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.

Advertisements

Out of the Darkness, the Light of an Angel

light-in-the-darkness

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.

fullsizerender

 

fullsizerender-1

moon-angel

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.

Do you have a question? #startasking

bloggers-startasking-image

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 Tire Swing

 

tire swing

Last week on the evening of our 7 week ultrasound where we had discovered we had two babies, I went for a walk with the dog. There is a very pretty section of eucalyptus trees in the neighborhood with a nice dirt path lined with tall grass. And it’s been so green lately following all the rain we’ve had. At one end of this path is a tire swing. I’ve walked down this path so many times and had never seen anyone on the tire swing. I’ve tried to convince my dog to try it out but she’s just not having it. This particular evening, with babies on my mind, I came up to the tire swing to discover a mom and dad swinging their cute little twin boys. In that instant, I felt so happy and reassured that all would be well with my babies, despite the doctor’s warning that Baby A might not make it. I kept walking down the path for a few minutes and then stopped myself. I wanted another glimpse at that beautiful family and what could potentially be my future. I turned around and headed back. As I walked closer I couldn’t quite see who was there, but I could still hear voices, so I was happy I’d get a chance to set my eyes on those sweet twins again. But as I approached, I was startled to see that the family was no longer there. As if within the blink of an eye, without skipping a beat, these two little boys were replaced with one little girl being pushed on the swing by her Dad. It gave me chills and knocked the wind out of my sails.  This vision of the future placed in front of me like a dream played a trick on me. I felt so strongly in that moment that I was being forced to be prepared to grasp the possibility that I may be losing Baby A. This moment felt so intense to me that I cried all the way home.

There were two, then I turned around and there was one. I couldn’t shake it.

Today was our 8 week ultrasound appointment and we were terribly nervous. To our relief, Baby B quickly popped up on the screen with a strong heartbeat, but sadly Baby A did not make it. There was no heartbeat. I was lying there trying to wrap my head around which emotion to attach to. I was balancing grief and joy simultaneously. Grief tipped the scale and it has been winning today. We have our fourth angel baby. And then I felt guilt for not focusing my love and happiness on Baby B. Honestly, I’ve been an emotional wreck today. I’m so in love and so heartbroken, I’m so hopeful and so hurt. I know I have to grieve this loss before I can give full attention to the very special beating heart that is still with us and depending on me.

I’ve been given solid, heartfelt words to lean on by those close to me with kind texts and emails and there have been wonderful words of compassion from those in my support group. Everybody has said something to me that has touched me deeply and meant the world to me. Each of them expressing their love in a way so unique to our individual relationships. There was one thing however, that took my feelings and thoughts to a very comforting place, and it was this, “So sorry. At least Baby A did not pass alone.”

Baby A did not pass alone and there were three of our angels waiting and ready.  And they will be watching over Baby B.

There were two, and now there is one. That is where all of our love will go.

tree path

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.

Spreading Some Love

iloveyou

I have not felt up to writing since Christmas, where even my last post was a very brief one. In the mean time, we’ve been gearing up for another embryo transfer cycle and coordinating a two-cycle approach again with an endometrial biopsy. This is in hopes of making my uterine lining more “sticky” for the embaby. The procedure will be tomorrow.

Our TTC journey has faded a bit to the background lately due to the holidays and also having a terribly difficult time trying to help and just make it through a daily family life where my step-son is dealing with some very serious mental and behavioral health issues. While this isn’t something I discuss here in order to protect his own privacy, I will say that it has been a very dark and difficult place for him and of course for all of us involved in helping him. I have another family member who remains to be my light as we trudge through this very difficult journey. I’ve talked about brain illnesses in a previous post and love every opportunity to share my family member’s blog as it could help so many people:

https://outofagreatneed.wordpress.com

In the midst of all of these difficulties in addition to our TTC struggles, I feel compelled to bring beauty and happiness into my life daily. It has helped me find joy in little things and I look for them everywhere. I got stuck in horrible traffic yesterday morning but enjoyed watching the sky during sunrise and found the moon still lurking around as it became daylight. I just signed up for ballet lessons and I’ve been looking forward to class all week. Plus our teacher is a REAL ballerina and that just brings out the giddy little girl in me in awe of the presence of a ballerina.

image1 (1)

I enjoy photography because it keeps my eyes open for pretty things and I don’t want to miss them. I love my dog and every time I’ve had a rough day and she goes nuts with tail wagging and silly antics seeing me come home, I can’t help but laugh.

