Tag Archives: infertility blog

The “I” in Infertility


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There’s a very fine line between living with infertility and letting it take over your life.  The quest to have a baby can be consuming.  Compound that with infertility and it’s hard to see life outside of doctor’s appointments, bloodwork, OPK’s, two week waits (TWW) and pregnancy tests.  It can be difficult to not let it overcome you because infertility is a beast.  But I’m here, on the other side, to tell you that it doesn’t need to be your be-all and end-all.

It’s all about finding the balance in life, which can always be extra tricky when you’re dealing with a stressor of some sort.   Sometimes when the topic comes up, you might say “We are trying.” Other days you might feel like giving a 20-minute mini-lesson on your infertility diagnosis.  There are days when it’s just easier to wear a smile and yet other times when you need to let the tears stream down your face to get out a good cry.  Allowing yourself good and bad days helps to keep the balls juggling so to speak.  The moment you go too much one way or too much the other, the balls start to drop.

Much like anything that’s worth fighting for, you will also have to make sacrifices and not just the financial kind.    Infertility tends to plan some days and months {even years} for you because of the intense scheduling, especially when in the midst of an IVF cycle.  However, don’t let it dictate your life.  Don’t waste away your days waiting for that one moment. Do girls nights and spontaneous romantic weekend getaways.  Take on daring adventures, indulge in retail therapy, and pound back way too many shots.  The infertility doesn’t go away but at least life isn’t slipping by either.  Sure there will be times you have to “sit out” or say “Now isn’t a good time,”  but more often then not, the infertility will still be there and those opportunities won’t.  I found (and still find) myself so many times opting out of a bachelorette or putting off a vacation out of fear that a procedure or doctor’s appointment might come up.  But it’s important to remember, infertility causes you to make enough sacrifices, so do yourself a favor-you deserve it.

That’s not to say it’s easy, nor will there be times that you can’t help but fall victim to letting infertility get the best of you.  At those times, remember:

The “I” in infertility does not stand for identity. Infertility does not define who I am. It does not encompass all of me. Rather, it is just part of my story, as is being a daughter, sister, friend, wife, speech-pathologist, and so fortunately, a mother.

Since initiating this blog, I’ve had so many people, even my own dad, remark that they knew we were having issues but didn’t realize that it was that bad.  That’s because I didn’t want infertility to define me and I still don’t.  Even though I’ve overcome it, infertility is and always will be part of me.  As part of my story, I’m inclined to share it to help others.  So while the “I” in infertility doesn’t stand for my identity, I think I’ll let it stand for impact.  It has made a profound impact on the individual and, more importantly, the  mommy I have become.  I hope that, through this blog and a support group, I can use my infertility journey to make an impact.

How to Hurt an Infertile Couple in 10 Ways

imageRemember that awesome Kate Hudson chick flick, How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days?! This is your guide to not turning off an infertile couple by avoiding doing/saying at least these ten things. Now most of my readers know me, so as you’re reading this I know what you’re thinking.  Oh My God! Did I say that to her? Is she referring to me? No, no, no. In fact, I’ve probably said or done some of these things on the list myself. It is just that part of discussing infertility is promoting awareness, so people know how to avoid what can be hurtful and what to say to offer support.

1. “Just relax…it’ll happen when you stop trying.”

This may have been the case for 1 in 235,578,428 couples, but for us there’s zero sperm so I can’t relax. If you’re offering, I’ll take the bottle of wine, but you can keep the advice.

Really advice is not something that the infertile couple is looking for unless it’s coming from a doctor or another couple who struggled with infertility. Instead offering support by saying something like “I don’t know much about infertility, but I’m here if you ever want to talk about it” (over wine of course) would be the most comforting.

2. “My husband just looks at me and I get pregnant.”

That’s great for you Mrs. Fertile Myrtle and Mr. Super Sperm, but comments like that make us feel less female and male. It makes us feel inadequate and disappointed in ourselves.

I know it’s life that some things come easier for others, but be sensitive to those who might be having a tougher go at it. Saying something along the lines of “That wasn’t our experience. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to have to wait to get pregnant when you want it so badly” would be nice to hear.

3. “Have you gone to the doctor?”

Jeez…no, I have a masters and sixth year degree, but I didn’t think of that. Seriously, countless people asked me that and while I’m sure it was just par for the course, there’s a better way. You could gently ask, “Where are you in your infertility journey, if you don’t mind me asking?” Chances are most couples won’t mind and if they’re saying they’re infertile, chances are even greater that they’ve been to the doctor’s.

4. “Why don’t you do that turkey baster thing or Petri dish thing?”

I’m exaggerating now. Most people don’t use those terms, but the truth is most people have a vague sense of what IUI and IVF are. They assume that’s the cure-all. For us, IVF wasn’t even an option for over a year and a half, as is the case for many couples. Even then, IUI and IVF cycles may not work the first time, so the couple may have attempted interventions already without success.

Really the best thing to support an infertile couple would be reading up on IUI and IVF to get a brief sense of what they are. All it takes is a quick Google search. That way when your friend or family member would like to chat about their upcoming cycle you could understand better what they’re going through.

5.  “Why don’t you just adopt?”

Adoption is one of the greatest and most selfless things someone can do for a child.  While it is also an amazing option, especially for an infertile couple, it may not be the avenue they’re pursuing (at least at this point in time).

Adoption also comes with lots of emotional and financial turmoil and is not a simple process.  Just like with IVF, to assume adoption nullifies infertility is ignorant.  People who think this is the “cure” for infertility aren’t acknowledging all the facets.

Its easy to say “Why don’t you…?” when you’re not in that position.  So ask yourself what you would do if you were infertile.  To what end would you go to?  Would you exhaust all options before adopting?  Would you spend your life’s savings on fertility treatments? More likely than not, you’re probably saying I don’t know.

6.  “Who’s problem is it?”

This is a really personal question, but I’m sure if you talk to an infertile couple, they’ve heard it more than once.  Usually people ask because they might have known another woman or man with a similar experience.  However, this is really up to the couple themselves to divulge if they so choose.  Furthermore, whether it is the female or male with the infertility issue, it really doesn’t matter.  In the end, both of them are in pain and struggling.

I remember asking my husband what he wanted our blanket statement to be in the beginning.  As time went on, he became more open about the major issue for us being male factor.  In my opinion, it’d be best to stay clear of any question of this sort.  If the couple feels comfortable enough, they’ll tell you.

