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October 2018

Babe In My Arms, Blogs

After Every Storm Comes a Rainbow

October 30, 2018

Written by Guest Blogger, Kristine Baldacci

In the fall of 2015, I married my college sweetheart and love of my life. Both coming from big Italian families, we knew we wanted to have kids; and lots of them. We had just moved from a box of an apartment in San Francisco to a townhouse in Walnut Creek that had TWO BEDROOMS – that’s huge when you used to literally live on top of one another. One thing that gave me all the butterflies and heart eyes was when we were looking at the townhouse and came across the second bedroom. My husband said, “This will be perfect for the baby’s room since it’s just down the hall from our room.” Say what???

Fast forward a couple months to when we decided it was time for me to finish my birth control pack and not start another so that we could start trying for the family we both wanted. After the first month of really tracking everything, I started to feel a little off and I just shrugged it off and thought “No, not yet, we just started trying.” The day before I was traveling for work, I woke up thinking, “Well I’d like to know now before traveling for a week away from my husband.” Sure enough, I took the test and I saw those two pink lines pop up instantly. “I’M PREGNANT?!?! WHAT?!” I went running downstairs to tell my husband who was in utter disbelief and wanted me to take another test just to be sure. We celebrated just the two of us that day before I had to leave and brainstormed how we would tell our parents, family and friends in the next couple of months. And that we did — the whole ordeal: onesies with ‘you’re gonna be grandparents’, blocks that read ‘the best moms get promoted to Nonni’, sonograms that said “Hi Auntie” and the cherry on top – for my husband’s birthday we had a blind wine tasting party. We started off with sparkling apple cider and as our friends were tasting, smelling, etc. with confused looks because it most definitely was not wine, I shouted, “ya that’s not wine because I’M PREGNANT!”

Two days later at my 13-week appointment, the nurse, while doing an ultrasound, was talking to us about if we were going to find out the sex, had we started to buy anything for the nursery, have we thought of names… when she suddenly stopped. She excused herself quickly and left the room. At that moment, I knew. I knew my whole world was going to come crashing down even before anyone had to tell me. My eyes immediately welled up. The doctor came in, starting doing an ultrasound, then stopped and turned off the monitor. “There is no longer a heartbeat and the baby is measuring the same as 4 weeks ago, showing no signs of growth.” My entire body went cold and numb. I looked at my husband and between silent sobs, whispered, “I’m so sorry”. I felt every emotion in the matter of .5 seconds – I was heartbroken, I was angry, I was devastated, I was in shock…you name it, I felt it. The one thing I have always wanted to be was a mother and I felt like I had failed, not to mention feeling like I had let down the most important person in my life, my husband. He was also so excited to be a father and I wasn’t able to make that happen for him.

The next couple of weeks were a blur. I had not wanted to know the sex of the baby because that would make it even harder than it already was but I did want to know if there was a reason as to why I miscarried. As luck was not in my corner, the reasoning I miscarried was because the baby had Turner’s syndrome…which only occurs in baby girls, so much for not finding out the sex. But my doctor told me that it was all science and nothing I could have done to prevent it. Some silver lining there, doc. Once I was back home and not throwing up from coming off the anesthesia, we had to start letting our loved ones know. You’d think after telling the same story over and over it would get less painful. It didn’t. We went away for the weekend to clear our minds and try to relax except all we did was stay in the house and cry over the loss. Looking back, it is what we needed to help start the healing.

Going back to work was excruciating – I worked at a school…that had a preschool…that had preschool mommies pregnant with number 2 or 3. Not to mention, 3 of my co-workers were pregnant. If it wasn’t at school, it was on my facebook or instagram “First comes love, then comes marriage, then…” or “We are due with #2”. Cute..all of it..cute but I wanted nothing to do with it. Because you see the thing besides how miscarriages aren’t really talked about, is that no one talks about what happens to you after. You can’t immediately start trying again. Your body is not the same as it was prior. Your hormones are all out of whack, there is no way of tracking until your period returns and not to mention the idea of trying again is scary and daunting because you cannot shake the feeling of: “What if it happens again?”

Our one year anniversary was coming up and we were headed to Hawaii where I was supposed to be sporting a cute baby bump but instead everyone else had the same idea and showed up 3-6 months pregnant. I couldn’t escape it. I did my best to shake it off because who wants to be full of depressed and jealous feelings in Hawaii? Once we returned from our trip, I was somewhat back to normal and able to start tracking again. I was doing e v e r y t h i n g to track. I was taking my basal body temperature, I had all the apps, I was taking my prenatals, I was eliminating alcohol and caffeine from my diet, and when my app matched with what my basal body temperature was telling me – we started trying again.

