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Don’t Let it Steal Your Joy

March 8, 2019

Written by Amber Reynolds, Guest Blogger

It was a Sunday just like any Sunday. I showed up early to serve at church, grabbed a cup of coffee, and headed to the sound booth. Then someone made a joke. A seemingly off-hand, nonchalant, in-passing joke.

“You think you need coffee now, just wait until you have a baby up all night, I didn’t sleep a wink!”  

It didn’t take much to knock the wind out of me those days, so that little joke, well, it put me right over the edge. I chuckled and continued on my way, but inside I was dying a little.

“I WOULD DO ANYTHING TO BE UP ALL NIGHT WITH A BABY! I WOULD GIVE UP COFFEE FOR A YEAR…FOR A LIFETIME! IF YOU’RE SO CRANKY ABOUT HAVING A BABY WHY DON’T YOU JUST GIVE ME YOURS! WHY IS EVERYONE ALWAYS HAVING BABIES AND THEN COMPLAINING ABOUT THEM! THIS ISN’T FAIR. I MATTER TOO.”

The voice in my head is quite loud and dramatic. But my feelings are valid. It may have taken me three years to realize it, but how I feel mentally is just as valid as how I feel physically. Society puts a ton of weight on parenthood. You become an adult, and then a spouse, but you really level up when you become a parent. Those of us who haven’t leveled up yet don’t deserve coffee because a tiny human is yet to demand every second of our time. Again, loud and dramatic.

But we were doing everything right. The dieting: eat this but not too much and don’t eat that except on Tuesdays. The exercise: run but not too long and lift but not too heavy. The reading: everyone has something to say and why doesn’t anyone agree on the said dieting and exercise? We tried acupuncture, natural supplements, chiropractor visits, essential oils, charting, testing, and we were tired.

Unexplained infertility.

The gross beast of a diagnosis. Nothing to do, yet everything to try. Every different suggestion brings on new (but cautious) hope. Everyone you meet has a story to share about someone they know that tried a thing and the next day they were pregnant. We have tried many of the things. I have yet to become pregnant.

My husband and I are now five years into this painful infertility journey. We have moved multiple times, changed occupations, buried my father, bought a couple of homes, and even became foster parents. All of those things have molded us into who we are, they have altered our identity, and changed our perspective.

I no longer want to throat-punch anyone who makes a joke about babies. I’ve cared for babies who have kept me up all night. I no longer cringe when I see a pregnancy announcement, my joy overflows for my friends. I no longer cry every time I get my period (although sometimes I do because WTF). I no longer kill myself with my diet and exercise, allowing myself a beer with my salad has been lovely grace. But just because our perspective has been altered, does not mean that we have given up. Being called mommy by my precious foster babies is a joy I never knew if I would have. However, it does not take away the longing to carry a child in my womb.

This fertility journey sucks. It sucks the joy out of life, the fun out of sex, the laughter out of jokes. Five years in, I’ve learned it is okay to hate this part of our story, but it isn’t okay to dwell on that hatred. So we find joy. We dwell on the things that don’t suck. We make sex, and eating, and exercise, and massages, and reading less of a chore and more of an adventure. Do you allow the “this-use-to-be-fun-and-now-it-sucks” part of infertility steal your joy?! Don’t let it! Fight the drift! And for goodness sakes, drink coffee whenever you feel like it!

If you’d like to connect with Amber, you can find her on Instagram or her Blog

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Inflammation and Infertility

February 25, 2019

Written by Laura Gilstrap, Guest Blogger

The female body is amazing. We are creatures of resilience. Of elegance. Of beauty.  We carry life, birth life, and provide nutrients for life…all while working full time jobs, running households and hitting the gym. Literally, we are astonishing.

The immune system of a woman also deserves a lot of attention. When you really think about it, our reproductive system has an incomparable capacity to resolve inflammation. Each menstrual cycle, we clear tissue and waste and then quickly regenerates back to base-line.  Only to do it over and over again.

So, lets break down inflammation. There are 2 forms of inflammation – acute and chronic. Acute inflammation is just that, a quick addition of blood flow to the damaged area to promote healing. It is characterized by the presence of white blood cells and phagocytes (immune cells that clear the inflamed area.) Acute inflammation is a natural part of many reproductive process. Hormonal changes resulting in egg maturation, ovulation, and endometrial lining changes all have a normal inflammatory component. 

Chronic inflammation on the other hand, results when the acute immune response remains active. Chronic inflammation can disrupt ovulation, hormone balance, and implantation. Conditions like Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, early menopause, uterine fibroids, ovarian cysts, poor sperm and egg quality, and premature ovarian failure have all been linked to chronic inflammation and adverse pregnancy outcomes. Inflammation is also likely to be associated with other prominent aspects of PCOS including insulin resistance, endothelial dysfunction, and cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors. (1).

As a woman battling PCOS, I am no stranger to chronic inflammation reaping havoc in the body. I can still remember being diagnosed.  The OB told me “you will never have children naturally.”  I cried.  Oh, did I cry.  And then…I researched.  I read anything and everything there was to read about PCOS.  It became my life.

Because of PCOS, I battled years of painful infertility treatment. I found myself alienating fertile friends, avoiding events with children and young families, and feeling overcome with anxiety. Having the knowledge and motivation to combat PCOS’s inflammatory properties is how I survived this life-changing syndrome. Honestly, any reproductive concerns that incorporates excess pain suggests the body is experiencing a large amount of inflammation and needs to be addressed personally, medically and/or holistically.

Recently, inflammation has been heavily studied as a fertility challenge because inflammation is a very complex biological response of vascular tissue to a harmful stimuli.  Basically, it means the body is reacting to an irritation, infection, or injury.

One of the most important markers of inflammation is C-reactive protein (CRP). CRP is an acute-phase reactant produced by hepatocytes under the stimulatory control of pro-inflammatory cytokines such as interleukin (IL)-6 and tumor necrosis factor ? (TNF?) (2). Growing evidence supports the concept that CRP may not be the only marker, but also a mediator of inflammatory processes (3,4).  Investigators at The Center for Human Reproduction, under the leadership of David H. Barad, recently completed a study which demonstrated inflammatory blood markers, CRP and IL-6, had statistically highly significant predictability if elevated with diminished IVF outcomes (pregnancy and live birth rates) and increased miscarriage risk.

