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August 2017

Babe In My Heart, Blogs

The Best Laid Plans

August 17, 2017

Written by Rachel Roth, Guest Blogger

Alright, I admit it: I’m a planner. Have been my whole life. I plan my outfits for the week. I plan for a party months in advance. It should come as no shock that I’ve had my life as a mother planned for as long as I can remember and had my kids names picked out since high school (thank goodness my husband loved the names too!)

My husband, Jon, and I married in 2008 and the talk of kids began at our wedding. We played a famous game at our reception called “The Shoe Game” where Jon and I sat back to back, traded shoes and held up the shoe of the person we thought best represented the answer. My brother, who emceed, asked “Which of you is looking forward to having kids more?” We BOTH held up BOTH shoes. See? Excited for kids. However, we wanted to wait until I finished my master’s degree and we moved into a house. Both of those things happened in April 2011. Happening in the same month? That was some sort of sign we were supposed to start trying for kids immediately, right?

I began to calculate when I needed to conceive based on the amount of maternity leave I had. I worked as a teacher and since I would get the summer off, I knew I wanted to have my leave flow right into the summer to maximize my time at home. I had a conversation one day with my mom explaining my thought process behind these conception plans and she held up her hand to stop me.

“How do you know that you’ll get pregnant the first time you try?”

I didn’t have an answer to that and it should have been a warning bell to at least be prepared for that possibility and in our case, eventuality. 8 months into trying for children, we were sent to a fertility doctor for what at the time seemed like just a male factor issue.

My husband needed surgery to fix a varicocele. He healed wonderfully and came back in better shape than before. But we still were having issues. After more tests, they found I was also part of the problem. Apparently, my AMH hormone level was low which meant I had fewer (good) eggs than other women my age. Apparently my biological clock had hit the danger zone early. So that added a new dimension to our problem. And doctors in the same practice couldn’t seem to agree on a plan.

One doctor said we could conceive naturally and just needed help with timing. A second doctor said we had “less than 1% chance of conceiving naturally” and said if I was his daughter, he’d automatically recommend IVF. I was beginning to get frustrated that no one could seem to agree on OUR specific infertility problems and what to do about them. I felt like a science experiment or some number on a chart, instead of a real person trying to conceive a child.

I started with clomid and letrozole (oral stimulating meds), progressed to Follistim (injected stimulating med) then did 4 rounds of IUI. Everything failed, month after month. However, our first IVF in April 2013 was different. The plan was to come to the office two weeks after the IVF transfer for a blood test for pregnancy. I got antsy, took a home test and it turned out positive! Two years of trying and we were finally pregnant!
Well of course out came the plans! I calculated my due date, researched how to decorate the nursery, and even started compiling a guest list for my baby shower. (I know, I know. I can hear you shaking your head. I deserve that)

The fertility clinic continued to monitor my beta numbers and even though they seemed to fluctuate a bit, the doctor told me that the next time I came in, we would be able to hear the baby’s heart beat!

Jon came with me to that next appointment because we both wanted to hear our child’s heart beating for the very first time. So exciting! After the normal blood draw, the ultrasound tech seemed to be moving the wand around a lot and not saying much. After two years of ultrasounds, I knew something was wrong.

Turns out, as the doctor would tell us afterward, there was nothing on the ultrasound. No heartbeat. No baby.

I was DEVASTATED.

I held it together for the rest of the meeting, but when we got to the car, I broke down in tears. My dream was crashing down around me. To go from expecting to see the heartbeat of your child to being told there wasn’t a baby at all was excruciating and confusing. We took some time to regroup and a few months later we did IVF #2 and #3 back to back. Both were failures.

It was in the days, weeks, months that followed that I started to withdraw.

I had been hit with a huge dose of reality. We had been trying for nearly three years. Even three attempts using the most advanced fertility procedure, the one with the highest chance of success, didn’t help us conceive. I started to isolate myself to protect my heart. I replied “no” to every baby shower invitation, including my two nephews. I didn’t want to be the elephant in the room during what was supposed to be a happy time for someone else. I even avoided my friends. I knew I couldn’t be a good friend to them with what I was going through and didn’t want to feel like a burden. I hit rock bottom. All my plans hadn’t worked to get the one thing I’d always dreamed of: children. Was I the failure? Was I being punished for planning? For assuming we would get pregnant quickly?