7.  Ignoring It

When you’ve been married for a certain amount of time or when you hit a certain age, babies and pregnancy tend to come up in conversations.  When you’re the infertile couple and these topics come up, you feel like crawling in a hole.  Either the conversation comes to an awkward halt when someone realizes you’re at the table or you discreetly dip out to the ladie’s room (or to do a shot of Fireball) as fast as you can say IVF.

Other times, it can feel like there’s an elephant in the room that everyone is avoiding.  Sometimes it may not even be the case, just your own over sensitivity about the situation.

There were many times, when I wished someone would’ve just acknowledged it, rather than avoiding it.  I didn’t want to have a pity party so I wouldn’t be the one to just start the discussion about our struggles.  However, if someone asked, I was full-disclosure and it felt good-really good  actually to get it out there on the table.  It would also open up the opportunity on subsequent occasions for friends and family to ask about our last appointment or what step we were at in our journey.

I’m sure it’s just as uncomfortable for ‘outsiders’ as it is for the infertile couple themselves.  But there’s a delicate way in which a couple’s infertility can be acknowledged, but, yet, not define them.  Sensitive sentiments, such as “I know you had said you started trying in June.  Is everything going okay?” would be a nice way to ease into the dialogue.  If a couple is not ready to disclose any information, you can catch the drift.

Infertility is an invisible hurt.  So when it goes left unsaid, it can sometimes worsen the wound.

8.  Dismissing the Possibility of Prengancy

For me, it got to the point where I felt as if people had even dismissed the notion of me becoming pregnant as a real possibility.   This may or may not have been the case.  Again, it may very well have been my own hypersensitivity.  It usually wasn’t even something someone said.  It was more often an uncensored look, as if I caught them off-guard by saying my name and pregnancy in the same sentence.

These types of instances usually occurred with people who were obviously very familiar with our infertility and therefore in our close circle.  They’d present themselves at times when I would say “Well I might be pregnant then, so…”

It’s hard enough not to give up on yourselves when you’re faced with significant issues trying-to-conceive.  Then to see others uncertain of your destiny can be even more discouraging.  Try to stay positive for the infertile couple.  Even just your sense of hope can be enough to get them in the right mindset.

9.  Complaining About Being Pregnant

I’m sorry, but it can’t be left unsaid.  I know that kankles, back pain and sleepless nights associated with pregnancy aren’t always a joyride.  And of course a right of passage of being pregnant is being able to whine enough that you “earn” yourself a foot rub or carton of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream…or both.  But as a woman sitting there yearning for nothing more than to not be able to see her own feet, complaints about the sheer miracle of being able to grow another life are painful.  They’re equivalent to being punched in the stomach…again, and again, and again.

Go on and complain to those who have been there, but be cogniscente of your “audience”.  If there’s a woman struggling to get pregnant, wait until later.  Better yet, let her presence remind you of the blessing it is to be able to conceive and carry a child.

The women who struggle and still complain about pregnancy leave me baffled.

10.  “We had issues with our first-it took us like four months to get pregnant.”

Comparing your typical trying-to-conceive timeline with someone who actually is diagnosed with infertility is inconsiderate.  First, get your facts straight.  Only about 60% of couples TTC actually get pregnant within the first three months.  It takes many six months and after a year it can be defined as infertility.

To be honest, at times I’m hesitant to discuss my struggle when there are so many couples who endure years and years of infertility and don’t even end up with the outcome I’ve been given.  There are so many women who’ve undergone cycles upon cycles, who have seen positive pregnancy tests only to see lost heartbeats.

While people try to show empathy in different ways, saying you know what an infertile couple has gone through when you conceived  within the average time frame can undermine what infertility truly entails.  It can be hurtful and downright engraging.  Every infertility journey is different from diagnosis to treatment to outcome.  Trying to compare struggles is pointless; trying to offer support by saying “I remember how stressful having my first was without any infertility issues.  I cannot fathom what you must be feeling.” would be priceless.

 

It Takes A Village

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They say it takes a village to raise a child and while that is true, in the realm of infertility it also takes a village to get you that child. Lately, I have been receiving more and more local outreach, which I am so extremely pleased by. Afterall, providing local support was why I created this blog in the first place. So I thought I’d share our “village” with you since word of mouth is the best advertisement.

1.  Women’s Health Associates, LLC New Haven & North Branford, CT 👉🏻 http://www.wha-newhaven.com/home.php (FYI: website is under construction, but you can at least find their contact information)

In prior posts, I’ve discussed how phenomenal this midwife group is.  They’re just that good that I can’t help but reiterate it time and time again.  My OBGYN group consists of four fabulous midwives, one of whom, Debbie Cibelli, actually delivered me almost 32 years ago!  Given that she basically watched me grow up, she was very familiar with my case history and therefore was proactive in determining the cause of my irregular menstural cycles.  Not only did I appreciate that and all the time saved, but she was also quick to refer us to a fertility specialist.

Some of you may be thinking midwife group~sounds a little earth crunchy and must mean no drugs.  While they do specialize in natural deliveries, I loved their openness to whatever option was most comfortable for each individual patient.  I ended up going completely drug-free but went in with a flexible mindset (AKA whatever I need to get this baby out of me!!!).  They’re ability to naturally make the pain bearable was what helped me through.   They also have great success rates in VBAC’s (Vaginal Birth After Caesarean) if that’s something you’re interested in.

Throughout my trying-to-conceive (TTC) journey, pregnancy, birth, post-partum and everywhere in between, these ladies were amazing; not just the midwives, too.  The administrative assistants and nurses go above and beyond as well.  While TTC and during my pregnancy, I had the pleasure of being seen by all four midwives and have nothing but positive things to say.

Of course, Laura Sundstrum, holds a special place in my heart because she delivered my miracle baby boy.  Please, please, please take the time to read Mikie’s birth story if you haven’t yet. 💞  http://onprayersandneedles.org/2016/03/the-birth-story-of-miracle-mikie/

Just like love stories, every birth story is beautiful, but yours is my favorite, Mikie! Plus, you always hear the horror stories so it’s nice to hear a positive one once in awhile!