Inflammation is both triggered and worsened by stress, lifestyle and diet.  If you’re looking to begin the healing process, holistic and natural therapies are great starting point. Here are a few ideas:

  • Just Relax! (Which is literally the WORST thing you can ever say to an infertile woman). But sadly, it’s true. Chronic stress stimulates the inflammatory response. Try incorporating therapies like yoga, fertility massage, meditation, mind-body programs, nightly baths, aromatherapy, journaling or anything that resonates with you, to reduce stressors in your life.
  • Consume more fresh and raw fruits and vegetables. Fresh fruit and veggies are high in antioxidants and food enzymes, which act as natural anti-inflammatories. Their antioxidants help quench free radicals which run rapid in inflamed bodies. Fresh foods are also alkalizing and detoxifying, helping to remove chemicals like uric acid.
  • Eat More Fat! Yep…I said it…EAT. FAT.  Now, hear me out…

The body needs a healthy balance of Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids for multiple reasons such as reproductive health, blood clotting, blood pressure control, and immune function. Excess consumption of Omega-6’s can trigger the body to produce pro-inflammatory chemicals potentially leading to chronic inflammatory diseases. In general, Omega-6’s are pro-inflammatory while Omega-3’s are anti-inflammatory. (5)

Omega-6 fatty acids are found in plant oils such as sunflower, safflower, and corn oils, but they are also present in cereals, corn-fed animal fat, and wholegrain bread.

The fats I recommend eating are Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA), also know as Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids. EPA is the lipid structure our body uses to make beneficial prostaglandins that reduce inflammation.

Rich dietary sources of Omega-3 fatty acids include cold water fish such as salmon, trout, herring, tuna, and cod, and green leafy vegetables, flaxseed, and rapeseed oils. Increase intake of monounsaturated fats from plant foods like avocado, nuts and seeds, and olive oil also help fight inflammation and nourish the reproductive system.

Optimal dietary intakes of the Omega-6’s and Omega-3’s?ratio should be around 1:4?(6).

  • Increase Fiber and Pre & Probiotic Consumption: Kombucha, unprocessed whole grains, legumes, and beans help to regulate insulin levels, metabolize excess estrogen, and pull inflammatory toxins out of the body.
  • Kick Gluten to the Curb! Gluten is a protein found in grains. It’s common in foods such as bread, pasta, pizza, and cereal. Gluten provides no essential nutrients. People who are sensitive to gluten can have symptoms anywhere in the body when partially digested gluten fragments leak from the intestine into the bloodstream. Unlike other proteins, gluten is not completely digested. In some people, the immune system sees gluten as the enemy and will unleash compounds to attack it, causing inflammation in the intestines as well as other organs and tissues.
  • Daily Turmeric (curcumin):?Turmeric contains curcumin, which is widely studied for its therapeutic effects on IL-6, CRP, and TNF-?. One particular study published by the Journal of Reproductive Infertility studied 72 female rats with outcomes showing that the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects of curcumin on PCOS may be due to its inhibitory effect on expression and levels of TNF-?, serum IL-6 and CRP. (7) Take turmeric or curcumin with a meal containing fats (they’re fat soluble) and be sure to include black pepper extract to boost its absorbability and bioavailability.
  • Proteolytic Enzymes:?Enzymes like trypin, rutin, bromelain, papain, pancreatin, and chymotrypsin are thought to help break down the chemicals involved in inflammation.

Typical acute inflammation is a necessary component for cellular repair during ovulation, menstruation, implantation, and birth. While acute inflammation helps repair your body, chronic inflammation is detrimental to homeostasis and is known to be the root cause of a variety of imbalances in the body.

You can reverse the damaging effects of inflammation on the reproductive system just by making healthier lifestyle choices. Limit alcohol, caffeine, and/or smoking and by eating clean and colorful. An inflammatory response can also be triggered by physical, mental, and emotional stress.  Take a step back and focus on yourself if you have to. Inflammation reduction will not only help your reproductive system, it will help promote a healthier mind, body, and soul for you AND your future baby.

Just remember, your path may be a different one, a slower one, but are on it and your goals can be reached.

References

  1. Ross R. Atherosclerosis–an inflammatory disease. N Engl J Med. 1999;340:115–26

2. Castell JV, Gomez-Lechon MJ, David M, Andus T, Geiger T, Trullenque R, et al. Interleukin-6 is the major regulator of acute phase protein synthesis in adult human hepatocytes. FEBS Lett. 1989;242:237–9

3. Han KH, Hong KH, Park JH, Ko J, Kang DH, Choi KJ, et al. C-reactive protein promotes monocyte chemoattractant protein-1–mediated chemotaxis through upregulating CC chemokine receptor 2 expression in human monocytes. Circulation. 2004;109:2566–71

4. Venugopal SK, Devaraj S, Jialal I. Effect of C-reactive protein on vascular cells: evidence for a proinflammatory, proatherogenic role. Curr Opin Nephrol Hypertens. 2005;14:33–7

5. E. Patterson,   R. Wall,  G. F. Fitzgerald,  R. P. Ross, and C. Stanton. Health Implications of High Dietary Omega-6 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids. J Nutr Metab. 2012; 2012: 539426

6. Calder PC. Polyunsaturated fatty acids, inflammatory processes and inflammatory bowel diseases. Molecular Nutrition and Food Research. 2008;52(8):885–897

7. S. Mohammadi, P. Kayedpoor, L. Karimzadeh-Bardei, and M. Nabiuni. The Effect of Curcumin on TNF-?, IL-6 and CRP Expression in a Model of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome as an Inflammation State. J Reprod Infertil. 2017 Oct-Dec; 18(4): 352–360

If you’d like to connect with Laura, you can find her on Instagram and her Nutrition Instagram, as well as Facebook and her Website!

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Renewed Hope

February 19, 2019

Written by Krystle Edelson, Guest Blogger

Our story with secondary infertility includes some of the darkest days of my life.  Many days I wondered when the sun would shine in my heart again, but what I’m hoping to highlight by sharing our story, is that while it was overwhelmingly difficult, and the weeping felt like it lasted for endless evenings – the hope and promise of “joy in the morning” we find in scripture is true.

