Featured

PCOS Pity Party: Coming to terms with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

If you’re reading this, it means I’m finally feeling comfortable enough to share my struggle with the world.  That’s not an easy feat for someone like me, who prides themselves on keeping things close.  But the thing I find most frustrating about what I’m going through right now, is that I can’t find anyone that shares in my pain.

I’ve found blogs posted by other women and some of them are wonderfully uplifting.  I’m not in that place yet.  I’m not going to “Let go and let God”.  I don’t know that I believe God exists.  And if he/she does, why would so many deserving people have such a problem building a family and so many shitty parents seem to have no problem?  The news is constantly littered with stories of child abuse and neglect.  Why do those parents get rewarded with one of the most beautiful gifts in life, one that they clearly take for granted?  It’s not fair and that fucking sucks.

The point of this blog is to share the journey as my husband and I navigate through IUI and IVF in an attempt to start a family together.  I hope you’re able to take something away from my story; whether it hits home or close to it, I hope that it will provide insight into what some couples go through to build their happily ever after.

It Begins…..Again

We hit the ground running today.  Ready or not, the time has arrived.

Our first ultrasound took place this morning.  My endometrial lining is right where they want it, all of my cysts are under control, my ovaries look good.  I was instructed to go ahead with my first dose of hormones.  We should be excited, right?  Well, we are, except for one thing:  We’ve been here before.

It feels like we’re walking an emotional tightrope this time around.  We get good news and feel on top of the world.  But then we remember we’ve heard this good news before and didn’t fall pregnant, which brings us right back down to earth.  Naturally we want to stay optimistic, but we can’t get ahead of ourselves.  If our cycles had an underlying theme, this one’s would be “cautiously optimistic”.

My focus this time will be a little bit different than it was during our last go around.  Last time I was very focused on healthy eating, exercise and all that jazz.  While I still plan on keeping a healthy lifestyle, this time around I’m going to be laser-focused on my attitude and stress levels.  My emotions have been a veritable smorgasbord, much, I’m sure, to Lee’s dismay.  Emotions have been heightened for the last few months as I’ve tried to come to terms with our last cycle as well as attempting to mentally prepare for this one.  The stress and anger have been a little too much at times.  And I’m letting things that normally shouldn’t bother me throw me completely off-kilter.  I really need to focus on not letting the minutiae of every day life get to me as much as it has the last few months.  Try as I might, I can’t control everything.  I can only control how I react.  And my reactions need to chill out a bit.

The good news is, it’s almost impossible to be upset in Minneapolis in late spring.  Spring started off like an evil joke this year, but we’re finally getting the mid 70s and sunny days that keep most of us Minnesotans in the bold North.  It’s also a short week for me!  I’m two weeks from my 2-year anniversary at my job and have a few vacation days to use or lose.  I’m choosing to enjoy a 5-day weekend this week.  And I’m trying to ensure I make enough time this week to do the things I enjoy.  I have 3 books on loan from my local library, and my goal is to finish at least one this weekend.  Other plans include drinking tea on my deck, planting some flowers and enjoying the beauty of the season.  I’ll also probably spend an exorbitant amount of time with my husband.  Did I mention how much I enjoy his company?  I feel like I might have casually mentioned it once or twice on this blog.  A long weekend with my main squeeze sounds like the perfect way to spend a holiday.

I have no doubt the second cycle will seem to go much faster than the first one.  We’re excited and scared, hopeful and nervous for the outcome.  The time has arrived and now we’ve got to put our game faces on and get ready for a whirlwind of a month.

28427089_165099274284399_4132357489121296384_n

 

 

Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is always a funny day for those of us that struggle with infertility.  If you dare to go on any form of social media, you will no doubt see pictures of mothers with their children and sappy, albeit beautifully written posts from sons and daughters touting the super women they are lucky enough to call mom.  And while you’re so incredibly happy for the outpouring of love that every mother is receiving, there’s still a part of your heart that breaks if you’re not a mom but want to be.

So you know what?  I might not be the mother of another human, but I’m most definitely the mother of three amazing animals.  This is my mother’s day tribute to them.

Omar

Omar is an 11 year-old Rat Terrier.  I got Omar when he was just an adorable little 6-week old puppy; practically small enough to fit in the palm of your hand.