If that doesn’t convince you, then this will…Not too long ago I was talking to a labor and delivery nurse from Yale.  I was saying how my husband and I were in awe of the labor/delivery and maternity floor nurses and staff after our experience.  She asked who my OBGYN is and when I said Women’s Health Associates, she immediately said, “When the time comes for me to have a baby, I am definitely going to them.”  If that’s not saying they’re the best at what they do, than I don’t know what is!

2.  Yale Urology Center New Haven, CT 👉🏻 http://medicine.yale.edu/urology/

If you take nothing else away from this blog, know that a urologist specializing in male factor infertility IS your Fertility God if the issue is with your husband/boyfriend/fiancé.  Which also leads me to something I’d like to emphasize:  infertility is not always a female “problem”.  In fact, male factor infertility makes up approximately 30% of all infertility cases.

I digress and get back to our Fertility God, Dr. Stanton Honig 👉🏻   http://medicine.yale.edu/urology/doctors/stanton_honig.profile Check him out!  Literally his accreditation and accolades are never- ending.  I remember, when we first received our diagnosis from my OBGYN, no matter what I googled along the lines of top doctor for azoospermia in CT, Dr. Honig kept popping up.

What I personally liked best about Dr. Honig was that he was always positive about the outcome, but realistic about how we would get there.  He set out a timeline and stuck to it almost meticulously.  He was direct, but sensitive to the situation, professional, but humorous in a way that made everything seem less awkward.  The moment I realized how vested he is in his profession, was after my husband’s TESE surgery, maybe 5 minutes into the car ride, he called with the unbelievable news that he had found some viable sperm.  You could tell by his tone of voice that he was genuinely ecstatic for us.

If you’re dealing with male factor infertility and are in CT, you MUST heed my advice and schedule an appointment.  Note, he is in high demand and appointments book pretty far out.

3.  New England Fertility Stamford, Danbury, and Hamden, CT 👉🏻👉🏻👉🏻 http://www.nefertility.com/  

My previous post titled Name or Number http://onprayersandneedles.org/2016/04/name-or-number/ goes into detail about the professionalism and compassion of Dr. Gad Lavy and his staff.   Aside from being able to build a personal relationship with the nurses, I loved how Dr. Lavy explained our infertility scenario.  He really broke it down, usually with some type of drawing or diagram.  I’m a visual learner so I found that to be uber helpful.

In addition, they offer a patient portal  so that your results are literally at your fingertips day or night.   Even though, Dr. Lavy, nurses Jen and Susan, and the rest of the staff see countless couples struggling with infertility, they were not at all de-sensitized to the situation (which I find can often be the case).  Being able to rely on them really relieved some of the stress.  We would always leave our appointments feeling more upbeat than when we had come in,

If you are concerned that you may have infertility issues, New England Fertility often holds free fertility testing and seminars.  Check them out on Facebook to get more information, if this is something you’re interested in.

I believe, wholeheartedly, that had we chosen another fertility group we may have not gotten the results we did the first time around or at all.  Another pro for all of my Male Infertility Warriors, Dr. Lavy and Dr. Honig are buddies so they make a great team.

4.  Craig Kelly & Jackie Kos of Kos Chiropractic North Branford, CT No website available, but you can like and follow them on Facebook  to get more information 👉🏻 https://www.facebook.com/pages/Kos-Chiropractic/183543721708117?fref=ts

I’m actually embarrassed to say that I never got the chance to go and thank Jackie and Craig for all they did to make my IVF cycle a success…the first time!  So hopefully, at least in part, this can be a way to say thank you!

My work wife at the time, who also happens to be a close friend, was literally my therapist throughout my infertility struggle.  She was always a big fan of acupuncture.  Literally, if you told her you needed to quit eating donuts, she’d say, “Why don’t you try acupuncture?”  So after the millionth time of her saying, “I really think you should try acupuncture…I have a great guy,”  I made an appointment.

Both Craig and Jackie were experienced in infertility treatments.  They were very informed and the practice was welcoming.  The waiting room was always jam packed, too, which is always a good sign.  You can read my post, My IVF Tips http://onprayersandneedles.org/2016/04/my-ivf-tips/  Let’s just say, next time we go for an IVF cycle, I will definitely be there.  In fact, maybe I should start now to have some relaxing me-time,

The next two are recommendations for during pregnancy.  I know you’re not there yet and may very well feel like you’ll never get there.  But you will and when you do, I can’t recommend them enough.  They were part of our “village” in a way, too ,so I couldn’t not include them on the list.

5.  Raven’s Wing Yoga Branford, CT  👉🏻👉🏻👉🏻                                                                     http://ravenswingyoga.com/ 

Again, a little on the earth-crunchy side (which of course there is nothing wrong with) but may not appeal to the masses.  Let me tell you though, infertility or not, every pregnant woman should at least give prenatal yoga a shot.

In the beginning, I, like most I’d presume, felt clumsy and foolish trying to hit some of those poses with an ever-growing belly.  However, when it came to strategies for relieving the aches and pains associated with pregnancy, these stretches and techniques were spot-on; more like miracle cures.

I looked forward to my weekly hour of relaxation on Wednesday nights.  After leaving class, I always felt lighter and re-energized.  The real testament to what I learned in prenatal yoga was my natural childbirth.  The knowledgable and experienced instructors taught me how to breathe into the pain and I used these breathing techniques during labor.  They actually worked wonders. Prenatal yoga at Raven’s Wing is a pregnancy must-do as far as I am concerned.

6.  Childbirth and Parenting Education of Greater New Haven 👉🏻 East Haven, CT http://www.childbirtheducationgnh.org/

Again, this does not only pertain to the couple who has overcome infertility.  This is a call to ALL EXPECTANT COUPLES reading and please share.  Even if you’re not in the New Haven area, you really should look into attending.  Honestly, if you’re literally within a 50 mile radius and you don’t take advantage of this course, it would be your first parenting mistake-I swear!

First off, Louise Ward, RNC, MSN, who is part of the Labor and Birth Team at Yale-New Haven Hospital is as hilarious as she is skilled.  My husband says that if she was his teacher in school, he’d be a molecular engineer; I’ve “diagnosed” him with ADD, so the fact that he was able to sit and attend to the two and a half hour sessions once weekly for five-weeks speaks volumes.  We learned more in this course than I could’ve ever imagined, even if I had read 100 books.  Classes were entertaining, informative, and interactive.

