggest fan, best friend, and better half.  My best gal pals love my “marriage isn’t rainbows and Louis Vuittons,” drunken quote, but truthfully my husband and I always say the key to marriage or any long term relationship is getting through the ruts and falling in love over and over and over again.   There are days, weeks, maybe even months where you’re both ‘meh’.  It may not be anything, just the day-ins and day-outs of life.  Or it may be something tangible like the loss of a job or infertility that causes the rut.

It’s difficult to work past those times and those deadlines in your head telling you you’re almost 30 (or in your 30’s or almost 40-the age is irrelevant) and still childless.  I can recall our fifth anniversary as a poignant moment when the realization that my life’s plan had gone awry.  It had been just shy of a year from our diagnosis. I know a year seems minuscule and in comparison to others TTC journey it is, but if you’ve ever “tried” getting pregnant even just months of seeing one line on sticks, without actually being infertile, can be devastating.  I had imagined at least having one baby by five years of marriage and the evil plague of comparison had gotten the best of me.  Many of our friends who had gotten married around us or even after us were on #1, #2, or even #3 and here we were five years later basically in the same place as we had started.  See, I didn’t realize then how five years of marriage may have been what we needed to indulge in ourselves and evolve as “us”.  We went to Newport and had a nice, romantic getaway, but the infertility was still there and it was heavier to bear than usual.  My husband and I decided to re-new our vows at the same church where JFK and Jacqueline Kennedy Onasis wed.  It was a special and intimate moment that I am glad we chose and have committed to do every five years.  All my prayers, though, didn’t go to us; they went to sending us a child.

Thanks be to Him, we became parents a little over a year later.  Albeit, three years longer than my plan.  In the last couple of years, we have both strived to be the best parents to our little guy, learning and evolving as individuals and as a family more each day.  There has been so much joy and happiness since Mikie’s arrival that I can honestly say these are the best days of our lives. That’s not to say there haven’t been little ruts along the way.  With so much of our emphasis on him, it’s easy to put us to the side.  However this anniversary we are in a different place, or at least I think I am in my head.    This year, the lucky 8, I didn’t find myself squandering in the plan.  It was less about what we’re going to do and more about look what we’ve done.  I wasn’t thinking about where I had planned to be relative to where we are.  I wasn’t analyzing and comparing.  I was there, present in the beauty of what 8 years looks like.

Is baby #2 always in the back of my mind? Of course and I’d be lying to all of you, and more importantly myself if I said I didn’t have a plan (in the vaguest sense you can with IVF) in my head for that.  But after 8 years of marriage {like I’m some veteran lol 🙄} I can at least tell you newlyweds that while the plan may not always go as you had hoped, it can turn out even more beautiful.  Sometimes we focus on those big milestones: the engagement, the wedding, the big 3-0, first baby, 5th wedding anniversary without seeing how important the in-between is.  8 is a seemingly insignificant number, but it feels lucky to me and turned horizontally means infinity, so here’s to us, babe, from our 8th anniversary until forever.

image

 

Round & Role Call

Lately, my biggest concern going for #2 and another IVF cycle is the fear of it not working the first time around. I know we really lucked out with our first IVF cycle being a success and that the odds of this happening are not at all in any of our favor.

I know what an IVF cycle entails. I’m a pro at taking shots (of both kind 😝), have a good sense of what the numbers mean, and have acquired the patience of a saint. However, I don’t know if I’m equipped to deal with a failed cycle. It’s extremely unfortunate that I’ve been surrounded by unsuccessful cycles recently. My hearts go out to you~you know who you are 💞.

While I know all the appropriate things to say when someone is encroaching or in the midst of an IVF cycle , I’m clueless when it comes to cycles that end in a BFN.  Sure from my experience, I know better than to say things like “well at least you have some frozen still” or “it’ll be easier next time around”. I’ve become very cogniscent of my words and what they can evoke. I try not to undermine what has really occurred and I encourage these amazingly strong women to take time and grieve the loss. I note that my heart is aching for them and that I’m praying for them, but I don’t discuss the next step until they bring it up to me. I try not to say things like next time will be better because I don’t know that for sure. I certainly don’t try to figure out why it didn’t take this time, because honestly who the hell knows. I don’t know what it’s like to see a BFP, only to get declining Beta numbers or to get a positive beta, but see an empty sac. Therefore I cannot give these ladies the validation of articulating what they’re feeling. That said, I’m inspired by you ladies who have the bravery, courage, and tenacity to pick yourself up for cycle #2, #3, and so on.

