How has Infertility Changed You? Listen Up! #NIAW

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I was asked this question yesterday…

How has infertility changed you and how you live your life?

It stopped me in my tracks. It takes a brave person to ask that question and I think an even braver person to answer it. So, Listen up!

I thought the words would flow from me like a waterfall of knowledge on the topic of infertility and trying to conceive. I feel like an expert with years of experience and I’m practically a walking science experiment for how to make a baby. But instead of words, my heart jumped to the answer before my head could and I responded with tears. Infertility and the winding journey of trying to find my way to baby has been a life altering experience. It has changed me at my core. I view the creation of a baby as a miracle that always feels out of reach. I’ve been teased by this gift of life in my own belly only to have it stripped away from me. Three times. Infertility is not just about finding alternative ways to conceive or finding alternative paths to parenthood. It is a test of will, a test of relationships, a test of stamina and a test of faith. Infertility will school you on courage, bravery and resilience. Infertility strips you of financial freedom, emotional stability, physical strength, and the ability to freely enjoy the sight, sounds and touch of a baby that is not your own. Infertility creates anxiety, exhaustion, anger, blame, grief, fear and trauma. It stops you from attending baby showers, shopping for onesies for a friend, walking through the baby section of department store, or commenting on a pregnancy announcement on social media. And, infertility asks a lot of nagging, annoying, irritating, painful questions…

Do you mind carrying a high credit card debt? How many credit cards do you have? We’ll have to max those out.
Do you have any savings? I’ll need that too.
Would you like to take out a loan?
You don’t really need to drink wine do you?
Can you give up caffeine, just for me?
What do you think of these stirrups? They look comfy right?
Do you want to do IUI or skip it and go straight to IVF?
Do you have good veins? I’m going to need access to those. Think of me as your favorite vampire. It’s going to be that kind of relationship.
What do you think of needles? Do they scare you? You’re gonna have to get over that.
Can I put this ultrasound wand in your vagina? Can I do that another 100 times?
Do you mind adding biohazard containers to your master bedroom décor?
Isn’t pineapple core delicious?
I know you love to drown your sorrows in comfort food, but would you mind giving up gluten?
Would you please lose some weight?
Are you working out?
Would you like to see an ultrasound of your ovaries and uterine lining? I can’t find your left ovary. Where is your left ovary?
Oh, you are looking for a sperm donor and egg donor? What color hair, eyes, height, weight, education, hobbies, religious background and medical history do you want? I’m going to have to ask you about another 50 characteristics so please think this through.
Are you relaxed? You need to relax.
Do you want to meet the egg donor?
Have you considered adoption?
Would you like to work with a surrogate?
Have you met with your doctor, your cycle coordinator, your nurse, your therapist, your acupuncturist, your naturopath, your personal trainer, and your dietician?
Do you do yoga? C’mon, show me some downward dog.
Do you meditate? I think you should meditate.
Do you have a support group? You’re gonna need that too.
What was the date of your last period?
Do you have normal cycles? How many days are your cycles?
How much do you weigh? Have you gained weight recently?
Do you feel like giving up?
Do you hate me? It feels like you hate me.
Do you still love your husband?
Do you still want to have a baby?
Are you sure you want to have a baby? Cause this is just going to keep getting harder.
How many boxes of home pregnancy tests do you have in your bathroom cupboard?
Do you see a second line? I think I see a faint second line. Nope, just kidding, that was just a line of false hope.
Will you give up sugar for me? Pretty please?
Are you still having sex with your husband? How’s your sex life?
I know you just had a miscarriage but do you think you’ll try again? When will that be? The clocks ticking ya know.
OMG, is it your birthday? Are you getting too old for this?
You look bloated, are you bloated? Seriously, you look 4 months pregnant.
This is when you realize infertility can be a total asshole.

But there’s still more…Infertility has made me fear my own birthday, dread another Christmas, made me heartbroken over the photo of a child and an Easter bunny, and has left me lost in tears and depression on Mother’s Day. I have changed my career plans, given up on extravagant vacations, spent thousands of dollars on IVF, donor egg IVF, medications and embryo transfers, and have feared the loss of my marriage. I have said “No” to friends and family so many times because I didn’t have the energy for a fun activity on top of all of my doctor appointments, side effects from hormone injections or emotional exhaustion from another failed cycle or from a miscarriage. I have faced a grief so deep and so intense, I thought it would swallow me whole and never give me back my light. I have hung by my fingertips on the edge of the giving up cliff so many times and have nearly slipped away…but I have learned this…Someone always reaches down for my hands and pulls me back up.

