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Baby B… Can You Hear Me?

August 21, 2018

Written by Ashley Flanigan

One of my biggest dreams was to be a mom. My life as a teacher, coach and aunt has been centered around children. But some things just don’t happen like you think. After about four years of trying to add a baby to our family, my husband Greg and I were starting to lose hope. We prayed and had faith that it would happen if it was Gods will, but our faith was rocked when it just wasn’t happening. Were we not meant to be parents? Were we not compatible to create a healthy life? So many questions and what ifsran through our heads.

Backing up a couple years, we got married pretty young. I knew that I wanted to be married for a few years before having children. I competed at a high level in CrossFit and Greg enjoyed going on backpacking and four-wheeling trips, so we didnt really have the life for kids right then anyway. When we started trying, I was practically married to ovulation predictor tests and trying to get the timing just right. Month after month went by each with a heartbreaking negative pregnancy test. So we decided to put it aside for a while and stopped actively trying. We focused on work and our sports and hobbies and changed our thinking to it will happen when it happens, a mindset that was always hard for us.

Eventually, it was time to figure out what was going on. In June 2015 we had a meeting with a fertility doctor to start testing and talk about options. After our preliminary tests, the results from Gregs tests came back showing hardly any viable sperm and what was, wasnt moving much. Our best chance of conceiving would be through IVF. Why us? Being surrounded by kids and family who have had no problem conceiving, why was this going to be our new journey? After that visit and hearing about the procedure and cost, it was a hard pill to swallow. How would we ever afford it financially? Were we ready for something to be so life consuming? Was I ready to do a procedure that would be so rough on my body? By December of that year, we were ready to move forward. If this was our best chance, we would do everything we could to make it happen.

In January 2016, all of the medication started and we did our egg retrieval where they took 54 eggs, much more than usual. Apparently the medication worked a little too well! They were then fertilized and after the five day waiting period we ended up with 32 embryos frozen. A couple months later, my body had recovered and we were ready to do our first transfer. I was convinced that since the problem was male factor infertility that this first round would work and we just needed a little help. Not so much. During that first year of IVF we did a transfer in March, June and August. Some ended quickly with my HCG not increasing much resulting in painful miscarriages and one moving forward to a pregnancy that we soon lost. I remember going into each transfer feeling so hopeful, like this next time had to work since the last one didnt. Eventually our turn had to come. Each time, however, left us feeling frustrated and discouraged and after the third try it was time to decide what we were going to do next. Would be take a break? Give up on our dream to have a baby? We couldnt afford to move to adoption at this point. We needed to lean on our faith and on each other even more now.

In December of that year we decided to give it one more try. This time it had to work. I can so clearly remember sitting on our couch reading stories of other couples going through IVF and it worked before the fourth try. This had to be the time. Our doctor was willing to give it one more shot before needed to do genetic testing on our embryos, a process costing thousands of dollars. We were ready to go for it. In January we transferred two embryos and prayed and prayed this would be the time that worked. In February we got the good news, it worked! We were expecting! A couple weeks later after our first ultrasound we got the news of a lifetime, we were pregnant with identical triplets!! We were so excited, shocked and panicking all at the same time. Our dream had finally come true, a little more than expected, but we were ready to take it on! The weeks went by and we started wrapping our heads around bringing three babies into our life. It was amazing how quickly I felt like I could look past our previous heartbreaks and be excited about these babies. I felt as though there was no way we could lose them all and that we for sure would have our miracle babies! We thought through the logistics and dreamed about what life would be like and how we would share the news with our families, all while trying to stay true to the fact that this would be very risky and there was a chance all three wouldnt make it.

On March 1st, we went in for an ultrasound to hear their heartbeats! Finally, what I had been waiting for! Instead, we got the hardest news of our lives. All three babies no longer had heartbeats. At 9 weeks, we lost our miracle babies and were heartbroken. It was a long, silent drive home as we processed the news we just received. Upon returning home we knew we needed to be out so we spent some time at the lake that evening with our dog and were sad together. The next morning I went in for a D&C which would then need be done agin 8 weeks later (on my 32nd birthday). Happy birthday to me.

This was such a low time in our lives. It felt like there was no way this dream would ever come true. We had invested so much of our time and finances into this journey with nothing to show for it. It felt impossible to stay hopeful. At that point we couldnt financially do genetic testing or look at other options and we both felt like we needed a break and to reevaluate.

As the months passed my mind was searching for other options. I wasnt convinced IVF was ever going to work. After 4 tries, I wasn’t hopeful anymore. Greg and I had a hard conversation about using a sperm donor. From what we knew, using a donor was a fix to our underlining problem. After long conversation, prayer and consults with our IUI doctor, we found our donor and were ready to move forward. Planning to purchase our sample, we were waiting for me to have one more cycle to make sure we timed it well.

In August 2017 my period never came. At first I was so frustrated thinking here was another roadblock keeping us from having a baby. Was this a sign not to use a donor? About 9 days after I should have gotten my period, I faced one of my biggest fears and causes of anxiety, taking a pregnancy test. After too many negative pregnancy tests to count, I swore I would never take one again. This time, I knew something was different. On Friday, September 29th, I took a test. Positive. I was pregnant. Naturally. Our dream had come true, and the fun of planning how I was going to tell Greg had begun!

