How has Infertility Changed You? Listen Up! #NIAW

listen up

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.

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.  

In the Clouds

sunset-photo

In the clouds I dream
of you
The happiest place
for one who

Is warmed by
the light of your beautiful soul
Eternal love
our hearts aglow

From the earth
so far away
The wind brings you near
as trees sway

I breathe in deep
and remember you
From a small bump
and a lifetime too

In a matter of weeks
I saw it all
From first steps
to big and tall

The sun peeks ‘round
your home up high
I feel you there
one with the sky

I lie here watching
looking up
Being brave,
tearing up

But I will wait
And love you so
Until it’s time
for me to go

Away with you
and then you’ll know
Your mother’s love
Was infinite, so…

In the clouds you
are with me
The happiest place
I can think to be

 

Photo and poetry by CJE

Something Different

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Since April, I have spent the remainder of the year recovering from another pregnancy loss, exploring the reason for my losses with multiple doctors, and trying to get back to a place where I can do this again.  Being on an extended break from embryo transfers brings back openings to my life where I can do some of the things I have had to put on hold, over and over again.  But the many months I’ve had to wait terrifies me too.  If I wait too long, I worry, that maybe I’ll give up completely.

Here I am, still waiting.  So, what do I write about now?  I’m thinking something different.

In my extended break from the vicious cycle of infertility, pregnancy and loss, I had the opportunity to participate in something amazing.  If you’ve been following my blog, you may have noticed I enjoy photography as a hobby.  Photography brings me a lot of joy and it’s a skill always in development.  This month, I attended Firefly Institute, a photography camp for women.   This was an experience of a lifetime.  Surrounded by fifty women, all with a love of photography, and the ability to see beauty in the little things.  Instant friendships formed and inspiring images were created.  I felt loved and appreciated just by being present and being me.  We each got to take five classes and I gravitated towards classes on composition, iphone photography, social media and writing and photography.

Here’s my something different for my blog today.  In the writing and photography class, one of the prompts was to pick a photograph from childhood and write to my younger self.

I didn’t want to write about giving advice or how to prepare for what is to come.  I wanted to write about our lives in parallel, grateful and fortunate and loved and a knowing from an early age that “I’ve got this.”  I was inspired by this set of images feeding animals with my sister, parents and grandparents.

To My Younger Self…

You’ve got it girl—
happiness
love
family
the best family
sports
art
friends
cute pony tails
a sister
who envies your pink room
She loves you but will always hold that against you (‘cause her room was yellow)
And she thinks you are perfect
But we know we aren’t
You’ve got your shit together
Just don’t say shit to Grandma
Oh, you are only two and it’s too late
Maybe you should apologize
But not for your beautiful life

Here are a few images from my stay at Firefly Institute (located at Westerbeke Ranch, Sonoma, CA)

 

Photos by CJE

#Whathealsyou

Jaxon4

I wanted to share the beautiful photography and artwork by Carly Marie Dudley with you.  I ordered this photo in memory of my first baby lost at 15 weeks of my pregnancy.  If you are not familiar with her work, I urge you to check out her website:

Carly Marie Project Heal

She creates incredible sunset and beach artwork from Australia and also creates these images as a personalized order with the name written in the sand of a lost baby or child.

Coming up on August 19 – Day of Hope Prayer Flag Project

Day of Hope Prayer Flag Project

Carly Marie turns loss into beauty, love and healing for all of us.

Photography and artwork by Carly Marie Dudley

A Blessing for Mamas

roses

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

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.

 

“Don’t Talk about the Baby”

Donttalkaboutthebaby-Match Me

For those of you who have suffered through infertility and/or pregnancy loss,  I think you’ll be very interested in this documentary currently in the works.  It’s called, “Don’t Talk About the Baby.”

Check them out at Seed&Spark, where they are working to raise funds for the project:

https://www.seedandspark.com/studio/dont-talk-about-the-baby#updates

You can also follow them on their website and Instagram:

http://www.donttalkaboutthebaby.com

https://www.instagram.com/dont_talk_about_the_baby/

 

Be our Rainbow Baby, baby

HCG results 0309 031116

I crumbled into a heap of tears when I saw the number.

282.

Compared to my two previous pregnancies, this is my highest HCG number.  We were thrilled, relieved, happy and terrified.  The first big hurdle of many to come.  Now, to calm my anxieties for the second HCG test 48 hours later.  The number is supposed to at least double and that did not happen with my other two pregnancies, resulting in early ultrasounds, extra blood tests and a lot of extra worry.  Anxiously waiting one more dreaded hour for the results to come through the lab and there it was.

636.

In that instant the weight and misery of infertility and pregnancy loss lifted off of me, leaving me with happiness.  In that moment the stress on our marriage dissipated and there we were, sitting together as a happy husband and wife with a lot of hope.

So, here we go.  Our first ultrasound will be at 7 weeks.  Our due date is November 16.  Please baby, hang in there.  Be our rainbow baby.  We love you already.