Not Mrs. Jumbo

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Last week Spork and I watched Dumbo for the first time. She was sick and it was free on Netflix. It was only the second movie we have ever watched together because we almost religiously followed the “no screens before two” rule from the Academic Pediatric Association. She enjoyed the first 30 minutes and then was bored, but I was entranced until the very end.

Watching it through the lens of someone with infertility was a different experience. Never in my past would I have given a second thought to the stork scene at the beginning, but seeing it now was heartbreaking for me. Watching Mrs. Jumbo’s face as every other animal in the circus received their bundles of joy while she continued to wait longingly touched me deeply. I have never before felt so much in common with an animated character. Well at least not since Up was released.

Of course Mrs. Jumbo does eventually receive her sweet little floppy eared Dumbo. Though they face many obstacles, the forlorn Mom and cast-out baby eventually triumph and fly off into circus history to live happily ever after. Never in the movie does a Mr. Jumbo appear. Never in the movie is there the slightest hint that having a baby usually takes two animals. Never in the movie is it acknowledged that to make a baby those two animals need to have (gasp!) S.E.X.

To be fair, this cartoon was created in 1941. The stork intro was probably the only option for the producers at the time to communicate how much Mrs. Jumbo wanted her misfit baby boy. It makes total sense. There was no need to acknowledge to an audience of children how babies are actually made.

But this is not 1941 and the audience of this blog consists of consenting people who choose to read it and not children.

Mrs. Jumbo and I have one thing in common, neither of us needed to have sex to have our first child. The similarities end there. Her baby fell out of the sky. My baby took A LOT more work.

Today it was suggested to me by a trusted friend that the content of this blog might not be totally appropriate for someone like me (we will leave it at that… I do have a day job). My concern, however, goes beyond my job.  I have noticed a handful of people that have acted, well, a bit different around me since we went public. I assumed it was because most people just don’t know what to say about something like infertility. Its ok. I understand. You don’t have to say anything. I am still the same person I was before you knew about all this.

My conversation today made me realize it might not be that at all, it might be that there are just some people who have a hard time dealing with these “private” matters for a variety of reasons.

Writing about this process publicly has been one of the single most liberating things I have ever done. It has begun to heal me in ways I didn’t think possible. I no longer feel broken. I no longer feel hidden. I cherish the love and support of those around me that just a few short weeks of blogging is providing me. Above all, I hope it has or will help others have a little laugh, a little cry, and maybe learn a little something about a process I know a little bit about.

The vast majority of my friends, family, and slowly growing number of followers have been exceptionally supportive. That is why hearing that feedback from my friend today really shocked me. Thinking about it now, I don’t know why it should have. These are tough issues to deal with. Sometimes even people who are dealing with them don’t want to deal with them and certainly not publicly. We kept our battle against infertility private for many years. I respect that desire.

But the fact is that 8 to 15% of couples experience infertility. As many as one in four women who get pregnant will have a miscarriage. And as far as sex? I think the percentage of people involved in that activity is even higher. But that’s just a guess.

I certainly do not plan to share any lurid details about my life in the bedroom, that would be entirely inappropriate for someone like me. But I will proudly continue to share my struggles with infertility.  After all it is my right. But that is not why I am continuing. I hope speaking out about something that is taboo and shouldn’t be for a million reasons only strengthens the respect and love from people in my life. I hope it makes you proud to see someone like me tackle such an important issue that affects so many people.

That being said, its okay if it doesn’t. I can deal. No worries. I do recognize that my perspective on these topics may have been skewed slightly after spending four years in stirrups in front of at least a couple dozen strangers. Thousands of scopes, blood tests and ultrasounds may have eroded my modesty a bit. My filter is no longer as strong as it used to be and I can’t change that. Infertility is part of who I am and shapes how I see the world and behave in it.

So if it is too much for you, I have one piece of advice.

Don’t read it.

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter and don’t want to see the links to the blog…

Don’t follow me on Facebook or Twitter.

Before you make that decision, just remember that you may just be the one who needs to read it the most. It may help you understand what your sister, daughter, employee, or friend may be experiencing. It may help you talk to her. To give her support. To show her you care without having to feel uncomfortable. I will help you feel comfortable. I will show you that infertility is not dirty. It doesn’t have to be taboo. It can affect anyone.

Even someone like me.

Chicken And Rice Soup for the Gluten Free Soul

Chicken and Rice Soup

I have been thinking a lot about how I can write about our miscarriage and keep it “on the lighter side.” My primary hope for this blog is for it to be a safe place to come to learn about fertility treatment and our story without having to be burdened with sadness and loss.

There are so many positives to connecting with other women who toil against infertility, but one of the downsides is that when you are close to them you feel their pain as your own. Another is that it is easy to take other’s sad circumstances and fantisize unproductively about them becoming your own. Sometimes it is best to stay away from Dr. Google and his dark, foreboding staff.

Because I believe a positive mental state is critical to managing stress and optimizing odds of success, I decided to limit my interactions with chat rooms and boards in an attempt to surround myself with positive energy for this cycle. While I miss “my girls” tremendously, it has been easier to not be completely obsessed with fertility and of course has given me the time I need to share my story with you in a way I would want it to be shared with me.

The desire to try to lighten the load for you does create quite the conundrum as it relates to finding a way to talk about one of the single most painful events in my life. I am not sure its entirely possible, so take heed as you begin reading this post. I gave it my best shot for you. While the stars aligned in the last 24 hours to give me some great fodder for sewing at least a few seeds of humor around our loss, I am afraid I have failed you and that what follows is not very light at all. I do manage to pepper in just the tiniest bit of levity and a small amount of positivity.

If you read Blown Away yesterday you know that I am away from the loves of my life for work for most of this week. In fact, I didn’t expect to be able to post at all until Friday because of an intense series of meetings scheduled for today and tomorrow. Unfortunately I am not in a meeting and am posting from a bed in a hotel in Lansing where I am recovering from a terrible case of food poisoning that I suspect came from a bad piece of black cod. That will teach me to order fish in landlocked Lansing.

