Struggling with infertility? Follow three couples on their emotional journeys to become parents, and learn about the latest treatments in reproductive medicine.
Video courtesy of “The Doctors”
Struggling with infertility? Follow three couples on their emotional journeys to become parents, and learn about the latest treatments in reproductive medicine.
Video courtesy of “The Doctors”
A few years ago, an evening of shots meant a line up of tequila, Jack and Jim. Sorry for partying 😉 Not so much these days. During IVF our nightly shots are a bit more, shall we say tame?
At 8:30 every night, Gabe and I head upstairs to administer my Menopur and Follistim shots. It’s kinda like going to a bar. He lines ’em up and I knock ’em back…figuratively of course. Sure, I used to get a little woozy with the idea of giving myself shots, but the needles don’t bother me anymore. After three rounds of IVF, I am so used to being poked and prodded, that two small pricks to my belly don’t faze me. In a weird way, it actually makes me feel good. As I pull back the syringe and then see the medicine drain under my skin, I visualize my follicles changing. I picture them growing bigger and stronger by the second. Grow follies grow! Yes, I do speak to my follicles these day. Tomorrow we’ll get a progress report on those follies and see how they’ve been doing after a week’s worth of shots.
On the bright side, these shots don’t leave ya with a hangover.
Today is THE day. Today I begin my 3rd round of IVF! Eeeeee! I am so glad it’s finally time to get started. I have spent the last 3 months doing everything I can to prepare my body for this. I am praying with everything I have that this time it’s going to work. Third times the charm, right! My egg quality will have improved, our embies (embryos) will be perfect, I will get pregnant and we will have a healthy baby or babies!! That is my mantra. So if ya wouldn’t mind say a little prayer for us and then follow along for my 3rd and (hopefully) last round of IVF!
Jairek Robbins, decorated performance coach and lifestyle entrepreneur, is out with a new book that may be right up your fertility alley. In his book “Live It!: Achieve Success by Living With Purpose” Robbins guides you through his step-by-step process for filling the gap between where you are today and where you want to be aka not pregnant to pregnant!
WTF sat down with Robbins to help you to become the happiest, healthiest, and most fulfilled version of yourself—and inspire you to help others do the same.
JR: Anyone can lower stress in their lives, the real question is “do they want to?” It may sound crazy, but some people choose to be stressed out because deep down there’s a fear that’s hiding under the stress. That fear is different for everyone. However, if we can get to the root of the problem and face that fear and embrace that fear, it provides much liberation and thus the ability to let go of the stress.
I’ve heard many woman being told “you must lower the stress in your life, if you want to get pregnant”. The result: they start stressing over not getting stressed about anything. They stress over what they eat, how they sleep, etc. In the end, they may still not be embracing the fear, that they may never get pregnant.
You see, once we can stop running, hiding, and trying to change the possible truth, much liberation comes along with that. The body and mind can then relax and simply be at peace with what is.
This is often times why woman who end up adopting finding out shortly after, that they are finally pregnant. The question is, how do we get to that place sooner without the pain, the agony, the stress. The answer: we can’t. Once we can be at peace with that answer, we can reduce a lot of stress in our lives over thinking we are in control.
In short, my answer would be;
What is it you’re focusing on? Are you focusing on what’s right or what’s wrong? Are you focusing on what bad things might happen, or what great things have happened?
Lastly, I have an episode on JRCtv titled “What to do when shit hits the fan” and it’s really focused on stress management. Be sure to watch it and stop by the blog for a free download to help truly eliminate (a lot of) stress from your life!
JR: This is really specific to every person. For me, meditation really cultivates a true centeredness within me.
For others, it may be yoga, running, creating, family time, giving back.
Therefore, I always recommend to make sure to do the things you truly love. That fill you up. That are great for you, great for others, and for the greater good.
Sometimes we don’t give ourselves enough time or even permission to bliss out, to relax, to do things for us because we are so busy with work, family, or friends that we put ourselves last.
So be sure to schedule time into your day and week for YOU
JR: I love this question. In my new book “LIVE IT!”, I discuss a way to overcome such beliefs. Beliefs such as “I cannot truly be happy until…” is a incredibly LIMITING belief that really robs us of the happiness and freedom sitting right in front of us.