21150456_10110486361723980_539432224115071359_n

Omar is an incredibly well-behaved little dude.  He never wants to be too far away from Mom and Dad and prefers when both Lee and I are home together.  If one of us is missing from the homestead, it’s safe to say that Omar will be laying in our bedroom, completely morose until we return.

Omar believes that he should be the center of our universe.  He doesn’t appreciate when we pay too much attention to the cats, and he especially doesn’t like it when Lee and I pay too much attention to each other.  In his mind, his spot on the couch, in bed, and in life should always be right between us.

Omar loves car rides, human food, wearing clothes, and an early bedtime.  Yet, for as excited as he gets to go to bed at a decent hour, he still has so much life and playfulness in him.  He especially loves to put on a show whenever we have friends over.  He parades around with his squeaky toys, daring our guests to play tug of war.  He’ll drop the toy at their feet, almost as if he’s offering a welcome present, only to snatch it back up and growl playfully as they try to wrench it from his mouth.

Omar has forever spoiled me as a dog mom.  The love that he puts forth is so pure, so unconditional.  I’m most definitely a better person for having been his mom.

 

Gladys

I refer to Gladys as my “angel princess”.  Named after my paternal grandmother because of her beautiful green eyes, Gladys is extremely cuddly and affectionate girl.  She expects pets and head scratches first thing when you walk in the door, and she expects a lot of them.  So much so, that if you even think about walking away from the pets before she’s had enough, you can expect that she will try to hook your hand with her paw to get your attention.  Don’t be surprised if she also tries to bite you to get her point across.  The good news, however, is that half of her teeth were removed last year due to a mouth infection, so when she bites, you won’t feel a thing.  If she really wants to get her point across, she’ll just climb right on top of you and make herself comfortable.

Gladys enjoys pets, rubber bands, playing with her mouse toys, waking us up with meows in the middle of the night to let us know she’s playing with her mouse toys, dry food and me.  She will accept affection from her father, but she’s a mama’s girl through and through.  Gladys’ dislikes include playing with our other cat, Roger, and when any of the neighbor cats walk through our yard.  Gladys spends many nights sleeping on my pillow, right above my head as if she’s my very own cat hat.

11873770_10106565213436580_763627945918657706_n

I’ve said before, in this blog and in daily conversation, but I’ll say it again:  Gladys might very well be the best thing that’s ever happened to me.  Gladys greets me at the door every day when I get home from work, ready for affection.  Whenever I’m having a bad day, Gladys is there to make me feel better with cuddles and nuzzles.  Cats can often be such finicky creatures, but I really hit the jackpot with this one.

Roger

How do I explain Roger?  He’s just a super chill little dude.  Actually, he’s not all that little.  The fact that he helps himself to Omar’s food and attempts to steal food from Lee and I has given him a little bit of a pooch.  He’s not fat per sé, but the vet has advised not to let him gain any more weight.

Roger came to us when he was 8 weeks old.  He and Gladys took to each other initially, because he was an adorable helpless little kitten who needed a mom.  However, he soon grew out of his cuddly phase and has been rocking the tormenting little brother phase for the last 5 and a half years.

241829_10102170393960040_1898044021_o293790_10102200203950580_1362300005_n

Roger lives for food and naps.  He also enjoys making space for himself in places where he doesn’t quite fit.  He’s the most malleable cat I’ve ever met.  You can pick him up, move him around, make him dance, whatever.  He’s never bothered.  And while he’s just as affectionate as Gladys, he’s not nearly as needy.  Mostly he just wants a comfortable place to take one of his 500 daily naps.

He’s a creature of habit, following us to bed every night and staying with us straight through until morning.  He takes turns sleeping between my legs and Lee’s but he’s definitely a “bros before hos” kind of cat.  Most nights, Roger can be found “bro-ing” out with his dad and watching TV.

15965499_10108965823310150_4970563051372117808_n

As I write this blog post, my heart is filled with such pride.  While I hope our family isn’t done growing, I do have to say we are a pretty amazing little family of  5.  These 3 (and Lee) are my absolute world.  I’m so thankful to be their mom.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you amazing women out there.  Whether you’re a Grandma, Mom, Mother-in-Law, Mother-to-Be, Cat Mom, Dog Mom, Aunt, Sister, or just one hell of a woman, you deserve to be celebrated for all you bring to the table.