My husband and I talked early and often about starting our family. Because of a family history and inconsistent cycles, I figured we might have a harder time conceiving. So, we decided together to start “trying” for a family about 2 years into marriage. After months turned into over a year, we were recommended to see a Reproductive Endocrinologist (fertility doc). Once we got up the courage, our Dr. was able to assess things and get us on track to conceive only 3 months after meeting him. Fast forward to today, and we have a precious 5-year-old biological daughter. She is our delight and joy. Now, after all the early days of sleeplessness and sheer exhaustion began to wane, we started talking about continuing to grow our family.

While the months of “trying” stretched on for us, we figured we just needed a little extra help again. Back we went to our doctor, who recommended a procedure that we had gone through before conceiving our daughter. Now just a couple months back into the game, I went through the procedure, and that following month I conceived. We were shocked and thrilled! But that thrill was short-lived after some testing revealed I was expected to miscarry. At that time, I had heard the statistic that 1 in 4 women will miscarry; I had read the countless stories of tear-filled mommas who had gripped their bellies with the hope of life only to see it fade away from reality. I knew that thought is never far from a new momma’s mind, still, we clung to the promises and sought to hold that little life with open hands. And while I tried to prepare my heart for the worst, once the little life inside me slipped away I realized one can never fully prepare for the emotions that come.

After giving my body a little time to heal, we jumped back in with a new plan and renewed hope (if you’ve walked through infertility you know that cycle of excited hope, anticipation during the two-week wait, and disappoint when it doesn’t happen – all too well). Well, four months later we were pregnant again! Then just a few weeks later, on the eve of our 6th wedding anniversary we found ourselves grieving over another child we didn’t get to meet. We hugged our JG a little closer and pressed on, weary but still very hopeful.

Fast forward to the nearly 3-year mark of praying, hoping and waiting, we had completed our 14th (yes, 14!) and final IUI. I know this gives some people early in their wait heart palpitations! BUT before you go and allow your heart to fear, please keep in mind the reason we did so many, is simply because every genetic test, procedure, ultrasound, and (many!) blood tests had come back completely normal. Our doctor always expressed that he believed it would happen again for us, and my husband’s insurance was very comprehensive. Additionally, each cycle was “perfect” medically speaking.

Throughout these exhausting months, and multiple miscarriages we always sought to press on in trusting the Lord’s timing and the wisdom He gave to our doctor. But then came the point, where it was clear my body couldn’t keep up with the physically and emotionally exhaustive treatments. It was our personal decision to not move forward with IVF, and so we made the difficult, but confident decision to stop everything.

It took approximately 1,095 days, achieving pin cushion status, countless negative tests, the mourning of precious lives lost in between, every bit of the Holy Spirit’s help and a whole village of people praying for us, but we finally arrived at a place of peace and acceptance. It was a long season of wrestling, waiting, listening, hoping, and ultimately surrendering. Good, but hard soul-work that has yielded an intimacy with Christ that we wouldn’t trade for the world.

But our story doesn’t end there. When I pause and reflect on where secondary-infertility has brought us today. There’s no denying that the providence of my unfulfilled desire to carry another child brought us to hearts pregnant with the hope of another child who does not share our DNA; yet, was always meant for us and us for him, from the beginning of time. We just arrived home in November with our son from China. That’s right! All the years of heartache weren’t without purpose, they led us straight to our precious son.

Unexplained infertility would have never been our plan to bring us to our son (and it’s not always the answer for everyone walking the same road), but here we are, and I find myself unable to thank God enough for His infinite wisdom and for allowing us this front-row seat to watch Him work in details big and small. 

Now, for those still in the wait, still longing with the worst anticipation to see their wombs and arms filled with life, I only have so many words I can share here, but in case you’re grasping for some hope right now, I wrote a post here to encourage others. If you feel so led, please take a moment to read. You are beautiful sister, and your identity is not wrapped up in being a mother – or not. God is faithful to help you bloom where you are planted right now. Keep pressing on and fighting the fight of faith!

If you’d like to connect with Krystle, you can find her on Instagram or her Blog

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A Note For My Littlest Valentine

February 14, 2019

Written by Brooke Papp, WTF Contributor

To my littlest Valentine growing in my belly –

Your daddy and I have been waiting for you for quite some time and we are anxiously awaiting your arrival!

After our two losses of angel babies before you, I can’t say we had given up hope but I can say we were slightly defeated so with every single movement or kick or body slam on my bladder, I am amazed at the strong little girl you are. You are definitely the Rainbow we’ve been waiting for after our storm.

I can’t wait to meet you and see who’s features you have or if it’s the perfect mixture of both of us. I can’t wait to be there for your milestones and hear your fears and dreams and listen to your imagination soar.

I can’t wait to be tested in all the steps of parenthood and to grow together in ways I didn’t know were possible. But for now, just finish cookin’ and we will meet you when you’re ready to make your long awaited debut.

Happy Valentine’s Day to the one who is going to change my life and be my forever Valentine, your daddy and I are already so smitten!

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If you’d like to connect with Brooke, you can find her over on Instagram


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The Path Less Traveled

February 12, 2019

Written by Marci Thomas, Guest Blogger

Hi Friends! I am excited to share a little bit of my story with you. I am a 37-year-old single and never married lady who is ready to be a mom. I work a full-time job as a paralegal at a large, full-service law firm.  I have worked in the commercial real estate and banking department for almost four years.

When I’m not at work, I am with family and friends, and I am outside as much as I can be. I am family-oriented and would rather spend my Friday nights sitting on my sister’s couch watching Sofia the First with my 2-year-old and 10-month-old nieces than to go out to a crowded restaurant. My enneagram number is 2 with a 3 wing, and my love language is quality time, and I show love by being generous with my time and buying thoughtful gifts just to make someone’s day. I usually don’t care what we’re doing; I just want to be around people, but don’t ask me to eat sushi. I’ve tried that and it was not my favorite meal.

I don’t remember getting my first baby doll, “Christy” (which sounded more like “Fristy” when I said it with my toddler-lisp), but I know I loved her. I loved her so much that she had an identical twin that mom would swap out so she could wash the well-loved cloth-baby doll. I was a mom before I could walk. And then a wonderful person (I don’t know if I know who) gave me a bigger, more life-like doll when my sister was born. I mothered that doll for years. She still sleeps in her cradle in my closet. When I was 8 ½ years old, my youngest sister was born. I traded in my dolls for her. I think it’s safe to say she was my first real baby. And she’ll be 29 years old next week.

