FET #2 looks like it was a bust…

Sometimes the universe can seem so cruel.  We had our second frozen embryo transfer last Tuesday.  That same day, my grandfather was moved to hospice care. The next day, he passed away.  I spent days 1-6 post transfer prepping for and attending his wake and funeral service. Today is 7 days post transfer, and it looks like this cycle was a bust.

The past week has been a roller coaster.  I fluctuated between hope and doubt every day.  It didn’t feel like last time. My body felt….different. I also didn’t have the same degree of hope and anticipation that I did with the first cycle. I didn’t feel as excited at embryo transfer. I didn’t feel the same attachment to our embryo. Everything just felt…off.

The biggest struggle was deciding if and when to take a home pregnancy test. As always, I am my own worst enemy.

Last time, with Brodie, we had a positive FRER and Clear Blue Digital five days post transfer.   There was no guesswork, just an immediate answer. I wanted to test early again this time. Probably because I was secretly hoping for an early positive. But also because I hoped an inconclusive early negative wouldn’t be upsetting. I could just retest later, or wait for my BETA.

But then I realized that my grandfather’s wake fell on 5dpt (five days post transfer) and his funeral on 6 days post transfer. I drove myself crazy trying to figure out what to do. I was afraid of having a complete meltdown if I tested and received a negative result before the wake or funeral. But I was also too chicken to wait until 7dpt – I figured at that point, a negative may very well be a negative.

I hate to admit it, but I succumbed to the madness that is early pregnancy testing. First mistake: I ordered a ridiculous number of pregnancy tests from Amazon. When they arrived on Saturday, I somehow rationalized that I would just “try them out” to get a “baseline.” Sure, Jenny. That makes COMPLETE sense. So, I got my first BFN (big fat negative) on a Wondfo & First Response 4dp5dt (4 days past 5 day transfer).

Even though I said I wouldn’t, I tested again on Sunday morning. That test, 5 days post transfer, was also negative. At this point, my whole “it’s too early to get upset” logic was thrown out the window. I had a  mega-meltdown and cried for about an hour. I pulled myself together and went to the wake for the rest of the day. Alex and I agreed we would not test again until after the funeral.

Fast forward to Monday night: 6 days post transfer. Last time, I had strong positive pregnancy tests at this point.  Now that the funeral was over,  Alex and I were starting to process the idea that this cycle may not work.  Around 10:30, we decided I should take a First Response test.  We agreed that if we got a negative, we’d start preparing ourselves for bad news.

So I took the First Response test. I watched the dye wash across the screen – but a second line didn’t start to from.  Not even a hint. I left the test on the counter and let Alex know it was probably going to be a negative.  We were sad, but had figured this might be the case.

At the end of 3 minutes, I checked back to find…a maybe line?Alex came over and took a look. And he saw it too. We had a super-duper, barely-there, second line. It was definitely pink, but REALLY light and faint.

Cue confusion, hope, anticipation, and fear. We weren’t sure WHAT to think. The logical side of us knew that this might mean chemical pregnancy or a failed implantation. Sometimes the embryos try to implant, start to secrete HCG, but ultimately fail. I figured that there couldn’t be much HCG in my system with that squinty faint line. Just for kicks, I tried a digital: a big fat “not pregnant.”

Confused, but a little intrigued and hopeful, we decided to go to bed and retest in the morning. Even as I warned Alex that we had probably caught the end of a failed implantation, I secretly hoped that we had caught the beginning of a pregnancy with a late implanter. I can be pretty jaded sometimes, but I think a big part of me really believed that I would wake up the next morning and get my real BFP.

As you can tell from the title of this post, that didn’t happen. I woke up and tested Tuesday morning – 7 days post transfer. This time, the faint barely-there line was the same, if not lighter. This was not what I had hoped for.

Tuesday, I completely lost it. I didn’t cry or melt down. Instead, I obsessively googled faint BFP’s, late BFP’s, late implanters, FET chemical pregnancy, etc. I took my remaining ClearBlue digital test (also negative) and two more Wondfos.  I scrutinized evap lines on the wondfos and drove myself crazy.  By the time Alex got home, I was a basket case.

At this point, I was out of pregnancy tests. So, we went out to the store and bought a few more. We decided that we’d retest at night. I usually get my best positives at night anyway. If I still had that super faint squinter, or if the line disappeared, it was probably a chemical pregnancy.

In the end, I took two sensitive tests – FRER & EPT – at 8:30 at night. No line whatsoever. Nothing.

Of course, we are going to continue with my meds & the PIO shot until the BETA on Thursday.  I guess you never really know until BETA confirms it. But I am 99% sure that this cycle is a bust.

It was kind of brutal. June was the month we were supposed to become parents. June 8th was Brodie’s due date. Instead, we watched that due date come and go. We lost my grandfather. We threw ourselves into another FET. And we lost that embryo too. The faint positive the night of the funeral just seems like a cruel joke.

I’m sad, but also feeling more centered now that I am not vacillating between hope and despair. There will definitely be some pity-part moments. And I do feel very discouraged. But, as always, I want to end on a positive note.

