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FertileGirl: Empowering Women Through Conversation and Nutrition

November 28, 2017

What The Fertility had the opportunity to interview Allison Kasirer, founder of FertileGirl, a pre-pregnancy nutrition company. We love the mission she is on to empower women by changing the conversation around fertility and focusing on creating and keeping our bodies healthy. (Psst…be sure to read all the way through to get a coupon code for 15% off the FertileGirl superfood nutrition bars)!

1. Thank you so much for taking time to talk to us about FertileGirl! Let’s start at the very beginning: what inspired you to start FertileGirl?

Allison Kasirer (AK): FertileGirl was truly born out my own personal fertility journey. I did a big lifestyle overhaul when trying to get pregnant—including focusing more on my nutrition. I noticed the conventional packaged food I was eating did not have the ideal pre-pregnancy nutrition that I was looking for. So I started making my own snacks at home and bringing them with me to my doctor appointments. I also noticed that there was no consumer brand out there that spoke to the TTC woman in a way that I needed at the time. After some time, I realized I could merge these two concepts into what would become FertileGirl.

2. Tell us about the FertileGirl Superfood Nutrition Bars. What led you to create these bars? What goodness goes into them?

AK: I found that taking control of my nutrition was extremely empowering when going through something that felt very much out of my control. The bars were my attempt at packing the important pre-pregnancy nutrients into a convenient on-the-go snack. I tried to use clean, simple, and real food ingredients in order to get more plant-based protein, omega 3s, iron, and calcium in my diet. When I realized that I wanted to make these into a real product, I gathered input from our advisory board of doctors and nutritionists, and set out to create a “proof-of-concept.” FertileGirl’s superfood nutrition bars are actually very similar to the ones I made for myself, except the ingredients get ground up more finely by large scale machines.

3. We love how FertileGirl encourages women to talk about the F word: fertility. Why is it so important to make conversations about fertility less taboo?

AK: We feel very passionately about changing the fertility conversation. It’s imperative that we work toward making this topic less isolating, stressful, and confusing and more hopeful, rewarding, and empowering. When I started sharing my story with other women, my whole journey changed. I finally had the support that I needed to get to the other side. It also opened my eyes to how common fertility challenges are! When something is stigmatized, it is that much harder to build community. If we can break the stigma and embrace the F word, we’re much more likely to find and give that support to one another.

4. Since starting FertileGirl, how have you seen the conversation around fertility evolve?

AK: It’s been almost a year since we launched the social platforms for FertileGirl. It seems over the past year, we’ve had more celebrities and influencers talking about their own fertility journeys. Because of their wide reach, those statements have a huge impact on breaking the stigma. I’ve also been surprised by how many women reach out to us with questions around fertility. There doesn’t seem to be a good resource out there with accurate, approachable information. We hope to continue to provide informative content written by experts through our social feeds and blog, “Real Talk.”

5. Not only do you create amazing nutrition bars and provide a place of support for those on their fertility journeys, but you “put your money where your mouth is” by giving back a portion of your proceeds to Baby Quest Foundation. Can you tell us a little bit about this partnership?

AK: I met Pam Hirsch, the founder of Baby Quest Foundation, many months before we even had a product. It was also before I found out I was pregnant with twins. She has created an incredible organization that has helped bring over 50 babies into the world. I’ve personally met with some of the Baby Quest recipients and met some of the Baby Quest babies. We try to be as hands on as possible in addition to supporting them financially.

6. What advice do you have for women who are looking struggling with their fertility? Aside from FertileGirl, what other resources would you recommend?

AK: Mother yourself. I realized on my personal journey that I wouldn’t be able to mother a future child until I mothered myself. Self-care is just as important before and after pregnancy as it is when you’re pregnant and growing another human being. It’s hard to recommend specific resources since each person’s journey is unique. Also, different women have different reactions to those resources. For example, some women love acupuncture and find that it reduces stress during the process. Other women find it stressful! Some women want to change out every beauty product and household product to organic. Other women find that process stressful and unnecessary. We provide a lot of these different resources on our social feeds and blog; however, I think it’s important to do what’s right for you and “mother yourself” in whatever forms that takes.

Want to try the FertileGirl nutrition bars for yourself? Use the code WHATTHEFERTILITY at check out to receive 15% off your order! Head on over to the FertileGirl shop here.
Babe In My Arms, Babe In My Belly, Babe In My Heart, Blogs

What The…? Will Work For IVF Coverage

November 26, 2017
The Scoop:

According to a report by FertilityIQ, there has been an increase in companies who are offering infertility treatment coverage to their employees. Among these are companies like Starbucks, Pinterest, Bank of America, and Facebook. How amazing is that?! Just a few years ago, this would have been unheard of. Shout out to the employers who are with the times and get how important this is!

Tell Us:

Do you work for a company that provides infertility treatment coverage? Would you switch jobs just to have your treatments covered? Tell us in the comments below!

