Monthly Archives

September 2017

Babe In My Belly, Blogs

The Stork Brings A Stark: First Trimester

September 27, 2017

I am beyond grateful to be pregnant. I thank God everyday for this tiny life growing inside me. However, pregnancy isn’t all strong finger nails, thick hair and glowing skin. I am documenting the ups, the downs and the “glow” (guys, it’s sweat),  through my 40 weeks of pregnancy.

I found out I was pregnant at 3 weeks 4 days and it started out on the highest high. We had a few obstacles to get around while trying  to get pregnant (endometriosis, PCOS and crazy wild hormones). Needless to say, we were both on cloud nine and in complete shock that not only was I pregnant, but without medical intervention. The only symptom I had at that point was sore boobs and around four weeks  I cramping started. I knew cramping was a normal symptom of pregnancy but I was on edge for the rest of the first trimester. I took it very easy, got lots of rest and walked on eggshells. In retrospect it was silly and I totally could have continued my normal activities but I needed to do what I needed to do to keep my nerves at bay and stay sane-ish.

5 weeks 3 days. This day will forever be ingrained in my memory. This is the day morning sickness started. While it was a great reminder our babe was healthy and growing like a weed, why can’t your body just send you a note to remind you? Or maybe shrink your thighs? Mother Nature is funny like that. My sweet reminder lasted the remainder of my first and well into my second trimester. I am convinced a man named it because how many women are just sick the morning? I was sick morning, noon, night and would even be woken up by it from time to time. Luckily I was clued into the Unisom/B6 trick pretty early which helped take the edge off.  And shout out to new BFF simple carbohydrates, I gained the appropriate amount of weight while being so sick, thanks girl.
Our first doctors appointment was at 8 weeks 5 days and I was a nervous wreck. I could finally take the biggest sigh of relief after seeing our little tiny miracle on the screen, flickering heart, kicking legs and all. The feeling was indescribable and I wanted to ask if I could take the machine home with us. Everything checked out perfect and we decided we could finally tell our parents. My dad’s birthday was the same week as our appointment and we decided  this was the perfect time to tell them. We invited my them over for a drink (water for moi!) before heading out to dinner. We handed my dad his gift and inside the big box was a bottle of wine with a baby carriage and “January 2018” written on the label and next to it was a framed picture from our ultrasound.  Neither of them could figure out what it was and at one point my mom said, “oh it’s a picture of an owl!” After what felt like 3 hours they put it together and burst into tears and laughter so excited for their first grandchild. An owl though?

Sometimes I have to take a second and laugh. The way I pictured pregnancy, what I thought I would do, what I would look like, how I would feel, versus reality is night and day. In my imagination, I assumed I was glowing. My skin had never been better, my hair had never been thicker, nails were strong as steel. I snacked on carrots and celery and continued to workout everyday because #strongpelvicfloor. The reality is, this isn’t my reality. I swear I blew up the day I found out I was pregnant. The bloat, the bloat is so real. But also the rest of my body and as much as I want to blame it on bloat, its not. Imagine if Pamela Anderson and Dolly Parton had a daughter…hi, my name is Birkley. I had a client tell me recently, “Wow, that is going to be a well fed baby!” My skin has never been worse. Pre-pregnancy, I very rarely had a blemish and there hasn’t been a day since I found out I was pregnant that I have been blemish free. Also- what are veggies? I had such a terrible time with nausea that if something sounded good, I ate it. Nothing specific or in particular other than if it was a carb, I was eating it. I keep telling myself all of this means I am going to have a dreamboat of a newborn, right?

Probably my favorite memory of the first trimester was getting the results from the genetic testing and an added bonus, finding out the gender. My doctor went over the different type of tests that were available and we decided to go with Panorama (read about it here). At nine weeks a mobile phlebotomist (yup, as amazing as it sounds) came to my house, took a few viles of my blood and was on her way. About a week and a half later we had the results and our sweet babe was absolutely perfect and… a BOY. I was in shock. It’s all a blur but I might have called the medical assistant a liar since I was positive it was a girl. She was “stealing my beauty” to put it nicely, I was sick as a dog, The Ramzi Theory said girl, the Chinese calendar said girl and I could go on and on and on. All of the gender predictors pointed to girl. Just as memorable, this was also the week my bank account lost a lot of zeros and I started shopping. There are days I still have to pinch myself, I can’t believe I’m pregnant with a healthy baby boy.

Babe In My Heart, Blogs

Hope In Waiting

September 26, 2017

Written by Danielle Sedler, Guest Blogger

We’ve been waiting…and trying…and waiting some more. We are coming up on 5 years of trying to get pregnant. Three surgeries, 4 rounds of fertility drug assistance, and 2 rounds of IVF. We’re still waiting.
Throughout these infertile years, the only thing that has helped me through, is hope.
Hope in God to fulfill my yearning to be a mother.
Hope in God to heal my endometriosis.
Hope in God to fill my womb with a miracle baby.
I was pretty ashamed at first, to open up about the fact that we were struggling to conceive. But the moment I shared our struggle, it was so freeing and people have rallied around us in prayer. So many people have shared their own hope stories. And have held our arms up when we just haven’t had the strength.

