Family, Infertility, Pregnancy

Baby is Here!

November is normally a busy month for my husband and me, since we celebrate our anniversary and (for the past three years) host Thanksgiving at our place. The month is usually the start of a busy season in which we do the most traveling and the most celebrating – from our anniversary in mid-November all the way through to the New Year. This November, we added another special occasion to the list when our baby boy was born!

But, I’ll start with our anniversary.

I was at the end of 38 weeks pregnant during our anniversary this year, and although we couldn’t do a whole lot, we enjoyed our day together! My husband took off from work so that we could go to a church that we recently discovered around our way. After church, we went to Panera for a light lunch, and then it was off to the movies. My husband has always been a fan of the James Bond series, so we saw Spectre. I was pretty wiped out by the time the movie ended, and we spent the rest of the day at home relaxing and working on getting some last minute baby stuff together.

Two days later, I was at what would turn out to be my last pre-natal doctor appointment. At the appointment my doctor informed me that, because of our baby’s suspected large size, she did not want me to remain pregnant past forty weeks. She said that if I did not deliver the baby before my due date, she thought it best that I come into her office to be induced. She didn’t want baby to become too big for me to safely deliver vaginally. My husband and I ran errands the rest of the day and ended the night with a quick, impromptu date to Olive Garden. That would be our last date before the arrival of little Chocobo!

The following evening, I experienced a series of Braxton-Hicks contractions (which I had already been used to having) and one real contraction (which I had not had up until this point). It was around 6 in the evening and I wondered if I was beginning to go into labor. However, I didn’t have any other labor contractions afterward and felt a little disappointed by the anti-climactic nature of my one contraction.

Three hours later, I began experiencing more contractions. They were only slightly painful at first, but as the night went on the pain increased. I’d heard all these stories of women who’d thought they were in labor and rushed to the hospital, only to be sent home. I didn’t want to be one of those women, so I decided not to tell my husband about it right away. I didn’t sleep all night because of the pain, and at four in the morning I finally decided to call my doctor and ask for advice.

My doctor advised me to begin timing the contractions, and I downloaded an app on my phone that allowed me to time them. I eventually woke my husband up around seven in the morning, and by ten we were calling the doctor again – my contraction patterns were consistent with true labor and I was instructed to get to the hospital right away!

This sent us on a little bit of a rush to grab everything we would need for our hospital stay. We were quite certain that we wouldn’t be back home for a while and although I had packed a few items into our hospital bag – the bag was far from complete. We got to the hospital around eleven on Thursday morning and I spent the rest of the day in labor at the hospital.

By five in the afternoon, I had already been in labor for about 20 hours. Although I originally wanted to try and make it through childbirth without any medication, I gave in and requested an epidural. I had to wait for the anesthesiologist to arrive and I had about ten contractions as he was administering the epidural! This was difficult because I needed to be completely still in order for him to do his job – but I also needed to move around to try and alleviate the pain of the contractions. The nurse had to hold me down so that I would not jerk or twitch in response to my pain. Shortly after receiving the epidural, I fell asleep. When I woke up, there were a swarm of doctors and nurses in the delivery room with me – rushing around and talking amongst one another. I looked for my husband who was standing up and trying to listen in to what everyone was saying. My heart rate was dropping, as was Chocobo’s. Each time I had a contraction, Chocobo’s heart rate dropped to lower levels than was safe. In addition, he’d swallowed some meconium. At this point, I was only 7cm dilated and the doctors didn’t want to risk waiting until I was fully dilated to deliver.

They’d decided that I was going to need a C-section.

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Although I was too drugged up to be nervous, the need for a C-section has probably been one of my biggest fears since childhood. I’ve mentioned before that when I was six or seven, I used to pray each night for a natural, vaginal delivery because I had witnessed my mother go through two C-sections and the recovery process did not look like fun. It looks like God’s answer to that prayer was “No!”

The doctors and nurses moved so quickly that I barely had time to process what was happening. I remember my husband grabbing my hand before they rolled me away from him, telling him that they would come back to get him. I remember the lights on the ceiling on the way to the operating room, and I remember feeling exceptionally drowsy and being unable to swallow.

I kept telling the doctors, “I don’t want to be asleep when he is born. Why do I feel so sleepy?” and “I can’t swallow. Why can’t I swallow?” I’m sure I sounded like a delusional crazy person but hey, I was drugged so I get a pass. The rest is sort of a blur as I struggled to fight sleep. It was all I could do to keep my eyes from closing. I can remember bits and pieces of things – such as someone saying “Your husband is here!” and the feeling of him grabbing my hand (although I couldn’t see him because my eyes were closed). I remember one of the nurses saying, “Okay – she doesn’t feel anything let’s get started!” I remember the bright lights of the operating room, obstructing my ability to see clearly each time I did manage to get my eyes open, and I remember someone saying “Your baby is here!” and the feeling of them placing him on my chest.

I couldn’t see or feel anything, but I remember asking if I could kiss my son and one of the doctors chuckled and said, “He’s your baby! Do whatever you want!” Someone put him close to me so that I could give him a kiss, I tried to open my eyes and I remember kissing him on the forehead. Before I knew it my eyes were shut again and I was throwing up!

After this, I probably fell asleep for quite a bit of time. Baby Chocobo was born at 7:53pm and I didn’t get to see him again until 9:20pm! I don’t remember anything that happened between the time he was born and the time that I was able to see him again.

My husband went with the doctors and nurses to wherever they took our baby and he was able to spend that first hour and a half bonding with our son until I was coherent enough to do the same.

We stayed in the hospital from Thursday until Sunday, where I received a lot of care and instruction on how to recover from a C-section. I don’t know what it’s like to recover from a vaginal birth, but recovery from a C-section is horrible! I am so grateful to have gone through this process in a hospital that really did a great job of taking care of me after our son’s birth.

My father came to stay with us once we were at home, and he helped out a lot by making food and running to the store for us each day. A few days later, my mother, my husband’s mother, and my two sisters came to be with us and we were all able to celebrate Thanksgiving together with little Chocobo!

My husband and I are so grateful for our little baby, for whom we have (not always so patiently) waited and prayed over the last five years. Our wish for parenthood has finally come true, and so far we are loving it!

