FET – Behind the Scenes of a Failed Embryo Transfer Cycle


So, what happens in the body and mind of a woman going through an embryo transfer cycle?  It seems simple…

  1. Give woman hormones
  2. Insert embryo
  3. Wait 9 months
  4. Have baby

For the more than 4 step process, read on to see what happened physically, mentally and emotionally on my recent embryo transfer cycle…

I plan ahead with work.  I inform my manager of the upcoming cycle in order to coordinate around doctor appointments and transfer day and to ensure my stress level and workload is manageable.  I bravely confide in a couple of co-workers so that they’ll understand why I’m taking on less work for the next month. Mission accomplished. I get ahead on house projects and any heavy lifting.  For the past several months, I’ve cleaned out the garage and completed some major junk removal and re-organization. We even re-painted a bedroom. Mission accomplished.

Cycle Day 1:  Appointment at the clinic for uterine lining, ovary check and blood work.
March 23, 2018.  It was the 5 year anniversary of my first pregnancy loss.  A significant, traumatic and horrific experience. The memories are fresh and clear on this day, which I’m reliving on my drive to the doctor appointment to embark on a new cycle.  In the waiting room, I’m a ball of nerves. I’m conflicted on whether or not I can handle moving forward with this again. But I’ll push through it. I write a post on a private infertility support group page,

“Today is the 5 year anniversary of losing my baby Jaxon.  And here I am in the waiting room, sitting here with cramps and frustrated at the timing of my period messing with my plans to go out of town today in an attempt to celebrate my birthday.  I’ll be turning 44 and today starts a new FET cycle. Sometimes I can’t figure out how or why I got here. Struggling to stay positive today but the memories have been flooding back this month and especially this week.”


I try to tell those involved with my appointment that I’m hoping to get through this quickly as I was supposed to go out of town that morning for a weekend getaway (hoping that would get me out of there quicker).  No luck. But I did it. I survived the appointment with a heart full of painful memories and a fake smile on my face.

I get in the car and a song with the lyrics “one foot in front of the other” starts playing.  I think to myself, how fitting… Yes, one step at a time, I can do this again. The next song plays, “sometimes I feel like giving up but I just can’t, it isn’t in my blood.”  The tears start running down my face. Now I feel my Dad’s presence. Not giving up is who we are, it’s in my family. It is in me. The very next song, “I do whatever it takes.”  I’ve heard the message, loud and clear. This experience has convinced me that my Dad is there with me supporting me through this again. I can do this. 


That afternoon we drive out to our AirBnB for a relaxing weekend.  But I can’t shake the depression from the five year anniversary. I struggle all afternoon.  I struggle to make it through dinner. My husband decided to give me a birthday card and gift that night and I just stare at it like it’s meaningless.  He tried to get me a funny card. I couldn’t laugh.

I start estrogen patches that day and nearly cry as I realize our place for the weekend has a bathtub.  I can’t take a bath. I’m afraid it could impact the patches and effective delivery of estrogen into my body.  I stare at the bathtub. It is mocking me.

Cycle Day 2 and 3:  We go for a hike in a beautiful location.  I’m numb for part of it, cry for part of it.  I try to take photos but I just don’t have it in me to really see the beauty.  The fresh air helps me breathe and I’m thankful for the space, but the sadness still has a hold of me.  I convince my husband that instead of going out to dinner, I want to get food at the local market and eat in our room.  I just want to curl up, drink tea and read a book. I wake up on the morning of my birthday and I don’t feel any better.  I’m flooded with thoughts of my birthday 5 years ago, driving home without my baby.

For the next week, I continue with the estrogen patches and time moves away from painful memories and my mood and energy improves.

Cycle Day 11:  April 2.  I have my next follow up doctor appointment to check the thickness of my uterine lining.  Everything looks good. I get blood work done to check my estrogen and progesterone levels.  They are right where they are supposed to be. We discuss the embryo transfer date and when to start progesterone injections.  The timing is crucial as I’ve tested and retested for the timing of uterine receptivity for an embryo. There’s a 12 hour time-frame we’ve adjusted to hit that window.  The injections will start Wednesday April 4 in the morning, every day for 6 days. The transfer is on the sixth day. We discuss starting Lovenox injections now or if there is a positive pregnancy test result.  We decide to start them on the same day as progesterone. The decision to use Lovenox comes after many, many additional tests and multiple doctor’s opinions. Our best guess is that blood thinners could help prevent miscarriage again.

Cycle Day 13:  April 4.  I start Lovenox and Progesterone injections.    Holy crap, Lovenox injections sting something awful and leave nasty bruises.

Cycle Day 16 and 17:  April 7 and 8.  I start taking other medications – antibiotics and prednisone.  I now suffer insomnia for the next few nights due to the prednisone.

Cylce Day 18 – Embryo transfer day
April 9.  Today is my brother’s birthday.   It’s also a birthday of a very close friend of mine.  It feels meant to be. It’s good luck. I text them both and let me know how I’ll be celebrating their birthdays.  I get in a good workout and a walk with the dog before going to the appointment.

The embryo transfer is done on a full bladder.  That’s really the most difficult part of the procedure.  The catheter makes it’s way through my cervix easily and we watch the ultrasound screen without blinking to see the release of the embryo into my uterus.  I beg that little embryo to attach and become our baby. Today is a good day. Today gives me the chance to become a mother. I’m full of hope.