It is easy to start linking events together and creating a narrative. Our cycles failed, grandpa died, nothing is working. The universe is out to get me. You know, all that pessimistic bullshit. It’s easy to get sucked into that thought process when so much shit has gone down for the past 2.4 years.

But, I have to remember: I can’t tell the future.  Trying to piece together a narrative when you don’t know what is going to happen a week, a month, or a year from now is just plain DUMB.

This is what I believe: We are going to find our way to our child. This embryo was not meant to be our child. Maybe our baby is one of our remaining 7 frozen embryos. Or, maybe the picture is even bigger. Maybe we will end up adopting. And if not for this failure, we may never have found our way to our baby. I know our baby is out there somewhere. So, Alex and I are going to stay strong on this journey and keep moving forward. Good things have happened, and good things will happen. I know it.

 

 

 

FET Cycle #2 Starts…Now

I’ve been ambivalent about writing a blog post for a while now. With FET #2 looming, I’m afraid of getting sucked into that mindset where I live and breathe infertility.  Been there, done that. I don’t want to do it again.

“Just Relax”

If only it were that easy.

Early on, before I had the official diagnosis of infertility, I encountered the advice to “just relax.”  The conventional wisdom boiled down to this:  Don’t think about it. Have some drinks, chill, enjoy your time as a couple.  Go on vacation. Don’t plan. It’ll happen when you aren’t even trying.

Obviously, this is terrible advice for those experiencing infertility.  But, in defense of my friends and family, their advice really wasn’t that bad for a normal, fertile couple.

I would love to live my life according to the “just relax” mantra. It’s a pretty sweet deal. You mean, we can just go back to our normal, care-free existence, and still get pregnant in a year or so? Sign me up!

Infertility Demands Your Attention

 “Just relax.”

“Stop trying so hard.”

This one-size-fits-all advice starts to lose its relevance once infertility is thrown into the mix. Infertility demands your attention.

When we were diagnosed with infertility, we entered into a bizarre world of uncertainty where statistics offer guidance but no guarantees. Every day, we try to balance the hope that the latest ART (assisted reproductive technology) will work, with the reality that no acronym (IVF, ICSI, PGD) can predict the ending to our story.  After a point, it boils down to trial and error.

Despite this, we have to move forward. And moving forward often means making too many decisions with too little information.

  • Should we spend $4,000+ to have our embryos genetically tested? Will this decrease our chances of having another miscarriage?
  • What if the miscarriage was caused by my screwy body and not a chromosomal abnormality?
  • In that case, is it better to save $4,000 toward adoption?
  • How can we afford adoption?
  • Do I have the emotional grit to withstand more failed cycles or miscarriages until we  choose the”right” embryo?

Moving forward also means hard work. It’s difficult to stay detached and unemotional when you find yourself…

  •  waking up at 4:30 AM  to get blood work and ultrasounds
  • giving yourself daily injections  & taking a ton of pills
  •  waiting for the nurse to call when you’re at work and not knowing if today’s voicemail will be neutral, hopeful, or devastating.
  • spending hours on hold with the insurance company
  • scheduling an endless line of saline sonograms & minor uterine surgeries

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Alex and I are lucky enough to have embryos in the freezer and insurance coverage for infertility. I would imagine that list only becomes more complex for the many couples who are not as lucky.

Crawling Across the Dessert

The winter that I was diagnosed with infertility,  I was kind of obsessed with Joanna Newsom’s song, Only Skin. As with everything Joanna Newsom writes, the lyrics are lengthy and cryptic. Despite  having no fucking clue what the song was actually about, I latched on to one line at the end of the song:

but I’m starving and freezing in my measly old bed
then I’ll crawl across the salt flats to stroke your sweet head
come across the desert with no shoes on
I love you truly, or I love no-one

Dramatic, I know. Penchant for drama aside, though, the imagery of crawling across the desert resonated with me. If my second year of infertility had a theme song, this would be it.

I refer to infertility at that point in my life as a desert, because that’s what it felt like. I didn’t like being there. It was barren, harsh and alien compared to the life Alex and I used to lead. I know it’s easy to see the past with rose-colored glasses. But, the period directly before our infertility (2012-2014) was an overall happy, carefree time for us. Once 2014 hit, we entered a world of uncertainty, which was only further exacerbated by Alex’s unexpected job loss and subsequent hell-commute to his new job in the city.

By 2015, I wanted OUT of this desert. With a year of hardship behind me, I couldn’t turn around.  I sure as hell didn’t want to stay where I was. So, I just kept on crawling forward.

You can’t “just relax” your way out of infertility

Alex and I spent most of 2015 pursuing fertility treatments.  Meanwhile, everyone on earth seemed to be announcing pregnancies or having babies.  I often felt I was crossing a metaphorical desert.

After we miscarried, we spent November 2015-June 2016 waiting to try again. First we were on a break, then we were waiting for surgery. Meanwhile, everyone on earth was still announcing pregnancies and having babies.