Louise was one of my greatest tools during my actual labor and delivery.  She wasn’t there physically, but literally, I could hear her voice playing over in my head.  She provided me with so much valuable instruction that I knew what to expect as I entered active labor, then transitioned.  Her guidance was also another key factor in my ability to endure childbirth sans medication.

Aside from learning all there is that you need to know about childbirth, we took away a lot of other valuable information about the benefits of baby-wearing, dealing with “baby blues”, and infant care.  We opted for the five-week childbirth classes (which also included a tour at Yale-New Haven Hospital) and the Infant CPR class.  They also offer a variety of other classes, such as breastfeeding  and car seat safety.

If you are in the local CT area and have been following, please share with others, especially on social media.  Also, this is just my “village”.  If you had your own “village” that you’d refer someone to, please comment below~I’d love to hear your recommendations!  Most importantly, please if you or someone you know is struggling with infertility, please contact me so I can become part of your “village” to making a baby.

You can contact me on Facebook & Instagram @OnPrayersandNeedles or via e-mail @ onprayersandneedles@gmail.com

DISCLAIMER:  This is in no way, shape, or form a sponsored post and all opinions are 100% mine!

The Inevitable Question

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A big pet peeve of mine is as soon as you hit some major milestone in your life, people are always rushing on to the next. Take getting engaged for example. As soon as he puts a ring on it, you no sooner can buy a bride magazine before someone asks, “Have you set a date?” Then, you get married, and before you’ve even had the chance to change your last name on all of your documents (what a PIA that is), people are already starting in, “Are you trying?…maybe a honeymoon baby?!” Like pump the brakes and let me enjoy being married for a hot minute. One upside of infertility is that after so many years of marriage without a baby, people tend to stop asking. Then, if you’re lucky enough to have a baby, you no sooner get home from the hospital to hear, “When’s the next one coming? Ready for another?” I mean, can my stitches heal before you ask this? I haven’t even been cleared for action down there yet.

While more often than not they’re really well meaning questions, I find them utterly annoying. I think it’s in part what’s wrong with society today. I mean we can’t even celebrate one holiday without the next occasion’s motif lining store aisles. It’s always such a rush to get to the next big thing that sometimes the opportunity to savor and relish in the delight of one momentous occasion can be lost. I love that I had a long engagement to enjoy being engaged and was married for a few years before trying-to-conceive. Of course, six years of marriage before a baby wasn’t ideal, but I know that many first year marriages wouldn’t be able to survive the wrath of infertility. I’ve really been able to enjoy each stage to its fullest and feel like each chapter was complete before the next. I know that’s not in the cards for everyone nor what many people would prefer, but for me I like spacing between these joyous life events.

This holds true for adding to our tribe. There’s nothing more I want to do than to have another child to raise and love with my husband; to give Mikie a sibling so that he could share the same bond we do with our brothers and sisters. But if I could plan 😁🙊 I’d love to have them spaced about three years apart. Truth be told, I want to feel like I’m starting over. I know that sounds crazy to some, and there are definitely pros and cons to having kids back-to-back or years apart. For us, spacing just seems right. Unfortunately given our infertility issues, this means that we’d have to start really getting the ball rolling by the fall if we intend on doing a round of IVF in a year or so. And that effing terrifies me.

It’s not the doctors appointments, insurance dilemmas, and loading my body with hormones that’s scary. It’s the fact that I thought if there was a next time of trying to get pregnant, it’d be different. I always say the pressures off next time around. We already have our baby, which is such an abundant blessing, that regardless of the outcome at least we have him. And it’s not that that isn’t true. It is and I’m incredibly grateful, but I’m not complete. I’ve always read articles from moms that tell you, you just know when you’re done and it’s your last baby. I’m not there yet and if I had to guess, I probably won’t be there even if I am lucky enough to have another (Please don’t tell my husband 🤐, but I think 3 is our magic number). That probably sounds so selfish and ungrateful of me, especially since it’s truly a miracle that we even have one to call our own. But if a fertile couple wanted more kids, we wouldn’t think less of them, right? We might say they’re very blessed already, but that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve more if their hearts so desire.

So this must be what secondary infertility feels like. The great divide between feeling appreciative for the child(s) you do have and yearning to hold another. It’s like a tug of war of the heart. And while it’s easy to say at least, all you want to say is at last.

I have to admit, I never really got it before. I was that infertile girl who thought at least you have one healthy child.  I can’t even have that. And even after getting pregnant and having my son, I still felt that way to some extent. It isn’t until now, when I’m faced with the possibility of not getting pregnant again, that it’s starting to hit me.

I wasn’t intending on writing this post so soon, but lately it seems to keep hitting me.  Since our baby is upwards of a year and a half, I can only anticipate to hear more of the inevitable question-one that I try to consciously avoid asking others, especially those I suspect might be having difficulty trying to conceive.  At this point, I want people to ask.  I really do.  It’s just now I think I’m rewording my response:

“Yes, we’re beyond fortunate to have him, but we’d love to have another if we could.  No, I don’t know it’s going to be any easier and the pressure isn’t off the next time.”

M O R A L of the S T O R Y: infertility never ends.  Not even after you’re lucky enough to overcome it.   When you want a child to rock, nurture, teach, snuggle so badly, the heartache never fades, no matter if it’s your first, second, or third time around.

Faith & Fertility

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For a Type-A-ish person like myself, it’s hard to hear “It will happen when it is supposed to happen.” Yet, as a fairly religious person, it’s even harder to hear “It’s all God’s plan.”

Really?! It’s God’s plan for me to be infertile, while millions of teenage girls who can’t take care of themselves are getting knocked up? I mean it’s enough to make my blood boil. And don’t get me wrong, I’ve said it before myself. It is one of those sayings that naturally spew out of your mouth; similar to when someone passes away and well-meaning mourners say, “She’s in a better place,” or “He’s not suffering anymore.” Yes, of course that’s what we hope and try to believe, but it’s just one of those things we say because it actually sucks. It really sucks and we offer these sayings as some sort of solace and hope that it’ll get better. Yet in the moment it’s difficult to envision getting to that place.