We took the next 10 months to just be a married couple again. We had one more frozen embryo so we needed to do one more IVF attempt, but with everything we had been through physically (I stuck myself an average of 34 times per IVF cycle) and emotionally (at that point, I had gotten 29 months of negative pregnancy results), we needed a break.

Finally, in September 2014 we did our IVF #4, which we knew financially and emotionally had to be our last. We didn’t have high hopes after all we had been through but the nurses called me after my blood test ecstatic to tell me I was pregnant! We were thrilled.

Unfortunately, our celebration didn’t last long. Same as before, there was no heartbeat. No baby. I miscarried the exact same day I did on the first IVF.

This time, I wasn’t devastated.

I was BROKEN.

We often heard people tell us “just adopt!” And absolutely, it was and is an option. But two important things: 1) we felt we needed to mourn our fertility journey and the biological children we wouldn’t have. We needed to heal. 2) We wanted to be sure we should adopt, not just move forward with it as a last resort. We wanted our hearts to be pure and intentional as it affects a lot of people. We prayed, discussed and decided we were being called to adopt. We were scared, to be honest, as adoption is something neither of us knew a lot about. But sometimes the best things in life are the ones that scare us initially.

After some research, we settled on an adoption agency and chose infant domestic adoption. The adoption process, like the fertility process, is NO. JOKE. It is a ton of stress and is a challenge emotionally and financially, just in very different ways. We got through the mountains of paperwork, the hours of interviews, the classes, the physicals, the clearances, and hours creating a profile.

On December 18, 2015 we officially became available for birth families to connect with us!

On December 19, I found out I was pregnant. Naturally.

Is that your jaw hitting the ground I just heard? Yeah, I can STILL feel mine dislocating from shock. I took two tests because we just didn’t believe it. We made sure to get the ones that have the words instead of the lines because if anyone could screw up reading the results, we figured it would be us.

Despite both tests saying the same thing, we were VERY cautious throughout the first few months, even refusing to say the word “pregnant” aloud to one another. We referred to my pregnancy as “our situation” for the first trimester as we spoke about our future plans. We knew firsthand how quickly pregnancies can change.

But our fears were assuaged. On August 15, 2016, our son Benjamin Shane was born. Healthy, happy, full of life, definitely not part of our plan. No one was more thrilled to be wrong than us.

What about the adoption, you ask? Never fear. We fell in LOVE with adoption and are excited to adopt. Our agency required us to pause and wait until Ben is a year old before “unpausing” our journey. We’ve already started the ball rolling again and are just waiting to meet with our adoption agency to update our home study since a lot has changed in two years.

I often reflect upon what I was supposed to learn from my fertility journey. I never want my experiences to be for nothing so I try to find something to take away from it. I realized that there is so much in this life that is beyond our control. I love to plan, but sometimes plans don’t work out. I can’t control the weather. I can’t control how someone else reacts. I can’t control my fertility. My journey taught me that with so much beyond my control, I could either continue to struggle against it, only to be met with heartache. Or I could find peace in the chaos and learn to enjoy the moments, the life I have because life is fluid and fleeting.

Don’t worry – I haven’t given up my planning ways completely. There’s still a first birthday to plan, after all. And while I do, I’m enjoying every moment until then.

Babe In My Heart, Blogs

You Asked, Ava Answered

August 14, 2017

After our recent blog post about the Ava Bracelet for tracking fertility, we received a ton of questions about how it all works! So we went straight to the source and sat down with Kate Slagh from Ava to find out why this little blue bracelet is the must have fertility accessory of the season.

WTF: What makes the Ava Bracelet different than ovulation predictor kits?

AVA; The most commonly used ovulation predictor kits use urine to detect a rise in luteinizing hormone (LH). These tests can be helpful you have very regular cycles and already have an idea of the four or five best days to test. It is common for a woman’s cycle to vary by up to seven days each cycle and this makes it challenging to know when to take an LH test. Many women have to take two tests per day for five days or more in order to achieve a positive result. Also, peeing on sticks everyday is inconvenient and messy.

