***April 20-26, 2014 is National Infertility Awareness Week and I am taking part by sharing stories from women who have experienced infertility first hand. Did you know that 1 in 6 couples experience some form of infertility? Someone you know is probably struggling with infertility and you may or may not even know, since it is often a taboo subject. Help break the silence and raise awareness. For more information about NIAW, please click here. This post is the third in my 2014 Infertility series. To see more stories, scroll to the bottom of this page for links.*** 

“I Can’t Change….Even If I Tried”
by Kate Payne, author of  http://whereisbabypayne.blogspot.com

Lately that Mary Lambert song has been stuck in my head and those words circle over and over again. While trying to think of a topic for this blog, and singing along to that song, it hit me...

Change.  I have changed. There's no going back even if I tried and even if I wanted to.

From the start, I knew my husband and I would have trouble conceiving. One "nice" thing about infertility issues is knowing you have them before you need to know.... I guess. My still undiagnosed endocrine issues leave me without a monthly cycle and with hormones of varying nature. When Jim and I first met, it was a selling point. "Ya know, I can't get pregnant..."  Hmmm!!  I always just figured I'd pop a few Clomid pills and crap out triplets when I wanted to. Ha, to be that naïve again.

From the start of our journey, that very first day at the first RE's office, I realized that this would be a journey indeed. The RE at a major medical hospital looked over my charts, put them down, and said "I don't know what to do with you". Wow, um ok?  She sent me to the Endocrinologist down the hall who seemed more interested in making me into a topic for a medical research paper instead of trying to help me figure out my issues and have a baby. When I finally threatened to get a second opinion, they caved and told my RE to let me try the Clomid and see what happens. I remember that day going into my RE's office... I had a huge cup of coffee and said to her "This is going to be my last coffee for 9 months, I'm so excited". Ha, to be that naïve again....as I slug down my beer and type.

Once the realization came around that the Clomid wasn't going to work, the RE moved me straight to injectable medications and IUI. At that time we also rented out our 800 sq ft. condo and moved in with my in-laws while we looked for a house. No hiding our little secret any longer when their refrigerator was full of Menopur on a monthly basis. After two IUI cycles failing, a near cancellation from overstim, and the onset of severely debilitating migraines... I was moved to IVF.

Yes, I was disappointed that the IUI cycles didn't work. After all, we did put a lot of hope and faith into them. However, IVF is the big guns. Every woman I knew who went through IVF was successful on their first try. This is it...it's going to work. I plotted out due dates of our baby and pictured what it would be like to hold him/her for the first time. Yet... after my first cycle was cancelled and three horribly failed attempts followed after a total of 49 eggs had been retrieved from my poor ovaries but not one single baby conceived nor any embryos to freeze, I realized it was time for a new set of eyes.

I set up countless second opinion consultations including the SIRM and CCRM clinics. I was willing to go the distance and travel anywhere on this earth to get a child of our own. Finally I had settled on a local RE but one who had excellent success rates from SART and was a genuinely nice person.... I call him "Dr. Oz" because he kinda looks like him. I was extremely optimistic going into my 5th IVF cycle and despite it failing, my response was so amazing (45 eggs retrieved, 32 mature, 26 fertilized, 2 transferred and 7 were frozen!!!)  I knew he was the one to help me in my quest. And he did...

My first FET (frozen transfer) was a success!!!  My very first BFP in my life.... I peed on a stick quietly in our upstairs bathroom just 4 nights after my transfer. Not expecting to see anything you can imagine my shock when there were two pink lines. Finally the years of injections, disappointment, pain, suffering both mental and physical just drifted away like a cloud after a storm. Nothing could take this away from us after all we went through to get there. Ha, to be that naïve again. Things can end in a moment no matter how long you work for them or hard you pray for them....that's the funny thing about this thing we call life.

Our little Jack was born at 20w1d , just one week after getting diagnosed with a rare brain malformation that may or may not have been compatible with life. As if that weren't bad enough, days after his diagnosis I developed very early and severe preeclampsia and HELLP and had to choose my life over my son's. Its been almost 4 months since that day he left our lives and if anything its taught me that nothing is for certain and nothing is a guarantee. Love what you have when you have it and cherish every moment.