I still feel like we’re crossing that metaphorical desert.  With two and half years behind us, we can’t turn around. So we just keep trudging forward.   Trudging forward has meant giving up our apartment and moving in with my parents to save for adoption. Trudging forward has meant a third surgery and two saline sonograms to be extra sure that my septum can’t cause a miscarriage.  And as excited as we are to FINALLY be in FET Cycle #2, we’re still trudging through that desert. I’m going for monitoring 1-2 times a week, taking 9+ oral meds each day, and injecting 1 ml of progesterone in oil into the muscle of my butt every night.

There’s just no way  around it: Infertility changes your world.

Infertility has profoundly shaped the person I am today. It has been a part of my life experience for over two years now. I can’t just pretend my infertility doesn’t exist and carry on with life as normal.

Tending our Garden

So, yeah: We’re still in that desert. But that doesn’t mean life has to suck.

This summer, Alex and I applied for a community garden. Even though we were late in the game, we acquired the last 15’X30′ plot.  A few weeks ago, we planted 30 different types of vegetables and herbs: bush beans, cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes, pumpkins, squash, radishes…you get the idea.  Even though we are relatively new to gardening, we are having a blast.

So, being the English teacher I am, I’d like to add to the desert metaphor for 2016: We may still be in the desert, but we are going to plant the shit out of that sucker this year.

Infertility is part of my life, but it doesn’t rule my life. Infertility is part of who I am, but it doesn’t define who I am.

In the past year, we’ve done IVF, miscarried, moved, had more surgery, waited, watched our our would-have-been due date come and go, and still have no resolution.

However, in the past year, we’ve also acquired a lot of positives:

  • Alex snagged a job 5 minutes away from home. No more hell commute!
  • I’ve started yoga classes again at a great studio
  • We’ve been hiking more
  • We have time to brew beer again
  • I’ve been reading, writing & listening to podcasts a hell of a lot more
  • And, last but not least, the community garden plot

The truth is, we don’t know how long it’s going to take us to cross this desert. So we may as well make it as pleasant of a place as possible. I have a lot of good feelings about 2016. It’s been a tough year at times, but it’s also been lovely, with a lot of bright spots. Let’s keep those bright spots coming.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#StartAsking How We Can End the Silence

Infertility can be a lonely path. But it doesn’t have to be. In honor of Resolve’s National Infertility Awareness Week, I am going to #StartAsking.

I will #StartAsking how I can share my story and help end the silence that surrounds infertility and pregnancy loss.

Infertility is an invisible disease.  Most people would never guess that Alex and I have been struggling with infertility for over two years. No one at my place of work, nor any of my extended family, knows that we did IVF. Or that it took us nearly two years, two surgeries, three IUI’s, one IVF, and one FET to achieve a pregnancy . Or that we lost that first little embryo, “Brodie,” at 9 weeks gestation despite seeing a healthy heartbeat on the ultrasound just a few days before.

After my miscarriage, I  started to think about how bizarre it is that so many women like me struggle in silence. There have been a record number of pregnancies at work this year – eight (!!) instead of the usual one or two .  For a short time, I was part of that club, even if no one knew it. After I miscarried, other women announced their pregnancies. First, women who were due in June like I had been. Then, women due in July or August or September. As they walked past me in the hallway, I would marvel at what a difference a few weeks makes.  These ladies were just like me, only their pregnancies had lasted into the second trimester, and that made all the difference. Their babies  were acknowledged and celebrated.  The moms-to-be were given support and encouragement as their pregnancies progressed.

For Alex and me, it’s as if our pregnancy never occurred.  Even our immediate families, who knew about the miscarriage and were incredibly supportive in the days following our loss, have since ceased to talk or ask about our infertility journey.

Why is it so taboo to talk about infertility and miscarriage?

1 in 8 couples struggle with infertility

10-20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage.

There are a hell of a lot of us out here, experiencing this, every day. Why, then, does no one talk about it?

I think a lot of the stigma around miscarriage comes from a misguided attempt to “protect” women.  Because miscarriage is so common in early pregnancy, women are advised to  keep their pregnancies secret until the second trimester.  I get this. I really do.   By not announcing early, you save yourself the heartbreak of having to repeatedly share bad news if you miscarry. You also won’t have to listen to misguided platitudes, such as “everything happens for a reason” or “at least you can get pregnant.” 

But sometimes the advice  of waiting till the second trimester begins to feel less like advice and more like an oppressive social expectation. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like society gets pretty judgemental towards women who are bold enough to announce pregnancies before 14 weeks. As if by announcing too early, women are tempting fate and almost asking to miscarry.

Instead of protecting women, we’ve created a culture of silence.  Many women don’t realize how common miscarriage is until they’ve experienced it themselves. The same goes for infertility.  I didn’t realize my own parents experienced infertility until I was 29 years old.

You know what’s even worse? This culture of silence results in a lack of support and empathy for couples who do miscarry. Couples are encouraged to keep their pregnancies to themselves for their own emotional well-being.  But by doing so, they sacrifice the support of family and friends during one of the most difficult times of their lives.

I told my parents and best friend that I was pregnant at just 4 weeks. When people know you’ve just done IVF, it becomes challenging to keep it on the down-low. But I still hated telling people. The fear of it not working out was so intense.  After we announced to my parents, I had a mini-meltdown. I was so worried that if I miscarried, I would be causing them unnecessary sadness.