Being a mom is the only childhood dream that I still carry with me. I wasn’t the girl who had her wedding planned out before graduating high school, but I had my babies named. I did want marriage, and I still do, but I’ve been a single girl for a very long time, and I’m happy with being single. But not being a mom makes me sad.

There was a restlessness stirring in me a few years ago, but I shoved it aside because I was too busy focusing on my career as a paralegal. Somewhere along the way I convinced myself that the restlessness was career-related, and since the next step up for a paralegal is an attorney, I thought that was what I was supposed to do. I researched what I needed to do to get into law school, and I even took the LSAT. I’m proud of myself for doing it, but I didn’t have peace about going to law school.

Around the time that I was trying to figure out what I was supposed to do next, a friend of mine was promoting the non-profit she founded to support kids in foster care. I paid close attention to the message she was sharing, and the statistics shattered my heart. And then the restlessness came back. I knew that there was more that I could do. I remember telling my dad that I knew I could do more than financially contribute or volunteer, I could open my home. And so, I began to research foster care, particularly the eligibility requirements. I was excited to learn that my singleness did not disqualify me. My plan was to foster kids and eventually adopt.

The further I got in my research, the stronger the desire to adopt a baby grew. I continued to pursue both fostering older kids, and adopting a baby. I even considered embryo adoption. In November 2018, in the heart of Adoption Awareness month, I had a consultation with an embryo adoption agency, and a consultation with an infant adoption agency. That’s when I found out that my plan of fostering kids while waiting to adopt wasn’t going to work, primarily because I did not want to wait the required waiting time, and also because my agency won’t let a person be a part of two programs at the same time.

On November 8, 2018, I made the decision to pursue domestic infant adoption. I didn’t have to pray about it. I just knew. My formal application was accepted not long after that on November 14th, and I am currently waiting for an approved home study, which I hope to have by the end of March.

Becoming a mom by adoption is not what I imagined. I did have plans to adopt one day, but I was going to do that with a husband after we had at least two kids already. Now that I have so much invested in this adoption journey, I can’t see becoming a mom any other way. I have not experienced this level of peace before now; the decision to go back to college in my 30s comes close, but it is not the same type of peace. I just know that this is what I’m supposed to do, and I’m not going to wait until my life looks like my dreams.

I am choosing to be a single mom, and I know that is not a choice that many people understand. I met resistance from some people, but overall, this has been a fun journey and I would never go back.  

If you’d like to connect with Marci, you can read more about her adoption journey here, or find her on Facebook or Instagram

Babe In My Arms, Babe In My Belly, Babe In My Heart, Blogs

The Broken Road

February 6, 2019

Written by Whitney Ellis, Guest Blogger

My mother reminded me a few years ago about a conversation we had while I was in Nursing School.  I had told her that my dream job would be to work with moms and babies in their homes.  I was fascinated with breastfeeding and wanted to support new moms.  I ultimately fulfilled that dream by working for 10 years as a Public Health Nurse, visiting first-time (mostly young) pregnant moms and their babies in their homes.  I loved my job and as challenging as it was, it was very rewarding.  I did not have children of my own at that time, but I had no doubt that being a mother was in my future.  

10 years ago this February, my husband and I danced our first dance to “God Bless This Broken Road”. The song was fitting for us and how met and ultimately got married.  Little did we know that a few years later as we began trying to start our family that our wedding song would take on a whole new meaning.  

Our journey to having a baby started soon after we got married. I was 33 and he was 35 at the time and we really had no reason to believe that we’d have any trouble getting pregnant. A year went by and then 6 more months before we went to see the Reproductive Endocrinologist my Ob/Gyn referred us to. We sat in a waiting room with one door on the right for those who were already pregnant and another door to the left if you couldn’t get pregnant.  Several tests later and we had a reality check. 

My husband had “very bad” sperm and I had “old eggs”.  Ouch! Is this how healthcare professionals in this field speak to their patients? We moved forward with hope.  Clomid, IUI, two-week waits, clomid, IUI, two-week waits…and over again.  Finally, standing at the nurses’ station reviewing my lab results, our RE declared that I will not be a mother on my own without donor eggs or adoption.

This was not at all what we envisioned our path to parenthood to look like. Needless to say, even though I still loved my work, it soon became difficult being surrounded daily by pregnant women. We did our best to stay positive.  I joined the local RESOLVE support group where I met so many inspiring women. I heard stories of heartbreak and disappointment. I also learned so much about the world of IF. There were so many paths to becoming a parent.

We found a new RE and I went through more tests and procedures.  I most likely had endometriosis.  This new clinic was a breath of fresh air.  The RE was very positive and felt that getting pregnant through IVF with our own eggs and sperm was possible.  I sought out support from other women who had gone through the rigorous schedule of painful injections and blood tests. I found an acupuncturist who specialized in infertility. My husband was supportive and became an expert at IM injections. I was open about our plan and received nothing but love and support from friends and family.  For us, we wanted to assure that we would be cared for emotionally if the outcome was no baby.

The MDs, nurses, embryologist, and anesthesiologists we encountered at the IVF clinic for the retrieval and transfer were so incredibly kind. I will never forget that. We waited for 2 very long weeks to find out if we could possibly be pregnant. We’ll never forget sitting at our favorite breakfast spot in East Sacramento when we received THE phone call from our nurse.  We were pregnant!

Our smart, funny and sweet boy turned 7 this year. Fast forward 2 years later and our attempts to have a second baby began with a failed Frozen Embryo Transfer and a polypectomy.  Then my father suddenly passed away and we were sidetracked with unimaginable grief. Just months later, to our complete surprise, we saw 2 pink lines on a pregnancy test! We were pregnant and it brought much-needed joy to the family, only to turn to another painful loss when I miscarried at 9 weeks. 

We went on to try one last IVF.  We both agreed that if this did not work out, we would feel we gave it our all and we would focus on what we had…Our marriage and our beautiful boy.  When that cycle failed we were crushed at the thought of our son growing up without a sibling.  Our view began to change though as we saw him creating so many friendships.  A child doesn’t necessarily have to have a sibling to be happy.

