One Month Gone

It’s been a little over a month since we found out our IVF cycle didn’t work.  What a lonely month it’s been.

Our phones have been oddly silent since we found out.  Sure, there were the initial “I’m so sorry” and “we should get together soon” sentiments.  But those stopped a few days after we went public and we’ve been twiddling our thumbs ever since.  If it hadn’t been for both my best friend Erin and my sister being the driving forces behind our social lives these last few weeks, the loneliness of the last month would have been downright unbearable.

This post is not meant to shame anyone who hasn’t reached out over the last few weeks, but is merely to let you know how these last few weeks have been for us.  It seems that the most common reasons we’re hearing for radio silence are because people don’t know what to say.  Or they’re waiting for us to bring it up.  Or they figure we’ll reach out to them when we’re ready.  Whether people realize it or not, it’s those viewpoints that help to contribute to the shame we’ve been trying to avoid by making our story public.  The idea behind going public with our struggle was to normalize infertility.  We’ve been so open and honest about what we’re feeling and thinking in an effort to make people comfortable with the subject.  And yet, now that it didn’t work, it seems no one wants to talk to us.  While I’m sure it’s no one’s direct intention to make us feel this way, it feels like everything we went through doesn’t matter.  Our feelings since we found out don’t matter.  We don’t matter.

Imagine if you lost a loved one and no one was there to help you get through your grief.  Sure, you have a lot of  initial support after it happens and you feel surrounded by love in the days leading up to the funeral.  However, once the memorial service ends, most of those that helped you mourn your loss get back into the swing of daily life while you’re left trying to figure out how to live now that a piece of your heart is gone.    That’s how it feels right now.  We had so much support leading up to the day we found out the results.  After that, not so much.  While the grief of a failed IVF cycle is not the same as losing a living, breathing member of your family, it’s similar.

We went through a procedure that has the highest rate of return on achieving a successful pregnancy and it failed.  We had our dreams of having a child in 2018 all but destroyed.   Yes, we can try again, but we also have to entertain the idea that it just may never happen for us.  When you lose a loved one, most people don’t necessarily question what you could have done to keep them alive.  Yes, there are oftentimes things you wish you would have done differently, but you aren’t the reason they died.  In a situation like mine however,  I’m questioning everything.  Did we do everything right?  Could we have done more? Maybe if we would have been just a little bit skinnier or a little bit healthier.   Maybe if I would have been more concerned about eating organically or cut out coffee just a little bit sooner, the outcome would have been different.  All the shoulda woulda couldas are a little bit overwhelming at times.

If I end up being the only person you know that has gone through IVF and a subsequent failure, then I consider both you and your friends incredibly lucky.  It’s a pretty shitty thing to have to go through and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.  But, if by some twist of fate, you have to watch someone else go through the pain and suffering of infertility, please remember this post, swallow your uncertainty and reach out.  It might seem like such a small gesture to you, but I can guarantee it will mean the world to them.

 

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The Follow-Up

We had a follow-up appointment with our doctor yesterday to discuss what, if anything, they noticed that would have contributed to an unsuccessful cycle.  I’m putting it quite mildly when I say I didn’t want to go.

It’s hard to believe that our cycle ended a little over two weeks ago.  It seems like so much longer than that.  The bruises, both physical and emotional, have faded and we’ve been so busy with getting back into the regular swing of things, that our IVF attempt almost seems like a dream; the kind of dream, or in this case, nightmare, that immediately fades from your memory the minute you wake up.  I wasn’t looking to relive that nightmare.

I know this sounds a little cliché, but I’m so glad we went.  We now have some answers and can use them to determine our next move.

First, the good news.

I responded incredibly well to the stimulation and our doctor said that it was obvious based on our testing, that we were taking the medications as prescribed.  It seems like that should be a no-brainer, right?  Dr. Corfman said we would be shocked to know how many couples do not.  My endometrial lining was also right where it needed to be; ready for implantation.  My uterus was healthy, my fallopian tubes clear.  And my eggs were great.

Women are born with all of their eggs.  Sounds crazy, but it’s true.   And naturally, as we age, so do the eggs.  As the eggs age and are introduced to illness and toxins, they become abnormal.  For a woman my age, it’s expected that 40-60% of my eggs are now abnormal.  There are a lot of other factors that go into egg abnormalities, but it’s not uncommon that when couples suffer from infertility, it’s because of egg abnormalities.  That was not the case with us.

At our retrieval, they extracted 25 eggs.

20 were mature enough to be used for IVF.

19 were considered healthy enough to fertilize.

12 fertilized normally.

Those are incredibly good numbers.   This means my eggs are on the higher quality end of my age bracket.  I was able to breathe a huge sigh of relief.

