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We Are Not Incompetent

February 14, 2020

Written by Rebecca Paradis, Guest Blogger

Hi Friends,

My name is Becca. I’m an ER nurse living in Alaska with my husband, Aaron, and fur baby, Abby.  Aaron and I have been trying to conceive for a year now.  It’s been a year of dedicated cycle tracking, basil body temps, cervical symptoms, all the things.  Every month that goes by we become more settled into the idea that having a biological child may be a bit more of a challenge for us.  Next month we meet with my OB/GYN to begin fertility testing.  I’m a newbie to this whole world of infertility and in that short time I’ve learned that it can be a lonely, desperate, isolating place to be. 

Anyway, fun fact about me, I love podcasts.  I rarely even watch TV anymore (except December because of all the Christmas movies of course), but I always have a podcast on.  The other day I was listening to one of my favorites and the guest on the show was a young woman.  A leader in her industry and clearly very strong, both physically and mentally, she made a comment that I initially misunderstood.  I thought she said that women were being raised to feel incompetent, when in reality she said confident.  While the latter makes more sense, it was incompetence that really caught my attention.  Are we as females raised to feel incompetent?

How often when you’re scrolling through social media do you feel completely incompetent?  Didn’t get your workout in for day before you went to work, cleaned the house, made dinner, and paid the bills?  Well, you must be really lazy.  Despite all the things we manage to do in a single day, it is the one thing that we didn’t have time for or prioritize that we beat ourselves up on.  That one single item on the to do list makes us feel like failures and that’s how we judge ourselves.  I’ve always considered myself to be a strong, confident woman, not a whole lot really gets me down on myself.  Fertility though, well let’s just say it the first thing that has truly made me feel completely incompetent as a wife and a woman.

A friend pointed out to me the other day that in the recent past, a woman’s only purpose was to tend house and raise babies.  While we have moved past this as a society, I don’t think it has been long enough for the feeling of failure to evolve from our DNA if this isn’t possible.  Infertility shakes us to our core, it makes us feel the highest level of incompetence.  Despite everything I do to make my marriage work, I tell myself I have failed in the most important aspect in that I have been unable to carry a child that is a genetic mix of my husband and I.  Let me clarify that my husband in no way blames me for our infertility issues; he is supportive, caring, and open to ideas on how to grow our family.  We face this challenge together.  He hurts with me and shares my fears.  Still, I feel that I have failed him and our marriage. 

Maybe this is a call to arms, for myself and for all of you.  Enough is enough.  Biology cannot always be helped and while it is a heart-breaking reality, it doesn’t make any of us incompetent.  So, whether you missed your workout today, burned dinner, didn’t finish the laundry (Currently my mother’s dog is crashed out in a pile of clean laundry I have yet to put away, eh oh well…guess I’ll wash it again or maybe the husband will smell like a dog for a couple days), or cannot conceive a child biologically, let’s stop calling ourselves incompetent.  Every day we wake up and face the world, we stand up to our fears, and we conquer ever growing to do lists.  We are strong, we are smart, we are successful, and we are 100% competent.

If you enjoy my thoughts and can relate, feel free to head over to my blog where I share more of my running rambles and thoughts on this mess called life.  Join me at: Milestomotherhood.com or follow me on Instagram.  Better yet, let’s show the world how competent we truly are with #milestomotherhood because there really are many miles ahead of us, whether you are trying to enter motherhood or already in the trenches dealing with the daily challenges.  Stay strong all you competent ladies!

Love,

Becca

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Infertility is Bigger than Babies

February 5, 2020

Written by Guest Contributor, Tiffany Johnston

Let’s talk a bit about the psychological warfare that is infertility.

For those that have been following our story with What The Fertility, we began sharing about our journey about 3 years ago. We experienced a large number of failed treatments, loss of hope and eventually a few miracles. Just over a year ago I shared that we were pregnant naturally via video on #nationalrainbowbabyday with all of our friends. It was a feeling I thought we would never experience! What caught me off guard was that I was equally as terrified as I had been with our infertility procedure babies.

