After

After the very long road of failures and losses that got us here, I wanted to share a little bit about what it feels like when that battle, that fight, that hell, that worst day ever that seems to repeat over and over is finally over.

I don’t think this will be a triggering post. The way I see it- the fight and the hell has to end one day for everyone however it is resolved. It could look different than the ending you picture but this feeling of desperate hope and deep desire will be concluded at some point. You could end up with the elusive miracle pregnancy, choosing a third party path to a child or finding your way to happiness child free. No ‘happy ending’ is guaranteed of course but I am a very strong believer that we hold a tremendous amount of power when it comes to finding the good or finding your way to the good in most situations life hands you. Not necessarily during the fight. That is when just coping and getting by is all we can do sometimes. I am not saying one should just be happy and grateful with what is handed you (IF and RPL is UNFAIR and CRUEL) just saying we do have a lot of power over how we cope and move forward. That I do believe we can always find a way to seeing the good.

Anyway- back to my thoughts on life ‘after’ the fight is over. (I put this in parenthesis because going the alternative route of donor eggs we went I understand there may be future situations we face. It is a tad more complicated than a miracle ‘natural’ pregnancy although to be totally honest I have to remind myself of this because it feels like the least complicated and most right way it could have possibly been the moment I met her. ). So here I am, on the other side and wanted to share a few thoughts.

One: the very cliche statement of ‘it was all worth it’ is cliche because it is true. Mid battle and mid fight it feels like you are draining your life and energy (and money) away on this pursuit and it can be demoralizing. But the end goal is absolutely worth it for me personally. I don’t mean to say you should all keep on fighting and ‘not give up’ because that is so personal. IVF doesn’t always work, heck donor eggs don’t always work, money isn’t always available, your spirit isn’t always totally in it. How long and how you battle is totally up to you. Simply my personal opinion here is if you cannot envision a life without a child then be open to alternative paths. Just my own perspective. And think about being open to them along the way. 

That being said- it isn’t all roses and I can truly see how happiness can come in a child free/ less life. There are so many dimensions to each of us, to life. Having this  miracle did not suddenly make me happy. It did not completely fulfill me. It’s the truth. Don’t get me wrong- makes me cry in relief and gratitude all the time but it does not guarantee a happy life. I still need to know who I am, be a person in this world that I value. Navigate aging, the world around me, work; being a wife and a daughter and friend and all that goes with it. The parenting piece is just one piece of the puzzle. So if you get another negative test, wait anxiously another month without a match or are staring down the barrel of not being able to have your own child I wish you the ability to see enrichment in other areas. As someone with my own version of a ‘happy ending’ with IF/RPL I can tell you it doesn’t guarantee immediate happiness. Definite relief and joy but life is much more complex than that. I know a number of women struggling to conceive who were actually pretty depressed when it was resolved because it didn’t just hand them a happy life on a plate like they had hoped.  

I have found that you trade one worry/ obsession for another. During IVF/ RPL battles you just want a healthy child. You would give anything for those two lines, that healthy ultrasound, a good anatomy scan and then a safe delivery. Then once you have that the road keeps going. Let her be healthy at check up, keep her safe, navigating the fears of keeping this miracle that arrived. Let me be clear– it is WAY easier and more enjoyable and a trillion times better to navigate these fears, but just a reminder that fears and desperate hopes and struggles don’t just end. They evolve. Just something to remember and keep perspective on.

Finally- the gratitude and capacity for joy is immeasurable. The deep pits of despair and anger and anguish carved out this, at first tragic, but now beautiful well for the joy to fill. I would never wish our path on anyone but I do feel so thankful for this gift it has given me. 

Sending you all love. Xoxo

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Details 

Hi there- I posted a seperate page with details about our miracle’s arrival. Please only read if it helps or inspires or benefits you. Otherwise- know I send my love to all of you today. This struggle is all so hard. It is all so unfair. If you are just somehow barely making it through yet another day on this IF/ RPL struggle than you are doing all you can. Xoxo

Safe arrival

I want to avoid any triggers on this space but just wanted to share baby arrived safely yesterday. Happy to share details if you want to email me at joahn23@gmail.com or I may make a separate page on this blog.

A few things that continue to be clear to me. Those of us that fight IF/RPL are the strongest women I know. While it prepares you for battles ahead and proves strength in character, I would not wish the need for it on anyone. So yes, we are strong but dammit we shouldn’t have to be battle tested over and over to show it. Two- I have no bitterness or regret in my heart. Only joy. After so many failures and losses this makes me abundantly proud and relieved. Sadness and anger are par for the course but the bitterness must be let go when possible. It weighs down the soul. Three– the detail of using donor eggs matter ZERO to me and our miracle baby. It only makes her that much more magical.

