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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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The Sting of Infertility

August 8, 2019

Written by Guest Blogger, Ashley Peck

Ever since I was little, I wanted to be a mother. My husband and I struggled with infertility and could not seem to get pregnant. We pursued adoption and after three long years of waiting, we were chosen by our son’s birth mom to become parents to the sweetest baby boy.

Over the past year our infertility has been pushed to the side. Adjusting to parenthood and caring for a baby will do that. But in April, a month before our son turned one, it began to creep back in.

I have always wanted a big family, and seeing Milo interact with other children makes me long for him to have a brother or sister. It took over 5 years of struggling and waiting before we were brought to Milo. I do not want to wait that long again.

In May, my husband and I decided to figure out what was causing our infertility and committed to trying to conceive once again. After a month of tests and lots of money spent, we were told we have “unexplained infertility”. Everything looked and seemed to be working better then good. They could not find the root cause as to why we could not conceive, but they also informed us that we only had a 2% chance of conceiving naturally.

A year ago, I also received a preliminary diagnosis for endometriosis. It can only be officially diagnosed with a laparoscopic surgery. Our fertility doctor disagreed with the diagnosis causing infertility, and highly advised that we immediately start IUI treatments (artificial insemination).

Will and I agreed that we would wait on treatments and try to conceive naturally. At the end of the day, all life is a miracle and, statistic or not, we felt that we needed to wait and at least try again.

So here we are, three months into trying to conceive. No missed periods, no positive pregnancy tests. Each month passes and Milo gets older and the pressure to conceive begins to build.

We have talked about our options; another adoption (which we cannot afford again so soon), surgery for my endometriosis (which has a long recovery and no guarantee it will help infertility) IUI treatments (uncomfortable for both of us and time-consuming), embryo donation (costly and not guaranteed) and fostering (our plan when Milo is older).

Infertility does not define me, but it is woven into the fabric of every aspect of my life.

It is in my son’s blue eyes that he got from his birth mom.

It is in the cramping and fatigue each month when I get my period.

It’s in ovulation tests, and temperature charts and scheduled intercourse. 

It’s in the pregnancy announcements, the gender reveals, and the baby showers.

I am grateful for our infertility. It has brought us our beautiful son and an amazing relationship with his birth family. It has taught me to trust in God’s provision and plan, and to have patience in the waiting. But the path of infertility is hard. It is isolating and so terribly devastating. And the sting of infertility does not go away with motherhood.

We endured most of our friends who got pregnant successfully and have grown their families without any problems. And now the next generation of women, the girls I grew up babysitting and knew as children, are getting pregnant as well.

Most of the time I am ok. I would never wish infertility on anyone, and am so excited for those who get to experience the joy of motherhood the way it was intended. But sometimes I see a pregnancy announcement and I get hit with a wall of grief. It washes over me like a tidal wave I did not see coming.

The grief rarely lasts long. It’s often interrupted by an active toddler who reminds me that I am loved and so incredibly blessed. It’s in looking at my son, that I am given hope.

I have come to terms with the reality that I may never have a biological child. I know that the man Milo grows up to be will resemble Will and I because we are raising him. He will have our quirks and mannerisms, our phrases and lifestyle. But his genetic markers come from two different people that are not us.

I know deep down that Milo does not have to share our DNA to be our son. He doesn’t have to have my ginger hair or Will’s broad shoulders for us to love him. There is a tension that exists in not needing biology to love a child as your own but also acknowledging that the reality of our infertility makes me sad.

Milo is our miracle, the boy who made us parents. In wanting the fullest life for him, we know our family is not complete. And we are trusting that it will grow in the way its meant to for us.

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

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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 Missing Piece of Your Heart

July 23, 2019

Written by Twyla Aasheim, Guest Blogger

Our journey to adoption started similar to how many other similar stories do, with the struggle of infertility. My husband and I met in college and pretty soon after the first date I realized it was “game over!” I found my match. After five years of dating, we got married. Our first few years of marriage were a blur of traveling, moving to different states, and finishing graduate school.

