My First Advocacy Day

Every year Resolve – the national infertility association, organises an advocacy day at Capitol Hill.  What does that really mean?  It means that we get the chance to tell our senators and representatives what we really need to help build our families- IN PERSON!!! We get to advocate on behalf of the 1 in 8 couples diagnosed with the disease that is infertility and for our future generations on issues that help Americans to build their families.

I’ve always wanted to go to advocacy day, but have failed miserably because of work travels, this year I was able to get away from work for a few days to make it to Washington DC.  Unfortunately Chris couldn’t make it with me so I went alone and met up with some of my local infertility support group members there.  But I wasn’t really alone, I met some incredibly inspirational people who have been advocating and volunteering for YEARS!!!  And an added bonus I also met up with Heather from Meet the Hopefuls blog!!!!! Heather was the state Captain for California ☺️

So what did I do??

Firstly I attended a welcome reception on Tuesday evening prior to the big day.  Here we got a chance to meet our state captain and others from our state, figure out who had done this before, and who were our mentors.  Virginia was 40 something people strong! We were amongst over 200 people who had traveled from across the country to advocate.  WOW!

It’s quite nerve wracking – I mean, I am British, I only really know a little about how the US legislation system works (mostly from TV dramas ;-p), so there was a lot for me to learn in addition to what the legislation being advocated for was and it’s history.  Having experienced people and mentors available helped take away those nerves.  Us first timers weren’t alone.  We also had some online training a few weeks before to introduce the bills we would be asking representatives to co-sponsor and vote for.

Part of the welcome reception included a few speeches, one of which brought me to tears.  A veteran who had been injured in Afghanistan had been advocating with his wife for years to make infertility covered by the VA. Their infertility was directly caused by the injuries he suffered and his country wouldn’t help him build his family.  What an insult to his service and the life he gave to his country.  But in 2016 congress authorised funding to provide adoption assistance and IVF to those veterans who had a service connected injury or illness that caused infertility.  As a result of the funding this veteran has been able to have a child.  And they brought their 15mth old with them.  It was so moving to hear what a difference advocating can make.

Yeh, I cried, both tears of happiness and sadness.  Sad because the funding for the veterans was going to expire in 2019 so we needed our congress to support a new bill that would make infertility coverage permanent and overturn the ban of IVF in the VA.  My head actually hurts thinking that their country was not supporting their injured veterans.  I just can’t understand why anybody would be against it.  The only reason is money.  That is it.  So far just over 200 veterans have sought care under the funding that expires in 2019.  But as we all know, the process of infertility treatment and adoption can take years.  So some of those 200 veterans might not be able to continue their treatment if nothing is changed.  And then there are those veterns who don’t know they want to build a family yet, and in 5 or 10 years when they come to have children realise they need help, when it’s not there. It just makes no sense Congress!!! Support your veterans in building their families – it’s a no brainer!

I went back to my hotel excited for what the next day would bring.  I set my alarm for 5.30 AM so I could make it into the city to start our training at 7.30AM.  I actually found it hard to sleep thinking about it all.

The next morning, I made my way into the city on the metro as I decided to stay on the outskirts of the city to save a bit of $$$.  DC hotels aren’t cheap.  I had missed out on the block booking that Resolve had organised.  I spent a lot of my journey on the metro researching the Senators and my house representative.  What were their thoughts on family, veterans, adoption, healthcare and finance issues.  Did they sponsor or co-sponsor any of the bills we were advocating for already?  Did they have family, do they have any links with the infertility community already?  None of the senators, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, or my representative, Donald McEachin, had co-sponsored yet, so I knew we had some work to do.

When I checked in I was given my schedule for my appointments and received all the supporting materials I needed, including a cheat sheet with information and facts that I would unlikely be able to remember off by heart!  My schedule was actually really good.  I had appointments at 11AM, 1230PM and 2.30PM.  I thought that was plenty of time between appointments, but in reality it was go, go, go all day.  After I checked in and got a hearty breakfast, we sat down in our states and was given more information about the day.  We were told a little bit more about the legislative agenda Resolve was advocating for…

S700 and HR1681 – Women Veterans and Families Health Services Act.  basically giving veterans permanent access to infertility treatment and support through adoption for injured veterans.

S937 and HR2476 – The adoption tax credit refundability Act.  The adoption tax credit is good, but doesn’t support low to middle income families, this legislation will make the tax credit refundable which will help these families who are more likely to foster to adopt, helping to take children out of foster care saving money in the long run.  It’s fiscally responsible, helps children out of the foster care system and helps building families.

Resolution 864 – PCOS awareness month.  This will designate September 2018 as PCOS awareness month.  It has already been passed in Senate.

Medical Research Funding for FY 2019 Appropriations.  Requesting funding of $1.531 billion for FY19 for research related to reproductive disorders such as infertility, PCOS and Endometriosis.

Finally….the most exciting and hot of the press news was announced.  A bill was being dropped on Advocacy day that will have a huge impact, the Access to Infertility Treatment and Care Act.

Wait, what???? YES! what an amazing piece of legislation.  We need to fight for this.  We fight this everyday in our own lives dealing with infertility.  This shouldn’t be a fight we have to have, but we do.  I know the benefits of great infertility coverage, I have 6 IVF cycles in a lifetime covered in my plan.  Infertility is stressful enough without dealing with financial crap.  This bill will require that health plans offer treatment for federal employees (including TriCare) diagnosed with infertility as well as cover fertility preservation for who undergo a medically necessary procedure that may cause infertility, such as chemotherapy.  The bill is being sponsored by Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-03) and Senator Cory Booker (NJ), they made videos telling us about the Bill and thanking us for advocating.  It was so moving.  I cried. Again.  (yes, there were lots of tears from me, I planned for it and didn’t wear mascara…more to come….!!!)

After being given all the knowledge we needed, we broke out into our states to figure out who was going to say what, to who and when.  With 40 virginians we were given 2 appointments focusing on different issues with each senator, so that meant there were about 20 people meeting with the Senator’s aides (or staffers).  I quickly discovered that I was the only one in my meeting with my representative Donald McEachin.  This meant I would be doing most of the talking and asking!  I had a mentor assigned with me – Chris, who was a guest on my blog during NIAW with his wife Candace.  Chris was fantastic, he was the state Captain and really was font of all knowledge and experience so I felt less nervous about and was more excited.  In addition to figuring out who was going to say what, we also had letters from other states and areas that were not represented by someone in person, this meant we had to visit the offices of these representatives and ask for an impromptu meeting with someone to talk through the issues.  We figured out who was going to deliver what and where.  At the time I had no idea how much work this was actually going to be!!

Once we had a game plan for the day, we headed off to Capitol Hill, clutching our bright orange folders, sporting our orange infertility awareness Ribbons.  This proved to be very helpful during the day to spot others as we wondered the halls of Capitol Hill.  I hadn’t realised how easy it is to knock on the door of your Senator or representative (If you can find their office that is!!)

Our first appointment was at 1130AM with Senator Tim Kaine (Democrat) and we met with his aides for tax issues.  The only place that could fit all 20 or so of us was in the hallway, so there we were talking about our issues, asking for the Senator to cosponsor the bills.  Someone from our group gave their personal stories of struggles.  I cried. And at the end, I handed over all the letters from other constituents asking for what we had just asked for, as well as some more supporting information for the Senator to consider.  It was pretty easy, yet empowering.  This was our opportunity to create awareness and make change happen.  Right there, right then.  15 minutes.  That is all the time we had.

We had some time to deliver some letters to a few other Senators, so we broke up into smaller groups to achieve our mission.  I went with a lady who had been to advocacy day several times before and another who was a newbie like me!  Before we went into the office we did a quick bit of research on the Senator to see what their position might be in anticipation of getting a meeting with one of their staffers.  The first Senator who’s state will remain nameless, there was very little we thought they would be supportive of.  So what did we have in common?  When it comes down to it, a family.  He has children, so there was something at least! After all we are advocating Pro-family!  Unfortunately no one was able to meet with us.  But we dropped off the letters from his constituents, material about the bills we were advocating for and collected a business card of the relevant aide to contact later on.  We did the same with two other Senators before we ran out of time and needed to get to our next appointment.

My second appointment was at 1230 with Senator Mark Warner (Democrat) and we met with his aide for veteran’s health.  This time we had different people speak, and I cried again when someone gave their personal story of infertility struggles, and a lady who worked as an adoption social worker told her perspective.  The other group managed to meet with the Senator and snag a photo with him!

Time for some lunch!  All our other meetings were the other side of the Hill, so we managed to get a ride on the underground trolley that connects with the Capitol building.  I didn’t get a picture, but I felt like I was in a James Bond movie!  very cool.  We found somewhere to eat eventually and collected ourselves in preparation for my meeting.

