You are Not Alone

NIAW-CMYK

For National Infertility Awareness Week, I’m re-posting a blog that I wrote a while back, titled, “The DNA Decision.”  While infertility effects 1 in 8 couples, it can feel very isolating and can be a very painful journey to share with others.  The infertility I have faced with my husband has not only taken us through two rounds of IVF and a total of 7 embryo transfers to date, we have also lost 3 babies.  We lost our first baby boy when I was 15 weeks pregnant and twin girls when I was 9 weeks pregnant.  The blog post that follows is one small piece of this journey where I write about the decision to use an egg donor.  I invite you to read other blog posts here at www.31chances.com

Today happens to mark the 4 year anniversary of my first date with my husband.  We have been through so much in those four years.  Especially over the past two years in our journey to baby.

For more information on NIAW and to find out how you can connect with others suffering from infertility, please see this link as well as the links at the bottom of this post.

http://www.resolve.org/niaw

The DNA Decision

When we dream of having our own children, we wonder how our looks and personality will pass down to our baby. Will they have our nose, our eye color or hair color? Will they laugh like us, look like us, smile like us? Maybe she will be my strawberry-blond mini-me bringing on comments from friends saying, “she’s so cute, she looks just like you!” But how does this all change and how do we accept that this type of dream is gone, when the genetics are not ours? How do we decide to move forward with the journey to baby when we can’t have “our” baby? Surprisingly, the decision turned out to be quite simple. Not that there weren’t fears that came along with it, but as options dwindle, the path becomes clear and now here we are with our donor embryos. When successful IVF with my own eggs became such a remote possibility, our next logical step seemed to be adoption. But then we found out about egg donation. Knowing my first choice is to carry the pregnancy on my own and be in control of the health of the baby from day one, this became our next best option. The process with our agency was so respectful and comforting that it became such an exciting new path for us. We chose a donor that resembled me as closely as possible to my eye, hair and skin color. We were able to review medical history and a thorough profile including photos from various years of her life. And then we had the option to meet her. While all personal information including names are kept confidential, we were able to sit with her for an hour with our conversation guided by a psychologist. I left the meeting feeling so thrilled to now have insight into her personality, her childhood, her family, her hobbies, music interests, travel desires and mannerisms. I left there hoping I would be able to share this with my child someday.

Here are a few things that I wrote about her shortly after meeting her:

…She has a cute smile. I hope we will get to see that smile again. She’s confident, witty, smart, a hard worker and likes reggae, rap, hip-hop and Jimmy Buffet. She has green eyes that sparkle with a daring and adventurous spirit. Blond hair that was dyed a bright orange-red with a short, spunky haircut. When we walked in the office to meet her I went to shake her hand and was surprised and happy to be met by a hug.

…She warned us that she is adventurous and daring, apologizing ahead of time that we could have a child climbing the walls.

After going through two partial pregnancies and experiencing the love for the life growing within me; there was no longer a fear or thought that “this baby isn’t mine.” They all felt like mine from the moment I heard a heart beat. The genetics did not mean a thing when I saw them on the ultrasound. All I saw were my babies and all I felt was love. And isn’t it exciting to think of creating a child where there are no preconceived ideas of what they should be like because you expect them to be like you? How wonderful to let go of that and just let them grow and blossom into who they are meant to be! So, if our miracle comes and someone says, “she’s so cute, she looks just like you!” I will smile and know that it’s because our love and our connected souls are shining through her eyes (or his, I’m not picky). We will belong to each other.

For more information on the basic disease of infertility, visit:

http://www.resolve.org/about-infertility/what-is-infertility/

For more information about NIAW (National Infertility Awareness Week), visit:

http://www.resolve.org/national-infertility-awareness-week/about.html

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Chance #4/31: Mastering the Full Bladder Ultrasound

glass of water photoNow that I’ve been through seven embryo transfers (today was lucky number 7; fourth one from the egg donor embryos) as well as a handful of ultrasounds during early pregnancy, I’ve learned some things about preparing myself for a procedure that requires a “full bladder.” I say full bladder in quotes because I’ve learned it does not have to be painfully full in order to enable better ultrasound viewing of the uterus.