Sending you all love wherever you are in this fight today.

Xo

Conversation

 

I recently had a friend reach out to me to ask if I could talk to her sister who is facing fertility issues. The background she gave me was her sister has been ‘trying naturally’ (annoying term to me for absolutely no legit reason just don’t like how people delineate between natural and what…artificial??) anyway… Been trying for a year and frustrated and scared to move to the next steps. My friend said she thinks talking to me might help and give her perspective. I am all for that.

So we got on the phone and started chatting. What struck me right away was how she was squarely in the ‘denial and bargaining phase’ meaning she used a ton of qualifiers to keep assuring herself she was no where near my dire situation. I truly wasn’t offended- I only hope that is the case for her. It was, however, not a very productive conversation. I think she maybe needed me to reassure her that her situation is not that bad and to relax and just take the pressure off. After the crazy long hard road I have taken I just don’t have that perspective. I prefer to urge people to act sooner rather than later, get a lot of testing done so you know what you are working with. I also feel like I want to remind people to be open minded about options and maybe make them feel more comfortable about medical intervention or even alternative paths. I just don’t want to appease someone who is just starting out on this path. It’s just not where I am and it is just not the role I want to play here.

So it was rather unproductive and I think we both left the conversation awkwardly not having gained much. It made me wonder how to advise someone new to this fight. Do you reassure them or prepare them? Do you scare them into action or calm their nerves? I obviously don’t know the answer to this since it did not go well for me. Part of me wants to avoid these conversation and stick in my own lane with people around me who understand how grueling this is but also how amazing it is to find hope and strength when you didn’t even know it existed so deeply under the pain. I prefer to talk to those who either seek to learn openly or have walked the road and understand. If I am deeply honest the naive hope and denial makes me relive that period in my own Infertility road and it isn’t one I want to relive. It was harder for me than the jaded reality of loss and failure. At least at that point I had skills to get through and cope. I knew that no matter how bad it gets we find a way to forge ahead. That life can still be beautiful. That there is beauty and strength in the pain and suffering. That it is ok to be proud of how I am fighting, not ashamed I have to fight.

Any thoughts from those of you who have had these conversations? Sending love to you all. Xo

Hard or strong

A few things these past few days have me reflecting on being hard versus being strong. As I certainly don’t have to tell you, fighting this IF/ RPL battle is not for the weak. It tests you in every way. It dangles your deepest desire in front of you almost every moment of the day and then cruelly yanks it away. It makes you sit and smile and watch and somehow find a way to embrace your deepest desire being handed to everyone around you. It finds you in a public bathroom stall injecting yet another hormone that might not do anything but cost a ton of money into your abdomen while the pregnant lady in the stall next to you helps her other child go to the bathroom. It finds you sobbing into your pillow late at night when the monthly reminder comes to kick you in the gut the night before yet another holiday you face childless and hopeless. It sends you crashing down when the Doctor looks away from the ultrasound with that look you have grown to dread and whispers ‘ I’m sorry’. It is the look on your husband’s face when he is playing with your niece or nephew and that pang in your heart because you can’t give him the most basic of life’s gifts. It is quietly drinking from your non alcoholic drink while people around you discuss pregnancy and babies. No alcohol because you are starting another treatment cycle not because you are pregnant. It is the despair, the agony, the endless losses, the meds, faking you are ok, navigating and plowing on. It is hard. It is cruel. It is not for the weak.

Going through all this over and over and over like the Groundhog Day from hell will change you. It has to. It is not sustainable to not adapt or mold into someone who can weather it, who can adapt, who can still live a normal daily life. I know I have changed. I can think back to the first few IVF failures my naive mind full of hope before when I fell to the floor sobbing and in despair. Then fast forward a few failures later when I would get the news, feel a momentary crushing of hope and lace up my running shoes, go for a long run and have a glass of wine with my husband and prepare mentally to do it all over again. Barely a tear shed, as if I had grown to expect and accept it.