What I do believe, though, is that you probably go into each cycle taking on a different role of sorts. In hopes of bringing some humor to infertility, I introduce you to my IVF Characters {{drumroll, please}}

image

Meet Positive Penny. She’s bubbly and full of spirit. It’s most likely her first cycle. So while she loves to chat about being bloated and show off her bruises as badges of honor (which they are, girl 🏅🏅🏅) she is uber excited about all these cycle milestones because it’s one step closer to getting her baby. Positive Penny knows this is her time. She looks for affirmations and signs along the way, but mostly just has a gut feeling that this is going to work.

image

Next, I’d like to introduce, Realistic Rachel. Realistic Rachel is probably a left-brainer, good with numbers and stuff. She’s as excited as she is nervous, but goes into every appointment cautiously optimistic. She never loses sight of her end goal, but realizes that the odds of it working the first time around are much less than 50/50. Realistic Rachel has prepared herself imperviously for either outcome: BFP or BFN.

image

Have you met my friend, Aloof Alice?  There aren’t many of her kind ’round these parts, but when you come across one it makes you all like 🤔. Aloof Alice, also typically a first time IVFer, sort of knows what’s involved with an IVF cycle. She’s kind of baffled with all the appointments, acronyms, and bloodwork results. She wants a baby just as bad as her other fertility friends, she’d just rather not scour the Internet incessantly for hours on end. Aloof Alice definitely hasn’t researched tirelessly, she kind of just does what she’s told. She has no idea about fertility herb diets, why everyone has pineapples on their IG page 🍍, and thinks to herself wtf is a #TTCtribe?

image

This is Scared Sally.  She’s literally scared shitless about everything.  It doesn’t matter if it’s her first or third round of IVF.  Scared Sally is afraid of needles.  She’s too embarrassed to ask questions.  She follows you on social media but only puts generic quotes, enough to make you wonder is she struggling with infertility too?  But Scared Sally is too nervous to tell anyone and is worried they might think less of her.  She’s scared to POAS before beta, but she’s just as sacred not to.  Even when she gets a beta of 816, she’s afraid it’s not high enough.  She worries at each subsequent appointment if there’s still a heartbeat.  She gets through each test, each procedure, each ultrasound beautifully but she’s scared to see how courageous she really is.  Scared Sally, let me be the one to tell you, you’re a heck of a lot braver than most.  You’re an infertility warrior 💪🏼.

image

Last but certainly not least, is Drained, Damaged, Drained Debbie. Drained sounds nicer, but let’s face it’s she’s a bit of both and rightfully so. Usually Drained Debbie has been through the ringer. She’s suffered failed IUI’s, multiple losses, and, if that’s not enough, has also maxed out her IVF coverage. Drained Debbie questions her doctor if changes aren’t being made next time because let’s face it, she doesn’t know how much more she can take this shit.   She may be rushing into another cycle without recovering from the last, but just like the rest of her friends, no matter how drained she is, she’s still holding onto that glimmer of hope.

I wanted to get you better acquainted with these ladies to see if you could relate.  Let me know if I’ve forgotten anyone.  I’m sure I must have.  Not only is our circle big, but I presume that we change roles with each round.  I, for example, was the ever-so-popular Postive Penny the first time around.  To be honest, I don’t know if it was because I was so shocked to actually get to that point or what.  I didn’t really give the whole IVF failure much thought because I was too consumed with if we were even going to have sperm to work with.  This may, in some odd way, have been a blessing in disguise.  It also may have been the reason I wasn’t a Realistic Rachel or Scared Sally.