Month one, period returned. I shrugged it off because we had only tried once since the miscarriage. On to the next month. Month two, I got my period again. No thank you Aunt Flo. I threw away the basal thermometer, deleted all of the apps and stopped tracking because clearly it wasn’t working so why would I continue. I started getting those feelings back of being a failure, questioning what was wrong with me and why couldn’t I do this. Everyone else around me was getting pregnant left and right. When was it my turn? I felt jealous, bitter, and angry at everyone – pregnant or not.  Then I felt guilty and like a horrible person for feeling this way. I began to isolate myself from everyone – family, friends, co-workers…all of them. I was no fun to be around, that’s for sure.

After getting rid of all of the things that would help me track, I gave the whole “whatever happens is meant to be” saying a try and just focused on loving my husband and the life we have started together. Fast forward to next month – I was 3 days late. Hmm, too soon to test? I waited because I did not want to see “Not Pregnant” pop up on the test and I figured I’ve failed the past 2 times, mostly likely will be a no this time too. Now I was 5 days late and finally gave in and took a test. “NOT PREGNANT”. I threw the stick across the room and screamed into a sobbing fit on the floor. Why was it so easy for me the first time and yet not happening as quickly this time. I kept telling myself other women were going through this and even worse cases and years of trying and that I shouldn’t be feeling this way. But I HAD conceived and HAD a baby growing in my tummy and in a matter of seconds was gone and that feeling of being a mother to be was taken away from me. I was determined to get that back.

The weekend came and went – and still no period. Great. I went through that whole day counting the days and weeks from my last period. Questioning everything and googling what type of at home pregnancy tests are the most accurate and how common false negatives were. On my way home from work I grabbed yet another test from CVS and decided first thing in the morning if there was no period, I was taking that test. That morning I woke up and rolled towards my husband and said “I’m not pregnant, I just know it.” After getting me into the bathroom to take the test, my husband went downstairs to give me some time to work up the courage. Longest 3 minutes of my life. ::DING:: My timer went off and I crept slowly over to the test, covering my eyes. As I started to let my eyes open I was in complete disbelief. My eyes were deceiving me because I wanted it so badly. I ran downstairs and threw the stick at my husband…”WHAT DO YOU SEE?!” He calmly stated, “Babe…you’re pregnant.” I don’t think I’ve ever hugged another person so tightly. We stood there for awhile embraced and letting tears stream down our faces. But there was a small pit in my stomach. What if I can’t make it past 13 weeks again? I don’t know if I can handle this pain so shortly after finally healing.

Week 14 hit. I was a nervous wreck heading to the doctors. I held my breath the entire ultrasound. “There”, she said. “Right, there is your baby. And that little flicker is the very strong heartbeat. Baby is measuring right on track.” I BURST into tears. I made it past 13 weeks. I wanted to scream it from the rooftops, run home and get to be one of those people who get to exclaim it all over social media. But I also knew, a miscarriage could still happen. Sadly, in a weird way and a little embarrassing to admit, I almost waited for it to happen. I didn’t let myself get fully happy because I was so worried the moment I did, it would all go away. It wasn’t until week 20 where I finally stopped holding my breath and embraced the fact that I was pregnant and allowed myself to be fully happy. I now have the most precious little man, Thomas Joseph – who turned ONE in August. He is the love of my life and I wouldn’t change my story at all.

I wanted to share my story because during that time I didn’t have anyone in the same boat as me to turn to. I was the first out of my friends to get pregnant and go through this. Family members who had experienced this loss were there for me, cause Lord knows no matter how much time has passed it can still cut you down as if it was yesterday, but it still wasn’t the same as going through it with me. I realize that my story is not one that goes on for years of failed attempts and that I am blessed for my sweet baby boy but if I can be a story for another woman to relate to, even if it’s just one, then it was worth it. To all those amazingly strong women out there who are yearning to be a mama – know that you are not alone, know that you have a community to turn to, know that it is okay to feel sad, mad, jealous and hopeless at times, but also know – after every storm, comes a rainbow!

