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Dear Family and Friends, Part 2

November 26, 2018

Written by Heather, Guest Blogger

Part two in our 3 part series! These journal entries share the ups and downs of the roller coaster that is trying to have a baby when you’re walking the path of infertility. If you are also walking that path, may you be encouraged and know you are not alone.

June 25

We are not pregnant. Thank you for your prayers.

Allen & Heather

Photo by Drew Hays on Unsplash

July 17

Hello Family and Friends,

Allen and I felt like we needed to update everyone on where we are on this journey.

This past month has been very emotional and challenging for us. The last time we “talked” we found out that our “one” frozen embryo transfer did not work. We just knew this transfer was going to be the “one” –the one to give us our miracle baby. We were shocked and sadden by the news.

We are angry, confused, hurt, and devastated. Yet, somehow we are still trying to remain hopeful and faithful. We have now been trying to start a family for 868 days, yep, that’s what I said… 868 days! It is hard for people to understand what we are going through. Most people just decide, “Hey, let’s have a baby!” and within 10-12 months they have a sweet baby to love.  We are trying hard not to let this consume us, but that is very difficult. Everyday we are somehow reminded that we aren’t yet parents.

And we can’t help but ask ourselves….

Where is He? Doesn’t He hear our prayers?

Why we aren’t good enough?

Why can they have kids and not us?

Did we do something wrong in our past life?

Why do people who abuse and neglect their kids get to have them and we can’t?

Why do we have to go through the emotional, physical, mental, and financial stress?

When will it be our turn?

Are we being punished?

So where does that leave us now?

On June 26, the day after we found out our FET didn’t work; we received a call from Dr. K. We again were told the same thing we heard after our failed fresh transfer, “Everything seems right and we don’t know why you aren’t getting pregnant.”

Dr. K recommended that we try another round of IVF. So, Allen and I made the decision to start the entire process over again. I wanted to get started immediately so that I could do the egg retrieval during the summer, when I’m not stressed out. Dr. K did put us on a little different protocol, upping my doses for some medicines. We will not transfer any embryos after the retrieval like we did in March. We will freeze everything that we get. More studies are now showing that Frozen Transfers are more successful because your body is not so stimulated from the meds taken for the egg retrieval. Allen and I plan to schedule our frozen transfer in October, during my Fall Break.

We went in yesterday for my baseline ultrasound and everything is on track. Meds started today. Allen gets to be a scientist again and mix my meds every morning. I am injecting the needle into my belly morning and night. These aren’t as bad as the hip muscle shots that Allen had to give me for our FET. If all continues on schedule, we will be doing the egg retrieval within the next 10 days or so. That is when I go under anesthesia and they retrieve as many good eggs as they can.

Prayer Request:

  1. That Allen and I can continue to remain hopeful.
  2. That my body continues to cooperate.
  3. That I produce lots of beautiful and big follicles during the egg retrieval.

Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers during this emotional journey.

Much Love,

Allen and Heather

Romans 12:12

July 26

Our Egg Retrieval Day!

Specific prayer request:

  1. That the Doctors retrieve lots of healthy eggs.
  2. That those eggs become embryos.
  3. That those embryos grow for several days, get good grades, and are frozen.

Thank you for your prayers,

Allen and Heather

 

July 28

Yesterday’s egg retrieval went fine. Thank you for your prayers and sweet emails, texts, and calls.

The Doctor was able to get eight eggs. And we received a call yesterday afternoon that all eight had matured….which was amazing news!

But as the roller coaster of infertility goes, our call today wasn’t as good. We only have four eggs that fertilized, meaning they are now embryos. Of course, we wanted all eight to fertilize, but we are thankful for these strong four. The embryologist will continue to watch them daily. We pray they divide as they should and that all four of them make it to Day 5 to be frozen!

***Please pray for our embryos***

Thank you,

Allen & Heather

 

August 4

Hello Family and Friends,

Just a recap and update on our egg retrieval from last week–
8 eggs were retrieved
8 matured
4 fertilized, becoming embryos
and
1 made it and is now frozen. It was a Day 5, grade A. (Perfect)

Of course Allen and I wanted 5 or 6 to freeze but we are thankful for our one perfect embryo. Several women go through an egg retrieval and have nothing to freeze.

We plan to transfer during the first of October, over my Fall Break.

Thank you for your constant love and support! This is the hardest thing either one of us have ever experienced. I have learned through this 2 1/2 year journey, that Allen and I can do anything together. We are stronger and closer than most couples because of what we have endured. And no matter what God’s plan is for us, I know He definitely blessed me with the most loving, caring and devoted man out there!

Much Love,
Heather & Allen

Photo by Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash

October 1

Another bump in our road…a BIG bump!

Our transfer has been postponed indefinitely. Over the past several months my body has not had a menstrual cycle. Dr K wants to do the transfer when my body starts cooperating. While this is heartbreaking and frustrating we understand this and want to make sure everything is absolutely perfect for our “last chance embryo.” We will not be doing another IVF retrieval.I have called to request an appointment with him and the earliest we can get in is Dec 2– just another set back for us. It is incredibly difficult for us to remain hopeful or patient with the constant challenges we are faced with.

During our meeting with Dr. K we plan to discuss other options. We are considering using a surrogate. Here we have a perfect embryo but as we know, my body isn’t functioning properly. Not to mention that my body hasn’t accepted the last three good embryos that we have transferred. If you know of someone that feels a calling to be a surrogate please let me know. I would want it to be someone who gets pregnant easily and has carried her babies to term. They will have to go through a psychiatric evaluation, take pills and injections, complete the embryo transfer, and remain on bed rest for three days in a stress free environment. And of course, it would be at the expense of Allen and me. We will have an attorney help with the legal matter.

We are also looking into the adoption process. We have attended a conference and I have had dinner with a friend who has adopted. We aren’t ready to put our name on a list, but we are in the “research” stage.