My husband and I have been together since I was 15 and he was 17. When we first started dating, I had a large cyst on my ovary that had to be removed surgically. That was the beginning of this journey and I didn’t even know it. After we were married in 2010, we waited almost 3 years to start trying to conceive as we were both finishing college.
In April, we had our FET and transferred genetically perfect boy and girl embryos. My heart was guarded this time as our first one failed, hope was my driving force. A week later we got the call that I was pregnant. Every ounce of my body let out the biggest sigh of relief and excitement. This was it, we were finally going to be parents. I had terrible headaches at 1:00 pm every day, sore boobs, exhaustion like I never knew existed…but I loved every single second of it. And that pregnancy glow thing is real y’all, I totally had it.
Two weeks later we went in for our second HCG test to make sure my levels were rising. Sadly, my doctor got on the phone and told me he was sorry that my levels had dropped drastically and I was going to miscarry. I was numb and angry. I begged God to save our babies. I could not accept the news and told my doctor I was staying on my medications and I wanted to come in for an ultrasound to confirm there were no heartbeats. We went in and there was nothing. It is what science calls a Chemical Pregnancy, which I hate the term. I stopped my medications and 5 days later I miscarried.
The hole in my heart from our first failed IVF, just got larger. My dream happened, and then was all of a sudden gone. Why? How? I needed an answer. And this is where I will tell anyone going through fertility treatments, be your own advocate.
Don’t settle for having the same medication and IVF protocol as the gal next to you. Don’t settle with the “I’m sorry, let me know when you are ready to do the next embryo transfer”. Tell the doctor what you want and do your research.
We are going into this next embryo transfer taking charge of our journey and making sure certain tests are done. I’ve asked my doctor to be aggressive. I researched tests that should be done after recurring failed IVF’s and/or miscarriages. I recently had my natural killer cells tested to make sure I did not carry cells that would attack a pregnancy. Thankful that came back negative. Soon I will be having a thrombophilia panel done to make sure I do not have a blood clotting disorder. And after our next embryo transfer, I will have my progesterone levels monitored VERY closely to make sure they do not drop. We learned that progesterone levels are not checked with HCG levels at our fertility clinic.
Be your own advocate. Take charge of your fertility and what you want. Work alongside your doctor to ensure he isn’t missing something. It is a team effort and it is your money and your family you want to create. Even if all of the tests come back negative and all of my levels are normal, it is making this journey a little clearer knowing I am doing everything I can. It would be terrible to always have the “what if” factor alongside this already emotional roller coaster called infertility.
We’ve also started the process of becoming certified foster parents, in hopes of adopting through the foster system! More on that later.
So we continue to hope. Hope in carrying a biological child. Hope that God may already have a child out there for us through the foster system. Hope.
“Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.” – Hebrews 11:1

Babe In My Heart, Blogs

Think Before You Clean

September 20, 2017

Photo: Glamour.com

When I was trying to get pregnant, my body was a TEMPLE. I didn’t drink, ate all of my veggies, got my 8 hours of sleep and didn’t clean the house. Just kidding. Kinda. Researchers have found a link between organophosphate flame retardants (PFRs because that’s a mouthful) and a decreased success rate in IVF patients. Unfortunately PFRs are’t just found in cleaning products. Check out this article and learn more about what exactly PFRs are and how to avoid them other than just not cleaning your toilet. Photo: simplehomemaking.net

And check this out if you’re interested in information about how to clean up your cleaning products (who knew baking soda wore so many hats?).

Babe In My Heart, Blogs, Uncategorized

Hedgehog Healing

September 19, 2017

Written by Nicola Salmon, guest blogger
As I was sat across from my doctor the most unexpected words came out of her mouth, “You’ll never be able to have children.” At 16, I just thought that my irregular periods were down to growing up but after three years and several different investigations, I was given the diagnosis of PCOS (a metabolic and hormonal disorder), given the contraceptive pill and sent on my way.

It’s funny where life takes you, after suffering from PTSD later in life, I had acupuncture and it turned my life. I decided to study acupuncture as it intrigued me so much and as I was studying I learnt about lots of different ways I could look after my body. Not just with medicine, but with food, movement and other natural remedies. Throughout that journey I made tiny shifts and tweaks to my lifestyle, which over time improved my health and menstrual cycles.

My 3 lifestyle tweaks

I switched away from drinking tap water after I found out that it contains small amounts of oestrogen. With my hormones as imbalanced as they were, I decided to help it out by trying to reduce external sources.

This also led me to choosing organic grass fed meat and dairy when I could afford it as cheap cattle and other animals are pumped full of antibiotics and growth hormones which again affect hormones in our bodies.

