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November 2019

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Living in the House of Gratitude

November 27, 2019

Written by Andrea Robinson, Guest Blogger

It was 3 years ago…at 2:45 am…I was sitting in my near dark kitchen, welled up eyes, a strong black cup of coffee and a journal that was blank. There were questions like “What are you grateful for today?” and “What do you love about yourself?” 

I couldn’t find an answer. I had been swimming and trying not to drown. I had said “YES” to everyone for years. Anyone out there a fellow people pleaser too? 

I had put so much of my identity into my job as a morning news anchor I didn’t even know what I loved about ‘Andrea’ because everyone’s opinions dictated what I felt about myself. 

I lived my life in the race towards perfection. Perfect body. Perfect family. Perfect house. Perfect career. Perfect husband. 

I was so tired. Painfully exhausted. You know that tiredness that doesn’t go away even with 12 hours of sleep?? 

I lived with a mask on. That perfect mask that made everyone think I had this life figured out. 

I could never tell anyone I struggled because that meant I was weak and couldn’t handle all of my blessings God gifted me. I couldn’t complain because nobody wants to hear your crap when they have their own too. 

I had gotten to my broken moment. I didn’t love anything anymore and couldn’t see the blessings and the good right in front of me. I just couldn’t get my mind to that place of abundance. 

It was one of the worst days that eventually pushed me towards a path that would be the best ones yet in my life thus far. 

I would have never guessed that 10 minutes every morning along with a weekly visit to the life helper aka therapist would start to transform my heart. 

Heart work is the hardest work ever. The results don’t show up on the scale or in a mirror or a bank account. They are felt and for many years you don’t actually feel it or notice it until you are far away from the storm that was threatening your heart and your path. 

I remember working through those journal questions most mornings. I had committed to sitting and answering them at 2:45am Monday-Friday as a way to find the good to focus on before the exhaustion of my career dominated the day. 

What was I grateful for? Was it my family? Health? Job? Well, YES. 

However, I was never focusing on what I had but more so what I didn’t have. 

DO you know what happens when you focus on what you don’t have? Scarcity. 

I will never have what she has…I don’t have that income…or those opportunities or that ability to do what she is doing. 

You know what happens when you train your mind to focus on the good? Abundance. 

Guess what? Abundance is limitless, wide open, more than enough to go around. 

However, it is like going to the gym…it doesn’t just happen, you have to work towards it…you have to train consistently and get those reps in for you to get towards it. 

I started writing the big things and the little things. 

The hot cup of coffee at 2:30am…the quiet feel of the morning when all are asleep…the peaceful drive into work….the look on my kids’ faces when I pick them up at the bus. 

I didn’t want to dismiss the little things because I knew I was missing out on the BIG part of life by ignoring those simple moments. 

I answered the question “what do I love about myself today” each day but in the beginning it was a trick to get myself to believe it. Just like we do with kids, affirm them and train them up with positive and affirming words, I did with myself. 

I knew it wasn’t going to be quick but it would take time. I would write what I wanted to believe about myself. “I am a GREAT Mom. I am an awesome, loving friend. I am kind to strangers.” 

Guess what happens when we repeatedly do something and write words of affirmation daily? YOU.BEGIN.TO.BELIEVE.IT. 

YEP. And when you do something over and over and over again, you develop a habit. It was the greatest habit I have developed in my adult life. 

Why? 

Because it has drawn me closer to God. It has helped me see how He sees me. I can see the beauty in me without a mask of perfection, without the need to please everyone and without the constant exhaustion of trying to fit a standard that isn’t His anyway. 

I have found when I look for the good, focus on it, find the littlest blessing in the mess I am in, I can see the beauty of what I am sitting in instead of the achiness of the hardship. 

How will you ever find your room in the house of gratitude? 

I know what you are thinking…”but she has no idea what I have been through. She has no clue what my heart feels like. I have so much pain that feeling good seems like a miracle that won’t happen.” 