Babe In My Arms, Blogs

The Battle to our Babies

October 28, 2018

Written by Janelle Sarver, Guest Blogger

My husband and I had been married for just under a year. We were in the process of building a new house and I had a great job as a labor and delivery nurse. It seemed like the perfect time to start trying for a baby.  I had stopped my birth control, and the practicing began! I’m not going to lie, after the first month of trying and no pregnancy I was shocked.  I was a healthy 25 year old, why wouldn’t I get pregnant right away? The next few months passed and still nothing. I finally reached out to my OBGYN at work one night. I told her it had been six months of trying and no results. She called me the next day and had me scheduled for a hysterosalpingogram (HSG). She explained to me what the procedure was because I was clueless! Remember, I am an L&D RN, we see the patients when they’re already pregnant! Right away I thought this would be the answer, surely my fallopian tubes would be blocked or something right?! After the procedure was complete, right away the doctor told me everything looked great. I remember walking to the car thinking that’s terrible news! All I wanted was a little blockage that he could clear out and all would be fine, and then the first of many tears started. I called my husband and let him know the results, and informed him that it was now his turn to go get checked out. Of course he wasn’t thrilled, but he went without complaining. Little did we know this was his first of many trips to the doctor. A few days later we learned his results were just fine, so back to the OBGYN I went.

This time she spoke to me about Clomid. Again, I didn’t know much about Clomid other than a fellow coworker had triplets from Clomid. That didn’t scare me, I just wanted a baby so one baby or three babies would be just fine! The first month on Clomid I was pumped, I just knew this would be the answer. I’m pretty sure I was already dreaming about my maternity leave! But then the disappointment came, again.  At this time, I was working night shift and my turn had finally come to move to day shift. I was so excited because again I figured maybe my body was just out of balance because of my weird schedule. I was grasping for anything! Another month or two passed, still no pregnancy. I started talking with another OBGYN about my fertility issues and she had some suggestions that my current OB doctor wasn’t doing. So I switched doctors! Talk about awkward when you see these ladies everyday at work, but I had to do it. From there I still took clomid, but at higher doses, had many ultrasounds to look at my follicles and even did some trigger shots. Nothing, every month passed and still nothing. My doctor could sense the frustration settling in and that is when she referred me to a fertility specialist.

I’m not sure that the reality of our situation had settled in too much at this time.  I knew people had trouble getting pregnant but not at 26! I was too young to be having such issues. Also, 11 years ago I don’t feel like anyone talked about the issues.  A few of my close friends knew we were struggling, but for the most part I kept this a secret. I was embarrassed, I felt something was wrong with me and I just felt so bad for my husband-who by the way was a rock during all of this. He was so supportive, always seemed to lift me up and would constantly remind me that no matter what, we would figure it out.

Our first visit with the fertility doctor is one that I will never forget. They drew what seemed like 10 tubes of blood, I had an ultrasound that seemed to last forever, and then the dreaded consult with Dr. F.  I can remember her telling us that my FSH levels were high, they reflected FSH levels of a 40 year old. That’s when the ugly tears came, I was so embarrassed.  She suggested we could try an IUI, but she didn’t think it would work. We still opted to at least try, because there was a nurse I worked with that had an IUI and it worked so – why not try?  We tried and again no pregnancy, just disappointment.

We knew that IVF was our next step. I can remember having so many ultrasounds, but the one that sticks out the most was the last one before they started to stimulate my ovaries.  Dr. F. was in my uterus looking around and despite the million vaginal ultrasounds that I had in the past, this time they saw something.  At the very top of my uterus there was a septum.  I didn’t know whether to be happy or angry that no one had caught this earlier.  Nonetheless, I had to have surgery before the stimulation of my ovaries began. I had the surgery rather quickly and then the injections and every other day ultrasounds began in order to produce good quality eggs.  This is the part where things got a little tricky. You IVFer’s all know how many doctors appointments are involved in this process, they tell you when to be there, you don’t get to come in when it’s convenient for you.  I had kept my infertility a secret from almost all of my coworkers. At the time I was a fairly private person, I was embarrassed and sad, I didn’t want the whole unit knowing my business. I can specifically remember one older nurse saying “well if you can’t get pregnant on your own then maybe it’s a sign”.  (I was livid, but at the time Iwas too weak and scared to say anything, if she was still here and said it to me now, watch out, I’d let her have it!!). I was able to let my nurse manager in on what was going on, and thankfully she was so understanding. At the time my father was newly diagnosed with cancer so I was able to use him and his doctors appointments as reasons why I was late or why I had to move my shifts around.