I have spent more than my fair share of time in post partum depression counseling, dealing with onset OCD, anxiety and feelings of loss that no matter that time seem to be unshakable. I feel guilty that we have three beautiful boys and yet every time someone announces a pregnancy or a gender reveal I cry. I cry because I am jealous that they get to enjoy a natural experience and that they won’t be under a mountain of debt when their child is born. That instead they get to take that money and pay bills, travel or create the perfect nursery for their expected blessing, Five years later and not a single one of my kids bedrooms is styled or complete. 

I have even felt a sense of loss over the fact that my memories of conception do not entail a moment of passion and love, but rather recollections of shame and fear. I have memories of my husband being taken away to masturbate in isolation to provide the needed sperm sample, and personally having to experience the joy of being turkey basted over and over again after each failed transfer. It has taken me over five years to realize that all of these feelings of loss, shame and sadness are natural and very common. Let’s talk about why…

For those new to the infertility world I like to remind followers that the term infertility is generally defined as a condition of the reproductive system that inhibits or prevents conception after at least one year of unprotected sexual intercourse. To account for the natural decline of fertility with age, the time frame is reduced to six months for women 35 and older. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 12% of women between the ages of 15 and 44 have “difficulty getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term.”

I bring up the definition of infertility because I believe we must educate society because I recognize that it can be hard to fully grasp what infertility involves unless you’ve dealt with it personally. I also am guilty of being one of the many people that originally believed that infertility was all about the end game, a baby. I truly believed that if we could just get to that prize, the pain of infertility would fade away. But infertility is bigger than babies. I want you to hear what I am saying so let me repeat myself.  Infertility is bigger than the baby. It can affect our physical and mental health in insidious — and sometimes enduring — ways.

Some researchers argue argue that the definition of trauma should be expanded to include the psychological and emotional response to not only physical threats, but threats too deeply held expectations of life. To understand a bit better I want you to take a moment to think about the grief that occurred for you after the death of a loved one. The relationship you had with your loved one was probably clearly defined, and you have memories of that person to look back on. The loss is easily identified because of the relationship you formed and the feelings you experienced over the years, not only by you but by others who were aware of the death.

It’s likely that your friends and family expressed sympathy and gave you their condolences,  you may have taken time off work for bereavement and attended a ritual such as wake or funeral that helped to facilitate your grief. Your loss was likely recognized, acknowledged, validated and supported in a multitude of ways. Now I ask you to think about the losses associated with infertility. One of the most common forms of loss and grieving is that of the imagined or expected family, women with primary infertility, who do not have biological children, face the loss of the entire life stage of parenting.

What seems to be the hardest for people to grasp is that with infertility, feelings of loss can come from an absence of something that has never been rather than the absence of something that used to be. Reproductive trauma also stems from the fact that many people begin imagining their futures as parents long before they even dream of starting a family. For many people their reproductive stories started when as children, they heard things like, “Someday, when you have kids…”, we start imagining what our experiences will look like long before we reach the age of reproduction. This doesn’t even touch on the emotional trauma caused by all of the babies lost early on, still born and those families that experience recurring miscarriages. There is so much more loss in infertility than what we see and understand as a society. 

I want to tell you today that you don’t have to feel guilty for having emotions, your emotions are valid, worthy of discussion and that everything you are feeling is natural and perfectly normal!  It is common and normal to experience shock, grief, depression, anger, and frustration, as well as loss of self-esteem, self-confidence, and a sense of control over one’s destiny. Infertility changes how you see yourself and the world.

Somewhere along the journey, many of us stop feeling as though infertility is happening to us, but instead begin to believe that it is ingrained as a part of who we are. You become used to living in a constant state of fluctuating despair, loss and hope; that seems even worse during the dreaded two week wait and as many of us later learn it doesn’t just turn off when and if you get pregnant. For many of us it has never turned off, we experienced those feelings through each ultrasound, the birth and so on.