8c97f396734c5a3ab2a8dae5be519b1d.jpg

 

After my last breakdown, I received the following message from a friend, one who knows the struggle all too well.  I’ve been ruminating on her message for the last few weeks, and about what her kind words have meant to me.  It is so beautifully written, that I felt I had to share.

Even though my journey ended with 3 beautiful gifts from God – it doesn’t mean, for one second, that my heart isn’t with you.

I know your pain.  Your anger.  Your frustration.  Your exhaustion.  Your hope.  Your prayers.  Your tears.  Your anxiety.  Your desperation.  I know all of it.  The financial struggle, the energy to keep going after so many disappointments.  The feeling of why her?

My heart is with you.  And while our journeys may be different – please know I pray for yours everyday.  Every single day.  Every time I look at my gifts from God.  Every time they make a mess or won’t sleep.  Each time they make me want to hide in the closet with a back of Reese’s.  I stop – and pray for you.  You yearn for the “bad toddler” days.  I know you do.  Because I yearned for them.  For years.

So I am here to tell you are justified in EVERY emotion you feel.  Except loneliness.  Please, please promise me you’ll keep reaching out – to me, to a support group, to anyone who will listen.  If a baby is the desire of your heart, then you have to walk this road – but you don’t have to walk it alone.  And I promise you – I promise with every fiber of my being – it’s all worth it.  Every last bit.

Her message got me thinking, specifically about friendship.  I’ve tried to stay off the grid the last few weeks, as I deal with my anxiety over the impending cycle.  Yet, there have been a small handful of people who refuse to let me go it alone, despite how much I’ve tried to evade all human contact.   And this post is, in small part, a way to thank them for their kindness and friendship, as I go through the hardest thing I’ve ever endured in my life for a second time.

To my best friend, my ride or die, my PIC.  Who has refused to let me go through any of this alone.  Who has called after appointments, shot me up with fertility drugs, held my hand and wiped my tears.  Who oozes enough positivity for the both of us, so on the days when I feel particularly hopeless and self-deprecating, I know she’ll carry me through until I can stand on my own two feet again.  Who understands that sometimes I just need to be alone and never takes it personally, but instead, keeps calling, texting and sending me funny memes just to let me know she’s thinking of me.

To the girls in my book club, who always make a point to ask how we’re doing every time I see them.  They make me feel comfortable with talking about where we’re at and how I feel.  And after my last breakdown, a card and beautiful little plant showed up on our doorstep.  It was such a nice little pick-me-up and both Lee and I appreciated the thought and kind words.

To the friends, going all the way back to elementary school all the way up through college and beyond, that have reached out and sent messages filled with kind thoughts from all across the country.

To the friend who listened to me vent as we walked 3 miles around the lake and then took me out for sushi afterward.

To the friend who came over so we could co-celebrate our April birthdays with cake that we wouldn’t have to share with anyone else.  The same friend, who, every time I see her, asks what she can do to support me.

The friend who’s going through enough of her own personal issues right now, but still sends the occasional text telling me that we’re on her mind  and my personal favorite, that she “believes in my uterus”.

To my two coworkers (friends, really) who ask how I’m doing and give me a safe space to be vulnerable if the need hits me mid-workday.

I can’t even begin to describe what each and every one of these kindnesses has meant to me in the last few weeks.  Ever since I went public with our struggle,  every now and then, I find myself wondering if being so public and vocal about our infertility was the right thing to do.  It seems to make some people uncomfortable.  But I hope that whoever is out there reading this blog, that you have managed to find something to take away from it.  Whether you’ve recognized the struggle because you’re currently going through it, or perhaps, you’ve watched a loved one endure the same pain.  If anything I’ve shared over the last year has made a difference to you, then I’ve been successful.

To those that have reached out and been supportive, especially those that have helped us gear up for our second round, I am forever grateful.  I might not have the biggest support system, but I’m pretty sure I’ve got the best one.

true-friends-are-those-rare-people-who-come-to-find-6400187

Parade Raining

Pardon me, while I fall off the face of the earth for a while.

Today has been a stressful day and it’s only half over.  I sit at my desk trying to focus on work, when what I really want to do is eat and drink my feelings.  Or escape this reality for a little while.  Anything to take my mind off the next week.

Our IVF down payment is due next Tuesday.  We are prepared for this.  We owe $11,735 up front to cover the retrieval and transplant.  All other appointments will be billed separately with the final payment due 30 days after all is said and done.  I looked back at how much those appointments cost last year and it ended up being about $2200.  Not cheap, but we’ve got some time to save and pay those off.  I’m not worried about that at all.  After all, I work in finance, so money is kind of my thing.