My third appointment was with Congressman Donald McEachin at 3PM.  This was a far more intimate meeting with one of his aides, we sat in the Congressman’s office, which was the Pi Office – 314!!!!! We talked about the issues on the table and it seemed like Donald McEachin would be very supportive of what we were asking for.  I am hoping to see his name as co-sponsor!!  Just as we were finished he came into his office, so we introduced ourselves and why were there today, and we were able to get a photo with him!

We had some time to do more letter and material drop offs with other Reps and emptied our bags of letters.  We delivered them all!  Unfortunately there was a health committee meeting going on so many of the relevant people were not in office available for any impromptu meetings.  We managed to find somewhere to get coffee – there was a dunkin donuts in one of the house of representative’s building’s basement.  I made the joke that America literally does run on Dunkin.  True fact.

The final meeting of the day was by far the best.  I joined Chris, Candace and Allison from my local support group on their meeting with their representative, Bobby Scott.  I live on the corner of three congressional districts so I actually work in his district and was excited to be able to talk with him too.  His aide listened with intent and understanding, she asked some awesome questions.  Including what we were doing to support women and families of colour.  A great question because it is so important.  It seems that the congressman too would be supportive of all our issues.  Half way through our meeting he came in to meet us and took a picture with us!!! He had just come from a foster child shadow day and had the most amazing tie on.  So appropriate and so timely for what we were advocating for.  His staff were so warm and friendly it was the perfect end to the day.

To round off the day we all met up for refreshments and a taco bar, swap our experiences and sit our weary feet down.  I think I spent the first 6 hours of the day on my feet!  Luckily I was well prepared and wore flat shoes.  An absolute must to survive the day.  I left the day feeling excited that I had the opportunity to make important people in the legislative work understand how they can help build families in America.  For my American friends, my virtual friends and for my daughter, an American citizen.

I’ll be going again next year for sure.  Next year this new bill will be coming of age, and may be even issues relating to Personhood bills may be on the agenda.  What I do know is that there is still a lot of work to do.  So who’s joining me???!!!

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Chris #FlipsTheScript

Infertility isn’t just a woman’s issue, it’s a man’s issue and it’s a couple’s issue.  So when I asked Chris to do this interview he said ‘sure’, but he later let on that he was actually anxious about it.  Even though our story is here on this blog, he finds it hard to still talk about.  So I am very proud of him for pushing through his fears to tell you his story.

Chris, my husband, is here to #FlipTheScript for national infertility awareness week, here’s his story…

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First of all, tell us a little bit about you and your partner….how did you meet?!!

You know a lot about my partner, Dani, this is her blog!!!  But you probably don’t know how we met.  We met at a work event, Dani was organizing a conference and I was a guest presenter.  Although she will swear blind that I wasn’t a presenter, potentially because the amount of wine we had drunk the night before fogging her memory.  We got along very well…the wine may or many not have been a factor.  We married in 2012 and moved from the Cotswolds, UK to Virginia, USA, 6 months later, where we still live today.

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When did you realize that you were facing a diagnosis of infertility, how did you find out and what were the issues that you faced?  

I married Dani thinking that we probably wouldn’t be able to have kids.  It wasn’t a surprise.  But I loved her enough that it didn’t matter.  So finding out we were infertile was more of a confirmation of a strongly held suspicion.  Mind you, we did have a go at it naturally for a year before hand.  It never really felt like a diagnosis of infertility, instead it was an increasing realization of infertility over time.  The failures added up after repeated unsuccessful attempts, we never had a diagnosis – it was just unexplained infertility.  This changed how I felt going into each round of treatment.  The first round of treatment, an IUI, was exciting, we went in full of hope… but by the sixth treatment- our third IVF- each cycle was no longer exciting.  It filled me with a sense of dread, and I went into it wishing it was over before it started.  Some of this was my own personal journey and some of this feeling was because it hurts to see the person that you love go through the physical pain and hurt with all the drugs, surgeries and hormones.

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Where are you on your infertility journey now?

I don’t know.  While that may sound like a strange answer, I don’t know if our journey is over or not.  Is infertility ever really over?  The great news, the wonderful news, is that our sixth round of treatment, our 3rd IVF cycle, was successful and we now have a 16 month old daughter, Aviana.  The reason I am not sure if the journey is over has two parts.  The first is the question of whether we can have a second child, and in part do we want to have a second child, knowing full well the challenges and stress we experienced to conceive Aviana the first time.  The second is that I will always have a nagging question in the back of my mind about whether Aviana is destined to follow the same path as us.  By using science to overcome our infertility challenges, do we pass on our ‘duff parts’ to our future children? So our infertility journey may continue into the quest for grandparent hood.  But having experienced all that we have,  I will never pressure Aviana into having a family.

Oh, and we have one frozen embryo from our first IVF cycle.  Every month we get the $60 bill for the storage of it, a constant reminder of both hope, and the potential for disappointment.  We don’t know what we will do next.

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Has infertility changed your relationship with your partner? 

This was the hardest thing we have ever done. At times through our journey I felt a small amount of hate towards Dani for what felt like forcing me to go on to the next cycle, and I also hated myself for not having the strength to immediately, and willingly, support her.  I thought long and hard before making these statements but we spend so long and so much effort hiding our feelings, experiences and the challenges of infertility that we often put a positive slant on the pain, therefore this is my honest answer, although I must confess it is uncomfortable to say out loud.

The good news is that despite these low points throughout our journey we became closer. It has brought us closer together because:

  1. You have to be close to stab your partner with 200 + needles. Nothing says togetherness like shoving a 2.5inch needle into someone’s body.
  2. You have to be forgiving when being stabbed by your partner (thanks Dani, sorry for the mistakes).

The only way we got through it was as a team. We talked a little and often, we talked in the shower, we talked in the car, we could stop and start the conversations as either one of us felt willing.   Being open, truly open, about how we felt meant being vulnerable and at times brutally honest.  After being so vulnerable and so open, I now feel a level of comfort, closeness and companionship that was more than we had before.

How has infertility impacted you financially? Did your healthcare insurance provide coverage for infertility treatment?

We are very fortunate, we are among the few who have infertility treatment as part of our healthcare coverage in the US.  The majority of our costs were covered by Dani’s insurance and yet we still had to plan and budget for the portion we had to cover.  I’m amazed at those who are forced to self-pay for IUI and IVF treatments because it adds another level of stress to infertility that we didn’t have to deal with.

How have you taken care of yourself physically and emotionally during your struggles?

In the early part of our journey we tried many things to help improve our chances.  We cut out alcohol, we cut out sugar (all good advice that come from ‘It starts with the egg’).  These two acts by themselves served to improve our general well-being and we made a concerted effort to do more exercise.

To be honest, as the journey went on I cared a little bit less about my physical health and focused more on my mental health.   Our first IVF ended in a suspected ectopic pregnancy, leading to us having to terminate the pregnancy of unknown location with the drug methotrexate.   Because methotrexate is to toxic we were not allowed to conceive for at least 3 months after.  After our second IVF failed and as we began our third cycle I began to hate the process, hate the ever present doubt, dread and stress. This was the lowest point for me and where our relationship was most challenged. I didn’t want to do it again, I didn’t want Dani to hurt again and I didn’t want to hurt any more either.  On top of all that, Dani was caught in the Brussels terrorist attack at the airport and was blown up, I didn’t take care of my mental health.  I wanted it all to be over with.  We knew that it would be our last attempt, there was so much pressure.  I don’t know what would have happened if we didn’t get that positive result or we had another loss.  I don’t want to think about it.

How have your friends and family supported you through your journey?  Have you had any experience of lack of support or misunderstandings?  

Overall friends and family have been awesome.  Everyone was supportive, many people asked how they could help.  The flip side of this, which many people going through infertility have probably experienced, is the good intention, but totally uninformed advice and suggestions.  ‘Just Relax’.  ‘My friends tried this…’ ‘Have you tried herbal tea…’ At one point we had received so much of this “advice” that Dani and I started writing a book as a guide for friends and family for what not to do and how to better support loved ones going through infertility.  This is not a criticism, this is a statement of fact, and weeks like this infertility awareness week and #FlipTheScript are part of an ongoing process to educate, inform and raise awareness so that more people know about the challenges faced by 1 in 8 couples. Their good intentions and enormous support and generosity can be coupled with better information so they can truly support the people they love as they go through this truly shitty experience.

What has been the hardest point of your journey and how did you deal with it?  