After our careers had started we made the decision to start trying to grow our family. A few months went by and … nothing. Then six months… then a year. Every single month that went by and every period that came was absolutely crushing. We were both bombarded with questions of “when are you having children?” “if you stop trying it will happen.” “you’re not getting any younger”. Each time a well-meaning person says those types of questions it hurts. After about a year and a half of trying, we decided to see a fertility specialist. Test after test, we got diagnosed with unknown infertility. We both decided to give it a shot and proceeded through a few unsuccessful rounds of Clomid and 1 IUI. The entire specialist process was an uncomfortable and cold experience.  We felt like we were forcing our will upon nature and all the love and magic was taken out. During our struggle, we had a few people suggest that we consider adoption. My husband and I had always been open to adoption but like most, we just thought we would have biological children first. 

I remember the day that I told my husband that I was ready to look into adoption. I told him that I know our plan was to keep trying for a little while longer, but that I was done. What I really wanted was a baby. I really wanted a family and I didn’t care if the baby looked like us. The feeling that came over both of us was this intense sense of peace. Like God was saying this was my plan. After the decision to pursue adoption everything that happened after felt so right. It was just like it was meant to be.

The adoption process can be complicated and we made the choice to go with a private agency. We did our research and looked at agencies that are ethical and had a local office. The private agency decision was one of the best things we did.

There were many examples of God in our lives helping us while we waited. One time an amount of money was due to pay the agency. We didn’t know where the money was going to come from. My husband just happened to be closing an old business account.  The bank lady said “How would you like the remaining money? Cash or check?” We ended up getting the exact sum that we needed to make the payment.

We had been a waiting family for about 5 months and Thanksgiving was almost here, we got a call from our agency.  It was an unusual situation involving a baby boy who was 4 months old. We let them know that we were interested and about a week after we met his birth mother. The first meeting is inevitably awkward but it turned out great. We talked, got to know each other and by the end, we were laughing.  A few more crazy weeks went by waiting for paperwork to be signed by Birthmother and Birthfather. We got a call 2 days before Christmas. “Your new baby is here in the office and is ready for you to bring home.” He was the most amazing Christmas gift we could have ever asked for. It’s hard to remember the early days of our journey to our son because looking back now I feel like that was just the beginning. Not just the beginning of finding him but the journey to meeting an extension of our family.

We now have an extremely open relationship with his Birthmother, who is family to us. This relationship developed organically over a few years of being kind, loving, and respectful to each other. Now we see her and our son’s older brother about every few months. When everyone has a free weekend either get together at one of our houses or meet halfway to get lunch and go to the zoo. We try to spend holidays and birthdays together and talk almost weekly on the phone. We always talk about our sons, but we also talk about life and how grateful we are to be a part of each other’s story.

I often think about the sadness I felt having so badly wanted to carry a child and to be able to give my husband a baby.  I know those were things that I needed to go through to be ready to meet my son. Choosing to be a mother whether it is through fertility treatment or adoption it is something so special. The decision to become a mother to my now 4-year-old son is something I chose, something I prayed for, something I cried for, and something I dreamt of. It’s not something that just happened to me by accident. Being parents is something that my husband and I chose and started the journey to fulfill. And my son will forever be our greatest gift and treasure. Our son’s Birthmother decided she was not ready at that time in her life and she was not in a place where she could parent. She still made the selfless choice to be his mother and carry him through when she could have very well chosen a different path. I will forever love her, respect her, and praise her for the loving choice that she made to give our baby a good life.

Now we are on the journey again to find a sibling for our son. This journey has been in may ways easier in that I have so much faith we will be matched one day to the missing piece of our family. It has also been harder because we’ve had the experience of a failed match, and also knowing that our relationship with our new expectant family will be different. I hope and pray we have an equally loving and amazing open relationship. Only God can know when this new little person will join our family. The waiting period seems so hard when you are in it because of all the unknowns. But when you hold that baby in your arms for the first time it makes every moment you spend waiting worth it. This tiny baby is the little piece of your heart that you didn’t know was missing.

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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!

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The Long Fight

May 17, 2019

By Lindsey Taylor, Guest Blogger

Sometimes, it would be so much easier to just give up. Give up everything you have worked for. For some people months and years. All of the doctor’s appointments, and ultra sounds, the monthly medications, the daily meditations, a roller coaster of emotions. The daily self-work, the constant self-talks. Acupuncture, exercise, all of it.

It would be so easy to quit fighting, to give up hope.

Four years ago my older sister had twins! TWINS. Then this February, my twin sister had a baby. A beautiful baby girl. It crushed me. While I was absolutely over the moon for my sister(s) and love my new little niece more than anything, I wanted it to be me.