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Family, Infertility, Uncategorized

The First Trimester

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This post is, as titled, about the first trimester of my pregnancy. There are pictures and lots of details. If you’re struggling with IF and not in a good place – please do yourself a favor and skip this post!

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Each day, I wonder about whether or not it will be easy to conceive a second time. It was such a struggle to pinpoint our reproductive issues and to conceive our first child, it startles me to think that this may be the only pregnancy that I get to experience in my lifetime! It would be wonderful to be able to successfully deliver this child and then have three or four more children, but life does not always work out the way we hope. I don’t want to take any of this experience for granted, and I don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to cherish what I’ve been given in the present moment. To that end, at the risk of becoming one of those blogs, I thought I would do a little update at the end of each trimester as a way to keep a brief record of the different experiences of this pregnancy.

Week 4: How We Found Out

Regular readers already know that I had been prescribed 200mg of progesterone to be taken every other day post ovulation, in the form of an intramuscular shot. Although I had stopped using the sympto-thermal method (aka tracking my basal body temperature each morning), I decided to pick that back up again while on the progesterone. I knew beforehand that progesterone can mimic pregnancy, so when I began to feel certain pregnancy symptoms (shortness of breath, extreme fatigue, breast tenderness, etc) I chalked it up to the progesterone. My chart looked better than it had in years, and still, I refused to get my hopes up. I have known people to take progesterone supplements for many cycles before getting pregnant, why would mine work on the first try?

I remember emailing a picture of my chart to my mother, and telling her that if I were not on progesterone, I would strongly suspect pregnancy. I explained the chart to her and we were both excited that – at the very least – the chart was improving my cycles. The following day, I woke up feeling different. I’m not sure how to explain it, but something was off. My period had not started yet, my temperatures were still high, and I was tired of having to convince myself that I was not pregnant. I woke my husband and told him that I wanted to test, and as soon as the sun came up we went out to purchase the HPT. On the way home, I made a joke that if it was positive I would look a pinterest all day, and if it was negative, I would just do laundry and watch Netflix to bury my sorrows. He chuckled as we returned home and I went into the bathroom to take the test.

Suddenly a sense of hesitation washed over me. ‘This is stupid,’ I thought. ‘You won’t be pregnant and you’ll probably get your period in a few hours. You’re wasting your time and your money.’ I believed my negativity, and after taking the test I chickened out – not wanting to read it – and left it in the bathroom as I went to cook breakfast. After eating, I told my husband that I couldn’t go in and look at it. He had to do it. So he got up and went to look at the test, while I went to hide. When he found me, he held out the test and said,

“I guess you’ll be looking at pinterest all day.”

I’m not even going to try to describe what that moment felt like. We decided to nickname the baby Chocobo. My mother hates that nickname, but I got it from the Final Fantasy game series. There is an animal in the games called a ‘Chocobo’ that I always thought was so cute. In times past, I would say to friends, “Let’s go, Chocobo!” as a term of endearment. My husband liked the nickname as well, and we have even given nicknames to the nickname – chocobaby, chocs, chococo, chocoberry – we make them up as we go. I can understand why people think the name is not “cute,” but we like it and until we know the gender – it’s what we are sticking with!

Weeks 5-10: Medicine, Moving, and Morning Sickness

I was prescribed 200mg of Prometrium daily – a progesterone suppository that would keep me from miscarrying due to progesterone related issues in the first trimester. I was told to take the suppository every night until week 13. Let me tell you, suppositories are gross. They leak. They smell. And they keep babies alive. So I was happy to do whatever was necessary.

At the same time, my husband’s job promoted and relocated him to a different state. We lived in hotels for two weeks, which was pretty stressful for me. Living in a hotel in a different state where you don’t know anyone or anything about the area got lonely at times, and also meant no home-cooked food! All of the restaurant food I ate during those two weeks was getting to me. I was feeling lethargic and heavy. Between living in a hotel and taking these suppositories every day – I felt crowded, lethargic, and icky all the time. Thankfully, we found a place to live. I was able to start cooking again, and we were able to get all of our stuff out of our old home and into our new one.

I started experiencing more consistent pregnancy symptoms around week 7 or 8. I threw up quite a bit, got most of my nausea and “morning” sickness in the evenings, became intolerant of all dairy products, experienced extreme all-day exhaustion, and had trouble walking around or doing small household chores without getting out of breath or feeling faint/weak. Sleeping started to become a problem for me as well. I normally sleep on my stomach, and after week 6 or so that was no longer comfortable. I began sleeping on my back around week 7, but by week 9 – I had to start sleeping on my sides. I have never been comfortable sleeping on my side, and it has been tough to get a good night’s sleep. My shoulders, knees, and hips are often either very sore or completely numb as a result of how I have been sleeping. Still, I think that my symptoms are pretty mild compared to some of the things that I have heard others go through. I have made it a practice to express gratefulness and pray for an infertile friend every time I feel sick or uncomfortable, because I know that there are still so many women waiting to have these experiences. And, because I know what it feels like to be the woman reading about pregnancy discomforts and wishing for them.

During these weeks, I had my first two ultrasounds. One at week 7 and the other at week 9. At the week 9 ultrasound, the tech told us that we have a very active baby. I didn’t know babies began moving around so early, but apparently Chocobo was moving like crazy. We were actually able to record the movement on my phone, which was pretty neat. I can’t wait until I can actually feel the movements! I think seeing Chocobo on the screen and in these pictures really helped me to start getting it into my head that this is not some kind of amazing dream – this is actually happening! I feel so humbled and undeserving, other women have waited longer than I. Yet, I am so grateful for this gift.