I can’t and won’t pick one point in this journey.  To do so would diminish all the other moments.  Every part of this journey is difficult.  This whole experience has a price, not just a  ‘$ price’, but an emotional price that we pay for every minute and every day in our struggle to conceive.  Low points come in many forms, the most obvious is the doctor saying we are not pregnant.  The less obvious come when you are sat in a café and look up to see a family enjoying time together, it is just another reminder of what we don’t have.  And in that moment that’s a low point.  As with all journeys there are twists and turns, highs and lows and the journey is different for each of us.  There were some very low points for me, but I’m not comfortable sharing them specifically.  (you may be able to guess some of them from my previous answers 😦 ).

If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself?

None. I don’t think any advice I could give now would change how I felt then.  We had so much advice from so many people, much of it good, some of it not, some of it just plain weird, but when it came to it, what really mattered was how Dani and I felt in any moment and how we handled that together.

As it’s national infertility awareness week, what message do you want to share about infertility to the general public? 

1 in 8 couples are affected by infertility.  Looking around you on a train, in a café, at you work place and realise that as many people are affected by infertility as they are breast cancer.  Charities and support groups have done a great job of raising awareness about cancers like breast cancer….we need to do better to raise awareness of infertility. Talk about it.  Help raise awareness.  Get more research funded.  Help us to bring this topic out from the shadows.  Play a role in removing the stigma from infertility.

Is there anything else you would like to share that I haven’t asked you about?

One final thought, infertility can create some surreal moments that can be laughed about after the fact. For example, there is nothing quite like sitting in an open waiting room at a hospital holding a test tube containing a bright pink sample of your sperm.

Please leave a comment or message of support below for Chris (and me if you like too!!!) 🙂

Kelly #FlipsTheScript

Kelly opens up today about donor eggs and the challenges of secondary infertility.  She is currently in the midst of her journey so I am so humbled that she was willing to share her story for this important week.  Kelly worked with my husband Chris, it can be scary to talk about infertility with work colleagues, but it is amazing  how many people around you have probably been affected by the disease that is infertility.  It does affect us at work, it’s always there, you can’t put it aside, and yet no one can see it – it’s silent.  Let’s break that silence.

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Kelly is here to #FlipTheScript for national infertility awareness week, here’s her story…

First of all, tell us a little bit about you and your partner….how did you meet?!!

Brad and I met at a Warrior Dash mud run. I was with my girlfriend and her husband and he was with his friend. I had noticed him at the merchandise tent and he had apparently noticed me at the finish line jumping over the flaming logs and flinging myself into the mud! He managed to find his way to where we were standing and strategically placed himself next to me. The band started and we kind of had a conversation…it was very loud. Then he left to get beer and my friends decided it was time to go, so we left. On the way out they convinced me to go back and give him my phone number and of course give a shameless plug for our roller derby league. I found him in the beer line, walked up to him and said, “I don’t normally do this…but this is my number if you’d like to call me or maybe if you need a partner to run another race and I play roller derby if you’re ever interested. My name is Kelly, what’s yours?” He looked up at me, took the piece of paper, and responded “Kelly. Uh, I mean Brad.” I told him it was nice to meet him, made a comment about his OU hat and left. He called me the following Tuesday and we’ve been together ever since…going on 6 years.

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When did you realize that you were facing a diagnosis of infertility, how did you find out and what were the issues that you faced?  

I’ve struggled with fertility, since always. I have a seventeen year old, but she was hard to come by and I think only came about due to very good timing. Now that I’m older and my partner and I have been together for quite some time, without even an oops how did that happen, we decided to have things checked out. That, and I was 41 when we started seeing fertility specialists. We went through several IUI’s that did not take and once fertility specialists we had seen pretty much said out of the gate my eggs were too old and I should seek donor eggs.

Where are you on your infertility journey now?

We are working through the donor egg process now. We have a donor and we’re in the whole cycle alignment process, but things are moving along fairly well and in less than a month we should be undergoing IVF.

Has infertility changed your relationship with your partner? 

Not in a negative way. I think it has brought us closer in some ways.

How has infertility impacted you financially? Did your healthcare insurance provide coverage for infertility treatment?

The financial perspective is completely different. Fertility treatment ain’t cheap!! When we started the process everything was out of pocket because I did not have insurance that would cover any part of it. Now we have new insurance and they cover a portion. Insurance will not cover the donor portion, so we’ve been setting aside savings, tax returns, bonuses, etc., so we don’t have to break the bank. We are still unsure what our portion of the costs will be, but hopefully our hard earned savings should cover most of the donor costs.

How have you taken care of yourself physically and emotionally during your struggles?

I try to work out on a regular basis. We get up in the morning and take the dogs for a 30 minute walk and then I walk them again in the evening. I have a PIYO DVD that I really enjoy and we have a home gym. I have a whole slew of vitamins that I take every day and due to other health related issues, I’m on an Autoimmune Paleo Diet. I’m very specific about my meats and purchase from a local butcher who only sells organic meats. I purchase no hormone/antibiotic/free range/organic as much as I can from the grocer or the farmers market. We also grow our own vegetables, so I try to eat fresh as much as possible. I quit drinking all together, but have partaken on several occasions after we realized we would not be able to use my eggs – I try to keep it to a minimal. I also cut out the caffeine.

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How have your friends and family supported you through your journey?  Have you had any experience of lack of support or misunderstandings?  

My friends and family are great about things. My dad does tease me about my age and questions if all my oars are in the water, but it’s more from a place of jest than being serious. I’ve not had many negative experiences. I would say the one negative experience that stands out to me was actually how one of the fertility specialists communicated to me that my eggs were not of good quality and I should just skip to the donor eggs. She was very compassionate, but I was not ready to hear that message at the time and in my mind it was very premature. Needless to say, we are not working with that fertility specialist any longer.

My former boss and his wife have been supportive and have provided insights on their experiences, which has been helpful 🙂

What has been the hardest point of your journey and how did you deal with it?  

I think the hardest part was finally accepting that I was not going to be able to use my own eggs for this pregnancy and really opening my heart and mind to using donor eggs. My biggest fear, even though I do not believe it will ever be realized, is something going wrong in my relationship with my partner and he would have (in my mind) greater claim to our child since it would be his biological DNA and not mine. My other fear is having the child that I carried and bonded with as their birth mother wanting to seek out the donor.

One of the things that has helped me get over the second fear is my girlfriend. She’s adopted and while she has sought out her biological parents, she remains very close to her adoptive parents and maintains that bond. I found this to be very reassuring.

If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself?

Freeze your eggs!! I’ve always wanted more children and I wish that I would have retrieved some of my eggs and preserved them for when the time was right to try again.

As it’s national infertility awareness week, what message do you want to share about infertility to the general public? 

Be supportive of friends and family who are going through an infertility journey! It’s not easy and we need your support through this.

Is there anything else you would like to share that I haven’t asked you about?

Don’t forget to unplug. I am the worst about playing Dr. Google and looking at every symptom to find what it correlates to…you end up working yourself into a panicked frenzy. If you and your partner are going through fertility treatments, take it easy on yourself and your partner. Panicking over every symptom or every Google search result does not help anyone.

Please leave a comment or message of support below for Kelly & Brad 🙂

Candace and Chris #FlipTheScript

I have no idea where Candace & Chris get their strength from, they have been through hell and back, and back again…and again.  Candace is our local Resolve infertility support group leader, she has helped me and so many, many others in our community survive at our lowest moments. 

Candace and Chris are here to #FlipTheScript for national infertility awareness week, here’s their story…

First of all, tell us a little bit about you and your partner….how did you meet?!!

Chris:  It turns out that we met in college … FYI college relationships can work.  We were both working at a restaurant.  We both went to a colleges close to each other. Candace likes to say that she is a way bigger college football fan than I am, that is probably true.  I was a cook and Candace didn’t know my name for the first year we worked together.  We started dating thanks to a school bus hitting Candace’s car.  She missed several weeks of work and I asked where she had been when she came back.  Once we started talking, we realized how similarly we saw things and, clearly she was immediately smitten. Plus I had sweet dance moves. It was probably the dance moves that roped her in.

Cue wedding bells, doves and white picket fences.

When did you realize that you were facing a diagnosis of infertility, how did you find out and what were the issues that you faced?  

Chris: We always kind of had an idea that we weren’t going to be overburdened with abundant fertility.  We had prophylactic mishaps and similar situations that resulted in no unplanned pregnancies.  We tried to get pregnant for about a year to no avail.  After that, we started getting serious with ovulation kits, various Olympic-level feats of post-coitus positioning to improve the change of pregnancy, still nothing.  That is when we decided it was time to seek professional help and started with Candace’s OBGYN.  After calling on that doctor several times, we had a “getting to know you” meeting with our eventual RE at the infamous Jones Institute.

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Where are you on your infertility journey now?