You have no idea what all goes into surrogacy and adoption. If adoption is God’s plan for us, I’m great with that…but WOW it’s an intense process.

Please continue to pray for our patience while waiting to see what God’s plan is for us.

Much Love,

Heather & Allen

 

November 8

Overwhelmed… That would be the best word to describe how Allen and I are feeling right now. We have been doing lots of research recently as we pursue both surrogacy and adoption.

I have talked with the foremost Tennessee surrogacy attorney in Nashville. She said that finding a surrogate is the most challenging part. With that being said; I have personally “interviewed” a potential surrogate, talked on the phone with another surrogate, met with a girl using a surrogate, and met with another girl due with twins via surrogate next month.

We also met with an adoption attorney. He provided us with valuable information confirming that we will pursue independent (private) adoption rather than using an adoption agency. Independent adoptions can save time, racial preference, less expensive and the possibility of knowing someone who knows the birth mother. His best piece of advice for us is to put the word out there letting people know that we are interested in adopting a baby. Most people get connected to someone by “word of mouth.”

A home study is required for all adoptions. The adoption process is quite grueling. Part (but not all!) of the process includes attending a introduction meeting, a couple interview, personal interviews, 40 page questionnaire, background check, home inspection, references, financial disclosures, compiling a personal portfolio, etc.  Overwhelmed is all I can say!

So you ask how can YOU help us? You can pray for us as we continue our journey for a family. And you can mention to friends, Church, business associates, social media, etc. that you have a friend/couple looking to adopt a baby. (please don’t identify us on social media) Word of mouth is what we need. Thank you!

Allen and Heather

 

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Baby Brother On Deck

November 19, 2018

Written by Kate Starrett, Guest Blogger

 

It was summer of 2015 when my husband and I decided it was time to start a family. We had both had stable jobs, we had paid off our school debt, and had just bought a house with 4 bedrooms that I imagined filling with babies. The timing was just right, in my mind. We actually became pregnant quickly. Only 3-4 months after throwing out the last of my birth control. I was a little surprised but not really… we had planned for this so why wouldn’t it happen easily? Even though we lost that sweet baby to miscarriage at 8 weeks, I wasn’t concerned about conceiving again because surely it would happen quickly like the first time. Except it didn’t.

 

Months went by… and I started to get worried. I bought ovulation tests and found that I wasn’t ovulating most months and I began trying all the supplements, teas, and diet changes I could think of to try and get my hormones rebalanced. Nothing worked. After some episodes of abdominal pain in August of 2016, an ultrasound showed I had a tennis ball size endometrioma on my ovary! This was surgically removed, and surgery confirmed my doctor’s suspicion of endometriosis. The cyst returned 3 months later requiring a second operation. We started trying Clomid and Ovidrel injections to get my ovulation back on track.

 

During the months between surgery, we also began researching adoption agencies. We had talked early on in our marriage about adoption and knew we wanted to at some point, so why not now? We found an agency for domestic infant adoption that we loved in Indianapolis and after four months of background checks, home studies, and paperwork, we were active and expectant mothers would start to be shown our bio. At this point we focused less on my ovulation and conceiving, and were fully committed to adopting. And then, three months later (much sooner than we could have ever hoped), we got the call that we had been chosen! Mama A was 20 weeks along with a baby boy. We were at Wrigley Field, sadly watching our beloved Cubs lose to the Brewers, when they all came and our lives changed forever, turning that day into one of my most favorite days. 

 

 

From the time of our miscarriage in 2015, to being matched with Mama A in summer of 2017, we weathered many other storms. While struggling with infertility, I had to process three of my sisters-in-law announcing pregnancy (some of them twice in that time period!), as well as my father battling lymphoma (and he’s now in remission!), AND my husband’s brain surgery to remove a benign, but dangerously large mass that was discovered just after we finished our adoption paperwork.

Don’t worry, it gets crazier. 

 

Throughout the rest of Mama A’s pregnancy we got to meet her a few times and build a relationship with her. We loved each other immediately. The months flew by. With baby due mid-November, our agency gave the okay to my husband to go on a business trip to Ireland near the end of October. Surely he’ll be back in time right? Do babies come early that often? I bet you can guess what happened. Baby came right in the middle of his trip! I was finally on my way to work the morning of October 25 (after locking myself out of my house at 6am and walking to our neighbors house barefoot and in a robe while it’s 30 degrees out and calling a locksmith to let me back in) when I got a text saying baby was here and I needed to head north with a hospital bag and car seat! I called my husband in a panic who still couldn’t get home for 2 more days, and then my mom who was able to come along and stay in the hospital with me.

 

 

I felt sick while at the hospital. I was nervous, my husband wasn’t with me, and of course Mama A could still make the choice to parent her son.. so I still had to wait until she relinquished her rights. She did, and she and I bonded over those two days. I’ll never forget that time we shared. We took our son, Ian, home where he met his daddy the next day. As it turns out, I still felt sick. No appetite at all. Completely exhausted. Still nerves? Major life adjustment bringing home a newborn? Probably some of that. But also because I was 5 weeks pregnant. We were shocked! We just brought home this baby and we’re already going to have another one?! Baby was due June 2018. They would be 8 months apart. 

Well, Ian was the most chill baby ever, which was a huge blessing to his pregnant mom. And my pregnancy was extremely uneventful (not even morning sickness!) which was a huge blessing when you have a newborn to take care of.  Wes joined our family in June of 2018. Our two miracle boys. 

 

God has allowed many trials in our lives. But He has lavished goodness on us as well. I don’t look back on the last 3 years fondly. I’m certain I’ve shed more tears in the last 3 years than in my entire life. In the last 3 years we struggled to be thankful sometimes. We were angry sometimes. We didn’t trust sometimes. But we still knew God is good. Not good in that He grants our every last wish. This world is broken… people hurt, children get sick, disasters happen. But when things get hard, God has grace for these moments. When it seemed to painful for us to bear one more burden, His grace carried it for us. There is no way we could have handled it on our own. To God be the glory!