I can assure you this…I do not know your exact pain. I don’t know your footsteps you have walked thus far. 

I have had trauma, tragedy and pain. I do know that when my heart felt empty, when I felt lost, when I felt not enough, I could NOT POSSIBLY see anything good in that but I do know I am strong and so are you. 

We are strong and capable and we can choose abundance and choose gratitude and we can lead that way. The world leads with negativity and scarcity…there isn’t enough so give up now. I don’t want to conform to that, do you? 

I want to stay in the house of gratitude for as long as I can. In fact, I know there is no limit on your stay. You are welcome forever. It is your choice. 

Picture the safest place you know. Is it your home? A cabin you frequent in the woods? A beach house? Where are you filled with clarity and peace? Where do you go and never want to leave? Where do smile most? Where does your heart skip a beat? Where do you feel God? 

THAT is your house of gratitude. THAT feeling is gratitude. THAT feeling comes from seeing all the things and the people and the experiences that come your way EVERY.SECOND.OF.THE.DAY. 

It’s easy to be grateful during this season we are embarking on…it’s marketed heavily. However, I want you to look for the little things today and then again on those random Tuesdays in February or the quiet Sundays in July. 

That hot cup of coffee steaming in your favorite mug=gratitude That smile on your husband’s face when he sees you after his work trip=gratitude That bright sun and crisp Fall air=gratitude That nap under a cozy blanket at 2pm on a Saturday=gratitude 

Your House of Gratitude has a room waiting for you. Chase the joy to find the gratitude and the gratitude will lead you to contentment and abundance. 

And that is the life God has always planned for you…even when you think His plan is not working, He never stops working. 

Rest well, my dears…that grateful heart will lead you well. 

If you’d like to grab your own gratitude journal or the other things she has available, head over to check out Andrea’s collection here!

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

My Pregnancy Gave Me Cancer

November 21, 2019

Written by Michelle Velez, Guest Blogger

Hi my name is Michelle Velez and I want to share my story of how my pregnancy gave me cancer. What happened to me is very rare – one in 40,000 pregnancies – but what caused it is a lot more common and it bothers me that most people have never heard of it.

I’m a wife, mother of two, and local news anchor for the NBC station in Las Vegas. This pregnancy was my third. The baby would have been the family tie breaker. There was nothing I wanted more than to give our little boy and baby girl a brother or sister – the final piece to our family puzzle. We were thrilled. Unfortunately that joy was short lived when at six weeks we were heartbroken to see an empty gestational sac on the ultrasound. My doctor told us it was something called a blighted ovum – basically a very early miscarriage where the baby never forms. 1 in 4 the doctor told me. For some reason that number made me feel a little better – a little less alone in this terrible nightmare. My doctor told me that because it was so early he’d like to let my body miscarry naturally. So we made a plan for me to come back in a month and off I went to lose my baby in the privacy of my own personal hell. For weeks I anticipated the moment, equipped with pads and depends, never knowing when it would happen. But that’s just it – it never did happen. Instead of having a miscarriage, my body started to show more signs of pregnancy. It started with extreme fatigue, then I started to have food aversions and finally severe nausea. I also started to bleed, lightly at first but then more excessively to the point where I was passing clots the size of my hand. When I finally went back to see my doctor, he took one look at the ultrasound and asked me how I felt. I told him I felt horrible and he said “Well that’s because you didn’t have miscarriage, you have a molar pregnancy.” I was dumbfounded.. what in the hell is a molar pregnancy?

Molar pregnancies affect one in every one thousand pregnancies – and happen when the placenta from an abnormal pregnancy continues to grow even though a baby never forms. Invasive tissue will continue to reproduce and if not removed, can in some cases, grow beyond the uterus and spread to other parts of the body. Along with the tissue, the mole also causes the body’s HCG levels to skyrocket to astronomical levels. HCG is the pregnancy hormone that produces a positive pregnancy test and common symptoms like morning sickness, fatigue and food aversions. That’s one of the first signs of a molar pregnancy – high HCG and extreme sickness. My HCG was 800,000 at the time of my molar diagnosis. It should have been around 25,000 at 9 weeks gestation. It was the equivalent of being pregnant with five babies at once. I was as sick as a dog. At that point a D&C is done to evacuate the uterus and then the HCG is monitored until it hits zero. Usually that is enough to remove the mole and you will be checked regularly for a year to make sure your numbers stay at zero.