Chris:  Well, we have gone through years of fertility treatments including 6 rounds of IUIs, IVFs, and IOUs with no success. Candace actually had precancerous cells detected in her uterus requiring a partial hysterectomy.  We had 2 frozen blastocysts left after the surgery and our “Wonder Surro” said she would carry for us.  We were terrified on the day of that transfer but, after 9 stress-filled months, welcomed our daughter.

(Here is a link to Candace and Chris’s amazing video of how their daughter came into their lives -**trigger warning** – and you will also need some tissues)

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Now, we find ourselves in limbo yet again.

We had another gestational carrier come to us out of the blue and offer to carry a sibling for us!  Contracts signed, psych evals completed, Candace drugged, stimmed, and extracted, I did my part with my plastic passion cup to provide a sample, blastocysts grown and frozen + PGS tested per request of our gestational carrier… then out of the blue and only a few days prior to CD1 to transfer, she backed out.  We don’t have the faintest idea how we will move forward and we have 3 amazing, genetically screened and given a grade A health, ready to give life a try.  But, they have nowhere to attempt that reality. We are just now picking up the emotional and financial pieces.

Has infertility changed your relationship with your partner? 

Chris: Absolutely.  It has changed how Candace and I interact in different ways at different stages of our infertility journey.  When we were trying to conceive, everything was for a purpose.  Passion, romance, and intimacy had to wait outside the door.  It was clinical.

Now, with our little one through surrogacy, we are working to balance the feeling to grow our family with the feeling to “be” a family and that has been tough. 

Through all of the struggles, we have decided to use them as opportunities to grow stronger instead of apart.  Although we haven’t completely gotten through the storm, I hope we are nearing a place where our worries and confrontations will be on more mundane topics like dinner and laundry instead of whether or not to try to create life when the “normal” routes simply aren’t an option.

How has infertility impacted you financially? Did your healthcare insurance provide coverage for infertility treatment?

Chris: Simply put, we would have a second child either now or soon if finances weren’t central to the issue of infertility.  Our surrogate that backed out was planning on being a compassionate surrogate, meaning there was no surrogacy fee, however we would cover everything else.  Even so, we completely tapped out our resources to get to the point that we have blastocysts to transfer.  Now, with her backing out, we are completely incapable of supporting a compensated surrogate and really don’t have any options.  If we could cover the surrogacy fee, we would have moved forward long ago.

We have sacrificed so many things to pool resources for our various procedures through the course of our infertility journey.  Vacations, our home, cars, loans, a myriad of other ways that we would be in a very different financial situation had it not been for our fertility issues. 

That being the case though, if it took all that we did to get our daughter, I would do it over 100 times. Family is more important than our financial status.

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How have you taken care of yourself physically and emotionally during your struggles?

Candace: Wine. Copious amounts of wine.  Kidding..kinda. Honestly, our journey has been so long that what may have worked at the beginning of our struggles is much different than what works now. I am older, I have more scars since my first IVF and I have parted ways with few more tears since then.

Through it all, finding support in others, with others and for others.

I got involved with online communities, we began a blog, I started a local RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association support group. We both go as a couple each year to Washington, DC for Advocacy day and fight for better legislation and fight against anti-family building legislation so that the next us has less barriers to overcome. It is taking something so incredibly negative that has happened to us and flipping it into something positive and change issuing.

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How have your friends and family supported you through your journey?  

Candace: We were silent about our struggle for many years until the levy broke. We felt like other people had to feel the way we were feeling and there was no way were alone in our infertility diagnosis. We started our blog and cervical mucus, broken lady bits and plastic cups because it was a topic we talked about regularly. A weight lifted and something transcendental happened, people stopped asking when are you going to have a baby to how can we support you? They helped us fundraise, sent wine and ice-cream on beta days. They started to get a clearer glimpse into our struggle.

Have you had any experience of lack of support or misunderstandings? 

Candace: We had a daughter through surrogacy. Let that sink in for a moment. If you think IVF is misunderstood…. Whoa the comments that flooded in when we announced we were expecting through surrogacy.

Did your husband sleep with your gestational carrier? No- because um, science.

Does your gestational carrier have visitation rights? Also no—because um, genetics and legal paperwork. (our bun, her oven type of arrangement.)

Although the questions we received were crazy and bizarre and throat punching worthy, it was an open door to educate people on surrogacy and infertility.

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Have you lost any friends along the way?

Candace: Yes. But now most of our friends that were lost have been re-found. Mostly many of them didn’t know what to say, or do.  They were also off being Duggars and Chris and I were all like “hey look at this sweet Halloween costume we bought for our dog.” The gap of where were in life was growing.

Infertility is the thief of joy and it robbed me of celebrating amazing events with close friends. At the time it was self-preservation, most of my friends understand that now.

Are there any special messages to any friends or family who have been your rock that you would like to give a shout out to?

Candace: Goodness. There are way too many and at some point this post will have to end.

–you all know who are, love you, mean it.

I will say, having a husband (yeah, I am talking about you Chris) that is all in, all the time no matter what our circumstance, is what has kept our foundation rock solid.

In something like infertility, it is a couple’s disease and it is lonely. I have never been alone because of him.

What has been the hardest point of your journey and how did you deal with it?  

Candace: We’ve had so much failure. So much.

We have experienced everything from brain tumors (Chris), cancer scares, and infertility.  All have sucked lemons in their own unique way. I think we really took our recent surrogacy failure hard. It wasn’t because it didn’t work, it was because we were led down that path, and I went down that path with hope and reckless trust. We created a new set of embryos with the promise of a few tries if the first transfer did not take. Now, we are faced with a decision we never thought we would have, which is donate them to another infertile couple and let them have a chance at the child, the sibling, we so wanted or do we put our financial future at risk. Apart from that, I felt blindsided through it all.

What was your inspiration to keep going?

Candace: Time. Time heals but it leaves faintly visible forever scars. I am OK with that. Because now that I am a mother through surrogacy I am proud of them and I know where they lead.

So what is my inspiration to keep going? Hell hath no fury like an infertile woman who wants a child.  Let me be clear though, that keep going push doesn’t always lead to a dirty diaper.

It may also lead to resolution of your fertility journey and resolution no matter what it looks like is a good place to get to.

If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself?

Candace: Advocate for yourself.

No one knows your body and future family like you. Ask questions, second guess answers. Take control of your infertility. It took a long time to get there but I wish I would have had a DeLorean with a full flux capacitor to go back in the future and pimp slap my past self.  I also would have probably invested in Apple. Hindsight, amaright?

As it’s national infertility awareness week, what message do you want to share about infertility to the general public? 

If you know someone who is struggling to conceive, hug them, send them a card –check out what Celmatix is doing in trying to help people “say the right thing” via card. Be there.

If you are going through infertility, find a tribe. Find people who get it. Get support.

If you have resolved your infertility don’t forget your tears. Remember what you felt like before them. Give back so that the next 1 in 8, our future has less of struggle.

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You can find Candace and Chris at www.ourmisconception.com, follow them on instagram @ourmisconception (by the way they are taking over Resolve’s instagram this week so watch out for them!) andfacebook here.

Please leave a comment or message of support below for Candace & Chris 🙂

Alisia #FlipsTheScript

Alisia’s story is one of hope for a group of people who are often overlooked when it comes to infertility…women who are unable to carry their own child as a result of other illnesses and treatments. 

Alisia is here to #FlipTheScript for national infertility awareness week, here’s her story…

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First of all, tell us a little bit about you and your partner….how did you meet?!!

I’m an Air Force brat so I was born in Texas, spent most of my childhood in Okinawa, Japan and moved here to Hampton Roads, Virginia right before I started high school and have been here ever since! My husband Craig, was born and raised in Portsmouth, VA and although he would prefer to stay here forever, I appreciate that he loves to travel and explore other places. Craig and I actually went to the same high school. He is two years older than me so I didn’t know him personally but I knew of him. One summer night in 2006, I was out partying with my friends in downtown Norfolk where Craig and I ran into each other.  We started talking because we recognized each other, kept in touch, and eventually started dating. Fast forward five years from there, we got married!

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When did you realize that you were facing a diagnosis of infertility, how did you find out and what were the issues that you faced?  

In 2008 I received a kidney transplant from my little brother and after having two kidney rejection episodes, my doctors strongly encouraged me not to try to get pregnant both for my health and the health of my unborn child. A few years later, my sister Stephanie, nonchalantly suggested that she would carry our baby for us, but back then I didn’t really think anything of it because I wasn’t yet seriously trying to start a family. Craig and I had a plan that we would focus and enjoy just being married for a few years and then talk about starting a family.  So in 2014 we talked to my doctors about our options, again they advised that I not try to get pregnant.  That’s when I went to my sister and with no pressure at all I asked her if she was actually serious about being a gestational surrogate. She was!