The 9 day countdown to the pregnancy test:

Day 1 and 2.  April 10-11. The first couple of days are always the best.  It’s too early to to try to guess if I’m having any pregnancy symptoms so I just go about my day and tell my embryo to “stick baby stick”.  But I still have insomnia. As I lay there for several hours in the middle of the night, I reach out to my Dad in my thoughts and ask him to please help me.

Day 3.  April 12.  I experience some mild cramping.  Could this be implantation? The timing makes sense.  Oh please, please, please let it be implantation of the embryo.  It gives me hope.

Day 4.  April 13.  Nothing much to report.  

Day 5.  April 14.  I have a lot of energy, I’m feeling good and hopeful, and noticing subtle changes.  Is it the hormones? Could I be pregnant? I ask myself these two questions a million times each cycle.  It’s hard to tell the difference between side effects from the hormones and actual pregnancy. But today is a great distraction.  I have a wonderful spring day with my Mom, visiting a botanical garden and a goat farm. While taking selfies in the garden, I wonder if I’ll get to look back on the photo later and say to myself, “I was pregnant that day”.


Day 6.  April 15.  I start to feel pregnancy drowsiness.  Is it all in my head? I start to feel breast tenderness which steadily increases until Day 9.  

Day 7 and 8.  April 16-17. The fatigue increases, and I start to feel some nausea and those feelings increase the following day.  I get some mild cramping again. I beg the universe to please let me be pregnant. I’ve been pregnant three other times and this feels like the real deal.  The symptoms are stronger with pregnancy than just with the medications. I debate with myself if I could be making it all up in my head. I think I’m losing my mind.  I spend hours contemplated doing a home pregnancy test that evening. But what if I’m wrong? I want to feel pregnant at least one more day. I don’t want to lose hope yet.  I’m too afraid to to test. All night I dream about pregnancy tests and cycle through thoughts of what if I’m pregnant? What if I’m not?

Day 9.  April 18.  Test day. The anxiety is at it’s highest.  I feel sick with the unknown of positive or negative.  I wake up before my alarm and sneak into the bathroom to take a home pregnancy test.  I know waiting for blood test results will take all day. So, I just do it. Without telling my husband, thinking this could be that chance to surprise him.  I have to be pregnant. How could I feel so many symptoms and not be pregnant? I stare at the test, and the one pink line quickly shows up. I stare at it, willing the second line to fill in pink.  And I wait. It doesn’t come. I wait. It doesn’t come. I stare at it in disbelief. Then the tears come. It is over. AGAIN. And now I have to tell my husband the bad news. I still have to drive 45 minutes to the clinic to get my blood drawn.  How do I get there, keep myself from crying, make small talk at the front desk, sit in the waiting room, and try to act normal in front of the phlebotomist? I hate this. I hate every second of this. I pull myself together and take a shower and get dressed.  My husband is worried about me making the drive while I’m distressed. But I do it. I drive all that way. I smile at the woman at the front desk, I sit in the waiting room for 20 minutes not crying. I pretend I’m not falling apart into a million pieces in front of the phlebotomist, I drive home…and wait for the dreaded phone call confirming my disappointment.  The nurse calls in the afternoon and tells me what I already know, but wishing I had been wrong. I can’t stop crying while she tells me the results. All day I’m faced with the realization that everything that gave me hope is also now gone. The music that played on the radio that made me feel like my Dad was there. The song that told me, “I can’t give up, it isn’t in my blood” that played every time I got in the car on the way to or from one of these appointments leading up to this day.  The photo of our little embryo that I put up on my desk at home. The date of the embryo transfer that I thought was filled with luck since it fell on the birthday of my brother and very close friend. I think about how hard I’ve worked on my diet, my exercise, and getting things done around the house just in case I got pregnant. Everything that felt like it was meant to be this time around just vanishes. And now I’m left with that grief too.


April 19.  The day after the negative test result…
My stomach is battered and bruised and tender from Lovenox injections.  My glutes are hard and swollen from progesterone injections. The skin on my belly is irritated from the adhesive of the estrogen patches.  I’m exhausted from crying and from the hormones and from crushed dreams. But I have to go to work. My stomach is in knots as I fake my way through the day, portraying a woman who has her shit together.  But I feel like I’m dying on the inside. But I can’t say anything to anyone or I will cry. I keep feeling nauseous and my breasts hurt. I feel pregnant. But I’m not. I realize today is the two year anniversary of losing our third pregnancy (twins).  The cycle has ended but the tears won’t stop.


Photos by CJE

My Story-Pregnancy Loss Journey

be brave

Today my story about Jaxon and my second trimester pregnancy loss is featured on pregnancylossjourney.com.

The timing seems fitting as today is my three year anniversary of starting my blog, 31chances.  On November 22, 2014, I was recovering from a D&C two days prior from my second loss where I had been pregnant with twin girls.  I remember sitting on the couch on Thanksgiving morning with the dog snuggled by me and I started writing.  There was so much grief and so many painful memories haunting me every day.  I had to find a place for all my pain to go and I let it come out through my finger tips onto a key board.  It’s not easy to share this story, but I’ve learned that by being brave and sharing my story, it makes others brave too.