I say its unfortunate but I am not sure I really mean it, its almost better than being at that meeting. If you have ever had food poisoning, you know it is no joke and that this is a strong statement. There was a moment at about 3 AM when I seriously wondered if I was going to live to see today. However I have been poisoned by my grub twice before so I knew if I just hung in there I would eventually be on the other side of the worst of it. I am now there.

Thank. You. God.

And where I am now is NOT in a meeting room in downtown Lansing where I lost a pregnancy back in early July.

Thank. You. God.

Don’t get me wrong, I have been to that meeting room since July and will be there again. I am strong and would have made it through it and probably even enjoyed the meeting with my boss and peers. Probably. But not being there today is definitely a great big fat silver lining to a cloud that will always hang over that place for me. So thank you God for your sense of humor and thank you black cod for choosing the perfect time to poison me.

Our miscarriage story started back in February of 2013 when we began our first IVF cycle for baby number two. We tackled the process with a renewed faith in ourselves and IVF after having Spork the year before. Prior to the fourth transfer that ultimately gave us Spork I never would have thought I could go through another IVF cycle. She was what we needed to regain confidence that we could do it, we could go through it all again. It was worth it.

Our cycle went very well in the beginning. We retrieved more eggs and made more embryos than we ever had before, 10 embryos when it was all said and done. 10 embryos? There had to be a baby in there!

We transfered 3 in the fresh cycle 2 days following retrieval and did not get pregnant. We were disappointed but we were okay. Heck this might even be a good sign! After all we got pregnant on a frozen cycle with Spork and we know that some women do better with frozen cycles. We rationalized that I was one of those women and prepared for the inevitable success that was to come in May. Besides, if it had worked what in the world were we going to do with all those leftover snow babies?

When we discovered our transfer date was the day before Mother’s Day, we were positively beside ourselves with excitement. Spork was transfered to me on Mother’s Day in 2011 and we always considerred it part of the magic that brought our sweet baby girl to us.

Sadly, the magic faded for us after that. When we arrived at the transfer we learned that all 7 remaining embryos had to be thawed in order to get the three we were transfering. It was devastating. Our third chance was taken from us prior to the second chance from this cycle even really beginning. Then to add insult to injury the transfer went very poorly. Having a “smooth” transfer dramatically improves success rates and our transfer was anything but. The reason for this is that I am somewhat anatomically challenged in terms of the way my plumbing is situated. I will spare you the details, but suffice it to say I am difficult for the doctor to navigate. Despite knowing this, he made the mistake of sending  his sonographer home and tried to wing it with a nurse. I presume he did this because it was Saturday and we were the last transfer on the schedule. Not cool.  Transfer normally takes about 5 minutes and this one took over 20 and involved the doctor yelling and sweating profusely. So not cool.

When we left we wondered if the embryos even made it to the sweet spot and whether there was any chance I could be pregnant from this doozie of a cycle. I was fighting back tears and Bill was shell shocked and angry. So you can imagine our surprise just a few days later when I saw that first little faint hint of a line on the home pregnancy test. Hell yeah!  Who needs those other 4 embryos anyway? Our doctor went from zero to hero in a matter of seconds. All that sweating and yelling paid off and he had nailed it.

When the blood test was done a few days later we were stoked to have the confirmation for the home pregnancy test. Our beta HCG level was 60, not too high but certainly high enough to feel reasonably confident we had a healthy pregnancy starting.  Two days later it only went to 100.  Beta HCG levels are supposed to double every 48 to 72 hours, so this was concerning but did not mean we were out of the game yet. It was right at the outer limit. We waited another 4 days and the levels only went to 160. Uh Oh.

But then 4 days later the levels took off and did exactly what they were supposed to.

Yes! Yes! Yes! We were still worried but hoped that there was a vanishing twin skewing the numbers in the begining and that all would be well from here on in the process.

Because of our slow start we continued to monitor the Beta HCG levels every 2 to 4 days and went in for an ultrasound at 5 1/2 weeks. The ultrasound showed a small gestational sac which was a little on the slow growing side but still had the potential to become a bonafide bouncing baby. We took off the next day for a week in Northern California to attend Bill’s 20th highschool reunion. Having been pregnant before, I could tell toward the end of the trip that something was off but still held out hope that we would see a heartbeat when we returned and had our our next ultrasound. I faithfully awoke to take my progesterone shots at 3 AM Pacific every day (I defintely should have planned my shot time better in light of the trip). I abstained from all alcohol on a trip that was infused with it. I caught myself rubbing my belly in anticipation. We couldn’t wait to get back and find out the results.

The day after we returned home we had the fateful ultrasound that showed at 7 weeks we still only had a small empty sack that measured only 5 weeks and 4 days. There was no fetal pole or yolk sac. Nothing to indicate this pregnancy had the potential to become Spork’s sibling. It was time to stop the meds and hope that my body expelled the pregnany rather than needing a medical intervention to remove it.

When this happens you don’t know when or if you are going to lose the pregnancy naturally so its not as if life can stop while you wait to see what happens. As fate would have it, I lost my pregnancy at exactly 8 weeks over the course of a full day meeting with my boss and peers in that meeting room in Lansing. The one I am supposed to be in right now. It was physically painful. Nobody prepared me for the physical pain. I took 3500 mg of Tylenol over the course of the meeting and unsuccessfully fought back tears the whole day (I didn’t learn until later that this was a dangerous dose of Tylenol, so don’t do this!). After the meeting concluded I had to drive 3 1/2 hours home. There was really nothing very funny about that day. The process of losing the pregnancy continued for nearly a month, but the worst of it happened on that one day in that room.