The next 6 months or so tested our faith even more. The pregnancy did stick, thankfully. I cant say that I felt very connected with it, keeping myself pretty disconnected in fear of losing it. I had a terrible placenta resulting in many abnormal test results, blood work that came back as having a high chance of our baby having Down Syndrome, and in the end suffering from Intrauterine Growth Restriction where our little miracle stopped growing. I was induced at 33 weeks and 5 days gestation to a perfect 3lb 5oz baby girl, Blakely Elizabeth. She spent her first weeks of life in the NICU practicing eating and gaining enough weight to come home and after 3 long weeks, she joined her family at home. This little fighter proved to us that miracles absolutely happen in their own time. She couldnt be more perfect and is growing and developing by the day. We are forever grateful.

Babe In My Arms, Blogs

Hope for the Haps

August 17, 2018

Written by Bethany Hapner

Seven years ago my husband and I tied the knot and eventually as all couples do, we wanted to start a family. We waited a year into our marriage, because when we were first married my mother in law who had Alzheimer’s lived with us. Well, one year turned into two and eventually two turned into three, and so on. My husband is paralyzed from the knees down (he can walk with the assistance of leg braces), so we wondered if that was the reason we were unable to get pregnant naturally. We finally met with a fertility Doctor and after many tests, we were basically told our only option was IVF. After looking at the costs (even with our infertility assistance from my husband’s employer’s insurance) it was just to much!

We ended up pursuing embryo adoption. We did 2 rounds of that and both times we got the dreaded call from the doctor that we weren’t successful. We then turned to adoption. We did fundraising, background checks, a home study, basically the whole nine yards.  Then out of the blue we got a call in September from a friend of a friend who said that she was pregnant and wanted to give us her baby girl who was to be born in January. We were SO excited! We had a pink nursery decorated and even a name picked out, Hope Elizabeth. Two months before our baby Hope was to be born, the birth mom dropped communication with us. After some research we think that she had another couple that she had been working with and had been lying to us the entire time. Our hearts were broken. A few months we turned back to our infertility doctor to pursue IVF because we still had money left over from our infertility assistance through our insurance. Turns out our situation improved and we could now try an IUI instead of an IVF (which is MUCH cheaper!). I had my first IUI and I became pregnant for the first time EVER in my whole life! We were SOOOO excited! However at my 10 week ultrasound, the baby (who my 5 year old niece named Chip) was measuring at 8 weeks and there was no heartbeat to be found. I eventually miscarried. Once again we were heart broken. A few months later, we tried another IUI. Five years to the DAY of when our infertility journey started I found out I was pregnant again!!

I was diagnosed with MTHFR after my miscarriage, so my entire pregnancy my husband had to administer two different types of injections daily. I will NOT miss those bum shots!  Then finally on March 2nd, 2018 our little rainbow baby boy Bryce, named after Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah, was born! He is an absolute joy and an answer to SO many prayers.

We have a Facebook group called #hopeforthehaps and an IG tag #hopeforthehaps that many people follow and all have enjoyed following us along on our journey.

 

Babe In My Arms, Blogs

We Share in Grief

August 15, 2018

Written by Taylor Fixler

March 27th 2015. We were going out to dinner to celebrate. We were celebrating for two reasons; we celebrate the 27th of every month to honor the day we met, and I was also expecting our first child. We were full of joy and love and were so at peace with our impending title of parents. My husband parked the car in the lot behind the restaurant, we zipped up our coats, and started to walk through the lot. Ten steps from the car I experienced such a great cramp deep in my stomach and I nearly doubled over. My husband turned his head around looking for me when he realized I was behind him. I faked a smile and said I was coming so he wasn’t alarmed but he knew something was wrong. I assured him I was okay and we should keep walking so I can sit down in the restaurant. With every step was more pain and more cramping, my strides getting shorter and slower. My heart raced in fear. At some point we ended up in the restaurant and were seated, but that part I don’t remember clearly. My mind was wandering. I quickly excused myself to the restroom and rushed into a stall. I already knew there was blood. There was so much blood. I kept wiping thinking I could wipe it away and it would stop but it wasn’t stopping. I cleaned up as best I could and went back to see my husband. He had already ordered for us, and through tears and quick breaths I told him we had to go to the hospital. He threw a bunch of cash on the table which I remember thinking was weird because we never have cash. I had hoped the restaurant would understand there was an emergency but we didn’t see our waitress on the way out. We held hands and tried to tell ourselves that some women have spotting throughout their pregnancies and it’s normal. We tried to convince ourselves I was one of those women. We cried and prayed together. I was evaluated and taken for an ultrasound. The sac was empty, my cervix was opening and I was still actively bleeding. The doctor wanted me to follow up with my OBGYN on Monday if I was still bleeding, but said that if I don’t stop bleeding it was most likely a miscarriage. We went home in silence and went to bed. I got up in the middle of the night and walked across the hall into the baby’s room. I sat alone in the rocking chair, sobbed, and let go of my dreams for this child.

 

The next evening we had tickets to the opera Frida in Detroit. I was still bleeding but I thought it might be nice to go out and try to enjoy the night together. Do you know Frida’s story? She suffered a devastating miscarriage represented in her painting seen above “Henry Ford Hospital, 1932.” I was watching my own experience happen on stage in front of a large audience. I cried in my seat feeling so unbelievably connected to a soul I never knew. In her words, “At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can.” I’m sure my story is not much different than yours in the end. We share in grief, in sorrow and in hope of the “what ifs.” We long for motherhood but still despise its unfair timing and exclusivity.