The third biggest shift I made was reintroducing fat in my diet. I was absolutely shocked to discover that fats are the building blocks of hormones. Being on a low fat diet since I was about 13, it was no wonder that my body struggled to create the right amounts of each hormone. Healthy fats such as dairy, coconut oil, olive oil, avocado and nuts are such a great was to eat healthy and tasty food.

My story has a happy ending.

We had no troubles conceiving our 2 boys despite my constant worry and fear that having children would be so difficult for us.

In the end it was those tiny tweaks and shifts that helped my body heal. It wasn’t a complete diet overhaul. I didn’t suddenly start running marathons.

The problem is that these tweaks won’t work for everyone. We all have unique bodies, environments, histories and mindsets which means that you need to find your own tweaks to your optimal health. Sounds really hard right?

I promise it is really simple. All you have to do is listen.

Your body has all the information. Every sign and symptom is a sign post to tell you where to look. You can start right away by grabbing a pen and paper. Write down:

  • your sleep (when, how much, what was the quality)
  •  your food and drink (no calories counting! What you ate, when you ate and how you feel)
  • your energy throughout the day
  • your mood throughout the day
  • your movement throughout the day
  • where you are in your cycle right now
  • anything else your body is telling you (aches, pains, dizziness, dry skin etc)

Then the fun begins. Over time you’ll start to notice patterns. You’ll notice how your sleep affects your mood, or if you have a coffee after 3 you’re wired til midnight. Maybe you’ll notice that you get bloated 3 hours after eating bread or that when you don’t drink enough water your eyes get sore.

Really get curious about how your body works and you’ll be amazed by what you find. Then you can experiment. Start trying to do things a little different and notice how your body responds.

If you want a quick guide to get started with fertility journaling, you can download my free 7 day nurture fertility journal here.

Babe In My Belly, Blogs

The Stork Brings A Stark: The Test

September 14, 2017

I would love to start this out by saying the month I found out I was pregnant was different and I “just knew,” but the reality is I “just knew” every month. One month we were on vacation in Nashville and I was so positive I was pregnant, I made my husband take a picture of my (nonexistent) bump infront of the Nashville skyline. I also ate for two that trip (my jeans haven’t fit the same since) and I didn’t drink, because well, baby. Another month I had a meltdown because my (false) due date was the week of my best friend’s wedding and obviously I couldn’t travel across country 40 weeks pregnant.

I would take pregnancy tests in the afternoon because if they were negative I would make myself feel better by saying, “maybe it’s just because it wasn’t first thing in the morning pee,” and it gave me another 12 hours to hope that I was actually pregnant. I had this mind trick down pat. So, on a rainy Monday afternoon in April, I did just that. I stopped and got lunch (a salad with goat cheese), ran home and before I took a bite of my salad I took a test. I swore I saw a line. But I could always find a line if I wanted to, so I took another. Sure enough, another very faint line. 

Obviously I threw my salad in the trash as quick as you could say unpasteurized cheese (eye roll, first time mom, am I right?) and headed to the store to buy supplies to tell my husband. I had run so many scenarios through my head, how I would tell him, where I would tell him, what his reaction would be. I got pink and blue balloons to spell DAD and hid them in our guest bedroom. That night when we both got off work I called him into the bedroom where this was displayed. Josh is probably the smartest person I’ve ever met. His random knowlegede, vocabulary and mathematic skills blow me away daily. However, I will admit,  this day was not his sharpest. He stood in the doorway repeating “Dad…” and would look at me and say, “I don’t get it.” Bless his heart. After what felt like two years, he figured it out as we held eachother tight and cried tears of joy, excitement, fear and hope. And that is when we found out the stork was bringing a Stark.

Babe In My Arms, Blogs

Seven Nights In The NICU

September 12, 2017

Written by Nadine Bubeck, guest blogger

As I sit here 33 weeks pregnant with my third child, I can’t help but picture where I was at 33 weeks pregnant with my first.
I was in the hospital. On bed rest.

It’s kind of weird for me to mentally reminisce, as now my first born is going on four years old- an active, handsome, healthy young boy. I want to press pause. More so, I kind of miss his hectic arrival into the world, as emotional and stressful as it was.

At 20 weeks pregnant with Nicholas, I was diagnosed with complete placenta previa. My Gynecologist told me I’d likely have numerous bleeding episodes (horrifying), be placed on hospitalized bed rest (monotonous), and birth a preemie- all of which happened.

Nicholas arrived the morning after my third bleed. He was six weeks early, 4 pounds 11 ounces- skin and bones. Granted, not anything compared to micro-preemies born every day, but still, in my mind, I had birthed a little doll.

Luckily, he was born healthy. A fighter. Didn’t have any major issues. Could breathe on his own. Clearly living up to his name, meaning, “victorious.” With that being said, he was still quite premature, and so began our stay in the NICU.
I didn’t have a clue what to expect when they rolled my c-sectioned body into the NICU- I thought NICUs were for sick babies…Nicholas wasn’t sick. He was small, but fine. And like any new mom, I wanted to bring him home.