Where are you on your infertility journey now?

After almost 4 years of appointments, medications, infertility shots, multiple egg retrievals (due to my very low egg quality), various procedures for my sister (to ensure an optimal uterine environment), we are finally expecting our child this August!!

To say this was an emotional roller coaster doesn’t do this IVF process any justice.

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Has infertility changed your relationship with your partner? 

I believe this process has brought Craig and I closer together. We both have been excited, disappointed, frustrated, completely ignored the process for a while, and even considered a child-free life together. There were times where I felt alone but later learn that Craig wasn’t expressing his feelings in order to protect mine. Although there were times where we were a little down about the whole situation, I think the biggest impact this experience has had on our relationship was our effort and determination to take advantage of the time without a child to focus on doing what we want, whenever we want, either alone or together.

My relationship with my sister has definitely grown stronger. We are 5 years apart so we didn’t always have a lot in common, but now that we are older and are going through this experience, we talk to each other every day now!

Stephanie has an 8 year old son as well and I try to keep him involved and show him as much love as possible since he’s been the only child in the family for 8 years now he’s used to all of the attention. My entire family is doing their best to reassure him that our love for him will not change when his cousin arrives.

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How has infertility impacted you financially? Did your healthcare insurance provide coverage for infertility treatment?

I’m not a gambler but IVF is a HUGE gamble. Although we were blessed to have been able to afford everything and come out of all of this process debt free, I can’t help but think of all the money we’ve spent on medicine, appointments, procedures and ultrasounds for all of those failed attempts. My healthcare provider covered a lot of the first IVF attempt and most of the medicines and injections for me. My sister’s company didn’t have coverage for IVF-related services so all of her expenses were out of pocket for us. We also had expenses related to legal fees for our surrogacy contract as well as psychological appoints both required by our fertility clinic for my sister to be cleared as a surrogate.

How have you taken care of yourself physically and emotionally during your struggles?

I have not. The constant disappointment really caused me to become very depressed and sad. I tried various types of therapy, anxiety medications, crying to friends and family, and natural remedies like yoga and meditation but nothing really got be out of my funk. The only thing that really helped was making plans for another IVF attempt. I think it helped because at least I was taking steps and tweaking protocols to better the probability of finally getting that BFP (Big Fat Positive!).

How have your friends and family supported you through your journey?  Have you had any experience of lack of support or misunderstandings?  

My friends and family have been extremely supportive. I really appreciate those who don’t understand what it’s like to experience infertility not asking me about how things are going and not talking about babies or children.

That was certainly my biggest trigger. I’m not one to really talk about my feelings all the time and most times I just hold everything in. I did my best to avoid conversations about pregnancy, babies and children when by friends started talking. Most of the time they realized I was getting uncomfortable. I hated to be a “Debbie Downer” but I couldn’t help the way it made me feel.

What has been the hardest point of your journey and how did you deal with it?  

The hardest point of my journey was when I was seriously considering giving up. I did research on child-free marriages/lifestyles. As much as not having as child gives you the freedom to do so many other things in life, that wasn’t what I wanted for my life. It just made me sad. My inspiration to keep going came from my husband and my sister. I had decided to give up because I was feeling the guilt of taking up so much of my sister’s time from expanding her own family, and I didn’t think we were getting anywhere with the multiple IVF protocols. My sister actually came to me one day and said she thinks we should just keep trying. Craig knew that I had also been looking into adoption and mentioned one day that we shouldn’t give up just yet of having our own biological child either. So, Craig provided another sample for cryo-preservation. In the state of VA at the time, when you use a surrogate, you are required to have your sperm specimen quarantined in cryo for six months before using it for IVF even after passing all of the health screening and testing. The fortunate part was that this wait allowed us to take a break from everything baby-related for six months and just enjoy life.

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If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself?

I would tell myself to try not to worry so much. I would also tell myself that I’m not a failure and I’m not any less of a woman because I couldn’t bear my own child. In addition, I would tell myself that no matter how many times I hear, “having children is the best thing that has ever happened to me” or “being a mom brings new meaning to life”, etc., don’t let it make you think you or your life is any less important.

As it’s national infertility awareness week, what message do you want to share about infertility to the general public? 

Although it is national infertility awareness week, if you are dealing with infertility, don’t feel guilty for not telling people what you’re going through in your own infertility journey.

Who, when, and how much you tell about your experience is up to you and your comfort level but know your story will most likely help someone out there who feels alone or feels like infertility isn’t as common as it is.

Is there anything else you would like to share that I haven’t asked you about?

While I’m super excited about being a parent,  I’m sitting here typing these responses, four months away from by baby’s due date super nervous about how my life is going to change, my relationship with my husband may change, and hoping that I don’t mess this motherhood thing up. You’d think that after years of wanting this so bad, I’d have done all the research I could possibly do to feel as ready as I possibly could but I didn’t because I didn’t know if this day would ever come. In the meantime, as I count down these next 4 months, I’m celebrating my “lasts”. My last Christmas without as child, my last Valentine’s Day, and my last weekends of doing whatever I want, whenever I want with Craig, my friends, and family, while shopping, planning, prepping for the arrival of little baby Nixon. 🙂

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Please leave a comment or message of support below for Alisia and Craig 🙂

Kristy #FlipsTheScript

Kristy is a fabulous blogger, she tells it like it is, but I didn’t meet her online. We met at our local Resolve infertility support group where I quickly discovered that she is relentless in her dedication to support couples struggling with infertility.

Kristy is here to #FlipTheScript for national infertility awareness week, here’s her story…

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First of all, tell us a little bit about you and your partner….how did you meet?!!

Dave and I met the summer before my senior year of college in 2001. He was in the Navy Reserves and also owned his own business. We didn’t hit it off at first, but shortly after we started dating I knew he was THE one…and then 9/11 happened. He left September 12th. I never thought I would see him again. He returned later that month, and we were engaged a few months later.  We both knew we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. We got married in May of 2003 and talked about starting a family in the next year.

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When did you realize that you were facing a diagnosis of infertility, how did you find out and what were the issues that you faced?  

We didn’t realize we were facing a diagnosis of infertility for quite a while. During our first year of marriage, we weren’t trying to get pregnant and were actively preventing it. A year after we got married, Dave was called to active duty with orders to Iraq and we were moving states. We decided to start trying for a family before he left, but we were unsuccessful. When he came home, we tried again in between deployments and training exercises. We tried for years; charting, testing, plotting, taking temperatures, the whole nine yards!

I refused to get tested or even think about treatments. It was my belief that if it was going to happen, it would happen….it was out of my hands.  It took me over five years to accept the fact that getting help was okay.

We both got tested and had the results, but I wasn’t ready to move on yet.  I still had this longing and desire that everything would still work out. I didn’t want to mess with God’s plan for me. I thought it was too risky and something I wasn’t comfortable with, so we waited….and waited…and waited.  We waited a few more years.

We decided together that it was time.  I had accepted it, come to terms with it, and finally knew it was the right thing to do. We made an appointment at our local fertility clinic and started the process again.  The testing, the prodding and all of the ‘fun’ and uncomfortable ultrasounds, dyes and needle pokes. We had our diagnosis and we were ready to move forward. We were diagnosed with male infertility, but had options.  We were strong. We had a plan.

We jumped right in with three back to back IUIs (Intrauterine insemination), and then gave my body a break after all three treatments failed. We tried again with two more IUIs before we took another break. We then saved and fund raised in order to move on to IVF (In vitro fertilization). We tried IVF twice without success. We were devastated. We thought that our only hurdle in making a baby was male factor, but my body kept failing me over and over without reason.  We took another long break before trying another IUI, which failed again.

We were out of money, and out of hope. We decided to try again, but had to cancel two cycles because my ovaries were not responding to the hormones, so we waited again.  Finally, we tried again, one last time. We did 2 IUIs in 24 hours and we waited. Both had failed.

Where are you on your infertility journey now?

After 13 years of trying and countless infertility treatments, Dave and I have chosen to live childfree.  It was not an easy decision, but the best one for us.

We tried.  We gave it our all, but infertility treatments don’t work on everyone. We have come to accept that.  I never thought in a million years that I would be the one living childfree, but I am, and I couldn’t be happier and more content. 

I don’t regret all the years of trying, all the failed treatments, and all the money we spent. We truly gave it everything we had, but now we are living life differently. We plan differently.  We look to the future differently.  We love differently.  All because we tried and we failed, but we came out on the other end.

There is a different path. There is a different plan.  We are happy. We are enough.

Has infertility changed your relationship with your partner? 