 

“For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.” – Psalm 86:5

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Dear Family and Friends

November 16, 2018

Written by Heather, Guest Blogger

Over the next few weeks, we will be sharing a three part series taking a closer look at one couple’s journey to starting their family! These journal entries share the ups and downs of the roller coaster that is trying to have a baby when you’re walking the path of infertility. If you are also walking that path, may you be encouraged and know you are not alone.

January 21

Dear Family and Friends,

Many of you know the infertility struggles that Allen and I have faced for the past two years. We want to bring you up to date and ask for your prayers and support as we move forward on this journey.

We were referred by my OBGYN to a fertility specialists. After our first meeting, they ran several tests on my fallopian tubes and decided to begin with the IUI treatment.

After our 2nd IUI procedure, we were pregnant. We were blessed to have a baby and to see its heartbeat every week for four weeks. We were shocked and confused when we lost our baby at 9 weeks. It was our “graduation day” from the clinic. There are no words to express how you feel after losing a baby. The doctors then had to perform a D & C to remove tissue in my cervix.  We had genetic testing done and discovered that we lost our baby because he or she had too many chromosomes. Dr. K said that was the best news for a horrible situation. It is very common in miscarriages and hopefully that will not happen again.

After waiting three months for my body to recover, we immediately tried with another IUI, feeling hopeful since we had just gotten pregnant. Unfortunately our 3rd and 4th IUIs did not work. We then meet with Dr. K to discuss our next steps. He suggested a Double IUI- a higher more advanced approach. After our 5th and 6th IUIs we still were not pregnant.

This brings you up to date. Because of our 6 failed IUIs and my age we have made the decision to move forward with IVF.

We ask that you please continue to keep us in your prayers. We want more than anything in the world to be parents. Allen and I have prayed so hard for so long that we need others to pray with us and for us. We are struggling with God’s plan and don’t understand why He is putting us through so much emotional, physical, mental and financial heartache. We need help and support from our family and friends. We are an open book and want/need people to ask where we are in our journey. I will continue to keep you updated through email and will ask you to pray for specific things throughout our process.

Much Love,

Allen & Heather

photo by: tatiana

March 2

Well, tomorrow (Tuesday, March 3) is a BIG day!

Allen and I will be at the surgery center at 7:15 a.m. for my egg retrieval.

Prayer request at this time:

  1. That Allen and I can remain calm. The Dr. did prescribe me a Valium for tonight to help me sleep. That was very thoughtful! Allen was wondering why they don’t give the husband one, too.
  2. That the Dr. get lots of beautiful and healthy eggs.
  3. That my eggs fertilize with the sperm and we get some amazing embryos.
  4. That our embryos grow until Day 5 (that’s the best situation). If they are ready at Day 3, they will transfer then.

Much Love,

Allen & Heather

 

March 4

Yesterday’s egg retrieval went well. They put me under, so obviously I don’t remember a thing, except for when the ceiling started to look 3-D.

Dr. K came to see me in the recovery room to tell me that he got out 8 eggs, and he thought 6 were good in size, but we would have to wait to hear from the embryologist on Wednesday (today).

When I got home yesterday, I pretty much slept all day. I did have some pain and discomfort, but nothing unbearable. Dr. A. has been a great caregiver with pills, meals, and loving support!

It was recommended that I stay home today to rest because I may still be sore and uncomfortable. It’s not too bad. I have been anxiously awaiting the embryologist phone call.

SOOOO, the embryologist just called and told me that Dr. K had removed 8 eggs (which we knew), and that 5 were mature. But the better part is that all of my eggs fertilized through ICSI.

Not all eggs will fertilize, so that’s awesome news!!! Now we wait again to see how our fertilized eggs grow.

Prayers are still needed!!! The journey isn’t over yet.

  1. That our precious five eggs continue to grow strong and mighty! And that they make it to Day 5!
  2. That Allen and I can remain calm and stay positive!
  3. That the embryologist is watching our eggs carefully and taking good care of them!

Thank you all for your love, support and prayers! The Lord hears your prayers, and we feel them everyday!

Allen & Heather

 

March 5

Well, The embryologist just called and it was not what we wanted to hear. I’m in tears as I type this and need to understand God’s plans for us. We need prayers now more than ever!

Here’s today’s report on our 5 embryos:

1 embryo- scored a B+ (on an A-D chart). “Good not excellent” according to the embryologist.

1 embryo- scored a B+ (on an A-D chart).  “Good not excellent” according to the embryologist.

1 embryo- is moving slow

1 embryo- is moving slow

1 embryo- is a low grade

So, at this point we have 2 embryos that they will transfer on Day 3, tomorrow.  The Dr. said that they will do better in their own environment at this stage.

Prayers:

  1. That the embryos continue to grow stronger by tomorrow. They could change grades in 24 hrs. So let’s pray for them to stay at a B+, or move up to an A.
  2. That Allen and I can stay calm and hopeful.
  3. That the Dr. performs a good and easy transfer tomorrow.
  4. **** That our two beautiful embryos will stick to my uterus wall and we will begin our family.

Thank you for your prayers.

Allen and Heather

 

 March 6

This morning I woke up with lots of anxiety but felt comfortable once we saw the Dr.

We were told that our 2 embryos both had 8 cells each, which is the best outcome.

One embryo remained a B+ and other dropped to a B-.

Dr. B assured us that our embryos looked healthy and that lots of women have success with Day 3 transfers. The transfer went well and was not painful.

I am now at home on strict bed rest until Monday.  They recommend a stress free environment with laughter.  So Allen has hooked up the DVD player in our bedroom so I can binge on my favorite series, “The Golden Girls.” I have the complete box set.

Thank you for your continued support, prayers, and sweet messages. They have meant so much to us!