It was on a cross country flight as I looked over at our family, the 3 of us, and realized it was perfect.  I let go of my desire to have another baby.  When we got home I packed up the baby gear we had saved up and drove it up the hill to a donation center.  I drove away and the tears started streaming down my face.  I called my mom and told her that I donated all our baby gear and I still recall hearing my grandmother’s voice in the background saying “you know she’ll get pregnant now”. 

2 weeks later, on the morning after my 40th birthday celebration…we saw 2 pink lines!  Today we have a beautiful 2 year and a half-year-old girl.  So yes, that “Broken Road” lead us straight to our 2 precious children. My relationship with my husband was only strengthened as we encouraged and comforted each other.  We received unconditional love and support from family and friends. And it has changed how we relate to others who are starting their families. 

I truly believe we all go through difficulties in life so we can be there for each other. I have since continued to fulfill the dream I discussed with my mother years ago.  I have become an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant).  I will never forget the IBCLC that spoke to a room full of us women who went through fertility treatments to get pregnant.  So many of us were unsure if our bodies would create enough breast milk since we had difficulty conceiving.  Some moms were carrying multiples and anticipated some time in the NICU.  We all benefited in different ways from our time with the IBCLC.  Most of what I took away was confidence.  

As an IBCLC, I strive to understand my client’s goals and assist them in identifying and addressing their breastfeeding concerns.  I want to hear about their prenatal history.  I want to hear about their birth experience.  I provide them with evidence based information and tools that empower them to meet their individual feeding goals. I encourage them and let them know that many women who experience IF go on the have long breastfeeding relationships with their babies.  I give them the same compassion I received years ago by the health care professionals that will always be a special part of my family’s story.  Most importantly, I want the women I consult with to walk away feeling confident in their ability to give their babies what they need.

If you’d like to connect with Whitney, you can find her on Instagram

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Surviving the Two Week Wait

January 28, 2019
Written by Blair Nelson, Guest Blogger

THE TWO WEEK WAIT (2WW) could quite possibly be the worst wait of the fertility journey. The 2WW exists for anyone TTC. If you are lucky enough to be trying naturally, this is the time between ovulation and a home pregnancy test. In the infertility world, this is the time between your frozen embryo transfer (FET) or your IUI (intrauterine insemination) and your BETA blood pregnancy test. I can personally speak from the IVF embryo transfer point of view. There is so much hype on the PUPO mindset (pregnant until proven otherwise) – a term widely used in the IVF world. I mean, it is true, there is a living embryo in your uterus so you are technically pregnant. However, if you’ve been burned and let down by this process before, it is hard to get behind this sun-shiny attitude for two weeks straight.

For me personally, I am now in my third 2WW and I have handled it three ways.

ONE, I have been a good little patient and waited until the call after the blood test… “Sorry, the transfer didn’t work.” WELL, FUCK.

TWO, tested early with a home pregnancy test on the 8th day after my transfer and got a positive. HELL YES! Resulted in miscarriage at week 6. Excruciating.

THIRD, I have committed to an exploratory approach to help others in the TTC community, testing every morning, noon and night from 3 days past transfer until my BETA. Still in the process.

The jury is out on which is the best approach BUT one thing is for certain, regardless of your approach to the chaos, you need distractions to keep your mind off of waiting. Below is a list of ideas that I have either done myself or have on my list to do while I wait this time around.

VISIT A LOCAL FARMER’S MARKET

This can be a super fun weekend activity with your partner, your dog or solo. So many advantages to this adventure – being outside, purchasing local, organic and responsibly raised produce and meat and getting to know passionate people in your community that are committed to overall wellness. Visit http://www.localfarmmarkets.org/ to find a market near you.

GET CRAFTY

Have you been putting off a project like scrap booking? Or have you always wanted to find a use for all the wine corks you’ve been collecting like I have? Let’s face it, that is the closest you’re getting to wine during the 2WW. Hunker down by yourself at home or invite friends to a local craft class to occupy your mind. My friends and I are attending a cookie decorating class and I am PUMPED. I also learned how to fold money into origami for my nephew’s birthday card – I mean why the fuck not? Who doesn’t love a leisurely trip to Hobby Lobby or Michaels? So get your ass to the store and get crafty. Don’t forget to brag about it.

GET ORGANIZED

If you haven’t starting watching Tidying Up on Netflix, girl you are missing out! The show is a follow up on the book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. Marie takes homes by storm in this series, showing them how to de-clutter and organize the shit out of their homes (in her sweet, petite and charming way). Her folding techniques have changed my life. Seriously, I have sent pics of my drawers to everyone.

VOLUNTEER

What is your passion? Dogs, children, low income housing, the homeless? Whatever it is, find a volunteer opportunity and go give back. I love walking dogs who don’t get much love at the shelter. I also recently served lunch to a group of single adults recently brought out of homelessness. There are so many opportunities out there and helping others will no doubt give you a fresh perspective and rid you of some of your anxiousness surrounding the 2WW.

READ A BOOK

Maybe one of the more obvious distractions but get creative with it by joining a book club or reading with friends and family. What I did was ask my mom to read a book that is coming out as a movie in March so we could read and discuss together and then have a mother-daughter movie date. What are we reading you wonder? Where’d You Go, Bernadette? Highly recommend.

SUBSCRIBE TO A PODCAST

If you already follow me, you know I am a HUGE podcast fan. My favorites include The Skinny Confidential Him and Her, The Cabral Concept, Lewis Howes School of Greatness, The Tim Ferris Show and my newest, As a Woman hosted by my fertility doctor. Podcasts are the best way to distract your mind while educating yourself. I listen to podcasts in the car, on walks, while I cook and sometimes even at work. And ladies – they are FREE! Visit my website for a full list of fertility related podcasts.

AMP UP YOUR CULINARY SKILLS

Time to try something new in the kitchen. Have you always wanting to learn how to make pasta or bake the perfect soufflé? Now is your chance. Distract your mind in the kitchen while learning a new badass skill to impress your partner and friends. Seriously, you can find tutorials for anything on Pinterest and YouTube – how do you think I learned the origami I mentioned earlier? For some of my fave recipes, visit my website!

SALON & SPA TIME

Occupy one of your evenings or weekend days by treating yourself to a spa service. I have gotten my eyebrows micro-bladed and hair colored and cut during this 2WW. Be careful with massage as you are not supposed to get them during your first trimester. No Botox either (womp womp). I suggest hydro-facials! They are THE BEST for dry skin during the winter. Mani/pedi – yes please! There are so many options to choose from here. You could fill the 2WW with stuff like this alone.