We had finally made it to retrieval day, after what seemed like an eternity. I think they retrieved 8 eggs that day and by day 5 we had 3 blastocysts.  I can remember the statistics that that Dr. F. had gone over with us, the success rates of IVF, they weren’t all that great but we were hopeful. Day 5 came and they implanted 2 of the blastocysts and froze our only remaining embryo.  I was a nervous wreck the next few days at work, I wouldn’t lift any patients or push any of our beds. I tried to be as lazy as possible-totally out of my nature.  I will never forget the day they called with the results. I was in a nursing conference with one of my friends who knew about our fertility situation.  Dr. F. told me that my HCG level was 0. I didn’t understand how that could happen.  I left the conference sobbing and I didn’t even tell my friend. I went to work the next day, I had no business being there. I was still a mess.  I remember thinking “Why can’t I get pregnant?”  I think the anger was finally settling in because I started to ask the standard questions; why can drug users get pregnant, teenagers, people in less than ideal situations?  My husband and I did everything right in our minds, it was such an unfair battle.  Clearly I was having a pity party for myself but one day it just clicked in my head. I told myself everyone has their own battle to fight and this was our battle.  At the time, this was an awful battle but I know there are so many worse battles to be fought.

We went through the next few weeks doing what we were told to do as far as prepping for our next transfer.  This time it was going to be our only embryo left, our frozen embryo.  I will never forget the day they implanted her! It was April 20, 2009, and a few days later we found out I was pregnant! It was the best news ever! I had just left the hospital with my dad, and I’ll never forget where I was driving when Dr. F called. I immediately called my husband, we both cried tears of joy. Even today, over 8 years later, it still makes me tear up.  To say I was a nervous wreck during this pregnancy is an understatement.  We kept this pregnancy a secret for many many weeks. The only person we told was my Dad. We were admitting him to hospice and we felt like he needed some good news. I don’t know how much he understood, as the cancer had gone to his brain, but he must’ve know something because he had the biggest smile I had seen in a very long time.  My Dad passed away when I was around 9 weeks pregnant. It was awful, and I was afraid to let myself grieve too much. I was fearful that too much stress and emotion might make me miscarry, I know I’m nuts.  Finally around 19 weeks, the rest of the world knew. I can tell you all, the worry never went away. I was fearful the whole pregnancy that something would happen but I tried to remain positive. On December 30, 2009 at 39 weeks we welcomed a healthy 9lb baby girl! I can’t even describe what we felt but having my husband and my favorite doctor and one of my best friends deliver our miracle was the BEST!!

We always knew that we wanted 2 or 3 kids and close in age but we were so thankful for the one that we had.  I know it sounds crazy but once we were all cleared to resume “business” as usual we did.  We weren’t preventing but if it happened we would’ve been so thankful. Needless to say nothing happened and we found ourselves back at Dr. F’s office. Things went a little smoother this time with IVF, we managed to get 4 blastocysts! On December 20, 2010 they implanted 2 fresh embryos.  I got the phone call a few days later and was told my HGC was low but that there was still something going on, so we jumped on a plane to Colorado and enjoyed a cold Christmas! One of the perks of working in L&D is the ultrasound connection! I can remember being back at work shortly after our daughters first birthday and seeing my OB.  She said “Come in on Saturday and lets do an ultrasound!” So we did! I can remember her exact words “Oh Janelle” – I knew exactly what she meant, I said “It’s twins, isn’t it” she said “yes!” I’m pretty sure my husband said that’s awesome, me, I know I said oh Sh*t!!  This pregnancy was very complicated and I was on bed rest the whole time, but on August 6, 2011 at 35.4 I delivered my healthy 7lb boy and 6.5 lb girl!

For those of you who are still trying for your miracle don’t lose hope! Keep trying whether it’s through IVF, adoption or surrogacy. This process was one of the most trying times for my husband and myself. It was one of the most physically, emotionally exhausting experiences that we had gone through at the time.  As I write this, I am reminded so much of the pain that we went through, the injections (that I couldn’t even do on myself after a while) the ultrasounds, the doctors appointments, the finances. I can’t even begin to explain some of the situations that I had to go through at work while we were trying for a baby. There were days I would just get into my car and cry on my way home. I wish that when I was dealing with my fertility issues I had had a community to talk with. I didn’t know anyone who had been through any of this, I was the first in my group of friends trying for a baby. There is no way I could’ve written this 10 years ago, it would have been way too painful. I will tell you all, after going through all that we have, I am a better nurse. When patients come in and are scared because they are bleeding or because they’re having preterm labor and tell my they were IVF, I fill them in on our story. It’s an instant bond and I know it helps calm them. Those of you still fighting your battle, stay strong, don’t give up, we are all fighting with you!