We are now in the “dreaded 2 week wait.” We will keep you posted. So no more   daily reports for a while!

Prayer request still needed:

  1. That our two healthy embryos will stick to my uterine wall.
  2. And that we have a healthy baby(s) developing.
  3. That the other two embryos that were rated “slow moving” will continue to grow so that they can be frozen.

Much Love,

Allen & Heather

photo by: cinthia

March 16

Allen and I are not pregnant.

I started bleeding yesterday and called the nurse. She asked that I come in today and have my HCG (pregnancy hormone) tested. Sometimes women can bleed, but still have a positive test.

I received the phone call today around 3:15. I think in my mind I knew this morning that our IVF process didn’t work, but I was in denial. I couldn’t accept it until the phone call came in. The nurse didn’t have any information for me. She just told me that my levels were 0 and at this stage they should be over 500. She said that Dr. K would be calling me this week to discuss our situation.

I’m not sure where we go from here. We do have one frozen embryo. (B+)

Allen and I are angry, confused, hurt, devastated, shocked, pissed, scared…. And so much more right now.

We need your prayers. Prayers for us to stay hopeful and not to lose our faith.

Allen & Heather

 

May 28

And so the journey continues….

After our failed IVF in March Dr. K informed us that all of our stats were above average. He went on to say that unfortunately no Dr. in the world knows what happens to those embryos once that are released into the uterus. All of our reports showed a successful outcome.

Dr. K recommended I wait one month to do our frozen embryo transfer procedure. He believes that our one frozen embryo has the same positive stats as our two fresh embryos. That was good news! So, if we waited one month that would put us doing the transfer at the end of April …and well let’s just say that is a tough “stressful” time for a teacher. So we decided to let our little embryo “chill” in the freezer for another month.

I was instructed to call when my cycle began in May. On May 8, I called the nurse, super pumped about starting the next phase and thinking the transfer would be this week, May 28! To my surprise, I was informed that the lab was closed for the entire month of May! WHAT? The lab closed? For an entire month? How is that possible? So, here we go again, taking a step backwards…the next day I was put on birth control. Talk about a hormonal ride! This now bumped us another month– June!

Yesterday began the next part of our journey. I went in for my baseline ultrasound and blood work for our frozen egg transfer. I started my Estrogen pills today and go back in on June 11 for another ultrasound and blood work. At this point we are watching my uterus lining and trying to thicken it. They are also checking for any cysts.

With all that being said, Allen and I have been on this emotional journey for 27 months. We have had 6 IUIs, one pregnancy with a miscarriage (a year ago June 3), one failed IVF with two fresh embryos, and we are still holding onto our faith. We constantly remind ourselves and each other that God has a plan for us. Jeremiah 29:11. “For I know the PLANS I have for you” declares the Lord, “plans to PROSPER you and not to harm you, plans to give you HOPE and a FUTURE.”

I’m not telling you this so you can feel sorry for us. I’m telling you this because we need your prayers as we continue to move forward in this journey. We want to hear that our family and friends are praying with us.

-Allen and Heather

 

photo by: Nisha

June 16

Thank you all for your sweet and encouraging emails, calls, and texts.  They mean so much to us.

Today was our big day!  We arrived at the Surgery Center at 10am where they took my blood work, checked my vitals, and gave me a Valium.  When Dr. K came in to our room he said that Dr. D (the embryologist) told him that this embryo was going to get us pregnant. He also told us that this embryo looked as good, if not better, than our two fresh embryos. Our frozen embryo was rated a B+ or 4BA.  (4AA is consider perfect)

The transfer went smoothly and Dr. K was very pleased. My uterus was already tilted, which is very helpful. He said only about a 1/3 are naturally positioned that way. So, now I’m on bed rest with the Golden Girls, books, and color sheets. (New studies show that adult coloring relieves stress) Allen is taking good care of me…he’s incredibly patient, loving, and supportive. I thank God for blessing me with such a strong man to stand beside me on this journey.

Please continue to pray that our embryo implants perfectly to my uterine wall.  Please pray that it grows and develops without flaw and that we deliver a healthy baby in the time frame that is needed.

Much Love,

Allen & Heather

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10 Tips for Navigating Adoption

November 13, 2018

Are you just starting out on your adoption journey? Or know someone who is? It can be an overwhelming thing when you are beginning the process and are looking at mounds of paperwork, a looming home study, and questions (from you and everyone else!)

We have asked some mamas who have walked the path of adoption for their advice to anyone starting an adoption journey and wanted to share some of their tips with you!

10 TIPS FOR NAVIGATING ADOPTION:

  1. COMMUNITY:  “Surround yourself now with a community of people who love you and support your journey—you’ll need that support and encouragement along the way.”
  2. PATIENCE:  “Manage your expectations going in, and prepare yourself to be extremely patient.”
  3. MARRIAGE: “If you have a significant other, try as hard as you can to stay on the same page. This journey is hard on the heart, mind, and body – so communication and support are incredibly important!”
  4. OPENNESS: “Your child’s adoption story is theirs, don’t share with everyone. It’s the child’s to share if they decide. Also – if you are considering an open adoption, think about what openness means for you and your family.”
  5. ORGANIZATION:  “Keep copies of EVERYTHING! Many forms require the same information to be entered, so staying organized and having documentation you’ll need over and over again is imperative.”
  6. EMOTIONS: “Be prepared for a roller coaster of emotions – happy, sad, frustrated, excited and mostly patience! Research your options and research medical issues as much as you are able, so you can prepare as well as possible for the future.”
  7. HOME STUDY: “Home Study’s are a breeze- just complete your paperwork ASAP! Also it’s a great idea to have your finances in place before you go live (or at least have a plan!)  There are lots of great ideas for fundraising out there, too!”
  8. RESEARCH: “Research, research and research some more the agency you want to go with!!! Do not just call the references they give you.  Do as much research as you can, but also trust your gut.”
  9. ENJOY THE JOURNEY: “It’s a journey! This means it can be exciting, scary and bumpy and then back to exciting. Some unexpected turns will arise, so pack your bags for the unexpected.”
  10. BREATHE:  “Take a deep breathe and try to stay as calm as you can! Everything happens for a reason and will lead you to your child.”