Throughout our infertility struggles, I went to church most Sundays and prayed to St. Gerard and St. Anne in between.  It’s not to say my faith wasn’t tested.  There were times I was mad at God.  There were even times when I said at the end of the day having a baby was about science, not God.  When you’re in the moment, it’s only natural to start questioning your religious beliefs.  What’s worse is that the Catholic Church doesn’t believe in extraordinary means for conceiving, such as IVF.  One poignant moment I can recall was my sister-in-law coming home from her pre-Cana with pamphlets on the church’s views on infertility. She sent us a text of her “reading materials” and of course that’s the one I spotted.  I immediately told her to throw it away.  It’s not that I don’t believe what my faith teaches, but at the end of the day, my God wanted me to be a mom, regardless of how I got there. I wholeheartedly believe that, despite what any priest or doctrine states.

Now in hindsight, I can say I also believe, without a doubt that God played a role in blessing us with Mikie.  There was definitely science involved and without that would we have conceived? I highly doubt it, even at my most faithful moment.

I’m still on the fence if that was God’s plan, though.  On one hand, I don’t think it’s God who plans for babies to be sick, people to be ridden with Cancer, and lives to end too short.  I do think, though, that it is God who helps us at our darkest times, who comforts us in our grief, and who lifts us up when these unexpected life circumstances arise.  On the other hand, maybe there is a predestined plan-not to cause undue suffering, but maybe to serve a reminder of a higher power and to teach life lessons.  If I look at infertility as God’s plan for me, I can say it taught me how to let go a little and realize I can’t control my destiny.  It taught me the importance of faith and and reminded me of all I was already blessed with.

At the end of the day, science had given my husband sperm, science had retrieved and fertilized eggs to produce embryos, and science had made it possible to transfer those embies back into my body.  But it was in God’s hands what would happen next.

 

Mother’s Day: Another Reminder of Your Infertility

imageI am a fan of holidays. While they can be cliche, I like the idea of setting aside a specific day to commemorate someone or something. All of these National Margarita Day and Happy Hangover Day (I swear it exists-look it up) may take it a step too far but nonetheless serve as a reminder to take a step back, acknowledge all of your blessings, and celebrate each day.

With that said, Mother’s Day can be another reminder of what you aren’t and don’t yet have. As if all the aisles of Hallmark cards and “Mom life is the best life”  mugs aren’t enough to handle, there’s this whole day carved out to celebrate mommy-hood. It’s a reminder of your longing to rub a baby bump or rest a newborn on your chest, as you waft in that new baby smell. It’s a reminder of something that comes so easy for many, and taken for granted by some. It’s a reminder of the one thing missing to make your heart whole and a seemingly unattainable dream. It’s a reminder of your struggle, the bruises from PIO (Progesterone In Oil) shots, the countless appointments, the ups and downs, tears and pain that is your present.

But, my dear friend, it’s also a reminder of your future. It’s a reminder that one day you may be rocking your sweet child to sleep.  It’s a reminder to keep your head up and keep at it. It’s a reminder that someday you might become a mom and you will have a special and unique outlook-you will cherish every moment, every milestone, everyday because you know what it took to get there.

And while I like to look through rosey-colored glasses even that might not be a reality for some.  So, this Mother’s Day, and always remember that not everyone is fortunate enough  to ever get the chance to celebrate.  Choose your words wisely.  “Maybe you’ll be a mom next Mother’s Day-are you trying?” And “You don’t know how lucky you are-I can’t even remember the last time I was able to eat my meal at a restaurant” hurt.  Btw, biatch you’re the one who doesn’t know how lucky you are (oops did I say that out loud 🙊).

Like all woman who are fortunate enough to be called momma, tomorrow I will revel in the bliss of sleeping in, savor breakfast in bed, and cherish homemade gifts. I’ll probably post on social media a picture of me and my mini.  However I will never forget that there are many women still on their journey to motherhood whose hearts are aching and whose smiles are hiding months, even years, of pain.

#startasking

imageI am thrilled to be part of Miss.Conceptioncoach’s Bloggers Unite Conference this year in honor of National Infertility Awareness Week and humbled to have been included with such an esteemed group of women. This year’s theme is #startasking and I cannot think of a better theme for me, personally, since this was basically the springboard for my blog, On Prayers & Needles.

During my journey, I couldn’t help but #startasking how, when 1 in every 8 couples struggles with infertility, are there not more local support groups available? I would go to my OBGYN, our fertility doctor, my husband’s urologist, the chiropractor & acupuncturists’ offices and there would be corkboards overflowing with every type of group you could name. Yet, the only one I needed in that moment wasn’t there.

Instead, I would spend countless hours glued to my cell phone or laptop on BabyCentre, What To Expect Before Your Expecting, etc., etc. group boards waiting for any type of a response to the questions I had. Did anyone have success with Tese for Azoospermia? How many months did you take Clomid before becoming pregnant? Did you take birth control pills as part of your IVF protocol? Are these follicle numbers and measurements decent? I’d wait, to hear from someone I knew only by screen name and not face, someone who lived in another country, to answer. I’d wait there praying that I’d get some glimpse of hope that they had been where I was and everything worked out. And while I appreciated any and all of the support I could get across the Internet and anywhere else, I yearned for a “safe place” ~a place where I could sit with women who were or had been in my shoes and we could discuss all of these things face-to-face over coffee at a local Starbucks. It was then that I promised myself, if I were ever to receive my miracle, I would basically Pay-It-Forward by starting a local support group. That is when this blog was basically conceived (no pun intended).

Fast-forward to just about two-months ago when I finally revved up the courage to launch On Prayers and Needles and share my story…

Slowly, I began to hear the stories of others whom I may or may not have known had difficulty getting pregnant and it felt very liberating for all of us to exchange our experiences. Then I even started to receive intermittent questions from readers asking for more information about meds, doctors, recommendations for a successful IFV cycle. However, none of these women (rightfully so) were interested in participating in a local support group, which led me to #startasking a bigger question: How, when 1 in every 8 couples is infertile, is there still such a stigma and sense of shame in not being able to conceive naturally?

For anyone who has been following (thank you) and those of you just tuning in (thank you, also), I’m sure it is pretty evident that I am an open-book. During our journey there was never a time when I didn’t feel comfortable saying that we were struggling with infertility. You might think that is because it was more of my husband’s “problem”, but I also had my own “issues”. It’s just I came at it from a different perspective, which was basically if it’s broke, fix it. If your hip gives out, you replace it. If you have an infection, you take an antibiotic. If you can’t produce sperm, you find a way to. Clearly, there is no shame in our game and of course, I’m making light of all of these situations. They’re not all that easily resolved. But my mentality was and is, just like anything else in life, if it isn’t working, you fix it (failing marriage, dead-end job). And regardless of what anyone’s picture-perfect life appears to be on Instagram, believe me, there’s something they need or have had to “fix”.

