Tag Archives: trying to conceive

Four Simple Words

Earlier in the week, I ran into someone I know. We don’t know each other all that well, but well enough to stop, kiss hello and chit-chat. We know about one another’s kids through Facebook and definitely have circles of friends in common. When we went to embrace one another, we started with the normal ‘haven’t seen you in awhile’ and ‘you’re kids have gotten so big’ banter, and then she said “I pray for you.”

Four simple words with such a profound meaning. She went on to say she follows my posts and reads the blog {so if you’re reading this right now, know how much those four simple words touched my heart}. We went on to other topics, but I couldn’t wait to run over and tell my husband what she had said. I couldn’t wait to share that incredible gesture. He responded of course with gratitude, but he was not nearly as affected as I was. It had almost stopped me in my tracks. Maybe because every night with our son we pray for others who are struggling, some we know initimately & others we barely know. But it never crossed my mind that others out there were doing the same for us. Sure I’ve been told that before, but never by someone outside of my close circle and never so raw and genuinely.

Her words spoke to my heart and it came to me. Quite often, I get messages or am asked personally how someone should respond to their friend or loved one struggling with infertility. I’ve read some other bloggers’ pieces addressing the topic and could go on and on for days about things not to say. I have always wanted to come up with some advice of my own to blog about, but wasn’t quite sure I had the answer myself. Or at least I didn’t until the other day. You see, four seemingly simple words can have such an incredible impact- “I pray for you.” “You’re in my thoughts.” “I’m here for you.”

At Wednesday’s infertility meeting, I brought up what had been said to me and how it warmed my heart. I opened it up to the group to give their input about what they found to be most touching. Essentially, it was not advice that was wanted, but rather some validation or words of encouragement. Through our own experiences, here are some additional things someone struggling with infertility would like to hear.

• I can’t even imagine what you’re going through.
• That must be so devastating/painful/unbearable.
• You are so brave/strong/inspiring.
• Don’t give up/quit/lose hope.
• You will be an amazing/incredible/fabulous mom.
• You deserve for this to work.
• I am sorry you have to go through this.

There’s nothing magic about these phrases. They seem pretty standard, right? But how often do we offer advice (“Just relax…”, “My mother’s sister’s dog’s friend did IVF, “Have you tried XYZ?”) instead of just validating the way the person is feeling. You’re angry because your cycle failed? You should be-I’d be pissed. You’re drained from all of this? I don’t know how you do it. I wouldn’t even be able to function. You cried when you heard so-and-so who never wanted kids is pregnant? If I were you, I would’ve cried too and drank myself into oblivion. You declined an invitation to a baby shower around the time it would’ve been your shower if you hadn’t miscarried? Good for you. That’s not selfish-that’s called taking care of yourself.

The greatest way you can support someone struggling with infertility is to do just that. Support them, encourage them, reassure them that their feelings and actions are warranted. Check-in with them. If they told you they have an appointment in July, they want/need/crave your text to say thinking of you/hope the appointment went well/how’d you make out?

It may appear at times like we don’t want to talk about it.  And on some days that will be true and we will gently let you know.  However the majority of the time, it feels good to talk about it.  You may ask, “How are you?” and get a simple “Good.”  But if you suspect that behind that smile we are in pain, press on.  “How’s everything going with trying to get pregnant?”  Chances are a bottle and a half later of wine {unless we are in the midst of a cycle} we will still be going on about what we’re dealing with.

There’s an understandable uncomfortableness when it comes to talking about infertility.  It’s a sensitive, and often seemingly private topic.  Avoiding it altogether, though, does nothing for us, the ones struggling, and you, the ones wanting to offer support.  If not acknowledging  it in conversation, a simple text, holding of the hand, or hug can help too.

Studies indicate that the levels of depression and anxiety in infertile women are the same as cancer patients. Am I here to compare the two? Am I saying they’re the same? Absolutely not. All I am saying is that there is a significant emotional component that infertility entails, much like any disease.  But your words can have such a phenomenal and lasting impact.

