Wednesday, May 24, 2017

For My Babies: My Fifth 5K

This post is a little late (3 weeks to be exact) but I wanted to document it on here before too much time passed and I completely forgot. Like what happened with last years run. I did actually run a 5k last summer, it just didn't get blogged about. Oh well.

For the past five years, I have run a 5k each summer. Although maybe I should be more specific and say that I've "participated" in a 5k every summer but only ever actually fully ran one. That's right, the other three were a mix of running and walking. In my defense though, one of those years I was pretty exhausted from 4am wake ups and daily blood draws, since we were in the middle of a fertility treatment cycle. If you want to read more about my previous runs, check out my first 5k, my second 5k or my third 5k. Once again, I slacked on writing about my fourth.

This year I didn't have as much time to train, because the run was scheduled for April 30th and I'm not a winter runner. At all. I'm a good weather runner and even that is hit and miss. But I did start trying to train in February, on half decent days of milder weather and not too icy roads. I also started the Couch to 5k running challenge again, because I'm a sucker for it. This is the seventh time I've started it and have yet to ever finish it. Gosh I suck. Anyways, I ran a total of seven times before running the actual 5k, which is a super low number. Especially since those "runs" were mostly walking with some slow jogging thrown in. But I really wanted to participate in this run, because it was to raise awareness for a cause that I am very passionate about: infertility, pregnancy loss and infant loss. I couldn't just not run in it.

I ran for our five babies that we lost to early miscarriage, Casey, Jaimie, Dustin, Daylin and Quinn and for some amazing reason, I actually had the strength and stamina to run the entire thing. Yup, I slowly jogged an entire 5km with barely any training and I didn't die.

Dan decided he was going to walk the 5k with me but gave himself a head start so that I could catch up with him and then we could walk the rest of the way together. He left 10 minutes before the run was supposed to start, which would have been perfect timing. Except the run started 20 minutes late and I didn't catch up to him until after the kilometre four marker. And by that point, I figured I may as well keep going!

I completed the 4k in 38:47 which was way better than I expected. Heck, I didn't expect to run the whole thing at all. By the time I got to the end, I was completely exhausted and chilled. It was a whopping 4 degrees Celsius and rainy, so the air was damp and cold.

I got a medal for being awesome. Okay, everyone got a medal but I'm super proud of mine. I am so proud of myself for running and like I said, the cause is near and dear to my heart. It was such a powerful event, seeing everyone there for a similar reason. So many people have been touched by loss.

I also had a booth set up for my support group, Dreams of Lullabies. We didn't have many people stop by, but I blame that on the weather. It was wonderful being a part of the event though and maybe someone will hear about our group and get the support they've been looking for.

All in all, it was a wonderful day and I'm so glad I participated. And now I get to cross another item off my goal list!

Monday, May 22, 2017

4th Annual Pinterest Party!

If you've been following my blog for a while, you'll know that every spring I host a Pinterest party and it's a ton of fun. This year was no different, a bunch of ladies got together to eat good food and craft and great fun was had by all! Seriously though, this is a super fun event and I think everyone should have parties like this at least once a year. I'm so glad that I decided to start this tradition back in 2014. If you want to read about previous years, you can click here to read about the first one, the second one didn't get a blog post and the third one was documented here.

If you're new to the blog, you may be wondering what a Pinterest party is. There are many ways to execute one, but how I choose to do one is like this. Invite a ton of women, ask everyone to bring a dessert or appetizer that they found the recipe for on Pinterest and then I purchase supplies to make a craft that I found on Pinterest. I've also been asking people to bring a small monetary donation to go towards craft supplies, so that I don't break the bank hosting the party.

We always have way too much food but it is all so delicious and we stuff ourselves with as much of it as we can. Because seriously, the food is the main draw of the event.

I had options for crafts this year, mainly due to some stuff I already had on hand and because I like to let people choose what they make. Options included painting flower pots, decorating mini bulletin boards, colouring, or embroidering hearts onto cards (leftovers from last years party).

One thing I really appreciated from this year was that my house was much more in shape than last year and I actually knew where my craft supplies were! Hooray for progress with home renovations!

There were 10 of us ladies, which was the perfect number to fit around our kitchen table. I had invited around 45 women and kind of hoped not everyone could make it, since fitting them all in my house would have been tricky. Ten was a good number.

The finished products were awesome and I loved to see everyone's different takes on a similar craft. Creative minds and all!

So there you have it, my fourth annual Pinterest party was a success! Until next year!

Has anyone else ever hosted a Pinterest party? Or a craft party? Or something similar? I'd love to hear your experiences.

Friday, May 12, 2017

CIAW 2017 - Adoption

***May 7-13, 2017 is Canadian Infertility Awareness Week and the theme this year is "Out in the Open: Tell Us Your Story". I am taking part by sharing stories from people who have experienced infertility first hand. Did you know that 1 in 6 couples experience some form of infertility? Help break the silence and raise awareness by sharing these posts on social media or with friends and family. For more information about CIAW, please click here. This post is the sixth in my 2017 CIAW "Out in the Open: Tell Us Your Story" series. To see more stories, scroll to the bottom of this page for links.***

Our Infertility Journey
We are infertile. Saying and writing that always seems weird. Weird because I always had a plan for my life, and it didn’t include infertility. 

