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Storm to Rainbow

August 22, 2019

Written by Guest Blogger, Melisa Ellena

After years and years of trying to get pregnant, my husband David and I were finally thrilled to say, “We’re having a baby!” All of those infertility treatments, clomid, letrozole, inseminations, mini stimulation cycles, IVF, you name it, I went through it. Finally, I could put these treatments to rest. I can still remember the morning of my egg retrieval, I could barely put my shoes on because I was so bloated from all the medications. But it was all worth it; to hear that sweet-sounding heartbeat of our baby, knowing nothing could take away my pregnancy glow.

The early weeks of my pregnancy had gone by and being pregnant felt like a dream come true, “How is this happening? How did we get so lucky after all this time?!” I could actually visit the baby aisles in stores and not just look, but buy, I could pin all those cute ideas on Pinterest because I was in fact having a baby. Symptoms of nausea, tender breasts, watching my little bump grow and my bras getting too tight was something that not every woman gets excited for, but I loved it all. Does that sound crazy? I was looking forward to buying those crazy large bras.

During my pregnancy, my younger brother and now sister-in-law were preparing for the most magical wedding in the spring in England. My bump, that was now five and half months along would be traveling overseas and I was so excited to buy a traditional English fascinator, (fancy hat) and celebrate with family. Before I left, I had a couple tasks at work to complete and I had to make sure I was cleared to fly per my OBGYN. Everything was set and ready as we packed up and headed across the pond. While we were going abroad anyways, David and I took this has an opportunity to travel; can you say Babymoon. David is Italian and we thought going to Italy would be the perfect choice to celebrate. The culture, the food and the weather would be perfect.

After my brother’s wedding we traveled to Rome, Florence and Venice. We walked a lot and eventually the heat did get to me. I was six months pregnant after all, and even though I swam regularly with my bump and did the occasional Zumba class, I was tired, almost beyond my normal pregnancy tired.  Venice was lovely but after a day of sightseeing, I wanted nothing more than to return to the hotel, use the restroom like most pregnant women do and kick my feet up and take a big ol’ nap. After my visit to the restroom, I noticed some pink spotting. Initially I thought, “Great, my body hated walking and sightseeing.” We were scheduled to head home the next day, I just need to make it back home, be back at work and check my emails, no more walking for this pregnant lady.

A train, a plane, and a car ride put us right back to England, right near Heathrow airport. This was our final goodbye to an amazing trip filled with even more amazing memories. We had to stay at a hotel before flying out the next morning and all the while, my pink spotting had gone from pink to red, bright red. Trying not to lose my shit, I made some phone calls back home to see what the advice nurses would have me do. After a few phone calls, and a small about of phone tag (a ten-hour difference and all), I was instructed to head into the nearest hospital for a quick vaginal exam. Knowing that I would be boarding a long flight home, everyone, including myself wanted peace of mind that everything was normal. It was exhausting mentally and physically and I just wanted to be home. Don’t think that I didn’t google and yelp the nearest hospitals. Why couldn’t I just be seen at St. Mary’s hospital, oh that’s right, I’m not Kate Middleton.

When we arrived at the hospital, I was taken back to an exam room alone. I figured with all our luggage, I could handle this exam by myself. But after a thirty second exam, the resident doctor, threw the exam backwards that sprung my legs from 180 to 90 degrees and left the room. Carting all of our luggage back to the exam room, a resident doctor and their on-call doctor were staring at David and I, “What is going on?” David said. What happened next was something I could never imagine.  

I was being admitted into the labor and delivery department immediately for exposed membranes, pre-labor rupture of members. (PROM) My room was at the end of the hallway and actually the coolest room they had. England was having a rare heatwave and everyone assured me that I would be most comfortable in there.  I remember all the nurses and staff in the department. Everyone was kind and gentle when taking my blood samples and wanted David and I to feel safe and well taken care while we were there. Upon seeing our first doctor, she said, “You’re already dilating and your membranes have been exposed. Have you been feeling ill?” Uhhh.. WHAT. What are you saying now? Exposed? My membranes are exposed? Yes, I don’t feel good, you just gave me horrible news, but what is happening to my body? Am I in labor? Is my baby ok? When can we go home? How did this happen? Is my baby going to be ok?” I don’t think I could process what was being told, I just had a million questions in my head and they all circled around, “Is the baby ok????” Panic set in and the crying began… for days, and days. David and I didn’t even know who to contact or what to say when we did eventually call back home. The bloodwork had come back and my white blood cell counts were doubling each time, I had been checking my levels. The answer was, infection. I had an infection in my body and the baby had the infection in the amniotic fluid. The infection was overtaking my body and the baby’s. I would not be able to keep my baby.

When hearing life alternating news about your pregnancy, your body, and hearing it not in your doctor’s office, in the comfort of your own home; your world comes crashing down. What was once a delightful family wedding, turned joyous Baby moon, turned nightmare, no words can describe the dark and awaited outcome.

While we were waiting any possible answers to save both myself and my baby, the hospital staff kept me comfortable, made me feel safe, knowing that I wouldn’t be going home and I would be waiting here, in their care, for my water to break. I wasn’t a candidate for a rescue cerclage (a cervical stitch that is placed to hold in the pregnancy) as I was getting sicker each passing day and the idea of holding the pregnancy with a stitch would only take me so far; maybe one or two weeks. Regardless, the outcome of my baby being born alive and healthy was very, very slim.  David and I didn’t sleep much, and we didn’t eat much, our minds were clouded with thoughts that new parents should never have to face. We were in shock from it all. Amongst our swollen eyes from crying so much, it was hard to find the right words to say each other, except, “I love you.”

Defeat, heartbreak and numbness were the only feelings I could process during our stay. By day 5, my doctor said my infection was reaching dangerous levels that we could no longer passively wait for my water to break on its own. With medical intervention, we began the process of inducing labor. My water broke, somewhere in the night and I was weak, mentally, physically and emotionally. My midwife whom I now refer to as my helping angel, guided me through a birth I never thought I could face, and David stayed strong with me during the entire process. When my brother and sister in law heard of our news and had just returned from their honeymoon, and they wanted to say with us as it was just David and myself in the hospital. We didn’t really know anyone.  Knowing this wasn’t a typical delivery, they had wanted to give David and I our privacy and said they would return when we were ready to see them, post-delivery. God, the thought of negatively impacting my new sister-in-law put more strain on my heart. This isn’t how we were supposed to bond.

With minimal communication to family and close friends back home, I didn’t know nor did I care what hour or what day it was. My baby would come be coming into this earth and leaving this earth in one moment. Why, why was this happening? What did I do wrong?

The birth and death of my son was gentle, quiet and heartbreaking. My midwife had kept insisting that even though I had just experienced something so painful, “You must see him. He’s beautiful.” Some mothers who have loss, want to see their baby, but David and I could not bring ourselves to. How could I look at someone so beautiful and innocent and know I could not take him home? I would never hear his heartbeat or feel his mighty kicks. I felt like a failure in knowing I couldn’t keep him safe. I could only see him in my dreams from now on. I wanted to keep his image of what I thought he looked like in my mind, and in my heart. I am his mother and I know what he looks like.

When the time came for the doctors and staff to witness our signatures for his birth and death certificate, I had to sign and date it, May 8, 2016. I took a long pause and looked at David. A lump in my throat started to form as I forced myself to swallow, “It’s Mother’s Day back home.” I had given birth to my first-born son on Mother’s Day. To say my heart sank would be an understatement of this lifetime.

From the hospital we were instructed to stay in the hotel for another week before we were finally cleared to fly home. Grieving on the airplane, wearing my dark sunglasses and headphones to hide my eyes and keep my tears at bay was a challenge. “Just don’t make eye contact with anyone” I thought.

We returned home and months and months had passed. I had returned to work, was healthy and healing, in the physical aspect. We had seen our families and friends and we were adjusting to the somber lifestyle we were given. There were good days and happy days, but mostly bad days. In the realm of grieving, there is no “correct” way to grieve the loss of your baby and there aren’t nearly enough resources out there that help. The unfortunate part about loss is there aren’t many tools out there to help you with coping and understanding what you went through and what you will be going through now and forever. However, throughout my breakdowns at the gas station, or while shopping at the local stores, I turned to Instagram as my main source of comfort. Finally, real women, couples and families who had their own stories and were brave enough to share them to make me, a girl in Oregon feel not so alone. Their passed-on words of hope, gave me strength to feel like, maybe I could still be a mother again.

