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To the Momma Hurting this Mother’s Day

May 8, 2020

Written by Ginny Helmer, Guest Blogger

To the momma with empty arms,

As I’m sitting here writing this, I’m almost 36 weeks pregnant with our miracle child. Our precious and oh-so-prayed-for rainbow baby boy.

Yes, rainbow. Yes, miracle.

For almost 2 years, my husband and I suffered through infertility. Our reproductive endocrinologist gave us a less than 5% chance of ever being able to conceive on our own. Therefore, I remember Mothers Day 2018 so very well. It was my first Mother’s Day as a married woman, but also my first Mothers Day longing for a child that had not come. It was really, really hard. I felt so alone.

So, when we finally got our two pink lines almost a year later, we couldn’t stop rejoicing. Therefore, I remember Mothers Day 2019 as my first one as a mom. I was almost 9 weeks along and I was on cloud nine the entire day. I dreamed about what it would be like next Mother’s Day when my baby I was currently carrying would be here in my arms.

But just a few weeks later, even after hearing a strong heartbeat at 8 weeks, our baby died and I subsequently and traumatically miscarried at 12 weeks pregnant. Suddenly, I no longer wanted the flowers I had received as gifts for my first Mothers Day and threw them all away. I no longer felt like a mom at all. I no longer saw myself as someone worth celebrating. I was so broken and so hurt. There is no pain that can ever equal to the pain of losing a child.

Now, even though I know how blessed I am that this Mother’s Day is the greatest one yet for my husband and I, I am hurting.

I hurt for the momma who is missing her baby/babies who never made it earthside. She feels so confused. She is a mom, but her arms remain empty this Mother’s Day.

I hurt for the momma whose embryos didn’t stick, or whose IUI didn’t take. She spent so much money for a shot at achieving her dream. She is broken this Mother’s Day, and maybe questioning if she’ll ever get the chance to truly be a momma.

I hurt for the momma who has been trying to conceive for such a long time. She wants to be a mom so much it hurts her so deeply. She just keeps getting negative results, and no one can tell her why…at least not yet.

I hurt for the momma who just found out someone, or maybe more than just one someone, in her life is expecting. She wants to be happy for them and she puts on a smile and tries her best to do so, but when she gets home she is devastated and the tears won’t stop coming. She wonders, “why can’t it just be my turn?”

I hurt for the momma who has a little kid or two already, but is longing to complete her family. She is so confused on how she should feel. She is so thankful for the little ones she does have, but heartbroken that she’s not been able to conceive again. Maybe she doesn’t think her pain is valid.
I hurt for the momma who just got told her levels didn’t rise.

I hurt for the momma that just got told that there is no longer a heartbeat.
I hurt for the momma who doesn’t even get the choice to really try for who knows how long, due to COVID-19.
I hurt for the momma who woke up to a new cycle starting and is facing great disappointment.
I hurt for the momma who is overcoming her fear of needles and injecting herself with medications day and night to hopefully bring herself closer to a baby.
I hurt for the momma who feels like she is the only one in the world who is going through this.
I hurt for the momma who is suffering harsh side effects from her fertility medications and hoping and praying that they will work.
I hurt for the momma who just got her infertility diagnosis and is so confused on where to even go from here.
I hurt for the momma whose friend or family member made a comment or two that pierced so deep, yet she tries with all of her might to have grace, knowing they just don’t understand.
I hurt for the momma who can’t walk by the baby section without tears filling their eyes.
I hurt for the momma whose adoption fell through.
I hurt for the momma who was just told she has no chance of ever conceiving a child.
I hurt for the momma who is waiting on foster placements.
I hurt for the momma who feels like she’s letting everyone around her down. She wonders why her body is failing her. Did she do something wrong? Is this her fault?

I hurt for the mommas who don’t feel that they are worthy enough to be loved, celebrated, or remembered this Mother’s Day.