Water consumption: First of all, when told to drink 16 ounces of water an hour before an appointment, I don’t do it. (By the way, I’m not offering real medical advice. This is advice on how not to pee your pants on the way to the doctor or God forbid, pee on the doctor.) Female bladders are small and I could show up to a doctor appointment without drinking any water following a marathon and still have to pee.

Timing is everything: Appointments in the early morning are the toughest to strategize liquid intake. To drink or not to drink…that is the question. My recommendation…always pee before leaving the house. Your bladder will be full again, probably 3 times over before the procedure. Later in the day seems easier to plan out…maybe the kidneys don’t feel like working as hard as the day progresses.

Consider the car ride: Ok ladies, just by getting into a car and knowing you are going somewhere means that you will have to pee within 15 minutes of getting in the car. This is physiologically how the female bladder functions. I have a 45 minute to 1 hour drive to the doctor so I also have to take that into account. So, those 16 ounces of water you were told to drink? Once again…I wouldn’t do it, unless you live next door to your doctor’s office.

Partial bladder relief before an ultrasound: Now this takes practice and the body does not want to do this. Of all the times I’ve had these procedures, there has been only one time…let me repeat…one time, that I have found the perfect balance of liquid intake and timing of the appointment. All the other times, I’ve been completely desperate to go to the bathroom as soon as I walk through the door. So, then the question: How much to pee? This is pure guess-work and requires Jedi mind tricks on yourself to stop in time. But don’t fret, if you take it too far. You can always drink more water.

Photo by CJE

Fitness and Infertility

trail walkStaying mentally and physically healthy through infertility, IVF, embryo transfers, short periods of pregnancy and miscarriages has been incredibly challenging and often feels impossible. Since my journey through this process has spanned over the past couple of years, my fight to stay physically strong coupled with a desire to not give up on happiness and mental stability has often left me exhausted, drained and empty. And I’m just talking about ME. I’m not even getting into the impact this has on my marriage. This has left me struggling with what feels like a never-ending and futile attempt to lose weight (or to at least stabilize my weight) combined with cycles of deep sadness and sometimes depression through the disappointments and losses I have experienced on this journey. It is a constant start and stop process with exercise whether I’m in between cycles (amp up the exercise routine) or low impact walking post embryo transfer. As soon as I start to feel progress with physical fitness or any hope of losing a couple of pounds, here I am again making adjustments to put the possibility of pregnancy as the top priority following an embryo transfer. With the two pregnancy losses we have experienced, the only other possible thing my doctor recommended to increase my chances of future success is weight loss. My doctor recommended a certain BMI to enable optimal pregnancy health. I did the calculations. To reach this BMI, I would need to lose 35 pounds. That would take me months to achieve with 100% focus on nothing but exercise and nutrition. (and my body is STUBBORN!!) But sadly, I’m time-bound by the financial piece of this process. We are invested in a “refund plan” that allows us to have as many embryo transfers as needed to become pregnant within one year of starting this contract using embryos from our egg donor. (we have about 6 months left) This does not allow me the extra time off to reach this health/fitness and weight loss goal. By the time I have my next embryo transfer I will have had a little over 2 months to recover from the D&C procedure which was then followed by depression, a terrible flu and then a bad cold just two weeks later. This made it nearly impossible to try to lose weight in this period of time. As soon as I recovered, I started walking and swimming again and went back to the gym with my personal trainer. But do you know how hard it is to lose weight with the hormone fluctuations of pregnancy, followed by pregnancy loss, then throw in some depression, the holidays and some illnesses? It feels completely hopeless. My body fluctuated up and down in a 10 pound range following the pregnancy loss for at least a month. I’ve done a cleanse, given up sugar and alcohol and I exercise regularly and there is no weight loss happening here.