In the coming months, David and I found a wonderful counselor through my fertility doctor. She was beyond helpful in navigating us through the crashing waves of emotions and validating my breakdowns. We felt stronger with each session, we felt heard and we had come to terms with what happened to our son.

Flash forward to eight months later, we were ready to meet with our infertility doctor and perinatologist to discuss our plan for another pregnancy. It was soon time for another embryo transfer. David, my driving force of optimism, “You have to believe we will get pregnant again” wanted a transfer sooner that I was ready for. In December we did an embryo transfer and the outcome was negative. No luck. My heart wasn’t quite there and I felt as if I was going through the motions. But I knew I wanted to try again. After the holidays and after ringing in the New Year I was ready for another transfer. I was seeing my acupuncturist regularly, who works miracles by the way, and my mind set was dialed in. This was it. I was going to get pregnant.

Embryo transfer day came and everything went as smooth as it could. I did my usual transfer rituals of eating pineapple core, keeping my feet warm with wool socks, listened to classical music, talked to my embryo and kept my crystals close by. On day 5 post transfer, no symptoms, no signs, no nothing. I headed into work on day 5 trying not to cry every second of the day. I knew it was over. I just knew it.

Superbowl Sunday (day 10) was coming up and I had big plans to pee on a stick, see a negative line, get dressed, get my nails done and cry the rest of the day. That was the plan and I was OK with that. Seven am came, my urine pregnancy test was already underway and after 3 minutes, I would be getting on with this miserable day.

TWO. Two pink lines. Two pink lines on a stick that I just peed on…??!! WHAT. A sight I never thought I would see again and there is was starting at me as if to say, “Of course I’m here.” I got dressed and drove straight to David’s work and showed him the stick. This was the beginning on a tiny rainbow.

I wish I could say my pregnancy was normal and I lived out my nine months in gestational bliss…but that wouldn’t be true.

I lost my son at six months and we chose to see a perinatologist (high risk provider) to have peace of mind that my pregnancy plan would be followed closely. In the hospital back in England, we were looking for more information regarding PROM. Our obgyn clinic had referred us to the perinatology department as they are the experts in high risk situations. Our doctor who consulted us over the phone would soon become our doctor to our subsequent pregnancy. The plan was to watch my cervix and see, would this happen again, or was this a cruel fluke of nature? We also decided to add in progesterone shots to prevent any preterm labor. I had gone through IVF injections, frozen embryo injections, what’s another shot in the backside.

I had standing appointments for cervical monitoring and I was coming up to my twenty-two-week appointment. We had talked about a cerclage, a stitch that could be placed in my uterus to hold the baby in. We talked about risks, benefits, outcomes, all of it. David and I couldn’t decide if there was a need for one, but on that twenty-two-week appointment it was decided for us. My uterus needed one. It was doing the same thing it was doing in Venice, Italy. To have your doctor catch what my body wanted to do the first time around was incredible. This is why we choose to see the perinatologist.

The operation happened on the same day and for anyone wondering, was it painful or scary, I would have to say “not really”. The anticipation of checking in and waiting around was more stressful than the procedure, which only took five minutes. Honest. Recovery was a little tough as its basically bedrest, but you do get to spend the days looking at everything online. A dangerous situation when you’re pregnant.

Soon enough, it was time to meet my rainbow, my daughter. The thought of giving birth and losing her was terrifying and I will admit there was a lot of tears leading up to her birth. All I could think about was “what if this happens again?” what if my body decides to do something it shouldn’t, will everyone survive this time, will I be strong enough if the doctors deliver bad news?” the stakes were high and too emotionally. My past was meeting up with my present.

My due date was 10/14 and on 10/13 we had our last appointment. There was talk about the baby being too big and my options were induction or a c-section. The truth is, I had already gone through the process of a vaginal birth and the anticipation of not knowing how long it would be, would I be reliving any memories, would I be present in this birth…I didn’t have the answers. My heart said no and I accepted the choice of having a c-section. And in the end, I am so happy we did.

Out she came, happy, healthy and crying with all her might. David couldn’t hold back any tears as he proclaimed, “She’s here! Oh, my word, she’s right here.”

Milan Rosalia Ellena had made her entrance in our world and quickly made it known that I was hers and she was mine. For so long my heart ached and worried that I would never hold another baby again, but I was proven wrong that morning; Rainbows do come after the storm and they shine the brightest when you open your eyes.

Milan is almost 2 years old and her spirit is pure, gentle, loving and carries David and I through the wondrous world of parenting. Our tiny tot has taught us so much about love, grievance, patience, and celebration of life. Life is hard without my son here and not a day goes by that I don’t think about him and see him in my daughters eyes. David and I didn’t believe for so long that our rainbow would come, but Milan changed all of that.

 “No matter how your heart is grieving, if you keep on believing, the dreams that wish, will come true.” -Cinderella

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

No Hard Feelings

August 21, 2019

Written by Lisa Paesano, Guest Blogger

Most women probably can’t remember the exact moment that they decided they wanted to be a mother, but I actually can. The majority of women I know have ALWAYS wanted to have a child one day. Me? Not so much. Babies were cute, but kids were kind of loud and always had ice cream on their faces, so I wasn’t sure. However, the first night of my honeymoon at Disney World on our way to dinner, I saw the sweetest little family – Dad, Mom, and their son, probably around eight years old. Dad was sitting in the middle and had his arms around Mom and his boy, and they were all smiling at each other, laughing and talking and very much happy. That was when I knew I wanted a family. So the ironic thing is this; a year later I got a negative pregnancy test, the first of many, in our hotel room at Disney World again. Thus starting my infertility journey…at the most magical place on earth.

My husband Will and I started trying to conceive November of 2015, the night before Thanksgiving, when we had been married for over a year, but together for almost eight. I was very optimistic; a doctor had told me when I was 20 that I had PCOS, but I thought hey, my mother never had trouble conceiving, my grandmother didn’t, and neither did my half-sisters. And I got my period every month, so I must be ovulating! I was 100% prepared to see a positive test. I researched positions, downloaded apps that predicted ovulation, ate fertility friendly foods…I was set. So the negative test at Disney? No big deal. Lots of people don’t conceive their first cycle trying. I read it on the message boards, and I’d heard it from my friends. I work for a large OBGYN practice, so I see girls get pregnant with PCOS all the time. Oh, and the next month when my period came again? No sweat. It takes lots of couples a few months to get pregnant. We’re fine, I said to my husband in the bathroom of our apartment. It’ll happen soon.

And so began the next 24 months.

I consulted the doctors at my job, and started a full fertility work up after six months of trying with no success. Will’s semen analysis came back perfect, my tubes weren’t blocked according to the hysterosalpinogram procedure I underwent, but my progesterone around ovulation time was low. I was started on the fertility drug Clomid in July of 2016 in order to amp ovulation. I was still optimistic, but getting a little frustrated; it was hard seeing those negative tests every month. But lo and behold, after four cycles of Clomid and timed intercourse, I was pregnant.

I was PREGNANT! I couldn’t believe it. 11 months after we first started trying, we were going to have a baby! And we were doubly ecstatic to find out that I would be exactly 12 weeks pregnant on Christmas day. I literally had tears in my eyes thinking about announcing to our families that day, getting to tell my mom she was going to be a grandmother…I fantasized about that for weeks. I made my very first pregnancy appointment on, get this—the day before Thanksgiving, exactly a year to the day that we started trying. It was all coming full circle. It would finally be our time.

Except it wasn’t yet.

According to my last menstrual period, I was seven weeks and three days pregnant, but the baby was measuring small at five weeks and five days. The doctor I saw thought I may have just ovulated late, so told me not to give up hope, and to come back the next week. I was so upset I couldn’t even sleep. I anxiously scoured message boards, reading any post that could give me a little hope, and to be honest some actually did – there were lots of stories of women whose babies were measuring small, and then caught up. But no dice for us unfortunately; the next visit, baby was still measuring five weeks five days. And the visit after that too. The whole “am I pregnant, am I not pregnant” process dragged out for three weeks, and I never saw one drop of blood, never had one cramp. I had a “missed miscarriage”, which made things a lot harder to accept, because I still felt pregnant. They gave me my options, and I chose to have a D&C. It was two weeks before Christmas, my favorite time of year…and I was broken.

