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.

Spork’s First Baby Photo

Spork's First Baby Photo

I have decided to take weekends off from the blog, but thought it would be fun to share our first photo of Spork. In this picture she is only a 2 day old embryo! My old clinic does things a little “old school” and believes the sooner the embryo is back to Mom the better.

The new clinic is one of the best there is and grows embryos to day 5 or 6 and tests them for genetic viability. That’s why we only transfer one or two. I will pontificate on the differences between the two clinics in a later blog. But for now, here is Spork!

We have no way of knowing which one she is but I think she’s the one on the top right. What do you think?