How can experiences like these NOT change a person? I look back at myself three years ago and I don't even know who that person is. I'm stronger and weaker, kinder and harsher, bitter and joyful...all at the same time. Its me, its who I am now. Infertility and loss brings me here today in this moment.


2014 Infertility Series

Liz's Story
A's Story
Kate's Story

***April 20-26, 2014 is National Infertility Awareness Week and I am taking part by sharing stories from women who have experienced infertility first hand. Did you know that 1 in 6 couples experience some form of infertility? Someone you know is probably struggling with infertility and you may or may not even know, since it is often a taboo subject. Help break the silence and raise awareness. For more information about NIAW, please click here. This post is the second in my 2014 Infertility series. To see more stories, scroll to the bottom of this page for links.*** 

This is the story of my journey through ignorance, confusion, diagnosis of infertility, love and loss, recovery, and more love. Some parts might be amusing, and some might be sad. It may not be the typical tale of infertility, but it's mine.

Stage 1: Blissful Ignorance
I came off the pill in May 2012 when I was 28 after taking it for 8 years. When I started taking it my periods were a little weird, but nothing too crazy. I also had acne and my family doctor gave me the birth control pill prescription to address both issues (and only casually asked on her way out of the room if I was sexually active). I had started taking prenatal vitamins a few months prior to stopping the pill in case we got pregnant quickly. Hilarious, right?

Stage 2: Dude, Where's My Period?
The first period came after 33 days, then 52, then 58, then 63. I was taking pregnancy tests every week. It was very confusing and frustrating. After the 58 day cycle, I found an OB/GYN and set up an appointment. I was lucky. She didn't think I had PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome), but she ordered some CD (cycle day) 3 bloodwork and an ultrasound. I had the ultrasound the next week.

Stage 3: PCOS Diagnosis
A few weeks later they called back all in a panic that I had the "string of pearls" appearance on my ovaries and added some blood work. They mentioned PCOS. I googled. I cried. The entire internet makes it sound like women with PCOS are fat, hairy trolls. I am none of these, and neither are any of the women I now know who share my diagnosis. I think not fitting that "look" often causes delays in diagnosis. When the next cycle got to 60 something days I called the nurse. She was annoying. "Did you start your period yet?" in the most condescending way ever. No, bitch. It's been 60 days. "60??" YES. This is why I am calling. I started a few days later and got the blood work.

The lab sheet came back with nothing out of range. This is misleading. My FSH : LH ratio was 5.1 : 12.2. A second batch came back a week later that showed elevated testosterone.

I was diagnosed with PCOS the first week of 2013. My husband and I were expecting it based on the lab work and our own research. We were given the choice to wait until it had technically been a year or start medicated cycles since it was clear I had some kind of ovulatory issue. We opted for a treatment plan of Provera to start a period, Clomid to help ovulate, trigger shot to ensure the egg gets released, and timed intercourse (TI). So romantic.

Stage 4: Pregnancy #1
I am lucky my doctor took my concerns seriously, ran appropriate tests, and monitored my medicated cycle. We started 50mg of Clomid and had 3 follicle checks. Even though the doctor seemed competent, scheduling and explaining these follicle checks was always a huge mess. At the last one (CD 18 maybe?), I saw that perfect little follicle and fell in love. Is that weird? Narcissistic? We conceived on the first cycle. I was shocked. I immediately felt like it had happened too easily and quickly and it was too good to be true. I was never at ease. At my 8 week appointment I met with a nurse practitioner. I was a little bit of a diva to the receptionist, since I had assumed that I would be seeing the board certified MD I had carefully researched and selected. The NP was very nice. She did an internal ultrasound, saw the heartbeat, and mentioned offhand that the baby was measuring a little small but that I was probably off on my ovulation dates. I wasn't. I told her that I was on a medicated cycle and knew the exact day of ovulation. She said not to worry about it and we'd check again the next week.