YES!  Infertility almost tore us apart at one point.  Our first failed IVF was the hardest for me.  I pushed Dave away. I needed to grieve and couldn’t let him close because I thought I would break into a million pieces if he touched me. My body had failed us yet again, even with perfect embryos. I couldn’t look into his eyes thinking I would see his disappointment, but I was wrong. He needed me as much as I needed him.  We needed each other, because that’s all we had.

We are actually closer now more than ever.  We have our ups and downs, like any marriage, but in the end our years of infertility has brought us closer.  We love harder and don’t take anything for granted. We know nothing is guaranteed, even if all the stars align. Our love has grown, and nothing can break us…we have proven that!

How has infertility impacted you financially? Did your healthcare insurance provide coverage for infertility treatment?

Financially we feel like we are starting over from scratch. We have drained our accounts because even though we are covered with two different health insurances, nothing was covered except for a few doctors’ visits. We had to take breaks in-between so many of our treatments, just to save up to try again.

How have you taken care of yourself physically and emotionally during your struggles?

I love to do yoga, and this has helped me both physically and emotionally during treatments. I have learned how to center my thoughts and also clear my mind during each treatment.  I love to read and spend time at the beach just staring off into the ocean.

Physically, all of the infertility treatments have wreaked havoc on my body. The infertility drugs and synthetic hormones have done a number on me, and I’m working hard to get my “pre-IVF” body back! :).

How have your friends and family supported you through your journey?  Have you had any experience of lack of support or misunderstandings?  

Most of my friends and family have supported us 100%.  I have lost several friends, but in retrospect, that’s okay. It was very hurtful and sad when it happened, but they didn’t know what to say or how to be supportive when they were having kids and I was left behind still trying. I don’t blame them now, but I’m sad. They didn’t know what to say, or how to act when all of my dreams were being crushed and their life was moving on. I’m happy for them, especially now that I’m in a much better place.

Not everyone is going to understand our decision to go through infertility treatments, and more so now that we have decided to stop and live childfree.

For those of you that have been with us since day one supporting us and are still here supporting our decision to live childfree, I can’t thank you enough!

What has been the hardest point of your journey and how did you deal with it?  

The hardest point of our journey was every single failed treatment. The money that was spent, just for yet another failed result.  It was never ending. Dave was my rock and my inspiration and HE is what kept me going.  He never left, and was always there, even when I pushed him away.  He never gave up on me, and made it possible for me to never give up on myself.

If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself?

If I could go back in time, I would tell myself to not shut Dave out during our failed treatments.  He was grieving too, and I was too selfish to see it. I needed him and he needed me, but I couldn’t see it. I wanted to crawl in a hole and never come out, and I couldn’t see that he was hurting too.

I would also tell myself that it works out in the end.  It may not be how we planned or hoped, but it works out. You will be okay. You will be stronger. You will be enough.

As it’s national infertility awareness week, what message do you want to share about infertility to the general public? 

Infertility is a disease.  A disease that is treated like no other disease out there.  A disease that is looked upon as shameful or a choice. I wish that more people didn’t feel so ashamed of their disease and I hope they know that they are NOT alone!

Is there anything else you would like to share that I haven’t asked you about?

Choosing the childfree option as a resolution is NOT the same as a forced childfree option. 

There were many years I felt like I was being forced into a childfree option because we were out of money, options and hope.  This is not the same as where we stand now.  Choosing childfree is freedom. The weight and pressure has been lifted from us. We are happy, and are living life differently than when it wasn’t our choice.

Choosing childfree has been the best thing for us, and we haven’t regretted it for a single second. I know I’m happier. There’s been a weight lifted. I can finally look in the future and not wonder ‘what if’. We are starting to make new plans. New dreams. New adventures. New beginnings….together!

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You can find Kristy at TTCaTaxsonBaby.blogspot.com or follow her facebook page here.

Please leave a comment or message of support below for Kristy and Dave 🙂

Rebekah #FlipsTheScript

Rebekah is fearless. I know this, not just from the fact that she fights a mean game of dodgeball, but also because she is an infertility warrior. 

Rebekah is here to #FlipTheScript for national infertility awareness week, here’s her story...

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First of all, tell us a little bit about you and your partner….how did you meet?!!

Hi! I’m Rebekah, 32, an Aussie living in the USA!! My Hubby is Will, we seriously have the most unconventional love story…it started as a nightmare. Christmas Eve 2014, I thought I would treat myself to a bathroom remodel. A few weeks later when the construction workers didn’t turn up to start their demolition work I called Will, the project manager from Home Depot overseeing my remodel. I was furious! Not one of my greatest moments, but let’s just say my vocab was very colorful. Six weeks later, two burst bathroom pipes, a leaky shower pan, new downstairs carpet, new ceiling drywall and paint, Will would manage to calm me down from this bathroom disaster every day. He became my new best friend.

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When did you realize that you were facing a diagnosis of infertility, how did you find out and what were the issues that you faced?  

In 2004 I went for my annual OBGYN checkup, I specifically remember the doc saying “oh, wow are you pregnant? Your uterus is quite large!!” Not something a single, 18 year old really expects to hear! I went for an ultrasound, and it seemed like the longest ultrasound of my life – I knew something was wrong.  I was in there for two hours waiting for an explanation.  It wasn’t until my follow up appointment that I found out that I had a 10cm x 8cm x 9cm mass on my left ovary.

I needed surgery. The first question I asked when I woke up from the procedure was “Is my ovary ok?”  They told me they had to remove it. I was left in tears wondering what this meant for my future as a mother.

As well as losing my left ovary, I was diagnosed with Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).  I didn’t truly understand what PCOS meant until several years later when I was 22.  I married young, and began my journey to have a baby. I was on Clomid and stimulants for almost a year, but the pressure of it all contributed to our break up. The stress of timed sex, and not knowing if I would get pregnant caused so much strain on our new marriage that it ended just 8 months after our wedding. For me, it was actually a blessing in disguise.

I suffered from endometriosis and over the years had several more surgeries to remove as much of it as possible, and then another two more surgeries on my right ovary for large cysts. Luckily, my one remaining ovary remained “safe.”

When I was 28 I started to panic, I lost 80lbs in order to try to preserve my eggies and one ovary from any more cysts.  That was when I ventured to the fertility clinic specialist to get a baseline of where I was down below.  I wanted to know what the future held and how I could become a mother.

Although I was single at the time, I realize now that I put too much pressure on myself .  I wanted to be a mother so badly. The yearly surgeries took a toll on my body, and emotionally, I was a wreck.  I thought that freezing my eggs would at least take some pressure off the fact that Mr. Right hadn’t come along yet, and give me the chance to be a mother.

My Reproductive Endocrinologist doctor was amazing; I didn’t get the news I wanted, but she reassured me about it all,: I had low AMH, low progesterone and estrogen, and with just one ovary, I was facing a lot of challenges.  To add to it all, a Hysterosalpingogram (HSG) revealed a mass in my uterus and meant more surgery to remove.

By this point, Will and I had only been dating a month!! It felt weird to involve him so early, but I wanted to be transparent with him since not having children could be a deal breaker for some. Three months after my surgery to remove the uterine mass I went for a checkup…

…and there it was…the big 55mm cyst engulfing my ovary, my nightmares come true. The whole reason I was at this clinic was to be proactive in saving my ovary and getting eggs, and now it might not even happen – I was devastated.

I started hormonal treatment, but when I went in for a checkup we found it wasn’t working and the only choices was MORE surgery.  But as I was prepped for surgery I finally got the good news I had been waiting for, the cyst had finally started to shrink!  So the doc cancelled the surgery and when I went back for a follow up appointment, not only had the cyst continued to shrink, but I was about to ovulate! WHAT! I couldn’t even believe it!! And this was my opportunity!

I was faced with the ‘now-or-never question’…do I get a sperm donor? Do I see if my new-ish boyfriend of a few months is willing to do the deed??!

I took all the information I needed discussed it with Will, and well, he was 100% on board.  I got pregnant that cycle with my now 2-year old son, Wyatt!

Where are you on your infertility journey now?

After I gave birth to Wyatt, I knew I wanted more children. I had a complicated pregnancy and birth, but we returned to the fertility clinic at 6 months post-partum to discuss number trying for number 2. But as I stopped breastfeeding I got pregnant, without intervention. Unfortunately that pregnancy ended in an interstitial pregnancy (this is a uterine, but ectopic pregnancy: the pregnancy is located outside the uterine cavity in that part of the fallopian tube that penetrates the muscular layer of the uterus.) I didn’t even know what an interstitial pregnancy was.  I went for a D&C (Dilation & Curettage, a surgical procedure to remove the fetus) and also opted to take Methotrexate.  This is a drug usually given to cancer patients, but as the pregnancy was in a challenging location the drug ensured that no more cells from the pregnancy would remain.