Last weekend I decided to enjoy my time by taking photographs to make Valentine cards. I think they turned out pretty cute so I thought I’d share a few with you to spread some love. I hope the bright colors and use of Lego mini-figures brings you a little joy.

If you do like what you see, I plan to have these available on my Etsy site this weekend, so you can browse there as well.

Card Chic by CJ

Spreading love out to all of you and hope you are surprised with the little bits of beauty and happiness that surround you every day.

-Photos by CJE

 

Q&A with 31 Chances and Eva’s World

knowhen-badge_featured

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

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

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

Can you introduce yourself and your partner?  

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

Tell us your TTC story briefly.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anything you’d like to say to our readers?

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

Strong Enough

IMG_7381

September 22, 2012 was our wedding day. Last week we celebrated our three year wedding anniversary.   We have not been married for a long time, but we have been through so much together. Today, I saw this quote floating around Facebook:

The couples that are “meant to be” are the ones who go through everything that is meant to tear them apart and come out even stronger than they were before.

We are definitely one of those couples. We have been faced with so much that is meant to tear us apart. I’m not sure if we are stronger yet, but I think we are at a place where we are strong enough. We seem to be in a constant state of “licking our wounds” with short breaks of stability and a chance to remember we can still be happy. Our three years of marriage have not been easy. Somehow we find a way not to give up…on our journey or each other. This marriage has not been all sunshine and roses. At times, we hang by a thread, and at times we can’t let go of each other. Our entire relationship has been overshadowed with fertility issues and two devastating pregnancy losses (amongst life’s other challenges). We’ve shared the roller coaster of hopefulness following an embryo transfer and have had to grieve in our own way every time it has failed.   He’s had to watch me lose hope and he’s had to watch happiness fade from my eyes. When I’ve given up, he hasn’t. Somehow, that’s helped me come back to see the light again. When he’s lost, my strength comes back to find him.

Seeing this quote today reminded me that we are strong enough not to be torn apart no matter how close that feels sometimes. We love each other.

Photo by Mary Bernsen

I’m waiting for my Yang

yin yang image

Less then a week leading up to my planned embryo transfer (last Saturday), I somehow managed to injure myself. Our house has been a chaotic mess for the past two months due to a kitchen renovation and I went on a mad cleaning spree. Apparently I bent over a few too many times as I felt a strong muscular ache start to build and spread from my lower back through my hamstring. But no biggy, I just worked hard. It’s just sore muscles. Just as I was about to sit down and relax after a day of cleaning, our dog started acting strange. She was frantically pacing and panting and drooling through the house. I rushed her to the vet right as they were closing up for the day. Nothing life threatening and her symptoms were inconclusive so we were sent home. Within a half hour after getting home she started vomiting. Repeatedly. Again, I was bending over, helping her and trying to take care of her. After two and a half hours of this, we rushed ourselves into stop and go Saturday night beach traffic and made our way to the emergency vet hospital with her gagging in the back seat for 45 minutes (our poor baby). We spent 3 hours there trying to figure out what was wrong and to treat her. Thankfully after their care for her, she started to improve and over the next couple of days she was on the road to recovery. But it turns out that all that repeated lower back strain I put myself through was reacting (unbeknownst to me) with a clamp down on a nerve like the strength of a zombie biting into it’s first victim. I woke up at 1am Monday morning in torturous pain running down my left leg. All the muscles in my glute and hamstring were as tight as steel rods and on fire. I’ve never had such horrible cramping and muscle pain in my life.   I had no idea what I was in for, but it turned out this pain did not let up and in fact got worse spreading through my calf and foot the next day. I could barely move. It was too painful for a long ride to a doctor’s office so my first thought was massage. It would just be a ten minute drive to a massage versus 30-40 minutes to the doctor. I had to drive myself as my husband had to go to work and I cried in pain all the way there. The massage provided a lot of relief for the 90 minutes I was there, but it quickly returned and I cried in agony all the way home. After a couple of days, I was able to get to my chiropractor (also near by) where he was rather concerned it was a pinched nerve (as half my left foot was numb and I did not have much control of my foot). As the week progressed, I got up the bravery and desperation to take the longer car rides to acupuncture and doctor appointments. This required some creativity with the husband and friends to coordinate with me since I couldn’t drive. But thanks to all of them, I eventually made it to the acupuncturist and the doctor. Every day, I kept thinking, this has got to get better, I have my embryo transfer on Friday! But I knew in my heart that my body was under too much stress and too much pain and on Thursday I talked to my doctor and we decided to cancel. I was so discouraged, disappointed and depressed. Of course, this cycle can be repeated but there had been so much work leading up to this point and now it was gone again. The injections, the workouts, the 3 day cleanse I did to make me feel healthier, the blood tests, the ultrasounds, the timed acupuncture appointments with my cycle…the list goes on and on. Plus the fact that this was my first cycle after taking a much needed break for several months. And now, just a big, fat, UGH. The embryos and I will have to wait for a later date.