What we were not prepared for, however, was the ASTRONOMICAL cost for the fertility drugs,  Remember, if you will, that when we went through this last year, I had already met my medical deductible due to my gallbladder surgery.  When we ordered our medications, I only had to pay for one drug, due to my insurance not covering that particular one.  Our drug treatments costs a whopping $450.  I knew we were lucky; I had done some research on how much fertility drugs would cost and ballpark was $3-5k.  Staggering, right?  Well, let me tell you, that even if you’ve done your research and you feel like you’re mentally prepared to handle the cost of these drugs, you’re not ACTUALLY prepared to handle the final total.  This round of medications?  $4,612.86.  To my knowledge, that doesn’t include refills on any of the medications.  Just let that sink in for a second.

I’ve been trying so hard to work on my attitude this last week.  Just yesterday, I volunteered at a place called Open Arms in Minneapolis.  Open Arms is a non-profit organization that delivers free healthy, nutritious meals to people with life-threatening illnesses in the Twin Cities.  As I worked alongside my co-workers, I was struck by how lucky I am.  I have my health, my husband, a roof over my head.  It could be a lot worse.  Then I get hit with this fertility medication total and I’m pissed off at the world again.  It shouldn’t be this hard.  It shouldn’t cost this much.  Terrible people have kids everyday and yet, all my husband and I want is to have one (seriously, we’ll settle for just one!) child of our own and the universe says “fuck you.”  You want this to happen?  Well, we’re going to make you work really fucking hard for it, and we’re not guaranteeing shit.

We’ve got the love.  We’ve got the desire.  We’ve got the money.  We’ve got the space.  We’ve got everything we need to welcome a child into this world. Apparently, that just isn’t enough.

So excuse me, while I ponder the unfairness of it all.  Because, right now, I’ve had about enough of this bullshit.

download

It’s All Happening

It’s been a weird week.  I think most Minnesotans would agree.  It’s the middle of April and we just got hit with a two-day snowstorm that left over a foot of snow in the Twin Cities area.  Spring has been an elusive slag, with temperatures averaging about 15 degrees below normal.  While I’m sure these meteorological issues aren’t the sole reason for the depression that barreled at me this week, I’m sure it didn’t help matters.

It started with insomnia on Sunday night.  For whatever reason, insomnia is a common side effect with PCOS.  There’s no real evidence that I’ve found to explain why it happens, but insomnia seems to occur frequently with my fellow cysters. For me, there’s no telling how many consecutive nights I’ll be subjected to sleeplessness.  Sometimes, it’s just a night, sometimes it can last up to a week or more.  Unfortunately, this time around, it lasted for a solid 6 days.  Each night, I’d wake up at roughly the same time, and turn on the TV, tossing and turning, hoping the voices would lull me back into a fruitful REM cycle.  Yet each morning, I would get out of bed more delirious than the day before.  By Thursday, I was so exhausted that everything took too much effort.  I went radio silent, refusing to answer text messages or phone calls.  When Lee got home, I told him I was sorry, and that I wasn’t mad at him, but I needed him not to talk to me.  Lee was a trooper, and just let me be.  He sat on the opposite couch all evening being silent, his presence so very appreciated.

By the weekend, I started to recover.  I was finally able to fall asleep and stay asleep Friday night.  I still wasn’t ready to be too social, but I slowly felt like I was becoming myself again.  The blizzard was almost a blessing in disguise, really.  I often spread myself too thin on weekends and I didn’t have the opportunity to do that.  The blizzard almost kind of saved me from myself this weekend.  I was able to lay around, be lazy and really focus on listening to my body and what it needed.  My amazing husband took care of all of the shoveling and laundry, and even made a mid-snowstorm grocery run, so that we’d have snacks on hand for the impending snowpocalypse.  By Sunday, I felt as though I was finally back to my old self.  And just in time:  We have a big week ahead of us.

We didn’t get the good news we were hoping for with Lee’s sperm sample.  We didn’t get bad news, per sé, but it wasn’t the news we were hoping for.  Lee’s sample has not improved.  It’s frustrating for both of us, but especially for him.  I see him trying everything he can think of to improve his health and lifestyle.  He had such a good feeling about this analysis, but unfortunately, it just wasn’t great.  Oh well.  I told him we’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing.  No reason to derail just yet.