Two weeks after the treatment I began to experience severe pain on my left side (keep in mind I didn’t have a tube or ovary on the left).  I discovered that my hCG beta levels were still rising, and not declining like the should have been; this meant that I was pregnant but they didn’t know where. I presented to the Emergency department with severe pain and they admitted me for pain management. Being that I work in healthcare I knew this was a “BS” diagnosis, they didn’t believe I was in pain and in their eyes had done everything- Ultrasound showed no internal bleeding, D&C and Methotrexate- what else could be done?

The doc told me “well I can take you to surgery but I’m going to pull your right ovary if we do.” My heart sank, I was in pain, but I did not want him to just pull my ovary because that would put me in to auto-menopause and shut down my baby factory.  I went to bed to try and sleep off the pain. At 2 am I woke- I thought I was dying. I have never experienced pain like it in my life. I rang the buzzer and the nurse came. She was cold and heartless, standing at the door she told me “your Dilauded isn’t due for another hour.” I knew I didn’t need more pain meds, I needed a doctor, RIGHT NOW! The pain was like no other. 45 minutes of excruciating pain, I finally I found someone to help me as they walked past my room, they called rapid response, and within 10 minutes I was being prepped for the OR. My uterus had ruptured and I was bleeding internally.  With my 6 month old baby and husband at home, I didn’t even know if I was going to see them when I woke up – not to mention having more children. I was terrified.  Thankfully I am still here to tell my story. With another surgery under my belt, my journey just got even more complicated.

Four months post op I returned to the clinic to talk about trying to conceive #2… again!! I was scheduled for another HSG to check the integrity of my uterus after the surgery, but amazingly against all odds, I was actually pregnant with my now 7 month old daughter, Miss Emma.

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Has infertility changed your relationship with your partner? 

Will has been super supportive. But given he had “no issues” I always felt guilty for having all the doctors’ appointments, the bills and meds. I don’t think it really changed our relationship, but at times I did feel like I was a bit of a burden.

How has infertility impacted you financially? Did your healthcare insurance provide coverage for infertility treatment?

It makes me nervous to even think about how much we have spent between surgeries and medications! When I was on progesterone to support my three pregnancies, each time it was about $800/month.   My insurance didn’t cover anything; and to date we have spent about $40k.

How have you taken care of yourself physically and emotionally during your struggles?

After my first miscarriage I ate my way through every emotion. At the time, it seemed like a great idea until I found myself weighing in at about 240lbs. I knew I would never get pregnant weighing that much with PCOS, so I lost 80lbs, it was life changing. Emotionally, I felt so much better, and physically I knew I was helping my body.

How have your friends and family supported you through your journey?  Have you had any experience of lack of support or misunderstandings?  

Looking back, I wish I had seen a counselor or therapist to help deal with my losses, but sadly I didn’t have much support from friends and family, I was left to cope on my own. The whole miscarriage topic is so taboo, I was scared to even bring it up, and felt like I just had to sweep it under the rug and move on.

Telling someone who just lost their baby or is trying to get pregnant that “it was meant to be”, “God has other plans” or “everything happens for a reason” did not help.

I had this longing for a baby and I couldn’t understand why this would happen, it was horrible. I wouldn’t wish any of this on anyone.

What has been the hardest point of your journey and how did you deal with it?  

I think knowing that some things are just out of our control (as hard of a pill that is to swallow sometimes) taking things one day at a time, and just trusting the process helped me keep faith. Not giving up on my hopes of being a mother was my inspiration.

If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself?

I wish I had been gentler with my emotional health, and been more public about my journey. I am amazed at how many people have been through the same thing, and instead of hiding it and pretending like it isn’t an issue we should support each other.

As it’s national infertility awareness week, what message do you want to share about infertility to the general public? 

The most difficult part about my journey was when people told me “don’t worry it will happen.” Thankfully my story did happen, but I have friends that haven’t had their sticky bean yet.

Is there anything else you would like to share that I haven’t asked you about?

While I was going through my journey I loved reading your blog, it gave me so much inspiration and peace knowing there are others out there that are also in a similar situation ❤

Rebekah, I think you have made me cry twenty times already.  Through all your battles you have come out of the other side every time a true fighter.  It might not have felt like it at the time, but I can see it from how you never really gave up.

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Please leave a comment or message of support below for Rebekah and Will 🙂

Alisa #FlipsTheScript

When I first met Alisa and Gloria they were about to embark on their first round of IVF – they had so many questions about the grueling treatment they were about to embark on.  I was struck by their strength as they had faced incredible set backs on their journey to build their family.

Alisa is here to #FlipTheScript for national infertility awareness week, here’s her story…

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First of all, tell us a little bit about you and your partner….how did you meet?!!

Gloria and I have been together for 8 years this summer and married for 4.  We were the young age of 19 when we met (I’ll be 30 this year ahh).  I had been working as a preschool teacher for several years when Gloria started working at the same school.  I actually met her family before as I was her little sister’s teacher.  We spent several years as best friends before we started dating.  Gloria has been in the Navy a little over 4 years which is what led us to Virginia.

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When did you realize that you were facing a diagnosis of infertility, how did you find out and what were the issues that you faced?  

When we decided to start a family the only obstacle we thought we would face was the obvious one, two females and no male.  Surprisingly, there are many companies that sell the necessary components to help lesbian families or families with male factor infertility.  We originally met with a Reproductive Endocrinologist (A doctor specializing in the art of conception, all things reproductive and the disease infertility) but only because he specialized in helping same sex couples start a family.  It never crossed our minds that we would actually need him for his specialist knowledge on infertility.

I went through all the initial testing before we did IUIs (Intra-Uterine Insemination), some results were a little off but the doctors were not concerned.  After several failed fertility treatments which included rounds of birth control and hormones they started to question why I was not getting pregnant.  With further testing the doctors discovered a very large cyst on my ovary.  I always had extremely painful cycles as well as some other symptoms that at the time we did not know were related.  My mom was diagnosed with Endometriosis at a young age but she had three kids so the thought never crossed my mind.  We decided it was time to do a laparoscopy to see what was going on.

I remember waking up from surgery and asking Gloria how bad it was.  All she said was “stage IV.”  My heart sank I knew there was a huge possibility of this diagnosis but I never thought it was that bad.  I learned that I have what is called a frozen pelvis –

I had so much scar tissue that all of my reproductive organs are fused together.  Although it was a relief to have a diagnosis my world came crashing down.  The doctor said I had less than a 5% chance of getting pregnant with the current treatments we were doing and he suggested IVF (In-Vitro Fertilisation).

We took some time to think about it but ultimately decided it was what was best for us.  Since Gloria is in the military we were able to go to Walter Reed for the IVF treatment.  We spent two weeks in a hotel room going to early morning monitoring appointments.  The five days we waited to find out how many embryos we had were the longest drawn out days we had faced thus far.  We ended up with 6 beautiful 5 day embryos.  Our first cycle we did get pregnant, but our numbers were never high enough for viability.   We went on to do 2 more frozen embryo cycles. In total we did 5 IUI’s and 3 rounds of IVF.

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Where are you on your infertility journey now?

Gloria and I are happy to share we gave birth to twins on Christmas Day last year!  We have a boy, Jensen, and a girl, Reese.  We still have two embryos left and have talked about trying for more children, but for now we are enjoying our two beautiful babies.

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Has infertility changed your relationship with your partner? 

I think you are crazy if you answer this question with a no.  I was terrified this journey would tear us apart.  I read so many stories that couples went their separate ways after years of infertility.  In the end this brought us closer than I ever thought it would.

How has infertility impacted you financially? Did your healthcare insurance provide coverage for infertility treatment?

Infertility is expensive!  We were lucky enough that many of our diagnostic procedures were completely covered by insurance, largely due to the coverage from Gloria being active duty.  However for IVF treatment we had to go to Walter Reed who offer military families a “discounted” price.  It was still extremely expensive but nowhere near what some couples pay.

How have you taken care of yourself physically and emotionally during your struggles?

Towards the end of our journey I started acupressure and it was the best thing I could have done for myself.  I had become so desperate that I was willing to try any secret or tip that would get me pregnant.  And believe me, I tried them all.  I never realized how much it would help me, both emotionally and physically. The woman I saw weekly was amazing and I left each appointment feeling like a new person.

How have your friends and family supported you through your journey?  Have you had any experience of lack of support or misunderstandings?  

Most of our friends and family did not understand the magnitude of what we were going through.  Like most people, they thought we were two women trying to get pregnant and our only struggle was lack of a male counterpart.  Or if they did have some understanding of our situation the idea of infertility was such a foreign concept they didn’t truly comprehend our struggle.