I now have a 5 year old and 3 year old that we got through infertility and an 11 month old that we were blessed with au natural and I am still trying to turn it off. Just last weekend my sister in law who is 20 years of age announced the gender of her surprise baby and I cried for over two hours, hysterically. Want to know what my counselor said? “ That’s okay Tiffany, your heart is battered and worn by your experiences and your feelings are YOURS. You do not need to feel guilty for not experiencing the emotions that are expected of you.”

More than anything I want you to read that again! Lock it in your emotional vault and hold tight to the validation that your emotions are valid whether you are 6 months into trying for a family or 5 years past your very first IUI. Other’s may not understand your feelings or understand how you can simultaneously love the children that you hold earth side at the same time as you mourn the loss of those that you never got to hold and the experiences you never got to have. Hold strong in the fact that you have a safe and understanding community here @whatthefertility who see and acknowledge all that you are experiencing.  

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Conceiving With Love: Increasing Fertility, Healing Shame

January 2, 2020

Written by Denise Wiesner, Guest Blogger

I recently received an email from a 43 year old patient who wrote about her journey in coming to terms with the sexual molestation she experienced at only five years old. Like so many young victims, she was threatened not to speak a word, a threat she took to heart for most of her life. But in this email, she discussed trying to dismantle the belief she had grown up with, “I can’t ask for help or tell anyone my truth.” By writing about what had happened in her childhood, she asked me to witness her story — a story that had affected every relationship in her life until now. 

In reading her words, I wondered… 

How many of us have beliefs from childhood, and even adulthood, that have affected our capacity for intimacy? 

How many of us are too ashamed to tell anyone? 

And how do negative beliefs, stress, and trauma affect our ability to become pregnant? 

I see situations in my Chinese Medicine practice where women and men carry shame around infertility. One of my patients, lets call her Lisa, was a very successful and beautiful business woman who came to see me after an ectopic pregnancy. At first, the doctors hadn’t found the ectopic, but Lisa felt that something was off. And as it turned out, she was right. 

They had to take out her tube because she was at risk of losing it. It was a devastating loss for Lisa, and yet she was determined to get pregnant again. However, she told me that she and her husband had very little time for intimacy, and she described making a baby with her husband as “a ten minute in-and-out experience.” But for me, the more disturbing thing was that she felt she was being punished, as if she couldn’t conceive because she had done something wrong. It felt to her almost as if God didn’t want her to have a child. 

I wanted to bear witness to this untruth. I wanted to hold this belief she held strong and question its very existence because it is already hard enough to have fertility challenges let alone believe we are at fault for them. 

When it comes to fertility, there are so many blogs, books and advice about what to eat, what supplements to take, and how to become fertile-ready. But what is missing (and equally important to talk about), is what gets in the way of us being our fertile, sexual, and intimate selves. Or in other words, how do we deal with our stress, trauma, and negative beliefs in order to make a baby from a place of love? 

I have made it my mission to speak about the things that no one wants to discuss, and listen to the words that men and women are ashamed to say, because I believe that it is an important step toward conceiving. Secret shame must be addressed so that it doesn’t get in the way of our fertility and intimacy with our partners. 

In my book, Conceiving With Love, A Whole Body Approach to Creating Intimacy, Reigniting Passion and Increasing Fertility,” I talk about techniques to heal trauma and stress in order to get back to a loving place with ourselves and with our partners. First, we have to be able to be honest with ourselves about our story. I can’t tell you how many people I work with who keep secrets from their partners. 

For example, one of my fertility patients was struggling with Bulimia, and her partner didn’t know. While another one of my patients never told her partner about the molestation that took place in her childhood. These women were holding onto shame, and it was getting in the way of intimacy. 

In Chinese Medicine, we talk about feeling all emotions, but not becoming fixated on any one of them. It is the ability to feel, let go, feel, and let go again. Fertility struggles are bad enough to experience, but when we disconnect from our partner, we only isolate in the pain. 

It is also common to feel as if our bodies are failing us when we cannot conceive. This too is a form of shame. I see many social media posts that say, “I failed,” with the illusion that they are a failure because they didn’t get pregnant. 