We went on to miscarry again twice before discovering I carried the MTHFR (the initials are very fitting!) gene and needed to be on blood thinners to carry a pregnancy to term. We welcomed our rainbow baby, a son, in February of 2017. He is our best friend and the light of our lives.

To the women still grieving, dreaming and longing for their own bundle please know you are not alone. Childlessness is not a visible illness. Please speak up, share your story and find the support you need.

 

Babe In My Arms, Blogs

Our Rainbows After Years of Storms

August 13, 2018
Written by Tiffany Johnston

Storms are often full of turmoil, darkness and in the worst cases can leave us grappling with immense loss. However, no matter the final toll of a storm; when the first ray of light breaks through the clouds, there is always a flash of hope and belief that we are headed towards a better and brighter tomorrow, in those moments we often look for a rainbow. Scientifically, in nature a rainbow appears when light and rain come together in harmony. If you think about it, the same might be said for the concept of a rainbow baby; that is a baby born after a pregnancy or infant loss. These blessings often bring beauty (like a rainbow), relief and renewed hope following a storm.

I will be honest when we were in the midst of infertility treatments I really struggled with adopting the term and the dichotomy of the storm and rainbow happening simultaneously. In our six years of marriage my husband and I have weathered two losses and simultaneously had two beautiful infertility rainbow babies. Our first loss was in conjunction with our first successful IUI pregnancy.  Early on my HCG numbers told us we were pregnant with twins but by the time we went in for our ultrasound our second miracle was already fading. In the end we were blessed with our first beautiful baby boy Kian who was brought earthside in 2014. A little over two years later we started our infertility journey again and failed so many rounds of IUI. Until one day we didn’t, I had started a strict regimen of Young Living oils, supplements and antioxidant drinks 30 days before and all of a sudden I knew we were pregnant. I felt it like I had with Kian, every bone in my body knew that we were pregnant. But before we could even go check in at our fertility clinic, I caught an extremely bad case of the flu and in the blink of an eye it was over. Though I did briefly mention our loss in a personal blog post last year, those who did not follow my posts never knew. The whole situation was exhausting, painful and to top it off confusing. For the first time in two years I was pregnant, and it was all erased in the blink of an eye. To be truthful I wasn’t sure that I could handle another storm, this was our second loss since we had started our infertility journey. That was until a friend from Young Living contacted me, she told me that she truly believed that I needed to do try and do one more round. I am glad she was insistent because we got pregnant again with our second rainbow baby Luca.

By this point it was hard to accept the pregnancy with our son Luca, in truth I felt as though the rainbow simply couldn’t erase the storm. I constantly found a loop playing in my head that by accepting this thriving pregnancy it would somehow eclipse the tragedy of our previous pregnancy losses. With each day of our pregnancy there was a constant echo in my heart that wondered if our rainbow baby would ever make it earth side. There was no turning it off, it filled make days and nights with worry and fear for the unknown. Then one day I had an epiphany that each of our losses were with me everyday; that someday I would be with them again, able to touch their skin, hold their hands and whisper how much I love them in their tiny ears. Until that day, Stephen and I would be blessed enough to have their smiling, beautiful brothers that would be our daily reminders of the beauty and blessings in this world. They would be our miracles, light in the darkest of nights, and our rainbows after years of storms.