The way to change this belief is to challenge it with these questions:
Is it true?
Is it 1000% true without a sliver of a doubt otherwise?
With this belief who are you?
Without this belief who are you?
Now flip it around.
Is it true you can not be happy unless you have a baby?
Is it 1000% true that you can not happy without a baby ever and you never ever have been and that having a baby is the ABSOLUTE only thing that could make you happy?
With this belief who are you? (I’m not allowing myself to be happy with anything/anyone/any blessing that is CURRENTLY in my life. I’m not allowing myself to experience the blessings in my life.)
Without this belief who are you? (I feel there are other things that can and do make me happy. There are ways to be happy, there are people who are happy, there are things in my life that make me happy that do not involve a baby.)
Flip it around: I can be happy even if I do not have a baby. I am happy.
JR: Empathy can really do wonders especially for woman. Woman want their feelings to be felt. It’s helps them overcome the pain. What can really help is reminding them that there’s hope by sharing stories of inspiration. The stories where someone has gone through a similar situation and had a “happy ending” can really do wonders for the heart, mind and soul. It reminds that miracles do happen, that there is hope, and most importantly to not lose faith is what is possible.
Meet Mary Holland
December 30th 1999 I met my husband to be, and I knew it. I was visiting a friend in Chicago and my future husband and I had a very classy meeting at a “lounge” on a -33 below, snowy night in the city. Although we only talked for a few hours, and we would have 2000+ miles between us, I knew he was the one! In fact I told my parents, “I met my future husband”. How did I know, he said five magic words, “I was a camp counselor”. With close ties to camp, leadership and children, I knew it took a special person, with a love for children to be a camp counselor, and you could tell, he loved the impact he had on children.
Fast forward six years, we were happily married, stationed with the United States Army at Ft. Bliss in El Paso, Texas for my husband’s orthopedic residency. I was practicing developmental therapy for children 0-3 years old, with special need and attending graduate school for family and community counseling. To pay my way through grad school, I continued to be a nanny, as I had done for the past 10 years, on top of my full time job. Clearly I couldn’t get enough of being around children. My husband would often nanny with me, accompany me on out of town trips and help with the children. When I watched his interactions with the kids, or our nieces and nephew I knew I married the best man in the world. He was going to be an amazing father and it was in every fiber of his being, I could not wait to start a family with him.
Since he was a busy resident and I was working two jobs and in graduate school, we didn’t “try” to start a family right away, but we also didn’t “not try”. Then came my graduation, his final year of residency and a future deployment to Afghanistan. I started to panic, we needed to start a family, I wanted to give him what he always wanted, a child, a family! At the time we were one of the few residents in the program without kids, and you could see his pure admiration for his peers that had children. In the Army, there are LOTS of family events, lots of functions and lots of times to be asked, “when are you all having kids?”. We started to feel a little pressure with the deployment approaching and consulted my OB. After six rounds of “bitch pills” as my husband still refers to till this day, aka clomid and no success we started to wonder.
June 2009 I hugged him goodbye as he boarded a plane to take him to defend our country. I traveled almost every weekend to see friends, did lots of shopping and working out and lived it up the best I could while he was gone. That was the fun part, I also had plenty of time to worry, wonder and agonize over why we had not gotten pregnant. So while he was deployed I started the lovely fertility workup on my own. Looking back, what was I thinking to do that all alone! We had no family around, I had little contact with him, but I was determined to find out what was going on, so when he got home we would hit the ground running. Countless blood draws, ultrasounds, sonohysterograms, hyserosonograms, charting ovulations, and all that jazz, we came up with….nothing!
He safely arrived home December 2009 and we got the results back from my workup…all was clear. No reasons, tubes clear, everything got the thumbs up. So we thought this was the year! 2010 would be the year we became parents. After all we had done everything right, right? We finished college, got our higher educations, bought a home, were financially stable, had extensive experience with children (I could recite every developmental milestone for children 0-3 years old, and he was embarking on a pediatric fellowship). We had every prerequisite to be parents! And nothing happened.