Here’s my story – Pregnancy Loss at 15 weeks.
My baby Jaxon – I Remember you Everyday

Photo 1 sunrise waves

The trouble with pregnancy loss is that the grief and memories of it never really go away. It isn’t a short-lived, painful event that can be dismissed with the words “pregnancy loss” or miscarriage” with an assumption that recovery occurs when the event is over. It is the death of a baby and the sudden un-doing of hopes and dreams for that child. And it is the sudden realization that the love that came so quickly and grew so huge, now has nowhere to go in the confusion of heartache, grief and very likely depression. Sometimes the pain fades to a softer grief when we allow time and healing to take over. Sometimes the trauma gets stuck and comes back to visit on important dates, or when we are reminded by the weather, or a smell, or a word, or a name, or a place, or a walk through Target’s baby section, or a pregnancy announcement, or a baby shower invitation, or a song, or a butterfly, or maybe even in a moment of silence it all comes crashing down.

I remember all the time. I remember every day that I made a baby named Jaxon.

My husband and I went through our first round of IVF in December 2012, three months after we were married. We found out soon after the holidays that we were pregnant. It worked! Could we really be this lucky? Our first try? We were so grateful and a bit terrified. At 38 years old, I had waited long enough. I was finally going to be a Mom.

Every time we had an ultrasound and got to see the heartbeat we were just so in love. My favorite memory was an ultrasound at nearly 12 weeks where we got to see so much detail of our growing baby and his cute little movements. He was perfect.

Photo 2 ultrasound

At about 13 weeks we announced our pregnancy to everyone. EVERYONE. How quickly we spread the news and happiness to all those nearest and dearest to us.

photo 3 baby announcement

However, the joy of sharing the news and the relief of transitioning to my second trimester of pregnancy was so cruelly short-lived. I started having problems right after 13 weeks and by 15 weeks he was gone.  We lost Jaxon on March 23, 2013, two days before my 39th birthday.

About a week or two before losing Jaxon, it all started with sudden bleeding. Very, very heavy bleeding. It was terrifying and there I was alone in a bathroom stall at work and I could not understand what could possibly be happening. When I was able to get myself together, I called my husband and I called the doctor’s office. After going over all of my symptoms over the phone with the nurse, she thought it might be a subchorionic hematoma.   What the heck is that? What does this mean? Will my baby be ok? An ultrasound later that day revealed a healthy baby but we could also see the source of the bleeding and the nurse was right. It was a subchorionic hematoma. We could see a large dark spot in the ultrasound next to the placenta where the bleeding and clotting was taking place. I was told that this is not that uncommon in pregnancy and usually they heal on their own without impacting the pregnancy. I was sent home and instructed to take it easy and that it should heal in 2-3 weeks. For a couple of days, it seemed like my body was healing and the bleeding seemed to be slowing down. I was hopeful that I was on the mend. I remember very distinctly on that Wednesday, just a few days before this all came to a crashing end, that I had an appointment with my OB. It was great timing, as I really wanted the check-in and hopefully reassurance that the baby was going to be ok.  By the time I had the appointment I was experiencing a stronger, burning pain throughout my uterus but the doctor did not seem too concerned. She did not do an ultrasound but listened to the heartbeat and the sound, as usual, was lovely to hear. But that night, things took a turn for the worse. I can remember it so clearly because I was in so much pain. I’ve never been so incapacitated by pain before. I could not move and I could not get out of bed. I knew I could not walk. There was pain pulsing through my lower back and lower abdomen. It was terrifying. In hindsight, I should have gone to the hospital with that much pain. But having never been through anything like this, my instinct was to wait it out at home. I just couldn’t let myself think it was getting worse and if I went to a hospital I would have to admit to myself it was getting worse. But I did wait it out and the pain did subside. I thought I was in the clear. By Thursday night, I was experiencing pain again. Not as severe, but it was bad enough that I couldn’t sleep through it.

This lead up to some wonderful birthday plans for my 39th birthday. My husband and I had planned a weekend get-away for just the two of us at a Bed and Breakfast about 2 hours away from home. I felt well enough Friday to get packed and ready to go and we decided to go forward and enjoy our weekend. I figured as long as we were taking it easy and just relaxing, everything would be fine. We enjoyed our drive along the coast and made some fun stops along the way to check out some produce stands, and jam and candy stores and take some photos.

At the Bed and Breakfast, my husband surprised me with a birthday balloon and flower bouquet. We were off to a great start and I had a lot to look forward to on Saturday where we had plans for a massage and dinner at a fancy, ooh la la restaurant.