Babe In My Arms, Blogs

The Long Journey to Luca

August 6, 2018
Written by: Kimberly Shanahan
After losing Reagan it was hard to think of anything else. There’s so much that goes through your head constantly. I wanted to focus on something else and was completely distraught with losing her and not having the child we had planned for. Having a baby was still in the cards and the plan was to try again as soon as possible.
Getting pregnant with Reagan wasn’t easy, but I felt with all the knowledge I had gained it should be easier this time. I mean I could literally write a step by step manual on getting pregnant fast and I even did for someone! I was figuring it would be so soon, like an Irish twins type situation.
I pulled out all the stops, tried every silly product, wives tail, you name it in hopes that I could get pregnant ASAP, but it wasn’t happening. So not only being depressed each day from the traumatic experience we had, also finding some hope in another child also felt lost.
Month after month of more disappointment, I started to think maybe there was something wrong with us. Maybe getting pregnant with Reagan was really a luck of the draw situation and maybe I wasn’t going to be so lucky again.
We decided to get tested at a fertility center to check what was holding us back. The good news was we were fine, but it also still felt disheartening that there wasn’t any reason that I shouldn’t be getting pregnant. It just felt time after time we weren’t getting lucky at the chance. The doctor suggested we try IVF and felt confident that it would work for us. We were desperate and would try anything.
Very few people know that we did that. I hate to say that I was embarrassed to talk about it. I felt  ashamed that my body couldn’t do what it was supposed to and when I needed it to the most. But now I see constantly how many people document their journey of IVF on instagram, celebrities like Chrissy  Teigen have no problem talking about it. I mean it’s just science jumping in to help a biological process!  I’m not trying to create an alien baby or something in a lab, science (and a great doctor) is just putting what needs to be done together for us and then we take it from there.
When the process began in December, I could have started a pharmacy in our house from all the medications and needles I now had. We had a whole table set up with needles, alcohol pads, gauze pads and whatever medication didn’t need to  be refrigerated in the nursery. Each time I had to stick myself with a needle, I was doing it in a baby’s room to motivate myself.
I didn’t know quite how IVF worked, but I sure as hell didn’t know it’s still a long process. Since I have never had chicken pox the doctor highly suggested I get vaccinated for it since if I were to somehow get it while pregnant it would be bad for the baby and me. I received the vaccine from CVS, that’s super fun and confusing for the pharmacist to do! Well I didn’t realize that it’s two vaccines. I would need a second one in four weeks. Things were already taking too long for my liking and I signed off with the doctor, against her wishes, forgoing the second vaccine.
For months I was on a strict schedule of injecting myself twice a day, multiple times in one sitting. You needed to do the injections at specific times, which when working nights required Keith to come to my work where I’d run out to his car and shoot up like an addict. I had to inject myself in the stomach, one which looked like an insulin pen, one like a regular vaccine needle and upper glute which looked like a horse tranquilizer. It was terrifying.
The first time I had to inject into my butt with an 18 gauge needle 1.5 inches long, I had a panic attack. It happened multiple times and each time I had to psych myself up to jab myself in a quick motion. I even had Keith do it a couple of times which was just as scary.
I had to get my blood taken every 2-3 days at 6am before work and if you know me I HATE getting my blood taken. I’m on the verge of fainting or vomiting. I’m the person that needs someone else to drive them to get blood taken. I had so many pokes on my arms I looked like I needed to be rehabilitated.
So the point of the injections and pills is to get your hormones where they need to be and get your body to release multiple eggs. They take your blood constantly to check these levels and find out when you ovulate so you can get the procedure to remove whatever eggs your body has made. For some reason you need to take a month of birth control to get your body on a schedule. So that’s another month added on to this. I believe I made it two weeks and had Keith call the doctor to say I’m not doing another two. In her mind a month is nothing, but the way Keith described it to her is the past 10 months of my life have been a jail sentence and she wanted to add more time on it.
About a week after that the injection of all injections happens one night. The trojan horse of injections that primes you for ovulation and the next day you go in to remove the eggs.
So after three months of all this, at the end of February, I had the scheduled date of going in to get the eggs removed. I had no idea how this was to be done or anything about how it works. I’ll forewarn you now if you ever plan on having this procedure done, go into it not knowing anything like I did. I looked into it later and it’s terrifying. It’s like how you wouldn’t want to watch the Lasik video right before you get your eyes lasered.
From what I read online I thought I was gonna get some laughing gas like at the dentist and badda boom eggs retracted. Not the case. I went to a hospital like setting, was on a gurney with an IV of drugs and gas that LL Cool J style knocks you out. Apparently it’s one of anesthetic situations where you don’t think you’re awake or remember anything, but I had a lot to say about Beyonce. Don’t worry all nice things. I figured I was shit talking her since she just had twins, so I made sure.
I had a terrible cough that concerned them while I was under and therefore they had to wake me up
during the procedure. The doctor said she was just about done and asked me if I wanted to continue
still. Not realizing time had passed or anything had happened I said “Sure, you’re already in there why not”
THERE IS A REASON THEY GIVE YOU DRUGS FOR THIS.
*If you don’t want to hear about how the procedure works, politely skip ahead this next paragraph. *
Excuse my non scientific and graphic vocabulary for it, but to remove the eggs they put a very long
hollow needle inside of your uterus, if you understand the female reproductive system you know the ovaries are diagonal from the uterus and needles are straight, well the needle goes straight though the uterus wall to the ovaries and plucks the eggs like little painful daisies. I was awake for about 3 of these plucks. And to have an idea of how long this whole thing took, I had 29 eggs removed. Apparently my cup (ovaries) overflowth with them.
Now that is a unusually large number, to put in perspective research says 15 is optimal. So that can also cause issues with there being too many and then removing too many, ovaries can hyperstimuate which causes fluid to leak into your abdomen and chest. Usually they would create the embroyos and put one back in a week later. Well because of the chance of hyperstimulation they wanted to hold off on that.
I had to once again, continue injections, medications, birth control and getting blood every couple days. The doctor told me all the eggs worked out and we had 29 embroyos. It’s weird to think I could have 29 potential children just waiting.
I was scheduled St. Patricks day to go in and have one lucky embroyo placed. This procedure is much easier and quicker and only requires you having a very full bladder and only about 4 people looking at your crotch. We were given Luca’s first photo. A thousand timed zoom of an embroyo that I held on to dearly. 
We went to get a blood test two weeks later to confirm everything worked, but I of course took a test myself 7 days later so already knew. I had to get blood again every few days to confirm that the hormones were increasing.
I couldn’t imagine a more exciting and terrifying moment. It was so exciting that everything worked and we finally are  able to start again working toward a family, but this time  around we were no longer naive to everything. We knew  things could change at any moment and I felt unlucky like  there was a good chance they could. Especially when the adoption situation didn’t work out, I started to feel like maybe we were meant to have living children. What an awful thing to think and feeling right? Not something a lot of people think when trying to start a family.
We were able to make it the entire 9 months of Luca without telling anyone besides our immediate family and my work. We were given more doctor’s appointments and specialized ultrasounds and towards the end Non Stress Tests twice a week. We also bought a doppler to listen to his heartbeat ourselves, which was terrifying at first when it was harder to find, but ended up helping in dire times.
You would think listed on every record of mine there would be a big alert “LAST CHILD DIED” but that wasn’t usually the case. I had many times people ask if this was our first or mention other things that you think would be more sensitive to someone whose gone through what we have.
I made it appoint as time went on to be very upfront that this isn’t my first rodeo of pregnancy. I know how it goes and I know the worst of it. And I’ll expect the worst of it, so if someone could hold my hand the entire time that would be great. 
We found out somewhere around 24-28 weeks that I had an velamentous cord insertion. Hearing that anything was different was even more scary. The specialist said this is common and no precautions are needed, but it was one more thing to worry about. It basically means that the umbilical cord goes into the membranes first and not the placenta directly so the vessels are unprotected. Just means he could have laid on the vessels and restricted them, NO BIG DEAL.
I had a scheduled induction that I was able to get done at 38 weeks. Those last few weeks were the worst of all. I made sure to ask at every ultrasound where the umbilical cord was, was it in a safe spot? Was it by his neck? At this time last time everything was great and Reagan still died. There never felt like a safe time.
We drove to the hospital November 20th the same way we did June 6th, 2016. Except this time we were more scared. I got hooked up to the machines the same way I did then and held my breath until I heard a heartbeat. I didn’t feel like I was in the clear until I could see him. It didn’t help that he continued to move and the monitors needed to be placed again continuously. I was less drugged this time, but felt even more in a daze that this was happening. He came out the way any alive baby does.. screaming. I was in shock. I didn’t believe any of this was happening. Keith kept telling me we did it, he was here.
Our rainbow baby Luca was born alive November 21st at 12:14am
“A “rainbow baby” is a baby that is born following a miscarriage, stillbirth, neonatal death or infant loss.In the real world, a beautiful and bright rainbow follows a storm and gives hope of things getting better.”
Babe In My Arms, Blogs