Given that I’m on the “other side of infertility”, and an IVF First-Timer Success you’d probably suspect that I’d remain a Positive Penny.  I don’t know, though, because my emotions and feelings are so different now.  We aren’t there just yet, but even thinking about another IVF cycle I feel much more guarded, more of a Realistic Rachel.  I’m doubtful that we could get this lucky twice.  My husband and I are so blessed and in such a happy place, raising and loving on our son, that I’m literally more scared than Sally to go back to that place.  That place can be so alienating, life-sucking, and dark that the distant memories still haunt me from time to time.  I’d prefer this happy place of changing dirty diapers, family date nights, and 2,461,085 toddler timeouts for a little while longer.  Yet, just like you gals, I know all too well how worth it going back there could be.

TWW Survival Guide

image

I can only speak from my experience and what worked for us during the dreaded two week wait. Regardless of how you tackle it, I’m sure we can all agree, though, that it is an uphill battle. It starts off with the euphoria of knowing your embaby(s) are getting comfy cozy and gradually seems to go slower once you digest your last piece of pineapple core. The first week, thus, is bearable, but the second is intolerable. It’s in the second week that you start to symptom spot, that every ache, thought, motion is either a sign that this is your happy ending or you’re greatest fear: a BFN. The second week goes at a snail’s pace and typically involves an influx of pregnancy announcements and pregnancy test commercials that really test all the hormones raging inside of you.

My recommendation is first and foremost do what works for you and your significant other. Remain in that constant state of infertility: cautiously optimistic. Use these as a guideline, rather than an end all be all, because while I was one of the lucky ones I’m not sure how many TWW’s I would’ve been able to tolerate.

🔸 AVOID GOOGLE

Sounds as impossible as surviving the TWW, I know. However Google is like a woman in the TWW’s crack. It is so addicting and so easy to get caught up doing, but gets you nowhere. If you’ve made it to the TWW, then you’ve done all your research. You know what to anticipate. Searching for “specific symptoms 4dp5dt” will give you no concrete answer. All it will do is make your mind play all sorts of crazy tricks on you.

Go ahead, look up cute maternity dress websites and plan your entire baby shower through Pinterest. But please, my dear friend, do yourself a favor and avoid at all costs using Google to “predict” your outcome.

🔸 N O  T E S T I N G before B E T A

Again, a personal choice, but one I strongly recommend. My husband and I made a vow to one another that we would wait until we received our call on Beta Day. It wasn’t easy but I made sure that there weren’t any leftover tests lingering around the house and stuck it out.

From my perspective, testing before Beta can lead to two devastating outcomes. First, with a fresh transfer, your HCG from trigger can still be recognized on a pregnancy test if you test too early. This could give you a false sense of hope that you’re pregnant when it could’ve been the residual hormone in your system.

Second, you could test early and get that BFP that you’ve dreamed of. It could quite possibly be one of the greatest moments of your life all to come crumbling down on Beta day when your number comes back lower than the magic number. In this instance, you typically have to keep going for more bloodwork to see if the number changes. So basically the TWW becomes even longer and more devastating.

In my opinion, testing before Beta is a complete mind fuck. Just like googling, it’s a dominos effect. If you say you’re only going to test at day 8 and then the line is so faint, you’re anxious to test again at day 9, 10 and so on.

🔸 F I L L  Y O U R   S O C I A L
C A L E N D A R

You may have to swap the Pinot for Pellegrino, but make plans. Girls night outs, date nights, or even coffee outings to help give your mind a break are all welcome. They’re great for keeping you on track, maintaining your positivity and sustaining your sanity.

It may help to talk about what you’re going through or you may opt, especially when out with your significant other, to forgo discussing your infertility altogether. Either way it’s a time to feel like yourself, which is easy to lose when on this journey.

🔸 P U R G E or P R O J E C T

In less than 9 months you could potentially be nesting. Why not get a head start?! It’s true what they say-Clean house, clear mind.

It’s important mentally to rid yourself of some of this excess.  Doing so physically can be helpful too.  Reorganize those cabinets you’ve been meaning to for the last 7 months.  Or maybe you can start and actually complete that DIY project you’ve been meaning to tackle.  Either way, they’re both a wonderful strategy for making the time pass while being productive.