Chocobo @ week 7
Chocobo @ week 7
Chocobo @ week 9
Chocobo @ week 9

Weeks 11-13: ER Visit, Mother’s Day, and Stopping Progesterone

Everything went smoothly until week 11, when I went to the bathroom and saw that I was bleeding – a lot! To be honest, it wasn’t an overwhelming amount of blood, but it was bright red and way more blood than I felt comfortable with. I called my OB, whose office was closing, and was instructed that I could go to the ER. We sat in the ER for hours before finally being seen. On one hand I feared the worst, but on the other hand, I felt very calm and at peace. Whatever the outcome, I know that God is always sovereign, always faithful, and always in control. One of my favorite verses in the Bible says that “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” I thought about this verse while in the ER, and reminded myself that our child is God’s creation and God’s child – only loaned to us. Nothing would happen to Chocobo, except what God allowed, and I resolved to trust God’s sovereignty, even if our night ended in tragedy.

Thankfully though, everything was fine. Chocobo was moving around so much that the tech had trouble getting the heart rate. Choco finally sat still, with the exception of one of his/her arms moving back and forth across the screen. The tech joked that Chocobo was giving us a little wave. This was the second time that a tech told us we had a very active child on our hands. After seeing the tech, we met with a doctor who said that mine was the first perfect ultrasound he’d seen in the ER in three years!

I continued to bleed and spot on and off for the next few weeks, which still makes me nervous, but at my most recent appointment I was told that everything looks absolutely perfect, and that some women spot frequently during their pregnancies with no explanation and with nothing actually wrong. So, I am trying to take comfort in that.

We went home to celebrate Mother’s Day with our moms, and it was kind of surreal to realize that I am a mother, too. I started showing around week 10, and during the Mother’s Day weekend, I got a few comments about how I have “popped.”

By the time week 13 rolled around, we were headed back to another doctor’s appointment where I was told to stop the progesterone! As much as I hated those suppositories and was happy to ditch them, it definitely made me feel uneasy to not take the medicine! Especially as I have continued to have on and off brown spotting since week 11, I felt that stopping the progesterone might be a mistake. However, since I was told by 3 separate doctors to stop taking it,  we stopped. I am hoping that the placenta will take over the way it is supposed to and produce enough progesterone for Chocobo to survive through the rest of this pregnancy!

Final Thoughts

One interesting fact about my pregnancy is that it has really given me more of a heart for adoption than I already had! I am so grateful and humbled to have gotten pregnant, and I wish that every child could be as loved – from the point of conception – as my child is. Since my own childhood I have wanted to adopt a child, but being pregnant has really deepened that desire. I want to give other children the chance to be cared for and celebrated the way Choco is blessed to be. I am trusting that God will allow us the safe delivery of this child, but regardless of the outcome of this pregnancy, I am so grateful that Chocobo is so loved, wanted, and cherished even now –  before his or her arrival into the world.

If only all children in the world could be so fortunate.

Education, Emotional Fitness, Infertility, Mental Fitness, Teacher Fitness

Working With Children. Coping With Infertility.

Below is an updated version of a blog entry I wrote last year for National Infertility Awareness week. I’d taken the entry off-line and stopped blogging under that name, but since it is NIAW again, I decided to re-post! I hope it will serve as an encouragement to those who work with children while struggling with infertility! 

As a child-care provider, I know how hard it is to go to work every day with children that you absolutely adore, and return home every night with the empty feeling of not being able to have your own. It sucks, frankly. It sucks to get attached to children whose lives you will only be in for a short period of time. It sucks to be around mothers who talk excitedly with one another about their child’s development and the fun things they do with their kids during the weekend. It sucks when you see families that aren’t so great, and you wonder why they are lucky enough to have children they don’t want and you are unlucky enough to want children you don’t have. I get it. And yet, no matter how you’re feeling, you still have to show up to work with a professional and cheerful attitude. You still have to be around and discuss infants, toddlers, and children all.of.the.time. You still have to keep up with all the latest parenting trends and child-development developments. You still have to bring your A-game and make life wonderful for these kids while they’re with you.

So, how do you cope?

Take it minute by minute.

Your infertility is something about which you can feel hopeful, indifferent, and totally depressed within just a few minutes! I have certainly experienced times at work where I have felt blessed and content just to be around my wonderful kids, knowing that at the right time I will get pregnant and have my own. Less than two minutes later, I’m trying to hold it all together as my kids pile up in my lap and ask me to read them a story. You have to deal responsibly with each emotion as it arises. Acknowledge and validate each emotion, but remember that you still have a job to do and the kids you’re with right now are counting on you right now. Don’t let them down.

Remember that many of the children we work with did not come as easily as we think.

Sometimes we look at our daycare kids and think that their moms are so lucky to just be able to pop out babies so easily! I once babysat for one of my students, and his mom revealed to me that they had tried to get pregnant for three years before he was born! Another of my kids’ parents suffered four miscarriages before finally having her son. Hearing these stories really was a great reminder that alot of the parents I am serving have had their own lengthy struggles with infertility as well! It is encouraging to know that after all their struggle, they were finally able to concieve!

Remain grateful for the things you can do, while you can do them.

As professionals who work with children, we have the advantage of not romanticizing motherhood! I have heard some say that a profession in child-care is a form of birth control, because we know the nitty gritty details of what children are really like and we have a pretty good idea of the all-consuming effort it takes to keep a child happy and healthy! Whenever I am hanging out with my husband, I feel grateful that we have the kind of strong and loving relationship that children should be brought into. It’s nice when we can randomly decide to do things together. And I love my lazy Saturdays. Of course, the “inconveniences” of losing free time and sleep won’t bother me as much when I become a mother – because I have waited years for the chance to sit up all night with a fussy baby – but since I currently do not have that responsibility, I try to enjoy the lazy Saturdays and the impromptu Netflix nights with my husband.

Don’t lose yourself in your infertility!

I think that this is probably the most important item on the list. It is incredibly easy to become obsessive with all the charting, doctor visits, symptom spotting, and online comiserating that goes on while you’re in the cycle of two week waits. You can lose yourself. You can forget that you are not your infertility. I will admit that I desperately want to become a mother. If you follow my blog, you know that I feel motherhood is more than a desire – but a calling that God has placed on my life. But I have other interests, too. I have other goals. I have hobbies that don’t relate to childcare and childhood development, and I will not allow my infertility to consume my life. Get back in touch with who you were and what you loved before you started trying for children. Take the opportunity to soak yourself in those things, because hopefully all your free time will soon be zapped away by your precious little bundle of hard work!