However, home wasn’t an option. As a preemie, Nicholas had to reside in the NICU for an undisclosed amount of time- or in other words, when doctors said it was okay to bring him home.

The NICU was much more welcoming and accommodating than I thought. The area was lined with pods, and we joined a pod that was shared with another family.

We had our own corner complete with a bassinet, changing station and rocker. Our compact area could be enclosed with a screen, granting us privacy to bond with our newborn. There was also a whiteboard, documenting Nicholas’ information and screens with a handful of wires that were hooked up to Nicholas. The wires triggered beeps measuring his heart rate among other things.

That’s what I remember. The beeping. Constant beeping. And when the beeping became irregular, my heart would also skip a beat.

Upon giving birth, every ounce inside of me changed. Like most new moms, I was gifted true purpose- my heart was full- and life before my son was only life leading up to him. Yet, the element of his early arrival took quite an emotional toll on me- I didn’t leave that pod, surrendering my hospital room and the recommended sleeping recovery of a C-section. I also became obsessive-compulsive. I wouldn’t take my eyes off visiting friends and family, concerned Nicholas would break. Truly, I didn’t want anyone breathing on him. That hasn’t changed…nearly four years later.

Nicholas couldn’t keep his temperature up to normal, so he was constantly bundled in clothing, hats and fleece sleep-sacks that he seemed to drown in. (The influx of “preemie fashion” hadn’t seem to hit the market.) I held him and sang to him as much as I could, but mostly sat in the rocker glued to his bassinet, attached to wires and those UV lights that keep babies warm.

It wasn’t until day two (I think?) that a kind nurse asked me if I wanted to kangaroo. My first response was natural- WTF was kangarooing? But then she explained the common NICU term.

Kangarooing was skin-to-skin contact between mom and baby or dad and baby. While I snuggled him as much as I could, I truly hadn’t had that OMG bonding moment with my son, so I welcomed the idea.

The nurse helped set me up, undressing Nicholas to his diaper. She handed me my nearly naked skin-and-bones doll, and closed the curtain. I laid Nicholas on my bare chest, covered us both, and started rocking. And that’s when the tears came. Unstoppable new mom tears. Tears that I prayed would reach any God to look after my baby. I was simply overcome by the magnitude of motherhood that it all overflowed.

That is the most vivid memory I have in the NICU.

We remained in the NICU for seven nights. We had up days and down days. Days when doctors were optimistic we’d be released, and days when doctors insisted we stay. It was an emotional roller-coaster, but even a bumpy journey can be a beautiful experience.

The nurses were amazing. It was as if I had a team of teachers showing me new baby how-to’s. They held my hand along the way. They talked to me. And they sincerely cared for my son.

I never want to claim our story compares to the many preemie-NICU stories I hear so often. Babies born super early, fighting for their lives. Babies who can’t breathe on their own. Families who spend months in the NICU. Babies who don’t make it due to premature birth. In comparison, our story was a breeze. Just a quick stay in the NICU. But to me, it was seven days that changed me forever.

Nicholas, now embarking on four years old, is a kind, compassionate soul. Sweet. Caring. Calm. Peaceful. The flurry of his arrival only resulted in the strong yet sensitive little boy who ultimately stole my heart.

As I sit here, wrapping up this short recap of our stay in the NICU, I can’t help but wish I could spend one more quiet moment kangarooing with my four-pound first born. In a month, I’ll be a new mom again, kangarooing with my healthy third child. But that memory of me and Nicholas will always be at heart, as he’s my first, and the person who made me a mother.

Nadine Bubeck is a TV personality, fashion designer, author and blogger. She documented her first pregnancy in her candid book, Expecting Perfect: My Bumpy Journey to Mommyhood. Compelled to pay it forward, she also launched a clothing line that benefits March of Dimes. 50% of each item sold goes to the foundation. More here: www.mamabdesigns.com

Babe In My Belly, Blogs

Sixth Times A Charm

September 7, 2017

Written by Tiffany Johnston, guest blogger

Growing up I was always one of those gals that just thought pregnancy happened, it was something to be cautious of as it was a huge responsibility. When my mom got sick, I felt the responsibility even as a teenager to help raise my two younger sisters. I knew the sacrifice of children and was cautious to ensure that I didn’t find myself a parent before I was ready.

My husband and I met in 2000 just a few days before we started high school. I wish I could say that we figured out what we meant to each other early on, instead of taking us ten years to even go on a date. I definitely can’t say that we rushed. We both went to college, dated others and did a bit of living before we rediscovered each other in the hustle and bustle of life.