However, as Dr. Corfman stated, that means the sperm are the problem.  Yes, Lee’s sperm are a little lazy.  Or as Lee put it, the good ones are like gingers with blue eyes; incredibly rare.

This might sound odd, but to me, this is great news.  It’s so much harder to work with bad eggs than it is to work with a lower quality sperm sample.  And his motility hasn’t always been as bad as it is now, which tells me that if we make some changes, we can get back on track.  We can work to fix his sperm quality.

I’m not going to lie; he’s going to hate it.  No more processed foods, no soda.  Just whole, organic, hormone-free foods.  And I’ll be pestering him to hit the gym with me again.  It’s not going to be easy, but it to boils down to whether or not he’s willing to incorporate lifestyle changes to increase our chances of making our adorable, incredibly rare, blue-eyed ginger baby dreams a reality.  And while I know my husband might shed a single tear over saying good-bye to some of his favorite foods, I can guarantee that he wants this family as much as I do.  If there are things we can do to improve our chances, I know he’ll do whatever is in his power to help.

We’re still going to take the rest of the year to relax and enjoy ourselves, but there are plenty of positive lifestyle changes we can start working toward immediately.  Doing so will only make us more successful when and if we decide to start the process again.

Before I end this update, I want to personally thank Lee for allowing me to share our results from yesterday as well as our entire story.  It takes one hell of a strong man to not only feel comfortable with what I share, but to encourage me to do so.  You continue to amaze me every day.  ♥

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The Elephant in the Room

There’s an elephant in the room that I had no idea existed until recently.  I thought I would address it so that people can stop feeling uncomfortable around me and my husband.  I can only speak for the two of us though.  Other couples struggling with infertility may be different.

We are perfectly capable of being happy for people who are pregnant.  If you want to post a cute picture on social media of some baby shoes or a picture of your dog with a sign saying they’re going to be a big brother/sister, I’m going to like it.  You deserve to have the love and support of all of your friends and family when you announce something so exciting.  You might want to refrain from posting ultrasound pictures, however.  Not because you’ll offend me, but because you’ll offend another friend of mine who firmly believes that uterus photos belong on your fridge and not on your Facebook timeline.

Our fertility struggles are no one’s problem but our own.  We’ve chosen to share them with you to raise awareness for something that affects at least 10% of all couples.  I’ve said it before, and I will say it again:  I guarantee that Lee and I are not the only couple you know that are struggling to start a family.  We’re not trying to make people feel uncomfortable or as though they have to walk on eggshells around us.  We’re trying to start the dialogue so that other couples feel comfortable discussing their concerns as well.  Infertility has been such a hush-hush topic for years now.  Many men and women had to suffer silently through their pain because it was not publicly discussed.  I’m trying to do my part, however small it may be, to change that.  But let me make one thing abundantly clear:  Our issues don’t stop us from being over the moon for any of our friends and family members that happen to be successful starting a family.  Please give us a little more credit than that.

I’ve been through far worse shit than infertility and I’ve survived.  No, you know what?  I haven’t survived.  I’ve thrived.  I will not let my fertility struggles define me.  I won’t let it define the relationship I have with my husband.  And  I would prefer if you didn’t define me in this way either.  I have a lot of things to be thankful for, the most important of which is the love of my husband.  If there’s an upside to all we’ve been through, it’s that we’ve developed a deeper love and appreciation for each other than we even knew was possible.  This latest setback may have bruised us a little bit, but we are far from broken.

Lee and I are going to keep living our lives, loving each fiercely, and hoping that our dream of starting a family eventually becomes a reality.  If it doesn’t, then it doesn’t.  It won’t change the love we have for one another, or the excitement we feel for our loved ones as they start their families.

If you’re struggling with some form of infertility, do not be ashamed.  Know that there are plenty of people in this world who understand what you’re going through, and when you’re ready, share your story with the world.aa6172156fab1a5a0d2b82c2c0c32150

 

 

Dad’s 60th Birthday

Today would have been my dad’s 60th birthday.  If heaven exists and marijuana is legal, I have no doubt that he’s celebrating by talking music and sharing a joint with one of his favorite artists and one of heaven’s newest arrivals, Tom Petty.

When I found out that Tom Petty had been removed from life support on Monday, I was an inconsolable mess.  Yes, I’m sure some of that pain can be attributed to our IVF failure, but a large part was due to my love for Tom Petty.  I grew up on his music. My dad was the kind of person that would play a record to death so I’ve probably heard “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” more times than anyone else in this world, save for The Heartbreakers.  And yet, despite the repetition, I’ve never tired of Tom Petty, as a solo artist, part of the Heartbreakers or part of the Travelling Wilburys.  Since my dad passed away in 2011, I’ve made sure to see Tom Petty in concert every time he’s come to the Twin Cities area.  It’s always an emotional experience for me-seeing him live brings me a step closer to my dad, if only for a few hours.  I won’t ever get to experience that again.  Losing Tom Petty felt like losing a little piece of my dad all over again.