Once again, shortly after the loss fate intervened to make life a little bit easier for me. My boss’s territory grew which required us to move our monthly meetings to Kalamazoo. Thanks boss! Yes it means more work and travel for him, but I have to believe that its all in service of keeping me away from that meeting room. The one that I will fight back tears everytime we take a break as I open the door to that women’s room where I lost a little part of me.

This month we had to move the meeting back to Lansing, just this one month. Of course in reality I would prefer to be there right now. But there is no way I could sit through a meeting given how I feel. Instead I will take the good with the bad. I am sure I will be back to normal tomorrow which is just fine. I won’t be facing any demons. Fortunately the meeting tomorrow has a bigger audience and will be right downstairs in this hotel.

Ironically, the timing of the cod attack was good for more than just keeping me from opening up that old wound in a very public and challenging setting. One of the silver linings I can’t really talk about. It involves someone I am close to receiving some incredibly shitty but not devastating news that kept me in tears in between trips to the bathroom last night. You know who you are and I love you. Today I am able to deal with that in a way I couldn’t in any meeting room, let alone the one in Lansing.

Also, I took a single dose of an important medication this morning that I was more than a little concerned about taking while in meetings this week. It’s a medication that my new doctor gave me to help me avoid a difficult transfer like the one described in our miscarriage story. The drug is called cytotec and it is the same medication in the same dosage that is used to soften the cervix and induce labor. So I am having small contraction like pains today. These pains will help make it easier to get to the sweet spot on March 13th. Better here than there in that room, that is for sure.

So this afternoon I found myself unexpectedly stuck in a hotel room surrounded by memories, feeling similar phiysical pains as to those of miscarriage, and reeling from a lost battle against a gnarly piece of fish. And amazingly, I was starving. I had no choice but to try to order room service from the very same kitchen that served up that horrible fish last night.

Since I am gluten free I was very skeptical that I would be able to eat at all today. When I called to ask what the soup de jour was, I had a little giggle when they told me it was Chicken and Rice. Not Chicken Noodle. Chicken and Rice. Chicken Noodle just would not do for a sick girl who doesn’t eat gluten. I couldn’t think of a more perfect lunch for a day like today even if it did have to come from Hell’s Kitchen.

It was exactly what I needed. A little Chicken and Rice Soup for the gluten-free soul.

Yes God. I see you smiling on me today through those heavy storm clouds. Thank You. Thank You.

Thank. You. God.

Blown Away

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When you take into consideration yesterday’s post entitled Shoot Em’ Up there is a good chance with today’s title that I will end up on the FBI watch list. Some algorithm somewhere out in cyberspace is considering my last two blog posts, weighing them with all my other activity and demographic data, and trying to decide if I am a threat to others. I assure you Big Brother, I am not. I am simply a woman looking for serenity in a world of insanity and I find it by “blowing away” anything that doesn’t fit with a spirit of peace and well being. Or at least I try to do that, I am actually terrible at it.

If you have done certain types of yoga and meditation you know what I mean when I talk about blowing things and people away. You breathe in good energy full of positivity, healing, light and life; and you blow away with the exhale whatever is on your mind or bothering you. In a simple, perfect moment you let it all go. You release it from your mind and push it out into the universe to float away and disappear into nothing.

I love blowing things away, it is my favorite pastime and its not something I did before I learned the concept while struggling with infertility. It is one of the tiny little nuggets of wisdom I have picked up along the journey that I deeply appreciate. I need it more that the average person too. I have been known to be what some people affectionately call “passionate” (read: I can be a real pain in the ass who reacts to things very emotionally in the moment).

The science behind whether or not stress plays a role in fertility is controversial and still very much up for debate.  Most studies suggest that stress is not a factor in pregnancy outcomes. There are studies that show situations of extreme stress, like the loss of a loved one or a job, do have an impact on fertility. However it is generally accepted that every day run-of the-mill stress does not directly impact implantation or birth rates in IVF.

Most of the studies supporting this are limited to monitoring single cycles of IVF and not fertility treatment over time. My sense is that sustained treatment for infertility carries the same type of long term emotional and physical impacts as coping with a life threatening disease. It’s heavy stuff. In my gut I believe it must impact success rates.

If someone wants to give me several hundred thousand dollars I am sure I can design an experiment that will prove it.

What is the downside of managing stress? Even if it doesn’t impact your ability to get pregnant, it affects everything else. Stress can destroy your marriage, friendships, career, and physical health if you don’t find a way to control it  and limit its impact on you.

Which is why this morning I was in the bath tub at 6 AM in the dark listening to a meditation on my iPhone and blowing just about everyone and everything in my life away.

Stress always accelerates as soon as your cycle becomes more active. The mere activities of managing the shots, other medications, and appointments speed up and demand more time and attention. Its more than that, though. The gravity of the situation begins to grow heavier day by day and shot by shot. This is more true for us right now than ever before given that we have tens of thousands of dollars, a ton of time, and a truckload of hope invested into one single embryo. One. Uno.

If this cycle doesn’t work we have already decided we will do one more full cycle. Financially that will probably be all we can do. But I really, really don’t want to go through it all from start to finish again. It will entail tens of thousands more dollars,  at least 4 more months, more travel away from work and baby, more weight gain, more stress, more physical and emotional pain. More insanity.

I clearly think it would just be best if I get pregnant right now with this one and skip all that. Let’s just do that, shall we?

You get my point, IVF gets more and more anxiety producing as you move through the motions. It doesn’t help that the longer you go through it the more people who are in a position to support you take what you are going through for granted. I am jokingly blogging about it so I must be okay, right? I am choosing to try to have a baby so its not like I am fighting a real disorder, right?

Wrong. Even for those of us who try to find the lighter side of infertility we need the constant love and support of our friends, coworkers, and families. I am very blessed to have outstanding support pretty much all the time from all three. There are days, though. We all have our days. Yesterday was one of those days. A day I needed to breathe just a little bit more than usual, and maybe squish a few heads too.