I am no stranger to any of these feelings and thoughts. You see, I felt the same way when I miscarried, and again when I struggled to conceive my second child. I couldn’t understand what I had done to hold me back from conceiving, and I shouldered the blame on my own. So, I started writing letters to God asking why I wasn’t getting pregnant; and slowly, my sense of self began to erode. I realized I had been trying to affect the outcome I desired, and that simply wasn’t up to me. This was sad, because it questioned the belief I was taught — do good things, and good things will happen. Instead, I adopted the new belief that life doesn’t work on rewards and punishments, and we all have our own struggles to overcome. 

It took me years to reframe my thinking; but today I am living with an open heart knowing I can get through whatever life offers me, and each challenge makes me a stronger person. One day at a time. 

If you are trying to conceive, and think that shame could be getting in the way, what can you do to reconnect to LOVE? 

1. Communicate with your partner – Allow yourself to be vulnerable with your partner – it increases intimacy. Tell your partner about your wants, likes, and desires. How often do my patients feel uncomfortable asking for what they want? I would say, 98% of the time, especially if it is in the sex department. Sometimes people don’t even know what they want. If you can relate with that, there is a section dedicated to foreplay in Conceiving With Love, for more suggestions.

2. Know your story – but don’t let it run your future. Are there any lessons from your past that caused you to establish negative beliefs that you are carrying into the present moment? If so, don’t be shy to ask for help from a friend, healer, and/or therapist.

3. Notice your triggers. Do you react to situations in bigger proportion than necessary? This can happen even when revisiting the doctor’s office where you were last pregnant before a miscarriage. Sometimes acknowledging and understanding your triggers can help you dismantle them.

4. Become aware of the negative beliefs about yourself that you carry into your relationship. For example, “I don’t want my belly touched, it is fat.” After having a negative thought like that, make sure to look in the mirror and see the beautiful body that houses your spirit.

5. Take time away from electronics and be with your partner. Making love with your beloved is sacred, and making time to connect with an open heart can be a game changer when it comes to conception. 

My own fertility journey is in the past, and today I am lucky to have two beautiful children. I appreciate them every day because I know how much some women and men struggle to make children. I know most of them didn’t expect this process to be difficult. I also know that there is a lot of suffering that people go through and don’t talk about. 

If you are struggling, please find someone to bear witness to your thoughts and feelings. It could be a healer, therapist, best friend, or your partner. Don’t forget to wrap yourself in the healing power of love. As Lao Tzu, the famous Chinese Philosopher said, “When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” 

If you’d like more information or to connect with Denise, you can find more over on Instagram, her website, or the website for Natural Healing Acupuncture!

Babe In My Heart, Blogs, Uncategorized

Laughter is the Best Medicine

December 17, 2019

Written by Guest Blogger, Jaimie Selwa

Infertility is not funny. But laughter is the best medicine.

When my husband and I decided to start trying for a child I was baffled it wasn’t working. I never thought in a million years I’d be struggling with infertility. I always wanted kids. I didn’t dream about my wedding, I would dream about being a mom. I’d drive my American Girl dolls to soccer practice in my twin day bed. We’d stop for coffee on the way and I’d let them get a donut. Picture perfect American mom.

To my college friends, I was the “mom” of the group. Let me make you some Pizza Rolls after a night of drinking. Making sure you brought a water bottle to our group workouts. Do you have enough blankets? Need another pillow? Are you too hot? Are you too cold? This was me, I want to host, I want to take care of people…I want to be a mom.

In 2017, I felt ready, we felt ready. Which is interesting because people say you never really feel ready but we had our “ducks in a row”. We were in the next stage of our lives. We dated for 5 years, got engaged, married, rescued 2 dogs, bought a house and now we were ready.

I kind of figured knowing my luck after telling my husband, “You know it doesn’t happen on the first time,” that it would actually happen for us on the first time. I was that girl freaking out after the first time we had unprotected sex thinking, “OMG is that it, did we do it, am I pregnant?!” Then followed by frantically googling things like:

How soon can you tell if you’re pregnant?

How soon is too soon to take a pregnancy test?