🔸 P R A Y

Cliche I know, but I’ve noticed the overwhelming amount of faithful ladies amongst us.  Regardless of how you pray or Who you pray to, prayer or meditation of some sort can be a source  of peace.  If not for yourself, do it for your little embryos that need you in a place of calmness.  It’s also a way to connect with yourself and your embaby(s).  In my experience, the majority of our TTC tribe use prayer as a way to cope with the pain and suffering of infertility.

🔸R E W A R D   Y O U R S E L F

At the point of the TWW, you have done everything possible to make this work. Maybe you’ve done acupuncture, changed your diet, or tried fertility herbs. Maybe you’ve eaten the pineapple core for 5 days or worn socks since transfer day, even if it’s 90 degrees out. Whatever it is you have done, you’ve done it to the best of your ability. Reward yourself for that-a handbag, a daytrip, a good book, a piece of jewelry (obvs my top pic 😝💎).

No matter the outcome this time around, remind yourself that you’ve done everything in your power to make this work.  Know this, honor this, applaud this.  You are a warrior and not everyone can say that.  More importantly, not every child can say that about his or her momma-but yours child-to-be can.

HOPE Award Best Blog Nomination


image

I had intended on publishing another post this week, but that’ll have to wait (It’s about the TWW so it only feels appropriate to be prolonged 😝) because On Prayers and Needles has been nominated by RESOLVE as Blog of the Year! Pinch me 🦀! I cannot even begin to believe that I am one of five blogs chosen out of 200 submissions.  What I am even more humbled by is the outpouring of support, shares, and votes to help support my cause. While I’m trying to thank and extend my appreciation to everyone, I know that’s nearly impossible so instead I decided I’d write a post to express my insurmountable gratitude.

Less than a year ago, I set out to launch a blog in hopes that in the near future I’d be able to form a local support group for women in CT struggling with infertility (which is in the works 🙌🏼🙏🏼). There were numerous drafts and a myriad of reasons I came up with as to why it wasn’t the right time. Would anyone read it? How do you even start a blog? // Thanks Google ☺️ // How would I be able to keep up with it while balancing the other facets of my life, especially my little wild one? Why hadn’t someone else done this? Would people pity me? Was sharing our story worth the embarrassment my husband might feel? If I were too raw, would I offend someone I know and love? Would the good outweigh the bad?

Doesn’t it always?! Infertility for sure is proof of that for us. Aside from the encouragement of my husband, there was “that one” glaring, blue-eyed reason why I couldn’t not get our story out there. Afterall, I promised myself, my husband, God, and my not-yet-conceived child that if all this worked, I would Pay-It-Forward as best I could.

To this day, I think there are thank you’s left unsaid and words left unspoken. This blog is my attempt to encapsulate all the gratefulness in my heart for those that were a part of our journey or are now a part of our journey on the other side of infertility. So this is my way of thanking every single doctor, nurse, receptionist, acupuncturist, patient and competent insurance company representative who brought us to where we are today, as a family of three. And beyond to thank my committed family, my circles of friends, those who know us personally and those who don’t, my IG fertility community, and everyone who takes time out of their busy lives to read, even if it’s just a skim or intermittent check-in. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

It was the resounding voice in my head saying “Even if you help just one person it will be worthwhile,” that finally convinced me to hit “Publish” for the first time. That was my goal, to at least be the support for one single individual who was where I had been. This nomination is affirmation that I met my goal and that feels so so good.

This nomination means that not only have I helped one person, but maybe even a handful. It’s proof that just sharing your story can be enough for someone who needs it in that moment. I’ve offered support to people I’ve known personally and others I’ve never met. Unintentionally, I have found that opening up about our struggles has provided me the opportunity to hear about other people’s journeys; sometimes it has allowed these men and women to see the beauty in their own battle that they were too ashamed to acknowldege.

More widespread, I hope that it means that the dialogue is happening, albeit mostly within this small circle of our social media following in the little state of CT. Yet, maybe just maybe, this blog , I hope, has inspired someone to open up about being infertile or given someone the courage to pursue IVF.  Maybe it has given a fertile person a little knowledge about assisted reproduction.  I hope that it’s a reminder that miracles do happen and just because a couple doesn’t have a child, it doesn’t mean they don’t long for one.  I hope it’s that little birdie in your ear, that refrains you from saying “Just relax” to a couple TTC and “Do you want more?”  to that mom fumbling to find ‘nacks at the bottom of her purse.  Moreover, I hope that it’s proof that if you want to change the life of just one person, it can be so much more.

