Raw. Ugly. BAM. #InfertilityUncovered

It’s still raw.  We are still infertile.  Infertility hasn’t suddenly left us.  It has left a horrible wound and it hasn’t healed.  We have not resolved our infertility.  We struggled to conceive Aviana for 2.5 yrs and now she is 2.5 yrs old.  We loved, cried, hurt, struggled, laughed, loved some more and lost.  We may not be on the ‘infertility roller coaster’ right now as we wait.  We don’t really know what we are waiting for, but infertility has STOLEN the freedom from us to build our family in the way we want to.

It’s ugly. We know what that roller coaster is like.  We are not naïve newbies to this gig, it’s not any ordinary theme park roller coaster.  It’s the roller coaster of your nightmares.  It’s fast, it’s slow, it turns you upside down, it spins you around until you scream to let you off, it drowns you, it makes you sick to your stomach, it takes you high, it takes you low and deep underground, it transports you to another world, you are trapped and don’t know if you will ever get off.  But we made it off that ride. So why would we want to get back on it knowing what we know today?

It affects our decision making in all things family building.  I mean, most couples face the challenging question “Should we grow our family?” fertile or not.  But add on the ugly that is infertility and it seriously warps your perspective in answering that question.

For this National Infertility Awareness Week, I want you to know that it still hurts and it will keep hurting, so please don’t forget us.  For me it hurts in a different way than before.  It can be so easy to forget my infertility….then suddenly BAM, a pregnant woman complains about her pregnancy, or BAM you find yourself staring at cute tiny baby outfits wondering if you will ever get the chance to fill your basket, or BAM someone asks you when you will give your daughter a sibling.  BAM, it just comes out of nowhere.  And that’s one of the differences of infertility second time around. Sometimes, it just doesn’t phase me, but other times it really does and it surprises me every. single. time.

This is #InfertilityUncovered. This is a side to infertility that can easily forgotten.  So if you are out there, with a child already but your family incomplete because of infertility, you are not alone and your feelings matter.

For more information about Resolve’s National Infertility Awareness Week see: www.infertilityawareness.org

 

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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 🙂

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 🙂

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!!

Things the USA has got wrong

OK, so aside from Trump (just lost a few of my readers there!!) the USA has got a few things wrong.  As I sit here in the UK on a short work trip back to my home country I realised the USA got a few things wrong, very wrong particularly when it comes to infertility.   Let me explain.

But before I do, have you ever heard of a ‘shit sandwich’ as a method for giving feedback to someone?  Briefly, a shit sandwich is where you tell someone something positive, then something negative, then something positive again.  It helps make the negative more palatable.  So here is my shit sandwich.

Things the USA has got right!

Parking for FREEEEEEE! (or very cheap and you never need change if you do need to pay).  It’s very easy where I live in Virginia to drive somewhere, anywhere random, and not have to worry about whether or not I have change for parking, or limit my time somewhere because I only had 2 quid on me at the time.  True fact.

Portion sizes in restaurants.  I can buy one meal and have a second meal for free because the portions are soooo big…it’s expected that all leftovers are taken in a ‘doggy bag’.  It is deemed rude not to take a doggy bag!  So I always order something that will taste good the next day.

Friendly customer service.  Any American reading this disagreeing with me on this point, just come on over to the UK and return a shirt you recently purchased because you changed your mind.  Good luck with that one!

Things the USA has got wrong.

Poor healthcare coverage for infertility.  In 2012 a survey showed that 46% of people with infertility did not have ANY form of healthcare insurance coverage.  And I am willing to bet that of that 46% that do, the majority of insurances will only cover testing and minimal treatment options.  Infertility IS a DISEASE.  Why is still perceived as ‘optional’?

IVF for wounded Veterans. The coverage runs out in September 2018.  WHAT??? WHY??? In 2016 congress passed a bill that allowed the veterans agency to provide cover for IVF for wounded….for TWO YEARS ONLY. WTAF. I mean what monster could have not passed this indefinitely – these people have literally gone to war for their country and can’t now build their family because their deployment caused made them infertile.  What is your beef?????

Introduction of Personhood Bills to declare when a person becomes a person without understanding the implications. Wait.  A personhood sounds pretty reasonable?  Well on the face of it, agreeing when a person becomes a person sounds like a good thing.  I am NOT going to debate here about personhood bills, but I will say that there are huge implications on infertility treatment if any of these bills pass.  Most people would believe that these bills aim to create a constitutional framework that would make abortion and embryonic stem cell research illegal.  I am not debating these issues here, they are separate.  But such legislation endangers IVF with many uncertainties over what the implications are for embryos that are created from the IVF process.  severla questions that have unclear answers if personhood bills were passed include:

  • Would women who have ectopic (tubal) pregnancies after IVF be able to receive life-saving treatment, or would the embryo’s legal rights have to balanced against hers? ITS A HARD DECISION TO MAKE WITHOUT THE LEGAL ISSUES AS IT IS…if you have been following me for a while you will know that I went through this and had to terminate my pregnancy of unknown location, suspected ectopic.
  • If one or more microscopic embryos from an IVF cycle do not develop normally in the lab or fail to result in live births after transfer (all natural events), could the physician, lab, and/or patient be criminally liable? Except for the embryos transferred in all my three IVFs – ALL BUT ONE of my embryos arrested.  That’s a whole lot of potential legal implications under personhood bills.
  • Not all frozen embryos thaw successfully. Could embryo freezing be prohibited as too risky? I’m relying on my little one frostie, but there is a 50-50 chance it won’t survive the thaw.
  • Will patients be prevented from donating their frozen embryos to research after they complete infertility treatments?  If we decide not to use our embryo or I died we agreed to donate our frozen embryo to research.
  • There are many more questions, you can read about them here on Resolve’s website here.