With Ava, women wear the bracelet only at night. While you sleep, Ava tracks 9 physiological parameters. When you wake up, you synch the Ava bracelet to your smart phone and can see insight into your cycle and fertile window. Ava users love that it is easy to use and provides incredible insight in an easy to read graph. Women can get pregnant 6 days per cycle and Ava detects 5.3 of these days with 89% accuracy. Other OPKs are able to detect a 12-48 hours fertile window, at best, and only if you take the test at the right time.

WTF: What is the significance of tracking the 9 different body signals?

AVA: Ava uses clinically tested technology to track changes in the physiological parameters imparted by hormonal variations throughout the cycle. Ava uses these parameters to detect the beginning and end of the fertile window, in real time. To give you a few examples, Ava tracks pulse rate, temperature, sleep quality, sleep quantity and heart rate variability, which is an indicator of physiological stress. In clinical trials we have been able to show the correlation between many of these parameters and specific points in the menstrual cycle. Did you know that your resting pulse rate is significantly increased during your fertile window compared to your menstrual (bleeding) phase? This is one example of how your Ava learns about your body to give you insight into your cycle.

WTF: Is it safe and effective to use Ava while undergoing fertility treatments such as clomid?
Ava: Yes, it is safe to use Ava while taking medications such as clomid. We have not clinically tested Ava in women taking clomid but there is no reason to discontinue using Ava if you begin such a treatment. Anecdotally, we see that women taking follicle stimulating medication have Ava charts with clear fertile windows and ovulatory patterns that are just what you would expect with a normal cycle where ovulation occurred.

WTF: Explain the importance of the 5 fertile days for conception.
AVA: On average women can get pregnant six days per cycle. The best way to conceive is to have intercourse prior to ovulation so when the egg is released (ovulation) the sperm is ready and waiting. Detecting these fertile days and timing intercourse appropriately is the key to successful conception. Ava detects 5.3 fertile days each cycle so couples have a better chance of conceiving. In fact, using Ava doubles your chances of conceiving each month by letting you know when it’s the right time to try.

WTF: Besides trying to conceive, why are women using Ava?
AVA: Many women use Ava to learn about and track their menstrual cycles. A woman’s body goes through amazing changes each cycle and understanding these changes can help women understand their health. Imagine knowing when your migraine headaches will be the worst and planning ahead-Ava can help you do that. Ava also has a pregnancy app that gives you interesting facts about how babies develop week by week. Pregnant women also continue to wear their Ava bracelet at night to continue tracking sleep, pulse rate and more. Ava keeps tracking your body signals, you just wont see a fertile window or expected ovulation.

WTF: What is the success rate of women who wear Ava and are trying to conceive? Do you keep tracks of those numbers?

AVA: We sure do-but we don’t share publically the number of Ava assisted pregnancies. One of the reasons we don’t share this information is because not every woman who gets pregnant using Ava will her news with us. The number of Ava babies, since our product release, is growing and the first Ava babies are now being born. We love nothing more than to celebrate Ava pregnancies and Ava babies!

 

Order your Ava Bracelet HERE and don’t forget to use the discount code ALEXIS to save $20!

 

Babe In My Heart, Blogs

Not Losing Hope

August 10, 2017
  • •Written by Justine Raymond, Guest Blogger

We have been on this rollercoaster of a ride since our daughter was six months old. She is now three. Conceiving our daughter did not come easy, we tried for a year. When she was six month old we decided to start to try again, “because of course it will happen right away,” boy was I wrong. Little did we know it would take us on a crazy ride full lots of down.

After having our daughter, I had to have an emergency surgery to stop the massive amount of bleeding. As a result of having to have this life saving surgery, I am now left with extreme scarring in my uterus. I have had two surgeries and am going to do a third to try to remove more scar tissue and prepare my body for another egg transfer. We have had one failed IUI, two failed IVF cycles and still have not become pregnant.

The hurt and pain is the same and as a woman, you blame yourself. I feel like a failure some days… infertility hurts. It’s real, raw and sometimes you feel alone and blame youself. I think people just assume when you already have a child it doesn’t hurt as much, but it truly does. It is a desire in your heart and despite all efforts you can’t make it happen. Yes we are extremely grateful and blessed to have our daughter. She is the light of our lives and very well might be our only child, we are so so thankful for her. That doesn’t take away the pain and longing for another child, I don’t think that feeling will ever go away. We know God has a plan for our family, but sometimes God’s plans and the plan we have in our head are different. I know one day this will all make sense and finding peace is the key. I still struggle with this but I am getting better, I want to be able to say we tried everything possible.