Anxiety’s Long Road

August 3, 2018

Written by: Marilena Kalfountzos

I never thought it could happen to me.

How could it when it just happened to my sister? And I already had a 15 month old little girl who was a perfect pregnancy. But it happened.

I was 10 weeks and I went to my first ultrasound. The doctor came in happily and asked me how I was feeling. I told her my morning sickness had slowed down and I had been feeling better.  

She started the ultrasound and from the second she put that thing on me… I knew. There was no heartbeat. She called my baby an “blighted ovum”. How awful is that? I was pregnant for 10 weeks. Loving my baby for 10 whole weeks. I made plans… I dreamed of him. I felt like he was a boy. And I was so sad and ashamed. I was ashamed that my body didn’t do what it was supposed to do. And I’m still sad and disappointed.

It took 7 months of trying so hard to get pregnant again. With the help of fertility drugs of course because when it rains it pours. So I was experiencing infertility issues. How? I had already been pregnant! And I had a little girl! 

And 7 months after the most devastating day of my life.. there it was. A positive pregnancy test. Very faint.. but it was there and it was the scariest day of my whole life. And instant anxiety began. It was so strong that some days I honestly thought I might die. I cried so much the days leading up to my first ultrasound because now I knew that a miscarriage doesn’t discriminate. So what that I’d already had one? So what that my sister and my cousin just had one too? You think it cares you got pregnant using fertility drugs? Nope. But we went to the appointment and I was terrified. When the doctor asked me this time how I was feeling.. I said I didn’t know. Even though morning sickness had hit me full force, it didn’t matter.

And there it was. A heartbeat. A growing baby that was only 8 weeks which was a week behind from what she had hoped for but it was just miscalculation of my ovulation date. Thank god. My ultrasound was instant relief until I got home and realized that I can still lose this baby. So my anxiety continued from one appointment to the next… until 15 weeks when I found out that I had an anterior placenta that blocks most of your baby’s movement as they grow. Ha! I did feel flutters early on and it was so beautiful. But after about 20 weeks I had to work so hard to feel anything… and my anxiety reached the roof at that point. How was I going to get through this for 20 more weeks???

But I did. With the help of my fabulous nurses at the hospital and my weekly NSTs (non stress test) I did it.

And he finally came.. After 3 1/2 hours of labor and right on his due date. I have never felt such relief in my whole life. He was finally here after so long of waiting for him. I felt like I had known him for ages. He was so beautiful and he was everything I had wished for. He was healthy and he was here.

I hoped that my anxiety would end there but postpartum depression and anxiety hit me hard. And I was so scared of losing him.

My rainbow is 5 months now. Healthy, happy and mine. I have never felt so much love and appreciation for my children. And blessed that I they’re even here. I never understood how difficult it could be for people to get pregnant or even carry a pregnancy to term until I had to go through it myself.

Babe In My Heart, Blogs

Eat This, Not That

November 1, 2017
  • Written by Madeline MacKinnon, Guest Blogger

What should you eat when you’re trying to conceive?

There’s always been a lot of confusion around this topic. Your doctors may say there’s not much you can do to boost your fertility by way of nutrition. However, there is plenty of reputable research that links fertility to food.

You may be familiar with  “The Fertility Diet”, which uses the second Nurse’s Health Study from 1989 as a basis. Since then, more research has come out to support the same hypothesis, as this paper from 2016 notes:

“[Our] change in diet composition, over the last 100 years, has been associated to decreased fertility rates in women over the age of 35… [The] proportion of different polyunsaturated fats in the diet significantly influences prostaglandin synthesis and ovarian steroidogenesis, both having crucial role in the reproductive process.” (Fontana and Della Torre, 2016)

One thing is for sure, food does impact your fertility. Our body uses nutrients from food to build our hormones. We also need nutrients to ‘metabolize’ hormones, meaning either convert them into usable forms or effectively remove them from the body.

A deficiency of a certain nutrient is enough to affect your fertility since hormone balance (especially progesterone, estrogen and thyroid) is such an important piece of a healthy pregnancy. So what particular nutrients should you be focus and what foods should you eat to get them?

