Q&A with 31 Chances and Eva’s World

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I had the opportunity to share my blog and my perspective on our TTC journey with Eva’s World and Knowhen.com

Through these links you can find more TTC stories as well as learn about another option for monitoring ovulation (Saliva Fertility Monitor).  This kit can last years and sounds like a great alternative to having to purchase ovulation sticks every month!

To learn more about me and our TTC journey, check out the Q&A below…

Can you introduce yourself and your partner?  

My name is Chrissy (I’m 41) and my husband’s name is Mike (he’s 44).

Tell us your TTC story briefly.  

Our journey began as soon as my husband and I met about 4 and a half years ago.  We knew upfront that we would have fertility challenges and following various consultations with doctors, we decided to move straight to the IVF process. I became pregnant with my first round of IVF (2 embryos were transferred) but lost my baby boy when I was at 15 weeks. Between the first and second round of IVF we ended up with 4 embryos. The two remaining embryos did not result in pregnancy. We moved on to using an egg donor where we ended up with an incredible 31 embryos. The second embryo transfer from the donor resulted in a twin pregnancy. Amazingly, one embryo was transferred so we ended up with identical twins. Sadly, their hearts stopped between 8-9 weeks. In total, I have had 7 embryo transfers in this process and have faced five negative pregnancy test results. We are currently starting our 8th embryo transfer cycle.

Miscarriages are the most painful thing during TTC. How did you manage the loss and frustration?  

The first time I became pregnant I was 38 years old.  When I lost our baby at 15 weeks (2 days before my 39th birthday), there was no way to prepare for the devastation, trauma and grief. My second pregnancy was a result of an egg donor and we lost our twin girls at 9 weeks.  The grief from pregnancy loss is at times unbearable and often feels like it is unrecoverable.  When losing two pregnancies knowing that we rely on medical intervention to conceive, there is a constant fear that I may never become pregnant again.  To manage the grief, disappointment, frustration and fear, I turned to writing as well as an online private support group.  I have also participated in individual and couples therapy.  I share my story with friends and family.  I reach out for support.  I seek out creative outlets and find joy in walking outdoors with my dog. I did not start blogging or participating in the online support group until much after my second loss.  I wish I would have known about this sooner! This group has helped me immensely.  Seeing other’s similar stories through the blogging community and social media has helped tremendously.  Somehow through all of it, I just kept surviving.  I just kept breathing.  I gave myself space, I let myself slip into darkness, I let myself grieve and I felt all of it.  Then step by step, I slowly came back.  My world that looked muted and dark started to look colorful and beautiful again.  I didn’t give up.  I celebrate our babies’ short lives in small, private ways.  I try to honor them in my writing and my husband and I remind each other that we will always be their mom and dad. The love for our babies never goes away.

Trying to conceive after 30 is a challenge. Did you do ovulation monitoring and do you find any difference of your fertility?  

 My story is a little different.  Interestingly, I’ve never had the opportunity to try to conceive naturally.  So there’s never been ovulation testing, or temperature monitoring or any kind of tracking on my part in a natural cycle.  I’ve only tried to conceive with medical intervention where some of those cycles required ovulation testing to align with the IVF or embryo transfer cycle process. There are some additional challenges after 30 and I did not have the opportunity to start this process until 37.  I did two rounds of IVF where my body was able to produce 4 healthy embryos.  Compare this to one round of IVF from my egg donor who produced 31 healthy embryos at the age of 30!  Over the past few years of going through this process, I continue to see a decline in my fertility.  I gave up on my own body for IVF at the age of 39 as my second round of IVF only produced one healthy embryo.  I’m now 41 years old and my menstrual cycle can be less predictable.  I’ve had to transition from using a “natural cycle” for a frozen embryo transfer to only doing “controlled cycles” which means my cycle leading up to the transfer is controlled by hormone injections rather than being able to rely on my body’s natural cycle.  For anyone trying to conceive naturally into their mid to late 30’s I recommend a healthy lifestyle, exercise, acupuncture, doing your own research on helpful vitamins/supplements and seeking out support from others who are TTC.

Friends and family’s care can be huge pressure. What kind of stress have you had from them, what do you dislike the most and how do you hope people treat you?