Babe In My Arms, Blogs

The “Gap”

October 26, 2018

Written by Janessa Dade, Guest Blogger

Our kids are 15 years old, 7 years old, and 15 months old. We always get the “wow, you really spaced them out” or the “geez that’s a big age gap” – as if isn’t blatantly obvious, but thank you for pointing it out again! My answer in turn is usually, “well that’s what happens when your body doesn’t work properly” – which usually makes people squirm a little bit and you can see discomfort wash over their face. This “gap” was not planned and neither was the path to creating our family.

Everyone who knows me, knows that I am so indecisive! Don’t take me to a restaurant with a big menu or give me a large amount of options to choose from because it could take years for me to decide! However, there is one thing I have always been certain of and that was wanting to be a mommy to 4 or 5 kids! As a kid, I always played with baby dolls and I remember breaking a wishbone one night when I was 5 years old. My wish was to wake up in the morning and to have my own baby. Imagine my anger and sadness when I woke up and there was nothing…little did I know this was preparing me for dealing with the hardest journey of my life.

My husband and I met in high school, but didn’t date until later in life when he was in the military and after he had gone through a divorce. He had a daughter, Jaelyn, who was almost 4 and lucky for me I was automatically a mom! She was so sweet and cute and I couldn’t wait to have a whole wardrobe for her, a room decorated, and just take care of her. My husband and I married right before she turned 6 and we were so ready to grow our family.

We tried on our own for about a year, which was frustrating enough, but finally saw a Dr for a consult. At that consult, he saw a polyp in the center of my uterus, but nothing to be concerned with. He gave us a round of Clomid and we would reconvene if this didn’t work. Well sure enough it worked! Jianna was born 10 months later, February 23, 2011, despite the year of trying, Clomid worked and was so simple…we knew EXACTLY what to do next time, or at least we thought!

Life moved on and we enjoyed our girls, but Jianna turned 2 and we were ready to start trying again. We knew exactly what to do! I went to my OB and said we were ready, we had tried for 6 months on our own with no success so bring on the Clomid. We did all of the blood tests to make sure all of my levels were okay to begin with and off we went. We started with 50mg and eventually cranked it up to 100mg! I took this for 7 months and NOTHING but negative pregnancy test after negative pregnancy test. My levels always came back perfect, we even tested my husbands sperm and it was good…so what the heck! I was so frustrated and overly hormonal because if anyone knows anything about Clomid, it makes you feel like your ovaries are each the size of watermelons and it hurts to even laugh…not to mention your hormones are through the roof so you feel like you are going to cry and laugh at the same time. I needed a break…we needed a break!

We took about 6 months off and just focused on our family, but I was so sad and so frustrated! I would cry myself to sleep sometimes because I was so mad! I didn’t want to put that weight of sadness on my husband so I kept to myself, but every day felt like a constant reminder that time was passing. I work in the Pharmaceutical/Medical Device world and I get to see pregnant women all day long. The area I was working in was extremely low income and I can’t tell you how many of those women probably shouldn’t have been pregnant because they were barely surviving themselves or even on drugs. Then there was me, trying so hard with great numbers, healthy, and ready…but I had unexplained infertility! Unexplained Infertility…what does that even mean!!??? It means nothing…basically you are a mystery to science, which is so reassuring! My sadness continued and I couldn’t bear to not do something about it. Finally I caved and went to an Infertility Clinic.

I didn’t want to have to go this route, but then again who does. I remember waiting in the waiting room and almost feeling embarrassed, like I was a failure because I couldn’t make a baby the way I was meant to. We met with the Dr and went over what we had tried and that we needed to be a little more aggressive, but not as aggressive as IVF. I was sure I could do it without that! In the initial exam, he noticed the large polyp in my Uterus so after a DNC, which revealed a uterus COVERED in polyps, we were ready. So off we went on this journey…3 months of timed insemination with Clomid (that devil drug again), then progressed to 4 months of IUI and NOTHING!! Absolutely Nothing!!! We retested my husband’s sperm and my labs were always perfect along with plenty of follicles at perfect size. At this point, the Reproductive Endocrinologist was baffled. I was so drained mentally and physically. I hated my job, I was short with my husband, and I was gaining weight from all this medication. I was done and I couldn’t wrap my head around IVF at this point!