Things the USA has got right Pt II

Okay, so I will end this shit sandwich with something positive.

Open and progressive Ameicans.  I have found an amazing online community who are largely Americans who are willing to be open and share their story to break down the stigma and barriers about infertility.  The charity Resolve is also prevalent in the community, bringing people together to fight infertility related issues and provide support to sufferers.  When I come back to the UK I sense a lot of reservedness when it comes to infertility ,whereas I don’t find it quite that way in the US.  For that I am grateful that America is breaking down boundaries with their openness around the subject of infertility and that it is a disease that affects 1 in 8 couples.

Reblog – Start asking friends and family for support —

Day 4 of the Bloggers Unite Conference at missconception.com!  I don’t know who this lunatic blogger is, she is harping on about something for infertility awareness week…..oh wait….it’s me! I’m excited to be part of the bloggers unite conference this year, and very grateful to Miss Conception for hosting it!

I discuss how we opened up to our friends and family about our infertility journey and yet had never actually asked for support from them.  I assumed I didn’t need it.  But I was wrong. People find it hard to know how to help their infertile loved ones, so if you ask, they will leap, I have no doubt about that as we have experienced.  I suggest ways you can ask for support from your friends and family.  You don’t need to be as open about your infertility journey as we have, but knowing when and how to ask for support will help get you through those tough days. Click the link below to read more!!!  XXX

Hi! My name is Dani. My husband, Chris and I, have been trying to conceive (TTC) since December 2013. We were diagnosed with ‘unexplained infertility‘ in January 2015. I decided to blog about our journey of TTC as I quickly realised that talking to friends and family about our situation can be difficult. It can be hard for them to […]

…..read more of my blog post here via #niaw – Day 4, Bloggers Unite Conference – Start asking friends and family for support —

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Why can’t we make a baby? #NIAW

Why?  Why me?  Why can’t I make a baby like all my other friends and family? I have so many questions about why after almost 2.5 years of trying to conceive and failing miserably, month after month.  What have I done to cause this?  Why won’t my body just get pregnant? What am I doing wrong?

It’s human nature to want to know why things happen.  But these are the type of questions that run through my head round and round, continuously ever since we decided to grow our family.  I have yet to answer any of these questions.  It is exhausting.

Chris and I are 1 in 8 couples of child bearing age in the US that struggle with the disease that is infertility.  We tried the good old fashioned way – sex – for 11 months before we went to seek specialist help from a reproductive endocrinologist doctor after we discovered that Chris’s testosterone levels were “below normal”.  It turned out for us that testosterone levels do not actually matter that much when it comes to fertility.  Chris actually had super sperm, and lots of them!  But it did lead us to start the typical tests for diagnosing infertility.

We thanked our lucky stars that all our test results came back normal – there was nothing seriously wrong with either of us.  In fact, we passed all our tests with flying colours, we were top of the class!  But this put us into the category that 20% of infertile couples are diagnosed with – unexplained infertility.  This meant that the doctors could not tell us why we hadn’t been successful so far in trying to conceive the way they teach you at school.  We were about to embark on a journey that was going to take us beyond what they taught us at school – we were going to try to get pregnant with medical assistance.  We were heading into the world of the unknown.  We knew little to nothing about infertility.

At first it was difficult to explain to our friends and family why we were seeking treatment, because there was nothing ‘technically’ wrong with us.  The infertility was inexplicable!  It was embarrassing, it was awkward to explain.  So this is why I started this blog, to help us get over this difficulty in explaining what we were doing and why, as well as helping to explain our feelings about our disease in general.

Unexplained infertility in someways has been a good thing – there is always hope that this treatment will work.  But ultimately it is difficult to accept that there is just no known reason that this isn’t working for us.  In some cases, going through medically assisted treatment for infertility can reveal the explanation of a couple’s infertility.  But in our case, after 3 IUIs (Artificial Insemination) and 3 cycles of IVF (In-Vitro Fertilisation), 1 suspected ectopic pregnancy,  and over $90k of medical bills we are none the wiser as to why we do not have a baby in our arms yet.

Conception is a wondrous act of nature, but it is also an incredibly complex process  – there have to be many stars in line for a healthy baby to be born.  For something that is the very basis of our human race’s existence, we still know very little about the disease that prevents us from growing our families.  It’s incredible, right?

I am currently in the dreaded two week wait of our third (and final) IVF cycle.  If this cycle fails, apart from being devastated, I do not know how we will ever be able to move forward without knowing why this has happened, why medical treatment didn’t work for us.  Our infertility will never leave us.

For National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW), the national non-profit infertility organisation Resolve is promoting this year’s theme #StartAsking.  The theme is about promoting the questions that we want to be answered, whether this is asking for our Employers to provide insurance coverage, asking for legislation that supports family building options or asking our friends and family to support us.  For me, the one question I have and want to raise more awareness about is to:

 #StartAsking for more targeted research on unexplained infertility.

Perhaps if we can understand more about how or why some couples are infertile, then better focused medical interventions can be developed to defeat infertility.

I want answers!!!! But we won’t ever get answers if we don’t talk about infertility and unexplained infertility.  It shouldn’t be a secret.  We can do this by speaking openly about infertility, by getting organisations like Resolve to help raise our community’s voice and build awareness.

If you would like to know more about infertility, please visit Resolve.org.

If you would like to help, you can contribute by fundraising or donating for Resolve.  Or just comment below with your questions and thoughts to join in the discussion!

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