If you have any other questions about where to begin on your adoption journey, feel free to reach out!  Adoption is an adventure, and it truly does take a village!

Whether you’re just starting or in the middle of your adoption journey, be sure to follow us on Instagram! There are lots amazing adoptive mamas on Instagram where you’ll find encouragement and a community who truly understands! 

 

 

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The Thyroid – Fertility Connection

October 4, 2018

Written byAlyssa Hustedt, guest blogger

Did you know that 1 in 8 women will experience a thyroid imbalance or disorder in their lifetime?  In addition to those diagnosed, there are many others who do not fit the medical criteria of thyroid disease but will feel the effects of poor thyroid function.  The thyroid gland influences almost every cell in your body and its hormones play a huge role in maintaining health, vitality and even fertility. Today, I am here to share with you the signs and symptoms of a thyroid imbalance, which lab markers to ask your doctor for and what you can do to support your thyroid naturally.  

The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped organ at the front of the neck and its function is to take iodine and other nutrients and convert them into thyroid hormones—thyroxin (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3).   Every cell in the body depends on these hormones for regulation of their metabolism. Thyroid hormones regulate body weight and control the rate at which the body produces energy from food thereby directly impacting energy levels.  Hypothyroidism can cause infertility by preventing ovulation and adequate levels are critical in pregnancy because these hormones greatly influence growth and development of a growing baby.

Signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism can include feeling sluggish or tired, difficulty losing weight, dry skin, hair loss, constipation, cold sensitivity, lack of sweating, feeling mentally sluggish, depressed, experience a “pins and needles” sensation like when a limb falls asleep, puffiness in the face and/or neck or have loss of the outer 1/3 of the eyebrow.

Not as common–but just as concerning–are the signs and symptoms of hyperthyroidism.  These can include increased BMR, weight loss, increased appetite, heat intolerance, hypertensive tendencies, feeling anxious or irritable, difficulty falling asleep, may suffer from rapid or irregular heartbeat, brittle hair, an increased number of bowel movements per day and hyperpigmentation of the skin or flushed skin (a red face).  

Many, if not all, of us have had our TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) tested because many doctors solely rely on TSH to determine if there is a thyroid dysregulation.  TSH is not a thyroid hormone itself—it is the hormone that the pituitary gland uses to signal to the thyroid to release thyroid hormones. Anything below .5 can be considered hyperthyroid and anything above 5.5 hypothyroid depending on the lab you use.  These numbers may be a bit opposite of what you would expect and that is because when your thyroid hormones (T4 and T3) start to get low the pituitary will begin to “yell” at the thyroid gland resulting in higher TSH.  In other words, the pituitary starts to send more TSH to the thyroid to signal it to start releasing more hormones. The opposite is true as well: when thyroid hormones are sufficient or too high in the body, the pituitary will back off sending TSH to the thyroid and the number will drop.  As a functional practitioner, I like to see TSH between 1 and 2. This is a much narrower range than lab range but is generally where a person feels the best. The closer the TSH gets to 3 and beyond, the more you may begin to experience hypothyroid symptoms.

The problem with only testing TSH is that you could be missing some key components in the equation.  For example, your TSH could be perfectly normal (so between 1 and 2) but your T4 and T3 might be out of lab range low and cause hypothyroid symptoms because you are not obtaining adequate amounts of actual active thyroid hormones.  When I run a lab panel, I like to see the full picture. This includes TSH, Total T4, Free T4, Total T3, Free T3, Reverse T3, T3 Uptake and TPO & TGB antibodies. Testing for the TPO & TGB antibodies is important with any thyroid imbalance because this will indicate if you have any thyroid autoimmune (meaning that your body is producing antibodies that attack and destroy the thyroid gland itself).  This is something to be concerned about and supplementing for autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s or Graves ’ disease may look different than only having a thyroid imbalance or insufficiency. The autoimmune component in any system of the body should not be ignored.

SO what can you do to support your thyroid gland?  

  1.  If you have any type of thyroid imbalance, dysregulation or autoimmune, it is crucial that you eliminate all gluten from your diet.  Gluten is like the Devil to your thyroid gland. Besides the fact that gluten is a gateway to leaky gut and other autoimmune conditions, thyroid hormones and gluten molecules look very similar.  Gluten sensitivity can exacerbate an attack on the thyroid and in return Hashimoto’s can set up gluten sensitivity.
  2. Focus on eating a nutrient-dense diet.  Throw out the packaged foods, sugary drinks and drive-thru meals.  Eat to nourish, not deplete your body. Choose whole, well-sourced foods.  Shop on the outer edges of the grocery store and always check labels for added chemicals and preservatives.Specific nutrients to fuel your thyroid include:  Iodine which can be found in sea vegetables. Selenium (which helps turn T4 into active T3) found in well-sourced brazil nuts, fish, eggs, raw dairy and grass-fed meats.  Zinc is in seafood, beef and lamb, pumpkin seeds and mushrooms. Magnesium can be found properly prepared beans and nut, brown rice and green leafy vegetables. Other nutrients to support thyroid include Vitamin C, A, B2, B3 and B12.  You are likely to obtaining these vitamins if you are eating a nutrient-dense, well-sourced diet and if your body is properly digesting. Side note: You can have a pristine diet but if you are not properly digesting and absorbing your nutrient rich foods, you can become deficient.
  3.    Removing toxins.  Toxins will compete with iodine specifically.  Remember that the thyroid’s job is to turn iodine into thyroid hormones.  Certain halogens have a similar structure and will compete with iodine—specifically fluorine, chlorine and bromine.  One of the reasons you may be struggling with an underactive thyroid is that you are not getting acquiring adequate amounts of iodine and in turn your thyroid is displacing iodine with these toxins.  Estrogen dominance is another condition that will affect the thyroid. Also emotional toxins affect the thyroid. Prolonged stress will fatigue the adrenal glands and cause the thyroid to put on its breaks.  This can be any kind of stress—illness, being in a bad relationship, work stress, overuse of caffeine or alcohol, lack of sleep, excessive exercise, prescription drugs, persistent fears, financial stress and more.  Any kind of stress if it becomes chronic can become toxic to your life. Learning how to manage stress is the key.
  4.  Lastly, if you struggle with thyroid issues, I encourage you to find a functional practitioner to work with to help you investigate further into where the root of your imbalances lie.  Is it poor digestion? 20% of your non-active T4 is converted to active T3 in the gut. And 40% of that conversion process happens in the liver so if your liver is not functioning correctly it can prevent that conversion from happening.  Or maybe it is adrenal fatigue or food sensitivities, anemia or heavy metals. Working with someone who can help you support these systems, not just manage them but work towards healing can seriously change your life.