But, then I did miscarry. And I realized that I didn’t regret one thing. If I had it to do over again, I would still share the news with those closest to me. The silver lining of my miscarriage was that my parents and friends were there for us every step of the way. I’m a talker – I need to verbally rehash the hard stuff in my life to come to terms with it. So, after my miscarriage my Mom, my Dad, and my best friend got the play by play of our story. And while they probably could have done without hearing all the gritty details of a 9 week miscarriage, I could not have handled the miscarriage as well without their support.

This brings me back to those pregnant coworkers. Couples struggling with infertility and miscarriage deserve the support and kindness of their communities too. I don’t expect us to be treated exactly like pregnant women.  Our situation is pretty  different than that of my pregnant coworkers.  Plus, people on the street can actually SEE their growing bellies or the chubby faces of their newborns – and that makes all the difference when it comes to empathy and support.

So, what am I asking for then?: For friends and family to #StartAsking how they can acknowledge the struggles of infertile couples and support them on their journeys.

Our experiences are REAL. Our struggles and heartbreak are REAL. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Be kind to yourself. Ask for support. Grieve for your losses, no matter how “small” someone else might deem them.

Unless they’ve gone through it themselves, many people don’t realize how deep of a loss a failed cycle can be. Many people do not understand how you can grieve for a baby that never “existed.” But we do. Many of us have been holding the hope a child – our child – in our hearts for much longer than 9 months. For Alex and me, it has been 26 months. For many others, it has been even longer.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that most of your friends and family want to support you. Sometimes they just don’t know how.  It is up to us to tell our stories and educate those closest to us. Highlight the fact that infertility is a disease and often requires treatment. Let others know about the emotional impacts of infertility and pregnancy loss  – that studies have shown the stress of infertility can be comparable to that of women with  cancer or heart disease. Share Resolve’s fact sheet on Coping with Infertility: How Friends and Family Can Help.

And, last but not least, I will #StartAsking how I can be an active member of the infertility community and support my fellow warriors.

This brings me back to my first point: Infertility can be a lonely and isolating experience. But it doesn’t have to be.  While my journey has been hard at times, it would have been a hell of a lot worse if not for a number of cool people. While I don’t know anyone in my day to day life that is currently going through infertility, support has come from some unlikely places. Specifically, the internet.  These two resources are my current favorites, but they are just the tip of the iceberg:

Heartships of Hope: About a year into my infertility journey, I discovered the infertility community on Youtube. These brave ladies put themselves out there and share all the gritty details of their struggles. In particular, Heartships of Hope made me fee like I wasn’t so alone after I miscarried. I don’t know Kaela, nor have I ever posted on Youtube, but I sooo related to her experience of miscarrying after IVF.

Beat Infertility: A few months ago, I discovered Heather Huhman’s podcast, Beat Infertility.  Every week, Heather interviews women who have “beat” infertility -through fertility treatments, adoption, or deciding to live child-free.  Many of these women have been through far more than I have: years of infertility, multiple miscarriages, stillbirth, etc.  The podcast also features experts – doctors, therapists, nutritionists – who discuss the medical and emotional sides of infertility. Listening to the podcast helps me stay positive and remember to be kind to myself. If these women can stay hopeful, I can too. There is also a Beat Infertility Community where women can share experiences, advice and support through social media.

As I said, this is just the tip of the iceberg. The strength and vitality of the infertility community is astounding.  Technology has allowed us to break down the walls of isolation and share knowledge in ways that were never possible before.  From the comfort of my couch, I can watch real women explain what an HSG feels like, how to give an intramuscular injection, or what to expect after an IVF egg retrieval.

I know it’s cliche, but knowledge is power. And this grassroots movement to improve women’s access to information on their healthcare has become a force to be reckoned with. This year, I pledge to add one more small voice to the chorus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Septum Revisited

I think I’ve mentioned before how the infertility experience can feel an awful lot like the movie, Groundhog Day.  Just when you think you’ve gotten somewhere, you wake up and realize you’re back at square one.

A year ago, we had my uterine septum removed. Our RE discovered it during our initial consult back in February ’15. By the end of March, the septum was no more. And by the end of April, we were embarking on our first IUI cycle.

If things had proceeded in a linear, easy way, I would be sitting here saying, “and the rest is history” while smugly rubbing my third trimester pregnant belly.

But this journey has not been linear, nor has it been easy.  So instead, I’m back on the birth control pill, rubbing my bloat-bump, and waiting for Hysteroscopy #3 at the end of April.

I think we’ve met before 

After the miscarriage, we decided to take a break from fertility treatments for a few months. When the hope for FET#2 began to outweigh the fear of miscarrying again,  we started to move forward.  FET #2 was scheduled for the end of March. We also had another follow-up with our doctor to hash out some last minute concerns. Our big three were:

  • Natural FET
  • PGD (aka testing our remaining embryos)
  • the results of our post-miscarriage saline sonogram

At the end of February, we met with our doctor for the follow-up, expecting to get the green light to move on to FET#2.  We had already discussed most of these issues at our “WTF” appointment after the loss. There wasn’t much more to talk about.  I think we were just looking for peace of mind.