I have another fun procedure on the docket today of which, I’m sure you’ll all be extremely jealous.  Have you ever heard of uterine scoring?  Me neither.  But it’s a procedure that Dr. Corfman suggested.  There isn’t a lot of evidence to support uterine scoring, but he said that theoretically, it makes a lot of sense.  It’s where they go in and actually scrape a small portion of the uterus to help with implantation of the embryos when they are placed in the uterus during in vitro.  I’ve been struggling with whether or not to agree to this procedure for the last month or so.  It’s like I have the proverbial angel and devil sitting on my shoulders.  The doom and gloom version of me wants nothing to do with this procedure.  After all, it seems that I’d be undergoing this procedure based on hypotheticals.  The procedure is only going to work IF we get viable embryos.  Last time none of our embryos ended up being viable, so why would this time be any different?  However, the positive version of me is screaming at the doom and gloom through all of this.  Just because we didn’t have any last time doesn’t mean we won’t this time.  There’s no harm in trying, right?  It’s not that expensive and Dr. Corfman thinks it might help, so shut the fuck up, Doom and Gloom Katherine, and give it a shot.

After that, Lee and I have to sit down to go over our medication plan with the IVF coordinator.  That will take place over the phone, so I will have time to go home after the procedure, change in to comfy pants and make a heating pad my bitch before we dial in.  As of right now, our IVF plan is on track, with the my next retrieval estimated to take place at the beginning of June.  While it’s very surreal that this is all happening again, I anticipate that it will sneak up on us yet again, almost as if out of nowhere.  Spring weather does appear to finally be on the horizon and I’m hopeful that it will bring with it, the desire and motivation I have been lacking this time around.

brite-lite-tribe-new-neon-it-s-all-happening-18808923075_1024x1024

Diving In

My attitude’s gotten a little bit better over the course of the last week, if I do say so myself.  Putting our decision to try again out in to the universe made it real.  Now that it’s out there, I’m putting my game face on.  And not a moment too soon.

I had my first blood test last week.  My estrogen and FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) levels came back normal, which is good.  My AMH level came back high, which is what I was hoping for.  AMH, or Anti-Mullerian Hormone, measures a woman’s ovarian reserve.  A normal AMH level ranges from 1.5-4.0.  My AMH level is 9.0.  In layman’s terms; your girl has a lot of eggs left to be harvested.

Women with PCOS often have high AMH levels, which actually bodes well for IVF.  While the AMH level can’t predict how many of my eggs will be considered normal before harvesting, it does generally correlate with the number of eggs that will be retrieved.  And of course, we all now that the more eggs retrieved, the better the chances of harvesting normal eggs.  I’m considering that a win.

It’s important for us to hear these tidbits of good news, because time isn’t exactly on our side right now.  Lee is about 6 months away from turning 42.  Our doctor generally doesn’t use the sperm of men over 42, as it is believed there is a significant jump in children developing autism with older parents.  Our doctor has made exceptions to this rule, but we can’t count on that.

I’m also now on the wrong side of my mid-30s.  As women age, so do their eggs.  Eggs that were once considered perfectly healthy, start to develop abnormalities.  The number of abnormal eggs a woman has in her ovaries jumps to roughly 40-60% around the age of 35.  That number will go up roughly 20% in the next year or two.  The good news, is that with my AMH level being what it is, I’m probably closer to the 40% abnormal number.  But I won’t be for long.

After we received the good news about my blood tests, it was time for my Sonohysterogram.  It’s a rather uncomfortable procedure, so I was thankful that Lee not only drove me to the appointment, but treated me to breakfast afterward.  It’s the least he could do, really.

**Pro – Tip:  When your wife is being subjected to speculums and ultrasounds, do yourself a favor and buy her some pancakes.  It’ll make her considerably less crabby (at you)  when she’s dealing with the aftermath of the procedure.**

We received more good news at the Sono.  My uterus is still “nice & healthy”.  We’ve officially received the green light to proceed with IVF.

Up next is Lee’s semen analysis.  We’ll be waiting (im)patiently for the results.  Lee’s already got a sample on ice, but we’ve told the lab that if Lee’s next sample looks better than the one he currently has frozen, we would like to replace them.  Even though they rarely use the frozen sample for IVF, it will still be nice to have a back up (hopefully better) sample, should an issue arise.  You know, like Lee turning 42.

