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The Stork Brings A Stark: First Trimester

September 27, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Babe In My Belly, Blogs

The Stork Brings A Stark: The Test

September 14, 2017

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

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

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

Babe In My Belly, Blogs

Sixth Times A Charm

September 7, 2017

Written by Tiffany Johnston, guest blogger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Babe In My Belly, Blogs

All In

September 5, 2017

Written by Elizabeth Lantry, guest blogger

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

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

Year 1 of Infertility: Vasectomy Reversal & Trying to Conceive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Year 3 of Infertility: A Break

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Babe In My Belly, Blogs

“You’ll glow,” they said…

May 23, 2017

Written by guest blogger, Katelyn Smith

“Have a baby” they said. “You’ll have the pregnancy glow” they said. But what they didn’t say is that the glow doesn’t come alone. It comes with first trimester pimples, second trimester cravings and third trimester insomnia.

As mommies-to-be, we hear so much about the importance of a healthy diet, good sleeping position and exercise routine. We spend countless hours researching proper nutrition, safe workouts and pregnancy pillows. We all know how significant a healthy diet, sleep and exercise are. Not only for the little love you have growing inside of you, but also for you, mommy.

So we got it from here…

Exercise routine? Check

Sleep routine? Check (or working on it)

Healthy diet? Check (orrrr…. also working on it. Darn PB&J cravings)

If we’re so concerned about what goes in our body, shouldn’t we be just as concerned about what goes on it?

How many times have you turned over your favorite bag of chips to see how many calories there are? Or how foreign the ingredients seem? Most of the time, if we can’t pronounce something that our food is made out of, we put it down and head for the fresh produce.

What if we did the same thing with our skin care and makeup? How many ingredients do you think you wouldn’t recognize if you looked at the label? How many could you really pronounce?

What goes in our bodies is just as important as what goes on our bodies – especially during pregnancy.

Whatever we put on our skin is absorbed into the bloodstream, through the placenta and onto our little loves. Woah, right?

Now that we’re in this new mind set, let’s talk.

Think about how many products you put on your body every single day.. from makeup, to moisturizers, to body wash, lotions, toners, cleansers, scrubs, shaving cream.. etc.

Now think about how many ingredients are in each and every one of those products.

How many of them are actually non-toxic and safe?

Skin care companies these days do not seem to care about how toxic their ingredients are to our skin. In my opinion, it is all about quantity, not quality. Our society is uneducated as to how these chemicals, in our favorite make up line, is really affecting the quality of our skin. But that’s not our fault. It’s not our fault that the United States has not passed a major federal law to regulate the safety of ingredients used in beauty and personal care products since 1938 (umm, say what?! yeah, true story).

So what can we do? We can take control! We have the control of what goes in our bodies and what goes on our bodies. Not only can we start making and using homemade skin care, we can change what we are purchasing. There are companies like Beautycounter who make using non-toxic products easy.

Beautycounter is a company dedicated to getting safer products into the hands of everyone. They even have a Never List composed of over 1,500 chemicals they promise to never use in their products.

They have everything you need. Makeup, skin care, shampoo, conditioner, body wash and more. They even have products specifically made for babies and kids. Holla! You know this mommy-to-be is already stalking up on the baby oil!

Taking good care of your skin care is crucial every single day. Before, during and after pregnancy. Our skin is something we look at and care for every day, we should know exactly what is going on it. Who doesn’t want to show off their pregnancy glow toxin free?! As women, when our skin is clear and healthy, we feel better. We feel more confident. Not only is it good for our self-esteem, it is good for our well-being. And more importantly, it is good for your little love’s well-being. 

Babe In My Belly, Blogs

Bottoms Up Babes

May 2, 2017

Prenatal vitamins are a must for all of us who are trying to conceive. (And those who are pregnant. AND those who are nursing…Wow, that’s a lot of pill popping!) But did you know that many moms and moms-to-be dread taking prenatal pills and gummies? They can be monotonous, hard to swallow, and difficult to digest without experiencing an icky feeling. Plus, many prenatal pills and gummies lack a lot of the essential elements necessary for a healthy, modern pregnancy.

Mommy Water—a complete prenatal vitamin drink—mixes things up by offering a flavorful alternative to forgettable pills. Created by a team of medical doctors, nutritionists, and beverage formulators, Mommy Water provides everything you’d get in a traditional prenatal vitamin—plus a whole lot more—in one deliciously drinkable daily beverage.

Here’s what sets Mommy Water apart from antiquated, unappetizing prenatal pills.

  1. It helps alleviate (morning) sickness

Breaking down concentrated pills can upset stomachs. And if you’re you’re expecting and experiencing morning sickness, pills can make you feel worse. Mommy Water is designed for easier absorption and contains Pyridoxine (vitamin B6), which helps alleviate nausea and vomiting associated with morning sickness.

  1. It helps you stay hydrated

Mommy Water is packed with electrolytes to help combat dehydration—a common problem, pregnant or not—and improve absorption of all the great vitamins and minerals. Why is hydration important during pregnancy? It reduces constipation (which affects up to 40% of pregnant women!), keeps swelling in check, and is vital to keeping up with our pregnant bodies’ and babies’ demands. Reminder: hydration is very important before and after pregnancy, too!