Folate is actually one of the main reasons women take prenatal vitamins. Folate is important for preventing birth defects. Make sure your prenatal supplement includes ‘methyl folate’, which is more easily absorbed than folic acid. Get folate from avocado, kale, beans and swiss chard.

B6 supports general hormone balance and fertility. Get B6 from sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, turkey, cod, wild salmon, pistachios and banana.

Healthy Saturated Fats are important for you hormone levels and producing optimal hormones. Hormones are built from fat! Get the best fats from fish oil, avocado, and grass fed butter… All are important for fertility.

Magnesium is an often overlooked but it’s also important for fertility. This mineral helps decrease stress, relax muscles, and supports progesterone levels in the luteal phase of your menstrual cycle. Being deficient in magnesium has also been linked to frequent miscarriages. My favourite food-based source of magnesium is steamed swiss chard, which we included the the fertility recipe below. Other great sources are avocado, spinach, pumpkin seeds, black beans and pumpkin.

What to avoid?

When you’re preparing to conceive, you need to guard your body against chemicals and compounds that sabotage your efforts.

Processed and rancid fats
Sugar
Starvation diets or low fat diets
Soy (unless it’s fermented, like tempeh and miso paste)
Processed grains and flours

The journey towards optimal fertility is one you work towards every day. Get all the nutrients you require from an easy to eat, easy to digest fertility smoothie!

My Green Fertility Smoothie Recipe

1 cup water
1 cup steamed swiss chard
½ cup blueberries
½ frozen banana
½ avocado or 1 Tbsp sunflower butter
½ cup organic plain yogurt or kefir (optional)
2 Tbsp collagen peptide protein powder

Optional Fertility Boosters
1 tsp he shou wu powder
1 tsp bee pollen (don’t use if you have a bee allergy)

Get Our Free Ovulation Protocol

We designed a custom superfood smoothie for you to take 3-4 days around ovulation. It has 100% of your RDA of folate, estrogen-detoxing compounds, progesterone-supportive nutrients, and herbal aphrodisiacs! Click here to get our protocol.

Want to learn more in a Master Class? Join the live Webinar on Tuesday, November 7th at 7pm MST.

About Madeline


Madeline MacKinnon is the founder of Natural Hormone Healing and is a highly sought-after, leading expert in the emerging field of herbal culinary arts, elixir making and tonic herbalism. She dedicates her time, energy and education to help women from around the world to balance their hormones naturally without the use of drugs.

Get more functional nutrition info on her website, follow her on Instagram or on Facebook. You can also join her online community, The Vibrant Health & Hormone Balance Sisterhood to get all you need to know about women’s health and hormone balance.

Sources:
The Deep Correlation between Energy Metabolism and Reproduction: A View on the Effects of Nutrition for Women Fertility. Fontana, R, and Della Torre, S. Published 11 February 216.
Nutrients 2016, 8(2), 87, doi:10.3390/nu8020087

Babe In My Belly, Blogs

The Stork Brings A Stark: Second Trimester

October 24, 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. Let me be clear. I’m not complaining about pregnancy. I totally get how lucky I am to be carrying a life. I’m just keeping it real because while it’s THE GREATEST GIFT EVER…pregnancy can also really difficult. I am documenting the ups, the downs and the “glow” (guys, it’s sweat), through my 40 weeks of pregnancy.

Read about my first trimester here.
If I could sum up the second trimester with one word it would be swellnausea. Ok two words- swelling and nausea. I took my first pregnant flight at 13 weeks, first week of the third trimester and basically waddled around and elevated the entire vacation. I wish I could say the swelling just magically went away like the nausea (hallelujah- 20 weeks later), but it’s still something I’m dealing with. I swell up through my calves, not just my feet and sometimes my hands. I very rarely am able to get my engagement ring on but my wedding band never leaves my sausage finger. And of course, staying off my feet or drinking a lot of water aren’t the magic tricks- spin class is.
I bought an at home fetal doppler early on and would try it out every night. It wasn’t until about 13 weeks I could find the heartbeat and find it consistently. It became my little nightly routine after dinner to go sit in the rocking chair in the nursery and listen to his heartbeat. It is the sweetest sound, like music to my ears. At my 12 weeks ultrasound my doctor mentioned I had a left anterior placenta and would probably feel kicking earlier than most. At 17 weeks I felt him and he hasn’t stopped (we’re thinking an athletic scholarship). The first few times I dismissed it as muscle twitches (in retrospect I don’t know why, I’ve never had a muscle twitch in my stomach?) because it did not feel like a “flutter”, which is how I had heard it described before. The twitches changes to kicks and then to rolls and my the end of my second trimester I felt like I needed protection he became so strong.
My absolute favorite part of pregnancy to date was the anatomy scan at 21 weeks. To see every teeny tiny body part of this mystery person you are growing inside of you is unbelievable. Everything checked out perfectly, he had 10 fingers and 10 toes and is (still) a boy. We lucked out, when the ultrasound tech finished she said the doctor may or may not come in to speak with us. Luckily he did and gave us another chance to look at our sweet babe. He also “razzled and dazzled” us (his words), and flipped the ultrasound to 3D for a few minutes. It was unbelievable to see our baby go from skeletor (but really the cutest skeletor EVER) to an actual human. That is a moment I will never forget and I will cherish forever.
I’m am sitting here thinking about all of the amazing aspects of pregnancy. It is truly a miracle that a woman’s body can grow and house a baby and all of the technology we have to SEE and HEAR the baby. However I have really struggled with body image and it hit me hard in the second trimester. I’ve always been very fit and taken pride in the work I put into my body. If my pants started to get tight I would reel in the eating and amp up the workouts and soon I would be back to where I wanted to be. Not having that control during pregnancy has been a lot more difficult than I thought it would be. I feel like an alien in my own body and at times don’t even recognize myself in the mirror. This is something I am learning to deal with as I go but is very much a work in progress. I know it will be worth it in the end and after 40 short (but sometimes SUPER LONG) weeks, I can start to get back to my old self. Oh and if you’re wondering, the boobs have continued to grow with no signs of slowing down (how… really. How?)
At 28 weeks my doctor ordered my gestational diabetes test. I had heard so much about this test and how horrible it was. I ate my low carb breakfast (turkey sausage) and headed to the gym before. Well apparently it was a little too much protein because I ended up sick as a dog BEFORE I took my test but after about an hour I felt like I might actually live and headed to the lab. I was given a choice of a few flavors, I picked lime and chugged away. Granted, it wasn’t the best thing I’ve ever tasted but I for sure favored it over a shot of fireball. I waited the hour, they drew blood and I was on my way. All in all it was pretty painless and not nearly as bad as I had been warned. Oh- and I passed with flying colors! And just like that, 12 more weeks until baby Stark is here!