So that’s where we’re at.  It doesn’t quite feel real yet, but it’s getting there.  I’ve been travelling a lot for work later (which I’ll cover in another post), but I’m hoping that once I’m done with this assignment that I’ll be able to get back home and truly focus on the things that will make me feel good as we head into this time of uncertainty.  Until then, I’m trying to keep my head up and my eye on the prize.

CAT EATS CAKE BORED PANDA ANIMALS
Cake = PRIZE.

 

Déjà Vu

Well, the day that I have not so secretly been dreading has finally arrived.  The process officially starts again tomorrow.  How am I handling it?  I’m a little fucked up about it.   I’m sure you just read that and thought ‘why on earth would you put yourself through it again?’  Because I’m clearly a goddamn masochist.

Alright, enough negativity.  I’m doing okay.  Not great, but okay.  As I explained to Lee this morning,  I’m having a really hard time wrapping my head around going through this again.  No woman in her right mind would choose to go through IVF for the hell of it.  It’s tedious and emotional and exhausting and scary.  Yet, here we are again.

After my tearful confession, Lee asked if I want to do this again.  And after looking into his eyes and seeing the emotion that rarely ever escapes him, and the hint of fear that I might say no, I told him of course.  Of course we’ll do it again.  It’s going to suck, but I’ll manage.  I’ve endured far more painful and emotionally taxing situations than IVF and came out relatively unscathed.  I’m sure this will be no different.

I go in for blood work tomorrow to check my hormone levels.  On Friday, I have to undergo another Sonohysterogram, as the results of those tests expire after 6 months. A sono is a procedure in which fluid is injected into the uterus in order to get a more detailed view than a normal ultrasound would show.  The results of my last sono were great; I had a “beautifully healthy uterus”; a compliment that would sound serial killer creepy from anyone other than a reproductive endocrinologist.

Then, the birth control pills start-up again, which sounds counter-productive, I know.  But, even with some of the healthy lifestyle changes I’ve made over the last year, the timing of my period is still slightly irregular – about every 34 days.  And frankly, they need my body to be on a particular cycle, so I’m just going to go with it.  The actual retrieval and transfer will be sometime in late May or early June, I believe.  We’ll know more once we receive the calendar from MCRH later this week.

For his part, Lee has to give another sperm sample.  He’s currently got one on ice, but it’s a pretty bad sample, so we’ve given MCRH the instruction that if the analysis of this sample comes back better than the previous one, we’d like to do the old switch-a-roo (something that you probably shouldn’t joke about when talking about sperm samples).  We’re hoping for some considerable improvement.  Lee’s coming up on one year smoke free, rarely drinks and has worked on eating cleaner.  Will any of this make a difference?  We have no idea.  But at least we can say we tried.

So that’s where it stands.  I wish I could say I was excited and hopeful, but I’m not. Not yet, anyway.  I’m trying to get there, but that might take a little more time.

Quotefancy-221256-3840x2160.jpg

 

 

 

 

Valentine’s Day

Well, it’s Valentine’s Day, which means……

Absolutely nothing.

If you’re one of those people who gets really excited about this holiday and looks forward to spending the day showering your loved ones with chocolate and accolades, that’s wonderful!  Back in the day, in my younger years, I was exactly like you.  As I’ve gotten older (and maybe wiser?) I put much less stock in the Hallmark holiday.  Because if I’ve realized anything over the course of the last few years, it’s this:  Love is hard.

Not always, of course.  When life is going well, it can be so easy to love!  It’s the times of adversity that are the problem.  When life gives you lemons, or worse yet, drops an entire lemon tree on your head, that’s when love can get tough.

Lee and I have been together almost 8 years now.  The first 4 and half (the dating years) were smooth sailing.  The last 3 and a half, well, at times, it’s been a bit of an uphill battle.  I think back to our wedding day, and of the vows we took,  how we both promised to love and support each other in these times of adversity.   It seemed so easy!  Of course I will continue to love you when things get tough!  How could I not?

Well, you know what?  It’s just not that simple.  I wish it were.  As Lee and I have struggled to conceive, I’ve heard from a lot of other couples that were faced with tough times.  Some were able to rebound, and some were not.  Does that mean they loved each other any less than the couples that were able to work it out?  Probably not.  But sometimes the struggles just become too much to bear.