At this point my career I had transitioned from developmental therapy to family therapy, focusing on grief with parents, grief of their child having a delay or disability, grief of losing their children to a terminal illness and parinatal loss. I never thought this would be my focus of therapy, but it fell in my lap and I quickly became passionate about helping these families. Little did I know my practice would have such influence on our journey to come. Spring 2010 we visited an adoption agency in Dallas, but ultimately decided to try fertility treatments with our amazing doctor in Scottsdale, Arizona Jay Nemiro, M.D., F.A.C.O.G. with Arizona Center for Fertility Studies. We conducted a lot of research and decided to make the 6 hour commute over to Arizona for all our visits and care, after all we wanted the best, and El Paso was very limited in what they could provide, as was the Army.
I will spare you the details of all our injections, medications, additional workups, procedures and the agony associated with our first round of IVF. In short, I was consumed! Every number made an impact on me like never before, my FSH, my TSH, how many follicles on the right, how many on the left, how many eggs were able to be retrieved, how many fertilized, day 1,2,3… Numbers, and stats became my life, research of other people’s journeys, their failures, their success consumed me. Minutes, hours and days waiting for phones calls and results left me with heightened anxiety which was getting harder and harder to manage. In the end, we didn’t get many eggs to start with, so not many fertilized and only two made it, and only made it to day 3. We did a fresh transfer and I knew it didn’t work. And once again, I was right.
We had to cancel a luxury vacation as we got the news of the failure and had to decide what our next game move was. I wanted to move forward, I was now determined and relentless in making this work, while ignoring all the grief that was looming over me. With our first round we learned that I didn’t produce many eggs and clearly, not many that were of quality to make healthy embryos. This was a terrific feeling to have, especially after my husband’s sperm count and quality was, “perfect”. We moved forward the next month, my husband shot me up with every injection, managed all my medication and we were going to make it work! This would be the round! We got a few more eggs this time, a few more fertilized, eventually on day 5, when we should have done our transfer, we had to make the grueling decision with our only 2 embies that had made it, of letting them grow one more day or transferring them at day 5 when they really were not dividing at a day 5 rate. What if we let them go too long, what if we went in the next morning and they didn’t make it, what if, what if, what if???? They both made it to day 6, we transferred and returned to Texas for long 9 day wait.
Upon returning home the anxiety and grief of everything hit me! Looking back now I can clinically understand it all, but then I was in the complete “fog” as we call it in therapy. I was grieving everything, the inability to fulfill my dreams, my husband’s wishes, I was grieving the loss of us as a couple, the intimacy we once had, spontaneity (you KNOW that goes out the door when you are battling fertility), the loss of our chances to conceive without all this extra work, the loss of our first two embryos that had made it at least to day 3, the money (yes I was grieving the loss of what this cost us, as our insurance did not cover it), grieving my egg quality, you name it, I was grieving it. Grief was all around me and I was low, what if this round didn’t work out? We couldn’t afford to do another, what would we do, would my husband still want to be with me? The sadness and anxiety were suffocating!
Lucky for me I had an amazing support in my close friends as well as my family and husband, but a stronger support from women I had met through friends, that had embarked on the IVF journey. I only spoke with one friend and my husband about the grief, as I was too embarrassed to share that with anyone else. I lost a near and dear friendship with a friend that was like family because of this stage of my grief. For me, nobody understands it, no matter what they say, unless they have dealt with grief of parenthood. Personally for me, it doesn’t have to be fertility, but loss of being a parent is where I find my connection with others.
In therapy we say true healing comes from when you can truly emotionally connect with another person in relation to your presenting issue/s and the attached emotions. Many of my clients don’t know this, but their stories, their children, their losses, their love for their children and their families comforted me during my darkest days. Just to know other people were out there, feeling similar emotions, although their stories could be drastically different, they felt relatable emotions and it helped heal my soul, and it still does. You never know the full circle love for wanting, creating and having a family until you lose it. I have not lost any children, but I have sat with people for years that have, and that is the full circle. These parents loved their children when they were created, born, living and until their final breaths, they then had to learn how to continue that love once their child/ren, were no longer with us in the physical world. These parents have taught me lessons that no book or professor could ever provide.