It wasn’t long before the man of my dreams asked me to marry him and my perspective quickly changed. In less than a year we had formed the all-American dream. We got married, bought our first house, I found what I thought was the perfect job, adopted two dogs, and decided to start a family. Unfortunately, we tried to conceive for a year and when that led to nothing, we started interviewing fertility clinics. It took weeks upon weeks to find a clinic that we could both trust with the future of our family and had the knowledge around chronic pain problems associated with my fibromyalgia and the medications involved. Upon picking a clinic, we jumped right into testing and were promptly told that we both had some issues with fertility. They elaborated that with time it could be possible for us to get pregnant with help, though they tried to keep us very grounded in the length of time and finances it would take to achieve this goal. At the time I had no idea how infertility could change a person, or a couple for that matter.

For us, infertility has affected our dreams, ambitions, hope, peace, positivity, and happiness; it’s as if after each failed round of insemination the frost gets thicker and the storm gets stronger. We’ve spent countless nights curled together as I crumbled in frustration and exhaustion, with my husband simply trying to be strong. Anxiety creeps in like a dark and cold snow storm that slowly begins to blanket the valley with a glistening and frigid layer of snow. Infertility is a lot like that. No one knows it’s coming until you are traveling down the road of life trying to make your family, and seemingly all at once you are stopped by a giant obstacle – the storm that is infertility. It tests every aspect of your life, sanity, marriage, health and determination. Each of you go through completely different emotional processes while simultaneously experiencing the same exact events.

During our first experience with infertility we miraculously became pregnant on our very first round of IUI over 3.5 years ago, and were blessed with a little man we named Kian (which is Irish for “blessing”). The next three or so years were a blur: the pregnancy was wonderful as I wasn’t in any fibromyalgia pain for over nine months! Trust me I know what you’re thinking: one round! And for those of you that are deep in the infertility struggle, I understand your frustration with this moment of bliss, but our fertility journey was far from over with the birth of our son. When we became pregnant with Kian we had just begun our infertility journey. We were still bubbling over with hope, dreams, and faith in our future.

Several years later when we began trying for our second baby, things went much differently. We went through an insane amount of vitamins, probiotics, Femara, Follistim, Pregnyl, acupuncture, massage, chiropractic care and testing, missing out on coffee, alcohol, and public events (for fear of those dreaded germs). I can truthfully say that we have given this journey every ounce of fight we had in our bodies, hearts, wallets, and souls. We have learned that in the haze of infertility, the “ease” of getting pregnant with our IUI baby #1 and within the monthly, recurring, and unending two week waits; it’s been easy to catch myself daydreaming about what things would eventually be like once our positive result finally materialized. The first three rounds of IUI we did in just over six weeks. The flow of hormones cascading into my system was overwhelming and so hard on my body.

Needless to say, between the hormones and all of the feelings of failure, I hadn’t had the time to process my emotions, feelings of loss and disappointment. It got so bad at the end of round three that I was thinking very horrible thoughts about myself, about my worth, and truly just wanted to crawl in a hole and be buried alive. It was at that point I knew we had to make some changes because obviously being on our fertility journey and only using Western Medicine was not working this time.

So we made an appointment with a fertility counselor and she was amazing! She helped me realize that though we were deep in the throes of one of the biggest storms of our lives, that our voices were still fully intact and that we were our strongest advocates for our families future. Second the counselor strongly suggested looking for treatments outside of Western Medicine so I quickly found an acupuncturist and started getting seen immediately; which was amazing! The last thing she suggested was filling my time with something that set my heart on fire. So, I took what had been a recreational love of oils and made it a lifestyle for our family.

I spoke with my infertility doctors and did some research within a Young Living fertility group and found out what had worked for other patients that had achieved successful results and started adding them to our daily life. Stephen and I both went on vitamins and began taking Ningxia Red daily, I did the cleansing trio and started using Progessence Plus (this was a game changer), and we started using Stress Relief and a mix called Peace & Calm daily. Between acupuncture and YL, two things major happened: the first being that my husband’s numbers doubled when we went in for our next IUI, and the second was that I wasn’t having moments of extreme emotions anymore, my stomach was so much happier on the hormones, and the biggest and most amazing change was that I had my first 28 day cycle in 10 months! To us that meant my body would get a full two weeks to adjust and recover after each round of IUI, which was such a happy and welcome blessing. By this point we were already halfway to the stage where our fertility clinic was ready to usher us off to IVF land, needless to say every month was leaving me sicker and more depressed.

The cold hearted truth behind infertility is simple: no matter how many times someone tells you “it will happen” or “be thankful for what you have”, hearing those words just doesn’t get any easier. But, when you take a step back after each failed attempt, is there a possibility that they may just be right? Could there be an underlying blessing in infertility? Through the struggles of fertility I have learned that almost everyone goes through some type of life-altering series of events. However, out of those events, they would be given two choices if they found the strength to arise from the darkness and turn on the light, these people would arise with more compassion, love, empathy, patience, and kindness.