It has changed my life.  I have spent most of my life in a state of extreme fatigue and being able to experience the flip side has been amazing.  Life truly is so different when your body is working the way it was intended too and the opposite is true as well—life can be so crippling if you are facing a chronic illness or if you have a thyroid imbalance.  My heart goes out to you today. Don’t give up. Keep searching, keep seeking, find a practitioner that can give you answers, guidance and direction and move you towards a full and happy life. Doing things naturally is not easy—it takes some determination, disciple and patience but it is WORTH it.  YOU are worth it.

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

August 22: National Rainbow Baby Day

July 31, 2018

What is a rainbow baby? A rainbow baby is a baby that is born after a miscarriage, stillbirth, or passing away of an infant. These babies are the rainbow after the storm.

They are a sign of hope, promise, healing, and remembrance.

Here at What the Fertility, we want to celebrate these precious babes and honor the journey to their arrival. On August 22, we hope you will join us in celebrating the first ever National Rainbow Baby Day!

How can you participate?

We want to see your rainbows! Share the story of your rainbow baby on social media using the hashtag #NationalRainbowBabyDay and honor the rainbow in your life! You can also download the pictures below and use them to spread the word leading up to August 22nd.

Are you still waiting for your rainbow? We hope you will use this day as a reminder of hope and that other have walked in your shoes. This community is waiting and yearning to support you, so please reach out for words of encouragement or advice as your travel your journey.

Buy goodies at our fav shops to help a family bring home their rainbow! We’ve teamed up with some amazing small businesses who are generously donating a portion of their proceeds to Baby Question Foundation, who provides grants to people experiencing infertility. What an awesome way to celebrate and help a fellow infertility warrior! Check out:

Or you can always go directly to Baby Quest Foundation, and donate!

In the days leading up to August 22, we will be sharing stories from those who have weathered the storm and we want to see social media light up with rainbow babies! We want this day to be heard around the world so we can bring awareness to infertility, miscarriages, infant loss, and also the light that we can find after the storm.

Remember: use the hashtag #NationalRainbowBabyDay when sharing pictures and stories of your littles. Or share the images below to bring awareness to the day so others can join in! Be sure to tag us on Instagram at @WhatTheFertility and on Facebook! We can’t wait to celebrate with you!

If you have questions, or would like to collaborate on something special for August 22, please contact us!

 

Babe In My Belly, Blogs

Waiting To Expect

May 30, 2018

Written by Amy, guest blogger

As I sit here due to turn 40 in a few months’ time, with my bump bumping into my laptop, half a tub of Ben and Jerry’s on the go and newly washed tiny clothes on the dryer, I think about Mother’s Day and that next year, it’s my turn.

After TTC for four years, never having seen a positive test and two rounds of failed IVF (one ICSI), both privately funded, emptying our savings and filling our credit cards, we were one of the lucky ones. Not only did we receive funding for a NHS cycle, but it was successful, and we even have a frostie on the rocks for round two.

Yet, even though I have a 32-week-old bear cub either shadow boxing  in my belly or tap dancing on my bladder, I still feel that if I let myself relax and enjoy this pregnancy, I’ll tempt fate and I’ll be sent to the back of the queue.

After four years of watching everyone pass you by, being told to just relax or other unhelpful unsolicited advice and hearing stories of someone’s uncle’s dog’s cousin tried this and it worked, it gets to the point when you give up and lose a sense of your own purpose.

What started as a fun little project quickly becomes well, not so much fun. The anger, frustration and emptiness take over, you feel numb most of the time, and you barely recognize the happy, relaxed girl starting back at you in your wedding photos. You can’t remember the last time you laughed and something you always assumed was straightforward and totally natural, suddenly is neither.

I involved my family and close friends from the start. I’m not a huge over-sharer and often am very private in my feelings and emotions, but this was like therapy for me. I needed to talk about it to rationalize it and deal with it. Humour always helped too; stories of progesterone suppositories (#FannyBullets) and appointments with dildo-cam being interrupted by fire alarms, kept both my friends amused and me sane.

I lost some friends along the way, the usual story of either me not being able to deal with their success or them not understanding what I was going through. But at the same time, I gained some new friendships and strengthened existing ones, some that I am thankful for every single day, because I couldn’t have got through it without them.

Infertility never leaves you. When you experience it, you lose a part of you that I don’t ever think you regain fully. Yet, I’m proud of my badge and I wear it with pride. I openly talk about our experiences with anyone who will listen and the fact this baby is an IVF baby just blows my mind every day. The more I talk about it, the more people open up to me with their own experiences and if that means one person feels like they’re less alone then that can only be a good thing.