For me, the D&C worked at first, but then my HCG started to rise and within three weeks was back up again. That’s when my doctor sent me to an oncologist. When a D&C doesn’t work, the next step is a low dose chemo administered through a shot. It’s the same medicine used for an ectopic pregnancy and other non-cancer related issues. Still, being at an oncologist was nerve wracking. I knew in some very rare cases my condition could cause a rare cancer – with the most severe form known as Choriocarcinoma. The doctors kept re-assuring me that at this point I did NOT have cancer because the tissue from the D&C had tested negative. I held onto that with everything because I was So. Freaked. Out. The plan was to have another D&C and a CT scan just to make sure the tissue had not spread. The night of the CT scan I had my first legit breakdown. What if it had spread? What is it was cancer? I looked up hashtags on Instagram and saw women with no hair getting chemotherapy and lost it. My husband grabbed me and said “those women aren’t you!” My doctors and mom said the same thing. It took all night for them to talk me down. The thoughts were endless and torturous.. but they finally calmed me down. I even managed somehow to fall asleep. Good thing, because that would be my last decent nights sleep for a while. The next morning I was awaken by a call from my doctor’s office telling me to come in immediately to discuss my scan results. I knew it was not good news.. and I was right.

I can’t really explain what it’s like to be told those dreaded words “You have cancer.” Unbelievable and terrifying describe it best for me. My co-anchor and best friend Krystal left work early to meet me there because I was all alone that day. My mom was flying in later that night and my husband was at work.. and we knew this was an appointment I should not attend alone. My doctor sat across from us in a tiny room, and while Krystal held my hand and my mom listened on FaceTime, she told us the scan results showed at least 15 legions on my lungs, more on my spleen, liver and uterus and that it was Stage 4 Gestational Trophoblastic Neoplasia – caused by an invasive mole. As soon as I heard that I fell out towards the floor and Krystal literally caught me in her arms. Through my sobs my doctor continued to explain that we had no time to wait and that I needed to start an aggressive chemotherapy treatment immediately. My head was spinning. How could I go from being pregnant to having cancer? How is this possible?? Why didn’t I know about this? Again.. endless questions.

The next week was a whirlwind. I had a port placed in my chest and then got admitted into the hospital because the bleeding got worse. Turns out I was anemic from the blood loss and needed several blood transfusions so I could start chemo. That’s another sign of molar pregnancies, anemia. Four days after my diagnosis I was discharged from the hospital and went straight to chemotherapy. Three days later, after two days of more heavy bleeding, I passed out in my bathroom and had to be transported by ambulance back to the hospital. I needed three more transfusions – six units of blood total. The human body only holds about eight. I also had another D&C to curb the bleeding coming from the tumors in my uterus. Together that was enough to get me stable enough to eventually finish my first round of chemo. All of this happened within one week of being diagnosed. While I was in the hospital, my in-laws drove up from Arizona and took the kids back. They were supposed to stay a week. They were there for three. It was so hard, but we knew it was the best decision until I could get stable. We didn’t want them to see what was happening to me.

The good news about this type of cancer is that its highly treatable and comes with a very good prognosis. The doctors told me with the right treatment they had no reason to believe I wouldn’t fully recover. That’s what I chose to focus on – even when my heath seemed to be getting worse. Once they finally got the bleeding under control, the chemo got its chance to work. And it did. After the first round, my HCG levels dropped by 50,000 to around 2,500. After my second round the my numbers dropped to 55. Zero is what we want. Zero means the cancer is gone. Once I hit zero, I have six more weeks of precautionary chemo to make sure we get it all. Yes I will likely lose my hair, but at least I’ll have my life. Not everyone with cancer gets to say that. Still, it doesn’t make it any easier.