By day 23 of round #5 I was convinced we were pregnant. I was having a whole cluster of exciting and telltale symptoms. That night I started having chills, nausea, and what I would later realize was a fever. For my system, a fever is 99 at the highest and the last time I had a fever over 101 I was in elementary school. So this hit hard! I had a 101.5 fever for a full 24 hours and boy was it miserable. Even with my entire arsenal of oils, homemade bone broth and vitamins. Just as quickly as it appeared, the fever was gone, it’s only evidence of existence was me feeling left tired and groggy. On the 24th day of our cycle I awoke to what can only be described as pure and utter heartbreak over another failed IUI. I tell you all this to explain what happened next: after the start of every new cycle we must contact our fertility doctors and decide if we are continuing and give them an update on what has been happening. So I did just that. I told them that I swore I was pregnant and I was convinced that we had lost the pregnancy because of the fever. We followed up with blood work to check on several things: why my hair was falling out, why I was having kidney pain and what my hormone levels could tell us. Truth be told, through all of the testing and multiple doctors, we only found out we were pregnant but my system could not fight the fever and maintain a pregnancy.

I was heartbroken, mortified and angry; a level of anger that I am not sure I have ever experienced before. There is nothing easy about losing a child no matter how far along you are or why you lost them. We have eaten, slept, and breathed the best practices for fertility for months, gone through many failed attempts at pregnancy, countless amounts of money, depression, heartache, and now side effects from the hormones. By the 5th round my kidneys were suffering from the hormones, my hair was falling out in handfuls, and my weight was plummeting from the nausea. My husband and I debated doing a 6th but after discussing it with our acupuncturist we decided to take a month off to give my body a chance to heal a bit before starting again. By this point we had begun discussing that we may not be able to keep trying if my health continued to diminish. I thought, “what kind of life was I giving Kian if my health was so poor that I couldn’t give him all of me?” More and more my heart screamed that this was it, our last shot, and my body’s last chance at giving us another child. I was physical falling apart in front of my husband’s eyes. We followed our hearts and decided to give it one more try. But what if people are right? What if there is some underlying blessing in our fertility journey? For the first time in several months I believed wholeheartedly that we had been blessed beyond measure. Just when I thought I was not strong enough to arise from the ashes, we got pregnant. We are capable of being pregnant. It left us with a renewed sense of knowing that we could succeed, we would succeed, and at least for now we would NOT stop fighting. It’s as if someone turned on the light at the end of a long hallway just to remind us of what we were fighting for, and who we were fighting for.

Round #6 found us the miracle and positive results we had been waiting for. However, two and a half years ago when we did our beta test with Kian, I remember bursting into tears, sitting next to Stephen in the car when we finally received the secondary results and all I remember feeling was relief and gratefulness. This time it was different. There was an overwhelming monsoon of emotions that washed over me even though the news was awesome. I started crying; I felt as though I couldn’t breathe and my heart had stopped. I hadn’t been truly sure that we would ever hear those words again. For weeks after I caught myself saying well we won’t know for sure until the second beta test, or until the ultrasound, or until we hear a heartbeat. For months we have spent every month on a 28 day hamster wheel you become so used to disappointment, it’s really hard to suddenly let yourself celebrate the joyful moments.

I know in my heart that it takes time to get over the trauma that is infertility. You have struggled, been heartbroken and felt a profound and unwavering loss. But I come bearing good news: with every day that passes, whether you ever successfully receive a BFP or not you will become stronger and feel less traumatized. As someone that has experienced PTSD, I know that painful feelings will always be a scar on our lifeline. However, my solace in this journey is that no matter the heartache endured we have persevered to the next stage of our journey! I am hopeful that everyday our infertility scars will fade just an increment more and that someday down the road we will find that we have more anticipation, joy, and less reservation for the life growing in my belly. I know as each successful day of this pregnancy comes to a close and we become one day closer to meeting our new bundle of joy. That our hearts will open and be just a little less guarded than the day before. We know that we will never be able to take this pregnancy for granted or be completely worry-free, but we do have every intention to treasure and celebrate everyday that we are pregnant and we will celebrate this miracle!

Babe In My Belly, Blogs

All In

September 5, 2017

Written by Elizabeth Lantry, guest blogger

It’s still a little hard for me to believe I’m pregnant and I’m sitting here writing about my SUCCESS story. My initial motivation for sharing my story was more selfish than anything. I needed the support and over time, it helped me through infertility. During our first two cycles, we didn’t tell anyone except my parents and a close friend. It was a really lonely and scary way to go through IVF. I didn’t realize how many people go through this process until I shared.