While I completely respect anyone’s choice to keep their infertility private, I also find it important to #startasking why? Are you any less deserving of a baby than someone who could conceive without interventions? In a day in age when science is revolutionary, why wouldn’t you use the advancements provided to start or complete your family? Even when religion is a factor, doesn’t your God want you to be a mom? Don’t you think that someday, if you choose, to explain to your child “how they were made” that they’ll realize how much you loved and wanted him or her even before they were born? If someone in your life was struggling with something, wouldn’t you want them to open up so you could be there for them?

One of the most touching responses I’ve received since initiating the blog, was an e-mail from someone who hadn’t shared her story with anyone outside of her immediate circle. She felt inspired, after reading and relating to mine, to share her own with me. I read it, tears streaming down my face, hoping that she could see the beauty in her story that I did. While that wasn’t the initial intent of the blog, in that moment, I realized that it had served its purpose in a different way.

The more we open up and #startasking ourselves and others these tough questions, the more people will become aware of infertility and all it entails. Once more and more people #startasking, the dialogue can begin so that we (both those who have and have not encountered infertility) can better support one another. I shared my story to get the conversation going, so now I must #startasking, will you?

Make or Break Your Bank & Love Tank


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Photo Credit 📷 @http://mmaler.com

Infertility is both financially and emotionally draining. Even the strongest of relationships are likely to endure a rough patch or two during the struggle to conceive. It can make or break you. As they say, though, if you make it, you’ll come out stronger in the end.

Money is a stressor in any marriage or relationship.  Combine that with endless hours on the phone with the insurance company and countless repetitions of your saga to a representative and you’re bound to be exhausted.  Even with the best coverage, you’ll probably incur some out-of-pocket expense.  Some of the procedures and/or medicines may be denied.  This happened to us in the beginning of our journey.  The insurance company wouldn’t cover my husband’s medications.  Because they were for fertility, we ended up basically paying a second mortgage for quite a few months until we could change policies.  Worse yet, are those couples who don’t have fertility coverage at all or have exceeded their maximum coverage.

It’s imperative to do your research and find out what your fertility coverage is as soon as you’re referred to a fertility specialist.  I’d also recommend going here 👉🏻 http://www.resolve.org/family-building-options/insurance_coverage/state-coverage.html#Connecticut to see if and what your state mandates.  Connecticut, for example, has a state mandate that allows lifetime coverage for 4 cycles of ovulation induction, 3 Interuterine Insemination (IUI) procedures, and 2 In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) cycles.  Of course, there are caveats such as age and length of time you’ve been enrolled.  For example, at the time, I carried insurance for my husband and I, which was through the Board of Education.  I assumed this meant that it was publicly funded and therefore followed the state mandate.  However, the city’s insurance was in fact private and only one of the three plans offered included the state mandate for fertility coverage.  Naturally, open enrollment wasn’t for another few months, but I guess as luck would have it, time was on my side.  I was able to change coverage wellllllll before our IVF cycle.  I was concerned that while I still had the same insurance company, since I changed plans in less than a year, the state mandate might be null and void.  The HR representative didn’t know the answer for sure, but said she’d look into it.  She then (sitting at a desk with her children’s annual baseball pictures lined up behind her) tilted her head and said, “But really, in the grand scheme, what’s another year?”  Note to all:  NEVER say what’s another year, another month, another week, another day, another second to a woman yearning to bear a child, especially when you have your own brood to go home to and snuggle.  Shame on her.

I digress, but honestly all of those doctor’s office phone calls, battles with the insurance company, dead-end encounters with HR can wear you down.  It’s like having a part-time job on top of all of your real responsibilities.  As if that’s not enough, the emotional stress sets in.  It’s easy to fall into that rut of sadness and to distance yourself from those closest to you, even your significant other.  The burdens of infertility can put a strain on your love life.  There can be a disconnect caused by the “He doesn’t get it” and lack of drive because “What’s the point?~We’re not getting a baby from it”.

When you get to that point, it’s important to step back and re-evaluate the situation.  Yes, you’re overwhelmed and feel like life is being sucked out of you, but you are also going through this for a reason.  The both of you love each other, so much so, that you want to create something amazingly beautiful together.  You must remember, that while his pain may be different, he is still hurting in his own way.  And it’s like pulling a rubber band-the more you pull away and push him away, the sooner it’s bound to break.  Think back to the way you were before you tried to conceive and make that your final destination.

In the end, only the two of you can understand what’s going on in your lives.  Only the two of you, can support one another’s needs.  Only the two of you can make that most special gift, that is uniquely yours…and in the end, the two of you will be stronger as individuals, but more importantly as a couple.

Name or Number

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I’ve touched on it but I don’t think I’ve done due diligence in singing the praises of our fertility group. Despite Connecticut being small in size, there are quite a few options for infertility clinics; New England Fertility just happened to be the perfect fit for us.

Coming to that decision was rather easy. After my OB gave me the initial news of our diagnosis, she offered two options that she’d refer us to. One of which is our local hospital clinic and the other being Dr. Gad Lavy of New England Fertility.

While both were statistically as effective, it came down to whether we wanted to be a name or number. Private practice offers that luxury of a more intimate and personalized experience, much like shopping local~and we all know we are big proponents of shopping small in this house 😜💎. I just know for us, especially given my husband’s anxiety at that point, opting for private was a no-brainer. Then after meeting Dr. Lavy and his staff at our initial consultation it was only further substantiated.

Obviously, I can only speak to our experience for opting to go private and have nothing to compare it to. We never felt like cattle being schlepped along this path, but rather always felt like everyone’s main concern at any given time was Mike and Morgan. Whether it was scheduling our next appointment, getting bloodwork taken, or undergoing a procedure, we were always met with a welcoming smile. Dr. Lavy and the two nurses we worked with primarily, Jen and Susan, were professional, but also down-to-earth. We never felt uneasy about asking questions or for any clarification. Afterall, it felt like we were going in a million different directions, so naturally we’d think of things afterwards. I always felt free to pick up the phone to ask the nurses anything. They seemed vested in their jobs, but they also truly seemed vested in our best interest. Getting us our baby was a united goal.