When I reflect back on my journey, I’ll never forget those in my life who’d remember an appointment or send an encouraging quote my way.  Even now, I appreciate when someone checks in to see how things are going and where we are at.  So thank you for being there then, thanks to those of you following along now, and thank you for those four simple words.

Back on the Infertility Train

So I apologize in advance because this was an overdue post in keeping you up-to-date in where we are on our journey (or should I say re-journey, journey Part II, journey to #2, re-mix journey 😂).  Regardless of what we want to call it , I already feel like I’m right back on the infertility train.

To refresh your memory, it took a little over a year of hormone therapy for my husband before we could proceed with TESE and align it with an IVF cycle. After getting pregnant with our son and then his glorious arrival, my husband stopped all medications and I never pressured him to follow-up or continue taking them because let’s face it-this shit sucks. And we were in a happy place with a well-deserved hiatus from needles, shots, bloodwork, doctors appointments, result phone calls, insurance appeals, and so on. Do I regret it-a little bit because now it’s like starting back at square one, but it’s what we ALL needed.

So here we are at square one. Last summer we began discussing when we’d take the big leap to hop back on the bandwagon. My husband casually told me he was going to make an appointment after his birthday. That was last July. His birthday came and went. Then so did mine. Our 8th anniversary passed and so did our son’s second birthday. He didn’t want to discuss it; I never knew the right time to revisit it and randomly I decided to make an appointment for him at the urologist in November to get the ball rolling. Well two cancelled appointments and five months later, he finally went the day after Easter.

I was pleased that rather than prolong the inevitable with analyses and bloodwork, they immediately started him back on his regimine. I figured last time they had to find the formula that worked and this time they knew that from the start so we are ahead of the game, right?!? 😳 Is there even such a thing in Infertility? I guess not because no sooner than the prescription was submitted, I was already running into issues. Three different medications were being prescribed from two different pharmacies. One was at a local pharmacy which I found odd because basically any controlled substance is foreign to them. But I assumed that the PA must’ve prescribed it there for a reason, possibly insurance-related. That was my first mistake-assuming.  Four physical attempts to get it, my husband’s word that he knew how to reconstitute it, the doctor’s confirmation that he could actually do it himself, and countless back and forth between the doctor’s office and the pharmacy later, we finally received the first med, HCG. It’s an 11-day supply mind you.  So last month I had to call to re-fill and pick it up 3 times.  Ya know, since I don’t have anything else to do.  About a week after, the pill, Arimidex, arrived by mail and I figured I’d give the follistim a little more time. I thought I’d demonstrate some patience and faith that it’d actually get here. Again, I realized that it could never actually work that way so I began the dreaded game of being transferred from one “patient advocate” to the next.

It’s being processed ➡️ We don’t have that patient’s name in our system ➡️ You can only get these meds through Freedom Pharmacy according to your insurance ➡️The doctor has resubmitted it to that pharmacy ➡️ Oh sorry ma’am this hasn’t been processsed because we couldn’t get ahold of you. The doctor gave us their # not yours. ➡️You should be all set. ➡️We need a a prior authorization from the doctor. ➡️The doctor faxed the prior authorization. ➡️We haven’t received anything from the doctor according to our notes. ➡️Your husband has to go for bloodwork in order for them to approve this. {👆🏼 Basically insert tears here because all of this time wasted and now the battle of getting him to quest for bloodwork} What the $&@”!? what? Like shouldn’t someone have known this 5 weeks ago when this was prescribed? Oh and ➡️ We need a separate prescription for the needles and syringes…and another co-pay of course 💸💸💸.

So basically more than halfway to our next follow up appointment, hours upon hours of time gone from my life waiting on the other end of a doctor/pharmacy/insurance call and we are still one medication short.  This is what infertility looks like. On top of dealing with all of the other facets of infertility, there’s always this. I was on the verge of losing my shit and breaking down into tears on the phone with the last phone call. So much so that she asked to put me on hold because she felt badly and didn’t know what to say. Patient advocate? Nobody seems to be advocating for the patient or even remotely helping to make any of this process any easier. I said it the first time around and this very early onset has proven once again that it’s like a part-time job calling/dealing/following-up with the pharmacy/insurance/doctors 24/7. On a positive note, my two and a half year old can now spell the first half of our last name from hearing me repeat it so many times.