I want you to know about this, because this type of cancer – albeit rare – comes from a pregnancy that by all accounts looks just like your typical normal pregnancy. Yes it’s treatable, but only if you catch it in time. Women do die, because by the time they realize their baby bump is not a baby – but rather – a killer monster, it has spread too far. Again not all molar pregnancies turn into cancer – but we women need to know what to look for. One in 1000 is not that rare – and I think you might be surprised by how many women are affected by molar pregnancies. I don’t know exactly why this happened to me, but I’m going to do my best to use my journey to shine a spotlight on this rarity and hopefully make a difference. Otherwise… what’s the point of all this, right?

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

Our Rainbow Baby; A True Miracle

November 13, 2019

Written by Vishakha Deora, of Teekri.com, Guest Blogger

I wear my rainbow-colored Teekri ring for a reason. It’s a symbol of strength and an ode to the baby we lost, and the amazing one we gained.

When we first found out we were pregnant, it completely took us by surprise.  We had talked about starting a family but didn’t think it would happen so fast.  However, we embraced the news and excitement, as I was still in school, getting my MBA.

While sitting in class one day, I got an incredibly painful, persistent cramp.  After going to the restroom and discovering some spotting, I became extremely scared and called my husband and was rushed to the hospital. After a long night, we were presented with devastating news: at 8 weeks pregnant, we lost our baby.

Like many women who miscarry, it took quite a toll on me both mentally and physically, taking me some time to feel normal again. Even then though, the feeling of emptiness never went away.

After miscarrying, we were adamant about getting pregnant again, and once our doctor told us it was safe to try, we did. With that being said, that too became an emotional roller coaster. The first time around we had gotten pregnant right away… this time, it took over a year and considering fertility treatments. Low and behold, however, as we were preparing for a small vacation, I started to feel nauseous…

My husband was eager for me to to take a pregnancy test, and while I was hesitant, I did it… and guess what?! I was pregnant!! I’ll never forget the feeling; so hard to put in words: amazement, relief, worry, concern- but when we made it past 12 weeks, we started sharing the news and it became very real. Nine months went by in a blur, and before we knew it, we were in the hospital having our rainbow baby.

At first, everything seemed amazing!  Being a mother was the most amazing feeling in the world!!  Yet shortly after my daughter’s birth, I noticed that her eyes fluttered and she never seemed to focus.  My husband and everyone else around me said it was normal, but my mother’s instinct thought otherwise. 

At two months old, my husband’s friend, an ophthalmologist, visited us from out of town.  I asked Charlie to look at my daughter’s eyes and he reaffirmed my suspicion: something was wrong.  He called one of his colleagues (a pediatric ophthalmologist) in the area and got us an appointment right away.  The doctor immediately suggested an MRI of her brain to see if there was an underlying condition. I’m sure you can imagine the pain and concern that brought me and my wandering mind.

When we received the test results, we learned she had suffered an in-utero stroke and a portion of her brain was damaged.  Based upon where it was, we were told we were lucky.  There would be no cognitive issues, but she could develop some challenges. 

Soon after, we learnt her vision was severely affected and she had right side disability.  At the age of 5 months, our baby was put into physical and occupational therapy.  We were also told that she would not be able to walk independently and would need a cane or walker at a minimum… and maybe even a wheelchair. 

This was something that we had never expected and weighed on us heavily. 

Obviously, we decided to do whatever that could help make her stronger.  When she was 3 years old, she was strong enough to start using a walker.  This was a very difficult process.  Up until this time she had never put pressure on her legs or feet.  When we started walking with her, it would take an hour to go our neighbor’s house.  But we did not give up… and neither did she.  Within 3 months, she began walking with her walker comfortably.  She would walk for hours on end with no problems.  And that’s when we decided she transition to a cane.