LOW IMPACT EXERCISE

You do not want to overdo it during the 2WW – my doctor advised against heated classes or anything that gets your heart rate above 120. Try a barre class, a nice vinyasa flow or taking a walk in a local park or on a local trail. Want to try a bunch of new things? Download Class Pass – it is legit.

GO TO THE MOVIES

It is Oscar season, people! So many things to see. I recommend Green Book, A Star is Born, On the Basis of Sex and Bohemian Rhapsody – all out right now. This is my husband and my favorite weekend activity, whether in the 2WW or not; they know us at our “home theater” as my husband calls it. We have a slight addiction to film.

INVEST IN A JOURNAL

If you already keep one, I am talking about one in addition to that. My best friend recently gave me The Five Minute Journal. This encourages you to set intention in the morning and briefly reflect on your day before bed. I absolutely love this because it sets your mood for the entire day and let’s be honest, with all the hormones, we desperately it. You got this Emily Dickens! Find yours here.

PLAN A PARTY

Is there a holiday coming up? A big milestone birthday for someone you love? Couples getting married you want to shower? Find something or someone to celebrate (big or small) and plan a party. Nothing keeps me distracted like party planning. I will admit, I love this kind of stuff way more than most people – right now I am planning my mom’s 60th, my good friend’s baby shower, my brother’s wedding shower and my future sister-in-law’s bachelorette party (not along of course). I am telling you the little details involved with parties will take the 2WW worry right out of your mind. I am not saying go ape shit like me. If that scares you, start small.

REDECORATE

Is there a room in your house that you’ve been wanting to change for awhile? Our guest room has furniture in it from when I was NINETEEN, guys. Enter operation guest bedroom. Focus on an area of your house that you’ve been wanting to change and make it happen. No, this isn’t a picture of my home but doesn’t it rock?

GO SHOPPING

I am not suggesting charging up your credit card while you suffer from retail therapy or anything, even though, ahem, I am guilty of it sometimes myself. I am suggesting a responsible shopping trip. This can be for gifts, items for your redecoration projects, for your crafting ideas or just stuff for you. Shopping is one of the best distractions for us girls.

Well lovelies, there you have it! Fourteen ideas for the 2WW. Mix, match, repeat – whatever strikes your fancy. The point is, with all the options out there, there is NO EXCUSE TO SIT ON YOUR ASS AND WORRY. Whether you are hiding out worrying or out living your best life, the harsh truth is you are either pregnant or you’re not. Worrying is not going to change that. When I started looking at it this journey through that lens, I felt empowered to live my life and so silly for all the worry I have poured in my previous 2WWs. I hope this has given you so many great ideas to continue being the badass bitch that that you are. Baby dust and love to you always. Don’t forget, just because fertility is hard doesn’t mean it can’t be fabulous.

Xoxo, B

If you’d like to connect with Blair, you can find her on Instagram and Facebook!

Babe In My Belly, Babe In My Heart, Blogs

Finding Hope for the New Year

January 14, 2019

Written by Kateka Goodman, WTF Contributor

We all sacrifice for motherhood in different ways. For me, for a decade, my sacrifice was in using my money to pay for treatments; the sacrifice came when I put my body through hell with injections, hormones, treatments, miscarriages, weight gain, hair loss; I sacrificed my sanity, and my faith, for a while; I nearly sacrificed my marriage. Last year, when I stepped into my 3rd and final IVF egg retrieval (having already experienced two IVF miscarriages before this), I knew that I had to go into it, sacrificing next-to-everything because if it didn’t work, I hoped I’d be able to look back with no regrets. I called it the ALL HANDS ON DECK cycle. We threw every trick, test, and drug into the mix to make sure all our bases were covered.

And then I got pregnant. My numbers were low but they looked better than they ever had before. At my 6 week heartbeat ultrasound, I was told my baby had died. They did an immediate D&C. In that moment, it felt as though the world had swallowed me whole. I had no more embryos. I was no further to having a child than I was when I started this process 10 years before. If anything, all I was was an empty, but heavier, shell of what I used to be. I was bitter, cynical, judgmental, hopeless, numb, angry, stressed, and coping in unhealthy ways (binging on food and tv). I was unavailable to those I loved; my husband, my family and friends, and even, myself. Infertility had turned me into the worst version of myself. Watching your husband mourn the loss of his babies, something that you’ve failed to force into existence, has a way of extinguishing the light you have inside you. What was my purpose? How could I survive yet another failure? What good was I? How could I ever come to peace knowing I’d never pass on my own genetics?

I was purely and utterly lost.

One night, I talked to my mother and told her what a failure I was. She reassured me I wasn’t and told me I was so strong. I sighed and thought, ‘She has to say that.’

That night, while falling asleep, I recalled the conversation with my mom and my mind turned the tables. In my half-awake state, I was suddenly the mom, and my adult daughter was telling me she had her 3rd miscarriage after giving infertility the fight of her life. I could see her pain. I wanted to fix it. I wanted her to understand she was stronger than she understood. She fought every step of the way, even though she had fear riding on her shoulders the entire time. She was not a failure, she was a warrior. I wish she understood how loved she was. I wished she could love herself.

I wrote my strange half-awake dream down and described it to my husband the next day. He told me, if there were such things as angel babies (past or future), that they’d be proud of what we tried to do. In thinking of my angel babies, I had this yearning that they needed me to stop focusing on growing our family for some time, and instead give myself some much needed care; the same kind of care I’d give to any of my loved ones who needed help.

 

(Here I am a few weeks after my D&C in May of 2018, heavier than I’d ever been before)

 

In the spring of 2018, I made myself the priority. Not baby-making. Not scouring online forums and books for “fix-it’s” to my infertility. I worked on giving myself some serious, much-needed, self-care.

My self-care was focused around: getting therapy right away, feeding my body better, getting more exercising, resting when I needed it, finding healthy ways to cope with my emotions, and having some happy things to look forward to (not baby related).