This ain’t for the weak is right. You have to be so efficient, so on top of your (and everyone else’s) game all the time in order to keep things together, when physically and emotionally you can barely keep the lid on the pot. And that -all in addition to everything else thrown your way-life, pregnancy announcements, the latest fertility diet trends, AF arrivals.

As we have re-boarded the train I feel so grateful that there are so many others aboard with us. The head nods, comments, other raw stories about what this experience entails are validating and somehow knowing you’re far from alone in this makes it a little easier. So far, I’ve laughed, gotten angry, and even shed a tear that it has to be this difficult, but I know firsthand how worth it the final destination is.

 

Listen Up

//this post is dedicated to my aunt and my way of thanking you for my life lesson//

April marks National Infertility Awareness Week //April 23-29, 2017// and as part of it’s movement to rid the stigma that one in eight of us faces, Resolve spearheads a theme every year. If you remember, On Prayers and Needles was nominated in 2016 for the Hope Blog of the Year based on last year’s submission to “Start Asking” //linked here http://onprayersandneedles.org/2016/04/startasking/ //. This year’s theme “Listen Up” is an effort to get our voices heard, to impact legislation to provide sufficient and universal insurance coverage, and to breakdown the barriers of infertility.

When I first glanced at this year’s theme, “Listen Up”, I could’t help but retreat back to when I was in middle school.  At the time, my aunt had introduced my parents to essentially some life-coach organization that offered seminars for adolescents.  I never really understood the point or gave the experience much thought; however something did resonate with me that I even reference now as a thirty-something-year-old in my own life experiences. I remember a long, drawn-out discussion of how we all have rackets in our life, be whatever they may, significant or insignificant, and that we tend to have expectations of how others should behave within these certain instances. The point that I’ve carried with me all this time is that while we may assume that somebody should respond in a certain manner, that is completely out of our jurisdiction. We can only control our own actions and reactions; not the actions of others.

It got me thinking of this year’s theme. In a perfect world, I’d expect that everyone would “Listen Up” when it comes to infertility. If everyone were to “Listen Up” they would understand the loss and devastation an infertile couple faces in being unable to have a baby the most natural way. They’d think before they said something like “Why don’t you just adopt?” and be more conscientious of their actions. If people were to “Listen Up”, they’d empathize with the pain pregnancy announcements, baby showers, and ‘Reserved for Expectant Mothers’ signs can inflict. They’d acknowledge that miscarriages, failed cycles, infertility diagnoses, chemical pregnancies, and stillbirths all require grieving time. If the world would “Listen Up” they’d recognize that surrogacy should be legal and insurance coverage for infertility should be available for all couples regardless of their sexual orientation or where they reside. They’d respond in a way that would cause a monumental shift in how infertility is perceived and the shame and isolation associated with this disease would be dissolved.

In essence, my expectation would be that as a whole, the realm outside of infertility would understand, think, empathize, acknowledge, recognize as if they were 1-in-8 and they’d respond. Yet, that life lesson I was given almost two decades ago has taught me that I cannot control the actions of others; only my own actions and reactions. So while I cannot force them to “Listen Up”, I can “Speak Up”. I must use social media platforms to “Speak Up” and get my success story out there so people can realize the struggle infertile couples face and the need for change. When at work or out for happy-hour, I must “speak Up” by sharing our journey openly so that infertility becomes a socially acceptable topic of conversation. I must participate in walks, advocacy nights, and other events to spread awareness and “Speak Up” within my own community.

Not only must my actions “Speak Up”, but so too should my reactions. When receiving push-back about undergoing In Vitro Fertilization , I must “Speak Up” and let it be known that no matter what my nationality or religious belief, my God wanted me to be a mom and everyone is deserving of that opportunity if they so chose. When someone asks when I’m going to have another, I must “Speak Up” and say “we struggle with infertility” and “our first is an IVF baby”. When an acquaintance advises that I should be content with the one child I’ve been given, I must agree that I am blessed and then “Speak Up” to remind them that they wouldn’t say that to a fertile couple wanting to grow their family.