That Friday night we went out to dinner but then I noticed I was getting increasingly uncomfortable and the pain in my lower abdomen was building. We had to leave dinner early and head back to our B&B. I was in quite a bit of pain on and off throughout the night and by 6am, the pain was so out of control, I had to wake up my husband to take me to the hospital. I was scared and confused and the pain was so severe I could not stand up straight. I remember, it was so hard to move, to get dressed, to think. We were very lucky that the hospital was just a few minutes away from where we were staying and when we got to the emergency room, it was rather quiet and we were seen right away. However, we were seen by someone who was not an OB or pregnancy specialist and he was at the end of a very long night shift. He did not seem to be thinking too clearly at this point either, so that made our experience even more confusing. They gave me an IV of Tylenol. I told them it was not helping; I was still just in too much pain. They finally gave me morphine. The doctor wheeled over the ultrasound equipment and we quickly could see the baby. In that instant of seeing my baby moving and still alive, I was so relieved, but in a split second I was horrified and had to look away because he seemed to be frantically moving, like he was being pushed and bounced around almost violently. I will never forget that image. It haunts me to this day. The OB specialist was on-call and we had to wait for her to arrive. In the meantime I was asked all kinds of questions, had blood drawn and urine tested and we waited…and waited…and waited. Finally, several hours later the on-call OB arrived. And she was very sweet and helped calm my nerves. She checked my cervix and thankfully it had not dilated. The pain was under control due to the morphine. But what did this all mean? She did not have an exact answer but the diagnosis was “threatened miscarriage.” She encouraged us to go back to our B&B to rest, as recovery outside of a hospital setting is so much less stressful. We left with a prescription for pain medication and we were on our way. But I was exhausted and I knew this birthday weekend was over. No massage, no fancy dinner, no celebrating. I would be in bed until we felt like it was safe to drive home. And I did not yet have a feeling for when that would be. But I knew driving all the way back home was not safe at that moment. While my husband was out picking up the prescription, I could feel the pain coming back. I was there alone at the B&B in bed and scared again.

When I think back on this week and all the pain I was in, I know that at the end I was experiencing contractions. But it had been too early in the pregnancy to have gone to any Lamaze classes, or to have gained any understanding on what to expect during childbirth. I was lying in that bed realizing that the cycling pain must be contractions but I tried so hard not to believe it. I tried to will them to stop. I had to find a way to save my baby. I was there in that bed for so long hoping and wishing that it would pass and everything would be fine. But late that night the pain suddenly worsened and I had to go back to the hospital. My husband had fallen asleep so I had to wake him up which felt like an impossible task while in that state of pain. Once he was awake, I had to somehow get up again, but it was so hard to do. And I recall that in my husband’s state of panic, he kept saying things that seemed so irrational and unimportant to me. Saying things like “make sure to grab your jewelry” and “put your shoes on”. It even seemed unreasonable that I should have to get dressed. I literally needed someone to carry me. I could not physically function on my own. Nothing was important to me at that moment, other than to just get to the hospital. The pain washed over me so violently and I had no control. I vomited from the pain. Somehow my husband was able to get me out to the car. Those few minutes in the car were excruciating. My body did not want to be in a seated position. While in the car as we approached the hospital, I could actually feel my cervix opening. I knew I was going to lose the baby, but I could not bring myself to speak the words. Not even to warn my husband.

This time the emergency room was packed with people. While trying to get admitted, I was in so much pain, I could not speak. I was crying and moaning and had to point at the picture chart of how much pain I was in. As I pointed to the grimacing face #10 on the pain scale chart, I knew it was way beyond 10 but I had no words to explain. They put me in a wheelchair but they did not take us back to a room right away. So, I was stuck in that chair in the waiting room. I remember thinking how badly I needed to tell someone I couldn’t sit there. It was too painful, but I couldn’t speak. We had to sit there in the waiting room while I was crying and at this point screaming in pain. Everyone was staring at us. It was humiliating. I was terrified. My husband called my mom to let her know we were back in the hospital and all I could think of was, “get off the phone, I don’t want her to hear me in pain like this.” The contractions were so strong and I felt them switch from a cycle to a constant stream of excruciating torture. Finally, they took us to a private room and got me into a bed and undressed. They gave me morphine. We were there about 15 minutes. We were alone in the room. And I lost the baby. I don’t think my husband could have comprehended that losing the baby would actually happen. He was shocked and horrified when we did. While I felt everything, he saw everything. All I saw were the lights in the ceiling. I couldn’t allow myself to do anything other than to stare up. I didn’t want to see what had happened. But he did. He saw all the blood and he saw the baby. He ran to get help. But now it was over. He was so scared and he thought I was bleeding too much. He kept checking my pulse. I couldn’t feel anything anymore, other than continued contractions that would not stop but were a bit muted by the morphine. I couldn’t feel any emotions. I was alert and awake but everything went blank. Looking back at this moment, I couldn’t understand why we didn’t have any help. There was nobody there explaining to us what was happening. There was nobody there trying to help me breathe through the pain. There was nobody there to make sure we could put him in a baby blanket or put a little bitty hat on him. Nurses swiftly and briefly moved in and out of the room and all the while my baby was stuck with the placenta between my legs, again waiting for the on-call OB to arrive. My only thoughts were how I failed my baby and I couldn’t even hold him.

When the OB arrived, it turned out to be the same doctor from the morning. She was so sorry to see us there again. Finally, she was able to take the baby and clean him up. She gave him to us and I held him as long as I could. At the end of it all, with only a few ounces of perfection resting on my chest, I have never felt anything heavier sinking so deeply into my heart. The most precious, beautiful face I had ever seen. A cute little button nose and the littlest fingers and toes. And while my mind was still in shock in that horrific moment, I knew I had been given the biggest love I had ever known, and we named our son Jaxon Alan.