Throughout all of this, friends got pregnant, and my step daughter’s mom got pregnant twice. I remember trying so hard not to cry when she told me. Why was I this unknown mystery of infertility! Why was it so hard for me to get pregnant and why did I feel so guilty for feeling so sad because I had one already?! Shouldn’t I feel grateful?! I was able to carry a baby full term and she was healthy and thriving, but I couldn’t shake that desire deep down in my soul to have a baby. As research shows, this is actually a thing called “secondary infertility”…it’s real and I wasn’t crazy. I didn’t feel alone, but I still ached to hold a new baby in my arms. As the story always goes, we were offered a slue of unsolicited advice and comments from people who had never experienced any trouble getting pregnant-

“At least you have a healthy baby.”
“Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be.”
“You can have mine.”
“Just don’t think about it.”
“Stop stressing and planning and just let it happen.”
“Just adopt.”
“Everything happens for a reason.”

It was everything I never wanted to hear…all I wanted was for someone to just hug me and say I’m so sorry! I didn’t want this, I’m not a planner and I HATE schedules, I enjoy my husband and I didn’t want to be part of a science experiment. So all of the comments just compounded the sadness!

We took another break just to enjoy each other! My husband and I have always had an attraction to each other that I can’t explain. To keep it PG, it’s always been a strong biological connection and with infertility, you lose all of your privacy. Everyone at the office becomes a part of your intimate life, from the stir ups, to the probing, to the “sample” room, to the insemination…everything is so cold and sterile and invasive! Shortly after, my grandma that I was so close with was deteriorating from a relapse in lung cancer. I started a new job and she got worse within weeks and finally passed away. About a month later, ironically I found out I was pregnant NATURALLY and one of my girlfriends was too! I was so nervous because I had just started a new job, but I was so excited! My husband and I sat anxiously at the drs office and waited for that heartbeat…but it never came. I was told I could do a DNC tomorrow or just let it happen, but I was flying to Texas for training with my new job for 2 weeks?! Grief overwhelmed me, but I had to make a decision and I wanted to let nature take it’s course. I researched what you need for a miscarriage and packed it all up in a suitcase for work. I literally felt like a Gorilla was sitting on my chest…I couldn’t breath, I couldn’t focus, I was so heartbroken from my grandma and now this! What did I do to deserve this!!!! The 2 weeks passed and nothing, so a part of me had hope, but Mother’s Day came that 2015 and so did my miscarriage. It was like the ultimate slap in the face and I felt like I was drowning! I went to work through it all because it felt like my only outlet and distraction.

Miscarriage is a weird thing that either people don’t like to talk about because it makes them feel uncomfortable or because they just don’t know what to say. It’s sad and lonely and you never forget it! There are the sides that we experience as women and there are sides that our husbands experience. Our grief, our loss, sometimes gets individualized as we try to cope with loss in our different ways. We both lost something and it seems like we were just constantly being challenged as a couple and as a family.

As I began to talk about it, I couldn’t believe how many women had gone through it! You feel like a part of a community, one that no one wants to be a part of, but a little part of your heart feels some hope after hearing these stories about rainbow babies.

We took a year off and finally March of 2016 we were ready to do IVF. We began all the testing, I had to do another DNC for the polyps that so kindly had returned in my uterus, we ordered the meds and we got that party started. I did all the injections, we did the retrieval (got 18 eggs, 12 fertilized, and 10 were genetically ok…5 boys and 5 girls). The initial transfer was supposed to be in July, but wouldn’t you know my hormones were too high so we had to push it back to September. Finally! Finally, we were there and we did it! We transferred 3 embryos (2 were looking like they weren’t thawing right, but we threw them in just for better odds). I took progression pregnancy tests (against dr. orders) and we finally got the call! I was PREGNANT! I remember calling my girlfriend and crying. She was worried because I’m not a crier, especially in front of people, but I was so scared! I couldn’t deal with anything else and I just wanted this to be real! It was…it was very real and 10 months later Aston was born on his due date weighing in at 7lbs 11oz (which ironically 7-11 is our anniversary).

So that “gap” – it was not intentional and was filled with years of sadness, loss, anger, frustration, uncertainty, and longing. That “gap” tested our marriage, our personal strength, our resilience, our ability to deal with loss, our family unit, and ultimately our true desire. I believe that everything does always happen for a reason, and although I never wanted to be part of a science experiment or have my children so far apart, I know that I was meant to be a voice and support for all of the women and families going through the same thing. In the end, I would do it all over again, just the same, if I knew this would be the outcome!