My health and exercise has always been a top priority for me. I’ve always been active and involved in sports or fitness activities, however I have struggled with my weight since I was a child. I have tried so very hard to stay in shape through this process of trying to make a baby. Prior to my first round of IVF, I spent one year training at a CrossFit gym trying to get as strong as possible before pregnancy. I’ve never given up on exercising and I work hard to eat as healthy as I can. But it is a daily struggle and very frustrating when doing my best may not be good enough. I definitely want to avoid blaming myself for a failed pregnancy because I wasn’t “fit” enough or because my BMI was too high. So, for now I just have to settle for what is realistic for me. The best I can do involves getting outdoors and enjoying walks with my dog and swimming and weight training (at least until Sunday). Then the exercise plan shifts again… I hope this time I will have a new 9 month fitness plan.

FullSizeRender (1)

Photos by CJE

Chance #3/31: Day 1

beach sunsetAnd so it begins…After waiting and waiting following my D&C (almost 2 months ago), I finally started a new cycle.  Tomorrow I have a baseline appointment at our fertility clinic to start another frozen embryo transfer cycle.  Medications, needles, syringes, gauze pads, alcohol swabs, sharps container and a dash of hope are ready to go.

Photo by CJE

The DNA Decision

child book ED storyWhen we dream of having our own children, we wonder how our looks and personality will pass down to our baby. Will they have our nose, our eye color or hair color? Will they laugh like us, look like us, smile like us? Maybe she will be my strawberry-blond mini-me bringing on comments from friends saying, “she’s so cute, she looks just like you!” But how does this all change and how do we accept that this type of dream is gone, when the genetics are not ours? How do we decide to move forward with the journey to baby when we can’t have “our” baby? Surprisingly, the decision turned out to be quite simple. Not that there weren’t fears that came along with it, but as options dwindle, the path becomes clear and now here we are with our donor embryos. When successful IVF with my own eggs became such a remote possibility, our next logical step seemed to be adoption. But then we found out about egg donation. Knowing my first choice is to carry the pregnancy on my own and be in control of the health of the baby from day one, this became our next best option. The process with our agency was so respectful and comforting that it became such an exciting new path for us. We chose a donor that resembled me as closely as possible to my eye, hair and skin color. We were able to review medical history and a thorough profile including photos from various years of her life. And then we had the option to meet her. While all personal information including names are kept confidential, we were able to sit with her for an hour with our conversation guided by a psychologist. I left the meeting feeling so thrilled to now have insight into her personality, her childhood, her family, her hobbies, music interests, travel desires and mannerisms. I left there hoping I would be able to share this with my child someday.

Here are a few things that I wrote about her shortly after meeting her:

…She has a cute smile. I hope we will get to see that smile again. She’s confident, witty, smart, a hard worker and likes reggae, rap, hip-hop and Jimmy Buffet. She has green eyes that sparkle with a daring and adventurous spirit. Blond hair that was dyed a bright orange-red with a short, spunky haircut. When we walked in the office to meet her I went to shake her hand and was surprised and happy to be met by a hug.

…She warned us that she is adventurous and daring, apologizing ahead of time that we could have a child climbing the walls.

After going through two partial pregnancies and experiencing the love for the life growing within me; there was no longer a fear or thought that “this baby isn’t mine.” They all felt like mine from the moment I heard a heart beat. The genetics did not mean a thing when I saw them on the ultrasound. All I saw were my babies and all I felt was love. And isn’t it exciting to think of creating a child where there are no preconceived ideas of what they should be like because you expect them to be like you? How wonderful to let go of that and just let them grow and blossom into who they are meant to be! So, if our miracle comes and someone says, “she’s so cute, she looks just like you!” I will smile and know that it’s because our love and our connected souls are shining through her eyes (or his, I’m not picky). We will belong to each other.