At some point later, a nurse came in to take Jaxon away. It was at that moment of him leaving my arms that I felt everything again. Every emotion. Deep grief, heartbreak, and gut-wrenching loss. This sweet little bundle was everything that mattered to me in this world and he was simply stripped away from me. This can’t be happening. My baby was gone. My mind could not accept this was happening and I screamed for him and reached my hands out for him. In that moment of horrific loss and realization that my baby was gone forever, I was forced to realize I had to have surgery. My body would not pass the placenta, so I had to have a D&C. I remember feeling relieved right before falling asleep in the operating room that the contractions and physical pain were finally put to an end.  But soon enough I was awake again and afraid to fall asleep in the hospital bed. I knew that every time I woke up during the night I would have to realize over and over again in the dark that my baby was gone. I would wake up and see the shape of my husband illuminated by hospital equipment, lying in the cot across from me and feel his heart breaking too. And in the morning when it was light again, I was so struck and saddened by the feeling of my shrunken belly. There are no words to describe that kind of emptiness. I still couldn’t quite comprehend or believe what had just happened. But there was no time for that…there were too many questions to answer…

What should we do with Jaxon?
What do you want to do with his remains?
Can you go to the bathroom?
Do you want to have him cremated?
What funeral home should we work with?
Do you want to eat something?
Are you thirsty?
Will someone from the funeral home be able to drive to the hospital to pick up the baby?
Are you ready to get dressed?
Do you want him cremated alone or with other babies?
Do you want to talk to the hospital chaplain?
Would you like to take this book about miscarriage home with you?

My husband had gathered all the information that morning while I was resting but we had to act quickly before a decision was made for us. How are you supposed to make these decisions when you are still in such a state of shock and confusion? We wanted our baby and we wanted to be able to have him cremated. But before leaving, my husband had to contact one of our local funeral homes to find out if they could actually drive to this hospital (2 hours away) and pick him up.  Thankfully they were able to do this for us.

The caretakers at the B&B packed up all of our belongings for us. My husband went back and picked up everything while I was still at the hospital. When he came back to get me, he let go of my birthday balloons and watched them float away as a gift to Jaxon.

The drive home was unbearable. How do I go home without my baby?

A few months later we were able to pick up his ashes. It was a heartbreaking yet calming experience. The man that we had worked with from the funeral home was named Alan. Which instantly gave me some peace, as that was my Dad’s name. Alan. And everyone called my Dad, Al. And we had named our son Jaxon Alan. We met Alan, the funeral director outside of a service that was just beginning. As my husband and I walked up to him, someone else was walking up to another man, saying “Hi Al.” I felt like I was surrounded by “Al” as the sound of his name hit me from all directions. I felt my Dad’s spirit washing over us right at the moment we were handed our son’s ashes. I couldn’t bring myself to share this realization out loud to my husband until we had been sitting in the car for a while together. But as soon as I started to tell him with tears in my eyes, he said, “Yes, I know, I heard it too.”

My husband and I decided to spread Jaxon’s ashes in the ocean near our home. I was out for a walk one evening and decided to take a short detour off of my normal route. It was there I discovered a giant rock with the number 13 painted on it right by the water. And I realized this was the place we needed to spread his ashes. My husband has a birthday on the 13th. Jaxon was supposed to be born on September 13, 2013. The number 13 just jumped out at me. So this was the place.  It just felt right.

photo 4 rock 13

We decided to pick a song to play when we spread his ashes.   There was a song that repeatedly played on the radio that summer and although we had not yet shared this with each other, it turned out both of us thought of Jaxon every time we heard it. It was “Gone, Gone, Gone” by Phillip Phillips. Still to this day, I cry every time I hear that song. My husband and I climbed up on the rocks and we waited for the best wave to come up and help take his ashes away. And it was all so perfectly timed with the water and the words in the song. So perfect in fact, that we felt our baby with us so strongly in that moment. After we let him go, we just stood there on the rocks holding each other.

It’s been over four years since we lost Jaxon, and I remember him everyday. His life was brief, but my love for him will last forever.

Please join me on instagram for support through pregnancy loss @mamalookup

Mama Look Up


After years of struggling with infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss, I’ve been looking for a way to help others in their journey.  I am hoping that I can share my sympathy and compassion for those grieving through this process and the loss of pregnancies.  I decided to share my photography and words of encouragement and support in the form of cards.  My inspiration also comes from the heartache and grief that I experience every Mother’s Day, wishing for acknowledgement of my babies lost and a desire to not feel so alone in my experience of motherhood without my children here with me.  How do you get a Mother’s Day card for someone like me?  Well, I decided to make them so hopefully someone out there who really needs to be seen as a Mother and needs her baby to be remembered on Mother’s Day will get a card and feel less isolated and heartbroken.

I invite you to follow me on my new Instagram account for my Etsy shop (@mamalookup) and to browse through my cards on Etsy, Mama Look Up.  Please also check out the other tab on my blog, “Mama Look Up”.

Love is an Ocean and other Pretty Things

It hasn’t been an easy couple of months.  My embryo transfer cycle brought a lot of traumatic  memories to the surface and created anxiety at a much higher level than I expected. My husband was out of town quite a bit which meant I had to do many of my IM injections on my own.  My nurse drew a target on my booty to help me hit the right spot.  (Pardon the messy room in the photo)

Ultimately, this cycle ended in bad news…a negative pregnancy test.  I couldn’t bring myself to write about it until now and it took me a couple weeks to talk to my doctor.  Sadly, this bad news lead right into the four year anniversary of losing Jaxon (our first loss at 15 weeks) and I struggled emotionally right up to that date (March 23).  I took a walk that day where I discovered the sign above, “love is an ocean”.  Whoever placed it here has no idea how much love is here.  This is where we spread Jaxon’s ashes.  I took the photo two days later on my birthday.