When should you take a pregnancy test?

How soon after ovulation can you take a pregnancy test?

No matter how many online articles I read that told me the exact same thing I would pretend I read something else and that it was soon enough to take a test.

And then I got my period.

Well of course if it doesn’t happen the first time so it’s going to happen the second time. Maybe my calculations were off. It usually doesn’t happen on the first time, right? So it’s definitely going to be the second time.

And then I got my period again.

This heartbreak happened for a year before I took matters into my own hands. My OBGYN continued to tell me, that despite my irregular periods, we needed to wait a full year before coming in to seek treatment. After a year, I was so frustrated and I had a gut feeling that something was wrong. I called a local Reproductive Medical Office on my own and asked if I could set up a consultation. 

One month later, there we were, in the Reproductive Endocrinologist’s office. It felt so unreal. It felt like a movie, a bad movie. How did we get here? Why are we here? Why us? At least, I did feel reassured that we were now working with a specialist and had a plan. I’m a planner and I needed a plan to feel somewhat in control.

The next 6 months went like this: blood work, testing, waiting, testing, waiting, clomid, waiting, HSG dye test, waiting, IUI, waiting, ultrasound, waiting, IUI, waiting, ultrasound and finally more waiting and more money.

This duration in our journey can only be described as “waiting”. I felt like my life was on hold. We didn’t have any answers. I felt closer to a diagnosis, yet I felt we couldn’t be further from a solution. I was hopeful but I was also discouraged. I was upset with my body for not cooperating. I was upset with the universe for my desire to be a mother yet making it so hard. Was this really happening to us?

After our third failed IUI our doctor recommended trying surgery. He predicted something must be going on that he couldn’t see because I hadn’t been able to get pregnant yet. To my surprise, we scheduled the surgery quickly after and I had laparoscopy the summer of 2019. I obviously wanted everything to be okay but a huge part of me actually wanted something to be wrong. I wanted answers and I was afraid that if my doctor couldn’t get answers through the laparoscopy, then what would be next?

The morning of surgery was like an out-of-body experience. I was so ready to see what was going on. The only thing I remember from waking up after surgery is my doctor saying, “Jaimie, we were surprised to see that your tubes were blocked. I cleared them out as best as I could.” WHAT? I’m on drugs but I heard you say something. What did it mean? Am I good now? After coming down from my high and heading home, my husband explained everything to me. He told me that my doctor called him mid-surgery. He was surprised to find that my tubes were blocked from scar tissue. My doctor made my husband choose to a.) clear out what he could and see if they stay open or b.) tie my tubes and do IVF. My husband selected the clearing out AKA gardening method. I was happy he made that choice. Even today, where the scar tissue came from, we still don’t know. At some point in my life I must have had an infection causing the scar tissue.

After surgery, I healed and we were instructed to try naturally for three months with the expectations that my tubes would stay open. After three months, if we wasn’t pregnant, we’d do another HSG dye test to confirm the status of my tubes.

The summer after my surgery was surprisingly the most refreshing. I knew that we had found the root cause of our fertility issues and I had three months with zero fertility treatments; no tests, no meds and no doctors’ appointments. We were just trying the old-fashioned way and it actually was a slight relief. During that time, I decided to get a tattoo; my first and only tattoo. It’s my “F*$! You” fertility tattoo. It’s a circle made of dashes. I got the tattoo because after my laparoscopy scars and now over 2 years into our TTC journey I felt like my body wasn’t my own. I had physical scars and I wanted something on my body that I did, something I chose that represented our journey. A complete circle is meant to represent the whole or the complete. Because I felt our journey wasn’t over and our family wasn’t whole, I got the circle in dashes.

After the third month of trying I scheduled my second HSG dye test. This time, I had a feeling that I knew what the results of the dye test would be. I wanted to get it over with but at the same time I wanted to freeze time and just keep trying and pretend that everything was okay.