My husband and I have fought for almost 4 years. FOUR YEARS. Four long, lonely years. Each year, longer than the last one. Waiting each month for that tiny glimmer of hope, to see two lines. But still no baby, not pregnant. We just finished our last and final round of Menopure (Injections) as well as our 5th IUI. Knowing it was my last round made it all the more stressful. Would this be it? Crushed to find out, it didn’t work.

I think what I struggle with the most is that this is my life. My childless life, constantly wishing and wanting to get pregnant. To feel what morning sickness is like, to feel my baby kick, I want all of that. It’s a constant uphill battle to fight for all of this.

I found myself falling into a deep dark depression. Slipping away from the reality of what was, and still is, losing my true self.

Some months we go out of town to “relax” to take our minds off of what we think about day in and day out. Most days we give all of our love to our dogs, Bueller & Kobe.

I constantly have to tell myself; I will not let the stress of infertility take over my life.

No matter where you are in your journey, Keep fighting. Be your own advocate if you have to. It’s okay to have dark days, but it is so important to keep your spirits high.

It’s not going to be easy, but don’t give up.

I remind myself about the hope I have in my heart. The hope I have that one day, I will hear the word “MOM” and it will be my child saying it to me.

My heart is constantly with all of you beautiful women trying to conceive. Weather its your first or your fifth child, If you are considering adoption or IVF, or whatever you do, I’m with you, we all are.

Remember “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”- Maya Angelou

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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.

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

Q and A with Mira

April 26, 2019

Education and information is so important, especially the world of infertility. The more we know about our bodies and how they work, the better chance we have of conceiving. Mira was created to help with just that.

  • What prompted you to create Mira? Was it experience with infertility or something else?

I believe women need to have more education and control over their own health. Right now, information is generally owned by the hospital, but life decisions are made by the consumer. There is a huge gap. If we could access our own health data in an easy to understand way, it could greatly help us guide our own lives and decisions related to our health and it could empower us to increase our life quality. This is especially true for women, who face the challenge balancing work and life, and whose decision directly affects the family plan. 

  • How does Mira work exactly?

Mira works through a palm sized hospital-grade analyzer and disposable test wands. Users simply dip one of the disposable Mira Wand into a urine sample then insert it into the Mira Analyzer. A quantitative analysis is conducted and data is automatically synced to the Mira app through Bluetooth. This makes at-home health testing and hormone analysis easy and convenient. The AI in the Mira App then learns personal health patterns, providing personalized health and fertility insights to each individual user.

  • What is the purpose of tracking these fertility hormones? What can they tell us about fertility?

For those trying to conceive, there is a limited number of days per cycle where they can actually conceive. As you can imagine, tracking your fertility hormones and knowing exactly when ovulation and these fertile days occur is essential to getting pregnant in a timely manner.

Fertility hormone changes are an extremely accurate predictor of ovulation and your peak fertile window. During a menstrual cycle, a sudden surge of Luteinizing Hormone (LH) triggers the release of a mature egg. This is what is known as “ovulation”. LH hormone concentrations can be measured in urine and blood. This sharp surge of LH tells you that ovulation is about to occur within 24-48 hours. These are the two most fertile days for those trying to conceive! Every women has different hormone levels and even hormone levels can change from cycle to cycle for each person as well. Personalization is very important to achieve effective outcomes. Mira’s AI learns each individual’s home pattern so we have the best accuracy that specifically optimized for the individual.

  • What makes Mira different than an OPK?

Currently, all hormone-based fertility trackers on the market try to predict ovulation based on a hard hormone threshold for the LH surge?(based on the population average). This is due to the fact that they cannot measure the actual hormone level, they can only measure whether it is above or below a certain level. The problem is that not all women correspond to this threshold. On the other hand, it is nearly impossible for women to go to hospital for a quantitative hormone test every day. Mira is the tracker that gives women the opportunity to receive actual hospital-grade hormone readings in the comfort of their home.

  • Where do you see the Mira product(s) going a couple years from now?

We see Mira becoming a comprehensive at-home women’s health testing platform. From trying to avoid pregnancy, trying to conceive, fetal health, menopause, to disease tracking, Mira will empower users to take control of their health. All future test wands and tests will be compatible with the same Mira Analyzer but using different test wands. The Mira App AI interprets and analyzes what you could do with the test results. Health tips and recommendations will be provided to you in a personalized way. It’s essentially a clinical lab in the comfort of your home. We want Mira to be a trustworthy health partner and one stop solution, regardless what life stage you are at.