But miscarriages are common! My doctors said. This was a fluke! So we got back on the TTC horse, but for me, things were different. I was different. I started wondering what I had done to deserve this misery. I blamed myself, and decided this was the universe’s way of telling me I shouldn’t be a mother. That this was karma because I wasn’t sure if I wanted a kid at one point. Add to the equation that two of my best friends were pregnant, and I was around pregnant women all day at work…two and two doesn’t equal four in this equation. It equaled me not being able to go to my friend’s baby’s christening, me sobbing outside of my cousin’s baby shower, me leaving a restaurant and eating my burrito in the car because two pregnant women came in, and me basically shutting myself off from everyone in my life including my husband. The jealousy ate at me. I could barely breathe when I would see yet another pregnancy announcement on Facebook. I started to hate and resent everyone around me, and most of all, I hated myself.

The worst part? Six months later, we got to do it all again; June of 2017 I had another missed miscarriage. Same scenario, the baby didn’t develop past five weeks five days. I thought going through it already would have prepared me, but it didn’t. It was worse. The first time was supposed to be a fluke, so why do I have to go through this again?? I stopped eating. I took a month off from work because I couldn’t handle seeing yet another beautiful, glowing, happy expectant mother. I refused to speak to any of my friends that had kids. I couldn’t be around anyone except for Will and my sister Laura for months. I wanted to give up.

But luckily for me, my intuitive doctor (who is also my boss), well, this whole missed miscarriage business got his wheels turning. His name is Dr. Vito Alamia, and he is one of the best doctors I’ve ever known, and working in the medical field for the last 12 years, I’ve known many. He convinced me to get testing done on the fetus after my second D&C, and informed me something like 95% of the time that this test comes back saying the fetus has a chromosomal abnormality, and that really is a fluke. So weren’t we all surprised when I was in the other 5%? The fetus came back normal. Even though it didn’t seem like it then, that was when our luck started to change, because that was when Dr. Alamia leapt into action.

He sent me for an extensive round of testing; I’m talking 22 vials of blood here. And, he told me, if nothing came back, that he’d send me for even MORE testing. This is the one time in my life that I’d ever hoped that something abnormal would come back on my bloodwork, because that meant that there might be something that could be fixed. In my head, however, I had already convinced myself that I would never have a baby. I was so sure the test would come back with everything perfectly normal, and that we’d be stuck with even more questions.

But I was wrong. I am now the proud owner of not one, but TWO formerly undiagnosed blood clotting disorders; Lupus Anticoagulant Disorder, and the MTHFR gene mutation. To sum up quickly, Lupus Anticoagulant Disorder essentially means your blood is sticky and clots too quickly. The MTHFR mutation creates a problem with your body’s regulation of folic acid. According to Dr. Alamia, both can lead to blood clots in the placenta, and both can cause recurrent miscarriage. He consulted with an infertility specialist on my behalf, and they came up with a plan; I was to start aspirin and folic acid supplements right away, and was told to come back in the day I got another positive test, so that I could be started on a blood thinner called Lovenox.

Three months later, on November 16, 2017, I stood in my bathroom with yet another positive test, and all I could think about was how unbelievably scared I was. I was started that day on Lovenox, which by the way, did I mention this was an injectable drug?  Meaning that I would have to inject it? Every day?? INTO MY STOMACH?? If that isn’t a testament to how much I wanted a baby I don’t know what is; I was TERRIFIED of needles. I have no pain tolerance. I am a big, giant wuss. But, I told myself, if it works then I’ll do it. And to my surprise, after 24 months, 11 cycles of Clomid, two miscarriages (and two chemical pregnancies sprinkled in between), two D&C’s, tons of negative tests, dozens of bruises from the injections, thousands of shed tears, and a million why me’s, on December 7th, 2017, I got to see my baby’s heartbeat. I’ll never forget that moment. After hearing “I’m sorry, there’s no heartbeat” TWICE, I can never full explain how seeing that little flicker changed my life.

Our rainbow after the storm was born on July 10, 2018. We named him Seth after Seth Avett from the Avett Brothers; we listened to their song “No Hard Feelings” probably a million times while we were struggling, so we wanted to remember that. He just turned a year old, and he is the absolute greatest joy of our lives; he is the sweetest, most snuggly, happiest baby I’ve ever seen. He is always laughing, and people say he looks just like me. His beautiful face is enough to make everything I went through worth it. He is the most amazing gift I’ve ever received, and has healed my heart a thousand times over. Infertility and miscarriages are nightmares, and what we went through to have him was the hardest time of my entire life…but I would do it again 100 times if I knew that I’d get to be his mom at the end. I still mourn those two angels I never got to meet, but I know now that Seth and I were waiting for each other; I was always supposed to be his mom. There were so many times in those two years that I wanted to give up, to stop trying, to just get another dog…but now I get to see my baby boy smile every day. I get to smell his head and kiss his soft cheeks and cuddle with him on the couch and there is no better feeling than that in the whole world. Despite our hardships, I know that I am the luckiest mom in the world because I have him.

Walk through the night, straight to the light, holding the love I’ve known in my life and NO HARD FEELINGS…— The Avett Brothers

If you’d like to connect with Lisa, you can find her on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter!

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

Worth the Process

August 20, 2019

Written by Jessica Roose, Guest Blogger

I always wanted to have kids. And I think part of me always knew that I would have a hard time having them. I can remember one time after I was married I met with a friend for coffee. I had just accepted a job that would take me from where I grew up in Arizona, all the way to North Dakota! We were talking about the move, how nervous and excited I was for this new adventure. I was finally starting my career and becoming an adult. My husband and I had been married less than six months at that time. So my friend and I started talking about kids. Would I want to wait now that we were moving and starting this whole new life? Of course I didn’t want to get pregnant right when I started my new job. But I also didn’t want to wait too long. I was already 25 at this point and I knew I wanted more than one kid. And I also had a gut feeling it was not going to be easy to get pregnant. My mom had some issues having my brother and I. But besides that, I really had no other reason to think I would have any issues, but I did. Maybe it was God trying to prepare me for incredibly difficult journey that was ahead, I don’t know. But I just had a gut feeling. And I remember telling my friend that while we were having coffee that evening.

Fast forward six months or so and I had made the move and started my job. It was March 2012 and I just found out I was pregnant. We weren’t trying to get pregnant so it was a shock to both of us. But we were excited. I went to the doctor and got it confirmed. But just a couple days later I started spotting. I knew right away that wasn’t good. I went to the emergency room and they took some blood work and ran some tests and sent me home telling me to take it easy. They said I was having a threatened miscarriage. I tried convincing myself all weekend that it would be ok. Friends told me about people they knew who spotted during pregnancy and I just convinced myself that it was normal and I would be fine. But it wasn’t.

The doctor confirmed the miscarriage on Monday. I was devastated. But now I knew more than ever that I wanted to get pregnant, and I wanted to get pregnant now. We started trying after that and I got pregnant very quickly. We were thrilled. But unfortunately it was once again short lived and we had another miscarriage. It happened two more times after that. After the second miscarriage I had undergone all sorts of testing to try and figure out why I wasn’t able to keep the pregnancies. No answer. Everything came back “normal.” Which I think is the worst part of all.

All you want is to have a baby, it’s the one time I can remember hoping and praying that they would find something wrong with me. At least then they would be able to hopefully fix it and we could have a baby. But test after test just came back normal and I was told it just happens. To take more folic acid and “aspirin might help, so take that.” By the time I had gone through the 4th miscarriage, it was 2013. It had been a little over a year and I had been pregnant four times and had lost all of them.

I felt like I should have a punch card to the doctor’s office by that point. Free treatment after ten visits. Between the blood work to confirm pregnancies, blood work to test that my HCG levels were going up, blood work to test that they were going down and I wasn’t pregnant anymore after the miscarriages started. And all the tests in between. I felt like I lived at the doctor’s office and was constantly being poked.

It was the hardest time of my life. I was depressed, mad and convinced I would never have a kid. But I had to put on a happy face every day and go to work. I was working as a reporter and anchor at the time. So I didn’t want people to see that I was upset. I would go to appointments before, after, or during work and then go right back to the newsroom and go in front of the camera.

I remember one time after one of the miscarriages; I was at work and scrolling through Facebook. I saw someone I knew from high school was pregnant. And she was having multiples. I lost it. Of course I would never wish harm on her or anyone and their pregnancies. But why NOT ME. I wanted it so bad. Why did I have to go through this over and over and OVER?! I left the office and went in my car and cried. Why was it so easy for everyone else to get pregnant but I couldn’t? It seemed like friends and family were getting pregnant left and right. I was bitter. I didn’t want to hear about their pregnancies. It just made me mad. I hate that infertility did that to me. I feel like I missed out on being able to enjoy and celebrate with my friends. But instead I was just angry and wanted nothing to do with it.