Babe In My Heart, Blogs

Faith in Endometriosis

October 16, 2017

Written by Cassaundra Escandon, guest blogger

Hi There, My name is Cassaundra, I am 27 years old, married to an amazing man for almost two years, I am a follower of Christ, LOVER of coffee, and spend my days supporting individuals with developmental disabilities and mental health.

As I am sure for a lot of you endo warriors who experienced or are currently experiencing this process- It was tiring, relentless, and painful. In 2011 I had an ectopic pregnancy that was removed (tube and ovaries stayed put at that time). Fast-forward to 2015- my life was not going as planned. As any woman struggling with endometriosis I was in pain beyond functioning daily. I had exhausted all of my resources (GI specialist, upper scope, colonoscopy, family doctor, blood work, ultrasounds, ER visits ect). With all the tests, prodding and poking the only conclusion I got was “there is nothing wrong”. Well, as all you ladies know far to well- I MOST CERTAINLY knew something was definitely not right. I am not going to lie- at this point I was feeling pretty crazy! Mind you, I had always had horrendous periods since the age of 9. That is how it had always been, making it the “norm” for me. This reoccurring pain that I had gotten over many years of my life off and on, had now become 24/7. The pain that I experience other than awful periods where I am in bed for days on high doses on Tordol and Muscle Relaxants is pain along the left side all in to my bowels. The pain is debilitating and no amount of medication takes it away. I have to lie on my left side (as in apply pressure), ride it out and standing intensifies it largely. I was at a loss. I was becoming not well enough to work or function at all in society on a day-to-day basis.

After speaking to my best friend’s mother (whose previous situation seemed to resemble my current) I went to my family doctor and had a referral put in to a gynaecologist. Fast-forward and I got the appointment, went in with my long list of avenues I had already exhausted (colonoscopy, endoscopy, blood work, ultrasounds ect.) and all the results. By the grace of God the doctor didn’t believe it could be endometriosis but agreed to go in and have a look (basically to quiet me up). At this point I was more than ready. I could not continue on living, working, planning a wedding (9 months away), enjoy being newly engaged, or being 25 this way. My surgery date was set for a month, so I waited. I prayed. I felt crazy -“what if there is nothing wrong inside? will this pain ever go away? am I going crazy? is this from all those years I was anorexic? what will people think if there is still nothing medically wrong?” and on my brain spun. The Holy Spirit just kept bringing me back to a place of peace, trust, love, and strength.


My surgery day came and I was terrified. I came out not knowing much until my follow-up appointment two weeks later. I found out I was not crazy, I did in fact have stage 4 endometriosis, adhesions, and a ton of ovarian cysts (one the size of an orange). I had a lot of cysts off and on over the years leading up to this point as well. My ovaries, intestines, and tubes where all stuck together by webs of scar tissue. I began taking continuous birth control for the next 8 months (until the wedding). We were told to consider freezing eggs, chances may not be on our side and that we needed to start trying soon. This was a hard pill to swallow. Both Sean and I have always wanted kids, the devil would try to fill my mind with “you need to start trying now, you’ll never have kids, what if you miss your opportunity”. Sean and I remained focus on Jesus, his will, and trusting that if it is God’s will for us to have a child, it will happen on God’s time. Trying for a child before marriage was not a part of God’s plan for us. Sean and I both knew that and God filled us with faith, strength, hope, patience, and love. God put focusing on preparing for a Christ centered marriage on the priority list, and a child to come.

I was feeling a lot of pain relief from the surgery other than awful periods. I had some days of flaring pain (but not 24/7). Slowly the pain started coming back and within two years the pain was so unbearable that I had to take a sick leave from work for three months until my surgery date arrived. I could not work, sleep, eat, or cope. My surgery date came February 23rd of this year. My fertility specialist went in cleaned up all the endo, adhesions, and removed my right tube (where I had the ectopic in 2011). The pain has most definitely been decreased. PRAISE GOD!! I also strictly follow the endometriosis diet and have been for a while. It’s my life saver. Truly that’s how I keep my pain at bay most of the time. I have made sure to really be strict since this last surgery. One night I was not very strict (a few ciders, and sugar icing) …Let’s just say it took me a week to recover. I find the most relief and can manage my symptoms with being gluten free, dairy free, refine sugar, and soy free. I eat chicken and fish, but not pork, beef or lamb.