During our last saline sonogram in January ’16, there was a teeny, tiny bit of septum left. Mid-exam, the doctor said he highly doubted it was enough to cause a miscarriage. He had offered to do another hysteroscopy for my own peace of mind, but didn’t think it was strictly necessary.

So, time for the all-clear, right? Apparently not.

Imagine our surprise when we walked into to our follow-up and the first words out of the doctor’s mouth were about…. the septum.

After sitting down and reviewing the specifics of our case, I guess there was enough of a gray area to give him pause. He still wasn’t entirely convinced the septum was a problem.  But the only way to get some clarity was to do another hysteroscopy.  Ultimately, we decided the risks of moving ahead with an FET outweighed the benefits. If my teeny, tiny septum was still a problem, my chances of having a repeat miscarriage could be as high as 80%.

Sure, he walked us through PGD and natural FET cycles too, but he didn’t think either of these were a huge deal. Since I was only 30, it was unlikely that more than two of our embryos were abnormal. He was also was totally unfazed by natural FET. My clinic does natural cycles all the time and the cancellation rate is fairly low.

Another 6 Weeks of Winter

So, almost a year to the day, we were faced with the Same. Damn. Decision.

February 2015 – Hmmm…My septum is pretty small, but it could still cause a miscarriage. Do we go ahead with surgery to be safe?

February 2016 – Hmmm…My septum is even smaller, but it could still cause a miscarriage. Do we go ahead with surgery to be safe?

March 2015 – Stop TTC. Go on birth control. Become a hormonal nutcase. Have surgery. 

March  AND April 2016 – Stop TTC. Go on birth control for even longer. Try really damn hard not to be a hormonal nutcase. Get mad serious about therapist appointments, yoga, and healthy eating. Wait some more.  Have surgery for the umpteenth time *yawn*

It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint

Five weeks down, three to go. Then surgery. Then another four weeks of waiting. Then, fingers crossed, we can start our next cycle. Estimated Start Date for FET #2: May 25th.

Patience has never been my strong point. I am also pretty stubborn. Sometimes I feel like the universe is trying to teach me some life lessons through all of this infertility bullshit. But, I’m me. And I guess I have to be dragged kicking and screaming through the same scenarios, over and over again, before those life lessons sink in.

After two years of infertility, I’m starting to learn some patience and coping techniques.  But, If we’re going to be honest, I still had a mini-meltdown the day that they called to schedule me for surgery. No surgery dates until the end of  APRIL?  Push back our FET until JUNE? 

Switching gears was  tough. My first instinct, as always, was to become a total control freak, look at the situation upside-down and sideways, and outline all possible scenarios for the future – from the happy to the catastrophic. This is one of my worst habits. Why, you might ask? Because it has absolutely NO POSITIVE EFFECT.

Okay…I’m going to stop using caps lock. My blog is starting to look like it’s written by a grandmother who doesn’t know how to use The Facebook.

But, anyway. Mindfulness, people. Mindfulness. It works. I just need to remember to do it.

Eventually, I calmed the fuck down. I remembered something that our infertility therapist told us once: When you start fertility treatment, you think it will be a short sprint to the finish line.  You never think you’re the one who will need IVF, or donor eggs, or a surrogate. You think that if you follow the right steps, muster all of your strength, and throw everything you have at this, you’ll make it to the finish line faster. It doesn’t matter if it hurts, or if you’re winded, because it’ll be over soon. You just need to suck it up for the short-term and before you know it, your baby will be in your arms.

Unfortunately, that’s not how it works for many of us. But that’s okay. We can still make it through if we change our strategy.

Infertility is a marathon, not a sprint.  I will get to the finish line, but it may take a while.  That is why it is so important to take this journey one step at a time and pace myself.

In addition to being impatient, I am also kind of obsessive. So, my first instinct is to put my head down and run full speed ahead. That is exactly what I did for the first 10 months of fertility treatments. I did get pregnant, but I was so emotionally and physically exhausted that I had a hard time dealing with the pregnancy itself.  After I miscarried, I hated the idea of going back to the clinic for more blood work and tests. I was just tired of it all.

Six months later, I have realized the importance of slowing down when I feel like running. Eight weeks of waiting for surgery is a drop in the bucket compared to what we’ve been through for the past two years.  In fact, eight weeks is a gift. I now have eight more weeks to strengthen myself and my relationship with Alex.  No one can predict the outcome of our next FET.  I do have complete faith, however, that I will be a mother one day. And when we finally get there, I want our child to be welcomed into a strong and centered family.

Two months of waiting isn’t a setback. Two months of waiting isn’t proof I wasn’t meant to be a mother. Two months of waiting just increases the odds that Alex and I will be some hardcore, awesome parents by the time we meet our baby.

(Now I just need someone to remind me of this when I have my next meltdown).

Till next time…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recipe Tuesday Kickoff & Chocolate Smoothie

I’ve decided to shake things up a bit with the blog and incorporate one of my favorite hobbies: cooking and eating. Welcome to the first edition of Recipe Tuesdays.