  1. It’s filled with fiber

Mommy Water includes a prebiotic fiber source that helps relieve constipation by stimulating the normal, beneficial bacteria in the colon. The fiber can also help you feel fuller longer, helping you with portion control and sensible eating.

  1. It tastes delicious

Whether you dread choking down horse pills, are craving something sweet, or just need a good excuse to drink up your daily dose of water, Mommy Water offers a enjoyable option. It can also be added to smoothies, yogurt, and oatmeal—or even mixed in with soda water for a tasty mocktail. (BTW: Mommy Water is sweetened with natural stevia, so it is safe for women with gestational diabetes.)

  1. It helps reduce “pregnancy brain”

Feeling forgetful or a little foggy? Mommy Water can help with that. It’s formulated with choline, which aids in fetal brain development, and according to emerging research, can also assist in reducing “pregnancy brain.”

Head over to What The Fertility’s Instagram to find out how you can win a Mommy Water gift basket!

 

Babe In My Belly, Blogs

My Maternity Photo Shoot

July 22, 2016

40You Guys! This is like a dream come true! I can’t tell you how exciting it is for ME to be able to do a Maternity Photo Shoot. For years I’ve seen all of my friend’s beautiful bellies center stage in gorgeous photo shoots and I wanted so badly for that to be me someday! Well my time is FINALLY here and these photos are everything I’ve always hoped they would be. Also, it was so fun to have my sweet baby Grant in the pics with his sissy. He is a trooper…as his Dada who isn’t the fondest of picture taking. But c’mon, what guy is??

I need to give a HUGE shout out to my brilliant photographer Lindsay Rene Photography ! Lindsay is fantastic and amazingly she had a baby 5 weeks prior to this shoot. Her photos are just dreamy! This shoot perfectly captures our joy and pure gratitude and I’m so thankful we’ll always have memories from this special time. We’re so excited to have Lindsay shoot newborn photos of baby sis too in just a few weeks! I could share every single one of the photos from our shoot, but I’ll spare you and just show off a few.

Dresses: Krazy Mary’s Boutique

Flower Crown: The Flower Shop Fair Oaks 
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Babe In My Belly, Blogs

The Home Stretch

July 14, 2016

I am officially one month out (give or take a few days) from meeting my little babe! I can’t believe how quickly these last 9 months have gone by and that soon my baby girl will be in my arms. While I cannot wait to see her darling little face, I must admit I am already feeling sad about not being pregnant anymore. Sounds kinda crazy, right? I just shared that thought with some girlfriends who immediately burst out laughing. I get it…being pregnant isn’t exactly a walk in the park, but boy is it the most special experience ever. At least for me anyway.

I’ll admit my first trimester was far from perfection. On top of being super anxious and worried about the possibility of having another miscarriage, I was also extremely sick. From Week 6 through Week 16 I could not keep a single thing down. Sorry this is gross, but literally anything I ate made me puke. Even smells like my dishwasher or my  refrigerator (which are both very clean) had me running for the toilet! I survived on Saltines and chicken broth, which is why I lost 7 pounds in the first trimester. Poor baby girl! Not to mention, I had terrible migraine- like headaches that would appear for hours at a time. I was a HOT MESS!! All that being said, those symptoms were actually quite reassuring. I knew that the sicker I felt, the healthier she was! In fact one day, probably at about 9 weeks, I actually felt good for about 4 hours. No nausea, no headaches, no nothing. I was so used to feeling awful that I freaked out, called my Doctor and begged to come in for a ultrasound. I arrived to the Doctors in a tear stained panic, only to be reassured that my teeny tiny baby was totally fine and I had overreacted. I got home and immediately puked. Lol, so all was well.

Besides the grossness of my first trimester, which wasn’t even that bad, my pregnancy has been a dream. In my second trimester I got my appetite back in a MAJOR way! That’s when my my love affair with donuts began! I also got a huge boost of energy which made me feel like Wonderwoman. I started working out again and had never felt so happy or content. These euphoric feelings continued right on into my third trimester and up to today! Lately I’ve received many cautionary warnings that it would “just be a matter of time” until I felt totally awful. “Your feet will swell, your back will ache, your stretch marks will appear, you’ll be exhausted etc etc.” So far, I am still one very happy camper. I continue to feel fabulous-like the very best version of myself.

Perhaps I am too happy to be tired or to excited to notice an aching back? Maybe I’m just reallllly lucky and am having a kick ass third trimester. I’m not exactly sure, but what I have learned is that PERSPECTIVE is EVERYTHING! When Doctors tell you that you will never be able to get pregnant and then miraculously you are, trust me, it’s not something you take for granted. Infertility sucked the life outta me…took away my joy and damaged my spirit; but this sweet child has given it all back to me. I feel as though I am a walking, talking miracle! Truly! Also, I am lucky enough to have a darling baby boy who needs my constant love and attention (we adopted Grant 4 months ago) and things will definitely change once Sissy arrives. I will miss that special one on one time with my sweet Grant. Right now I’m able to have both my babes with me at all times. Finally, who knows if I will be able to get pregnant again? Doctors said it would never happen, so maybe this is a fluke and I’m one and done? The only thing I’m certain of is that I am so unbelievably grateful for this beautiful experience and I’m not quite ready to give it up just yet. But talk to me again in about a month 😉

Babe In My Belly, Blogs

Baby Showering

July 11, 2016
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Two mamas to be!