All of the above would not be possible without each and every one of you.  From the bottom of my heart, thank you for voting, liking, and sharing.  Thank you for reading and reassuring me that some of what I’m saying makes sense.  Thank you for taking the time to share and spread my mission.

Helping one person might not change the world, but it could change the world for one person.                               -Anonymous

Infertility and this nomination have changed the world for me 🌍.


 

Lefty or Righty

image

Pic via seltzergoods.com

With infertility sometimes you don’t know what direction you’re going in and/or you’re being pulled in a million different directions. You don’t know which way to turn, left or right.

Lately, I’ve been connecting with so many women on social media who are courageous enough to share their infertility. Sometimes reading these makes me feel guilty because so many journeys are longer and harder than ours. That’s when I had an “aha” moment about our particular story and began to look at it through a different lense.

Now stick with me, but I’m visualizing a successful pregnancy/IVF/IUI as the middle ground. To the left is the journey to get there and to the right is the point past the initial positive test result or completion of IVF or IUI.

For all of us, the IUI or IVF is relatively the same-a conglomerate of injections, bloodwork, procedures, monitoring, doctors appointments, and waiting. Some might get more side effects. Some might suffer from Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHHS). Your trigger shot or protocol may differ.  Yet, they all remotely resemble one another.

Our struggles, however, tend to vary greatly. Even if two women are suffering from Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) their journeys could look drastically different. Many of us infertility warriors struggle with infertility to the “left” or before we get to the point of IUI/IVF/conceiving some way; while others find their difficulty after, either with failed cycles, chemical pregnancies, miscarriages, etc.

In our case, obviously, the bulk of our infertility fight took place to the left.  Us “lefties” might have to endure months, even years, of struggle to get to the point where IUI and IVF are even a possibility.  For example, my husband needed to remain on medication for almost two years before IVF was in the cards and, even then [right up to his TESE procedure and my egg retrieval] we didn’t know if we’d make it to the point of having viable sperm for fertilization.  Our extreme highs and extreme lows came before the initial BFP.  The waiting and longing, tears and angst occurred prior to our IVF cycle.   However the culmination of our struggle was the point in which our little Mikie “stuck” and , thanks be to God, stayed.  The IVF and entire pregnancy were smooth sailing for us and as some might say, we were finally on the other side of infertility.

“Righties” have a different experience.  They might get diagnosed with infertility and move forward with an IUI or IVF cycle within a couple of months.  It all might seem like a blink of the eye, and before they know it they are Pregnant Until Proven Otherwise [PUPO].  That is, until the otherwise comes.  Maybe the cycle failed.  Maybe their beta confirms a positive pregnancy, but there’s no heartbeat at the 6 or 8-week ultrasound.  Maybe this keeps happening time after time after time.  Just like “lefties”, it’s not the injections and procedures that are the most painful for “righties”. It’s the roller coaster of emotions that’s associated with the ecstasy of hearing “You’re pregnant,” only to hear “I’m sorry for your loss.”

As a “lefty”, I cannot fathom the heartache that failed cycles and miscarriages must incur.  It makes me feel so fortunate, and almost embarrassed in some respect, to ‘wallow’ in my struggle.

What I’m trying to get to is the realization that infertility is not a battle.  Whatever your story is, first time success or multiple failed attempts, months or years, “lefty” or “righty” is really irregardless.  Infertility is a struggle and the struggle is real.

While all of our circumstances and experiences differ, “lefties” and “righties” are still one in the same.  We all cringe at the thought of hearing another pregnancy announcement.  We all “trick” ourselves into believing we’re pregnant, even when it’s nearly impossible.  We all yearn to rest a newborn on our chest and hear a little voice coo “Mama” for the first time.  We all could write a book on trying to conceive and could pass a phlebotomist test with flying colors.  We all cry and we all pick ourselves back up, with a little help along the way.  We all have the same common goal: to carry, love, and raise a child of our own.