I’m really dating myself and my 37 year old ovaries, but “blowing it away” kind of reminds me of the skit from Kid’s in the Hall where a character looks at people standing at a distance through the space between his thumb and forefinger and says “I am squishing your head, I am squishing your head”, while bringing the thumb and forefinger together and…well…squishing their heads.

That’s not very peace or bliss invoking, but it makes me laugh which is kind of the same thing.

Here are all the things I blew away this morning:

  • 3 nights away from my husband and daughter for work this week? – I Blow You Away!
  • Having to be the rush through crafting my daughter’s Valentine’s Day cards and shopping because somebody planned a 2 day meeting right before the holiday?- I Blow You Away!
  • Everybody at work losing their mind because we are slightly behind pace for our 2014 goals and its only February? I Blow You Away!
  • Babysitter cancelling at the last minute for tonight when both Bill and I are out of town for meetings?- I Blow You Away!
  • Family stuff that I would never blog about without permission- I Especially Blow Your Sorry Toosh AWAY!
  • Reordering refrigerated drugs that were mistakenly sent by the pharmacy with 2 day delivery over the weekend and therefore completely ruined?- I Blow You Away!
  • Coordinating the FOURTH revision to my FMLA leave form between my clinic and benefits department?- I Blow You Away!
  • Sleepless night due to a furnace that would not shut-off thanks to the  negative 23 degree weather here last night? I Blow You Away!
  • $500 heating bill that is on its way due to the wacko weather and crazed furnace?- I Blow You Away!
  • Waking up at 5 and not being able to get back to sleep because of everything that is going on this week? I Blow you Away!

I could go on, but I promised when I started this blog that it wouldn’t become a pity party and it won’t. Moreover, I want to make a point that blowing these things away while meditating doesn’t mean that I don’t care deeply about them and they aren’t all still there vying for the last ounce of my sanity when I am done. Its just in that 20 minute space of time the exercise reminds me to put it all into perspective and focus first on what is most important to positively resolving any of those items, my own mental health and well being.

Right now the fight for fertility is our priority. It can’t be all about infertility however. We have to have balance in life or we will lose the fight. We aren’t going to have a baby if our marriage fails. If we falter in our careers we won’t be able to pay for all the treatment. If we mistreat our family and friends we could lose one of the most important sources of joy a couple has when they bring a child into this world, sharing it with those they love. All that being said, we are in a fight for our family right now. The family we have today and the family we will be tomorrow. And for us, there is nothing more important than that. Nothing.

First and foremost we have to take care of ourselves and each other so we can be complete to tend to everything else.  Its like every time you take an airplane ride, the flight attendant always insructs passengers to put on their own oxygen mask first before trying to help a child. Gotta take care of yourself and those closest to your first.

This is a lesson that applies in life even without infertility. Blowing it all alway helps us have perspective, focus on what is most important, and invokes the relaxation response and its numerous benefits.

So I ask you all, what are you blowing away today? Please share with us what is on your mind and your creative ways to deal with it.

Shoot Em’ Up

Tomorrow is the day. This addict is tired of only popping a measly little birth control pill every morning. Thankfully the waiting for the good stuff is coming to an end. Tomorrow I begin the real work that will take us towards our March 13th transfer date.

Yes, the time has come when I start shooting up.

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I have been waiting with anticipation all weekend for the morning when I start taking Lupron injections. Even though the are small, they are mighty, and the shots are a critical stepping stone that will lead us to the Promised Land.

As I discussed in Addicted to IVF, there is just something about this phase in the cycle that makes the long time IVF gal get excited. Heck, even if it is your first IVF it is thrilling to take that first shot, albeit a little frightening. After all you have so much time, money, hope and energy invested into this part of the process.

And best of all, you finally get to put your Baby in a Box to good use.

What is this Baby in a Box?

When you go through IVF you require a number of different medications for different phases of the cycle. These medications are not your average, every day, run-of-the mill medications. Your local Walgreen’s does not keep them in stock. Therefore they must be ordered through the mail, typically through a specialty pharmacy.

When we start an IVF cycle, all my meds are sent to me in one big box which happens to be about the size of a very large baby. If the meds do what they are supposed to and your body complies you will have a baby in about 10 months or so.

And there you have it, a Baby in a Box.

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There are a lot of drugs that do a lot of fun stuff in the box. What you see above is only a portion of it because we are currently only doing a portion of the IVF cycle.

The first phase of an IVF cycle is the stimulation phase. This is what we did back in November when we amped up my body with hormones to help it develop many eggs instead of the usual one per month. The stimulation phase is without a doubt the most grueling part of IVF. It can be quite uncomfortable and culminates in an invasive surgery to remove the eggs. Stimulation is also the most expensive part of the cycle and I am glad for that reason among many others that it is behind us.

Many clinics go straight from stimulation to transferring a fresh embryo back to Mom anywhere from 2 to 6 days after the eggs are retrieved. This is called a “fresh cycle.”

But that is not what we are doing. Not this time.

We are doing what is called a “frozen cycle.” We had the embryos genetically tested which means we had a great big pause between retrieval of the eggs to the part of the process we are now entering, the frozen embryo transfer.

Our embryo is 6 days old, chomosomaly perfect, and is just chilling out in cryofreeze waiting for us to come and get him (or her). Lupron is the first shot we take that will help us prepare to do just that. Its a small dose with a tiny little needle in my belly. This one I give myself because it is pretty painless and easy to administer. It does eventually make my tummy look like it has freckles all over it from the small scars, but those are battle wounds of which I am deeply proud. They do fade eventually.