I’ve come to learn, infertility happens to be a racket in my life. I cannot change the circumstance, only the way I react to it. I cannot expect you to react in the same way; nor can I force you to “Speak Up.” I can only hope that in choosing to “Speak Up” the world will “Listen Up”.

Hello From the Other Side

Whoa I know! Who’s this girl posting twice in one week?! It’s just your standard new year overachieving which I’m sure will subside by mid-February 😝. Let’s be real-by way sooner than that!  Truthfully, though, I’ve had a bit of a writer’s block the last few months. It’s been three years since we underwent IVF and thus even longer since we started our infertility journey. Sometimes being out of the fertility intervention game means that I’m not sure exactly what you need to hear at this moment that will resonate you. So any topic suggestions would be greatly appreciated please!

Pondering this got me to thinking that it might be interesting to read what your future holds, once you’ve beaten infertility, or are on the other side of it so to speak. Of course, just like every journey to parenthood is different, so too is the aftermath. I can only speak to what life after the birth of our IVF miracle has been to us. Much like the struggle itself, I’m sure the post-infertility-battle is pretty similar in terms of emotions and outlooks.
Here are 1️⃣0️⃣ things to know about being on the other side of infertility.

1️⃣ People will still ask you when you’re having another, even if they know about your struggle TTC #1.

Its not something that I mind at all personally.  I just find it kind of funny that immediately after you have #1 {which took a bigilllion days/months/years} people are already wondering when you’re gonna pop out #2 and they almost always remind you not to let too much time go in between kids.  If only that were in our control right?!

When people unknowing of our situation ask if and when we’re having more , I usually just say “Hopefully if we can, but we have significant infertility issues.”  I love when that turns into hearing their own personal infertility experience, which you’d be surprised how often it does!

Other times, I am sure you can guess what they say!  “You never know.  Sometimes people have to do IVF with their first and then they get pregnant on their own.”  🙄 Insert my thought 💭:  Yes, that can happen, but not for us and our issue.  Moral of the story is people still say stupid shit when you’re on the other side and even when they know about your infertility.

2️⃣ You will refer to your RE as the closest thing to God.

Because he or she is, right?!  They got you pregnant, despite X, Y, and Z (fill in the blanks: PCOS, DOR, Endometriosis, MFI, Unexplained Infertility).  Ironically our doctor is Dr. Gad Lavy of New England Fertility Institute (http://www.nefertility.com) so my husband always jokingly says, “In Gad, we trust.”  Can I get an amen 🙌🏼🙌🏼🙌🏼?

3️⃣ You will want to help anybody that says they’re dealing with infertility.

Even if you overhear a complete stranger in front of you at Starbucks, you will feel inclined to tell them that you’re an infertility success story.  You can’t help yourself because you remember all too well how stories with happy endings helped you keep the hope alive.  You want to do that for someone else.  And, those times, when you feel embarrassed, or don’t have the courage to speak up, or you were in a rush because you didn’t want your baby to fall asleep in the car before making it home, you’ll stew over it all day long.

Not only will you want to help them, but you’ll want to “fix” them too.  You’ll spew off your doctors names and numbers, ask if they’ve underwent an HSG yet, and basically put your RE hat on because by now you’re an expert.  Then you’ll give your email and contact info if they ever need anything because there’s an unspoken bond between infertiles, even if you’re perfect strangers.  No matter if you’re in the midst of it or you’ve overcome it, we stick together.

4️⃣ Talking about your struggle with infertility is less emotional.

Before becoming a mom, it was really, really hard (borderline impossible) to utter the words pregnancy, baby, infertility… without tearing up.  You’re just a constant ball of emotions that could unravel at anytime.

On the other side, it’s alot easier to talk about your battle, the ups and downs, and ins and outs of your struggle.  It’s still a heated subject, but I can get through it tear-free usually.  Sometimes the happy tears flow.

5️⃣ You can still instantaneously put yourself back in that place.