Babe In My Arms, Babe In My Heart, Blogs

Infertility and the Road to Comedy

October 18, 2018
Written by Meirav Z, guest blogger and creator of “Inconceivable”
I never thought I’d one day talk so much about infertility.  And it would be about me.  And I definitely never would’ve guessed it could be funny.
So first off, blogging isn’t easy for me. I’d much rather stand on a stage in front of lots of people with a bright spotlight on me.  Really.
My name is Meirav (pronounced May-rahv).  I’ve experienced unexplained infertility and unexplained secondary infertility for a total of about 10 years, including hormone shots (for those who aren’t familiar– those are needles, not drinks), countless examination with that overly-evasive and completely unmagical vaginal wand, industrial amounts of lube, awkward IUI’s, surreal IVF, heartbreaking miscarriages, emotions galore, and everything else that’s very familiar to the ttc community— a community which I only became aware of this past year.
Professionally, I’m in theater, so I’m familiar with putting on a happy face and having that show-must-go-on attitude. And maybe now you can better understand how it’s easier for me to stand in front of a crowd and talk about my private parts and mood bungee-jumps than to write a blog about it.  Yes, “you” as in the one reading this.  Hi there. I know for a fact we already have at least one if not many things in common, and that’s so amazing that it’ll just help get me through writing this.
I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, and as a young adult and adult, I was very aware pregnancy (you have sex = you get pregnant, it’s in all the books, sex-ed classes, movies, songs….How could anyone imagine it not being so?) When I was actually ready to have kids, I was shocked it didn’t happen immediately after my husband and I stopped using birth control.  It took us a long while to figure out that maybe we had some sort of problem.  Did I take birth control for too long?  Was there something that I missed in Sex Ed?? Nobody around us talked about this as an issue, we didn’t know this was something that affected so many couples.  This was all taking place in Israel, where I live now.  It’s a very family-oriented country, but we never really heard anything about problems while family-making.  We were totally clueless, and it took me a while to get over the embarrassment and shame and guilt and contact a doctor to inquire.  I mean, how were we not doing it right?!  I had a couple of miscarriages during that time as well.  Ugh, that horrible feeling of failure…  The doctor’s response was an immediate “oh, this happens to lots of couples, don’t worry about it” and we were sent to start fertility testing.
All the testing showed that everything was fine and in working order with the both of us, so we got the explanation of “unexplained infertility”— The thing you can’t pinpoint and fix because you don’t know what it is.  So off we went to fertility treatment.  I know, I just made it sound like we were skipping and hopping along with joyous background music. Nope. So how can you treat what you don’t know is malfunctioning? Well, with extra hormones, scheduled sex, and lots of intervention by medical personnel who are also complete strangers, of course!  I know, sounds exactly like a sexy resort vacation.
I remember that we were at this tiny fertility/IVF clinic, it was practically a hallway with a couple of chairs.  I was about to begin fertility treatments towards an IUI, all of this being a completely top secret assignment from anyone besides my husband and me, of course.  The nurse gave me a detailed explanation on how to self-administer the hormone shots with this special kit I was given.  I had to start on the third day of menstruation (“Day 3” later became known as this magical day for anything fertility-related). I listened very carefully, I even took notes.  I was a good student, I was going to ace this thing.  Then, sure enough I started getting my period, and I knew could finally begin the sure-to-work treatment in only 2 days.  But then my period wasn’t really, and something seemed off. I called the clinic and spoke with the nurse.  She had me come in and take another blood test, just to be sure.  Later that day the nurse called, congratulating me that I was pregnant, naturally!  We were amazed and so happy, and I got a speedy graduation from the fertility clinic, I felt like a star student.
My husband and I had our amazing daughter and felt overjoyed.
And then we wanted another child, and there we were “trying” again with no pregnancy.  Why?? This time we knew to go back to the fertility doctor right away.  We were then labeled as having “unexplained secondary infertility”, which is like “Really-Unexplained Infertility” or “Unexplained Infertility: The Revenge”.  We got ready to start treatment once again (well, for the first time, technically), and then I found out how little I knew about fertility treatments. I knew nothing. This time, I was waiting for that Day 3, totally thinking I’ll be pregnant again minutes before administering that first hormone shot.  But not this time.  This time I had to go through with it.  And then some.  So many shots, several failed IUI’s, then IVF. Remember that tiny IVF hallway-clinic I mentioned eariler?  Now it was already a few years after that first visit, and that clinic had expanded to be huge and shiny with nice leather couches and sliding glass doors… So many people going through IVF now.