After that 4th miscarriage, I gave up. My husband said it’s up to me, it’s my body and if I don’t want to keep trying, we won’t. I didn’t want to go through it again. I started looking into adoption and talking to my husband about that. I still wanted to have kids but I was going to have to come around to the fact that I wouldn’t get to experience pregnancy. A few months went by and then somewhere around the beginning of August 2013 I found out I was pregnant AGAIN. I wasn’t even excited. It was a surprise, we weren’t trying and I didn’t want to go through having another loss. I called a good friend of mine and she came over right away, with a cake! She was convinced it would be ok even if I wasn’t. In fact, I was so convinced it wouldn’t work out that I made her take me to the store to get pads for when I started spotting.

But I went to the doctor and started the tests I had grown accustomed too all over again. And this time, my HCG levels kept going up. My ultrasounds were good. I had also started seeing a reproductive endocrinologist. He was based out of Fargo, ND and I was several hours away in Bismarck. So every week I would go get blood work done and an ultrasound and then go to my regular OB’s office where they would set me up with a computer and I would basically skype with my doctor and go over the results. Week after week went by and I started getting more and more hopeful.

Then finally, I made it to the 12-week mark, something I had never done in the past. I graduated to just seeing my regular OB and I became just like every other pregnant person and moved on to having the normal tests and appointments. I don’t know why that pregnancy stuck, but it did. It was relatively uneventful, besides the normal morning sickness. Until 38 weeks. My last couple weekly appointments before that my blood pressure had been high when I first got to the doctor. They would test again before I left and it went down and so they just brushed it off. I didn’t really think anything of it to be honest.

Photo by: Julie Heisey Photography

That Saturday I woke up with a sore throat and just felt like crap. I figured it just a cold. I already had plans to get a pedicure that day and I wasn’t canceling that (because priorities when you’re about to go into labor, right ladies?) So I went and got my toes done and then told my husband I was going to stop at urgent care and just get seen so they can give me some meds that I can take to make the cold go away. I didn’t want to go into labor and have a newborn and be sick! When I got to urgent care the first thing they did was check my vitals, including my blood pressure. I don’t remember exactly what it was. But it was so high and I was so pregnant that he told me I needed to go right to the emergency room.

I left and picked up my husband from home and we went to the hospital where I was sent up to labor and delivery for observation overnight. The next day blood pressure still wasn’t going down and they decided the baby needed to come out. So around 4:30pm they started to induce me. The induction itself went well. But overnight, my labs continued to get worse. Until the nurse finally came in and said she called my OB and went over all my labs with him and found out I have HELLP Syndrome. If you’re like I was and have no idea what that is it stands for Hemolysis (which is the breaking down of red blood cells), Elevated Liver enzymes, Low Platelet count. It’s a life threatening pregnancy complication that some consider to be a much worse variant of preeclampsia.

They started me on magnesium and started padding my bed. Which is also about the time I started to have a panic attack when I found out they were doing that because they were worried I would have a seizure. It was the middle of the night, I was terrified, I was in a state thousands of miles away from my family and I lost it. My husband was great the whole time but I was just so scared and mad. Once again I couldn’t just have a normal pregnancy. But eventually (and thanks to an awesome epidural) I was able to get some sleep.

Photo by: Julie Heisey Photography

My daughter, Brooklynn, was born the next day Monday March 31st 2014 at 11:32 am. But during delivery I lost a lot of blood and coupled with the magnesium, I felt like crap. I had to stay on the magnesium for 24 hours after she was born due to having HELLP syndrome. It made me feel crazy. I was hot, bed ridden, wasn’t allowed to eat and had to ration my liquid intake while on it. It also made me hallucinate and have double vision. Because of all of this I couldn’t have my daughter in the room with me unless my husband or the nurse was with me. Looking back, I’m lucky. So many people with HELLP Syndrome end up losing their baby or their own life. But my daughter and I are here and we are healthy. But I can’t help but be mad about the moments we lost. I don’t remember big chunks of her delivery and the day after, and that makes me mad and sad.

After Brooklynn was born, I kind of just figured that I had one pregnancy to term and had a baby so now maybe my body knows what it’s doing and there will be no more miscarriages. When Brooklynn was one, we moved back to Arizona to be closer to family. When she was about 2 or so we decided we wanted to have another. About that same time I accepted a new job and my first week there I found out I was pregnant. Bad timing right? It wasn’t ideal and I was scared to death to tell my new bosses. But I figured I would wait until at least 12 weeks anyway so I had some time.

Photo by: Julie Heisey Photography

Unfortunately, it never got to that because a few weeks after I found out I was pregnant, I lost the baby. I remember sitting in the room with the ultrasound tech when she said she needed to go get the doctor and I knew. By that point I had enough losses to know that when the news is good, they just show you the baby. When it’s bad, they go get the doctor to tell you that you are having a miscarriage. He confirmed what I already knew and I was devastated. I couldn’t believe it was happening again. This time, because I was farther along and my body still wasn’t miscarrying on its own, I scheduled a D&C. The procedure went well, but I wasn’t happy with my doctor. I didn’t feel like he took my past seriously. That ultrasound I had was my first. I was supposed to be 7-8 weeks pregnant by then. With my other doctors in North Dakota they did weekly ultrasounds and blood work from the second I found out I was pregnant until I miscarried or got to 12 weeks.

He also didn’t seem very knowledgeable about the severity of HELLP syndrome. So I went searching for other doctors. I ended up going to IVF Phoenix and seeing Dr. Couvaras. If you’re a woman in AZ and having a hard time getting pregnant, go see him! From the first appointment, I never felt rushed. He took his time to go over every single thing about my losses and the pregnancy with my daughter. He scheduled his own tests and started me on heparin and a series of vitamins and supplements. At the same time I met with a new OB. She also ran a few tests and found out I have MTHFR. Dr. Couvaras also got those results and immediately told me to stop taking a prenatal with folic acid. The more I talked to him and the more I researched I learned that my body doesn’t process the synthetic version of folic acid the way it should. It could have been a contributor to my miscarriages. So he switched me to folate. After months of testing, changing my diet, taking injections and even getting stung by a bee (apparently the dr thought it would help, I stopped asking too many questions and was willing to try anything at that point!) he finally gave us the green light to try and get pregnant again.

One of the things he believed may have been a factor in my losses was that my immune system may have been attacking the pregnancy. So he wanted to put me on an intralipid infusion to suppress my immune system a little to hopefully stop that from happening. I had to do that once right before I hopefully got pregnant, again right after I got pregnant and again a few weeks after that. This wasn’t covered by insurance and was about $400 each time. We did the first infusion and he put me on clomid to boost my chances of getting pregnant. It worked! I got pregnant on that first try. Of course I knew it might not last so I didn’t get too excited. But the pregnancy kept going well, I did the final two infusions and eventually at 12 weeks, I left the office for the last time and went on to see my OB. She was also amazing.

She knew I was feeling a little better about the pregnancy after I got out of the first trimester. But she also knew about my past with HELLP syndrome and how nervous I was about that happening again. She set me up with a Maternal Fetal Medicine doctor and the rest of the pregnancy I was seen by her and that high-risk doctor. This pregnancy went pretty well. I was more tired and sore than I was with my first pregnancy, and this baby was much bigger! Then at 38-weeks, while my OB was doing a check, my water broke. I drove myself to the hospital and my husband met me there. Less than eight hours later our second daughter, Dillon was born on April 25th 2018. Exactly two pounds bigger than her big sister! Her delivery was nothing like her sisters.

It was happy, we were healthy and I remember the whole thing. It was very healing and the perfect ending to this journey. I am so blessed to have the two girls I have. They were worth the six-year process of getting pregnant and having loss after loss. But it still makes me sad I had to go through that. It makes me angry that I don’t have these amazing and happy moments of being able to find out I’m pregnant and be happy from the start.

If you read all this and have never gone through a loss but know someone who is, my advice is to just be there for them. Let them vent, cry and scream. But don’t say things like “it will happen,” “it’s all part of God’s plan,” “Maybe there was just something wrong with this one.” I even had someone tell me that at least I wouldn’t have to go thorough the pain of childbirth. None of those comments are helpful. If you don’t know what to say, then say that and listen.