  • In therapy I learned many life lessons, including the importance of self-validation. No one’s words will ever be enough if you don’t first validate from within.
  • I’ve done restriction diets in the past to lose weight or to try to improve fertility and it didn’t help in either way. My endometriosis had done so much damage that changing my diet now would do nothing to improve my already ruined eggs; also, taking away bread and sugar just leads me to binge (and gain more weight). Instead I focused on portion control. I eat a lot of healthy foods, but I still enjoy “bad” foods (in small portions) so that I never feel deprived.
  • When it came to exercise, I listened purely to my body. I started off with light, low-impact workouts, and with time, my stamina naturally improved. If my body was exhausted, I would take that queue and rest on those days. Other times, I was bursting with energy so I’d use that energy to give more to my workouts.
  • Instead of using food to cope with my feelings I paid attention to my body queues. If I needed to chat, I’d either journal or call a friend; if I felt angry, I’d take it out on my workout (making sure to add PUNCHING BAG to my workouts that day); If I was growing obsessive or feeling crazy, I’d work on a craft, puzzle, or meditation to try to distract myself; when I felt like crying, I allowed the rivers to flow, making sure to never stifle any of my feelings; when I needed perspective I would try to serve others.
  • My husband and I planned a trip to Kauai! We were excited for months leading up to our adventure and it really helped us live more presently, instead of in the past, or future. We had a wonderful time there and are anxiously looking forward to when we can travel again.
  • And! I lost 54 lbs. (I have to give my husband a shout out who has also worked on his health and is down 60 lbs right now too).

Allowing my body to purge of all the hormones, eat healthy foods, workout again, and find happiness in TODAY, did so much for my overall wellbeing.

Crazy enough, I feel closer to being the mother I’d like to be for my future children compared to where I was when I had my short pregnancy last spring.

This year, I have many resolutions I am working towards. My husband and I want to get more tests done before we figure out how to move forward next (donor egg, embryo adoption, foster care, or adoption), we need to continue saving money for whatever baby plan we choose, and I want to continue working on my overall health so that if/when babies come into the picture, I can be a mama they’re proud to call their own.

The thing is, whether you have completed the fight, are in the middle of the fight, are about to start the fight, or maybe are taking a break from the fight, we are all following our hearts and doing our best. You are strong. No matter where you are in your journey, make sure this year to take time for YOU. Give the same love that you’d give to your children, to yourself. From one warrior to another, I am wishing you a very happy, and successful, New Year.

With love,

Kateka

 

If you’d like to connect with Kateka, you can find her on Youtube, Instagram, Weight Loss Instagram, or Email!

Babe In My Heart, Blogs, Uncategorized

Taking Back New Years

January 3, 2019

Written by Ashtyn Kalika, Guest Blogger

New years can be a tough journey for the fertility challenged as we reflect on the year that was. The months spent hoping and praying for our arms to be filled, the intense up and down emotional roller coaster, the empty womb.  You can’t help but envision and pray for your dreams to become a reality in the New Year.

I have only been on this journey for two years now. Last New Year’s and Christmas was not a happy time for me. I thought I would be a mom and things were just not leaning that way. Fast forward to now and I’m nowhere closer to the end of this journey. However this year I want it to be a different kind of New Year. I call it taking back “New Years”. I’m taking back the joy that has been stolen this year. I’m taking back the time spent crying and being miserable. I’m taking back control. This journey to motherhood is so out of our control, so I am choosing to spend my energy on things I can control.

My five steps to taking back New Year’s are:

  1. Don’t set deadlines

How many times have you told yourself “I have to get pregnant by my birthday/partner’s birthday” or “by Easter” or “by Christmas”? Let go of these. They put unnecessary pressure on you and emphasize the lack of control you have over the timing of when you will conceive. No one knows how long their journey will be (insert big sigh). We just need to trust that it will all be revealed in His perfect timing.

  1. Don’t play the blame game

Be kind on yourself and your partner. Don’t blame yourself for past actions or hate your body for not functioning the way you want to. Don’t feel that you could have prayed harder or eaten better or had more faith. The negative self-talk is all lies. Don’t believe all the lies and give yourself permission to move on and ignore the lies. Accept the truth instead. The truth is: you are strong, courageous and loved. You are doing the best you can and that is good enough.

  1. Self-Care

Look after yourself. Spend time reading new books, being quiet, meeting new people. Make friends, laugh, and go for a massage or a fresh new haircut. Go for a walk and get some fresh air while enjoying the beauty around you. Spend time doing things with your partner and taking time out to talk and laugh and forget about the journey even for a moment. Try new things together, go on a hike, camp, try a new restaurant, and go on a date night. Just spend time being intentional with each other. Don’t define yourself by your journey. You are more than that. I am not fertility challenged, I am Ashtyn!

  1. Limit the negative words and let go of the jealousy and bitterness

I know it is so difficult not to let feelings of jealousy and hurt creep up when it seems as if a lot of people around you get pregnant so easily. However we just need to be careful as we never know the story in someone else’s journey. The lady you saw in the shops could have fought massive health battles to carry that baby. The woman you walked past could be a surrogate. It’s always harder on us when we hold onto the feelings of jealousy or resentment because we end up being the ones who get hurt not the people we are resenting. Try where you can to replace those negative feelings with positive ones. Replace it with hope. Every day you feel negative or full of resentment or despair replace it with hope. Write down scripture or verses or anything encouraging. Write it on your arm or place it all around your house. Read these anytime you feel you are losing hope.

  1. Keep pushing forward

It’s tough but just keep on moving (as Dory would say: keep on swimming!). Until you choose another option or to give up entirely, keep moving forward. Keep hoping and striving for your hopes. You got this!

I know these are not easy steps to do and I know this journey is tough. My hope is that even one of these steps will make the New Year just a little easier to bear.

Here is to a better, happier, healthier and more positive 2019! May it be the year our prayers are answered and wombs are filled with healthy babies.

If you’d like to connect with Ashtyn, you can find her on Instagram, Facebook or her Blog!

Babe In My Belly, Babe In My Heart, Blogs

9 Infertility Resolutions for 2019

December 27, 2018

Written by Jessica Hansen, Guest Blogger

I rang in 2017 in my pajamas on my couch. I was recovering from a stomach bug that most of my in-laws had caught (but my husband had somehow avoided, naturally). Still, I was optimistic about the new year. Having tried to get pregnant for six months or so by then, I was confident 2018 would be our year.

I was right – and more so than I even thought. What I had thought was my lightest period ever actually wasn’t, and on December 31st of 2017, I was already pregnant. It would be a few more weeks until a growing hunch prompted me to take a test which would confirm it.