It makes me wonder if this all made me harder or stronger. What I mean is did I learn to bury the emotion and brush it aside or did I learn to carry it with acceptance and peace? It is hard to delineate between the two, especially during the survival phase where you can’t think too much. You just have to gear up to fight again. But with reflection I can say I don’t feel ‘harder’. As in, I don’t feel calleoused and bruised and bandaged. I simply feel a bit more resilient and powerful. I still feel things deeply, maybe more so, but my instinct is to sit with it, accept it then find a way to the positive. Kind of like my 7th or 8th IVF fail or my 2nd or 3rd miscarriage- I stay in the sadness very briefly then moved on quickly. I felt a bit more resilient instead of even more bruised.

I can’t quite explain why I was able to make that transition. I can’t fully say I won’t one day let all the devastation crumble down on me but I will say I am grateful I don’t feel hard or cold or battered from this fight. I feel slightly tender, like you do after a good cry sipping a cup of tea in the morning sun. I feel compassion and empathy easier and deeper but I don’t feel hard.

For that I am grateful.

 

 

 

Support System

I follow a number of lovely bloggers who don’t seem to have a great support system for this IF/RPL battle. Some have well meaning but distant partners, some have families that lack sensitivity or even care and some are surrounded by friends who don’t seem able to provide the compassion we so dearly need during this struggle.

As someone who has the absolute most supportive husband, a close family who are always careful to protect and care for me and friends who seem to instinctively know how to be compassionate, I can’t even imagine the added stress and hurt this would cause. I have always had to avoid triggers and hurt with extended friend groups, the general public, online but not with my close circle around me. To have to navigate these triggers as well sounds like hell.

The closest I can relate is a few people on my husband’s side of the family who were occasionally lacking empathy but quickly put in their place by my husband or other family members.

So when I read about some of you having to deal with cold and unsupportive Moms, siblings who either don’t want to try to empathize or just lack the ability to and even husbands who seem to leave you to battle the emotions on your own, my heart breaks. How much more resilient and tough and broken down you must be. How exhausting to navigate the waters right around you so carefully. How hurtful to have those who should provide unconditional love and support add to the pain and judgement.

I think we can delineate the people around us who add to the hurt in two main categories. One group who just don’t know how to show empathy or support and another group that just aren’t bothered to even try. With the first group I think it is important to realize they don’t mean you harm. They may do things that are incredibly hurtful but it is coming from a place of ignorance. This group of people deserve our grace when we can give it and our attempt at education when appropriate. When this horrible road ends at last, you will be glad you did your best to give them the benefit of the doubt. The second group of people I think we are best to distance from. Interact minimally so as not to cause added drama or a ‘falling out’ but guard your heart and emotionally keep your distance.

One day this battle will end. It cannot and will not go on forever. It will end somehow with a much desired child through a path you may not have expected or even with a life childfree that surprises people with its richness. Until that day comes, I hope you are able to protect yourself from people that add to the hurt, extend grace to those that mean well and ultimately minimize exposure to those who add to the mental struggle. Just know we are all here for you. We understand the agony, the pain, the loss, the exhaustion, the frustration, the deep longing. We get it. We think you deserve to be surrounded by warmth and kindness and care. We wish we could protect you in your own ‘real life’ world but we are here for you in this online community.

Xoxo

Flashbacks

Dreams- both day dreams and night dreams have gotten so vivid lately. It is a little jarring. Most are benign but a few have crept up and shaken me a bit.

Not one to share my actual dreams (can we say boring??) with others but I have had a few past IF memories come flooding back. ¬†Complete with the emotions and feeling I had when they occurred. Most have been receiving bad news on beta days. Having had 10 failed IVF cycles along with many second or third or fourth beta’s that signaled a miscarriage- there are many of these terrible memories for my mind to re-live.

Over the years of receiving bad news my husband and I tried out many ways of receiving them to see if we could buffer the pain. We tested before, we waited to be together to hear the news, my husband called then delivered it to me, I just answered the call, we asked the clinic to email the news etc. They were all so terrible. All so painful. All so gut wrenching. All so demoralizing. All so dream crushing. All bad.

The worst one by far was when I had my husband get the news from the clinic first then call me. I kept texting him asking if he had heard and as the hours passed I felt faint and scared and shaken waiting for the results. This was the cycle we had all the odds in our favor (transferred two perfectly normal PGS tested hatching day 5 embryos into an ERA tested lining). I felt pregnant. I just knew I was. So when he finally called to give me the bad news I was on the couch ready to celebrate. I don’t believe it when he said ‘I’m so sorry, it’s not positive’. I kept saying ‘you have to be lying. No. No. Call them back. You are lying. Why. Why. No this can’t be true’. I was crying and pleading and screaming. I can only imagine it was even worse for him to go through. For some reason this particle scene keeps replaying in my head. The despair I felt. The pain of the news. Me screaming and pleading. My poor husband with no idea how to handle it.