Even after several failed treatments and surgery we still had a hard time relaying what exactly was going on.  We were met with harsh words and lack of empathy.

It did not help that we were constantly surrounded by pregnant woman.  I remember attending a baby shower for a friend, sitting next to another pregnant friend, waiting to find out the results of our first IVF cycle and a lady saying to me “you probably won’t ever had kids because you have two dogs and people with two dogs don’t have kids!”  I sat in the bathroom crying, trying to compose myself because we all know the worst place for an infertile person is a baby shower.  Looking back I realize how insignificant the comment was but at the time it was heart breaking.

We were also interrogated every time we joined in a conversation about children. Our fertility struggles would come up, and we would be asked why we do not “just” adopt. I am not certain if all couples struggling have heard this or people seem to think it is appropriate to tell a lesbian couple to “just” adopt. I could go on for pages about how this is one of the most insensitive comments that was just freely thrown around.  For couples going through infertility, I know most have thought about adopting, however, “just” is not fair to the children that are in the system. This is a disservice to these children. It also does not account for the families to take in these children as their own, to later have them ripped out of the homes that were built around them. We have discussed adopting children, as we want a larger family. We also know that when the time comes, it will be as hard as our journey in the last 3 years, with a possibility of it being even harder.

I would like to give a shout out to my little sister.  I can’t even tell you the amount of crying phone calls she received from me.  And she would always answer whether it was 3 in the morning or 8 at night.

I would call her with my crazy symptoms and she would google them so I wouldn’t read all the horror stories.  She always checked on me to see how I was, even when I was at my worst. She was the first person I called when we found out we were pregnant.

What has been the hardest point of your journey and how did you deal with it?  

The hardest part of our journey was after the loss of our first IVF cycle.  The doctors gave us such hope that it would work the first time we really never expected it to fail.  I was sitting at my desk when I got the call from the nurse that our numbers were not doubling like they would expect and I should prepare for the worst.  I texted Gloria that I needed her to come home and by some miracle, she was able to get out of work early.  It was the first time she cried. We just sat there holding each other in disbelief. I told her that day I didn’t want to try again.

I was done and my body couldn’t take any more.  I spent almost a month saying we were done, just feeling so angry and alone.  Shortly after was Christmas, I remember hanging up our stockings and thinking I want to hang up stocking for our children.  I told Gloria I wanted a baby for Christmas the next year.  And boy, did she deliver!

If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself?

Just breathe and have a drink! Don’t obsess over all the details so much and just take each day at a time. Most importantly, do not give up hope.

As it’s national infertility awareness week, what message do you want to share about infertility to the general public? 

I would like the infertility community and the general public to know that the LGBTQ community is in this too.  Gloria and I met so many people that just assumed we did not understand the heartache and loss of infertility. We are not different to any other couple that wanted to start a family and faced the heartache of experiencing fertility issues.

Please leave a comment or message of support below for Alisa and Gloria 🙂

#FlipTheScript for National Infertility Awareness Week

I thought hard about how I could help with National Infertility Awareness Week, and I thought about how long I have been talking about this important week on my blog.  I started this blog over three years ago (yikes!) and as I have shared our struggles with infertility with the world people began sharing their stories with me, usually in confidence.  Family, strangers, friends, colleagues, friends of friends have reached out to me over the years.  Because talking about infertility is not easy and it’s not the kind of subject that comes up naturally in conversation.  “Oh hey, tomorrow I’ve got a date with a Reproductive Endocrinologist…you know, because I’m infertile”  There are massive mis-conceptions about infertility, treatments and alternative options to build a family, so it’s not really surprising we don’t talk about it.  I don’t really know what compelled me to begin blogging, but I am glad I did.  So… this NIAW I wanted to offer people struggling with infertility a platform to share their story with their friends, family and the world.  Over this special week I will interview some incredible infertility warriors.

I want to share how different every single journey to build a family is.  I want to show that infertility is a complex disease.  IVF isn’t always the answer and when IVF is the answer that treatments are often an art rather than just science. There are many barriers for millions of people who struggle to build a family that include lack of insurance coverage, out of pocket costs, faith and religion, sexual orientation, and state and federal laws.  The impact of infertility is far reaching – it impacts our family, friends, co-workers and employers.  I want to #FlipTheScript, this year’s theme, to breakdown the barriers and bring the reality to our friends and family.

I take the pledge:

  • I pledge to breakdown the stigma of infertility and share my story
  • I pledge to help RESOLVE make a difference for people with infertility
  • I pledge to be a voice and join in our advocacy efforts
  • I pledge to help support others who are struggling with infertility

Stay tuned 22-28 April 2018 to hear some incredible stories!!

#RELAXgate

It just so happened that I caught on Instagram a hashtag going around the IF community – #RELAXGate.  Hmmmm what’s this about?

Well on a day time TV programme in the UK, Lorraine, a TV Doctor was talking about IVF and apparently he said that “couples need to just relax.

Ummmm Yeh, NO….everyone going through infertility knows that this is the complete opposite of what you should say to someone going through infertility.  And for it to come from a medical professional?

Relaxing is not going to resolve male factor issues, women who don’t have Fallopian tubes, women with endometriosis, couples with unexplained infertility…and many more.  relaxing wont suddenly fix all those issues.  Because infertility is a disease.

Now, I can see that suggesting that couples going through infertility treatment should find time to take care of themselves, that is good for the mental soul.  It IS stressful – pregnancy loss, drugs, tests, invasive procedures, juggling finances, time off work, bloating, weight gain, needles.  It’s a lot to deal with.

So I thought I’d go find out exactly what the TV doctor suggested.  (Unfortunately, I cannot find a link on YouTube yet to share with you.  Hopefully someone will share it soon, although with the negative attention surrounding this episode I doubt it will be released by ITV anytime soon.  So you can only see this episode of Lorraine if you live in the UK (search Wed 18 Apr 18 episode on ITV hub))

The purpose of the section within the TV show was to raise IVF awareness as it had been in the news this week (Apparently I missed that).  First of all someone famous announced they conceived twins from IVF (Chris Evans).  Second of all, an MP was making calls for the British government to ensure that everyone across the UK get equal access to IVF.  Currently in the UK the NHS the guidelines for access to infertility treatment differs depending on where exactly you live.  Some places don’t even offer IVF at all.  People are moving across the country so that they can get treatment!  So this is all good stuff.

So the show introduced this and then moved on to taking questions from three ladies and the doctor attempted to answer them.  Boy, did the show pick some women who have very challenging questions.  These women have been through a lot.  It was always going to be awkward.

The first woman had already been through 5 rounds of IVF (considering the that the NHS only offers  a maximum of 3 rounds I am guessing she went private, out of pocket.  She has suffered two miscarriages and will be going through their 6th round later in the year. She asked a question about whether there are things that she can do health living wise and whether it would help with treatments as a positive outcome.  He said, yes it’s a good idea to be healthy and to Check for nutritional deficiencies anemia, thyroid issues, immune factors  (all NON standard infertility tests by the way and often tested after multiple failed cycles) he also talked about importance of thinking about healthy foods and supplements (on doctor’s advice). OK, so not too bad of an answer….

The second lady has been going through treatment over 5 years, and is about to try IVF for the third time.  She asked about the effects of the IVF medications on health in the long term.  The doctor answered that there are no effects in long term.  So that was quite easy.  Actually, that isn’t entirely true.  The fact is that really we just don’t know, the research is lacking in this area.  Some studies have indicated increased risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and diabetes (from an increase in weight due to the hormones).

The third and last lady has been through 3 rounds of IVF, 2 FETs and 2 miscarriages.  Her question was if she decides to try again, what could she do differently.  His answer? He said the best thing you can do is just RELAX.

WHAT???? Say again? Did you just tell this woman to JUST RELAX.  he also said ‘JUST’, which negates her struggles even more.

He continues…”Just get on with your life, relax, forget about whether it will work or not…..forget about the statistics of success as you get older, there is no reason it wont happen, be positive and  I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you.”

Some sound medical advice right there. NOT.

I should add that THIS DOCTOR IS NOT A REPRODUCTIVE ENDOCRINOLOGIST he is a General Practitioner.  He is a famous TV doctor.  WHY did they not bring on the fertility specialist? Especially with women asking questions who are way into their infertility journeys with multiple failures.

And so #RELAXGate began.

The Dr – Dr Hilary Jones (@DrHilaryJones) apologised on Twitter, but he digs himself further into a deeper hole in my opinion:

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He then also spread a false perception that when people stop trying they get pregnant.  I wrote a whole post on this and I cant find the link.  But really?  Why are you still speaking??? When you apologise you NEVER say…”but”…you just negate everything you said before.

BTW – I am loving this tweet from @IVFBuddies….

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