Obviously, these things are more easily said (or written) than done. I know that. It’s very hard to keep a good attitude about your infertility, since there is never really an ‘end in sight.’ But if infertility is something you struggle with – and especially if you’re struggling with this while working with children – you should be proud of your ability to bravely and optimistically face what is likely one of the hardest and loneliest times of your life. Approached with the right attitude, you can learn amazing things during this time and your future children (and the world around you) will be better off on account of the things that you have learned how to endure.

Infertility, Pregnancy

Pregnancy After Infertility

Last year, I read the blog of a woman who, after years of infertility, had finally become pregnant. She mentioned that though she had sympathy for those who were still struggling with infertility, she could no longer empathize. It was as if the news of her pregnancy had wiped away all the years of pain that she had experienced, seemingly to the point where she could no longer relate to those within the infertile community. I remember reading that, and wondering if the all-consuming pain of childlessness would be completely erased from my memory the minute I held a BFP in my hands. But that hasn’t been my experience. I haven’t forgotten how it feels to be infertile, and as this year’s National Infertility Awareness Week begins, I find myself in the odd position of being completely able to empathize with those trapped in the endless cycle of treatments and two week waits, while feeling simultaneously undeserving of and grateful for the gift of life that God has deigned to give me.

Pregnancy after infertility, in my experience, has been an interesting emotional adventure. I begged God for this for so long, and now that it’s been granted – I find myself wondering why God gave me this gift as opposed to someone who has been waiting longer or someone who has been through more trauma than I in their pursuit of parenthood. When people congratulate me, they sometimes say that I “deserve”this, and though I appreciate that and take it as a compliment – I also know that it is not true. I was given this gift as a grace and a mercy from God. I did nothing to deserve it, just as the childless woman has done nothing to deserve childlessness. I am overwhelmingly grateful. But my gratitude doesn’t negate the fact that there are still so many thousands of women who are in pain, waiting on their miracles. And hundreds whose prayers for miracles will never be answered with a “yes.” The fact that God has seen fit to gift me in this way humbles me, more than you could ever imagine.

Another effect of pregnancy after infertility is my inability to feel completely comfortable with pregnant women for whom pregnancy came easily. As I read books, articles, or forums written by women who got pregnant ‘on cue,’ I find myself feeling alienated. Their light-hearted attitudes toward getting pregnant and their ability to complain with ease about their various pregnancy symptoms seems almost sacrilegious to me! I understand that they are just venting and “being honest,” which they certainly have the right to do, but I can’t make a statement like “I wish I weren’t so sick!” without feeling like I’d be wishing away my child! Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t felt amazing over the course of the past few weeks – but my ability to be consistently grateful for my “ailments” has surprised even me!

I have a heightened sense of fear of things like loss and secondary infertility. It took what feels like an eternity to finally achieve this pregnancy, I would be crushed if I could not carry this child to delivery. And crushed if getting pregnant again took just as long – or longer. So I will cherish every moment of pain, illness, or exhaustion – because who can say that this will ever happen to me again?

Finally, there is a bit of a change of identity. For so long, I subconsciously have identified myself as an infertile. I hoped for a child, but over time I became less and less attached to the idea that it would ever actually happen. Now that is has, I am not sure what to make of things! Honestly, I am still in a bit of shock and disbelief. We’ll see how that sorts itself out over time.

I am still praying and hoping daily for those of you who are where I was. It’s such a tough road, and no one should have to do it alone. I hope that, this week, I can do my part to raise awareness and support for those still fighting to become parents.

Infertility, Physical Fitness

5 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Infertility

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine told me that she and her fiancé were wondering about what types of things they need to consider (medically speaking) as they get ready to plan a family. As we chatted about all of the different medical concerns that are part of the world of infertility, it got me thinking about the things that I wish I had known before my infertility journey began. Things that, perhaps, could have helped me to waste less time in my search for a resolution. If you are under 35 years of age, a doctor will not generally see you for infertility until you have tried to conceive for at least one year. If you are over 35 years of age, you may be seen for infertility after 6 months of trying. But when you want a baby, and month after month yields only negative results, six months to a year can feel like an eternity! Our first official year of trying was, for me, a living hell! I kept feeling like there was something more I could do to help our situation, yet I could not get any official medical advice because we had not been trying long enough!

But there are some things you can do during – or even before – your first year of trying to conceive (TTC) that will help speed up the process when you are ready to grow your family. Although I am not a doctor or medical expert, I do want to share some things that I have learned along the way that could help anyone who fears the potential inability to conceive. Please remember that these are my thoughts and experiences, each infertility journey is different, and you always need to consult with your doctor before making serious decisions about your health. Here are five of the things that I wish I had known, before we began trying to conceive.

I wish I had known that hormonal birth control can actually harm future fertility.

My friend and I discussed the sad hilarity of the fact that when you are in high school, your sex-ed class scares you into believing that you can get pregnant at any time! The result is that there are millions of women who think it is easier to get pregnant than it actually is, causing them to use forms of birth control that could actually (temporarily or permanently) prevent them from becoming pregnant in the future!

The truth is that you can only get pregnant in the days leading up to and the day of or right after ovulation. Ovulation happens when your ovary releases an egg into your fallopian tubes. The egg only lives between 12 and 24 hours. Your partner’s sperm, on the other hand, can live between 3 and 5 days! Therefore, the best time for conception is 5 days before ovulation, the day of ovulation, and the day right after ovulation. Knowing this would have helped me, because I would have just kept track of my cycles – instead of using harmful birth control pills that may have contributed to my problems with infertility!

I wish I had known how to track my cycles.

If you know how to read your body, then you may suspect infertility long before you are at the point where you want to try for children. It is helpful to learn what the different types of vaginal discharge indicate. If your menstrual cycles are too short (21 days or less from the start of one period to the start of another), this may suggest hormonal deficiencies or luteal phase defect. If there are more than 35 days from the start of one period to the  start of another period, this may indicate that you do not ovulate, or that you ovulate irregularly. Keeping track of whether you spot or bleed between periods, and of whether your periods are heavy, painful, or irregular can help also. In my case, my short (24 day) menstrual cycles were indicating a progesterone deficiency – something I probably could have taken care of long before trying to grow our family. By using information gained through discharge observations, awareness of menstruation, and through charting your basal body temperatures –  you can become familiar with your body’s patterns and find potential concerns to resolve before you begin trying to conceive. And by having an awareness of any potential concerns, you are better able to advocate for yourself when you are finally able to see a doctor.