Stage 5: Loss
On the way to the follow up appointment, my heart dropped into my stomach. I still know the exact location along the highway I thought it was over. I pulled myself back together. I felt no pain, and had no spotting or bleeding. We got to the appointment and the tech was all smiles and wishing me a happy early birthday. I looked at my husband and he gave me a thumbs up since it looked like the baby had grown. He or she, did, in fact, have a week's worth of growth, but there was no heartbeat. Our baby was gone. I still remember exactly what we were both wearing that day. The tech rushed out to get someone. They put us in an empty exam room and we cried. I'd never seen my husband cry before. Never had I known such profound grief. I'd always felt like something was wrong but for it to be confirmed was heart wrenching.

The NP I had seen the previous week came in to chat with us. She gave me the option of waiting it out, having a D&C, or taking Cytotec. These are things I had never thought about before, but the body doesn't just disappear when the soul does. I chose the Cytotec. She told me I'd probably start bleeding in a few hours and that the worst of it would be over in a day or so. Again, lies. My husband had an out of town conference that he couldn't miss. We didn't want to be apart, so we still went. Fortunately, or unfortunately, the Cytotec didn't work. I sobbed in the hotel room, at the Starbucks down the street, in the shower, and every night before bed. We flew back on my birthday, and I picked up the second dose. This one worked. I bled for the next several days.

Stage 6: Recovery
The following months were just a fog. Any shred of religious or spiritual belief I once held was gone. I was a student at the time, working remotely. I was so alone. My husband was amazing. I found a wonderful online community of women and they really became a source of support and strength. They understood there was no time limit on grief. I also shared the news of my loss more broadly than I had of the pregnancy. I needed my close friends to know, even if they couldn't do anything.

In addition to the grief, I experienced such guilt. I felt like it was my fault and that I hadn't been a good host or a good mother to my baby. I felt like my husband could have done better and that if he had married someone else he wouldn't have had to experience that pain. As irrational as these thoughts were, it is how I felt. He mentioned at one point that he was willing to drain our account (saving for a house) for IVF if we needed to. Although it was comforting to both want the same thing, I also felt a tremendous amount of pressure.

I had an unusual recovery that included a ridiculously slow decline of betas. During the beta drop I had regular, ovulatory cycles. It was frustrating because I felt like these cycles were a "gift" from my lost little one. I decided that I would see a Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE) going forward. We purchased a memorial bench in a public park with a plaque in remembrance of our baby. I feel like the baby was a boy, but I'll never know.

Stage 7: The RE
At my initial consultation, the RE did another blood draw. He took 3 vials and froze 2. If the betas weren't negative, he was going to send the other 2 to different labs. Finally, they were negative. I got a surprise pelvic exam at that consultation! He also ordered an HSG (hysterosalpingogram) to check if my tubes were blocked, more blood work to check for the insulin resistance and thyroid stuff, and a semen analysis for my husband. Since I'd had a loss on Clomid, the RE put me on Femara instead. By now the insurance company knew what was up and sent me a pamphlet on infertility... with a big fat white baby on the cover. There is nothing wrong with big fat white babies, but that is 1) not the face of infertility and 2) let's have some ethnic diversity up in here! This RE had their own favorite brand of OPKs (ovulation prediction kits). I was like Ariel swimming around in her cave of wonders. "I've got wondfos and 'digis' a plenty, I've got Wal-Greens brand galoooore. You want hpts? I've got 60. But who cares? I'll need mooooooooore". I peed on it all. Oh, and PreSeed. You can't forget the PreSeed!

I told my family that I was seeing a specialist and to mind their own business. It's exhausting and stressful for people to constantly ask about the status of your uterus. I said I'd let them know when there was anything to know. I'm sure they were stung by the bluntness, but they respected my wishes.

Driving to the downtown office for the follicle check almost sent me into a panic attack. I have seen real panic attacks. I didn't feel like I couldn't breathe, but my heart was racing and I almost pulled over thinking I was getting lightheaded. What were we going to do if I didn't respond? Two follicles on the left side. With the Clomid cycle, the follicle was on the left. The doctor said that could be either coincidence or an indicator that maybe righty doesn't have as good blood flow or something. In the first round of 2.5 mg of Femara plus a trigger shot, we conceived again. I "tested out" my trigger shot. I still have the pee sticks taped to a note card in the bathroom. The trigger never quite disappeared, but eventually got darker. I also used chilled progesterone supplements twice a day (brr) from just after ovulation until 10 weeks, then once a day until they were gone at around 13 weeks.