Looking back on my journey, have I enjoyed this pregnancy so far? If I’m brutally honest, and I feel terrible admitting this because I know how lucky I am to get this far, but I haven’t enjoyed much of it. Since the second line showed on the pregnancy test, I skipped the excited part and moved straight onto months of worry and fear. I still expect to see blood every time I go for a pee, and I’m due to give birth in six weeks. That’s what I mean about infertility never leaving you; you’re thankful, but you still expect the worst because that’s what you’ve become used to.

Around week 25 I started to get the fear about our relationship and how we’ll cope with a third wheel. We’d made it to the second trimester and things were a little rosier for me; I had more energy, I was back exercising and we were taki­­­­­ng a few overseas trips. I felt like I had the cake and I was eating it; I was pregnant, and we were still living our lives to the max. Life was great, the due date was far enough way in the future for it to be something we didn’t have to deal with for a while, but close enough to still feel real. Then, during a bout of insomnia, I suddenly realized that in 15 weeks’ time, everything would change. Our wonderfully selfish life of lie ins, brunches, morning exercise classes, holidays and late nights, will be thrown upside down. And suddenly I realized that what I always thought was the hardest bit (getting pregnant) is only the start.

But now safely ensconced in the third trimester, I’m relaxing a bit more and taking every day as it comes. I still haven’t read any books (ignorance is bliss), but we have started practicing hypnobirthing, a few essentials have been bought and we’re trying to delay over-excited grandparents from buying us gifts.

I still have the occasional freak out about how I’ll keep this tiny thing alive once it’s on the other side and how we’ll survive as a couple. But every evening we tell each other this is one day further than we’ve got before, and we tell our baby it’s also one day closer to meeting them.

Above all, what drives me forward, keeping me positive and focused, is the thought of seeing my husband hold our baby for the first time and the look on his face as he meets the baby I’ve grown to love in my belly. That moment when two become three.

Babe In My Belly, Blogs

Channon Rose: Our Fertility Journey

May 21, 2018

Channon Rose and her husband, Travis Dean, have been trying for their baby since 2015. Through years of surgeries, treatments, and a miscarriage, Channon has been open and documented her journey from day 1 through her vlog.

Their journey is raw and real. And we are grateful for the awareness Channon and Travis are bringing to how infertility affects people’s lives. We’ll let her video do the talking! Watch Channon’s video below to hear about their journey from the start!

For a more in-depth look at where they’ve been and where they are at, be sure to check out Channon’s YouTube channel!

 

Babe In My Belly, Blogs

Lessons About Love and Loss

May 2, 2018

Written by Sarah Banks, guest blogger

I’ve often wondered how I would tell this story. Where do you even begin, after 10 years of infertility and loss, when the journey is still underway? I can still vividly remember the first miscarriage – it was 2008 and we had just moved to Colorado Springs. I was doubled over in excruciating pain, crying at work. I didn’t know I was pregnant, so I didn’t know what was wrong, and I remember saying to a coworker, “If I didn’t know better I would think this is what a miscarriage feels like.” When the Doctor told me I was pregnant and that I was having a miscarriage, a flood of emotions and thoughts washed over me. Most of all, I felt desperate for this life that I didn’t even know was there before that moment. I immediately loved this child and longed to meet him or her. Now it was all gone. Weeks of tears, waves of sadness and shock, lots of questions, and a lot of guilt came and went during that time. Miscarriages 2, 3 and 4 are more of a blur.

“I’m sorry, it looks like you’ve just rolled snake eyes too many times,” one of the Doctors said to me. Snake eyes? Really? You’re making a craps reference about my fertility? Do people even say that? Apparently they do because I will never un-hear those words being spoken to me.

Over the course of the next 4 years, I saw 3 different Reproductive Endocrinologists in 2 different states. I had every test they offer administered, and re-administered after another couple of miscarriages, only to be told that I’m perfectly healthy and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with me. Except, of course, for the fact that I couldn’t carry a baby past 9 weeks with no medical explanation of why. I think it might have been easier over those years if there was a reason, some kind of medical diagnosis that I could wrap my head around, undergo treatment for….something.

 

Pregnancy #5 is clear, too clear to forget any of the details, much like pregnancy and baby #1. Baby #5 and baby #6 were twins. I hadn’t taken any fertility drugs or undergone any treatment, but I do have twins that run in my family. I was so excited and so hopeful, but I was also cripplingly terrified. My anxiety and panic over something going wrong was almost suffocating. At my 8 week appointment baby A had a heartbeat but baby B did not. I was crushed, but also hopeful for baby A. A week later during ultrasound, baby A no longer had a heartbeat. During those moments I was so angry with myself and my body. It had failed me, yet again, and I didn’t know how to cope with that. I went through a long period of anger and resentment about why this was happening to me. I questioned my faith. I questioned why others could have children but I couldn’t. I questioned the fairness of it all.

I knew it before I even missed my period. After 5 pregnancies I knew my body so well, I knew I was pregnant days before my period was due. My chest was swollen and tender and it hurt to walk around my house without a bra. That was always my first sign of pregnancy. This time, pregnancy #6 and baby #7, felt different. I was nauseous, incredibly tired and I wasn’t as panicked and anxious every waking second of the day. I had a calm and peace about this pregnancy. That whatever was going to happen, was going to happen, regardless of what I did or didn’t do. I travelled to Peru at 8 weeks and rubbed the water at Machu Picchu on my stomach. I prayed, I begged, I bargained for the life of this child, but I maintained a sense of peace like I hadn’t in the pregnancies before.

I remember sitting at the Doctor’s office at week 38 and begging the Doctor to induce labor. I didn’t trust my body, even though my pregnancy had been fine, and I wanted her out. My beautiful miracle daughter was born on November 6, 2014. I have never loved anything or anyone as much as I loved this little girl.