  • What is the biggest thing, in your opinion, that needs to change about the fertility and women’s health space?

We think medical diagnostic testing and treatments will move from the doctor’s office setting to the consumer setting through telemedicine. Consumer health products are becoming more and more clinically relevant. Continuous at-home health tracking will give doctors insights and access to data that they have never had access to before, and AI will help them crunch this data to help analyze and extract insights. Health tech is moving to the digital space and consumers will have much more control of their health. Mira is proud to be part of this empowerment and we strive to keep pushing the boundaries of at-home diagnostic health testing and quality of life for all our users!

If you’d like to learn more about Mira, you can find them on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or their Website!

***Also be sure to use the code WTF30 for $30 off your purchase!***

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

Cayson – Against All Odds

April 22, 2019

Written by Sunsarae Jackson, Guest Blogger

Cayson: Courageous and tough; Unrelenting.

Courageous – Not deterred by danger or pain

Tough – Strong enough to withstand adverse conditions or rough or careless handling.

Unrelenting – Not softening or giving in easily.

I believe GOD allows you to go through things so that you can share your story. You never know how sharing your story can bring healing to someone else. I was diagnosed with PCOS back in 2000. Over the past 14 years we’ve attempted to start our family. We were unsuccessful after many failed attempts of IUI using trials of Clomid, Letrozole and Gonal F.

Although no one would choose to have fertility issues, I thank GOD that the technology exists to help those of us who do. I believe GOD uses medicine to assist those who struggle with fertility to have hope. As a woman who has tried to get pregnant many times, attempting and failing was the hardest thing ever.

When starting treatment there is so much hope that maybe this time the meds will work and we will reach our goal of getting a healthy follicle to grow. To returning the day of ultrasound just to be told the meds didn’t work and there was no follicular growth at all. It’s just heartbreaking. Going through this caused so much pain in my marriage. Feelings of inadequacy on my part. Thoughts of not being worthy to be a mother. Did GOD put this promise in my heart to be disappointed over and over again, surely not.

Over the years we prayed and prayed to become parents. About 4 years ago I reached out to The Doctors TV for help. See the outcome of that reach below:

Journey to Pregnancy

http://www.thedoctorstv.com/articles/2731-journey-to-pregnancy

Weight and Infertility

http://www.thedoctorstv.com/articles/2861-weight-and-infertility

Here we were about to embark on the journey to become parents once again, this time it was different. We felt a sense of hope. The doctor we were working with set realistic expectations with us. During our initial consult he explained that with my history he was pretty confident we could get pregnant but that it may not happen the first time around. He wanted us to be prepared to face several trials as we tried different meds. We agreed and we began our journey on an IUI Cycle March 11, 2018.

I remember March 26, 2018 like it was yesterday.  It was the last time I’d be checked to see if any follicles had matured. The ultrasound was done and the doctor found one follicle had matured. In that moment I broke down crying the happiest of tears, in that moment I knew I was going to be a mother. I knew after all the years of praying, treatments and trying that this time was going to be successful. I recall the doctor saying “Don’t cry yet, it’s the first step” in case I didn’t get pregnant he didn’t want me to be discouraged. In my heart I knew this was it! Before I left his office I was given further instructions and told to take a home pregnancy test on April 9, 2018. The time between March 16 and April 9 seemed to take forever. Everyday that went by I would look for signs that I was pregnant. Signs based on things that I’d read or heard that one would feel as I’d never experienced pregnancy for myself.

The first sign arrived on April 2, I was exhausted. I’d never been so excited to feel this way. I know it may sound weird, but it’s what happens when you’ve wanted something for so long. Over the next few days I’d began to experience more symptoms as well. I was so sure I was pregnant I wanted to test early. I’d spoken to my husband and he thought I should wait so that if the test was negative I wouldn’t be disappointed. We later decided I would take the test early with the expectation that my body may not have yet produced enough of the pregnancy hormone. I tested on April 7, it was negative. The next 2 days were the hardest to get through. I was so anxious.

It was 3:09am on April 9, 2018 test day! I awoke and took the test. This had to be the longest 3 minutes of my life. Then it happened, words I’d longed to read for what seems like a lifetime appeared on the screen “Pregnant”. We’d prayed for this day to come for as long as I can remember. Sometimes losing faith that our dream would come true. As a woman it’s hard when you’re asked, “When are you going to have kids?” My response has always been the same, “When GOD says so” Believing, but never knowing when he would.