When you hear or read something someone’s saying about their trouble getting pregnant, you can immediately put yourself in their shoes.  It’s like you’re  flooded with all the feelings you felt when you were there.  You can feel that same fall-to-your-knees despair you did the day you found out you were 1-in-8.  That same lump -in-your throat nervousness will overcome you when you think back to waiting on results and Beta day.  Pictures of BFN’s, waiting room selfies, and follicle monitoring ultrasounds will still get you every. single. time.

6️⃣ Words still hurt and pregnancy announcements still sting.

Maybe it’s just me, but I’m pretty certain I’m not alone.  Even after becoming a mom and having my turn, pregnancy announcements or hearing someone say they’re starting to try again still jabs me a little.  I think it’s less to do with the other person because honestly I’m so happy for them.  I think, just like the initial go-around, it’s more just having a little pity party for myself.  Like, I wish it were that easy for us.  I wish we could have an oops or just decide to try again and fall pregnant.

The thief of comparison still rears its ugly head too.  For example, if someone posts that they’re pregnant again I can’t help but think to myself that they’re first is half of my son’s age.  It usually involves some social media detective work and calculating, but I can’t help myself.

7️⃣ You’re like rain man with the dates.

I barely can remember what I did two days ago or someone’s name that I run into shopping.  Yet, I can, without hesitation, spew off every significant date of our journey.

October 14, 2014: received diagnosis of Azoospermia

February 20, 2014:  Egg Retrieval & TESE

February 23, 2014:  Transfer

March 10, 2014: Beta Day…

October 24, 2014: Birth of our baby boy

8️⃣ You cherish every moment because you’re not sure you’ll ever get the chance again.

Don’t get me wrong, sleepless nights, teething, and tantrums can ware anyone down.  Yet you recognize the pure blessing every waking (& sleeping) moment is that much more.  Not only will you never get that moment in time back with your little miracle, but you don’t know if you’ll even get the opportunity to experience it with another baby.  So, this helps to put things in perspective when you’re up to your ears in shit and spit-up.  It also makes you spend more money because what if I never have another to put this romper on?!  I gotta get it now before he’s too big for it. 💸💸💸

This too shall pass, but at the same time you wish you could put it in slow motion.  Every milestone, achievement, glance at baby toes, and every time you go to pack away stuff they’ve outgrown is a moment you don’t take lightly.

The best advice I was given for my wedding day was to every once in awhile, take a step back to look around and take it all in (Thanks Jen 😘)!  The same applies for mommyhood.  Every once in a while, usually during the most ordinary day, I take a step back to savor these precious and all-too-fleeting moments.

9️⃣ You will be able to reflect on your infertility journey in a much more meaningful way.

Similiar to numbers 3️⃣-5️⃣, being on the other side enables you to look back on your struggle.  In some ways you see it exactly as you had experienced it and in other ways you see it thru a different lense.  Dare I say it, could the wait have been what we needed?  Could it had been a lesson we needed to learn?  Was it all just God’s plan because he needed extra time creating our baby and molding us as parents?

I’m still not sure and flip-flop back and forth on my feelings.  I do know for certain, though, that I was destined to use my struggle and success story to help others in the same situation.

1️⃣0️⃣ It’s so worth the wait.

Bottom line.

What I’ve learned most from being on the other side is that infertility changes you forever.  Even after you’ve overcome it, it never escapes you.

 

 

 

New Year, New Feels

{Starting the year off on the right foot with my Pineapplade Pineapple + Grenade Courtesy of Bucketshoes}

Holy crap, guys, has it really been a month since I last posted?!? That’s the longest since I’ve launched the blog. Between my x-mas shopping list for the southern part of the state (not much of an exaggeration), organizing and attending various holiday festivities, the baby’s first fever and the hubby working ’round the clock 🕰(#retailwifeproblems)-oh and chasing a two-year-old all day errday, December had me like 😳🤒😰🏃🏼‍♀️⚡️🏎🆘. No excuses, just letting you know where I’ve been.