Lupron, like most hormones involved in reproduction, is a weird dude. It’s short for Leuprolide or Lutenizing hormone (LH). Male and females both use LH to regulate the pituitary gland and control secretions of other hormones like follicle stimulating hormone (the stuff that makes all those eggs develop in the first IVF phase), testosterone, and estradiol. What makes LH weird and kind of cool in my opinion is that in small doses during certain points in a cycle it will down regulate these hormones. Shuts them right up. Quiets the body and limits the hormones secreted.However mid-cycle a large surge of LH (LH surge) will actually trigger ovulation and the resulting production of hormones. This surge is what will cause a home ovulation kit to have a smiley face or a dark line. I find its dual and seemingly contradictory functions fascinating.

Because LH in regular, small doses will slow the production of hormones that can feed certain types of cancers, it is often used in treatment of those cancers. And here is a super fun fact, high doses are sometimes used to chemically castrate sex offenders. Yep. You read that right.

Isn’t that lovely? As if we need another way for fertility treatments to impact the libido, and this one a scientifically proven one. However its somewhat irrelevant because the birth control pill I am on has already zapped what little libido I have at this stage in the process. Ironic that a birth control pill would do that but it does for me and always has.

For me, the main side effect of lupron is uber bitchiness. I mean, “stay out of her way” bitchiness. The mood altering effect of the drug is my primary side effect , but it also causes weight gain and headaches. Massive, horrible, headaches. The weight gain and headaches of course form a mean pair that further fuel the uber bitchiness. It’s not pretty.

Given all this you would think I would be dreading tomorrow, but in fact I am looking forward to it like a kid at Christmas. The Lupron shots I start tomorrow will shut my reproductive system down. This is so my doctor can take over and manipulate it with still other many other hormones that are to come. Its a little like computer that has been rebooted after new software is installed. When my reproductive system comes back online it will have a new operating system controlled by my RE. One more step toward bringing home baby. When you look at it that way, its pretty damn exciting.

How I Forgot About Yoga

In two previous posts I have listed the varied and unique activities I have done to help improve the odds of our IVF cycles working. I discussed meditation, golden fertility eggs, gluten-free diets, and so much more. But I didn’t mention one very important practice that has been a part of this journey from the beginning. Yoga.

There are a variety of fertility yoga DVDs available to those seeking poses to increase the odds of success with either assisted or unassisted reproduction. Over the years I have done many of them, and now I choose one of a few available to stream at the click of a button on yogaglo.com.  However I rarely do yoga these days, and I think its an interesting way to begin to frame up the difference between primary and secondary infertility, a subject I plan to dive much deeper into in later blogs.

WARNING- for those of you still struggling to have your first child this post may be challenging for you.

If you have read earlier posts you know that I have only recently become a hippie. I don’t associate yoga with hippiness, it is far too mainstream. Plus, I have been doing yoga for nearly 20 years, long before my hippie transformation. My first yoga class was a gift I gave myself in my early twenties when I quit smoking. It was a way to keep the weight off while also calming the mind. Since that time it has been a somewhat regular part of my life, coming and going in phases. Waxing and waning like the tide. These days the tide has definitely been waning.

The photos say it all. It is extraordinarily difficult to do yoga with a two year old.  Sure I can wait until she goes to bed, but there are a number of other items on the to do list that need to be checked off during that time. Things like picking up toys, paying bills, catching up on work, and blogging.  Yoga is somewhere below those on the priority list. Which is why it is very difficult to do and so easy to forget.

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I try to convince Spork to actually do the yoga poses with me and she will for about 5 minutes into the 45 minute practice. After that she gets bored and I become a human jungle gym. As those of you with kids know, the floor is their space and anything that they find in it becomes their domain, including other human beings.

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For the record. I didn’t dress my daughter yesterday when these pictures were taken. I was working and this is the glamorous oufit her father chose. Clearly the socks, clothes, and television in the background prove that these photos aren’t staged and that we are very, very, normal. I would never allow a picture of me with the band to my yoga pants completely unfolded and riding up my back to be posted on the internet unless it were a completely candid moment shared to prove a point. But I digress…

Yoga for fertility, and how it has come and gone pre and post baby, is the perfect way to describe how secondary infertility is different than primary infertility. Let me explain.

Many women experience secondary infertility after having no trouble conceiving other children. There are numerous reasons why this happens to women. The most common category I see in the online fertility community is women who are facing secondary infertility because they have aged since their first child or children. Either this woman decides many years later to add to her family as the clock is ticking, or she is building a family in a new marriage or relationship.  There are also a number of women who  experience secondary infertility that is simply unexplained, at least initially. These sufferers may still be young and may have given birth to one or more children and for some reason it just isn’t happening again like it did before. And then there are those like me, the lucky ones who have always been infertile but had a first child or children with assisted reproduction.

Whatever the reason for it, secondary infertility is hard. It is made even more difficult by the fact that you lose the ability to connect and identify with a large portion of the infertile world, namely women who are still striving to have their first child and would change places with your whiney ass in a New York minute. It can be very difficult to still feel connected to the community at times.

It can also be really annoying to have to smile and bite your tongue when you hear “I am so sorry that it didn’t work again, be thankful you have Spork. You should go home and give her a big hug tonight.” This statement, or some variation of it, is to those of us with secondary infertility as “Just relax and stop trying so hard and it will happen” is to anyone with infertility. It is just one of those things well meaning people who don’t know what to say lean on to fill awkward space without realizing how many nerves it touches.

Don’t worry, if you have said this to me I don’t remember that you did and associate it with you. Everyone has said this to me. 

The statement is crappy because it assumes that we need to be reminded to be thankful for the child we have, as if someone with infertility needs to be reminded of that. It also seems to suggest that we should just be happy with the one child we have, even if we know deep in our soul that our family is not complete. And finally, it touches on a very sensitive nerve. The guilt nerve. It speaks to the little voice inside of my head that says “should we really be putting all this energy into trying to get pregnant when we could be investing it into the amazing child we already have?”

Yes, secondary infertility is hard.  But its not as hard as primary infertility, at least not for me and I would guess not for most of us. While it is more difficult in different ways, it is easier in many more ways.