We will continue to fight this fight of infertility in the hopes we will one day beat it. Hope is the only thing stronger than fear and I always have hope. I don’t know what the future has in store for us, but I do know we’ll all be ok. I alway go back and forth about sharing my story because sometimes infertility can take you to a dark lonely place and it’s a look into your most intimate and personal part of your life. If women didn’t speak out and share their stories with me I would really feel alone. The women of this community are so helpful and they get you, they know the pain you feel.

To you reading this wherever you are in your journey, I pray for you. You are not alone. You will be ok. We all will. A woman from this community once told me a quote once, “when the world says give up, hope whispers try one more time”. I hope this can shed some light that infertility hurts no matter if its your first or second time longing for a child.

 

Babe In My Arms, Blogs

A Mom On A Mission

August 8, 2017

•Written by Heather Bienz, Guest Blogger

In May 2015 I lost my 2nd daughter, Reagan, to Turner Syndrome and delivered her still-born during my 25th week of pregnancy. Ten short months later I lost my 3rd daughter, Hannah, to Turner Syndrome as well.

Turner Syndrome is a chromosomal disorder that occurs when all or part of one of the female X chromosomes is lost before or soon after the time of conception. It is not connected to or passed on from either parent and there is nothing a person can do to increase or decrease the chance of this happening.

I was looking for a way to process my grief, share my testimony with others and also help support other families impacted by Turner Syndrome. I started a faith based apparel company called Reagan Twenty Five where 25% of profits are donated to Leaping Butterfly Ministry to help sponsor women with TS to attend an annual conference and to also help purchase hearing aids for those who may have lost their hearing due to TS. All shirts are designed by me and are inspired by my journey after losing my two daughters, Reagan and Hannah.

The goals of Reagan Twenty Five have and will always be to glorify God, to help spread His message to others through positive and uplifting messages worn on our clothing to help facilitate loving conversations about our Savior or to plant seeds in the hearts of others for God to grow, to create a community for women and mother’s to know you are loved and not alone in whatever hardships you may be facing and to give back to other families impacted by Turner Syndrome – the chromosomal disorder that took the lives of my daughters, Reagan and Hannah.

By connecting with other faith based women who share their stories with me through this ministry it not only helps to heal my heart, but also reminds me that God provides beauty no matter how deep the pain. We are not alone in our sufferings.

I remember wishing so badly that this wasn’t my life. I hated this new direction God was pushing me and I wanted things to go back to how they used to be. I knew this path, as much as I didn’t want it, would shape me into a different person. The more I looked back and focused on the past, the more depressed and bitter I became. It affected my friendships, my relationships with my family and my marriage. It wasn’t fair. I wanted my girls back. I wanted the “old me” back.

It wasn’t until I decided to stop looking back and to start focusing on the future that I truly and fully started to trust God and His plan for me. It was then that my life started to fall back into place – and as crazy as it sounds, in ways it’s even better than before. I’ve noticed my relationship with God is stronger now than it’s ever been, my respect, understanding and love for my husband is at a level I never knew was possible and the maturity and confidence I now have in knowing who I am and what’s important in my life has given me so much peace and comfort.

In January this year we welcomed our 4th baby girl, Rayna, into the world and she’s as healthy as can be. She’s a constant reminder to us that God is ALWAYS good – in the good times and the bad.

Babe In My Heart, Blogs

Manners That Matter

August 2, 2017

•Written by Katherine McMullen, Guest Blogger
Me: a 32 yr old runner (2 marathons, 8 half marathons, etc etc), former D3 college swimmer, current masters swimmer, leisure bicyclist, yoga lover, gardener, knitter and Whole30 enthusiast.

Husband: a 33 yr old runner (3 marathons, 7 half marathons, etc etc), leisure bicyclist, former D1 college hockey player, current men’s league hockey player, craft beer + whiskey enthusiast.

Overall heath: pretty darn good… so we thought!

So we ventured into this journey with high hopes and lots of quality time together. ?My husband, the eternal optimist, would tell me all the time, “We’ll be fine. It’ll be good. It’ll just take another month.”

And another month.

And another month.