My second dye test was on a Tuesday morning. I went in feeling buoyant because either way we would have next steps and an answer. If my tubes were open we would keep trying and probably go back on Clomid. If my tubes were closed, IVF would be the only option. Well, guess what happened? I got the most non-answer answer. One tube was open and one tube was closed. I thought seriously?! I had everything planned out in my head, there were two routes this could have went, and what happened? It went down the middle. My doctor was performing multiple HSG dye tests and couldn’t really assess me at the time so he suggested I schedule an in office visit with my husband to talk about the results.

I was able to get our appointment scheduled for the day before we left for our annual vacation. I had to beg and plead but I was willing to move anything around just to get the appointment over with before our trip. I needed to know what this meant and what our next steps were. Deep down I knew what it meant but I didn’t know if my doctor had some other magical solution we hadn’t heard of.

During our appointment, my doctor went over for history. He went through all of the test, the results, the treatments that we’ve been through, the surgery results, and lastly the second HSG dye test. The appointment was another out of body experience, where I felt like I was watching another couple in a TV show or movie hear that realistically IVF was their next option. I was waiting for some sappy Coldplay song to come overhead and then I could walk off set and live my real life that didn’t include infertility.

I had read so many things about IVF. I had seen so many videos about the process of IVF. I followed so many accounts on Instagram of strong women and couples who had gone through IVF or were going through IVF. And a part of me knew that our journey would come to this. But I had to question, was I strong enough for this? Could we do this? What would our life be like if we didn’t do this? And what would our life be like if we did?

Currently, we are doing all of the IVF prep we can now to start the process in January. For anyone going through infertility or who has gone through infertility knows: I could list every emotion there is and that’s probably how I’ve felt through this process. There are highs and lows. There are times where I feel empowered and hopeful and there are times where I feel scared and helpless. The biggest thing that has gotten me through this is my support system and knowing that I’m not alone. Being on your TTC journey feels so isolating but it’s so common. We don’t talk about it and I want to break the silence. I also think if we can’t do anything to change this journey, we need to laugh, even if it’s just a little bit. Here are just a few things that have made me chuckle:

  • Binge watching Handmaid’s Tale and saying to myself “Well I know what my role won’t be!”
  • My blue buttock from from the dye used in the laparoscopy surgery.
  • The bar crawl I made my husband do before our first trigger shot.
  • The time a female doctor did my IUI and I was secretly EXTRA hopeful that one would work, more than the other one, so that I could say a female got me pregnant.
  • Packing my trigger shot on a girl’s trip and then asking them after we’ve been drinking to give me a butt shot.
  • When I asked my RE how soon after the laparoscopy surgery can we start trying again. He says, “Well I prefer you wait until you leave the OR.”
  • That time my husband said that my uterus is a hostile work environment.

If you’d like to connect with Jaimie, you can find her over on Instagram

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Creative Ways to Remember Your Angel Baby This Season

December 13, 2019

Written by Alexis Marie Chute, Guest Blogger

If your heart has been broken by the loss of a child in miscarriage, stillbirth or any time after delivery, the holidays may be tough. It’s a season that emphasizes children, family and togetherness. All the things bereaved parents yearn for. 

When a baby dies, no matter what the age of the fetus or the child may have been, parents are left shaken, shattered and searching for hope. When my son, Zachary, passed away in my arms just moments after entering the world, I felt like my heart was torn in two. Even though those moments I had with him were heartbreaking, I also treasured each and every one. Nothing, I discovered, could part a mom and dad from the love they have for their child.

 What I didn’t learn until later, however, was that losing a baby very tangibly means the loss of their future. I knew this conceptually, but on a practical level, this translates into the absence of touchable objects, photographs and mementos. You can’t save their first drawing, report card or Christmas photo with Santa. While I have bursting memory boxes for my living children, Zachary’s box is mostly filled with air.

I did save the blanket Zack was wrapped in after birth. The baby hat that matched the onesie we dressed him in also lives in his box. I was fortunate to have a Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep photographer at his birth. That one small album of pictures is another object I treasure. But besides these things, there is not much I can physically cling to on the rough days.