I am 35 in and I’ve always wanted kids, but I started to doubt if it would happen when I hit my late 20s. Tom and I met at work when I was only 20 and an intern right out of college. We became close friends right away and were best friends for years before we started dating and celebrated six years in April. Tom has two kids from his previous marriage and to have kids together was a HUGE topic for us when we first started dating. He was done (his kids were almost grown)and had a vasectomy several years back. I can still remember standing on our deck, having a drink, when he agreed to have babies with me in September of 2012…

Year 1 of Infertility: Vasectomy Reversal & Trying to Conceive

In January of 2013 Tom had his vasectomy reversed. We tried to get pregnant until October before we were concerned something was wrong. We each saw our doctors and found out that the surgery worked fundamentally (flow of sperm) but he had built up antibodies in the time while the vasectomy was in place. Getting pregnant naturally just wasn’t going to happen for us. IVF with ICSI was our only option. Luckily, as we completed rounds of testing in November and December, we found that I was good to go! Doing IVF should be a slam dunk for us. Or at least that’s what they thought…

Year 2 of Infertility: 3 full rounds of IVF
I planned our first IVF cycle around a due date of November 10th, to match my dad’s birthday. Aside from the obvious anxiety of starting a process we weren’t familiar with, the cycle went smoothly and I found out I was pregnant 5 days after my transfer. Later, we would start to understand that the results from that cycle were less than ideal, but I was blissfully unaware at the time. We only got 7 eggs and the embryo that resulted from the cycle was low quality. As a result, I miscarried some time between 5 and 6 weeks and I was devastated.

We took a break and started round two mid-summer. We went into the cycle hopeful but cautious. And still especially uneducated on the topic. I knew everything about how to do my shots, what the calendar looks like, etc. But I was completely unaware of critical pieces of information such as success rates of clinics, embryo quality, average expected number of eggs and fertilization rates for someone my age. We knew that the doctor was planning to adjust my medication to try to get more eggs and we got started. At retrieval, we were notified that we got the same number of eggs (seven). Then, we found out five days after our retrieval that NO eggs fertilized to a day 5 blastocyst and our transfer would be canceled. I was devastated again.

It was at this point that we started to suspect something was off with me. They ran a bunch of additional tests, including an insulin check and an AMH test. The AMH result confirmed what we thought, my egg reserve and quality was low for someone my age.

This was when I went into research mode. Who is the “Mayo Clinic” of infertility? How does my doctor compare? What do all these test results mean? What should I be seeing? This is also when we started sharing our story on social media. This was when we discovered Dr. Schoolcraft in Denver. It only took one phone consultation with him to know that we needed the “Mayo Clinic” of infertility and he was it. We decided to travel to Denver for our next round of IVF, despite the fact that the entire cycle would be out of pocket (previously, insurance covered quite a bit of our cycles).

We did our 3rd retrieval in Denver at Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine (CCRM) in November. I won’t lie, the process was intense. We had to do a bunch of repeat testing and some new tests I had never done before. The medication protocol was also much more involved. And there were so many rules (i.e. no caffeine or alcohol for either of us!)! But when I woke up from my retrieval and heard that we got 13 eggs, I was thrilled! Almost double. This was it. This was going to get me my baby(ies).

Six days later they called with the blastocyst results and once again, I was devastated. We got ONE. Only ONE potential baby. And that was IF it passed genetic testing (something we hadn’t done before). I still regret diving right into transfer at this point. I wasn’t ready emotionally and life was too stressful (we were moving and building a house). But the ONE blastocyst passed genetic testing so I dove in and we transferred the first few days of January. I took pregnancy tests at home every single day and they were all negative. The blood test 9 days later confirmed… BIG FAT NEGATIVE. Once again, devastated.

Year 3 of Infertility: A Break

After my negative result, we regrouped with Dr. Schoolcraft and he said the words no girl really wants to hear… “It’s time to start thinking about egg donors.” Yes, I realize an egg donor baby would still be “my” baby and I would love him/her just as much. Just like I would if I adopted. But what’s so wrong with wanting a baby that was made from me? I just wasn’t there yet. Anyone who has done IVF hoping for a baby made from their own DNA will understand. It certainly didn’t stop people from advising me to move on to adoption or egg donors. And it hurt every. single. time.

I pushed back a little on Dr. Schoolcraft and asked if there was ANYTHING we could do. Was there any hope? He said that the embryo we got certainly “could” have made a baby. So we weren’t totally out of the game. But in his opinion, the only way I might be successful would be to do something called Family Building. Basically 3 IVF retrievals back to back to bank up eggs that are fertilized to day 2. Then after the 3rd retrieval, grow them all to day 5/6 and biopsy them and freeze them. Then genetic testing and then see what we get. I’ll let you look on their website to see what it costs, but it’s more than a starter home in my town.

We let him know I’d have to switch to Tom’s insurance (so at least some of that house would be covered), which we couldn’t do until the following year. Could we wait that long? Would that ruin my chances? Of course, the older I get the worse my eggs will be and he confirmed. But if I was going to do that, he’d like me to try a vitamin protocol. “It’s mostly voodoo,” he said, “but I’ve never had someone patient enough to take it for a full year, so let’s give it a try.”