My husband gave me this necklace for my birthday.  He said it represents our home by the ocean but more importantly is a symbol for Jaxon at the center where my birthstone in aquamarine is placed.  That was the first time I thought about sharing my birthstone with Jaxon and it gave me a sense of peace.  This necklace brought a lot of love to me on my birthday.  “Love is an ocean” is what I now carry around my neck and close to my heart.

I wanted to be around something beautiful for my birthday.  My husband and I went with some friends to a botanical garden.  Tulips ruled the land and the colors painted our day, leaving everyone with smiles…and a peacock to bid us farewell.  

Out of the Darkness, the Light of an Angel


There have now been many times in my life that I reflect on as my darkest hour.  Not just one.  Many.  Many, many hours of darkness.  Every pregnancy loss, every failed embryo transfer, the death of a loved one.  My third pregnancy loss left me feeling empty and hopeless like I was living in a blank space for a while.  Yet somehow as I crawl or walk or fall down or stumble through the periods of grief, trauma and pain that turn life colorless and dark, there is someone there reaching out a hand and bringing the light back.  I’ve worked very hard since my third pregnancy loss to make my world colorful and bright again.  But it wouldn’t be the same beautiful place without the gifts of light coming to me from my friends, my family and my husband.  This experience with infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss has created new relationships.  Bonds created easily through similar experiences of loss and struggles to make a baby.  The online support group I joined (that I now consider a miraculous discovery) has brought some amazing women into my life.  One of whom reached out to me after my last miscarriage and sent me an open invitation to her home…whenever I was ready…whenever I needed to get away…whenever I just needed some girl time and a break from my life.  It took me about 4 months to take her up on that offer.

A couple weeks ago I flew to LA and there she was – my new friend, my sister in this journey, an open heart and an open hand.  A woman full of words of hope and support and encouragement.  A woman full of hugs that would carry me through another embryo transfer cycle and another set of holidays without a baby in my arms.  A woman who knew my pain and shared in it so deeply, her eyes would tear up when she talked to me about what I had been through.  A woman full of so much generosity and sincerity, she warmed my heart and re-filled my soul with her kindness and optimism.

There she was – The light in the darkness – An angel reaching out to me and her name is Carolina.





I captured this photo at the beginning of this year.  Thinking I was just trying to capture the moon, I somehow ended up with the image of an Angel.  The moon is her heart.  I can see her wings.  The light of our babies’ souls being held in her hands, preparing them to be angels too.

Everyone wants to be the sun to lighten up someone’s life,

but why not be the moon,

to brighten in the darkest hour.

Unlocking the Mystery of Miscarriage


For those of us who have suffered through miscarriage, one of the most difficult aspects to emotional recovery and trying to find peace after enduring the grieving process is that we can be left in a constant search for Why.  Quite often miscarriage is simply unfair and unexplainable, leaving us with a dangerous mind game of blaming ourselves…

  • I had some decaf coffee.  How much caffeine is in a decaf coffee?  What was I thinking?
  • I ate gluten, wait maybe I should be eating gluten.
  • I ate some chocolate, OMG I need to cut back on sugar.  Ooh, is that a cupcake?  Damn, this is all my fault.
  • I got in a fight with my husband and got really stressed out.  We got in another fight and I was crying too much.  I stressed out my body, it’s my fault.
  • I had a rough week at work and I was totally exhausted.  It’s my fault because I didn’t put myself on bed rest for the first 6 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Maybe I exercised too much
  • I didn’t exercise enough
  • I didn’t get enough sleep
  • I’m sleeping too much
  • I’m overweight and my BMI is too high
  • I had an herbal tea.  Oh shit, what herbs were in that tea?
  • My fears and anxiety over pregnancy caused me to lose the baby
  • God is punishing me
  • I didn’t love the baby enough
  • I should have been eating flax seed crackers instead of graham crackers
  • My uterus is uninhabitable, or tilted, or shaped funny.  Wait, what size and shape is my uterus supposed to be?
  • Does my cervix know what it’s supposed to do?  Is it incompetent?  Is it confused?
  • Oh crap, was I drinking out of a water bottle that wasn’t BPA free?
  • I ate some meat that wasn’t organic and grass fed.

If you’ve been through this, you know that the list can go on and on.  No matter how many doctors tell you it’s not your fault, when left with no medical reasons, our devotion to the role of motherhood can cause us to carry blame for the sake of protecting and mothering the baby that we lost.

For quick reference, here’s a good read on the top reasons for miscarriage:

Reasons for Miscarriage

When I had my first miscarriage, I recall my OB/GYN saying that it was horribly bad luck.  It was like a lightning strike. (The first loss was due to a subchorionic hemorrhage at 15 weeks).  After my second loss, again it appeared to be bad luck.  I had become pregnant with identical twins following the transfer of one embryo.  It was perhaps the result of them competing against each other and I lost them around 9 weeks.  The third was twins again, following the transfer of two embryos.  I lost this pregnancy around 9 weeks and we were left with a mystery, confusion and hopelessness.  Testing was completed for all three losses and each one found to be genetically normal.  Is there something linking all three of these losses?  Something not yet detected?  Can it just be random bad luck three pregnancies in a row?  Or does each one have a different reason lingering behind the loss?