I wish I had known how many different aspects of your life can be related to infertility.

There are some obvious factors of infertility – like past sexual trauma, sexually transmitted infections, or past abortion – but there are some more subtle factors as well. Do you clean your cat’s litter-box? Do you eat a lot of soy products? What kinds of products do you use to clean your home? These subtle factors will not affect everyone who is trying to conceive, but these are things that a person who is TTC should be aware of.

I wish I had known (earlier) about a good infertility support group.

It wasn’t until three and a half years into our infertility journey that I found any sort of support and/or infertility resources. I am so grateful for my group of gals who are a wealth of information and have really helped me to make good medical and life-habit decisions. Having a support group also helps you to sort through all of the various aspects of infertility – the emotions, the medical testing, the insurance questions, the “let’s try this and see if it works” diet, exercise, and intercourse ideas. There will be so much symptom-spotting and bodily changes that you go through as you try different medicines and treatment plans. There are so many questions that you will have about different diagnostic procedures and surgeries – and you can glean from the experience and wisdom that the women in a support group will be able to give you! If you are facing infertility – don’t do it alone! The knowledge you gain in a support group may actually help you to get pregnant faster!

I wish I had known how expensive infertility-related tests and treatments would be!

If you think you may be facing infertility, now is a good time to check with your insurance to find out what they do (and more likely what they don’t) cover. Since infertility is not considered to be “life-threatening,” insurance companies do not always cover infertility related costs. In addition, we live in a culture where pregnancy is seen as a “disease” or something to be avoided – as opposed to being the natural state of a healthy, sexually active woman. Insurance companies, for the mots part, have taken on the attitude that pregnancy is to be avoided (notice that most insurance will cover birth control, but not the costs of helping you achieve a pregnancy). Search for an insurance plan that will help cover your infertility costs, save money like crazy, and/or live in one of the fifteen states where at least partial insurance for infertility is mandated! In my experience, though, even in a state where infertility coverage is mandated, all of your expenses still may not be covered!

Here is a list of some of the tests you may need for an infertility diagnosis:

  • Hysterosalpingogram (HSG) / Hysteroscopy (to check for tubal blockages or uterine deformities).
  • Pelvic/Transvaginal Ultrasounds.
  • Bloodwork to test hormonal levels.
  • Postcoital testing (to test how seminal and cervical fluids react to one another).
  • Laparoscopy/Endometrial Biopsy (to diagnose, remove, and test endometriosis/endometrial lining).
  • Semen Analysis.
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone tests.
  • Anti-Mullerian Hormone Levels test (to check egg quality).

Not all women will undergo each test, and this is by no means an exhaustive list of the different types of testing available. In the meantime, while you wait to begin TTC – learn to pay attention to your body, eat well, exercise regularly, drink enough water, and avoid toxins to be in the best shape for the beginning of your TTC journey!

Baby dust to you!

If you struggle with infertility, what are some things you wish you’d known beforehand?

 

Infertility, Spiritual Fitness, Uncategorized

My Favorite Infertility Scriptures

Recently I was in a conversation in which someone asked what each person’s favorite scriptures for infertility were. I have plenty of favorite scriptures, but I passed on answering the question because I hadn’t ever thought about favorite infertility scriptures. In general, I don’t like taking scripture out of the context in which it was written and randomly applying it to my life! At the same time, I know that the Bible carries truths that can be used by anyone, in any situation, at any time. So I thought (not too) long and (not too) hard about the scriptures that have resonated with me the most through these last few years of infertility, and – if you are currently sinking in the gaping abyss that is barrenness – I hope that these several scriptures will encourage you, too!

Psalm 13

“How long, Oh Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O Lord my God! Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death, and my enemy will say, “I have prevailed”; my foes will rejoice because I am shaken. But I trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, for He has dealt bountifully with me.”

When you have been trying to get pregnant for years, and women all around you seem to be able get pregnant simply by washing the dishes with their husbands, you start to wonder “How long shall my [infertility] be exalted over me?”  This psalm reminds me of Rachel in Genesis, when she said to her husband, “Give me children, or I’ll die!” It can be that way, sometimes. And that’s normal. But this Psalm reminds us to trust in God’s steadfast love. No matter how badly you feel, God hasn’t forgotten you. And it reminds us to rejoice in His salvation. Ultimately, our lives are not about us. They are about Christ and His mission to restore our world. Whatever tragedies happen to me in this life seem so insignificant when I think of the fact that I will live eternally in a perfect world. And I’m grateful to Jesus for making that possible!

Job 1:21

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. May the name of the Lord be praised.”

A huge question that humanity has always asked is why bad things happen to good people. Job had just received the news that all of his children, servants, donkeys, sheep, and camels had been killed, stolen, and burned in ludicrous freak accidents and random invasions. He had literally lost everything he loved and everything he owned in one short afternoon. But Job was a good person. God Himself had referred to Job as “blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” The truth is, no one can escape tragedy. Even Jesus faced tragedy as He was crucified. And yet, Job’s response to his loss is that he is going to praise the Lord. I honestly can’t answer the question of why infertility happens to wonderful people who would make amazing parents, while those who do not want or respect their children are easily getting ‘knocked up’ all the time. But I love the example that Job sets. God’s way of doing things rarely makes sense to us. Nevertheless, He is an all-knowing God and He knows what He is doing. In the end, God restored Job to a position that was better than the one he’d had before. And whether in this life or the next, God will do that for us too.

2 Corinthians 4:16-17

“So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.”