As I’ve struggled to come to terms with some of the cards we’ve been dealt, it’s made it really easy to want to give up.  Not because I don’t love my husband; I’ve never loved anyone or anything as much as I love him (except for maybe my cat, Gladys, but Lee knows this).  It’s just because when times get tough, all I want to do is shut people out.  I’ll dream of running away and disappearing off the face of the earth.  It’s how I’ve always been, and frankly, it’s a hard habit to break.  Depression is a sonuvabitch, man.

Luckily for me, this is where Lee’s stubbornness comes in to play.  He refuses to give up on me.  He refuses to allow me the easy way out.  He thinks I’m perfect.  Well, maybe not perfect, but he appreciates my imperfections, because to him, I’m his perfect person.  And he’s most definitely mine.  And knowing that he sees so much good in me has allowed me to see some of it in myself.

We’ll spend our Valentine’s Day doing absolutely nothing special.  We’ll go to the gym, probably grab something quick and easy for dinner on the way home and be in our pajamas by 7.  But the fact that I’m spending another day with my one and only (my lobster, if you will), well, that is pretty fucking special.

So Happy Valentine’s Day to all those celebrating today.  Tell your loved ones how much you love them, not just today, but everyday.  And make sure to take some time to do something nice for yourself.  Take some sage advice from the illustrious Ru Paul, because:

mp,550x550,matte,ffffff,t.3u2

 

New Year, New Decisions

We’re 5 weeks in to 2018, and while I don’t make resolutions, per se, I do believe in assessing areas of “opportunity” within my life.  What am I doing well?  What can I be doing better?  How can my life improve?

I’ve had some time to reflect over the last few weeks and determine how I want my 2018 to look.  And while the majority of my resolve is focused on my career and my health, we do have a gigantic elephant in the room that needs to be dealt with.  Lee and I need to figure out what our course of action will be if we want to try, yet again, to start a family.

I’ll be honest; I’ve had a lot of doubts.  Until you’ve been though infertility, you have no idea how draining it is.  Do I really want to go though that again?  4 years of trying, 4 failed IUIs and now a failed IVF cycle.  Am I a masochist?  Not only that, our Europe trip also made me realize how much I love the freedom of being able to travel.  Lee and I currently have the resources to travel to Europe every year if we want. I love that freedom.  And I’m not quite sure I’m ready to say goodbye to that lifestyle yet.

I’m also concerned about Lee.  On our first IVF attempt, I was convinced that I was the problem.  I busted my ass to get in shape and become the happiest and healthiest version of myself.  I did it because I wanted to make sure that if our IVF attempt failed, that I would have no regrets.  And I didn’t.  But after all was said and done, we found out that I wasn’t the problem.  Will Lee be able to put forth as much effort as I did?

And finally, it’s going to take a lot to get back into the mindset of trying IVF again.  The hormones, the shots, the procedures; they’re physically and emotionally taxing.  And life is so boring during the process.  We’re bound to our schedule.  Sure, we can make plans, but we need to be home at the same time every night to take a shot.  And we can’t even think about making weekend plans, because chances are, we’re going to have at least one ultrasound.  Am I ready to upend my life again?

All of these items were up for discussion when Lee and I sat down to talk about the new year.  After some back and forth regarding our (read: my) reservations, we came to a decision.  Lee and I are going to try again.

The plan for now, is to try again in May.  That should give us a few months to work on our meal and fitness routines and should (hopefully) give me enough time to wrap my head around the particulars of another cycle.

It’s not going to be easy, in fact, this time around I anticipate it will be much harder.  The stakes seem higher, somehow, and I’m not sure why.  They just do.  But I find solace in the fact that I’ve got a small but powerful support system next to me cheering me on the whole way.

47581

 

Christmas in Europe Part 3: The Weihnachtmarkts

We left London on Sunday evening to head to Reading, where our friends Charlie & Gareth live.  We were leaving for Germany on Tuesday evening which gave us a day and a half to relax and do nothing.  Except that Gareth had a little surprise for us.  He was already on Christmas Break and as such, was taking us to Winchester to check out their Christmas market.  He’d never been and he’d heard it was one of the best in the state.  Lee and I had never been to Winchester, so it seemed like a no-brainer to check it out.