Stage 8: Hopefully My Rainbow
With the exception of a total meltdown the night before our NT scan, I have been surprisingly clam throughout this pregnancy. My mantra has been "just keep dancing" because at each ultrasound (and there have been many) he has been wiggling up a storm. I know even in moments of anxiety and fear that this baby deserves the same amount of love as our first. One of the most special moments in my life so far was the first time my husband got to feel the baby's kicks. It took almost two years to get to that point, but here we are.

I am incredibly grateful and lucky to have PCOS and no other issues (so far). I know I am lucky to have responded to the  medication each time, and luckier still to have conceived. I know being out of the first trimester does not mean we are safe. I have an excellent OB, and the attitude that if I have a question or concern about my health or the baby's, I won't feel like I'm inconveniencing anybody to have them addressed. Despite being pregnant, my battle with infertility is not over. I'm still at risk for diabetes, depression, heart disease, and uterine cancer because of the PCOS.


2014 Infertility Series

Liz's Story
A's Story

***April 20-26, 2014 is National Infertility Awareness Week and I am taking part by sharing stories from women who have experienced infertility first hand. Did you know that 1 in 6 couples experience some form of infertility? Someone you know is probably struggling with infertility and you may or may not even know, since it is often a taboo subject. Help break the silence and raise awareness. For more information about NIAW, please click here. This post is the first in my 2014 Infertility series. To see more stories, scroll to the bottom of this page for links.***   

When explaining my story of infertility to people, I always stress this first:  I do not regret the hand that I have been dealt and I would not change anything that has led me to this point.  That being said, I spent the majority of my most fertile years in a bad relationship with someone who did not want children.  Specifically, ages 21 – 30.  After a divorce of sorts and a few years of recovering, I met my now husband, married him a few years later and a few years after that found ourselves sitting in the office of a fancy reproductive endocrinologist.   I am 36, he is 41.  We have been trying to conceive since 2011 and have had six unsuccessful IUIs, one unsuccessful round of IVF, and one pregnancy that we managed to conceive on a treatment break only to have it end in a miscarriage at seven weeks.  Despite my grief and heartache, I will stress again – in many ways I am the happiest and healthiest I’ve ever been.

As soon as we began trying to conceive I was sure we were going to have issues.  At the time, my husband told me to relax and to take one day at a time.  One year later my husband stopped telling me to relax, and started to tell me that we would have a child one day, some way, somehow.  These days my husband just tells me he loves me and holds me when I need to cry.  Our reproductive future is uncertain.  We’ve already blown through $15,000 and adoption is more expensive than that.  Simply put – we’re out of cash.  Infertility makes you think about how you can afford to have children well before any children are in the picture.

Technically we are diagnosed with “unexplained infertility” which means that nobody can tell me why my husband and I can’t conceive despite roughly forty months or so of trying.  I ovulate like clockwork.  His numbers are mostly fine.  My tubes are clear.  I am old-ish, but my ovarian reserve looks normal for my age.  After all these years, there is a part of me that would welcome a known issue in hopes that it meant we had something we could fix.  

As a result of our last failed IVF, I have three frozen blastocysts to try with again. If all goes well, we will transfer two of them in May and hope like hell that at least one sticks.  I don’t want twins.  But I’ll take them if it means I get to be a mom.  But I won’t transfer all three because I can’t wrap my head around a selective reduction if all three were to implant.  Infertility makes you consider things most people don’t need to consider.

I spent some time with new friends last weekend and their gaggle of kids.  It was a fun time – beers for the adults, Disney movies for the children.  The conversation turned to matters of parenthood, the way it always does when we hang out with parents.  One remarked to me and my husband, “this must be so boring for you.  See what happens when you hang out with a bunch of parents?  You talk about boring things.”   I smiled the kind of smile I am used to giving these days.   Mostly fake, hiding tears.  I would give anything to be in your boring club.  I would give you my left arm right now if it meant that my husband and I get to be parents who talk about boring parent things.   Infertility brings me to the brink of tears in public, a lot.