The hormones and fertility treatments were too much at one point.  It was a huge strain on our family, and on our marriage.  We decided to take a break and just enjoy and appreciate what we have, and our daughter will have to make do without a sibling.  A couple of years later, which was about 2 years ago, I found out I was pregnant. Naturally again, and I found out pretty late in.  But within about a 2 week period we got on an insane fertility roller-coaster: Found out about the pregnancy, heard the heartbeat for the first time, and then didn’t hear a heartbeat. We were shocked, crying, I had to get a D&C.  No words.  But we got through it.
My husband always wanted me to talk about all of this with someone, and I wouldn’t.  I just couldn’t.  But then, after that last crazy roller-coaster loop, I decided to try.  But how??  I started collecting all my thoughts on paper, and when thinking about it, I found lots of comedic moments.  That fertility roller coaster is so surreal at times, it’s funny.  I had figured what worked for me.  So I invited some friends over to my house one night, they didn’t even know what they were coming for.  And there I was, telling them my fertility journey.  What it really means.  Everything you have to do, everything that’s done to you, all the feelings involved.  And being an actress who loves comedy, I presented it to them using characters, songs, and lots of humor. I was so nervous, I think I was sitting down reading from my paper the whole time.
When I was done I was so relieved that I got through it, now everyone could go home and that was that.  But instead, they all started telling me I need to turn this into a real show.  And even more surprising, they stayed over for a long time afterwards, because they all started TALKING.  They started to open up about their own related stories, that other friends in the room didn’t really know about.  And there suddenly was this deeper understanding and connection.  That’s when I knew this was worth exploring.  Because it got people talking about this thing nobody ever really talks about. Honestly and openly. And it got people laughing, too.  It’s like the comedy broke the ice of this taboo.
My husband wasn’t in the room that night, I made him stay in the area near our daughter’s bedroom to make sure she wouldn’t wake up and hear random songs and phrases about vaginas, sex, and other child-inappropriate content.  When everyone eventually left that night, he came up to me and just said he had no clue what that evening was about, he only managed to hear bits and pieces, but he was so proud of me and hugged me.  We stood there hugging for a good long while.  He’s been my biggest fan and best partner from the beginning. Infertility is so hard on men, too.  And yes, I’m crying as I’m typing this.
So fast forward about a year later, I now have a new show (this time it’s a solo show… about my personal stuff… yikes), titled Inconceivable: The Totally True One-Woman Semi-Fertile Quasi-“Musical”.
I have the privilege of performing it on stages big and small, including the National Theatre of Israel, and will be making a U.S. debut this October at the world’s largest solo performance festival, the United Solo Theatre Festival in the heart of New York City’s theater district.  My performance already sold out and I’ve been fortunate to receive an additional show date!  It’s crazy!  But crazy good, because now I’m on a mission to get more people talking about infertility, and laughing, and talking some more.  I’m learning about others who are on this mission in their own way, and it’s great.  More talking will create more awareness, and more awareness will drop that associated stigma, help educate, and make necessary changes or lead to advancements.
I’ve performed this show numerous times by now, essentially telling my story over and over again, and despite all the comedy it’s still very challenging.  But I keep doing it for the sole reason of what happens after each performance.  The live experience with this show is so energetic, it’s completely different from reading something or watching a screen which can be powerful in their own right, and this live energy is even more true for the complex topic of infertility.  The response for the show is amazing.  Some audience members find me after the show and tell me directly.  Most confide how they’ve experienced similar journeys and it’s so good to know they’re not the only ones, some thank me for educating them on what their children or friends are going through or have gone through, some are medical professionals who got some clarity to the patients’ side of things, and some just relate to the show in one form or another.  I’ve learned so much from the whole process of this show, both professionally and personally.
I have this guest book where people can write their thoughts, reactions, etc. after seeing the show, which I love reading after I pack up each performance.  One audience member wrote that people all over the world should see this.  And it’s true, people all over the world are going through the same things other people are, and may not even know it.  Thousands of miles apart feeling lonely but in reality so close.  And all of it boils down to the fact that we can all connect on one if not many levels, just like you and I already have things in common, which I find to be so exciting and empowering. I hope anyone reading this can identify with that.
Babe In My Arms, Babe In My Belly, Babe In My Heart, Blogs

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.


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