I find that there is a very different kind of support and/or pressure at this stage in my life (41 years old) vs. being in my 20’s or 30’s.  I had a prior marriage and long term relationship through my 20’s and early 30’s where there was constant talk and questions from friends and family about the timing of starting a family.  However, in that relationship we were not trying to have a baby (not my choice) so the questions were painful and frustrating and annoying.  Trying to start a family in my late 30’s and into my 40’s is a whole different ball game.  We don’t get those questions…Likely, assuming we are too old to try or don’t want to have kids this late in life. So, the external pressure to have a baby is gone.  However, for the people who do know our struggle and care about us, there is solid support for the emotional side of it and the grief that we’ve endured through both of our losses.  At our age, our friends have experienced some level of tragedy in their lives as well, so there’s a stronger ability to help a friend who is grieving.  There’s also a level of friendship at this age where we just accept each other and support each other’s life choices.  Whereas in our 20’s and early 30’s there may be more judgment or lack of understanding why we would take a certain path that may be outside of the “norm”.  I think the question that scares me the most now and that I still hear after failed attempts is, “are you still going to try?” or “do you think you are going to give up?”  These are questions I don’t want to answer.  Hearing this makes my stomach turn into knots.  I struggle with whether or not I should stay on this path every day and it is terrifying to think that this dream of ours may never come true. Overall, I think it’s important for people in our lives to respect the decisions we’ve made to try to build our family, offer sympathy in our grief and to say something rather than to pretend like our losses did not happen. Acknowledgement of the lives we lost and the parents we became while pregnant can be incredibly meaningful.

Sharing your TTC story needs much courage. Why did you start blogging? How does it help you in the journey?

I was desperate to find a way to get my sadness, fear, grief, frustration and misery out of me.  All the therapy and talking about it or trying to just “let it go” was not a cure.  I have a family member who is an avid blogger and I thought I should give it a shot.  I started writing in secret.  Too afraid to even tell my husband!  I wrote for about 2 weeks before I told him what I was doing.  I even say in my blog that when I started writing I wasn’t sure if I would be brave enough to share it with anybody.  But I took a chance.  It was a way to get all of this pain out of me without having to re-hash it verbally to anyone who asked.  There are so many details of this journey that I couldn’t even say out loud because they were just too horrific and too painful.  But I was able to write about it.  So, this enabled me to share the entire, real, truthful, painful story and to get it all out of my head.  I’ve found it incredibly therapeutic.  The additional benefits are that I’ve developed connections with other bloggers experiencing the same things.  Sometimes my thoughts seem so irrational when it comes to fears about pregnancy and the exhaustion with TTC over and over again.  But then I read someone else’s blog and find that we feel the exact same way.  Or I read someone’s blog who has been trying for so long, has had multiple losses and now they are experiencing a healthy pregnancy.  That gives me hope.  My blog has created connections for me with other people and that has helped me survive this pain.  I hope that I’ve been able to help someone else with their pain too.  Additionally, by writing and sharing my story, it’s slowly helping others talk about their own losses that they were perhaps too scared to talk about.  It helped me have conversations with family members about our journey that would otherwise have been too difficult to have, or perhaps would have been avoided.  It is always scary to open up about tragedy in life or the suffering we are enduring, but when we are brave enough to share, the love comes flooding in (and sometimes from where we least expect it).

Anything you’d like to say to our readers?

The journey of TTC is unpredictable, cannot be controlled and differs greatly from one individual to the next. Some people have unexplained infertility, some people know the exact reason quickly, some people are still trying to get an answer through test after test, and some are just left wondering, Why Me? We can be unexpectedly blessed with a beautiful, full term pregnancy that we thought was impossible. We might be lucky to finally get pregnant but then experience the tragedy of losing our baby. IVF might work on the first try or maybe not until the 8th try, or maybe not at all. Some people have the physical and mental stamina as well as an unbreakable relationship bond to keep trying for great lengths of time at great financial expense. Others determine quickly it is not the path for them after all because the pain of a repeat negative pregnancy test is too much to bare. This journey can make a marriage unbelievably strong or break it down and destroy it. This journey relies heavily on faith and hope and love and a support system to help you reach acceptance no matter where the journey takes you.