A Little Background

I love to eat, I love to cook, and I’m a big believer in eating all things in moderation. I think I eat a pretty healthy diet (except for my love of all things dessert). However, after being diagnosed with infertility, diet has become a sensitive topic for me.

On one hand, I know that diet did not cause my infertility and  won’t cure it either. There have been some studies that show a link between diet and infertility (the Harvard Nurses Study of 2007) – but all of those studies deal with ovulatory infertility. When it comes  to endometriosis, tubal issues, etc, there just isn’t a consensus on the effects of diet on our ability to get pregnant.

On the other hand, I am also aware that our diets do affect our overall health.  But where do we draw the line? A few months ago, I made the mistake of googling “endometriosis” and “diet.”   When I put everything together, I came away with the following advice: cut out dairy, gluten, red meat, sugar, soy, etc. etc. etc.  I am by no means an expert here, and I know that some people may have great results from modifying their diets in this way. But the advice I found was (a) extreme (b) not backed by extensive research (c) often contradictory.

So, I’ve just started winging it and doing what feels right to me. Mostly, I have been trying to cut down on my biggest vice: sugar.

I’ve also been experimenting with Mark Bittman’s VB6 philosophy. If you don’t know who Mark Bittman is, he was a food writer for the New York Times for many years and authored a ton of cookbooks. He hangs out with people like Mario Batali. So, you know this guy knows good food and likes to eat. That’s got to be a promising sign.

VB6 stands for Vegan Before 6:00.  The “before 6:00” part is just a suggestion. The main idea is to make 2/3rds of your meals vegan each day.  I like it because it’s flexible and doesn’t require you to completely cut out any food groups.  It also sticks pretty close to the way Alex and I prefer to eat – we’ve always leaned toward vegetarian cooking, and don’t like to eat meat-heavy meals back to back.

Disclaimer Time: I am a big advocate for eating the way that works best for YOU. I do not think there is a “one size fits all” diet. Aside from avoiding trans fats, limiting sugars, and going light on processed foods, there is no “right” way to eat. I will probably never go gluten or dairy free unless new research pops up suggesting these dietary changes would be right for me. However, for other people, going gluten or dairy free  is essential to their health.  And, even if you don’t have celiacs or lactose intolerance, I still say: you do you. If you feel better, then go for it. I really think we need to stop judging each other for our dietary choices.

So, how’s this VB6 thing working out for you?

Truth: I have gotten some skeptical reactions from family when I mentioned this whole VB6 thing.  However, it’s working out well so far and allows for a lot of wiggle room. I’ve been trying to eat breakfast and lunch vegan, and the rest of my meals however I’d like. I also make sure to include at least one serving of full-fat dairy a day, which studies have shown to be beneficial to women’s health and possibly their fertility. I LOVE dairy (cheese, yogurt, milk, etc) so going partially vegan has been a good thing – I still get plenty of dairy, but don’t overdo it any more.  More importantly, this has made me more aware of what I am eating and more creative about snacking. I’ve found I’ve been eating less processed carbs (crackers, cookies, etc) and more whole foods (fruit, chopped vegetables, nuts, edamame, hummus, etc.).

Also: I totally “cheat” some days. My diet over Easter weekend was definitely not VB6 – and that’s a good thing.  In my mind, I am going for a big picture change. As long as I feel I am eating healthier overall, it’s okay to deviate sometimes. So, if I have a “cheat” day here and there on the weekend, no worries – it’s life. I am going to enjoy my food, dammit!

A typical VB6 day:

Breakfast: Whole wheat toast with peanut butter / green tea

Lunch: Veggie wrap with red pepper spread, hummus, cucumbers, carrots & radishes.

Snack #1 – Sesame Almonds & Pecans

Snack #2 – Smoothie with frozen fruit  (I often “cheat” and put Greek yogurt in there)

Dinner: Roasted Chicken Thighs w/ Veg, potatoes & cous cous

And, finally, a recipe. 

This has been my favorite smoothie to make as an afternoon snack. There is no added sugar, but it’s about as close to a chocolate milkshake you can get without adding any ice cream.

Chocolate & Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie

1 frozen banana (I chop up bananas and freeze them in ziploc bags ahead of time)

1 -2 TBSP peanut butter

1/2 cup – 1 cup rice milk  (depending on how thick you’d like your smoothie)

1 heaping tablespoon cocoa

Optional: 1/2  cup plain yogurt

Optional: a few ice cubes

Just combine & blend until smooth.  Add 1-2 ice cubes if necessary. Pour into a glass & enjoy immediately.   I use my immersion blender to make smoothies, since it is super easy to clean. However, you could also use a regular blender.

 

The Birthday

So, I really should be working on a post for National Infertility Awareness Week OR writing an update about Saga of the Septum that Wouldn’t Die OR at the very least, my tentative future plans for an FET. Instead, I am going to…well, I’m going to bitch. I try not to do that too much on this blog, because I think it’s important to stay positive and constructive. However, the feelings that have been getting me down this month are feelings I think a lot of women have. And, I think it is occasionally permissible – and maybe even constructive – to share the real, uncensored, and gritty side of infertility. So, here we go…

It’s my birthday this month. We celebrated with my friends last weekend. Let’s just say it didn’t go exactly how I had imagined it. Or, let’s be real: It didn’t go exactly how I HOPED.   Because at this point, I just assume I am a magnet for  freakishly untimely pregnancy-and-baby-related coincidences that send me into a panicky pit of despair.