I met the love of my life, when I was 18 years old while we both worked at Wendy’s. After our first date, I was hooked. We were married at 28, 10 years after we started dating. You could say it was a long time coming. We always knew we wanted to have children.

At 30 years old, I was diagnosed with premature ovarian failure. I was quickly running out of eggs. This diagnosis was terrifying and, we knew, not good. Of all the things we thought could have been wrong, this one hadn’t even crossed our mind. We had some very dark days after this diagnosis. We had our first failed IVF a few months later. If I thought we had some dark days after my diagnosis, it got a whole lot darker after that. A few months after that, I had abdominal surgery. I finally got the diagnosis of endometriosis, stage 3. My insides were cleaned up, but unfortunately so much damage had already been done. Though, it was nice to finally have an answer as to what caused my ovarian failure; it allowed me to let go of much of the crushing guilt I had been carrying with me. I have a disease; I did not cause my infertility. Our doctor had told me it was not my fault many times, but up until the moment I woke up from surgery and looked at the nurse beside me, and asked her if I had 2 or 3 incisions, and she confirmed 3, I felt a weight I didn’t even realize how heavy, lift off of me. A few months after that, we did our final cycle of IVF. It was looking promising for a few days, but ultimately was unsuccessful. I have so much love for our amazing doctor. He gave us hope when we felt hopeless, and that gave us the strength to keep going. He really is a super hero in my eyes; he makes little miracles happen every day.

My heart has broken a hundred different ways over the last couple years. I have felt so sad, so angry, so alone, and crippled with guilt. I am learning to let go of these emotions; they are not healthy, and I don’t want to live like that.

It doesn’t make me sad the fact that I will never experience pregnancy and birth. Instead, I mourn for the little person who I already love with my whole heart who I will never get to meet. In a world where everything is tangible, how do you explain the concept of loving someone who never existed? But I do; I love and mourn for that baby who I will never know. I miss them horribly, even though I never met them. I will never get to meet the unique person my husband and I could create. I will never see my husband’s gorgeous blue eyes and his insane stubborn streak, or my curly hair and shyness in that of our little one. That is what shatters me over and over.

The funny thing is, I don’t wish anymore that I wasn’t infertile. My infertility has led me to some wonderful women and men. Without this journey, I would not have the relationships I have today. Some days are hard though; I feel like I’m not just drowning in my own grief, but drowning in the grief of many other people. I feel their ache in my soul, and I wish I could take it away. It is what bonds us though, and for that I am grateful. 

I have become bilingual during this journey. The world of infertility really does have its own language. For those of you who have gone through it or are going through it, I know you know what I am talking about. I have had to become an expert on my conditions and all things relating to it. I have spent hundreds of hours researching it. I have had to become my own advocate. No one will talk for you if you don’t talk for yourself. 

This journey has also made me strong. Stronger than I’ve ever had to be; emotionally, physically and mentally. It has taught me patience, and a greater compassion for those who suffer. It has made my marriage stronger; not many couples have gone through what we have gone through at this point in their marriage. Most, luckily, will never have to experience it.

Recently, our journey has led us to adoption. We are very excited to see where this new path may take us. I say new path because that’s what it is. It is not, and will never be, a replacement for our infertility. Adopting a child will never replace our loss and grief. It will always hurt. But it will hurt less over time, as all things do. Someone once said to me, it’s not about getting over it, because we never will, it’s about learning how to live with the pain.

Some of you may wonder why I share our story. It is my hope that one day, as a society, we can erase the stigma and shame of infertility. People and couples should not have to walk the path alone. 1 in 6 couples suffer from infertility, so why does no one ever talk about it? And why do people feel comfortable asking when we are having a child, yet get uncomfortable when I give my very honest answer? We need to change the face of infertility; it is not a 45 year old woman. I am the face of infertility, your 16 year old neighbour is the face of infertility; because yes, teenagers are told they will never have biological children. We need to stop telling people to “just relax” or “go on a vacation”. While people say these things with the best of intentions, they are often very hurtful. I would love to go on a vacation and come back pregnant, but the sad reality is my disease also goes on that vacation with me, and no amount of vacations or relaxing will cure it. There are a hundred different reasons why people struggle with infertility, and it is almost always medical. 

I also share our story for awareness. If you feel that there is something not quite right with your body, don’t feel like you can’t say something, and if your doctor doesn’t listen to you (as mine didn’t when we were concerned), seek another opinion. Maybe if I had said something earlier or pushed harder, things would be different for us, but also maybe not. I have come to accept that we may never have answers to many of our questions. But if I can help even one person to never have to experience what we have experienced, sharing our story will be more than worth it. 