When I think back to this particular failure, while it was the worst emotionally, it was also a turning point in how I approached IF. After this cycle, I stopped thinking it worked. I stopped trying to read my body or predict when it would happen. I decided to simply go through the motions and follow doctor orders, take the meds, get the procedures, move to other options, all while guarding myself emotionally. This isn’t to say I gave up. I didn’t at all. My husband and I had decided we would follow a path to another baby whether it ended up being donor egg, adoption, foster etc. We had no idea how shitty and long it would end up being but we had decided to pursue any way possible. This made me give up emotions for each cycle, each option and just wait for the phase to one day be over. Somehow, someway.

This turning point finally allowed me to live a little better during all the waiting. The failures afterwards were bad but in my head they were also one failed cycle closer to the end. Closer to our one day child. I was able to regroup quicker, to compartmentalize better. I was also able to accept and embrace alternative options like donor eggs.

I follow a number of blogs where the women feel like God has already pre ordained when they will receive their child. This seems to give them comfort and take the pressure off. While I don’t share that particular faith, my turning point kind of felt like giving it up to God except giving it up to a combo of science/ fate/outside help.

I know there are so many ways to approach, cope and survive in IF land. Some need to just be in the moment. Some need to feel invested in each cycle, each outcome. Some don’t want to imagine other options or the need to pursue that. Some need to leave the door open to living without a child. All of them I respect. All of them are the right one for the right person at that time. I just wanted to share my particular turning point in this hell that helped me cope a bit better removing forward. Helped me weather the shit storm and tidal waves of grief and hope.

Sending love to you all.

 

xo

 

Compassion always

My husband’s Aunt was unable to have children. She was one of the first cases of IVF and she tried everything. She is now 60 and living a beautiful life with her husband. Doesn’t mean the pain goes away. It is muted, often gone for a long period of time and replaced by joy on many occasions. But the pain of not having children can easily resurface. She is now at the age when her siblings are becoming Grandparents. She has to face the grief all over again and this time people seem to have forgotten to be sensitive and loving to her.

My SIL ( her niece) just had a baby and she is copied on all the sappy pictures, all the excited declarations that the grandparents make. It has brought up so many emotions in me. When I receive these mass email or texts she is on my heart hurts for her. I feel like it could have easily been me if we hadn’t had the medical advancements we have today. My heart breaks at the lack of awareness others have for her. I know we can’t all walk on eggshells all the time. I also know that she has healed a lot and some of this pain is projected but it still upsets me.

I finally reached out to her separately today. I said– I know you embrace and welcome all new lives into the family but thinking of you as I imagine there is some pain that comes along with it. Her response was beautiful. She acknowledged the pain, expressed gratitude for the recognition but said her rich and full and beautiful life has made her ok. While she still has pangs missing the beautiful moments and now will miss another milestone of being a grandmother, she has peace on her heart.

To me- it highlights a few things. One- compassion is always needed. We should all do our best to care for those around us. Two- there is no timeline for grief. Don’t put one on it. Three- Infertility warriors are a special breed. We learn to find joy in so many aspects of life. We are resilient, resourceful and strong. Finally- life childless or childfree can be beautiful and rich and lovely. Not pain free. But what life isn’t? But fulfilling and full of meaning and splendid. Doesn’t mean we should forget to be sensitive and caring. That is always the right approach.

Love to all of you.

xo

 

Donor thoughts

I sit here on this cozy Saturday somehow weeks into my third tri and feeling emotional/ nostalgic and grateful. For those of you contemplating, pursuing or in the middle of building your family with donor eggs, I wanted to share my current thoughts and feelings.

I usually forget this little one is made from donor eggs. I manage not to even think about it for days, even weeks and then I remember out of nowhere. My immediate emotion is relief and love. Relief that I was able to end this hell of an IF/RPL ride because another woman gave me a path out. Love for her (even though it is anonymous). Love for the gift she has given us and love for this miracle that we fought to make. I am yet to feel sadness or wistfulness thinking about the loss of my own eggs. Instead I feel more confident that I am creating a little human with young and healthy eggs. So many times my own eggs failed me and I am so glad to have those days of worry and guilt and irrational self disappointment behind me. It’s so strange. I have read about so many other emotions and was prepared for them. I have none of them so far. Instead I just feel such love for everyone that created this miracle and deep content and happiness.