So that brings us here to January! A new year brings all the new feels. Seriously, I’ve been like this odd merge of the energizer bunny and an overdue pregger with the purging after a three-day hiatus of jammies, Nick Jr. 24-7 & non-stop medicine. First ear infection for the babe, make that a double, and then catching some sinus/ear thing myself. Thanks, winter-I ain’t mad at ch’ya though. I actually look forward to January and February because in my head I think things are going to slow down and there will be more days at home staying cozy. Thus far, 2017 has been great to us. We’ve enjoyed catching up on family time, visiting with out-of-town relatives, and starting some new projects. New year goals are re-doing our living/family room space, getting more organized and simplifying (I mean that’s a standard every year gotta make the list thang), new venture to expand On Prayers and Needles and finally get the support group up and running…and dun, dun, dun…the moment some of you may have been waiting for-starting the process for baby #2.

I’d be lying if I said this hasn’t been part of my plan since Mikie’s arrival-maybe even before. I’d really love to do an IVF cycle sometime in the late spring/early summer. But then reality smacks me right in the face. It’s January and we haven’t had any infertility related appointments since we graduated from our RE in April 2014. Should we have? Most certainly, my husband should’ve had a post-op follow up. We should’ve had him continue on the hormone therapy. We should’ve probably been monitoring all along. But that shits hard. It ain’t for the faint of heart and we were finally pregnant, then finally parents and who wanted to be bothered with appointments, bloodwork, and tests?

We should’ve, would’ve, could’ve done a lot of things differently knowing we wanted to try for at least one more. But we didn’t. If you’ve ever faced infertility, you know why we didn’t. Once you’re finally expecting you want to savor every single second of the experience. You’re literally, as with any expectant couple, on cloud-9 and by no means were we going to let infertility strip us of that too. Then there are those incredible first days in the hospital as a family, followed by months and months of new beginnings, new milestones and pure joy. The last thing we wanted to think about was our infertility. I wish I could say out of sight, out of mind; however, at least for me, it’s always been there in the back of my mind.

The old me might have felt guilty saying that. I might have even apologized for still wanting more. Yet, I’ve come to realize that that is not something I should be embarrassed to say. If a fertile couple wanted a second child, nobody would give it a second thought, so why should it be any different for us? Yes we’re blessed beyond belief and immensely grateful for our miracle child. But yes, we are allowed to want to grow our family, or at least give it another shot-well shots if you want to speak literally.

The biggest issue is that my husband and I have the same final destination, yet as one of our besties put it we “have two completely different approaches about how to get there.” We’re a good team because we always want the same things and have a common goal, but he’s the dreamer; I am the realist. He creates the ideas and I execute them. I’m type-Aish and he’s somewhere in C/D land if that’s even a thing. He’s the procrastinator and I’m the ahead-of-deadline meeter . A perfect example is since re-enrollment for insurance was upon us, I called the insurance company to ensure our coverage and which of his meds and procedures were covered. That would’ve never even have crossed his mind. And usually thats okay and it works for us, but in the case of TTC baby #2 it doesn’t. I can make the appointment, but he has to go (which he hasn’t TWICE since November). I can do all the legwork, but if he’s not there it’s basically pointless.

I know many of you are probably reading this thinking if he really wants another baby he wouldn’t have cancelled. And I get that-it’s even crossed my own mind. The truth though is that he wants it’s just as much as me. I’m certain of that and anyone who knows us personally can attest to it, but infertility sucks. It’s sucks the life right out of you. From that first appointment comes a daunting sequence of events that vaccums you into a deep dark hole. He doesn’t want to go there. He knows it’s worth it. He knows there’s no other option. He knows he’d do it a thousand times over just to get our sweet babe, but he knows what it’s like. In some cases being familiar makes it easier, but, at least for us, that’s not the case.

I can’t help but to forgive him because I know he doesn’t want to jump off this happiness ship we’re on to start drowning, and maybe sink. I know where he’s coming from, but I also know if we want this, which we do, you can’t get from point A to point B without ever starting out. From my perspective, it’d be so much easier if we were proactive so that it didn’t get to that point when we wanted a second baby yesterday. So it’ll be interesting to say the least to see how and if we get there this year.