This is how yoga led me down this rabbit hole today. It caused me to contemplate the differences between primary and secondary infertility because of the difference yoga itself has played for me at various times. When we were working so hard to have Spork it was relatively easy to fit in meditation, yoga, running, acupuncture, etc. It was easier to manage the IVF process and everything involved in it like ordering drugs, scheduling appointments, timing shots and medications. Those things are much, much harder with a toddler. Those things are much, much more stressful with a toddler. I am far more stressed with these cycles than I ever was with Spork’s cycles.  Ironically I have very little time to do things like yoga to manage the stress which is intensified in the way only a toddler can intensify stress.

But take a look at the photo below. See that smile? I didn’t have that smile before Spork. That smile is a smile of a mother, a happy, albeit slightly inconvenienced mother. In between the sadness, hope and the fear I have with my cycles now, I have those smiles. I have been pregnant and had a perfect, healthy baby. My dream came true. It seemed so sad, so distant, so impossible when I was dealing with infertility before Spork. Now I know it is possible.

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So maybe I am a little more stressed, A lot more stressed. Maybe I am still sad and desperate to have my family be complete. Maybe there is also a part of me that knows what I am missing and it makes me want it even more. Those are all very challenging things. But I have those smiles, and those smiles do help. Those smiles make it a little bit easier.

For those of you who don’t have those smiles yet, I am so sorry. I pray with every ounce of my being that you too someday will become a smiley human jungle gym.

An IVF Mother’s Guilt

Every mother wants to be a great Mom. Or at least every mother worth a damn. But we all fall short of perfection and when we do we can feel guilty. A mother’s guilt can be very strong, almost as strong as a mother’s love. After all its that love that causes us to strive to give our children the best, to be the best. When we fail, it can be very hard.

For the IVF Mom, the guilt can be even more profound because from the very beginning we set the bar high. Unreasonably high. At least that is the case for this Mom. I think its because we have all had some version of “that moment.”

I don’t remember my specific moment, but I imagine for most of us it goes something like this:

You are at the grocery store minding your own business and you see that woman. The one with three kids. All three kids are disheveled and all three kids are misbehaving. Their mother? She looks like she hasn’t slept in a week. Her skin is tight and looks old. She is wearing pajamas. Her hair looks like something could be living in it. This woman who is triply blessed is clearly squandering it. She is screaming relentlessly and uncontrollably at her kids. You can tell she is fighting the urge to swear or even possibly get physical with the kids. Your heart breaks for them.

Right then and there you promise God, even if you don’t believe in God, that it will never be you. You will never be that Mom. If he just blesses you with a child you will always have it together. You will be the picture of perfection. You will read every book and give this child the most amazing existence ever known. If only you could have a child. You will never yell at your child. Never.

I promise God. Please. Just give us a baby.

The pursuit of perfection for the IVF Mom begins shortly after we find out we are pregnant. We would never complain about pregnancy symptoms like some women do, we have waited to feel like hell for so long! When we finally bring home our baby we swear we will smile at every 3 AM feeding. We commit to following every rule. We vow to play with our little one, not put her in front of a television. We certainly wouldn’t have an argument in front of her or get frustrated with her. We will follow our routine and will give her safety, warmth and love. We will not hit. We will not yell.

While I have not hit her and never will, I have done everything else wrong. I did indeed smile at every 3 AM feeding. I never once was annoyed or troubled by getting up in the middle of the night. That is because Spork started sleeping through the night at around 8 1/2 months.  My commitment to being the perfect Mom and ability to achieve it didn’t wear off until well after a year.  It was a good long run, but inevitably we are all human. Not perfect. Far from it.

Spork is two and I only really yelled at her for the first time last week.  After a morning of continuous whining on the part of both my husband and daughter I finally stopped the whole household cold by yelling “Spork!” (insert real name here) at the top of my lungs.  That’s it. One word. My little girl cried uncontrollably for 10 minutes.  She was inconsolable.  Who knew that I had such power? I vowed never to do it again.  I am sure I will break that vow.

This topic is top of mind for me today because Spork and I were both home sick together all day. Even though the little miracle was incredibly ill, I was annoyed at the three loads of pukey laundry I had to do this morning when I was sick myself. We watched television on the couch almost all day. Once she felt well enough to stop watching television she started with the non-stop whining. Again, I was annoyed.

Don’t get me wrong, it was a good day at home with my favorite girl. We had amazing moments of cuddling and snuggling. We spent the majority of the day in what I call “The Love Bubble.” But moments of joy and love were frequently interrupted by moments when I was ready to take her to school and go to work just to get away for five minutes. Sick or not.

My fallibility really became apparent when I found myself deeply disappointed that Spork awoke from her nap right when I awoke from mine (thanks to Don Diego, the family dog). I was hoping to read a little before we hit the couch for sickly snuggle time again.  Ahhh.. reading. I miss it so!

There was a time not so long ago that I used to wait for Spork to wake up from a nap with anticipation. I would watch the monitor for any sign that she was about to wake, eager to be reunited with the love of my life. While that still happens at times, I usually savor every second of nap time and hope that it will go on longer than it does.

Maybe other Moms make it longer than I did. Maybe other Moms are better. I am sure there are those who would have prepared some activity they found on Pinterest for when their sleeping beauty was up and feeling better, even if that Mom was sick like I was today. But somehow I think most of us eventually have moments like that Mom in the grocery store with the three errant rug rats.

Today my skin looks tight and old. I look like I haven’t slept in a week. My hair looks like something could live in it. I was in my pajamas all day. It was a really difficult day with my miracle baby and I was far from perfect.

It was a day I wouldn’t trade for the world. And in truth? I don’t feel that guilty. I am a good Mom. An imperfect but good Mom.