So, to the momma with empty arms, I want you to know this:
If you are struggling through infertility or miscarriage this Mother’s Day, know that you are seen. Know that you are important. Know that your worth is not and never will be defined by your ability to have children. Know that you are not alone. Know that you can reach out. Know that you can talk about it. Know that you are brave. Know that you are strong! Know that you have so much courage. Know that your baby’s life matters. Know that you ARE A MOM even though your baby isn’t with you today. Know that you are still just as much a momma even if you don’t feel like one and your arms are empty.

Momma, cry if you need to. Scream. Punch a punching bag. Feel the pain, the hurt, the confusion. Deactivate social media. Vent. Bake. Eat ice cream. Drink wine. Binge Netflix. Watch a movie. Skip the family gathering if you need to. Protect yourself. Love on yourself. Take care of yourself. These things that you feel – they are VALID. It’s okay to cope and heal the way that you need to.

I hope you know how amazing you are and I pray that your time is coming, babe. Until then, keep fighting. Don’t give up. Hold up your head and lean into your support system. One day at a time.

You got this, momma. And know that I am cheering you on!

If you’d like to connect with Ginny, you can find her over on Facebook or Instagram.

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Be Kind to Yourself

May 6, 2020

Written by Lauren Hudson, Guest Blogger

I was diagnosed with Asherman’s Syndrome (Scarring inside the uterus) at 20 years of age a year after I had my first son. I had retained placenta, become infected and hemorrhaged during a D&C procedure and also when I woke in recovery, resulting in my diagnosis. This was the beginning.

Immediately my dreams of a big family were squashed but never in a million years would I have guessed that this would happen to me. That I would struggle to conceive and carry a baby to term. I didn’t even know anyone who had been through anything similar. At the time, this was something not spoken about in the circles I was a part of.  I thought, I was young, healthy. Surely I’d be fine!

I had a 7 year battle with secondary infertility – 10 surgeries, 5 miscarriages and countless appointments with specialists that were based 2 hours away from where I live. Including 3 trips to Sydney which is interstate for me, for 3 separate surgeries.  I also heartbreakingly lost my daughter half way through the pregnancy when I was 25 years old due to premature labour at the 5 year mark in my fertility fight. When I fell pregnant with her I thought it was all over. I thought I had done it and could do away with everything I’d been through once she was in my arms. But like most things when you’re dealing with infertility, that didn’t eventuate. I left the hospital after the most harrowing few days of my life, with my deflated belly; empty handed, planning a funeral for my daughter.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve seen the change in generations – with women opening up and sharing their stories and with the help of social media just how many women are fighting this same battle. Something that would have helped a much younger me as I felt extremely alone in this and like I couldn’t talk about it, particularly in the early days. I’ve since learnt infertility doesn’t discriminate. 

As my journey went deeper and deeper over the years – so too, did the financial strain on my partner and I. And as my mental health declined, I was also hit with waves of grief.  The miscarriages, the surgeries, my daughter and every single time I’d get another negative pregnancy test. Add in those damn hormones and you have a cocktail of depression and anxiety and a very mentally unhealthy girl, who would constantly be looking for ways to escape her reality (Thank you Netflix and chocolate!) while parenting her school aged son at this point.

I am now on the other side of things with 2 sons – my second son was born at the end of the 7 years and so was a new me. Let me tell you pregnancy and birth after loss is one of the hardest things I’ve been through. There is joy and hope but there is also incredible worry. The guilt was unbearable and also unwarranted, but it crept up on me anyway.

I am exceedingly grateful for the children I have and my heart has never been so full, even though parts of it will never fully recover and live with the children I’ve lost. 

And while that chapter of my life has come to a close – I write this with such compassion and gentleness towards those who are still in the midst of the most heart breaking fight – I am still affected by it. I still have days where my heart hurts and things that have challenged me, like a deep sense of loss on Mother’s day. What would my daughter have been like? How would I have been as a Mother to a Daughter? What about the 5 before her? Who were they? It’s a tough thing to navigate and I’m still finding my footing.