I gave the clinic a call to inform them of the home test results, they setup bloodwork in order to confirm the pregnancy. On April 11, 2018 our babies pending arrival was confirmed. April 27, 2018 was the best day in the world, we heard babies heartbeat for the first time; it’s still the best sound in the world. The dr. advised that babies heart was strong and that it looked as it should for a baby at 4 weeks old.  Our last appointment at the clinic was May 11, 2018. We heard babies heartbeat for the 2nd time and we were released to obtain prenatal care. On May 30, 2018, we found out we were having a BOY!!!. We were so thrilled, all was going fairly well. Then on June 11, 2018 at 13 weeks our lives changed.We were at our visit with the perinatologist. The ultrasound tech had come in and completed the initial ultrasound. When the doctor came in he explained to us that he found a small abdominal wall abnormality on our son called an Omphalocele.  This is a rare abdominal wall defect in which the intestines, liver and occasionally other organs remain outside of the abdomen in a sac because of failure of the normal return of intestines and other contents back to the abdominal cavity during around the ninth week of intrauterine development. Our world was rocked. He explained that this diagnosis would be confirmed at our 20 week ultrasound.

The time between June 11 and July 30, 2018 was very rough on us. At times I would break down crying and praying, praying and crying. July 30, during our 20 week ultrasound it was confirmed that our son had 1 of 2 possible abdominal birth defects, Gastroschesis or Omphalocele. It was explained to us that babies with this defect often have additional abnormalities or genetic conditions. After explaining the differences of the conditions to us we were given some options to think about regarding whether or not to continue with the pregnancy.

The first option was to have an amniocentesis to see if the baby had any additional genetic abnormalities. This is where a needle is inserted into the woman’s stomach and fluid is drawn and then sent to be tested. This test came with a small chance of miscarriage. The second option was Termination. This would mean ending the pregnancy. The Third was to proceed with the pregnancy knowing and understanding the risks. We had already had genetic tests done that came back normal and decided against having the Amnio done. Termination was NEVER an option for us, we knew that GOD had chosen us to become parents after being married almost 14 years and after many failed attempts at fertility treatment. We would continue the pregnancy knowing the risks while continuing to pray for the best outcome possible.

After making our decision we were referred to a neonatologist, pediatric cardiologist and surgeon as their teams would be present at babies birth; along with Sutter Special Start, a program that would help with coordinating these appointments, support groups and a tour of the NICU. The next several weeks would be daunting, we would meet with all the specialists and take a tour of the NICU where the baby would go immediately after birth to be assessed and cared for.

August 2, 2018, we went to the pediatric cardiologist. We had a Fetal Echocardiogram done and …. Praise Report!!!! Our sons heart was fine, all 4 Chambers were there and it was the size it should’ve been. The cardiologist was looking to see if there was a hole in the lower chamber of the heart. This will be checked again when the baby is born.

August 10, 2018, we had the consultation with the surgeon. After speaking with her she gave us 3 possibilities.

  • Immediate surgery at birth for a cord Omphalocele.
  • Pray and wait for a small Omphalocele and then surgery at 1 year old.
  • Major and may need to wait months before baby comes home.

Sept 13, 2018 we met with one of the neonatologists that may be treating the our son the day of birth. We also took a tour of the WCC, Floors were L&D, Postpartum and NICU.

October 23, 2018 our twice weekly non-stress tests began, these tests are to check amniotic fluid levels, babies heart rate and activity. We would have these tests done up until the Friday prior to delivery.

We had our last visit with the perinatologists that had been following us on November 19, 2018. Ever since the diagnosis our son showed he was a fighter. Due to his size and the condition it was confirmed that I would have him via c-section. Although this wasn’t my choice, it was the best option for baby and I.

December 10, 2018 was the happiest day of our lives. At  2:08pm Cayson was delivered weighing 11lbs, 10oz and 21 inches long. He was born with a small omphalacele containing a portion of his intestines. After a few quick photos he was taken to the NICU for assessment and care. Through it all the lesson I learned is that no matter what is said or expected GOD can change the outcome! I expected that Cayson would spend months in the NICU but I prayed that he wouldn’t. GOD answered my prayers again, Cayson spent 6 days in the NICU and was released one day before our 14 year anniversary, he is the best gift we could’ve asked for.

Our son is our miracle!

I was reminded by a mom of the scripture in Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the plans I have for you,”declares the LORD,” plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.

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

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