Two baby showers in just one weekend! One for my sweet cousin who is having a baby boy two weeks after we have our little girl and the second for my dear friend from high school who is having a boy in September. Such a beautiful weekend filled with so much love for these two babes. But I have to admit, if these showers were a year ago…I probably wouldn’t have gone. I feel so incredibly terrible to say that, but I honestly don’t know if I would have had the strength. And I’d like to explain why.

Dealing with infertility for 4 years like I did, will test a person in ways you can’t imagine. Something as simple as going to a baby shower was enough to put me in a deep depression for weeks. At the beginning of my struggles, I would still go to baby showers; in fact I even hosted a few myself. I would smile and coo at all the sweet little baby gifts like everyone else, but in reality it crushed me. Most of the time I would cry on the way there and again on the way home. I was just so unbelievably sad to know that this was something I may never experience. As if that wasn’t hard enough, I felt so very guilty about missing all those showers, birthdays and kid-centric events. The guilt literally kept me up at night. I hope maybe now my friends can understand where I was coming from even if they couldn’t back then. And I want to make it really clear that while I was incredibly devastated for myself, I could still be happy for the mama to be having the baby. The two are not mutually exclusive. I genuinely felt relieved that someone I knew would never have to feel the sting of an IVF needle, take those crazy clomid pills or leave every Doctors appointment in tears. Honestly. I wouldn’t wish infertility on my worst enemy! Buuuuut I got to a point where the sadness I felt for myself out weighed the happiness I felt for mama to be, so I just stopped going. I wish I had been stronger, I wish I had made myself go and I wish that my friends could have understood WHY I couldn’t be there. Simply put, it’s not you it’s me.

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Look at all the cute babes at the this baby shower..my nieces and nephews! One year ago all this adorableness would have been just too painful for me to endure.

So now that I’m a mama, going to baby showers is fun again! They are the bright and joyous occasions that I could not enjoy when that dark cloud of infertility hung over my head. Go figure! So I have two messages. First, ladies struggling with infertility and feeling the guilt of not going to showers, birthdays, etc (basically an event where kids will be present) don’t be so hard on yourself. I beat myself up about not being a good friend and that’s just not necessary. You’re already dealing with so many intense emotions, don’t add guilt to the mix. If they are truly your friends, they will understand why you can’t be there. Secondly, ladies who are not pregnant and will never (thankfully) know the pain of infertility please be considerate of friends who may be struggling. Always invite your friends to the event (even if you think they won’t go) because we already feel left out and no invite, even with the best of intentions, can feel like a slap in the face. Also don’t take it personally if we don’t come. Infertility is no joke. Some days can feel like the world is caving in. Be extra sensitive to your friends that are struggling. We don’t hate you because you’re pregnant, we hate ourselves because we’re NOT pregnant.

Wishing you all light, love and baby dust!

Babe In My Belly, Blogs

I’M PREGNANT!!!!!

July 7, 2016

Today I’m thinking back to the special day I found out I was pregnant!!! Eeeee! I remember that December day like it was yesterday. I knew I was a couple of days late, but that wasn’t uncommon after several miscarriages and lots of infertility treatments, but I also didn’t want to jump the gun and take a test too soon. Believe me, it’s extra disappointing when the test is negative month after month. And even though Doctors told me I would never be able to get pregnant, it didn’t mean that every 30 days I wouldn’t get my hopes up and pray for a miracle.

So on this particular day, I worked out in fact it was the hardest workout of my life, went out to lunch with my Mom and Grandma then finally couldn’t wait any longer to take a test. I drove to Target and bought 2 pregnancy tests without telling anyone, not even my husband. I sped home practically hyperventilating with anxiety and excitement. Something just felt different this time. My heart pounded out of my chest during that excruciating 2 minute wait, but when I finally peeked at that little white stick I couldn’t believe my eyes. I fell to the bathroom floor crying uncontrollably saying “Thank you Lord, thank you Lord” over and over. I don’t know how long I laid on that cool white tile just sobbing and talking to God. It was like I could breathe again for the first time in years.

Yet even in that joyful moment I immediately recognized that the chances for a viable pregnancy were very slim, so right away I had 2 thoughts. #1 At least this is progress. I hadn’t a positive pregnancy test in 2.5 years…let alone any positive news in the fertility department. This is finally something GOOD! #2 Even if this ends in a miscarriage, which is pretty likely considering I’d already had 2, at least we can do an autopsy on the embryo and get some answers. I know….kind of morbid, but after so much heartache and disappointment you learn to always look for the silver lining. Fortunately, none of that was even necessary.

I still can hardly believe this is happening to me! I am so unbelievably thankful for this miracle. IMG_1262

What The Fertility

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