Specifically, when it came to the whole IVF process, Dr. Lavy and the NEF staff were beyond compare.  I know it’s easy to say in hindsight because our first attempt was successful, but truthfully I was never scared of the process itself because I knew I was in good hands.  The nurses were phenomenal during monitoring appointments to explain the follicles and what they were looking for.  I always felt reassured leaving those appointments and loved their emphasis on “quality over quantity” {especially when you hear of so many cycles being cancelled due to Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS)}.  They also offered a patient portal in which the results were inputed promptly.  I found it helpful to have that information right at my fingertips rather than having to log it myself for my own records.

At the point of retrieval and transfer, Dr. Lavy was amazing.  He has a great cool-as-a-cucumber persona that puts you at ease, as a patient, and his bedside manner is top-notch. Therefore when Dr. Lavy recommended a day 3 transfer of three embryos, we barely flinched because we had full faith in his judgement.  The embryo transfer was such a special and intimate moment and I felt like Dr. Lavy recognized and respected that experience.  The environment, the aura, everything about that day just seemed magical to me.

There came a point when we were seeing Dr. Lavy and his staff more frequently than our closest family and friends.  There also came a point when we became more than a name to one another and more like family.  Time goes by so fast and we’re all so caught up in the craziness of our day-to-day lives, but just like with real family, there’s an unspoken bond and gratitude that we have for our fertility family.  To everyone at NEF, we are forever indebted to you all and to anyone in need of a fertility specialist, here is their name & number 😏!

http://m.nefertility.com

50 Shades of Infertility


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Sorry Ladies! There is no Christian Grey in this one. Rather this is about the emotional gamete you run when struggling with infertility.  Actually, I’m pretty sure these are things we feel when battling anything really. Like all grief, there are stages in which one feeling is more prominent than another and then there are those times when you have a myriad of emotions all in one instance. Regardless, it’s important to recognize these emotions and to learn how to cope with them.

I’m new to this whole blogging thing and social media genre, but I’d highly recommend following @missconceptioncoach on Instagram. This is not a plug by any means and I have no affiliation.  I really don’t know much about her, other than what I’ve read on her IG.  She seems to offer some great strategies for enduring infertility and I would’ve loved to have had this resource when I was in the midst of our journey.  You can also probably make some great connections among her following.

With that said, it’s also nice to just read that another person has been where you’ve been in some fashion.  There’s a relief in knowing that you’re not the only one who feels that way.  This is your validation that it’s okay to feel any and all of these feelings.