Babe In My Belly, Blogs

Learning To Simply Be

November 21, 2017

Written by Tiffany Johnston, WTF Contributor

At the end of every infertility journey you likely will face one of two outcomes: defeat or pregnancy. While pregnancy is what we all long for and desire, sometimes that outcome is simply not in our cards. Just as each pregnancy is unbelievably different so is every infertility struggle. Some pass quickly, and some drag on for what seems like an eternity. Often during our infertility journey, I found it hard to not think about what an easy pregnancy we would deserve if that if that time ever came. However, both of our miracle pregnancies have left us in the midst of very different struggles.

Ever since we started our second infertility journey I have made it goal to be open and honest about our successes and struggles. And in all honesty, this pregnancy has been utterly exhausting, challenging, and just plain frustrating. With multiple visits to Labor and Delivery that started at 26 weeks, it burdened us early on with a steadily growing mound of medical bills on top of those we were already working to pay off from the infertility treatments. It’s as if we simply can’t win and that around each turn is another struggle. I know that each pregnancy is very different just as every round of infertility treatments can be like night and day.

With our first son, the infertility procedures proved to be almost flawless. Then, during the last three months, I had a lot of rib pain because our miracle babe had decided to be positioned in a permanent back dive pike and use my rib cage as a punching/kicking bag (I am talking full on Mike Tyson). This time we faced spotting, from a less than optimal distance between my placenta and cervix, extremely early contractions that have continually lead me straight into overwhelming nausea, and unparalleled dizziness. Basically I’ve decided that this kiddo has a complete lack of disregard for mama wanting to nest. This pregnancy has been nothing like our first. In fact, I would go as far as to say that it’s been miserable. I am done, finished, and ready for this kiddo to come out, but I digress.

A few weeks ago I had become so miserable physically from placenta and cervix proximity issues that we decided I had no choice but to stop working outside of the home as the stress and commute were increasing my contractions and decreasing my ability to withstand even some of the most basic hardships of the third trimester. It turns out that being on partial bed rest while raising our now three year old and renovating a house is darn near impossible. I mean there is no cap on taking on the world right? We all want to be supermom.

Truthfully, it feels good to have made it this far along. I feel proud that we not only made it successfully through the first two trimesters and somehow I managed to not riddle myself with a ton of anxiety and stress over what could be, but now we have surpassed every doctor’s belief that we could likely deliver 4-10 weeks early. This baby is reminding me that although just over nine months ago I was willingly dissecting my body to become pregnant through chemicals, procedures, holistic remedies, essential oils, diet, acupuncture, chiropractic care, and more. Now I have to step back, listen to our doctors, family and friends, and simply be. Be one with the notion that at 38 weeks I won’t be canning in the kitchen with my mother or painting three rooms in our house like I did with my first son. That in all likelihood the remodeling projects won’t be finished in time, the baby’s room will not be put together, and the bills will still be there. I must constantly remind myself that the moment we got our BFP I was granted the amnesty to rest, breathe, and simply be in the miracle that we are being blessed enough to experience.

While our first infertility miracle reminded us of what could be and the power of change, this baby has given me even more than I could ever imagined. He has reminded me day after day that I simply must slow down, enjoy the cuddles that my growing toddler is still willingly gifting, and be humbled in knowing that while I have temporarily traded in my super mom status (i.e.: being the homemaker, working in an office, running a small business, and blogging), we unequivocally knew what we were signing up for. I mean, this isn’t our first time to the infertility rodeo.

In all reality, with every stage of pregnancy comes a mixed bag of emotions and feelings. I want time to simultaneously hurry up and slow down all at once. Physically, I want to be done I am exhausted and tired of the contractions and hospital visits and pain that makes me dizzier than a tilt-a-whirl. But emotionally, I’m so happy that this baby is staying put, especially when this could quite possibly be the last time we will ever be pregnant and I want to savor every moment of the blessing.

In no way is this path of our journey easier than the last. It is simply similar and different all at once. I do not long for the heartache, exhaustion, and pain of our infertility journey as I longed for another baby. I simply have begun to realize that in each stage of our journey, we are blessed with challenges that will shape and mold us as people, parents, and members of society. So as we slowly approach the arrival of our newest miracle baby I will try to cherish each contraction, dizzy spell, and moment that someone tells me to sit down and rest. For I know now more than ever that sometimes we must just let things be and savor the journey whether difficult or easy.

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

What The…? To Sue Or Not To Sue

November 17, 2017
The Scoop:

A New York fertility clinic is being sued by two couples over donated eggs that resulted in the birth of children with a genetic defect known as Fragile X syndrome. The couples say the clinic should have tested the donors to screen the women for the condition and are suing for the cost of raising a disabled child. The clinic says “Hold on. This happened years ago. Why sue now?”

Tell Us:

Do these couple have a right to sue or is it a risk they took using donated eggs? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!