If you’d like to connect with Jessica, you can find her on Instagram!

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Be Brave

August 18, 2019

Written by Kristin Pierce, Guest Blogger

My husband and I have always known we wanted to have a family. I remember our first Christmas together, when a family member asked “So when are you all going to start a family?” I remembered looking forward to that time with eager anticipation, but also realizing that maybe our family and it’s growth wouldn’t be easy. I had no idea the journey God had planned for us. 

Our journey to parenthood was rather uneventful. One week in January 2015, both my sister and a good friend told me they were both pregnant (and due within days of each other). “We are the ONLY ones not pregnant! Everyone is moving on without us,” I thought. We knew we wanted to start a family in the near future, but didn’t feel “ready.” I know now that you are never ready; there are always reasons to not try if you look for them. Then, one rainy Saturday morning in May 2015, I took a positive pregnancy test. Life forever changed for the better from that moment.

In January 2016, after 39 weeks of praying and anticipation,  I was induced and we were able to meet our perfect son, Camden that I’d been feeling kick for the past 9 months. In the weeks and months that passed after that, our sweet Camden grew and developed from a newborn to a baby to a toddler. 
I LOVED (and still love) being a mom! I vividly remember feeling so enamored with my new sweet son. I gushed to my sister-in-law “I want to have 100 babies!” I knew I wanted to parent more kids and for Camden to have a sibling. After adjusting to being parents, we entered a season of contentment with our little family. 

When Camden was about a year, we started thinking about having another baby. We were excited to see how God would move and bless our family. After several months of trying, on a cold December day, I took a pregnancy test and it was positive! Jacob and I were ecstatic and couldn’t wait to meet our baby in August. We decided to wait until I went to the doctor in early January to tell our families.

On New Years Eve, I started showing signs of miscarriage. We were crushed. We prayed. We wept. We called my doctor and she told me I could either let it play out or go to the ER. Because the doctor didn’t reopen for a few days and we wanted closure, we decided to go get it checked out. We took Camden to my parent’s house and sped to the ER. We got confirmation of what we dreaded…I was having a miscarriage. We were devastated. I was diagnosed with a blighted ovum, meaning a fertilized egg implanted and a sac formed, but the baby never grew after that. I remember sitting in the ER with Jacob…heartbroken and eating our free hamburger (or the world’s most expensive hamburger considering our ER bills, depending on how you look at it) and saying “Is this God calling us to adopt?”

Adoption is something that had been on our hearts as a couple for years. We prayed about it but never seriously pursued it, and weren’t sure how that passion might play out in our lives.  We decided to pray about it as we grieved, and ultimately decided that we would try again. Although we were heartbroken, I am thankful for God’s timing, because that evening, when we picked Camden up from my parents house, was the last time that I saw my dad before he passed away from flu complications. My last memory of him is him giving me a big hug. He gave the best hugs and, although it was to comfort me, I’m so grateful that is my last memory of him.

 As we navigated through the grief of the loss of our baby and the loss of dad, I found comfort in knowing that dad was holding our baby in heaven, and that made me smile. We continued to be open to growing our family and were excited to learn that I was pregnant again in April and due on Christmas day! We handled this pregnancy completely differently and told our families so that they could be praying for us. I dealt with a lot of fear this pregnancy, having lost not long before. I prayed and felt Him so clearly saying “you might not meet this baby on earth, either, but I am still with you and I am still good.” 

Things appeared to be going well until I was 8 weeks and, again, began showing signs of a miscarriage. I frantically called my doctor and they worked me in that afternoon. The sonogram showed that there was a baby, but it’s heartbeat was very slow and the baby was measuring small (about 6 weeks gestationally). The baby did not appear to be developing normally. The doctor told us to go home and come back tomorrow. My symptoms got worse and I miscarried the next day. 

We felt completely sick with grief. How could this happen? Again! We cried and we prayed. We felt confident this time that God’s plan for our family was not for us to grow our family through pregnancy but through adoption. As we continued thinking and praying about adoption, a supernatural peace came over both Jacob and me. I felt more like myself than I had since we started trying to have a baby. 

It seemed like adoption was suddenly everywhere… the new show we started watching on HGTV had adopted children, students and clients were talking about it. God was so clear with us, and, although we were sad for the loss of our baby, we felt humbled and honored to follow God’s will for our life and pursue adoption. We realized quickly that God’s ways and plans are much superior to ours. We spoke with an adoption consulting agency on the phone and continued praying. As we stepped out in obedience, God began providing financially for us through new jobs for both Jacob and me. God was so clear with us, and we were so grateful.

About 6 weeks after we announced we were adopting (the week our adoption fundraiser t-shirts came in), I realized I was late. “Surely not,” I thought. You see, after our loss in May and decision to adopt, I passionately felt that I DID NOT want to be pregnant again, EVER. The week went on, and still nothing. I bought a pregnancy test. I waited until Friday afternoon, when I was home alone to take the test.

I’ll never forget how quickly that pregnancy test turned positive. Those two lines appeared faster than I thought they could. I’ve never felt more fear in my life. I remember saying out loud, “God, I don’t know what you’re doing here. “ I panicked. I didn’t want to be pregnant again. Ever. Yet here I was, against all odds. I called my husband (and made sure he was sitting down). We were both in disbelief. I think God has a funny sense of humor.

The day I took the test was the day was the day that the “Be Brave” shirts came in the mail. I sat at home so overwhelmed and scared, as friend after friend texted me pictures that said “Be Brave.” God knew that was exactly what I needed to hear at that moment— to be brave and trust Him. Being completely honest, while adoption is hard, it felt like the safer choice after recurrent losses. It would require courage that could only be found through Him to ride out this pregnancy, no matter which direction it went. 

I called my doctor the following Monday. The nurse was shocked to hear that it was me and my news. I went in the following day for bloodwork. The nurse explained that, if my HCG numbers were under 10,000, I would come back on Thursday for repeat blood work. But,  if they were over 10,000, they would perform a sonogram. The next day was Wednesday. I was at work and anticipating the call all day long. Late in the afternoon, the nurse called. My numbers were over 20,000, so she told me that they would do a sonogram on Thursday.

I wasn’t planning to tell anyone for a long time, but I had plans with my mom and sister the next day. I told them both and my sister told me that she was also pregnant. While I was happy for her, my heart sank, knowing that it would be difficult to watch her raise a baby due at the same time as the one I had lost.I was shaking as the doctor entered the examination room. She began to perform the sonogram. I tried not to look at the screen. She quickly found baby, measuring exactly 6 weeks. There was no heartbeat yet (this can be common at that point), so I set an appointment to come back on Monday. On Monday, the baby had grown substantially, measuring 7 weeks and had a healthy, strong heartbeat.

Although I felt overjoyed, I also was consumed by fear. What if we lose again? I honestly didn’t think I could handle it emotionally. I was seeing a counselor at the time after a bout with postpartum anxiety. As I told her our story, I remember her saying “You know God will carry you through it either way. He’s carried you through a pregnancy and given you a healthy baby, and He’s carried you through your miscarriages. Find comfort in that.” It was easier said than done, but I spent a lot of time praying for His will to be done, not mine. 

With each passing appointment, God eased my fears. The baby was growing and developing. We soon learned that she was a girl. We chose to name her Caris, meaning ‘grace and kindness,’ as we felt she was God’s grace to us in this season. As we prayed for her and my pregnancy, my husband and I continued to pray about adoption. We felt God clearly continuing to lead us down that path, but not until after our family had adjusted. We made it to both due dates for the babies I lost (August 10 and December 25).  Each one felt like a milestone in my pregnancy.

I continued to grieve, but felt so humbled and blessed to be able to do something I didn’t think I’d ever do again– grow another baby. On March 18, 2019, our sweet rainbow baby arrived! She is the most laid back and happy baby- a perfect addition to our little family, and further confirmation that adoption is still in our future. The love I feel for Caris is different than that I feel for our son, as I think is normal when you have multiple children. I appreciate the beauty of the journey in a different way and am so tangibly able to see that our prayers didn’t go to waste. God was never saying “no,” He was simply saying “Not yet. My plans for your family are bigger and more beautiful than you can even imagine.”