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GIVE VOICE: #GivingTuesday

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The Resolve.org #GivingTuesday topic for October is “Give Voice.”  It’s about sharing our Infertility Story.  For this topic, I’m re-posting a previous blog post titled, The long, long wait.

The long, long, wait

I was first married at the age of 31. I married my high school “sweetheart” after we had been together for about 15 years or so. I remember in those early days of marriage and through most of our married relationship, we’d get a lot of questions about when we would have kids. Sometimes questions were direct, and sometimes they were subtle hints. Sometimes it was not subtle at all. I remember a family camping trip where the in-laws snuck into our tent leaving behind baby shower signs. I thought it was kind of cute and funny at the time, not knowing I would still be childless so many years later. In the beginning, these questions didn’t really bother me. It was definitely on my mind, but following high school, we had both been very driven with our college education and our careers. Once we were ready for marriage, there were travel plans to fulfill before babies. I wasn’t quite yet ready for kids, but I also knew that time was ticking and I didn’t want to end up regretting it later because I had “missed my chance.”   In that dual income, no kids relationship, we were fortunate to travel to South Africa, Zambia, Kenya, Tanzania, New Zealand, Amsterdam, France and Greece. It was truly incredible. I’m thankful for those opportunities and the memories of seeing lions, elephants, zebras and monkeys in the wild, glaciers in New Zealand, and sunsets in Santorini. When I turned 34, the clock was ticking loudly and I thought we better not waste any more time. But here’s where infertility hit without actually being an “infertile couple”. It just takes one person in the relationship to decide that kids were no longer in our future and bam…you can no longer make a baby. And that’s what happened. And during this time, I had my first experiences avoiding the comments…

”When are you going to have a baby?”

“You better not wait too long or you’ll miss your chance”

These questions and comments tore through my heart. I was now facing a decision of staying married with no kids or divorcing with the hope of still having them in the future. It was then, that I started realizing how hurtful these questions can be. I hadn’t even touched the surface of infertility at this point in my life, but this is when I realized, even hinting at parenthood could be a painful topic. I myself had been guilty of asking others these questions without any idea that it could be such a difficult topic.

I went through my 20’s avoiding pregnancy, and there I was in my early 30’s wanting a baby.   But now the person I had married was taking away an irreplaceable dream.   My high school sweetheart turned out not to be so sweet. This was the first time in my life I had to go through the grieving process of not being able to have a baby. By the age of 36, I was going through a divorce. I had no idea if I would marry again, have a baby, or if I would even have issues trying to get pregnant.   I remember thinking, “how could I possibly meet someone, fall in love, get engaged, get married and have a baby while I still actually have good eggs? Who knows how long this could take?”

A year and half went by between my separation, finalized divorce and magical eHarmony wink. And there he was. We went on one date and fell in love. So, that accelerated my imaginary timeline to baby quite a bit. Five months later we were engaged and a year and a half after meeting, we were married.   I was 38 when we got married. Let the baby making commence! Well…not so fast. We determined at the beginning of our relationship that we were one of those 1 in 8 couples. Three months after we were married we had our first round of IVF. In early January of 2013 I found out I was pregnant. Two days before my 39th birthday, I miscarried at 15 weeks. From there our story continued with a second miscarriage of twin girls and now I am moving toward our 8th embryo transfer at the age of 41. I’ve been married twice, yet I’ve never had the chance to try to conceive naturally.

I’m 41 years old and still trying to have a baby. But trying to conceive at 41, brings a lot of blessings in addition to the heartache. At 41, nobody asks anymore, “when are you going to have kids?” Nobody is on our case about having a baby.   Nobody says, “you better hurry up”. Baby showers become a rarity, since all of our friends already had one or two kids years ago. By the time 39 slipped away from me, baby making peer pressure that had previously existed, simply faded away.