For those of you who are still waiting for your Spork, I don’t blame you for judging me and my annoyance with my daughter. I felt the same way you do, that it could never be me. I could never be annoyed at my child or want time away from her. I pray that you some day too will have the chance to fall from grace. You will, and even though you will feel a little guilty, it will be wonderful.

Gotta Love Daycare

Spork has derailed my perfect posting streak on the blog tonight by bringing home the latest tummy bug from school.

Hopefully we will be back tomorrow, but tonight we are all going to bed early in an effort to keep our immune systems strong enough to ward off the buggies all over our house after having her home all day.

Stay warm and well everyone. 

Stolen Pens

I have been thinking a lot lately about whether or not to share the names of my clinics and have decided against it. However where we are currently going will become increasingly obvious to some of you as we tell our stories. It will be very apparent to you if are at all experienced with IVF and have done any research on the best clinics. It will also be clear to you if you watch a certain reality show on E!

If you do watch that show you have met my doctor, a couple of the nurses, and have seen the building that we affectionately call “The Mecca of Fertility.”

Hint. Hint.

Google it if you want. If you look hard enough you will find it. But I didn’t tell you. Not officially. Being new to this blogging stuff I am not sure that refraining from spilling the beans protects me from legal action but I feel better being a little discrete. If I become pregnant and famous I am sure the clinic would love for me to plaster its name everywhere, not that it needs more publicity. But until that time and not knowing the outcome I think its best if I take the safe route. Especially given the story I am about to tell you.

So yes, our clinic is world famous. The founder is our doctor and he literally wrote the book on assisted reproduction (another reason to fall madly in love with him as discussed in a previous blog). Couples from all over the world come to our clinic in the hopes that their dreams will be realized.  It is the clinic of choice for those that can afford to travel and pay for the best. It is where celebrities go to get help with baby making when they hit the conception wall.

Yes, our clinic is the clinic of the stars and it has the price tag to match. And it is that price tag that turned the Winslow’s into thieves one day in August of 2013.

Most of the clinic’s clients are like us. They have been through multiple cycles at clinics closer to home and have switched hoping to break a losing streak. As result, the clinic is dealing with patients that have already had extensive fertility testing. But that doesn’t matter, every patient has to go back through all the testing again. The clinic feels they are the best, have the best labs, the best doctors, and their reputation is not going on the line based on shoddy work done by a previous clinic.

So no matter what your history the clinic does all the diagnostic testing from scratch in a session they call a “One Day Work Up.” In our case it meant a flight out to see them to do a myriad of tests and an orientation session. This day was spent waiting to meet with billing, waiting to meet with our assigned nurse, waiting to see the doctor for a variety of tests, waiting to give blood and other samples. It was a day of waiting, waiting, waiting. For each appointment we had to check in at one of three reception areas.

Each of these reception areas had an ever so tempting cup of brand new pens with the clinic’s name and logo on it. Nice pens. The good stuff. The kind you would expect from a celebrity’s clinic.

Bored from all the waiting, we decided to make a game of stealing the pens. Our goal was to take as many of those pens home as humanly possible thinking that it would help justify the expensive price tag of the trip. Each time we would check in for an appointment we would find a reason to have to write something down, use a new pen, and take it back to the waiting area with us to stash in my purse. We laughed so hard each time we would successfully “steal” a pen that was clearly there for us to take anyway.

We passed time dividing the number of pens into our estimate of what one full cycle at the clinic would cost us.  This gave us an estimated value of each pen. The more we would take, the more the value of each pen would decline. When it was all said and done, over the course of the day we took 6 beautiful pens. Since that time we have added two more pens from subsequent visits.

Based on our number of pens and what we have spent so far each pen has a value that is still more than some people’s used cars.  As a result, I use these pens all the time. I feel like I have to get my money’s worth.

I also have a sense of pride and a flittering of hope every time I touch one. As much as I like to joke about stealing the pens and the price of the clinic, whatever we end up spending is worth every hard earned dollar . We know that before we give up on the dream of having a sibling for Spork we will have gone to the best and given it our all.

We are uniquely blessed to have the ability to be able to do this. We would never have been able to afford it even two years ago. But we have had a lucky couple of years that have made it possible to shell out the big bucks for the big guns. It means postponing a new addition to the house and really tightening the belt, but I can’t think of another thing I would rather have more than this.

The results of our One Day Work Up didn’t tell us anything new. We looked good on paper. My hormone levels, resting follicle count, and other key factors all were perfect. Bill’s little swimmers were in Michael Phelps like condition. The doctor said he didn’t usually see patients like us. His cases are usually more difficult.

Since then we learned our embryonic cells divide a little more slowly than they should and the optimism has faded ever so slightly. Its a sign that my advanced maternal age could be the reason we are having so much trouble this time. But we are still making genetically viable embryos and that is why we chose this clinic. They were the best to help us answer whether there was still hope for us, and there is.

Whatever the outcome is for our family, Bill and I will be able to rest easy knowing that we have given it our best shot. But if the worst happens, if it doesn’t work, at least we’ll have the pens. All eight pens…and counting.

How Infertility Turned a Banker into a Hippie

I am by nature about as conservative as they come.  Not to say that I have ever been conservative in my behavior. I think we have already documented substantial evidence to the contrary in 8 short blog posts.  But I am a banker. I am risk averse. I used to vote straight ticket for a particular presidential party. Every year.

Not to say I am a devout right winger or fundamentalist, I am not. I am socially liberal and fiscally conservative. Its not religion or tradition that cause me to be conservative. Its the way my brain works. When I read for fun, I read books on economics. If I were to win the lottery I would probably go back to school and get a doctorate in the subject. Its what makes me tick. And when you think that way you tend to align with whatever party is most likely to stay out of the way of the market.

Infertility is a powerful thing. Powerful enough to turn this conservative banker into a  free-spirited hippie. Or at least an aspiring hippie.