After processing my own grief over the next 9-10 days, I had a good feeling, and I was right. We had a positive HCG, it wasn’t one of those moments where I got to tell my husband I was pregnant, he told me. We ran the labs at his hospital for a faster turn around and he was thrilled, yet cautious to report the news. 20 weeks later he was overjoyed, as was I to find out we were having a healthy baby boy. Two years later we did our third round of IVF, this time with chromosomal testing, which I highly recommend, and were blessed with twin girls in Sept. of 2014.
I continued to grieve throughout my pregnancies due to the fact I had the lovely pleasure of puking 3-5x a day during both pregnancies. Yes, I know, I should have been thankful for the blessings, but unless you have been that sick, you really have no idea, I was sad. I was sad that I had to go through ALL of the struggle to get pregnant and then I couldn’t even enjoy my pregnancies. This wasn’t an all day emotion, or one that interfered with daily functioning, don’t get me wrong I was thrilled to be pregnant, but I really wish I could have enjoyed it more. From time to time I still grieve the natural process that I wasn’t a part of, the little things like telling my husband I was pregnant, and a few other minor things. But all in all I have worked through it, and it was well worth it!
Grief is such a big part of this process many of us face, for some it could be minor grief symptoms, for others it can be more severe depressive feelings, the spectrum is profound. The majority of us grieve, our partners grieve and we overcome things together, by connecting. My hope is that I have connected with some of you, through telling our story. Grief is not the overwhelming feeling that I would use to describe my pregnancies and journey in fertility, but it was a profound emotions that I have found gets little attention, this is why I chose to focus on one emotion, that I had connected to our story. Many other emotions, both positive and negative are part of this experience, I was never diagnosed with anything clinical, but I believe healthy management of emotions is good mental health practice, and what better way to practice, than connecting with others.
I am thrilled to share our most recent family photo, the twins were 6 months old and our son was turning 3. I am truly blessed to have 3 healthy children that keep me going all day, my husband is more amazing then I could have ever imagined, his professional field is lucky to have him, as his gift for children is as natural as it comes. I have the most hands on, helping, supportive partner, that results in a very happy and balanced marriage and household. Mary Holland, MEd, LPC-S
I’ve juiced, I’ve meditated, I’ve done yoga, I’ve journaled, I’ve done acupuncture – you name it I’ve tried it. Sound Familiar? Through my journey I have learned that to most people the word “infertility” is just a word, but to me, and maybe to you, it is an extremely powerful and painful word. How could a word, made up of 11 letters, conjure up so many emotions? Pain, despair, loneliness, sorrow, anger, jealousy – this list of emotions I felt, and still feel, goes on and on.
I have been on my journey since August of 2008, I remember it vividly. I returned home from visiting my best friend and her 6 week old newborn. My mom and husband were sure I would come home and say “nope, I’m not ready quite yet”, but it was the complete opposite. I was ready to have a baby, and I was ready now! So, we did what any couple does, I went off Birth Control and we started “trying”. A year later, and no successful attempts at getting pregnant, we were at a urologist. My husband was tested, and nothing alarming showed up. It was my turn for the testing, and boy did I get tested. I have had a Hysterosalpingogram, internal videos of my uterus, MRI’s, Ultra Sounds, X-rays – the end result was a diagnosis of a “T-Shape” Uterus, very rare. To say that I was devastated by this news would be an understatement. I spiraled out of control, desperate to figure this out; mad that everyone around me was getting pregnant just by looking at their spouse, why was this happening to me?
It is now 6 years later with two failed IUI’s, an ectopic pregnancy and surgery to remove a mass in my left ovary. But if I am being totally honest, I think this was a journey that I was meant to go on – even though it was crazy painful and sometimes torturous.
As of today, my husband and I do not have any children. We still have not decided if IVF is something we want to do. We have taken countless “breaks” from fertility treatments, and are currently still on a break. I still hope every cycle that it will “miraculously” happen on its own – even though I know the odds are against us.
I think I’ve learned that while every journey is different in so many ways, we are all so alike. I know what your pain feels like, I know what your jealousy feels like, I know what your tears feel like. I know! I know that no matter what anyone says, it doesn’t change your situation or how you feel. This is a journey that must be traveled by you, and only you will know when you have found your peace. I wish you all peace, and only you will know when you have found it.
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