My husband and I were at a loss.  My OB/GYN was at a loss.  My fertility specialist was left speechless.  All of us shocked, hurt and not sure what to do next.  Following my third miscarriage, we were referred to a recurrent pregnancy loss specialist at Stanford Fertility and Reproductive Health.  What follows is a list of tests that I’ve been through following each miscarriage in case it is helpful to those of you in a similar situation.

Miscarriage 1:

Miscarriage 2:

No additional testing

Miscarriage 3:

  • Hysteroscopy
  • Comprehensive metabolic panel
  • C-reactive protein
  • Anti TPO Antibody
  • TSH (again)
  • Hemoglobin A1C
  • CBC
  • Antiphospholipid Antibody Expanded Panel (includes the following)-See link below for article on Antiphospholipid Syndrome (APS):
    • Lupus Anticoagulant
    • Anticardiolipin
    • AntiB2glycoprotein 1
    • Antiphosphatidyl ethanolamine
    • Antiphosphatidyl serine
    • Antiphosphatidic acid
    • Antiphosphatidyl glycerol
    • Antiphosphatidyl inositol

Out of all of these blood tests, did we find an answer?  Have we unlocked the mystery of my miscarriages?  Well, kind of, maybe…we have a clue but it could be inconclusive…but it’s a good enough clue to act on it.  The good news is that after all these tests, I know that I’m not diabetic, I don’t have an autoimmune disease, or thyroid problem and my uterus is in great shape!

While the results from these tests did not give a medical textbook answer, we did find a combination of things that could mean something and this came out of the Antiphospholipid Antibody Expanded Panel.  One of these (Antiphosphatidyl-inositol IgG) gave a result as “indeterminate” rather than negative.  You’ll notice in these lists of tests that there are several that relate to blood clotting factors.  During pregnancy, the blood thickens and changes in other ways that I won’t try to explain because I’m not an expert but this is all important in relation to blood supply to the placenta and survival of the fetus.  In my case, the combination of this indeterminate result with the timing of my miscarriages (15 weeks and 9 weeks) and the fact that all were genetically normal puts me in a possible diagnosis of Antiphospholipid Syndrome (APS).  While this is not exact evidence of APS, there is enough reason to believe that I could try to become pregnant again with the treatment of Heparin and baby aspirin daily during pregnancy.  For details on APS, check out this informative article

The investigative work is not yet quite over.  I’m still going to be meeting with a perinatal specialist to go over all of this as well, but I have a feeling we won’t get much more information than we have now.  From there, this big question will continue to linger…can I mentally, physically and emotionally hold up for another try?



Since I took the time to look up my tests, here’s a list of testing done for IVF and FETs:


  • Prolactin
  • TSH (repeated approximately yearly)
  • FSH (day 3)
  • E2, Pre-Cycle (day 3)
  • Anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH)
  • 17-alpha-Hydroxyprogesterone LCMS
  • FSH (day 3) repeated 2 months later
  • E2, Pre-Cycle (day 3) repeated 2 months later
  • Tested for various STDs
  • RPR/VDRL-Rapid Plasma Reagin, Qual
  • CBC (repeated throughout process of FET’s)
  • Blood typing, RH Type
  • Vitamin D (repeated throughout process of FET’s)
  • Cystic Fibrosis Profile
  • Anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH) tested again

IVF cycle and FET cycles:

  • Follicular ultrasounds (repeated through cycle)
  • Estradiol (repeated through cycle)
  • Progesterone

Photo by CJE

A Blessing for Mamas


Mother’s Day was hard.  No words would come to me.  I couldn’t think of anything to write in my blog.  My thoughts and pain were stuck in my head and in my heart.  The day felt like a complete disappointment.  I thought about my Mom and how much I love her.  I’m so grateful for the life she has given me and what she continues to give every day of my life. And I’m thankful that she is just a phone call away.  I wished her a Happy Mother’s Day, but I couldn’t hide the sadness that had settled behind my voice.  The heartache of my losses beat me up yesterday and overpowered the love and appreciation I have for all the Moms in my life.   In the jumble of thoughts and emotions stuck in my brain yesterday, there was one thing that I kept hearing in my head over and over and over again throughout the day.  

A Blessing for Mamas

Late last night I couldn’t sleep and the words came out and I started writing.  One day late for Mother’s Day, I share this with you because it wasn’t just a hard day for me.  I know for many of you, it was a tough day too.

A blessing for mamas whose babies are here
They grow, they love, and they learn with you near.
They roll, they crawl, they walk and they run
Play chase, tumble and sing and have fun.
They stumble and trip and cry and throw fits
But you hold them and squeeze them and love them to bits.
First smile, first word, first step, and first giggle
She runs to your arms with love and a wiggle.
Your heart beats for her, a soul meant to be
A mama like you, I’d be proud if it’s me.

A blessing for mamas whose babies were gifted
A heart broken down now suddenly lifted.
A woman let go and now he is placed
In the warm, open arms of your soft embrace.
The long wait is over and in his eyes you know
This little one is mine; the love will blossom and grow.
Miracles do happen, do not overlook them
Your faith lead you here and you get to keep him.
Your heart beats for him, a soul meant to be
A mama like you, I’d be proud if it’s me.

A blessing for mamas whose babies were taken
Your world was shattered, shredded and shaken.
Your angel in heaven; she guides you with love
She sees every tear, and watches from above.
Your arms are empty, no baby to hold
Don’t live in silence, your story must be told.
Let your pain be replaced over time with her light
An angel you made; your life worth the fight.
Your heart beats for her, a soul meant to be
A mama like you, I’d be proud if it’s me.