Babe In My Belly, Blogs

What the Sperm?

November 16, 2017

Written by Aileen Chun, Belly Armor CEO & Co-Founder

Infertility can be a pretty touchy subject. Going from dreams of baby bumps and new family members to the sober realization that the journey to pregnancy will be much more difficult or altogether impossible is a harsh reality that many couples must come to terms with. In addition to dealing with “When’s the baby due?” and “Are you guys even still trying?” -type questions from friends and family, couples experiencing infertility often face the societal stigma that comes from being unable to conceive. Couples may feel isolated or believe their situation is abnormal, but according to the National Survey of Family Growth, 1 in 8 couples have trouble conceiving. Most likely, at least one of your friends or family members has struggled with infertility at some point. For the couples experiencing it, infertility is definitely a problem, but it is by no means an isolated problem or one to be ashamed of.

In the past, when couples realized that they were having trouble conceiving, the responsibility often fell on the woman to solve the problem; What tricks or remedies could she use to boost her fertility? We now know that infertility is just as much a ‘he’ issue as it is a ‘she’ issue, with male infertility accounting for just under half of all fertility issues that couples face. And, judging by findings from The French Institute for Public Health Surveillance that sperm count among men worldwide is down by 30%, fertility issues due to male infertility are only expected to rise in the coming years.

For men who are experiencing or are worried about infertility, there are some areas they can focus on to alleviate the problem or reduce their risk. While this list of possible factors is by no means exhaustive, it can start you down the road to having happy, healthy sperm. (Also, if you are concerned that you are experiencing infertility, it is important to discuss with your doctor.)

  • Age – Experts recommend having children before the age of 40 because……. If you are getting close to 40 or past 40, want children but not quite ready yet, freezing sperm is an option you might want to consider.
  • Get Tested – Ask your doctor to test your sperm. Tests include sperm count, quality of the sperm (viability), and how well the sperm move (motility). This could help you better understand whether sperm health is an issue, and if it is, determine with your doctor how to address it.
  • Lifestyle – To give your sperm the best chance, you should avoid any smoking and excessive drinking. It is also important to get a healthy 8 hours of sleep.
  • Medications – Some medications can lower sperm count, so you should ask your doctor about the impact of medications you are taking if you are trying to get pregnant.
  • Smartphones – Studies such as one done by the Cleveland Clinic have linked cell phone and other wireless device use with up to a 40% decrease in sperm quality. It is a good idea to limit your cell phone use and be mindful of where you carry it on a daily basis. Your pants pockets is not a good place to keep devices because of their proximity to the testes.

If, like most men, you prefer not to carry a man-bag and not putting your cell phone in your pocket isn’t an option, RadiaShield Technologies’s award-winning Anti-Radiation Boxer-Briefs is one solution you could consider.

These boxers have been designed to proactively protect a man’s reproductive organs and shield their sperm from wireless radiation. Made of a Modal/Spandex blend and RadiaShield® Fabric, the boxers are lightweight, breathable, and machine washable. The proprietary RadiaShield® Fabric on the codpiece works by neutralizing (through reflection and absorption) incoming EMF waves from cell phones, laptops, and other devices. When worn regularly, they can be highly effective at reducing a man’s exposure to wireless radiation and protecting his sperm.

When you do conceive, Belly Armor (by RadiaShield Technologies) also makes a stylish line of anti-radiation maternity clothing and blankets to reduce your baby within from exposure to wireless radiation. Check out their full line here.


If you would love to try Belly Armor now is your chance! We have teamed up to do a giveaway of a pair of their boxer briefs and a women’s camisole. To enter the giveaway, head on over to our Instagram page for your chance to win! Good Luck to All!!

About the company: Belly Armor is the definitive resource for families looking to protect themselves against the harmful effects of everyday radiation, providing knowledge about the health risks from wireless technologies and designing products to help reduce exposure.

On a mission to make everyday environments healthier, particularly for children, Belly Armor strives to increase awareness of this emerging health issue in the 30+ countries where they have presence. They work with the scientific and medical community, their advocates and their distributors globally to educate about the state of the science and encourage a more balanced and safer use of technology in our modern-day lives.





Babe In My Belly, Blogs

The Stork Brings A Stark: Second Trimester

October 24, 2017

I am beyond grateful to be pregnant. I thank God everyday for this tiny life growing inside me. However, pregnancy isn’t all strong finger nails, thick hair and glowing skin. Let me be clear. I’m not complaining about pregnancy. I totally get how lucky I am to be carrying a life. I’m just keeping it real because while it’s THE GREATEST GIFT EVER…pregnancy can also really difficult. I am documenting the ups, the downs and the “glow” (guys, it’s sweat), through my 40 weeks of pregnancy.

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

Babe In My Belly, Blogs

The Stork Brings A Stark: First Trimester

September 27, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Babe In My 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.

What The Fertility

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