Shall I illustrate?

(1) The weekend after my miscarriage: Alex and I walk into a local market and are greeted by an aggressively happy welcome of, “Hey there – We’re talking about babies!”  And, indeed, the pregnant customer and her friends enthusiastically continued to do so, noting that they were so glad to be having their second or third kids, because they were getting so old.  They were 28. Ouch.

(2) In the faculty room at school: The clinic calls to discuss the pathology report after my miscarriage.  I’ve hardly hung up the phone when two coworkers walk in, talking about babies, and decide to bring me into the convo by joking, “Hey Jen, you look too relaxed. You need to have some kids! You have too much time on your hands. You need some kids to keep you busy.”  They had no idea what was going on with me. But, still.  Universe!! What’s up with that?

Anyway, back to The Birthday.

So, I think I doomed this birthday from the beginning. My very organized best friend texted me a few weeks ago to remind me to pick a date for my birthday. I picked a few dates and they chose one that worked well for them.  And, here’s where I went wrong. Usually, our casual outings cater to our friends’ schedule. We drive to their place, meet up before bedtime, eat at child-friendly places, etc. Totally reasonable stuff…most of the time.  When it came to my birthday, I should have set some boundaries.  However, I didn’t want to impose, and they didn’t mention getting a sitter, so I started accommodating their schedules before they even asked me to. I immediately chose 5:00 to accommodate the babies’ bedtimes, and left it up to them to decide if they wanted to bring the kids or leave them with their parents.  Of course, they brought the kids.

A little context: My birthday is a sensitive day for me. I think it is for  a lot of women going through infertility. It marks another year of infertility and reminds you of how “old” you’re getting. Since we started trying to conceive in March 2014, my birthday is also our TTC anniversary (putting it that way sounds so festive, doesn’t it?).  There’s also the fact that we miscarried a few months ago. So, while I still enjoy my birthday, it has acquired some emotional baggage recently.

The birthday was a small gathering – just two close friends, their husbands, and their daughters. Friend A’s daughter was born shortly after we started trying and will be two in April. Friend B’s daughter is 6 months old, born this past September.  Dinner at the restaurant was good.  A lot of talk about babies.  With two babies at the table, what do you expect?  It was cool, though.

Then, Friend A graciously invited us back to her house to hang out.  Again, this is where I went wrong. 

We arrived to find Friend A & Friend B in the playroom with their daughters. Usually, I love playtime with Friend A’s daughter, who we are very close to. But, this was different.  As I was sitting there, watching my two friends hold their daughters in their laps, I started to think about how empty my own lap was. Seeing my two friends together,  bonding over their babies, is apparently a major trigger for me. I felt like an outsider. And, I felt empty. Not only would my own baby be there if I wasn’t infertile, but I at least would have been in my third trimester if I hadn’t miscarried. All of this was running through my head. I felt jealous. I felt upset. And suddenly, I felt angry that my birthday celebration had turned into an hour of playtime. That’s not what an infertile lady wants to do on her 31st birthday.

I contemplated coming up with an excuse to leave, but ended up sticking around until my friend put her daughter to bed. Again, this is where I went wrong.  Out of the blue, Friend A says, “Did you see on Facebook that so-and-so  is pregnant with her second already? Can you believe it? That’s really soon.” (So-and-so is her college friend, who I’ve gotten to know through the years. We’re not close.  I see her maybe once or twice a year at Friend A’s gatherings. However, this college friend also started TTC when I did – and announced her first pregnancy when my first cycle failed two years ago).

I did not react well. I just gaped at Friend A for a sec. I stood there, thinking “Did this just happen? I’m not even on Facebook right now, and I still get a play by play of pregnancy announcements on my birthday?” And then I kind of awkwardly said something about how I didn’t follow that college friend on Facebook anymore because this type of stuff tends to upset me. At that point, my friend changed the topic.

  To be honest, I was angry for a sec  I didn’t understand why my friend thought this would be a good topic of conversation. I know that she had no intention of upsetting me. She’s a really, really good friend. She is one of the only people we plan to keep “in the know” when we move into another FET. And she has that dubious honor for a reason.  I’ve learned that often, when people don’t know what to say to you about a shitty situation, they don’t say anything at all. I’m guilty of it. But, Friend A always says something, even when she doesn’t know what to say. She never, ever turns away. She is the one person in my life who always asks, even though she knows she may be rewarded with a long-winded thesis on the intricacies of ovarian stimulation or an anal reminder that embryos are transferred, not implanted.   This is just one of the reasons why she is my best friend.

After having some time to think about it, I realized a couple things.