When I think of all the different types of illnesses in the world – and specifically illnesses that relate to or cause infertility – I think about the body wasting away. I often feel like my own body is wasting away. I used to have so much more energy, I used to be able to stay up late at night, work long hours, play sports, and take long walks (or runs!) without getting tired. These days, I don’t get through half a day without a chest pain, or a muscle spasm, or an ache somewhere on my body. I feel sad for friends of mine whose younger years were filled with so many medical issues that they were unable to carry children and are now past the point of ability (or desire) to do so. I sometimes feel guilty for having hope that I will one day carry my own child, when it seems so unfair to those who’ve never had that opportunity. If I get pregnant, how would that make them feel? But, when we focus more on what we cannot see (our inner nature), we realize that we all have our challenges that can help strengthen us. And these “slight momentary afflictions” are not the end of our stories. The hardships we face as infertiles – and in life in general – are preparing for us an “eternal weight of glory,” if we can learn to have the right attitude. God will redeem our stories, regardless of whether or not they end in pregnancy. So, don’t lose heart.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God.”

Paul (the author of Corinthians) is the King of making sentences longer than they need to be, but this passage is simply a reminder that when we go through various challenges in our lives – we are supposed to use our experiences in order to help others who are going through the same thing. Our world is so heart-broken. There are so many people with so many different types of challenges and traumas – and we can’t do something about everything. But we can do something. At the heart of the gospel is the story of a God who suffers in order to lighten our burdens. And we can live out that example each day as we suffer on the behalf of others, using what we have suffered through as an opportunity to lighten the load of another person.

Psalm 37:23-24

Our steps are made firm by the Lord, when He delights in our way; though we stumble, we shall not fall headlong, for the Lord holds us by the hand.”

It’s a lot of responsibility to think that, with everything you are going through already, you have to find the emotional energy to continue to trust and worship God, focus more on the whole of His story than on your personal pain, and tap into your sufferings in order to help someone else! Actually it’s impossible to be able to do all of that consistently. Sure, you’ll have your good days, but you will have bad days. You will have fits of extreme envy. You will be angry. You will feel spiritually dead. You will have pity parties. But if the Lord delights in your way, though you stumble, you will not fall headlong. He holds you by the hand. You don’t have to be perfect. He already is.

I hope that one or more of my favorite infertility verses has encouraged you in your journey to parenthood! Comment below or on Facebook to share your favorite infertility (or general hard-times) verses with me! I’d love to hear it!

Infertility

Injection Day!

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I have had such an up and down week since last Thursday, when I began this cycle’s round of testing and treatment.

The first portion of my medical instructions for this cycle included daily bloodwork and transvaginal exams that began at the end of my follicular phase. The experience was pretty uncomfortable, and extremely suspenseful as I waited each day to see whether or not I would ovulate. The biggest concern of this past week revolved around the fact that there was some confusion about the development of my dominant follicle. I’d been told that it had grown from 1.4cm, to 1.7cm, and then to 2.2cm! As my follicle grew, I felt confident that it would soon rupture (a good thing!).

While in class on Tuesday morning, I got a phone call from my doctor saying that my follicle had actually not grown to 2.2cm, and that for the past few days it had remained at 1.7cm. This was the last thing I wanted to hear. I feared it would mean that I wouldn’t ovulate, or that something was wrong with it to have caused it to stop growing. It’s bad enough that I have low progesterone and (potential) endometriosis. I didn’t want to find out that I had ovulation issues as well.

Thankfully, ovulation did happen and I was able to stop going to my daily exams. The woman who performed my transvaginal exams assured me that my follicle had grown to 2.2cm, and that there must have been some confusion in the paperwork they’d sent my doctor. I don’t know what happened, but I am glad that portion of this cycle is over! The next set of instructions was to start my progesterone injections.

On one hand, I was excited for these injections. My doctor hinted at the possibility that I could be conceiving and losing my children without ever knowing it, because of how low my levels of progesterone are. I’m praying that, if I do concieve this cycle, these progesterone injections will be enough to allow implantation and save my child’s life.
On the other hand – the needle is huge! I’ve never had a shot with a needle as big as the needles we are using. And being an avid “googler,” I have seen some pretty scary  progesterone injection horror stories!

So, how did it go?

A friend of mine sent me an instructional video to watch as hubby prepared to give me the injection. Using the video and the written instructions from our doctor, we prepared and drew up the progesterone into the syringe. I laid down on my stomach, shut my eyes, and expected to feel the sharp jab of a large needle entering my skin. But instead of me, it was husband who ended up yelling “Ouch!”

He had accidentally stabbed himself, trying to get the cap off of the needle. In his defense, those caps were really difficult to get off!

After washing the blood off of his finger and changing needles, we started over. He stuck the needle in so quickly that I didn’t even feel it going in! Afterward, he spent the next two and a half minutes injecting all of the progesterone into my skin. The injection actually hurt more after the shot than during. The entire left side of my rear and left leg was numb for over two hours afterward, and almost immediately after the injection I began to feel sleepy and subdued.

I let hubby massage the progesterone into my skin, walked around our apartment for a bit, and then laid down with a heating pad. It might be silly, but I read somewhere that pineapples help with implantation – so I bought a pineapple and have been eating it all week.

Hey, I need all the help (and hope) I can get!

Despite the busyness of being monitored, tested, and injected this cycle – I am happy to finally be doing something. For too many months, hubby and I had been blindly trying to concieve with no idea of what could be wrong or what to do about it. I am so grateful for my new doctor and for her aggression in helping us get to the bottom of our infertility.

All in all, I’d say my first progesterone injection was a success!

What was your first progesterone injection like?

Infertility, Spiritual Fitness

A Post in Two Subjects

It begins.

My progesterone-in-oil shots (PIO) and all of the (HUGE) needles arrived in the mail, and a feeling of excitement and fear found its way into my brain. We have been making sure to do the “baby dance” on all the right days this cycle, even changing up plans in our schedule around it, and I am excited to see whether or not the progesterone supplementation will help me to achieve and (God-willing) sustain a pregnancy. On the other hand, the needles are huge. And they were expensive. Insurance didn’t cover any of it, and I am afraid that my (potential) endometriosis will turn out to be so severe that PIO injections alone won’t help. I can’t help but feel like it is a little naive of me – after all of the failures of this journey so far – to think that a few cycles of PIO injections will “do the trick,” and yet – that is exactly what I want to happen!