This is why memory-making is so important in life in general, and especially after the loss of a child. As an artist and writer, using my passions to help me remember Zachary comes very naturally to me. In the six years since his death, I have experimented with creating many kinds of keepsakes. These are things I add to Zach’s box, replacing the air with objects that help me remember.

The holidays are a great time to get creative and celebrate the short but important life of your child. Here are some ideas to get you started:  

  1. Sew: Make a stocking for your baby to hang on the mantle. Visit a fabric store and choose meaningful colors, patterns and textured fabrics. Cut out the first letter of your child’s name and sew it to the front of the stocking.  
  2. Art: Cut a large piece of cardstock into a circle to make a collage wreath. Include photographs of your family and your baby if you have them, along with magazine clippings, drawings and meaningful words. Use a hole-punch at the top and then loop through a ribbon to use in hanging the wreath.
  3. Make: Buy a candle making kit and create candles that you can burn every holiday season in memory of your baby. Choose colors and smells that bring you joy. You can also include little objects like sea shells or pieces of jewelry in the candle so that when you burn it, these small keepsakes reveal themselves over time.
  4. Write: Buy or make a Christmas card or write on holiday themed note paper. Write a letter to your son or daughter. Share memories from his or her birth, how you are coping, and what brings you joy this time of year.
  5. Photograph: Start a tradition of taking a holiday picture while holding your deceased baby’s photo, blanket, urn or another memorable object. This symbolically shows that your child is still a part of the family and honors his or her life.
  6. Craft: Decorate a Christmas ornament for the tree. You can incorporate a photo, your baby’s name and even symbolic words to you like forever, love, hope, joy, remembering. Some ornaments can be opened to allow a photograph or small object to be placed inside. You can also use acrylic paint, glue, sparkles and scrapbooking stickers to create all kinds of meaningful designs. 

ALEXIS MARIE CHUTE is an award-winning author, artist, filmmaker, curator, and inspirational speaker. Her memoir, Expecting Sunshine: A Journey of Grief, Healing, and Pregnancy After Loss, and the award-winning YA fantasy series, The 8th Island Trilogy.

To learn more or connect with Alexis, find her on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or her website!

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Infertility and the Holidays

December 5, 2019

Written by Danisha Keating, Guest Blogger

I was pregnant in July and lost the baby in September. I thought the hardest part about infertility was seeing “negative” on my pregnancy tests, but something is starting to slowly sink in…. Holidays and infertility. 

Robert Bell Photography – www.rbellphotography.com

The common questions are just around the corner, “Have you guys considered trying?” or “What about trying now?” or “Do you even want children?” or the little comments of “One day you’ll have your own, but today you get to practice by loving on so-and-so’s baby.” The comments that stung when I heard them way before we got pregnant and had a miscarriage. 

My husband works for a church, and as any woman, married or unmarried, the pressure can be real… People feel comfortable talking about timelines of when I should get pregnant, or that they will pray that it is soon that we have a baby or even how their miscarriage led to 3 healthy pregnancies. Some people have asked how many years we have been married, when we say 2, they respond so quickly with, “So babies are around the corner…” and my heart sinks. 

I work in education and people will ask if I have kids and I respond with “no” and they follow up with, “Don’t you want kids though? You are not getting younger Mrs. Dani?” My heart aches… If this is my every day, I know holiday season conversations at families houses will be worse. Holiday seasons are also rough because it seems there are more holiday baby announcements and my heart is so excited to see them, and aches that we would have been pregnant for 5 1/2-6 months. We would have known the gender. We would have gotten Christmas gifts for the baby… We would have……. 

This Christmas or holiday season, you may be facing the same worries that the holiday dinner table conversation will include questions on when you’ll have a baby or feeling awkward about the “infertility talk” with friends and family who just don’t get it. I am with you friend. I’m with you. Please remember now more than ever, it’s ok to lose it and cry. It’s ok to say, “I’d rather not discuss this.” and it’s ok to walk out of the room and excuse yourself. This season just isn’t easy. I’m with you in this. 

To connect with Danisha, you can find her over on Instagram, Facebook or her website!

Blogs, Uncategorized

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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