So I spent the year traveling, drinking, crying sometimes, playing and whatever I could to take my mind off of things. We still hadn’t decided for sure we were going to do the Family Building process. It was going to be SO much work. Could my body or soul take it? By summer the decision was overwhelming me. I started seeing a counselor to help me work it all out. It only took a few sessions to know I had to try.

On September 1st, I started prepping my body for this difficult process. No drinking, no caffeine, diabetic diet (no, I’m not diabetic, but insulin is bad for fertility), lots of exercise, and acupuncture. On November 1st, Tom started prepping too (no drinking, 1 cup of coffee a day, etc.).
Year 4 of Infertility: Family Building (3 Retrievals & a Transfer)

At this point, you have to remember I’m really smart when it comes to IVF retrievals. I can practically read the ultrasounds myself. I know what sizes my eggs should be each day and I even got to the point where I could tell when they would tell me to trigger or change meds. I did my best to just go with the process and not stress over the details. I didn’t do very well at that.

The three retrievals went something like this: 1 period cycle of priming (estrogen primer) and 1 period cycle of stimulation and retrieval. Then start all over again. January 18th, March 10th, and May 1st were my three retrievals. I stuck to the no drinking, no caffeine, exercise and acupuncture all 3 retrievals. I was on a strict diabetic diet my first retrieval, a loosy-goosey diet on my second retrieval, and for the 3rd retrieval I decided to go ALL IN with Whole 30. I knew the impact the diabetic diet was having on my fertility (which is basically centered around avoiding simple carbs and sugar and focusing on whole grains, protein, and real food). Whole 30 just stepped that up a notch to eliminate dairy and whole grains. It was worth a try! Keep in mind at this point that I was also still on the vitamin protocol prescribed by Dr. Schoolcraft. Another huge change we tried during the final retrieval was to use the growth hormone, Saizen. It was wildly expensive and I had a lot of concerns and doubts, but we went for it. Remember: ALL IN.

After the first retrieval, I cried when I woke up and found out we only got 11 eggs because the whole time I had been seeing upwards of 16 eggs on the ultrasound screen. I was thrilled with retrieval #2 because I got 14 eggs. And when I woke up from retrieval #3, I about fell out of bed when they said I got 21 eggs. We got so good at retrievals by the end that we were traveling home (driving) immediately following the surgery…not advised and literally against the rules, but man I just wanted to be home!

Fast forward to May 1st… And now, we wait. The torturous 5-6 day wait to find out if any of my eggs and 8 months of hard work would give us any viable embryos.

I will remember this phone call forever. We were sitting in our Four Seasons room by the lake when they called. Right away, the nurse said “Are you ready for this?!” And then… “ELEVEN!!!” I about died. I made her give me every single detail. I was certain she called the wrong patient. We got 2 blastocysts from retrieval #1, 2 from retrieval #2, and 7 from retrieval #3. (Details on quality of each can be found on my blog, along with a million other details.) I spent the entire day going up to anyone who would listen and saying “Do you know what?! I got ELEVEN embryos!!!”

They sent the biopsies off for genetic testing and 9 of the 11 passed.

This time, I was smarter going into my transfer. I took some time off between the retrievals and the transfer and enjoyed life and relaxed. It was easier knowing how many embryos I had waiting for me. I was excited, but knew it was better for my babies and for my heart if I was “ready.” I prepped for transfer for 2 months (diabetic diet/Whole 30, exercise, no caffeine, no alcohol, acupuncture). We transferred two of our highest quality embryos (ironically both from the final retrieval) on August 26th and found out we were pregnant on September 4th. On September 21st, we had our first ultrasound and saw TWO heartbeats. Later that day we were able to find out they were both girls (via the genetic testing results). I don’t have to tell you what this news felt like. You can picture it. I literally cried out loud when the ultrasound tech saw the two heartbeats on the monitor. After years of never making it to this point, the feeling of seeing actual hearts up on the screen was unexplainable.

I’m now 30 weeks pregnant as I type this blog. I keep posting my story as much as I can and I’ve even worked with several women going through this process for one reason: to give them hope. There is nothing wrong with hope. It’s going to hurt no matter what if it doesn’t work. But hope makes it bearable. I am also a big advocate of going ALL IN. Do your research, find out what could help and then do ALL OF IT. Both of my babies are from my all in cycle. I literally gave it everything I had and it paid off. If I had half-assed it and it didn’t work, I never would have forgiven myself.

I’m still not sure what happened between the first 3 retrievals and the second 3. Part of me has to rely on faith to a certain extent and assume that these girls were just meant to be my babies. Sometimes I like to look at the science of things and take comfort in the idea that I had some control over the outcome because of all the extra work I put into the last three rounds. Then common sense takes over and I remind myself I was 2 years older for the last 3 rounds and I still did better. Back to faith. At the end of the day, all I know is I went from getting 2 blastocysts from 27 eggs to getting 11 blastocysts from 46 eggs. Oh and did I mention…I’m having twin girls.

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