I also began my ultrasound series and will be doing my estradiol testing over the course of the next few days. I’m not going to lie. I don’t cry much, but I cried afterward. I accidentally glanced up at the monitor while the technician was doing my ultrasound, and I couldn’t help but think of all the times that I have seen pictures of friends’ pregnancy sonograms. And here was mine. With no baby. I didn’t expect it to be that hard, but it was. The sadness blind-sided me. On top of that, the exam was very uncomfortable. I’m going for another one in just two short hours. I am just ready to get through this cycle and through the rest of my PIO trial cycles, and find out whether or not I will be pregnant or need surgery.

As Lent progresses, I have been doing a decent job of keeping to my commitment to drink only water during the Lenten season. But it’s been rough. I have been craving juice like crazy! I thought I had a mild juice addiction before Lent, and now I know that my addiction to juice is probably more severe than I first believed! During those times when I crave the soothing rush of a cranberry-apple or the thick salve of a pomegranate-cherry, I think about those who are literally giving their heads for the cause of Christ in other parts of the world. I mentioned before that fasting has always been a difficult concept for me, but through the giving up of my favorite beverages I am starting to understand just how little we are asked to give for the sake of our Lord. I am such a wimp, to struggle with giving up juice, while others are giving much, much more.

Their sacrifices have put the idea of fasting into better perspective for me.

It’s actually perfect timing that this cycle of PIO injections, ultrasound series’, and estradiol testing falls during the Lenten season. I hope that I can keep it all together as I try to honor God through “juice-addiction” and infertility. It’s difficult to walk the path on which God has placed you. My commitment to fast for Lent is more than just drinking water for forty days. It is a promise from me to God that says I will be disciplined enough to follow Him, come what may. Come raging juice withdrawal. Come infertility. Come death.

Because my life is not about me.

Emotional Fitness, Infertility, Spiritual Fitness

Anxiety

I am feeling so anxious today.

I went to the doctor last Monday and she laid out a pretty good plan for moving forward in our journey to become parents. As it turns out, in addition to the suspected endometriosis, I have incredibly low progesterone and abnormally high estrogen levels. The doctor said that technically, I could be conceiving each month and losing the child due to the fact that my low progesterone levels would make it nearly impossible for the baby embryo to implant into my uterus.

The first step of the plan she laid out for me is to have an ultrasound series from day 10 of my cycle until ovulation. The next part of the plan begins 3 days after ovulation, when I’ll start taking progesterone injections between 3 and 11 DPO. I’ll have a few more estrogen and progesterone tests this cycle, and if I’m not pregnant by May – I’ll have surgery to diagnose and remove any endometriosis.

I have scheduled the ultrasound series and am waiting for the pharmacy to call me and confirm the order for my progesterone shots. All of this waiting is so hard.

As an infertile, I feel like all I do is wait. I anxiously await the doctor appointments that I set, then I wait for the right time to carry out whatever instructions the doctors give me, I wait out the days between ovulation and my next period, and ultimately I wait for that day when my period won’t show up. My life is a never-ending waiting game. I am usually patient, trying to stay focused on the little moments that make up the mosaic of my life, but today I am anxious. I am so anxious.

This morning, Psalm 20 was part of my daily reading routine. I normally hate to take scriptures out of the context in which they were written and randomly apply them to my life, but I couldn’t help but feel like God was speaking to me through Psalm 20 this morning. Last Friday, I told God that I just can’t do this anymore. All of the waiting. Getting my hopes up for nothing. Seeing friends grow their families and not understanding why my body won’t work. Infertility has taken over, and I just want my life back. I’d begun trying to re-plan and re-envision what life could be like, sans children. I started asking myself, “would it really be so bad to never become a mother?” I figured I could make a career change, find new hobbies, keep my gorgeous figure for the rest of my life.

But I never feel right when trying to envision childlessness for myself. Even without the biological ability to have a child, I would certainly adopt. I know that I am meant for motherhood. Everything in my life has pointed toward it, from the different experiences I’ve had, to the things that interest me, to my line of work, right down to my personality. I am meant for motherhood. And I am closer to it than I have ever been.

So, I am anxious. I am aching with anticipation. I am desperate for relief from this particular hell that is infertility. But I will wait. And the first words I will speak to my children – after their births or adoptions or as they come into my home as my foster loves – will be the words I think God wanted me to hear, today.

“May the LORD answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you. May He send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion. May He remember all your sacrifices and accept your burnt offerings. May He give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed. We will shout for joy when you are victorious and will lift up our banners in the name of our God. May the LORD grant all your requests. Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed; He answers him from his holy heaven with the saving power of his right hand. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise and stand firm. Give victory to the king, Oh LORD; answer us when we call.”

Emotional Fitness, Infertility, Relational Fitness

Say What!? // Part 2

Last week, I wrote a post about some of the craziest, most insensitive comments that infertiles receive as we struggle with trying to get pregnant. In that post, I promised a follow-up that would explain some of the things our fertile friends and family members can do to help us during these difficult times. As I am writing this, I am struggling with the (very tactful and gentle) announcement of a close friend’s pregnancy. She asked about how to go about breaking the news to her other infertile friends, and her question reminded me that I owe this blog a post! My friend’s announcement, although extremely painful for me, was a reminder that there are people within the fertile community who are sensitive to the struggles of infertility. Hopefully, those of you who are not struggling with infertility will discover ways to care for your friends who are.

Don’t Brush Us Off

I remember what a shock and crisis of conscience I felt when I first began sharing my struggles with infertility. Some people that I shared with made my journey feel so trivial. I was told that I was too young to be worried about it, that things could be worse, that I should be happy that I don’t have children and can have time to myself, I was told to “just relax” or to have more faith – I was even told by someone to stop complaining! It had taken me quite a long time to come to terms with the fact that I might never be able to produce children, and when I finally opened up about it – I was shot down. The truth is, infertility is a disease. It is a disability. When my body is unable to do something that it was designed to dothere is a real problem. No amount of “relaxing” is going to help me get pregnant if my insides are defective. In my experience, the desire to become a mother is one of the strongest desires on earth. This is what I believe I was made for. And I shouldn’t have to feel guilty about that. If someone opens up to you about their infertility, it is likely that they have been stewing over it for quite some time. There is a good chance that your friend is in deep, deep pain. Do not brush it off with platitudes.