And then, just a couple of days later, I wasn’t. I was just under six weeks, but to say “just” or “only” minimizes my grief. I’ve learned since that we are entitled to our pain, no matter which unique circumstances we face. Still, that loss and infertility as a whole have left me wrestling with some ugly emotions I’m still sorting through.

And, 2018 would bring even more loss for us. As my husband lay his mother to rest in the summer – the second parent he’d lost in 18 months – I couldn’t help but grow angry at the injustice of it all. Weeks prior, my family had to say goodbye to the dog I’d had growing up. Certainly, these losses cannot be compared, but pain is still pain. And it’s been a painful year.

But resolutions can be about looking forward without necessarily “getting over” the past – because we all know infertility and loss aren’t simply gotten over. As I look ahead to 2019, infertility is indeed at the top of my mind. While I may be a bit more jaded than I was back in 2017, I try to look at this year as having made me perhaps a bit wiser – and a hell of a lot stronger. So, here it goes. These are my infertility resolutions for 2019.

  1. Become more vocal.

I mean this in a few different ways. For one, with my doctors and nurses. While I’ve been extremely pleased with my clinic so far and they’ve given me every opportunity to ask questions, I still find myself holding back in fear of sounding stupid or coming across too needy. Enough. I am putting too much on the line to be shy.

I also need to speak up with my husband. He is my biggest supporter, but sometimes I go into “shutdown” mode to avoid talking about the painful stuff. He knows this is when I need to talk most. I’ve always been comfortable sharing my emotions but infertility is a different beast; it’s created feelings and thoughts which I don’t even know how to process. I’m learning how to do my part in opening up, even if it comes out as a jumbled mess.

Finally, I’d like to become more open about infertility everywhere to continue building this conversation and bringing awareness to the challenges that one in eight couples face. My immediate network of friends and family has been outstanding in terms of offering support, but in my experience, many others who are unfamiliar with infertility tend to say the wrong things. I believe it’s because they don’t know what to say – which is because infertility isn’t discussed enough in our society.

  1. Try something new.

On a lighter note, cooking was my “thing” this year. I bought a few healthy cookbooks, learned how to use a pressure cooker, and even tried a couple of meal delivery subscriptions. Channeling my energy into creating something has been very cathartic for me, especially when it feels like the one thing I want to create so badly, I can’t.

What will my new thing be for 2019? I’m not sure yet, but I’m excited to find out. I know distraction isn’t always the healthiest way to handle challenges, but at the same time, I also believe having outlets for creativity and self-exploration are important through this process.

  1. Go on more dates.

Infertility takes up a lot of space in my marriage. We’re doing injections, going for ultrasounds and blood work, and planning for the “what ifs.” To think that I’ll look back on the first few years of my married life and associate it with such stress and heartache is upsetting. In 2019, I’d like to work on creating happy memories and actually dating my husband again. I know it’s unrealistic to think we can be completely carefree, but I do believe there’s room for the pain of not having the family we want yet to coexist alongside joy, love, and lighthearted moments.

  1. Take a vacation.

We’ve taken a couple of vacations while TTC, but all have been slightly marred by the emotional roller coaster of infertility. If a babymoon isn’t in the cards for us, I’d like to plan a trip for a time when we might actually take a break from trying – and purchase trip insurance. You know, just in case.

  1. Take on a realistic workload.

Speaking of breaks, I need to know when to take them at home, too. I’m a freelancer and don’t get vacation days or PTO. On the one hand, this makes me extremely fortunate because I can build my schedule around appointments. On the other hand, I tend to punish myself by playing catch-up until I’m working into wee hours of the night. I realize that this is unhealthy and I’m working on building boundaries into my schedule for 2019.

  1. Unplug occasionally.

Social media is both a blessing and a curse. I have found a few support networks that I absolutely adore, which is the reason I started an Instagram to chronicle my own infertility experiences. At the same time, social media is also a place where you’ll find unexpected baby announcements that knock the wind out of you. And, our community has its share of heartache, too. I absolutely love hearing about the successes of other infertile couples, but I also feel the pain behind their bad news, perhaps too acutely at times. I think taking mini-breaks can be refreshing. Plus, there’s comfort in knowing this wonderful network of strong women will always be here when I’m ready to come back.

  1. Control my self-criticism.

This is something I struggle with daily. It’s bad enough to have the flood of thoughts and feelings that come with infertility: sadness, frustration, anger, jealousy, and impatience. But what’s even worse than these thoughts themselves is the way I judge myself for having them.

I think to myself, I should be more optimistic. Then I counter that by telling myself I shouldn’t get my hopes up. I also feel immense guilt, because my life isn’t bad – by any means. I’m fortunate in more ways than I can count.

But at this point, I’ve become exhausted with judging myself for my own thoughts, and characterizing them as “good” or “bad.” For 2019, I’m going to try this meditative practice instead:

I will not judge my thoughts and feelings. Instead, I will simply let them pass, like cars on a highway.

  1. Nourish my body.

I don’t eat poorly, but there’s definitely room for improvement. Instead of eating a granola bar for breakfast because it’s quick and easy, I’d like to set aside time for three whole meals a day. Some weeks I’m good about this and meal-prep in advance; others, not so much. I’m aiming for consistency in 2019. While I know my diet isn’t the cause for not getting pregnant, I do want to give my body everything it needs to support my someday baby.

Likewise, I’ve put running longish distances on hold for now, and will continue to do so for 2019. Again, I’m not saying running 10+ miles has anything to do with infertility. I’ve always hydrated and listened to my body, and I know there are plenty of endurance athletes who have given birth to healthy babies. But this year, I’m approaching fitness in a way that rewards my body instead of feeling like punishment. Activities like long walks and yoga are good for not just my physical state, but my mental health, too.

  1. Connect with a real-life infertile friend.

As I said before, I have an incredible support network of family and friends, as well as online groups. But I also know how desperately I’m craving a real, human connection with someone who’s been through (or is going through) this.

I wouldn’t wish infertility on anyone in the world. But, going through it with someone else might make it a little less painful. I’d love to have an infertile friend to meet up with over coffee, to laugh (and probably cry) with, to cheer on, and to just talk about all of the absurdities of infertility.

Here’s to hoping we’ll both be drinking decaf.

What The Fertility

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