New year, new feels. I can’t help but feel positive and hopeful that this will be the year I will be pregnant again. It’s how I’m wired to think, just like I’m wired to want to plan it in my head. It makes it a little easier knowing you’re all here though, following along on our journey. I think having this support and community will make our second time around different than the first and for that I get all the feels 💞🍍😍🙏🏼😘👭👶🏼✨.

Share Your Story

img_0984

What has amazed me the most since launching this little baby blog of mine last February, is how just sharing your story can make the difference for someone. If I run into someone or get a message and they commend me, I almost feel silly. All I’ve done is put our journey out there to give someone who’s in the trenches of infertility some glimmer of hope. It’s really quite a simple thing; yet as they say, “Sometimes the simplest things, can mean the world to someone.”

I have to admit, in the midst of our struggle, I was not always so forthcoming with information. However that was more to protect my husband’s privacy. Truth be told, I needed to share/discuss/vent/scream from the rooftops, that we were going through hell and might not even come back with a baby, but that was not his wish. I respected that and kept the details to a select few, which was one of the hardest parts for me. I wanted to talk more about what we were going through for so many reasons.

Mostly, it’s not good to keep it all bottled up inside. It just lends itself to a breaking point, which I had my fair share of. I vividly remember having a complete breakdown during a family spa day after the holidays. We were anticipating our next appointment before the end of December and it was as if I had kept it altogether for the holidays and just couldn’t take another second of putting on a happy face. Some minute thing set me off. I broke. I fell apart. I was embarrassed. I felt weak and guilty. I thought I hope these people {my husband’s family and extended family whom I am extremely close to} don’t think I’m nuts, but I just couldn’t take it anymore. Holding it in without discussing what was really happening and what I was really going through became too much. I had my go-to people, even some that had dealt with infertility to talk to openly but I wanted these people-the people I was around 24/7, holidays, birthdays, etc. to know what my days and nights were like (as much as someone who hasn’t experienced it firsthand can). The constant stream-of-consciousness playing in my head became too much and I needed to get it out.

Opening up and sharing your story is cathartic. Even though I’ve been much more public about our struggle after the birth of my son, there is still something so therapeutic about putting it out there. In hindsight, I’ve come to realize that even just pen to paper can be rejeuvenating. I wish I had journaled more, documented more details, chronicled the steps more closely and more often. Definitely will the second time around…

Sharing your story can be a scary thing. You’re afraid of opinions, judgements, and possible backlash you’ll receive. You’re not looking to be pitied or for your friends to avoid you about pregnancy/baby/mommy things. Sharing your story is more something you need to do for yourself. It’s almost invigorating, the sense of relief when you put it out there. You’ll find you will receive some nice gestures, such as prayers and lending ears. Then will come others who have been where you’ve been or are in the midst-some you may know about and others that leave you shocked. Yet, just by you telling your story, they’ll feel comfortable enough to confide in you about theirs.

On a larger scale, being open about infertility gets the dialogue going. It shows that all of us 1 in 8 are united in spreading awareness and promoting advocacy. It will help to relinquish the stigma and isolation associated with infertility and the more stories, the more arsenal we have for legislation to cover IVF and other fertility treatments.

I understand and respect the choice to remain private about your struggle. It’s a very delicate matter, but I strongly recommend that in some capacity you share your story. Whether that be keeping a journal, writing it in a letter that you throw in the ocean, or sharing your story on social media. Maybe there is a friend you’ve been contemplating talking to or an acquaintance you know who has been through IVF that you can reach out to. Creating a TTC/infertility-related Instagram account is also a good way to share what you’re going through, while keeping it private from people you may know personally. If you’re not at the point in which you’re ready to go “public”, write your story to me onprayersandneedles@gmail.com. It’s completely confidential and you can remain anonymous if you so choose. Along the same lines, if you have any questions/concerns/are in need of advice, support, prayers, I often put anonymous posts on my Instagram @onprayersandneedles. I’d be happy to post about anything fertility-related for you.

I just know how powerful sharing your story can be. If not for yourself, do it for someone else in whatever way you feel most comfortable. I can assure you, though, that it will be a turning point in your journey. As much as it can mean the world to someone else, it can change your own world too.

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.