And somehow, hope keeps me standing and love keeps me walking toward my dream. If you keep your eyes open and your heart beating, the journey through infertility happens to be filled with as many gifts as there are pitfalls.

Infertility has convinced me take care of my body and my mind. Infertility has persuaded me to live in the moment. Infertility has taught me to love more deeply, to be vulnerable, and to share my story without fear. Infertility has enabled me to enjoy the small, happy, fleeting moments. Infertility has given me the ability to see beauty everywhere I turn. Infertility has shown me how to have a much deeper compassion for others. Infertility has brought me the most amazing, supportive, loving friendships. Infertility lead me to pregnancy three times and while this left me with a total of five angel babies, it has given me a love so profound that in every challenge and every painful moment, I have this beautiful love that lives within my soul. Infertility has been my teacher to live a full life, to appreciate everything that I have and to never take the miracle of pregnancy for granted. Infertility has changed my life, but made me realize it is not my life. Infertility has altered me, but it has not taken me. Because of infertility, I am beautiful, I am resilient, I am more loving, I am courageous and I am more Me.

Do you have a question? #startasking

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This week is National Infertility Awareness Week #NIAW sponsored by Resolve.org.

I started blogging in November of 2014 as a way to start healing from the loss of my second pregnancy.  Now that I’m immersed in a social media community of those also struggling with infertility as well as recurrent pregnancy loss, it’s great to see all the support out there through blogs, private facebook groups and instagram, among many others.  It’s amazing to me that we are able to connect with each other through common ground, even though we’ve never met in person.  It’s incredibly powerful to read a comment on my blog saying that my writing brought them to tears because they’ve been through it too (thank you so much for that and for the courage to share your heartbreak).  And I’ve read other blogs where every word could have been my own because I’ve been walking the same journey.

This week is a great opportunity for us to come together to share our stories, help each other realize we are not alone in our heartbreak and our struggles and to raise awareness in our communities.  It’s also an opportunity to educate those around us that do not understand what we face through infertility and how we can be better supported.  The theme for NIAW this year is #startasking.

I have several new followers and some that have stuck with me for quite some time now.  To support the theme this year of #startasking, I thought instead of asking my own questions, I’d leave this open to you.  Do you have a question?  I now have nearly 4 years of experience directly dealing with infertility and trying to conceive…so feel free to ask me a question.

If you leave a question for me in the comments, I will collect all questions and answer them to the best of my ability on an upcoming blog post.  My answers will be based on my own personal experience (not medical advice) and I can respond to the following topics:

  • IVF
  • Embryo Transfer (fresh and frozen) and personal medical protocol (injections)
  • Donor egg IVF
  • Sperm donation
  • Early pregnancy following embryo transfer
  • Miscarriage, pregnancy loss
  • D&C procedure due to pregnancy loss
  • Endometrial biopsy (AKA “scratch test”) to improve stickiness of lining for embryo attachment
  • Grief, loss and recovery (surviving miscarriage, surviving negative pregnancy test after embryo transfers)
  • helping a friend through infertility and/or miscarriage

Are you looking for more connections to help you through your journey?  My favorite place to be is the private facebook group through www.missconceptioncoach.com.  Many of us are already connected here, but if you are new to this journey, it’s a great place to start.  You can request to become part of the group through her website.  I’ve also found instagram to be a great source of connection for infertility and ttc.  Here are some people that I follow on instagram:

  • howtobuyababy
  • dont_talk_about_the_baby
  • thescientificstork
  • ttcgreetingcards
  • caroline_induetime
  • thenilookupatthesky
  • lifeabundant_jw
  • missconceptioncoach
  • waitingforbabybird

As of this week, I’ve decided to link my own instagram to this blog, so I will be posting more on this topic and relating it to my blog on instagram (up until now, it’s mostly pictures of my dog and she’ll continue to make appearances).  You can follow me at chrissyj_31chances

For additional support and resources, feel free to check out my resources tab on my website.  I continue to add resources there as I learn about them. You can also view other blogs that I follow on my website if you are trying to find others to connect with in the blogging community regarding infertility and pregnancy loss.

Keep asking questions, reach out for support, connect with others.  Please post your questions in the comments!

 

The Unopened Gift

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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.

 

You are Not Alone

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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