A blessing for mama who’s waiting; why me?
Your faith and sweet hope given so openly.
There’s no answers, no timeline, no promise or end
You are stuck in the middle knowing fate might not bend.
There are doctors and needles and so many tests
What will it take to fill up my nest?
Your heart, your marriage, your life feels broken
What do you do when no answers are spoken?
Your heart beats for him, a soul still to be
A mama like you, I’d be proud if it’s me.


Poem and Photo by CJE, 31chances.com

The Unopened Gift

Blog_the unopened gift 042516

Trigger warning:  This post is about pregnancy loss

Last Tuesday we went to what was supposed to be our “graduation day” from our fertility center.  It was our 10 week ultrasound, one day early.  I brought a gift for my doctor.  I had framed the photo for him from  “One Little White Light”  as it was such a symbol of hope for all of us in the room.  With high anticipation and holding our breath, we looked for the baby.  But to our complete shock, there was no heartbeat.  Again, our happiness crashing down around us in an instant.  Darkness invading my mind.  My heart breaking into a million pieces.  Tears streaming.  Shock.  It’s not possible.  This can’t be happening. I can’t do this again.  I can’t do this again.  I can’t do this again.

I was two days away from celebrating my last intra-muscular injection.  I was in so much pain from those injections and was so close to this milestone.  I had been counting down the days for the past two weeks, willing myself to get through each one, knowing it was best for the pregnancy.  And then suddenly there was nothing to celebrate.  Coming home from the doctor appointment, I had the gift bag in my hand and there is no one to give it to and there is no longer a reason to open it.  What do I do with it?

And so it begins… the un-doing of a pregnancy and the dreams that came with it.  I have to tell my friends and family that know I’m pregnant.  Canceling doctor appointments, figuring out how to write the email to my work to let them know I won’t be back for awhile.  Phone calls with my OB, a grueling confirmatory ultrasound, and calls with the hospital to schedule and prep for another D&C.  Fighting the agony that comes from every image and thought that I’ve had in my head over the past 6 weeks since we got the positive pregnancy test.  Realizing my morning sickness is quickly disappearing and fully aware that the hormonal changes coming my way are going to feel like crap.  Watching my husband grieve but I can’t help him because I’m in too much pain and I can’t stop crying for hours and hours and hours.  Letting go of how happy I felt every day waking up pregnant.  Now faced with the fear of waking up in the night forced to realize that my baby is gone.

I had become so attached to an online support group for women who had become pregnant after their long time struggles with infertility.  In the six weeks I was with the group, I had seen several babies born and several more were very close to coming into this world.  There was a list of due dates going into December.  There must have been at least 30 of us, with mine listed as November 16.   November 16.  Another date to add to my list of haunting dates.  I had become attached to their stories, their daily posts about food cravings and appreciated discomforts, and birthing plans, and what to put on a registry, and photos of nurseries, and photos of newborns and simply the unwritten word that we all just understood each other…And I had to say goodbye.

In the doctor’s office after getting the news, my husband and I were left alone for awhile to deal with our new reality.  I kept telling him, “I don’t want to go back, I don’t want to go back to the way it was before.”  I had crossed the line from infertility and TTC to Babyland.  I loved it here in Babyland.  I did not want to go back to the stories of struggles and pain and suffering and what if’s and waiting and loss and heartbreak.  I didn’t want to go back.  Please don’t make me go back.

The framed photo I brought for my doctor was now an image that tore through my heart like the most cruel joke that could be played on me.  I had wanted to hang that photo in our nursery.  That day on the beach…it was our beautiful gift.  Now, never to be opened.


One Little White Light

It seems that at this point I should have lost count, but I can’t because I know how many I have lost.   I try to let the numbers and dates stay blurry, but I know how old my first baby should be. He should be 2 and a half. I purposely try not to remember the due date of the twins. But I can still see their heartbeats. There are six other embryos that disappeared somewhere in between the transfer to my body and the pregnancy test. On Monday, I had my ninth embryo transfer. Two more embryos.

On Monday morning before the transfer, I went for a walk with my dog. I had a choice to go left or right on the trail and decided to go right. We ended up near a beach where she loves to play catch but we didn’t have time for that…but she pulled me out to the beach anyway, looking back at me expectantly with a huge wide smile and tongue hanging out. The beach was empty except for the stroller in this photo. For a second I thought, well maybe my baby is right there waiting for me! Well, no that wasn’t the case, but I tried to view this as a hopeful moment. Somehow, maybe this is a sign. My babies that are watching over me and the baby that is still to be is here with me in this moment. A moment to give me courage to try again. To wait those nine hopeful, yet agonizing days again waiting for the pregnancy test.

stroller on the beach


The sun was blinding me, but I snapped a photo anyway, not quite sure what I would end up with. I wanted to be reminded of the stroller that was in my path. As I faced the stroller and the rock wall where we had once stood to spread our baby Jaxon’s ashes, I could feel them all with me.   A little white light ended up in the photo and I choose to see the souls that I love so much in that light.

One little white light, Two embryos, Nine days to wait.  Trying one more time.

2 embryos

GIVE VOICE: #GivingTuesday

Giving Tuesday 2015 Banner

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.