This past year we made a big step forward; we had the first pregnancy and infant loss day. A day to recognize, celebrate and mourn those little souls and the pain those families have endured. We also have an infertility awareness week, and last year I found the courage to share an article on infertility that really touched me. Organizations such as Fertility Matters Canada and Resolve are making great strides in awareness. 

Months ago I wrote a passionate letter to parliament thanking and advocating for continued support from the government in funding the Ontario IVF program, and received a very nice reply. This program offers light in the dark for so many people. My husband and I were lucky recipients of this program and had our second IVF covered by the program. We will be forever grateful this program exists.

Finally, for those of you whose journey has ended successfully, I am so happy for you. For those of you whose journey has ended unsuccessfully, like our own, I hope that you find peace. And when your heart breaks, know that my heart breaks right along with you; you are not alone. If you want to eat that whole container of powdered sugar donuts, you go ahead and eat it; God knows I have (multiple times!). And if you have days where life seems so unfair and dark that you don't want to get out of bed, don't; I have also had  many of those days. And for those of you still fighting, hold onto hope. It is what will carry you through the toughest times. To all of you; know that you are not alone in your struggle. You truly are warriors. 


2017 CIAW "Out in the Open: Tell Us Your Story" Series
Childless Not By Choice
Secondary Infertility
Repeat Pregnancy Loss

Thursday, May 11, 2017

CIAW 2017 - Repeat Pregnancy Loss

***May 7-13, 2017 is Canadian Infertility Awareness Week and the theme this year is "Out in the Open: Tell Us Your Story". I am taking part by sharing stories from people who have experienced infertility first hand. Did you know that 1 in 6 couples experience some form of infertility? Help break the silence and raise awareness by sharing these posts on social media or with friends and family. For more information about CIAW, please click here. This post is the fifth in my 2017 CIAW "Out in the Open: Tell Us Your Story" series. To see more stories, scroll to the bottom of this page for links.***  
Joy out of Loss
As a young bride I had a plan for my life, I was going to have a houseful of children. I was going to be a mother. It was simple, and straight forward. I knew what I wanted. Someone asked Ed if we planned on having children and he answered; “Yes, Anne wants six and I want four so we are going to compromise and have ten!”

Our first miscarriage came within three months of our wedding. That was just over 32 years ago and I remember the shock like it was today. What had happened? Where was my baby?
The second and third losses came within the year and I remained in a state of shock and pain. Why were my babies dying? My plan is to be a Mom, what is going on? There were babies all around me except in my arms. My arms were empty.

Over the next 26 years I suffered a number of losses. Most between seven and ten weeks but a few longer. One at 25 weeks. Each time I would try to guard my heart and not hope. Each time I would hope and each time I would be heartbroken when the loss came.

I would not want you to think I lived a sad life for that would not be true. I have lived a full life, with lots of joy, laughter, love, and fun. I have also lived a life with a big hole, that colored everything. I needed to mother as much as I needed to breathe! While living out my life I have carried the ache for my babies, and the ache for a child. The ache of wanting to be nine months pregnant with Ed’s child. The ache to have a little one to nurse at my breast. The ache to have someone call me Mom!

Along the way there were several things that really helped me cope and thrive.
1) I believe in God and His Son, Jesus. I know with certainty that I am loved by God. I know that I don’t need to have all the answers but can trust that God wants His best for my life.
2) Along the way someone suggested I should track things that I am thankful for. The idea was to remember all the good in my life. Even though I didn’t have a child I was, and am, very blessed.
3) I was fortunate to have a number of family and friends who shared their children with me. Families who allowed me to ‘mother’ their children. Who allowed me to be part of their children’s lives.
4) Sometimes seeing others with their babies was hard but I made a conscious decision to rejoice with them. I chose to celebrate the babies that came into our circle. This was VERY difficult in the early years and my eyes leaked a lot. I chose to keep trying and over the years it has become much easier. I think this effort was important to my not just surviving, but thriving.
5) I had a couple of people who let me talk about my babies. They let me talk about how I was feeling. They let me cry without judging. This was so important in my journey.

My story doesn’t end with empty arms. In 2011 we were able to adopt three girls (Gracie 2.5, Emma 1, and Sarah, a newborn). After 27.5 years and multiple losses, I became a Mom! Two of the girls have serious health issues and in 2014, Sarah died in my arms at 3.5 years old. My life is richer for having walked the journey of loss.

I don’t know you on a deep personal level so I don’t know about where you stand with God. I do know this – without God and the hope I have through Him, I would be going mad! I can have confidence in God not because of who I am but because of who He is. But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord, I say, “You are my God.” Psalm 31:14 And God gives comfort through His word. The Lord appeared to him from afar, saying, “I have loved you with an everlasting love;
Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness. Jeremiah 31:3

If you want to read more of Anne's story, you can click here to check out her Facebook page, Year of the Babies.

2017 CIAW "Out in the Open: Tell Us Your Story" Series
Childless Not By Choice
Secondary Infertility
Repeat Pregnancy Loss