Listen and Learn

When a friend comes to me with a problem that he or she is facing, my first reaction is to try to fix it! I hate seeing people in pain and I always want to be the one to save the day. That being said, I totally understand the temptation to give advice to your infertile friend who opens up to you! After all, this person is frustrated and unhappy and you hate to see them feeling so down. But resist the urge to give advice. Chances are, your friend has already tried it all! I didn’t really open up about my infertility until about 2 years in! By that time, I had tried everything I could think of (and could afford) that didn’t go against my moral code. It was rather insulting when someone said something like, “Well are you having sex during ovulation?” or “You need to get more exercise!” By the time your infertile friend is opening up to you, they have probably tried nearly everything. All they need from you is an ear.

What you CAN do, however, is a little basic research on infertility. There are so many thoughts and feelings I have about my infertility that I cannot adequately put into words. Sometimes, though, I find that others have done the hard work of expressing the pain of infertility for me. By reading others’ accounts of their experiences, medical problems, and emotions – you can get a glimpse into what your friend is likely dealing with and be better equipped to listen. Doing a bit of research on infertility is a great way to show that you care and are interested in what your friend is walking through.

Sympathy that Counts

There was one time where I thought to myself, “Why am I the one who has to go through this?” No sooner than that thought crossed my mind, I immediately asked myself if I would have wished infertility on someone else. And when the answer was no, I realized how grateful I am that it is ME dealing with this, and not the people that I love. My friend who announced her pregnancy mentioned that she wished she could say she understood what I was dealing with, but that she doesn’t. The good news for her (and for all you fertile friends out there) is your infertile friend doesn’t want you to be able to understand!! Most of us wouldn’t wish this on our worst enemies. Yet, although we know you can’t understand the pain of infertility (and don’t want you to be able to!) there are some things that we wish you would do to show your support and sympathy.

Be careful about how you announce your pregnancy. Most of us prefer that you tell us first, privately, so that we can process our grief before the rest of the world clamors around at your fertile feet, singing your praises. Having a baby is such a beautiful, life-changing, wonderful, miraculous event. And we have been robbed of that miracle. We are genuinely happy for you and want to see you grow your family, but we are devastated with grief, anger, frustration, and sadness at every pregnancy announcement. There are a lot of feelings to process before we can respond appropriately. Give us that extra time by letting us know as soon as you can, and before the big reveal.

Don’t be offended if something “suddenly comes up” on the day of your baby shower or child’s birthday party. Events like these are huge triggers for us, especially if we have recently miscarried, started our period, or found out some devastating medical news. Attending an event like this under our circumstances for even twenty minutes can literally ruin an infertile’s entire week. If we do show up, it wouldn’t hurt to let us know that you see our pain and appreciate us for being there anyway. Although we aren’t showing up in order to earn your gratitude, it helps to ease some of the pain of being there when we know that our pain didn’t go completely unnoticed.

Be a good parent. There is nothing more maddening (to me, at least) than when I hear about the abortion, abuse, or neglect of a child. When I hear things like this, I sometimes tell God – “I would have treasured that child!” On the other hand, when I see my friends being good parents, it honestly makes me feel so happy. I am grateful when I see people treasuring the gift that God has given them, instead of taking those gifts for granted. I pray for my parent-friends constantly in their journey through parenthood. And I am proud to be associated with people who are such loving mothers and fathers.

-Remember that adoption is not a replacement for having biological children. While an infertile who adopts loves the adopted children and most certainly considers those children to be their own – it does not erase the pain of a broken body. While, for some people, the pain of infertility may subside for awhile because of the joy and excitement of adoption – don’t assume that your friend has completely come to terms with their infertility simply because they’ve adopted.

Don’t Assume that We are Ungrateful

With infertility – as with any struggle – there are good days and bad days. When I am having a good day, I generally don’t talk about my infertility because there is no need to “vent,” so to speak. When I am having a bad day, on the other hand, I have pretty much all but melted on the ground. What this means is that you – as a fertile person – are more likely to hear your friend’s troubles on a day when things are really bad. This might give you the impression that your infertile friend is ungrateful or a complainer – when in truth they are only venting because it just happens to be a bad day. Infertiles count their blessings all the time. We know that there is so much to be grateful for. I have many things that I am grateful for and I remind myself of those blessings multiple times each day. I am growing and I am becoming more spiritually mature than I ever would have without infertility. But growth is a process, and every day is not a good day.

Pray With Us!

If you are the praying type, don’t hesitate to pray with or for your infertile friend! Of course, we want you to pray that we will have a baby – but there are other things you can pray as well. Pray for our faith. Infertility shakes your faith to the core. If you believe in a God who can walk on water, make blind men see, and raise Himself up from the dead – the natural question that follows is why won’t He heal my body? Pray for our patience. With some medical issues, a person can see the “end of the road.” They can receive treatment that will heal them, and that will be it. No such luck for those of us with infertility. We don’t know when – or if – our suffering will ever end. We need patience and trust to deal with everything that comes our way during this journey. Pray for our finances. Infertility wreaks havoc on your bank account. It doesn’t help that most insurance companies don’t cover anything infertility related. Pray for wisdom of our doctors. Doctor visits are scary. Invasive surgeries are scary. The fact that we have to go through all this just to do something our bodies should naturally do is scary. Miscarriages are scary. Infertility related diseases are scary. Medicines, shots, suppositories – all of those are scary. We just want to be cared for by a medical professional that we can trust to do what’s best for our health. Pray for our emotional health. It has been said that the stress and depression rates of infertiles are similar to the depression and stress rates of cancer patients. 

Ultimately, we all have struggles in life and need to learn to how to deal with one another in the most appropriate ways during times of difficulty. I am so grateful that my infertility has brought me to new levels of compassion that I had not known were possible. I hope to personally do a better job of the Biblical command to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15).

And to my wonderful friend who just announced her pregnancy yesterday – congratulations! You are an excellent mother and I know your children will absolutely thrive because of who you are and the role you and your husband are playing in their lives.