Our faith has been stretched, but the promise and faithfulness He’s shown us through our sweet rainbow baby are greater than we could have ever asked or imagined. The road to get us here, to grow our family, has been anything but easy. It’s had many tears and many doubts. We’ve experienced our highest highs and our lowest lows. It’s been immensely different than we expected, but it has been so beautiful.  

We continue to pray that our family can be a blessing to a birth mom who maybe feels overwhelmed and who has more love for her unborn baby that she can even fathom. We are so grateful to be able to see how God is using our heartache for good through His continued call to adopt. We know that if He hadn’t led us through the journey of infertility, we would have missed out on knowing Him more deeply, His provision of our rainbow girl in addition to His call to adopt have allowed us to truly taste and see His goodness. 

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” Isaiah 61:1, 3

If you’d like to connect with Kristin, find her on Instagram, Facebook or her website!

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Why Us?

August 13, 2019

Written by Guest Blogger, Ginny Helmer

“Why Us?”

Have you ever asked yourself this question?

I will never forget sitting in my reproductive endocrinologist’s office, fearful  yet hopeful, when he told my husband and I our fertility odds:

“All things considered…there is less than a 5% chance that you two will ever conceive naturally.”

You can imagine that hearing those words being only 23-years-old and married just under 2 years, we were absolutely devastated. My husband and I are both from big families and it was our desire to also have a decent sized family. Now, there was barely any hope that we would biologically conceive children. We were healthy, young adults, who were pure until marriage and loved the Lord. Where did we go wrong?

My husband and I began trying to conceive in November of 2017. We were newly married but decided to stop preventing pregnancy like we had previously been doing. We didn’t panic when a few months passed without a positive pregnancy test. Around January, I started tracking my ovulation, basal body temperature, the works. A year soon passed, and I found myself sitting in my OBGYN’s office faced with an infertility diagnosis. None of it made sense. This was never supposed to be our story. 

Two weeks after our appointment with our reproductive endocrinologist, I was waiting for my cycle to begin so I could schedule my laparoscopy and hysteroscopy procedure for suspected endometriosis. It didn’t start. Not abnormal for me whatsoever, but the sudden onset of nausea sure was. Three days later, I finally broke down and took a pregnancy test in the middle of the afternoon, just to see the negative test and reiterate to myself that I was NOT pregnant. Funny story, though….I was.

Those two pink lines showed up so fast. I’ve taken a LOT of pregnancy tests that have turned up negative, so believe me, I know when one will be negative. This time though, it was different. I was almost 5 weeks along, according to my calculations, and I couldn’t contain my emotion. I was weeping so hard as I called my husband immediately and said, “COME HOME! I’M PREGNANT!” 

I loved every moment of pregnancy. Even the not-so-fun moments of heartburn, food aversions, and fatigue were overshadowed by my joy of being a mother after a year and a half of trying. We were undoubtedly thankful for that little life growing in my womb day by day. 

At 8 weeks gestation, we had our first OB appointment. There, we heard our baby’s strong, precious heartbeat. Baby was measuring right on track. Our hearts were so full; we were sure that our luck had changed, and that this would be our big break.

When I was 11 weeks and 6 days pregnant, my husband and I were about to get on an airplane to go see my sister graduate high school. The entire plane ride, I experienced cramping and some light bleeding. I was a little bit scared, but tried not to think much of it. When we got to our destination, I checked immediately to see if there was more blood. Yep…there was definitely more. My cramping was slowly becoming more intense. My husband and I began to worry and prayed that it would all subside.

I fell asleep that night, hoping that I would wake up the next day and be just fine. Instead, I woke up at 3am to severe contractions and a dilated cervix. I barely made it into the hotel bathroom before it got really bad and I began to go into full force labor. 45 minutes later, I delivered my sweet, beautiful 12 week old baby. I will never forget that moment…I truly did not know how to breathe. I couldn’t look. I couldn’t fathom the idea that my little lime-sized miracle was gone.

Two days later, my OBGYN confirmed what I knew to be true by ultrasound. It was supposed to have been my “12 week appointment” where he was going to use the Doppler to hear our baby’s heartbeat. Instead, I stared at the emptiest ultrasound screen and blinked back tears in an attempt to be strong. Heartbreaking doesn’t even begin to describe what it felt to see my uterus, once so full of a new, precious life, so empty and without much hope.

The weeks following were immensely difficult and I was nowhere near prepared for what my body would have to endure. That night after my ultrasound, in the middle of Lowe’s, my body went back into labor. I struggled to make my way to the store’s bathroom because of the excruciating pain. In that restroom, I delivered the large amount of remnants leftover from the loss. I then bled for two straight weeks, and was in labor for 3 and a half days total. My body has not been the same. Our hearts cannot be repaired. We miss our baby, with everything we have.

We chose to name our baby Noah Amos. Noah means “rest” and Amos means “carried by God.” We knew that our son was in the arms of Jesus now. As much as we miss him, that is the assurance that gets us through. He is safe, he never felt pain, and never had to endure anything in this cruel world.

When we got our infertility diagnosis about 9 months before our miscarriage, I cried that night in my husband’s arms and asked, “why us?”

When we were told that we had a less than 5% chance of ever conceiving naturally, I spent that car ride home praying and asking God, “why us?’

When I sat in that hotel bathroom, crying, hyperventilating, scared, and in total shock from what had just taken place, I whispered loudly, “WHY US?!!!!”

Truth be told, I don’t have a good answer to my own question. In those dark, dark moments I spent time being LIVID at God for the things that my husband and I had to walk through. There were times I wondered if He really cared, as much as I hate to admit it. 

I still struggle with this question. My husband and I still pray that maybe one day, this side of heaven, we’ll know why we have been through these trials. But, truthfully, we may never know and we are choosing to do our best to be at peace with that.

“Behold! I am doing a new things; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:19

“Jesus answered him, ‘What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.’” John 13:7

If you are reading this and you are struggling with the same questions and hurts, I want you to know just a few things that I have come to learn:

*Your story is not finished. Good things are coming., even when it doesn’t seem like it.

*The pain will, over time, become more manageable. You’ll never be the same, but you will be able to keep going.

*God is not punishing you. He loves you. Know that He has a grander plan in the works that we cannot comprehend.

*Use your pain and experience to help others through it, too. 1 in 4 women experience miscarriage and 1 in 8 couples will go through infertility. Come alongside them and understand in ways that many can’t. Whether or not you realize it, God often uses our pain to help others down the road who experience similar situations. 

“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

For now, my husband and I will be taking some time to, hopefully, get my body back to somewhat “normal.” (My HCG has still yet to return to zero). We continue to pray that our rainbow is coming. 

Feel free to reach out to me on Instagram. I’m always here for you, regardless of your story or who you are. 

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A Rainbow of Hope

August 6, 2019

Written by Beth Gildea, Guest Blogger

Sean and I tried for several years to have a family. We expected it to be easy for us, like most people do. An unexplained infertility diagnosis hit us like a brick wall.

We completed two rounds of IVF, one of which ended in miscarriage at 6 weeks. It devastated us, and we abandoned all thoughts of trying IVF again. We knew we did not want to face the anxiety of possibly losing another pregnancy, so we explored adoption.

It renewed our hope, and after over a year of waiting, adoption brought us to our son. We are so grateful that his first family picked us. We started to settle into life with a newborn, grateful to be a family of 3. People immediately started asking if we’d adopt again, but we knew how lucky we were to have one child. We were set with a table for 3.

Two days before my maternity leave was over with our son at 3 months old, I was looking at two pink lines on a pregnancy test. And they were dark! I had NO clue how far along I was, so I went to urgent care (totally normal, right? ?). They drew blood to confirm HCG levels, and sure enough, I was “at least 6 or 7 weeks along.” Mother’s Day was in a week. Could I bear it if I miscarried? My first Mother’s Day with our son was looking to be another heartache. The doctor got us in for an ultrasound as soon as the blood work came back, and we saw a baby’s heartbeat on the monitor.

And that baby stuck. Rita was born 10 months and 1 day after her brother Jack was born in the same year.

They say that after every storm, there is a rainbow of hope. In our home, we know after every storm, there is a rainbow of hope. A double rainbow is a miracle.

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

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There is a Way

July 31, 2019

Written by Devon Baeza, Guest Blogger

“Doesn’t look good”

These were the words ringing in my ears as I laid on the table, about to transfer my one and only embryo. “What does that mean? What are the chances it’ll work?” I asked the Dr. “Our embryologist says you have a 25% chance of success” he casually replied.