But she hated the cane… literally despised it.  And so, finally, we gave her two options: either use the cane or walk on your own.  She thought about it for a minute and then said, “Fine, I will walk on my own!”

And that she did.

We started with working with her on the carpet.  My husband would make her stand from the floor and then I would sit a couple steps away and ask her to walk towards me.  She would fall, but only on carpet. Slowly, we moved to the hardwood floor and then outside on the sidewalk. 

I still remember how I kept telling her she will be able to walk one day!  I didn’t show it to her, but some days I would be so discouraged in my heart and cry all wondering if she would ever walk.  I didn’t want my baby to have a difficult life. 

Beyond our greatest belief, she slowly started to walk.  It started with a few steps, but it eventually turned into step after step after step.  And soon enough, she was able to walk independently!  This was the best day of our lives as all our prayers were coming true!  She was now five years old and able to do something the doctors didn’t think possible.

Today, she walks with a limp and has no usage of her right hand.  She has taught herself to do day-to-day activities with one hand such as changing her clothes, washing her hair, etc.  Her vision is extremely poor where they have to enlarge print in school for her.  But guess what?? She’s now in her freshman year of high school, thriving in pre-AP classes, and flaunts straight As. The struggle will never be over, but she makes it seem so easy. 

Our daughter has taught so much. She is the epitome of persistent. Usually, parents have to teach their kids these lessons, but this Rainbow Baby has gifted us the most precious lessons possible.  We have learned to never take anything for granted, and to go through life with determination and a smile.  This rainbow baby shines bright in our lives, and all the lives she graces.

To find out more about Teekri jewelry and see all the unique pieces, visit them on Instagram or their website!

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

Infertility to IVF Success

November 8, 2019

Written by Monique Farook, Guest Blogger

My name is Monique.

I am a stay at home mom & wife. My husband and I were married for two years before we sought the help of a reproductive endocrinologist. My desire to have a child was burning inside of me and it quickly became my obsession. At the time of the first treatment in 2012, I was 29 years old and the IUI cycle was unsuccessful. We had never fallen pregnant on our own and I had never been pregnant in my entire life. We buried ourselves in our work and did not seek help until four years later in 2016.

We were married for approximately five and a half years at this point. I knew there had to be an explanation. Why was my body failing me? My menstrual cycles were regular every month and nothing appeared to be out of the ordinary. I was grieved at the thought of getting help for the one thing I felt my body should do naturally and with ease.

In the spring of 2016, I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and underwent a hysteroscopy to remove uterine polyps. Once my conditions were treated, we opted for natural-cycle IVF. NCIVF is when little to no hormonal injections are used in an IVF cycle. One to two eggs are retrieved for fertilization. Our first natural-cycle IVF treatment in July was canceled due to the non-fertilization of my egg. The second cycle was in August. I recall us eating at one of our favorite restaurants before the egg retrieval day. The alarm on my phone went off reminding me to administer my medication that would suppress ovulation. I stopped eating and made haste to the restroom. I giggled to myself thinking about what I was willing to do to grow our family. This cycle was a success and I gave birth in January of 2017.

For the couples currently experiencing infertility/IVF treatment, I know first-hand your frustrations, tears, and the loneliness you feel. I had one family member that I could relate to during our journey; it wasn’t enough. No one knew how to comfort me, so they listened. As a black woman, I felt isolated even more; it’s still taboo in my community. I felt shame at my RE’s office too and everyone was there for the same reason as us lol. Everywhere I went in public and when I logged onto social media there were expectant couples.

Once my husband and I submitted to our infertility and IVF journey, we were able to connect on a deeper level and move forward. We vowed to get through it together and without resentments. There was no use in pointing fingers and playing the blame game. Infertility is an emotional and arduous battle. Studies continually show that stress reduction helps tremendously, but it is difficult while in the midst. No matter your outcome, know that there’s an abundance of peace awaiting when you accept and surrender to the process.

Monique

What The Fertility

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