I went to my acupuncturist for help with the pain and told her I had to cancel the embryo transfer. She said she was so sorry for my bad luck but not to worry. With bad luck, comes good luck. The Yin and the Yang have to balance out. My good luck would be coming.

After 4 days of absolute hell, I was finally in a doctor’s office. It was looking like sciatica and hopefully not as severe as a herniated disc. That night I started on a couple of different medications and the pain started to let up and I was finally able to sleep for the first night in 4 days. By Monday I was able to drive but still in discomfort. I spent this week, working a few hours in the office and a few hours at home each day. Unfortunately the medication I’m on during the day has been making me feel very sick and I’m struggling through every day in a Prednisone-induced stupor full of nausea, hot flashes, dizziness and overall uckyness and ickyness. Next week I’ll start physical therapy and my continued plight to find harmony between my Yin and my Yang.   There is no shadow without light. I want my Yang back and I want it in the form of a baby.

Cervix Denies Entry But Plan Continues

IMG_5254My July cycle to do the endometrial biopsy and ERA (Endometrial Receptivity Array) did not go as planned. My doctor had me go through the same controlled cycle that we would do for an embryo transfer but instead of transfer day, we would do this procedure. The hope was that 1) the endometrial biopsy would make the uterine lining “sticky” for the following cycle’s embryo transfer and 2) the ERA would let us know if we were transferring the embryo on the right day of the cycle for optimal endometrial receptivity. Sounded like a fabulous plan to me. There is no solid evidence that the endometrial biopsy directly increases chance of pregnancy, but I was willing to do it in hopes that it could make a difference for me.

The endometrial biopsy is not a fun procedure and I had done it once before and it did lead to my second pregnancy. The first time doing this procedure was without any pain medication and wow, that was a mistake. I remember getting ready for the procedure and the doctor asking me so calmly if anyone had warned me ahead of time of the pain level. Um, no, I was expecting it to be something like a pap smear. He proceeded to tell me it’s about a 7 out of 10 on the pain scale. Holy crap. Yep, he was right. Luckily it’s not a long procedure but I did not want to go through that again. For this second time around I was very apprehensive about the pain, so my doctor was able to do a paracervical block (lidocaine injection) and I could tell it was helping a lot. However, after what seemed like forever, staring at the ceiling, scared to move, and at least 4 tries by the doctor, he could not get through my cervix. It was such an unnerving experience and very frustrating for both of us. It turned out that my cervix had developed nabothian cysts. Luckily they are benign and not harmful, but due to the cysts, it was not possible to pass the instrument through the cervix. As I was lying there in tears, clutching the hand of the nurse and quickly becoming her new best friend, I could tell it was not easy on my doctor either. So we called it a day and decided to think things through for a few days. That procedure was now out the window and I’d have to consider starting over again.

In the follow up conversation with my doctor barely a week later, I was in the precise condition to start another controlled cycle. After a thoughtful discussion, we all decided to move forward with the embryo transfer cycle and skip the other procedure all together. We are now two weeks into this process and the frozen embryo transfer will happen in one more week on August 21. Due to the cervix denying entry just a couple of weeks ago, we decided to do a mock embryo transfer and this happened yesterday. He was able to see that some of the cysts had gotten smaller, but also mapped out the path through my cervix on the ultrasound. It’s like a labyrinth in there! It is not a direct shot. There is a hard sharp turn on the way in. Luckily, the mock transfer went without a hitch and was very quick, so that boosted all of our confidence for next week. We are quickly approaching attempt number 8 and I’m trying my best to be healthy, stay rested, get in plenty of acupuncture and ready to accept positive energy, prayers, and happy thoughts from anyone who will give them.

Photo by – CJE, Catalina Island