IVF had not gone as well as predicted. By day 5, only one embryo had survived. I had known about my endometriosis since I was a teenager, but the low AMH came as a shock. Because the embryo “didn’t look good”, they told us it would not survive a freeze. A fresh transfer was our one and only shot.

That was it, I was certain our journey was over. We had endured so many expensive treatments, 6 IUI’s, 2 surgeries, and a miscarriage. For years, every dollar of my paycheck had gone to treatment. We sold our home (at a loss) and moved into a small apartment to save money. My husband had been driving around a car with no A.C. in the AZ sun for 3 summers. We rarely ate out, certainly not without a coupon. We had spent our entire life savings. All the shots, countless tests, and endless tears had come down to this, a complete waste.

Two weeks later, on my birthday, I sat in the bathroom trying to talk myself out of peeing on yet another stick. All the at home tests had been negative, and I didn’t want to ruin my birthday. I told myself to just wait until the official beta, so I could postpone my grief. I couldn’t do it. I took the test…and 2 lines stared back at me…I was in shock. I dropped to my knees, crying and thanking God. FINALLY. Maybe, just maybe, I’d be a mom after all.

The pregnancy had a few scares early on. My HCG levels were low, there was spotting and a feared miscarriage. Every week that passed, I would Google the odds of miscarriage at that stage. It wasn’t until I heard my daughter’s first cry that I could finally breathe too, and could honestly believe that my story would have a happy ending.

Fast forward three years later. My husband and I had come to terms with the fact that our miracle rainbow baby would be our only one. Attempts at conceiving on our own hadn’t worked. I was focused on starting my career as The Fertility Finance Coach, helping other women to save, make, and manifest money for treatment. We had just moved across the country for the 2nd time, and I had fallen ill. I couldn’t seem to get better. My Dr. mentioned that I might need to have testing done for immunity issues, since it ran in my family. I couldn’t stand the thought of more medical issues after everything I had already been through. I was sick, exhausted, and feeling really scared and helpless. As I pulled out of a parking lot and onto the road, I looked up. There was a huge rainbow, going across the whole sky. Under it was a smaller rainbow. An inexplicable peace came across me at the sight of a mommy and baby rainbow. The beauty of it made me cry.

That night, my 3 yr old asked me “How you feelin’ mama?” “Aww baby, I don’t feel good. Thank you for asking.” I replied “Cuz’ there’s a baby in your tummy?” she asked. I laughed. “No sweetie, there’s no baby in my tummy”.

I knew it was impossible, but I couldn’t shake her comment. I took a test in the morning, and stared at the biggest surprise of my life. I was pregnant for the first time without treatment. In my 30’s. Years after being told my AMH was that of a woman in her mid 40’s. I couldn’t believe it. We didn’t tell my 3 yr old she was right, I was so scared I would have a miscarriage and have to explain it to her. But everyday she would come and talk to my belly. She told us she had a sister, and named it “Flippy”. At 16 weeks along, we found out I was having a girl. When we finally told her “You’re right, there is a baby in mommy’s belly…you’re having a sister!” she said “I know.”

I know that success stories can be difficult to read. Holding onto hope, while you watch everyone else get their happy ending, can be so hard and painful. I get it. I remember it vividly. It feels like the life you planned and the strength you thought you had are gone. The stress feels insurmountable.

The encouragement I give to you, my clients, and anyone going through fertility struggles is to is to keep going. One foot in front of the other. There is a way. A way to pay for treatment, a way to heal your relationships, a way to stress less on your road to motherhood. I know it’s possible because I have done it and now help other women do the same. Don’t give up. If you need help, reach out! Remember that It’s not over until you say it’s over. Your happy ending is waiting too!

XxOo$$,

Devon

If you’d like to connect with Devon, you can find her on her website, Instagram or Facebook!

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The Heart Wrenching Journey

May 21, 2019

Written by Juliette Lindeman, Guest Blogger

A little over seven years ago I began a journey. A depressing, heart wrenching journey that ultimately led to one of the greatest days of my life.

In my early twenties I had no thought of infertility. I figured that when I wanted to start a family, I would. It would be easy, I had seen my friends and family do it without issues. I got married, and we both worked toward getting our careers going. We had a plan to start our family when I turned twenty-nine.

My doctor told me that it could take up to a year to get pregnant after stopping birth control. That year came and went. I started talking more with my gynecologist about what I should do and I googled so many things. I learned all about tracking cycles, tracking body temperatures, and changing my diet. After the first year had passed without contraception, my doctor recommended I begin Clomid. I remember when I first started the medication feeling so hopeful that I would get pregnant right away, we didn’t. I felt alone, sad, frustrated, and disappointed.

I remember family members repeatedly asking when we were going to have kids. For a while we would say whenever it happens, and then eventually just becoming honest that we had been trying for a few years. Most people would say the same things; “it will happen, maybe you just need to relax”, and my favorite was “once you stop trying you will get pregnant”. They had no idea that every month I would track my cycles, pee on a stick to see if I was ovulating, timing the right days to have sex, lay with my legs in the air encouraging the sperm in the right direction, going to have lab work to check my levels, doctor appointments, and then every cycle for the two weeks wondering if by chance this time I was finally pregnant. Every tinge in my abdomen, sore breast, or bit of nausea had me hopeful, but instead it was month after month of disappointment. Sitting in the bathroom with that negative test, tears in my eyes. These years were so hard for me. Every time a family member would announce a pregnancy I would be bitter. Not because I wasn’t happy for them, but because I didn’t know why it wasn’t me.

Then one day it happened, a miracle! I got my first positive pregnancy test. I was so excited! Unfortunately, the pregnancy was found to be ectopic. I remember the ultrasound tech scanning the monitor not talking, or looking at me. I knew something was wrong. That would be the first of many ultrasounds, lab works, and hospital visits. They believed that the egg implanted on the outside of my fallopian tube. I was instructed by my doctor to go to the hospital to have an infusion of methotrexate because my tube had not ruptured. Methotrexate is a chemotherapy medication that destroys these types of cells. I ended up needing two infusions to bring my hcg levels down. For a whole month off and on I endured severe physical pain, and fatigue.

After the ectopic pregnancy, we were referred to a fertility specialist. We had lots of testing done that did not give us any information as to why we could not conceive; my diagnosis unexplained infertility. My specialist wanted me to visit a local obstetrician to remove my fallopian tube; which appeared to be abnormal after my ectopic pregnancy. My new doctor reviewed all my information and test results. He suggested that we try clomid again, with close monitoring. So I started clomid again, changed my diet becoming a vegetarian, started doing acupuncture, and yoga. A year came and went with no result of a pregnancy.

My doctor suggested that I have exploratory laparoscopic surgery, and hysteroscopy. After the procedure we learned that I had endometriosis and adhesions that were holding my ovaries down. My doctor explained that even if an egg was able to make it out of the ovary that the chances of it making it into the fallopian tube was slim. My doctor was able to remove the adhesions releasing the ovaries. We then tried clomid again, hopeful that this was the key. Months went by with no luck. I was starting to lose hope once again, and my husband and I agreed that we would pursue in vitro fertilization by the end of the year.

In August after coming home from a trip I saw those two little lines on my pregnancy test! I was beyond excited, and also had so much anxiety. My doctor was so amazing. He got us in extra early, so early that all we saw was a sac, and a fetal pole, but it was there in my uterus! We went back a couple weeks later, and we saw the little flicker of a heartbeat; it felt so surreal. I was so nervous my whole pregnancy, I worried that something would happen to the baby. I was afraid to even buy baby clothes because I thought it would jinx it.

Then the day came! May 21, after six years of trying to conceive, and 30 hours of labor; I delivered my perfect angel Lucy Rose, the greatest day of my life. A few months after Lucy’s first birthday we were overjoyed and surprised to find out we were expecting again!  Levi completed our family May 17th of last year. Through my journey I opened up more, and was surprised to find out that close friends and coworkers were also struggling. I learned I was not alone, and have found a wonderful community of supporting women.

If you’d like to connect with Juliette, you can find her on Instagram!

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

Giving Grace

May 7, 2019

Written by Starlyn Cafferata, Guest Blogger

There are so many moments in my infertility journey that stand out to me, whether they are good or bad. My biggest feeling throughout my journey was that I felt “less than” because of my diagnoses and because it was “my fault”.