Acupuncture is the gateway treatment that leads to a host of other remedies and practices that any patient is bound to try if she goes through fertility treatments long enough.  Acupuncture is where it all begins.  You see, most clinics either have acupuncturists on staff or have several to whom they refer patients. Acupuncturists will actually attend your embryo transfer with you and will do “points” before and after the procedure to aid with implantation. It’s not myth or majestic mojo but a well documented fact that it works. Acupuncture is scientifically proven to increase blood flow, improve implantation rates, and even help deal with more acute fertility issues like cysts. The positive impacts are indisputable. And of course its not hard to convince an IVF patient that just a few more needles won’t hurt. We are easy targets.

I have a tendency to throw myself into anything new with abandon, especially if there is even a slim chance it might get me pregnant. So when I began seeing an acupuncturist I decided to learn all I could about Eastern medicine. I read “The Web that Has No Weaver” and learned about meridians and how blood and qi (pronounced “chee”) move through them. I practiced Qi-Gong (that funny looking and slow moving judo type thing you see old Chinese people do in movies). I read a book called “The Dao of Fertility” that taught me prayers for fertility that I taped and listened to while practicing meditation. I eventually memorized them.

It was just the beginning. I bought guided meditation tapes for infertility. I took herbs. I decided to stop exercising so much for awhile to spend more time “in the fertile valley”. I put a golden egg that is supposed to help fertility on my night stand.

Most importantly, I switched to a mostly organic and hormone free diet. This is when the real transformation took place.

In our rural area if you truly want to go organic and do it the right way, it requires you to go to the local co-op grocery store to shop. Our co-op is exactly what you would expect a local co-op in an area like ours to be like in this day and age. There is an incredible selection of food, wines, a bakery, and even a hot lunch bar. It has a whole section of organic beauty products that all leave you smelling a little bit like patchouli.  There are signs against fracking next to signs about cooking without gluten.

In the past, if I went there for some reason I always felt a little weird. Creepy even. Like everyone there in dreadlocks and tie-dye had me pegged for who and what I was. I felt like they wanted me out of there. I didn’t belong. I didn’t like it at all. I would go in and get my herbs or whatever I needed and high tail it out of there as quickly as possible. It was like I was allergic or something. I dreaded my visits.

Oh what a difference four years and a little trouble conceiving make. Gradually, one organic shopping trip after another I started to feel comfortable. Then I started to enjoy it. And finally, I was a convert. A full-on hippie. I would regularly burn incense and moxa in the house, but Bill won’t let me go that far. Believe me, I have tried and been quickly shut down.

These days I eat lunch at the co-op every day that I am in town for work. I buy gluten free goods from the bakery. I am an official card carrying co-op owner.  When I go there fresh from acupuncture and massage with a faint odor of essential oils emanating from my skin I look around at the people there and think, “These are my people. We are all searching for peace and bliss together.  I am home.”

While I may never be thankful for infertility no matter how much peace and bliss I find, I am at least thankful for some of what it has taught me and many of the friends I have made a long the way. Like the two acupuncturists I have worked with since this all started. They are both wonderful and knowledgeable women I may not have gravitated toward in my old life, and vice versa. Today I would call them both great friends in addition to critical members of “Team Baby Winslow 2.”

Yes. Infertility has changed me a great deal, but has not changed everything.

I no longer vote straight ticket, but it probably hasn’t changed my individual votes all that often. I still am who I am. However at least I think about my choices for a minute instead of blindly doing the same thing over and over again without sound reason. At least there is that. And of course the beautiful people I have met a long the way that I can now call friends.

My only hope is that by writing this blog I haven’t alienated any other friends from either side of the political fence. After all, the only thing scarier than going public with your struggles in baby making is going public with your political affiliation.

Just remember, it’s all about LOVE people. L-O-V-E. Love.

My Secret Crush

I have a little crush. Nothing too serious.  Certainly nothing that should worry Bill.

This is not the first time it has happened to me since I started IVF, so my guess is that I am not alone.

The object of my affection is hard not to like. Sure he is skinny, older, a little shy and more than a bit of a nerd. But he is smart. Like genius smart. He is driven. He is wealthy. His existence is dedicated to giving me a baby. What’s not to love?

It happened slowly. At first I noticed I looked forward to hearing from him with increasing anticipation. Then I seemed to have a growing list of reasons to need to talk to him.  It doesn’t help that he plays hard to get. He rarely calls.  When I see him it is usually for 10 minutes or less and he has little to say. But however brief our meetings, they are always intimate.

Yes I have a crush on my Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE).

I can say with some level of confidence that this crush is unrequited. I am one of hundreds of women in his life. And I am okay with that, as long as he gives me my baby.

I felt the same way about my last RE.  As a matter of fact, I still do and probably always will. He had a wonderful beside manner, a great sense of humor. And of course, he gave us Spork.

Lest you be concerned about me stalking or having an unhealthy fixation, I am exaggerating for effect. I don’t really have a romantic crush. Or at least one that I don’t completely understand is due to natural psychological tendencies that are completely out of my control.

It could be my feelings are a result of Knight in Shining Armor Syndrome. A damsel in distress is swept off her feet by a man in a white lab coat riding in on great SART results. The knight saves her from the deadly jaws of the evil beast Infertility.

Makes perfect sense right?

But I actually think of it more like Stockholm Syndrome, where hostages begin to develop empathy and sympathy for their captors even to the point of defending them. Make no mistake, this man never intended any ill will toward us, but captives we are. Destined to keep coming back for more and continuing to pay those big bills until we either run out of steam, or money, or both. He is our only hope.

Whatever the reason and appropriate or not, I still look forward to hearing his voice the next time he calls.  And with any luck, in the not too distant future he will be calling to break it off with me completely.You see this guy is the kind of guy that is done with a girl as soon as she gets knocked up.

Party’s over. You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here. Find yourself a plain old OB, you no longer do it for me.

And I am okay with that too.