I took out her profile this morning. I haven’t looked at it since before we found out we were ‘P’. While it is anonymous ( no name etc) I loved looking at her beautiful and happy smiling face and reading over again who she is through her questions and history. I used to think I just wanted the eggs and then to move on but now I feel like if our child wants to learn more about her one day, so do I. Just simply to give her a hug and tell her we love her.

Sometimes I dare dream about life on the other side (as Infertility and loss warriors we are trained to prepare for the worst not daydream about the good). It fills me with something near euphoria. I imagine being able to drink actual caffeine again instead of herbal tea. I dream about running miles without worrying about hurting my ovaries or hormones. I dream about a glass of whiskey (have not had anything stronger than an occasional glass of wine after a loss in over 4 years). Heck, maybe even two glasses and a nice buzz in front of a fire snuggling with my husband. I dream about a life without a doctor appointment every week, many times every other day. A life where I don’t walk away subconsciously praying for a good outcome or good news or another milestone or for this hell to be over. A life where money is spent on the now, not on a mostly fruitless desperate hope for the future. A life where my hormone levels are in the normal range and I can watch a commercial without crying.

I think about how all of that might be possible because a lovely young lady gave us this gift. I think about the large sum of money we paid and feel happy that it hopefully paid her school loans or made her life a bit easier. I look at our 4D ultrasound picture and stare lovingly at this miracle’s face. Eager to see who she is. My husband and I were giggling the other night imagining our amusement when well meaning folks claim she has ‘my nose’ or ‘my smile’. It just makes us laugh imagining it. While we will be open with her and family and close friends about donor eggs, it is not something we feel we need everyone and even strangers to know. That is her information to share openly as she sees fit.

I am aware there may be ups and downs in the future but for this moment in time, I just feel peace and happiness that this is where our path has led. Love to all of you wherever you may be on this road.

Xo

Grappling with Fairness

I am not sure if I follow a certain sample of women or if the blogs I follow are representative but I have been mentally struggling lately with the unfairness of how Infertility/ RPL and even late pregnancy struggles are. It seems like women who struggle so hard to get pregnant, then have losses and even later pregnancy complications. It really doesn’t seem like someone should have to endure one, let alone two or even three of those issues.

It feels like nature is punishing some women-and those women are so deserving of joy and ease. I know we all think about those drug addicted mother’s of four young kids, or abusive Moms or young teen moms and just wonder how it is fair they procreate with no issues. It is pretty clear that fertility is not doled out based on who deserves it. So that being said, I struggle with the why and who. I think this internal struggle would be easier if I had the unwavering faith some have. The belief that God ordains it all and has a plan. While I certainly believe in a higher power, I am not quite sold that this higher power determines each individual hardship as part of a plan. That just doesn’t ring absolute truth to me. It feels a bit more random than that.

So as my mind wanders to the why and who, I veer it back to what really matters and is understandable to me- the ‘then what’. So bad things happen to good people. They just do. It is what we do next that matters. How do we cope, how to we move on, how to we not let it make us bitter, how do we turn it into a lesson, a way to feel gratitude for the good?

We cannot control what is not in our control (duh). So we control what we can. Our attitude, our minds, our ability to persevere, how we deepen our compassion and open up our hearts. When I get sad or mad about what some beautiful and lovely women have had to endure, I remind myself that while I have had plenty of suffering, I never felt victimized. I very rarely asked why me but rather, ok now what? Where do we go from here. How do I make this ok? It is that ability, that vital skill I have had to hone that reminds me good can come from bad. Not in the moment, often not even in the following months but eventually it can come.

The most trite statement is ‘life is short’. But it’s true. It’s finite. It is a compilation of the now, of the present moment. Not anticipation of tomorrow’s. If something is able to bring you the ability to appreciate more present moments, to look for joy when it is hidden, then that is ultimately a life gift. After the initial rehabilitating despair and grief that follows a miscarriage comes that light that shines through unexpectedly. Facing that tragic death highlights the life that surrounds us. The world seems raw and the sun on your face feels like a new start shining down, the grass looks greener, husband’s hugs feel more comforting and hope for the future seems precarious but profound and precious. I imagine life after accepting kids are not an option is often like this. Hard and raw but filled with hidden bursts of unexpected light. Light that may have not previously made its way through.

I guess my point of this post is to share how I personally grapple and tackle the unfairness of IF/ RPL. Lots of love to all of you in the many phases this path takes. Xo