Where that’s helpful when faced with infertility, it’s also scary because you start to realize that perhaps there’s no longer a reason for anyone to ask those questions. I worry that people may think we are crazy to try to have a baby so late in life.  Or may not even believe it is possible. While I see other women in their 20’s and 30’s going through the challenges and emotional pain of infertility, I realize in some ways I’m really lucky. When I was in my late 20’s and throughout my 30’s, all of my friends were having babies. But all this was happening at a time when I wasn’t faced with infertility and the pain associated with that journey. I went to a lot of baby showers and played a lot of baby shower games. I bought a lot of baby gifts. I could enjoy walking into a Baby Gap and buying some cute little outfits. I was able to be there with my friends not just for baby #1, but also for baby #2. And I loved all of it. I was able to be emotionally there for them and to watch their joy and feel their joy with them. I was able to be a friend and really care deeply about their move into mommyhood and was able to fall in love with all of their children. I have nieces and nephews that I love dearly, but I’m also an “Auntie” in several other households. I’m known as Aunt Cookie, Crispy, Auntie Chrissykins and Auntie Nasty. My husband even acquired the nickname, Uncle Cupcake this summer. I’ve been able to watch these kids grow up without the cloud of jealousy due to infertility. I didn’t have to back away from being a part of those growing families because I had just had a miscarriage or another failed embryo transfer. Those things didn’t start to happen until after my friends had their babies and for that, I am grateful.

I’m thankful that even though I’m doing this so late, those same friends are there to support me in my struggle. They are there to offer me words of encouragement when I can’t take the emotional pain anymore. They are understanding and allow me to follow my own path. They are compassionate. At this point in life, my good friends have had the life experiences to know what words to say or how to offer sympathy and kindness.  They have the strength to feel my grief with me.

While I never expected to wait so long to have kids of my own, I have had a journey that has changed my life. It has taught me how to survive deep emotional pain and grief and allowed me to support others in their journey as well. Through all the heartache, it has taught me that hope and faith still do exist. I haven’t given up yet. I’m still waiting for my baby…but oh, does it feel like the longest wait ever.

RESOLVE: #GivingTuesday Campaign

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In case you would like to get involved, check out the #GivingTuesday Campaign with Resolve.org

Please visit their website for other social media participation (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram)

Copied from Resolve.org for the #GivingTuesday Campaign (for Bloggers):

“This year, on Tuesday, December 1, 2015, RESOLVE will be part of a call to action that will help make history: #GivingTuesday. Taking place the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, #GivingTuesday will harness the power of social media to create a national movement around the holidays dedicated to giving, similar to how Black Friday and Cyber Monday have become days that are synonymous with holiday shopping.

Starting in October, we need you to help us count down the days until #GivingTuesday to build momentum for the December 1st event. We ask you to post content on your blog about #GivingTuesday, your infertility journey, and the role that RESOLVE has played. Here are our monthly themes:

  • October – RESOLVE to Give Voice: During this month, we want you to tell your infertility story. The month of October is dedicated to spreading awareness about the disease of infertility and its impact on your life.
  • November – RESOLVE to Give Thanks: This month, we want to express our thanks to those who give their time and support to RESOLVE and the infertility community. What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving season? This is your opportunity to express your gratitude.
  • December – RESOLVE to Give Hope: As we kick off the giving season, celebrate #GivingTuesday and promote this global event. We encourage people to Give Hope to others by making a donation to RESOLVE to help us support, educate and advocate for the millions of women and men living with infertility.

Here’s how you can get involved.

  1. Write and publish your #GivingTuesday blog post.
  2. Send an email with the name of your blog and URL to info@resolve.org.
  3. Receive a special #GivingTuesday badge for your blog. Promote your blog post on social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Post about your #GivingTuesday blog submissions using #GivingTuesdayRESOLVE. #GivingTuesday blog posts emailed to us will be added to a #GivingTuesday blogroll webpage on the resolve.org website and will be promoted by RESOLVE on its social media platforms.”

October: Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month

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I’ve been wanting to participate somehow in “Pregnancy Loss and Awareness Month” on my blog but the reminders of it all are putting me at a loss for words.  Seeing more posts on social media about Pregnancy and Infant Loss is comforting and painful at the same time.

It seems impossible to find the words to express how much I miss and love the babies that I lost during pregnancy.  And for those of you who have experienced it too, you have my deepest sympathy.  We are connected in our grief and our recovery.  We understand each other.  We are not alone.

In loving memory of our baby boy Jaxon, and our twin girls who were not named.  Thank you for the love that you gave me that grows stronger with every beat of my heart.

Photo by CJ