I pray for each and every one of you warriors battling this relentless monster ENDO. I write to help myself clear my mind, identify thoughts, feelings and to hopefully be helpful to others going through similar situations. Know that no matter where you are on this journey, that you are not alone and that all of us ENDO SISTERS have each others back. If fighting infertility you also are not alone and what brings me comfort on the darkest and most painful days is that Jesus would never put such a strong desire in our hearts and not fill it. That is a promise and fact. Now the other side of the coin is- Jesus is in control, it is Gods timing, and we must wait. Wait for God to reveal his plan. I know one thing and that is I will be a mom. I don’t know when, or how. I don’t know if Baby E will grow in my belly, or someone else’s. But I do know I will hold Baby E one day.

Babe In My Heart, Blogs

The Other F Word

October 5, 2017

Written by Jessie Bradshaw, guest blogger

Fertility Fertility Fertility…. At first this word scared me and consumed my life. I was embarrassed and I didn’t feel comfortable talking about it. All I could think was, why me? However, as time went on I realized I found comfort in sharing my story with people. I was tired of walking around with this secret. This was something real going on with my husband and me and I needed all the support I could get.

My husband and I just celebrated our two year wedding anniversary and these last two years have been one wild roller coaster ride. When I married Chad I gained a bonus child, Caleb. Man did I hit the jack pot with him. He is amazing. After watching Chad with Caleb I knew I couldn’t find a better man to raise a family with.

At first we started the whole not trying not to get pregnant. At about 6 months into this I started charting and doing ovulation predictor test. However, with no luck we were still not pregnant. Once the one year mark hit, it was time to seek help. I reached out to my OBGYN and they started me on clomid. Clomid affects everyone differently, for me it wasn’t so good. It makes me short-tempered, gives me headaches and hot sweats. It has gotten worse the more I take. During this time we did 3 rounds of Clomid and 1 round of Femara. I was reaching a point I felt like a number and not a priority at my doctor’s office. It wasn’t until a friend who had a similar situation and I got to talking. He told me if I was serious about having a baby I should see a specialist. I wasn’t even sure we could afford a fertility specialist. I heard it was expensive and insurance wouldn’t cover it. I felt selfish for wanting this. This could be money we could be saving for Caleb to go to college or take a nice family vacation. I went home that night and talked to Chad and he was on board. I was lucky to have married someone who wanted to have children with me and willing to do whatever it takes. I went ahead and made an appointment with our new doctor.

During these months I’m not going to lie, life was hard. I had many people ask if we’re going to have kids. At first we would tell people we would someday. I didn’t have the nerve to tell them we had been trying and I couldn’t get pregnant. I didn’t want people to feel sorry for me and I was embarrassed. It didn’t help every time I logged on to Facebook someone else was announcing they were pregnant. It wasn’t that I wasn’t happy for friends but I was sad for myself.

Our first appointment was in December and it was intense to say the least. That day they ran tests and went over our whole medical history. Our doctor told us our next step would be surgery. He had us schedule it before we left and I ended up having surgery in February. Over all it went well and wasn’t as bad as I expected. Once I woke up from surgery we found out I had a lot of scar tissue built up on my tubes and ovaries. We are still unsure to why I had scar tissue. My doctor said I could have had an infection when I was younger and was not aware of it. The doctor was able to clear one tube but the other was irrepairable. After I was recovered from surgery we started back on Clomid. The last 5 months we did 5 rounds of Clomid and added the HCG shot and had 2 failed IUI. The disappointment grew each month.Each month hit hard. Not only were we dealing with the Clomid crazies but also stress of marriage and fertility problems. During this time I felt like hardly anyone understood what I was going through. I felt like my world was ending and people just wanted to say nice things like it will work out, its timing, just relax, maybe you should stop trying so hard. When really all I wanted to hear was I know this sucks and it’s not fair. Most people would jump right into what about IVF or adoption. Both of these are definitely options for us. However, when you always dreamed of carrying your own child and the thought you may never get to experience, you don’t say, “Well you can always adopt.” We’re up for IVF. However, we can’t afford it right now. My doctor explains it best that IVF is like buying a brand new truck. The difference when buy a truck you get to drive it off the lot and IVF you aren’t even guaranteed a baby.

Chad and I finally reached a point that we weren’t going to let fertility run our life. We were tired of scheduling our life around our child who wasn’t even here yet. We try and focus our life on the things we can control. Suddenly life got easier for us. We still have our days of sadness and bitterness but this is the life we live and we can’t be sad all the time.

It’s been 5 months since surgery I really thought I would have been pregnant by now. It was finally time my doctor wanted to go back in and perform the HSG test to see if my tube was still open. We found out that both of my tubes were open. I think my doctor was just as surprised as I was. We decided to take a month off from meds. Which Chad was very excited about. He even thanked the doctor.

Here we are now 2 years since we started this whole journey and we’re still praying for our unborn child. I’m not sure what having a baby is going to look like for us or when it’s going to happen. However, I do believe with everything in my heart we will have a child come into our life and be a part of our family one day. We just need a little faith and whole lot of Jesus.

What The Fertility

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