To those wishing to become Mother’s, to the Mother’s with babies in their hearts or in their arms now too – Be kind to yourself, especially on Mother’s Day. Do whatever you need to do to get through the day. There is no right or wrong way to deal with what you’re going through and there is no time limit on grief. There is 1 in 8 of us that are in this battle. That means there is an army of fertility warriors just like you who feel the same. You are not alone, we are in this together.

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IVF a Pandemic and Me

April 21, 2020

Written by Laura Behnke, Guest Blogger

Don’t worry, if it’s meant to be it will be.

I absolutely hate that comment.  And I have heard it a lot lately.  Ever since I went public with the very true reality that because of a global pandemic I may never be a mother.

If it’s meant to be it will be.

So, does that mean there is a possibility I’m not supposed to have a child?  Because I simply don’t accept that.

However, what I am being forced to accept is that this entire process is now more completely out of my control than ever before.  And we have COVID-19 to thank.

But we are not alone.  Within the last several weeks women all over the country have had their IVF cycles cancelled or postponed.  Many others have had their implantations put on hold. And all of us now share yet another common bond that no one ever wanted.

Not only do we need help to conceive but now that help has been taken away.  Indefinitely.

If all had gone according to plan, I would have begun my first round of IVF on March 17th.  But on March 16th our clinic in New York City halted all new cycles until further notice.  If a woman had already begun her cycle she could continue, but the rest of us were forced into a wait-and-see purgatory.

And we had already been waiting.  Planning for IVF can feel like a full time job and we spent months setting the wheels in motion.  We began our journey in December and have spent the last two and a half months actively preparing for that mid-March start.  Then, just like that, it’s over. The opportunity vanishing into thin air. The plans seemingly all for nothing.

Now, let me be clear, we understand why this has happened.  We’re in the midst of a global pandemic and hospitals need all available resources diverted toward keeping people alive.  We would never want our attempt to begin a life to potentially mean someone else loses theirs.

But while the rational side of me totally gets it, the rest of me is floundering—lost, frightened and angry.  Completely and totally angry.  

I find myself breaking down almost daily.  My attention span is short as I get work done in spurts before my mind wanders and I feel the despair sneak in.  We have absolutely zero control over something that will affect the rest of our lives. And that is terrifying.

As if knowing you have to rely on IVF to get pregnant isn’t stressful and difficult enough.  Now that option isn’t even available.

And this isn’t just about infertility.  Yes, most people turning to IVF have been unable to conceive naturally.  Many have spent years on this infertility roller coaster where the emotional toll is steep.

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Then there are those like us—those who turn to IVF as the only option that gives them a shot at having a healthy baby.  Thankfully genetic testing can be a part of the IVF process, and for us it was the reason we began this journey.

My husband, Marc has an extremely rare genetic condition and a 50% chance of passing it on to a child.  The condition is potentially devastating and could mean a baby would not survive infancy. While there is a 50% chance we could naturally conceive a child that does not have this condition (assuming we do not have other fertility challenges), it’s a risk we aren’t willing to take.

And to make matters even more complicated, I am 40.  And recent blood work has shown my egg reserve may not be all that plentiful.  

So, while the IVF cycles will resume at some point, we can’t help but wonder if it will be too late for us.  Because for every month that goes by my chances of producing enough eggs to make this whole thing work decreases more and more.

Look, we all know the IVF process is a luxury.  Not only because of its steep price tag but also because this amazing and complex medical procedure actually exists.  If it were up to nature, our parental fate would already be sealed.

But this beautiful option does exist.  It is available. It has changed the lives of countless people and their families.  And it could change ours. But only if we are able to access it. Just knowing we may run out of time is heavy and raw and sometimes knocks me off my feet.

Because if we end up never having a child, I want it to be because all of the options did not work.  I do not want it to be because we were never allowed to even try.

And yet, because of a global pandemic I may never be a mother.

I believe we are meant to be parents.

So, for now we wait.

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

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Nourishing Hope

March 30, 2020

Written by Consumer Advocates, Guest Blogger

As closely as we watch our bodies while trying to conceive—from tracking our cycles to charting our temperatures to studying our cervical changes—it’s amazing how many women experiencing infertility are still surprised when they get pregnant. But preparing to be pregnant is actually part of the job of trying to get pregnant. That’s why the medical community recommends both women and men pay close attention to nutrition as they’re trying to conceive.