Winchester was absolutely beautiful.  And old.  You see, Winchester has been an inhabited town since about 150 BC and was the capital of England during the reign of King Alfred (871-899 AD), so yeah.  It’s ancient.  We stayed mainly in the city center, which contained a beautiful cathedral and tons of shops.

 

 

Winchester’s Christmas market was nice enough, but Gareth was adamant that it didn’t compare to what were going to experience in Cologne.  I was glad to hear this, because so far, I hadn’t been all that impressed.  Every market we had been to in England was nice, but not overwhelmingly exciting.

Tuesday we packed our bags, headed back to Heathrow and made our way to Düsseldorf.  The plan was to spend a night in Dusseldorf and then make our way to Cologne on Wednesday.  When we got to Dusseldorf, we quickly checked into our hotel and made our way to the “altstadt”, or old town, to check out our first real Christmas market.  Unfortunately,  by the time we made it to the city center, they were closing up for the night.  We walked around a bit to figure out which markets to hit up the next day before heading to the hotel for the night.

 

 

After a somewhat slow start that morning (too much Prosecco and cribbage the night before) we made our way back to the altstadt and Lee and I finally got to experience our first authentic Weihnachtmarkt.

Oh.  My.  God, you guys.  If you ever have the opportunity to go to Germany during the Christmas season, DO IT.  Everything, from the atmosphere, to the drinks to the food, is beyond amazing.  I got to try my very first glühwein, which is a hot mulled wine, available in both red and white varieties, and Lee got his fill of hot chocolate with both Bailey’s and amaretto.file1-2

We spent about half the day walking through Düsseldorf before making our way to the train station to head to Cologne.  Lee and I were pretty jazzed about the markets we had experienced in Düsseldorf, however, Charlie & Gareth continued to assured once again, that they didn’t hold a torch to Cologne.

They weren’t lying.  As our train slid into the Cologne train station, we saw a beautifully gothic, almost foreboding cathedral in the distance.  It was absolutely breathtaking.  We  made our way to the hotel, dropped our things and went to explore the city.

As luck would have it, there was a Christmas market about 50 feet from the hotel entrance, so we didn’t have to go far to find some Christmas cheer.  I was parched after a 45 minute train ride, so our first stop was at the market bar so we could get another glass of that delicious mulled wine.  Once we’d had a look around we proceeded to the next market.

One of the great things about the Cologne Christmas markets is their proximity to each other.  You don’t typically have to walk more than 5-10 minutes before finding another one.  Cologne had a total of 9 markets set up when we were there, and I believe we made it to 8.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Our evening was spent trying a bunch of new and exciting foods and drinking a lot of mulled wine and beer.  The markets close around 10, which meant that everyone made their way to the nearest bars to keep the festivities going.  We had a couple more drinks before making our way back to the hotel.  (We had a VERY spirited game of Cribbage that needed finishing)  A couple more glasses of wine and beer later, Gareth and I were still losing at Cribbage but less inclined to care.

Thursday morning, Gareth & Charlie walked us down to the Cologne lock bridge.  Like it’s Paris counterpart, the lock bridge is a place where couples place a lock with their names and anniversary date on the bridge.  The couple breaks the key off in the lock before making a wish and throwing the key into the Rhine.  Charlie and Gareth immortalized their wedding date on their last trip to Cologne and it didn’t take much convincing for Lee and I to decide to immortalize ours as well.  We even found a spot right next to Charlie and Gareth’s lock so we’ll always have a place next to each other.  Best friends for life!

 

The rest of the day was spent hitting up Christmas Market after Christmas market and stopping for glühwein whenever we got cold.  Charlie and Gareth made reservations for us at their favorite Cologne restaurant that evening, an Alpine-themed restaurant complete with servers donning lederhosen and boots of beers.  I chose to try Wienerschnitzel that evening and made lots of Tenacious D references to people eating my fucking schnitzel that apparently only I found funny.  Whatever.  I stand by my jokes.

Friday morning we visited the markets one last time, in order to buy all of the items we had been scoping out since we arrived before making our way back to the train station.  It was a bittersweet day, as reality sunk in that we would be heading back to the US the next day.  Our Christmas vacation was nearly over and we would have to return to the real world again.  A return to the real world meant in-depth conversations and tough decisions were going to be headed our way.  We promised each other that this wouldn’t be the last time we came to Europe to experience Christmas.  If anything, this was just the beginning.