I had done my research. I was temping, charting, reading, cutting BPA out from out life, upping the vitamins, making the hubs (Mike) take vitamins, doing more yoga, drinking less wine…all the right things.

From all that I read, after 6 months, 85% of women should have conceived. Despite only being 31 at the time, I decided to make an appointment with a local fertility clinic.

Side Note: I had changed birth control options from hormonal birth control to an non-hormonal IUD while we were dating and noticed some darker, coarser hair growing on my face, arms, chest, nipples…all the “fun spots” for dark hair. I went to my OB to get blood work done to see if I had PCOS. Their tests said all was good. I went a month later to an endocrinologist to talk again about PCOS, and again her tests were all good. I wasn’t 100% convinced that I was A-OK, so that’s when I decided to see the fertility specialist.

We did the normal blood work and ultrasound. What I learned was wildly fascinating. Despite all the routine blood work for PCOS coming back normal, my AMH levels were OFF THE CHARTS, usually a good indicator of PCOS. Average range is 2-3 ng/mL, mine was 12 ng/mL. My ultrasound also showed that between both ovaries, I had 49 follicles growing. 49! All signs pointed to PCOS. (No male factor!)

After talking it over, my husband and I were ready to start treatment. On Day 1 of my menstrual cycle in October, I called to schedule my first Day 3 appointment. My Day 3 appointment went well, the normal blood work/ultrasound. I get a call later that day, with hopes of starting my medicated cycle, however the nurse told me I was pregnant! …… But I had been bleeding for three days straight?? And I continued to bleed for another day. I went back two days later for another beta test, and levels had dropped. It was a chemical pregnancy.

I wasn’t really sure how to respond at the time. The Doctors and nurses would tell me that they were sorry for the loss of the chemical, and I would awkwardly say, oh it’s fine. It wasn’t until a few months ago, when it dawned on me that I’d have a baby in my arms right now if that one had stuck, that it really started to hurt.

Over the course of the next 6 cycles, we tried Letrozole and Clomid cycles with some FSH, etc. the usual suspects for medicated cycles.

That time was really rough for me with friends. The majority of my friends and my husbands friends are already parents. Some with 3 kids already! I stopped going to events. I stopped texting them. I really isolated myself, building up my walls so I wouldn’t be upset.

However, I did strategically tell some friends of the struggles we were going through. One from each circles of friends, so that if anyone else in the group said, “Where is Katie? Why doesn’t she hang out anymore?” the designated friend would be able to cover for me.

When I learned that there was a National Infertility Awareness Week, I was so excited to hear the other stories and following social media accounts that were focused on women with fertility issues.

During NIAW, I came across an Infertility Etiquette list that I thought was amazing to share with family and friends. We personally have chosen not to tell any family members, as we know how ours can be, but I emailed this list to the designated friends.

I reassured them that none of them had, “broken any of the rules,” but it was more just awareness and helping them, if they have other friends going through it, of things to say and not say, do and not do.

They were all very appreciative of the article and said that they would be there for me if I ever wanted to cry, vent, talk, anything.

Since I’ve sent the list, I’ve really stopped talking about it, because I feel like the weight of the grief of each cycle has lifted, my silence had been broken. My friends have become more respectful of my privacy and they don’t push for any details or updates. They know that I will tell them when it’s time.

I highly recommend this etiquette list for anyone who feels comfortable talking about their struggles. Maybe it would be a great ice breaker for that nosy friend or family member that keeps hounding you for information!

I have been pretty open with my struggles with those who I have told. If anyone were to ask, I would probably tell them. I don’t want this to be a silent struggle.

I’m hoping to be an NIAW advocate next year at work. I work for a medical device company that has some fertility products, so it seems like a natural fit for advocacy. We always do walks and fund raisers for Breast Cancer Awareness, Ovarian Cancer Awareness, so I’m going to start the Infertility Awareness at work.

We are currently in the beginning stages of our first FET cycle. I was able to get three blasts from my first IVF cycle. We are doing PGS testing since with my age, things just don’t seem right with egg quality.

I’m still hopeful that my time will come, but I also still distance myself from moms and pregnant friends.

I’m hoping that anyone reading this that has been silent, will now be able to have the courage to tell a friend and share the etiquette list with others. It’s a great list, well written, and has brought some piece of mind knowing that my friends are aware and not nosy.

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