Some scientific findings on the link between nutrition and fertility might contradict your long-held beliefs about healthy eating. Nutritionists across the board advise us that using low-fat dairy products can help you manage your weight and contribute to heart health. But a recent study indicated that women who are trying to conceive can actually benefit from consuming full-fat dairy products. You may have heard that substituting soy protein for animal protein is also good for the heart. But eating too much soy can lower your partner’s sperm count. Can I get a big yay for ice cream and filet Mignon?

One of the smartest nutritional moves you can make is to start taking prenatal vitamins before you get pregnant. While prenatal vitamins haven’t been proven to increase fertility, they will help ensure the health of your baby once you do conceive.

The best prenatal vitamins combine four key nutrients: folic acid, which is a B vitamin, iron, calcium, and vitamin D. Doctors typically recommend you start taking these vitamins at least a month before becoming pregnant. So if you’re trying to conceive, today is the day to start.

What makes these particular nutrients so special? Let’s take a look at how each contributes to your baby’s development during pregnancy.

Folic acid is essential to your baby’s developing brain, spinal cord, and spine. Studies have shown it reduces the incidence of incurable and usually fatal neural tube defects like anencephaly and spina bifida. You may have heard that you can increase your intake of this nutrient by choosing foods high in folate like broccoli and leafy greens more often. But the synthetic folic acid found in prenatal vitamins is absorbed by the body more effectively than the folate found in whole foods.  

Just as calcium helps keep your teeth and bones strong, it will also strengthen your baby’s.  Calcium also supports the development of a healthy heart and nervous system. Taking calcium has an added benefit for pregnant women. Consuming extra calcium has been demonstrated to prevent hypertension and preeclampsia during pregnancy, two contributors to preterm birth. Since your body diverts calcium from you to your baby, taking extra calcium is also essential to maintain bone health during pregnancy.

During pregnancy, your body creates extra blood (hemoglobin) to nourish and bring oxygen to your baby. It uses iron to do that. Consuming extra iron during pregnancy prevents you from anemic, which can not only make you more fatigued, but also contribute to low birth weight ad pre-term birth. If you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, bear in mind that the iron found in plant-based food isn’t as bio-available as the iron found in meat and fish. So it’s even more important that you supplement your plant-based diet with synthetic iron. 

The most common source of Vitamin D is sunlight. It’s also found in Vitamin D-rich or Vitamin D- fortified foods like salmon, milk, and breakfast cereals. But Vitamin D deficiency is common and especially problematic for pregnant women. Without enough Vitamin D, you’re at higher risk for preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and pre-term birth.

So next time you stop at the pharmacy to pick up a pregnancy test, put some prenatal vitamins in your cart. Why not be prepared for the best?

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We Are Not Incompetent

February 14, 2020

Written by Rebecca Paradis, Guest Blogger

Hi Friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love,

Becca

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Infertility is Bigger than Babies

February 5, 2020

Written by Guest Contributor, Tiffany Johnston

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Conceiving With Love: Increasing Fertility, Healing Shame

January 2, 2020

Written by Denise Wiesner, Guest Blogger

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

In reading her words, I wondered… 

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

How many of us are too ashamed to tell anyone? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Babe In My Heart, Blogs, Uncategorized

Laughter is the Best Medicine

December 17, 2019

Written by Guest Blogger, Jaimie Selwa

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

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

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

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

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

How soon can you tell if you’re pregnant?

How soon is too soon to take a pregnancy test?

When should you take a pregnancy test?

How soon after ovulation can you take a pregnancy test?

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

And then I got my period.

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

And then I got my period again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Creative Ways to Remember Your Angel Baby This Season

December 13, 2019

Written by Alexis Marie Chute, Guest Blogger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Infertility and the Holidays

December 5, 2019

Written by Danisha Keating, Guest Blogger

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

Robert Bell Photography – www.rbellphotography.com

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

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

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

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

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

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