I wanted more children, but I just didn’t know if it was part of the plan for me, and I was ok with that. I didn’t know how much more loss and fear my heart could take. Even before the positive pregnancy test, I knew I was pregnant with baby #8. We were thrilled and hopeful, and the Doctors assured me that after carrying my daughter to term I should absolutely be able to carry another pregnancy to term. But this was just like babies #1-6. I knew it, because I knew my pregnant body too well, and it was a blessing and a curse. After you’ve had as many miscarriages as I have they will see you before the 8 or 12 week mark, so at the 6 week appointment we could clearly see a baby on the ultrasound but I was measuring behind and there was no heartbeat yet. At the 8 week appointment they confirmed that the baby had stopped growing at 6 weeks 1 day. The inevitable conversation with my Doctor followed, “Would you like to do a D&C or try to miscarry naturally?” I’ve had this conversation too many times and I had become numb to it. We lost baby #8 in October 2017, 9 years after this infertility journey began, almost to the day.

As I write this, 15 weeks pregnant with baby #9, I think about the sweet souls in heaven that I’ll never meet. I wonder whether they were girls or boys, what they would have looked like, what they would have become. I wonder if I will tell my children about their brothers and sisters in heaven. This has been a devastating journey filled with too many tears to count and too much hurt to measure, but it has also taught me more lessons about love and loss than I could have ever imagined. I cherish every waking second with my daughter and am hopeful that I will get to meet baby #9 in October.

Infertility is painful beyond words, but I haven’t lost hope. I lost it at times, but I didn’t lose it forever. If I had given up, I never would have become a Mom, and I know that I was meant to be one, to all 9 of these children.

Babe In My Belly, Blogs

Life After Two Pink Lines

April 27, 2018

Written by Megan Elliot, guest blogger

In December 2017, we went into our 4th and final round of IVF; a couple months before I had a laparoscopy to remove a cyst and I ended up having stage 4 endometriosis that was removed during that same surgery. We felt like a weight had been lifted off of us. Finally, this might be the answer to our infertility. We went in to our 4th round of IVF with our heads held a little higher and with a little more hope than the previous rounds. However, we were still protecting our heart as we have been disappointed each round prior.

We had recently completed a home study with an adoption agency. This made us feel like we were ready to take on a new journey if this last IVF round did not work. With this last round of IVF, the plan was to send all of our embryos for genetic testing and do a frozen transfer in February but in the world of infertility, you can’t really have a plan. Your body makes up the rules. After having 12 eggs retrieved and 10 fertilized, we were devastated to hear the news on day 2 that all but 1 embryo had stop growing. Each day we got a call to let us know we may need to come in for a transfer and to stand by. We ended up going in on day 5 to transfer 1 blastocyst – it was this or nothing.

The chances of this working were slim and we knew it. I wanted to protect my heart so I started secretly testing before my beta test. The first day I tested I saw a second line. I fell to my knees and cried in disbelief. Could this really be happening? No way would I tell my husband, I needed to protect his heart and did not want to get his hopes up. So every morning I would quietly unwrap a pregnancy test, look at it and store it away in the bathroom drawer but not before taking a picture and sending to a friend to see if she thought the line was darker then the one before. Even though there were two lines, I questioned it; “What if it was a chemical pregnancy? What if the line is not darker the next time I test, what if my beta numbers are not high enough or do not double?”

I was feeling so many mixed emotions of disbelief and honestly just terrified. My lines did get darker, my betas doubled and we got the official call from our doctor 3 days before Christmas that we were pregnant. Our very own Christmas miracle seemed too good to be true. Unfortunately, pregnancy after infertility is not what you imagined it would be. I always thought, if it could just get pregnant everything would be fine. I would be happy again and my world would be right. Little did I know how stressed and scared I was every single day. The joy I thought I would feel was not there, instead I felt an overwhelming sense of fear. I obsessed over what symptoms I had or should be having. I kept taking pregnancy tests until I was about 8 weeks just to make sure it was still positive. At each ultrasound appointment I could not even look at the screen until someone told me it was okay. I was crying before the Doctor would even come into the room and had multiple breakdowns to my acupuncturist. I constantly counted my heartrate to make sure it was still beating faster than normal (I didn’t even know what my normal was) and I refused to talk about being pregnant, let alone tell anyone, and begged my husband to not get excited. The wait in between appointments destroyed me. It was like I could not even function in the real world because I was so consumed with negative thoughts and fears. I was so angry with my infertility journey. I felt that it had not only robbed me from not only the normalcy of trying to get pregnant but also the joy of finding out I was pregnant. But just with most things, with time, you heal.

As I sit and write this at 19 weeks, feeling flutters of my daughter moving around in my stomach, 1 week shy of our 20 week anatomy scan, I still cry but I cry tears of happiness and gratefulness that we have been blessed with this miracle. We thank God every day for blessing us with this one embryo, which continues to grow strong and beautiful against all odds.

My husband and I have started to feel grateful for our infertility journey. It has made us knowledgeable and we feel good when we use big words and ask the tough questions in front of our OB! It has strengthened our marriage, our faith, and has reminded us to never to take any part of this new chapter for granted. My husband and I lay in bed listening to her heartbeat almost every night. We talk about how she is going to be such a strong little lady who will do amazing things. She is already such a fighter and we are already so proud to be her parents. We have started talking about her nursery and what we need to do to make room in our house for our growing family. We take weekly pregnancy pictures; we read What to Expect When Your Expecting, and talk about my symptoms and what they mean. My friends even set a day for my baby shower. MY BABY SHOWER….what is this world I am living in!? I am living a dream and vision that felt so far away and even not existent for so long.

I am so glad we never gave up and I am so glad we never stopped believing in miracles. Infertility sucks. It is hard and it is life changing. Pregnancy after infertility sucks too and can sometimes be harder or more stressful but as time goes on and you start to feel more secure in your pregnancy, it becomes a dream come true. I still can’t believe I am carrying a miracle, my daughter, my little fighter.

What The Fertility

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