I take offense at things that I don’t need to.  I describe the state of my uterus and ovaries in ways I don’t need to.  Infertility changes what people feel they can ask you.  If we are successful at conceiving in May, there are no less than 15 people (including my boss) who will know right away because they are following our infertility struggles and we are open with them.  Infertility robs you of surprise birth announcements.  Those same 15 people will be told if we miscarry again.

I am told by well-meaning family members that they are praying for me/that I should pray/that God has a plan for me/that what is meant to be is meant to be.  If I am unable to become a parent, the message I am getting is we all did not pray hard enough, that God does not want me to be a parent, and that I am not meant to be a mom.  Infertility has made me question my God.

Despite the cruelty that is infertility, I am working toward a whole, healthy and happy life in the same ways that those with children are.  If I never become a parent, I am still responsible for contributing to society and feeding my desires and passion.  My life with my husband is a good one.  

And yet – I want to be a mom.  I want my husband to be a dad.  He would make a really great dad.   Infertility robs you of a future you had counted on.


2014 Infertility Series

Liz's Story
A's Story

Happy Friday everyone! It has been one week since I issued my Spring cleaning challenge and it's time to check in and see how we're doing. I told you that my goal was five tasks a week and that is what I have done for this first week.

1. Clean microwave and oven. Check.

2. Clean dishwasher and appliances. Check.

3. Wipe down pantry. Check.

4. Scrub down fridge. Check.

5. Organize and toss expired food. Check.

The above picture represents the organizing part, not the tossing part. I was actually quite proud of myself that I only threw out one thing, which means I am doing good at being less wasteful. So that was a happy thing to discover.

I'm also proud of myself for doing so well in week one! How did everyone else do? Even if you didn't complete all five challenges, share which ones you did complete! I'm excited for how clean my kitchen is getting and I can't wait to finish it off next week.

Challenge for next week, complete the next five tasks.

6. Clean kitchen sink and under the sink.
7. Wipe down walls and wash garbage can.
8. Clean stove top, kitchen surface areas, and floors.

9. Clean medicine cabinet and storage.
10. Trash expired items and declutter.

We can do this!

I almost totally forgot about doing my simple pleasures this month. It just slipped my mind until earlier this week when I was trying to think of posts to fill the remainder of the days in April and I thought to myself thought I "Simple pleasures!".

So here you have it, a few things that cheered me up this week.

Cranberry-Apple Crisp

New muffin liners from Vicky

Friends has arrived!

Sunlight streaming in the bedroom windows

Cereal in my new pottery bowl
Have you slowed down this week to appreciate the little things in life? Are you finding joy in everyday? Tell me something that has made you smile this week.

Since it's still cold and snowy out there, I've decided to share some photos we took a week and a half ago and pretend that we're having the weather we were then. One of our projects for this summer is to build a bigger deck off the side of our house/sunroom. The previous owners had built a mini deck that served no purpose. See picture below for an idea on size.

The only one of us who used it was Mia, who slept there on sunny days. But mostly, it just served as a giant step out of the sunroom on that side.

So on our first sunny weekend, we decided it was time to rip it out. See how well prepared I was?

Dan and I worked together, removing nails and screws and boards. It actually went pretty quickly and was easier than I thought it would be.

We were soon left with a pile of boards and an area of dirt.

Part of the reason why we wanted to remove the old deck before we were ready to build a new one is so that we could start digging down along the foundation. We're hoping to reseal the foundation all along the back wall and hopefully prevent any more leaking into our guestroom.

We started digging by hand, but after a couple hours of work like that, we decided we'll be renting/borrowing a mini excavator to finish the project.

I realize that this post isn't all that exciting since it just talks about the destruction of our deck and not about building anything, but I wanted to share it with you while it was still fresh. Plus, now you can wait with me until we get a new one built! The plan is to  build one bigger that we can actually put a patio set on, but we'll see if that changes over the summer.

I hope everyone has a good Wednesday and that the weather is better than yesterday.