Not a single person ever made me feel that way or blamed me, except myself. I often would spend time thinking about how bad of a wife I was because there was a good chance I wouldn’t give my husband a child of his own. Again, he NEVER made me feel this way – if anything, he was so incredibly supportive of me. I will always be grateful for his love through every step of the way.

I remember one particularly bad day – we were sitting in bed after yet another setback and I had just had enough. I turned to him and said, “We should probably get divorced, you’re meant to be a Dad and I probably won’t be able to give you any kids. If we split now, you can find someone that can.” Words couldn’t describe the range of emotions that crossed his face. Hurt, anger, shock – mostly shock. He took a second to gather himself and said, “That is absolutely ridiculous. If we can’t have kids, that’s fine. We can have each other, we can travel, and we can be the cool aunt and uncle. But, we will be together. Because if I have to choose between the two, I’ll always choose you.”

It was a wake-up call. I had been so far in my own guilt, punishing myself and blaming myself that I couldn’t see my teammate trying to support me. I had been grieving and hurting myself and I had to stop. From that moment on I chose to forgive myself, to open up and take the help. God knows I needed it.

Giving yourself grace is the act of forgiving YOURSELF and not punishing yourself for things you cannot control. I chose to take the time that I would have spent punishing myself and allowed my husband to lift me up! I really think that was a huge turning point in the entire process, I was able to handle setbacks better, was able to open up about everything more. It was the best decision I could have made! I really think that allowing myself time to be sad, to be angry and forgive myself for those feelings made my experience better for me. I was able to be more honest with everyone around me and actually ask for what I needed from my people.

I actually saw a quote the other day that made me laugh so hard! “I’m slutty with giving grace to others and stingy with giving grace to myself” – on Instagram – This spoke to me because it is SO TRUE for me! I need to be sluttier for myself! But I’ll always be giving grace to others!

After I chose to really embrace my journey – I went on to hit even MORE roadblocks, more setbacks and more disappointments. Until I was blessed beyond belief to have a successful, easy, joyful pregnancy and have a little angel of my own!

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

Fertility Diet

April 30, 2019

Written by Karina Knight, Guest Blogger

I have always looked back and wondered if I could’ve done anything differently to improve the chances of having a successful pregnancy. What did I do wrong? Maybe I shouldn’t have had that extra cup of coffee? Guilt, pain and unbearable sadness is what best describes the moment they told us “there is no heartbeat” when we arrived at the ER immediately after my water broke with our full-term, healthy baby boy. And then it doesn’t get any better when doctors would say “we don’t know what happened”, “there is nothing we could’ve done”, “it is a statistic, happens in 1 out of 25,000 pregnancies”. In a way, it was a blessing that there was nothing “wrong” when trying to get pregnant with our first born, at some point you just must see your glass as half-full.

As soon as we got the green light from the doctors to get pregnant again, I tried Clomid, estrogen, took hundreds of dollars’ worth of supplements but it still took us 1 year, 1 month and 12 days to get pregnant. Interestingly though, I got pregnant when I discontinued all of these interventions, I just “let go”.

I was extremely careful with everything related to my pregnancy, and more meticulous about my diet. But because sometimes no matter what precautions you take, there are always uncontrollable factors. Our second baby was born at 32 weeks because I had complete placenta previa and began preterm labor due to placental abruption. I was immediately hospitalized and put under magnesium drip for a couple of days to buy time while the steroid shots kicked in to speed up the baby’s lung development. Three days later, we were incredibly blessed to conceive a BREATHING and healthy baby boy who only spent 10 days in the NICU. Despite our fears of complicated pregnancies, we really wanted to have another baby. So, the third time around doctors did not want to use any medications because they felt I did not have difficulties getting pregnant, rather maintaining the pregnancy. This time it took us only 2 months to conceive, we were ecstatic! Everything seemed normal until my 10-week follow-up when we heard again those terrible words “there is no heartbeat”. We were devastated! What was I doing wrong? Were my iron storages low, did I have low levels of folic acid? Endless unanswered questions. We decided to take one last chance, we couldn’t bear the idea of losing another baby. I got back on track with very healthy eating nutrient-dense foods, exercising, hydrating and fast forward 4 months later, we got pregnant again! Finally, the last pregnancy was a “normal” pregnancy where I had no complications and our healthy baby girl was born at 38 weeks.

Like me, there are many stories, all unique which I have been fortunate to be part of for my patients who are trying to conceive and/or carry a healthy pregnancy. The reason for my personal story is to let you know that there is a science behind improving the odds for pregnancy in terms of diet. However, remember that everyone is unique and there are still a lot of gray areas for which there no reasonable explanations. We cannot control all the factors, but we can at least try. The most popular diet is called, the Fertility Diet and about 80% of my patients trying to conceive, get pregnant about 6-months after following the diet. I’m not saying this is the only factor influencing the outcome, but it can help. The diet was developed by Drs. Jorge Chavarro and Walter Willett, both from Harvard School of Public Health. It is based on a comprehensive examination of diet and fertility, an 8-year study of more than 18,000 women without a history of infertility. In another study of women in Spain, those who followed a Mediterranean-style diet (high intake of vegetables, fish, and healthy fats), had 44% lower odds of seeking medical help for difficulty getting pregnant compared to the control group.

The diet improves the ovulation cycle and prevents ovulatory dysfunction which is one of the causes of infertility. It concluded that by following this diet, the probability of infertility is reduced by 28% and by 68% the probability of ovulatory dysfunction. They also found that those who regularly consumed refined carbs, white rice, and potatoes were associated with an increased risk of ovulation infertility. While current evidence on the role of dairy, alcohol, and caffeine is inconsistent, saturated fats, and sugar have been associated with poorer fertility outcomes in women and men. Moreover, women and men with obesity [body mass index (BMI) ? 30 kg/m2] have a higher risk of infertility. This risk is extended to women who are underweight (BMI <20 kg/m2). If a woman is overweight and trying to conceive, the main goal is to lose weight. By losing 10% of your weight, it can improve insulin sensitivity which helps women with PCOS ovulate. But woman who are lean and with PCOS, they can still be insulin-resistant, which can interfere with ovulation. In that case, eating fewer processed carbs and more whole-grain carbs can result in a slower rise in blood sugar and a lower insulin production, which is favorable for fertility.

What does the fertility diet recommend?

  • Avoid trans fats, usually found in baked goods.
  • Opt for healthy fats. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats help improve the body’s sensitivity to insulin and lower overall inflammation. Include avocado or olive oil, nuts, seeds, and cold water fish such as salmon and sardines. Cut back on saturated fat.
  • Turn to vegetable protein. Switch 50% of your proteins from animal origin to plant-based, this can reduce the risk of ovulation infertility by 50%.
  • Choose low-glycemic carbs, not no carbs. The type of carbs are more important than they amount. Opt for complex carbs such as whole grains, vegetables, whole fruits, and beans, avoid refined flours. Total carbohydrates do not matter as much if it is a diet with moderate (60%) or low (40%) carbohydrates.
  • Use whole milk and yogurt (it you eat it).
  • Take a prenatal vitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid, start 3 months before you are trying to conceive.  
  • Get plenty of iron from plants, such as dark greens, beans, lentils and combine with vitamin C (critics, red bell peppers, etc.) to increase absorption. Tea and coffee inhibit iron absorption when consumed with a meal or shortly after a meal.
  •  Aim towards a healthy weight per your BMI.
  • Stay hydrated, about 1 ml per 1 kilocalorie.
  • Stay active.

In a recent review, antioxidants, vitamin D, dairy products, soy, caffeine, and alcohol appeared to have little or no effect on fertility.

Talk to your healthcare provider before taking any supplements as they may negatively interact with other supplements or medications. Search for a local dietitian in your area who is familiar with the fertility diet to help guide you towards a personalized nutrition plan that tailors your caloric needs and lifestyle.

If you’d like to connect with Karina, you can find her on Instagram Facebook or her Website!

References:

Gaskins AJ, Chavarro JE. Diet and fertility: a review. Am J Obstet Gynecol. (2018) 218:379–89.

Toledo E, Lopez-del Burgo C, Ruiz-Zambrana A, Donazar M, Navarro-Blasco I, Martinez-Gonzalez MA, et al. . Dietary patterns and difficulty conceiving: a nested case-control study. Fertil Steril. (2011) 96:1149–53.

Chavarro JE, Rich-Edwards JW, Rosner BA, Willett WC. Caffeinated and alcoholic beverage intake in relation to ovulatory disorder infertility. Epidemiology (2009) 20:374–81.

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