  1. D E N I A L                                                                                                                       It’s a pretty standard first step in any grieving process.  Denial is a real thing; you just don’t want to believe that it’s real.  You’re in denial that this is happening.  Maybe you should get a second opinion.  You’re in denial that it could be true.  For me, the denial was so real in the beginning that, even knowing there was absolutely no sperm, I still symptom spotted.  I still thought maybe by some divine intervention I could still possibly get pregnant naturally.   Confession: From time to time, even now, I still think this.
  2. A C C E P T A N C E                                                                                           There comes a point that you then accept the circumstances.  The sooner you get to that point, the closer you are to your final destination.  Duly noted: easier said than done.
  3. S A D N E S S
  4. A N G S T
  5. S H O C K
  6. S H A M E                                                                                                                   Even though 1 in every 8 couples is infertile, there is still a stigma. Hence the shame.  You’re ashamed that you’re the 1 in 8.  You’re ashamed that your body is failing you.  You’re ashamed that you’re not “female or male enough” to reproduce naturally.  Once you rid yourself of that shame, there’s a whole new world awaiting you.
  7. H O P E L E S S N E S S
  8. P R E S S U R E
  9. M O U R N I N G                                                                                                 You’re mourning a loss.  Many infertile couples endure literal loss, which is a pain I cannot even imagine.  Yet without miscarriage, there is mourning of a different type.  You’re mourning the loss of conceiving the way you’re “supposed to”.   You’re mourning the loss of something you’ve never even had.  You’re mourning the loss of your plans and dreams of how starting a family would be. You’re mourning a childless life.
  10. D O U B T
  11. H O P E
  12. J E A L O U S Y                                                                                                             You’re jealous that your friend is pregnant and you’re not.  You’re jealous that so-and-so just posted on FB that she’s expecting again and you’ve never even seen a positive pregnancy test yet. In fact, you’re even jealous of strangers.  You’re jealous of the lady in front of you at Starbucks rubbing her cute baby bump. You’re jealous of the girl registering at Babies ‘R Us.                                                                                                                                                                                         This was a hard one for me.  I’m not a naturally jealous person.  To be blatantly honest, there is not much for me to be jealous of because I have such a wonderful life.  I have an amazing husband. At the time, I worked in a rewarding field.  I’m blessed with the best family and friends around.  But there were many times that jealousy got the best of me.  I’d say, “I’m not jealous of her.  I just wish it was me.”  Whatever way you twist it, that’s jealousy.
  13. B I T T E R N E SS
  14. G U I L T [because of 12 & 13]                                                                      Then you have this constant feeling of guilt when you feel jealous and bitter.  You feel guilty because you love your best friend and you want to be happy for her.  You feel guilt for being a bad person and for being so selfish.  You feel guilty that your “expecting and mom friends” go radio silent about baby/kid stuff when you walk in the room.
  15. G U I L T  because of your G U I L T                                                             Then you feel guilty for feeling guilty.  It’s not that you’re not happy for them.  You’re just sad for yourself.  Anyone is your position would feel this way, right? After all, we are only human.
  16. S E L F -P I T Y
  17. D E S P A I R
  18. C A U T I O U S  O P T I M I S M
  19. H O R M O N A L and not just when it’s 💉 time.
  20. S T R E S S                                                                                                               You’re stressed if you’re making the right decision.  You’re stressed if you can manage the injections, doctors appointments, failed attempts.  You’re stressed if you can afford it.  You’re stressed at home.  You’re stressed at work.  You’re stressed all. the. time.
  21. H E A R T B R O K E N
  22. G R A T I T U D E                                                                                                           It could always be worse and I had so much to be grateful for. Even though it felt as though my world was shattering sometimes, I just had to look around me to be reminded of all that I am blessed with: my husband, family, friends, health, happiness. The list goes on, but it’s important to step back sometimes to not dwell on the one thing you don’t have, so you can better appreciate all the good you do have at that moment.
  23. A N X I O U S N E S S
  24. C H R O N I C  W A I T I N G                                                                         You’re in a constant state of waiting. Waiting for your next doctor’s appointment.  Waiting to get your blood work results back.  Waiting for insurance to process your paperwork.  Waiting for your next menstrual cycle.  Waiting to start the meds.   Waiting to trigger.  Waiting for bad news.  Waiting for good news. Just waiting.  And it’d all be fine if you knew for sure that after all the waiting, you’d finally get your sweet baby.
  25. P O S I T I V I T Y
  26. E X H A U S T I O N                                                                                                   All that waiting is exhausting.  You’re not just physically exhausted.  You’re mentally, emotionally, financially exhausted.
  27. L O N E L I N E S S                                                                                                 Even someone, like me, who has the biggest support system known to man can feel lonely.  It’s not that you don’t feel the love and comfort.  You do and for that you are beyond appreciative, but let’s face it-nobody knows exactly what you’re going through~not even your spouse 100%.  And that can be a lonely place.
  28. F R U S T U R A T I O N
  29. E A G E R N E S S
  30. I M P A T I E N C E
  31. A N G E R                                                                                                               You’re angry.  Not always, but sometimes.  You’re angry with yourself.  Angry at your spouse.  Angry at your doctors.  Angry at God.  Angry at the insurance company.  Angry at the complete stranger next to you complaining about being up all night with her teething infant.
  32. P A I N                                                                                                                         Both literally and figuratively.
  33. E X C I T E M E N T                                                                                             You’re excited for the next step.  You’re excited to start a new protocol.  You’re excited to meet a new doctor.  You’re excited that they retrieved some quality eggs.
  34. D I S A P P O I N T M E N T                                                                           You’re disappointed that the results weren’t different and the new medication didn’t work.  You’re disappointed that only half of the eggs were quality enough to fertilize.  You’re disappointed that it’s a day 3 transfer, not day 5 like you thought.  You’re disappointed that it didn’t work this time, but…
  35. H O P E F U L                                                                                                             that you’ll be a mom someday.
  36. D E T E R M I N A T I O N
  37. C O N S U M E D                                                                                                         All day & everyday by #ttc #ivf #baby #babynursery #babynames #pregnancy #fertility #maternitydresses #babyshowerthemes #whythef*#%amidoingthistomyself
  38. O V E R W H E L M E D
  39. D I S G U S T                                                                                                                      I vividly remember being completely and utterly disgusted when a colleague decided to announce to an entire group before a meeting how disappointed and upset she was that she was having a boy instead of a girl.  It literally made me sick to my stomach.
  40. T O L E R A N C E                                                                                                     But I had to remind myself that not everyone sees through my perspective, nor do I see through theirs.  Had pregnancy come easy for me, maybe I would’ve had the same feeling.  Probably not-but we must be tolerant of one another for nobody knows until they’re in your shoes.
  41. S T R E N G T H                                                                                                       They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.  This has made you a stronger person.  Not only do you need to be strong to physically endure this, but you must also have mental strength. You probably don’t even recognize the strength in yourself, but you see it in your significant other and in your relationship.  Your bond is stronger than ever because together you’re unstoppable.
  42. C O M P A S S I O N                                                                                   Everyone has a story.  There are so many couples who have fought a harder and longer fight than we did.  You may not always be able to empathize but you can sympathize.  Through your own struggle, you’ve learned that everyone has a battle they’re fighting (divorce, addiction, Cancer). You’re compassionate enough to realize that today just might be one of their bad days.
  43. P E R S E V E R A N C E
  44. D E P R E S S I O N                                                                                         Looking back I’d have to say that there was an exact time I could pinpoint when I probably could’ve been considered depressed.  It was September.  It had been almost a year since our diagnosis and months of medicine for my husband with no change.  I was up to my knees in insurance appeals and starting another school year. My biggest fear was going back to work and seeing how many coworkers had gotten pregnant over the summer.  I was at my breaking point and I couldn’t control the tears.                                                                                                                                                                              Luckily, my best friend was attuned to me.  I never had to say anything at all.  She just knew.  She knew I needed extra phone calls and extra check-ins.  She knew I needed something outside of infertility to focus on, so we planned a vacay.  It helped get me out of my funk…a little.  Thank you & love you 😘!
  45. S T U C K.                                                                                                                       Up until that point infertility had me pretty stuck.  I didn’t want to book a flight for my friend’s bachelorette because I was going to be pregnant.  I couldn’t plan a weekend getaway because I didn’t know when my next doctor’s appointment would be.  I didn’t know what size bridesmaid dress to order in case I was expecting. I was living life in the what-ifs and it had me stuck for a long time. Funny part is that by the time I said screw it and just booked that vacation I ended up being eight weeks pregnant on the trip and sick as a dog!
  46. I N S A N I T Y
  47. S L E E P L E S S N E S S                                                                                   You’re tossing and turning back and forth unable to fall asleep because of  numbers 2, 8, 10, 16, 24, 33, 41 -hell all of them.  And you’re crying because you don’t know how much longer you can handle this and keep it together.
  48. I N S T A B I L I T Y                                                                                                   You know-the kind when you’re at a wedding on the dance floor belting out “I wish that I had Jessie’s girl” and someone leans in and says “Are you guys trying?” And you lose your sh*t, running to the ladies room while uncontrollably crying?  It’s those kind of high highs and low lows that this roller coaster that is infertility can ensue.
  49. F A K E N E S S                                                                                                                  I don’t mean this in a bad way, but like any difficult situation you have to fake it ’til you make it.  I can’t tell you since launching this how many people have said to me “I had no idea” or “I knew you had trouble, but I didn’t know it was that bad.”  It’s not that I was being secretive, but I didn’t want to be that dark cloud or elephant in the room during happy times.  It wasn’t easy to always put on a smile.  In fact, that was probably one of the hardest parts of it all, but  then I remembered #22.
  50. P R I D E                                                                                                                         You might not be there yet, but you should feel a huge sense of pride.  You should be proud of yourself and your SO.  You should be proud of how you’re juggling all of this and how you’re handling everything thrown at you.  You should feel proud because not everyone can do what you’re doing.  One day, somehow and someway, a little someone is going to be very proud to call you their mommy.

P.S. I’d love to hear your thoughts & any other shades I should add to the list!  Just comment below!