(1) Let it Go. Even your biggest supporters are sometimes going to say or do things that upset you. It is inevitable and it is not their fault.  Because there is no guidebook for infertility. If the people who love you and root for you every day occasionally commit infertility faux pas, then I think that’s just a testament to the fact that this shit is fucking complicated!  Just trust that they are trying their best, but can’t understand all the nuances of our emotions because they haven’t experienced infertility firsthand. I mean, if I’m really honest with myself, the fact is that sometimes I don’t even understand what I’m feeling. Which brings me to my next point…

(2) Communicate. It is your responsibility to communicate your needs and expectations to your friends. They are not mind-readers. And, even if you think they should just “know better,” that isn’t a constructive attitude. A true friend wants to do the “right” thing by you. So, help them do that. I guarantee you that if a friend loves you, they will be happy  that you shared the best ways for them to support you.

(3) Get in tune with yourself. This requires some deep thought. In order to communicate your needs and boundaries, you need to know what those are in the first place. So, make time to take stock of where you are at, emotionally. Be honest with yourself about what types of outings and conversations you can handle, and don’t beat yourself up if you decide you do need to skip out on a baby shower or kids party.

Looking back, here’s what I would have done differently.  If I had honestly reflected on my feelings, I would have communicated that I needed some child-free time on my birthday and proposed having an adults only outing. If I had been flexible and we picked a date ahead of time, I’m pretty sure they would have been happy to ask their parents to babysit. But, I’ll never know, because I just didn’t ask.

Looking forward, I am going to communicate more clearly with my friends and family. It’s pretty inevitable that somebody in my close circle – (probably several somebodies) –  is going to get pregnant in the next year or two. I’ve always assumed that those who know about my infertility would break the news privately (preferably email or phone), as is dictated by infertility etiquette. But, I realized, I should never assume.  They’re not mind-readers. Instead, it’s my responsibility to facilitate a discussion about how I’d prefer to hear a pregnancy announcement. That will probably be a big weight off of their  shoulders, too, because it takes the guesswork out of the equation.

I think that sums it up. Not too bitchy, was it?

 

 

The Moment

 

I had a realization today. Throughout this whole infertility thing, I’ve always fantasized about THE MOMENT.  You know, the moment when you finally take a positive pregnancy test.   When you and your embryonic progeny (and your husband) ride off into the sunset on a unicorn, with rainbows, and…

I’ll spare you the rest of the gory details.  But, when I was feeling down, I’d just say to myself: Jenny, one day, you are going to wake up and your life is going to change. You won’t know when, but one day will be THE day that this journey is over and you can put all the bullshit behind you.

And then today, as I was driving home from happy hour, I realized THE MOMENT doesn’t exist.

I’m not sure why I took so long to reach this conclusion. You’d think that a miscarriage after IVF may have spurred this epiphany sooner (nope…).  I have a great deal of  hope that I will become a mother one day – either through IVF, a natural miracle (one can dream), or adoption. But I don’t think I’ll ever  experience THE MOMENT again – and, frankly, I’m okay with that.

When I found out I was pregnant this past September, I thought THE MOMENT had happened. That day was the only worry-free day of my pregnancy (probably didn’t hurt that I found out at  5:30PM,  resulting in fewer waking hours to worry in.) When the second line began appearing,  a feeling of elation ran through me and I couldn’t stop smiling. Even as we repeated the mantras, “anything could happen” and  “no matter what, we know we can get pregnant,” it felt like a giant weight had been lifted off our shoulders. Finally, this was our moment.

And then, as outlined in a previous blog post, shit hit the fan. Infertility doesn’t end when you get pregnant. In fact, my experience was that pregnancy (at least the first trimester) felt like another cycle of infertility treatment –  a really long, hard one, with much more at stake than ever before.

It didn’t help that (A)  I have anxiety  and  (B) I experienced a scary bleed at 6 weeks.  IVF pregnancies are already highly medicalized until you are released to your OBGYN.  Bleeding and cramping just added to the anxiety. My days revolved around waiting for the nurse to call with test results, taking pills, injections, and -most importantly – waiting for the weekly ultrasounds that seemed eons apart. Every time we cleared one hurdle (good BETA, good ultrasound, heartbeat…) the fear would subside for a couple hours. Then you’d realize there’s another hurdle straight ahead. And another one, and another one, and another one….

First trimester seemed like it would never be over.  And in a way, it wasn’t. I never got to clear that hurdle, because I miscarried at 9 weeks.  Alex and I have made our peace with what happened (as much as anyone can) and are hopeful and joyful again. But, it still SUCKED, man (and continues to suck a little, on bad days).

So, yeah. Lessons learned:

(1) Pregnancy after IVF is like a cycle of fertility treatment on steroids.

(2) There is no MOMENT.  One day you’re infertile. One day you’re pregnant. And then you realize you’re infertile and pregnant. Growing a tiny human is a wonderful thing, but it does not erase your infertility.

(3)   There are just…moments.  All lowercase.  They come and go like waves on the beach. We experience them. Some are wonderful, some are sad, some are scary, and some are just bleh. They don’t last forever, though some last longer than others. They overlap. They shift. And sometimes they contradict each other. But they are the fabric that makes up our lives. The lovely, the shitty, and all.

So, as I move forward into year 3 of this infertility adventure, I have one hope. I hope I will wake up one morning, remember the moments this year has brought, and think: Today is awesome.  I don’t know what the future will bring. But, we’re doing just fine right now.  And that’s all that matters.