Even though my dad has been gone for almost 6 years, it doesn’t seem to get easier.  Every milestone that he misses, every success, every failure, brings his loss back to the forefront of my mind.

My dad would have wanted to be so involved in our fertility journey, probably to the point where I would have to tell him to reign it in a little.  When he got sick, his mobility became limited.  Being a homebody and having so much time on his hands made him an internet search guru.  I don’t doubt that he would have become an expert at infertility.  My sister and I like to imagine what it would be like, and our conversations normally end in a fit of laughter.  There’s just something about envisioning our dad asking about endometrial lining that proves to be a little too much for us.  But yet, despite how embarrassing and personal his questions would seem, we know that they would be asked with the best of intentions.  He would want this baby so desperately for us, that I know he would do whatever was in his power to help us be successful.

When my dad went to his doctor’s appointments, they always asked him what it was he was living for, what he was working toward.  His response never wavered:  his goal was to walk his daughters down the aisle and to be able to hold his grandbabies.  He didn’t live to accomplish either and that makes me really fucking sad.

That’s not to say that he didn’t try.  He fought a good fight, but lung disease is a sonofabitch.  While I’m still so very sad that he’s gone, I’m happy to know he’s longer suffering.

Today will be a day of reflection, thinking about my dad and finding ways to celebrate him.  His copy of Tom Petty’s Greatest Hits is already loaded up in my car.  My sister and I will have a cocktail this afternoon in his honor.  We’ve tried this before with his drink of choice, but it turns out that Bacardi is terrible, so I imagine we’ll have to make an exception there.  And finally, I plan to eat some cake.  After all, what birthday celebration is truly complete without cake?

Happy Birthday, Dad.  This world just isn’t the same without you.

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If hopes and prayers could make babies, with your help, I’d probably be on target to become the next Octomom. Unfortunately, it also takes a little bit of luck, and that is just not something I seem to ever have a supply of.  Our IVF was not successful and now Lee and I are at a bit of a standstill wondering what to do next.

There is literally no reason that anyone has been able to give us to explain why we’re having such a struggle.  Sure, I have PCOS, but women with PCOS get pregnant all the time.  It’s not an infertility death sentence.  And yes, Lee’s sperm count is a little low.  Not exorbitantly low!  It’s not like there’s just a lone sperm hanging out in each sample.  I have no blockages, a healthy uterus, two healthy ovaries, and my body responded amazingly well to all of the hormones.  Yet here we are again, staring down the barrel of another dashed dream.

So where do we go from here?  Good question.  We don’t know.

When we got that call that the transfer had failed, we sat down and attempted to work through our next steps.  We determined that it was best for us to just relax for the rest of the year.  Give my body and our hearts time to heal.  Beyond that, the rest is up in the air.

We’ll have a follow-up appointment with our doctor to discuss the cycle and see if there’s anything that he noticed that would warrant the difficulties we’ve been having.  Then we have to decide whether we have the emotional stamina to try again.  While the next IVF cycle starts in November, Lee and I have agreed that we won’t be opting to try again this soon.  From an insurance standpoint it would make sense, as we are only $3700 away from hitting our out-of-pocket maximum for out-of-network coverage, so it wouldn’t actually cost that much to try again.  That being said, while our insurance recognizes infertility and does cover the procedures once the deductible has been met, it’s only a $10,000 lifetime maximum.  Slightly more than half of one cycle.  If we’re not emotionally ready to try again, this benefit would be wasted.

So perhaps we try again in 2018?  The downside of this is that the cycle will be more expensive as my insurance deductible will have reset.  We won’t get the same break on medications as we did in 2017.  The upside is that it will give us more time to save to try again.  But we’re working on borrowed time.  Our doctor will not use sperm for an IVF cycle if the man is over the age of 42.  That means we have a little over a year to get pregnant or I can’t have Lee’s baby.  At least, not if I continue to see the same fertility doctor.

People have asked about donor eggs and donor sperm and whether we would be willing to try one of those routes to have a baby.  The answer is unequivocally no.  I don’t want just any baby.  I want to have Lee’s baby.  If I can’t have Lee’s baby, then I’m not interested.  I want a baby with his sweet blue eyes and devilish grin.  I don’t need to be pregnant just for the sake of having a child.  There are plenty of children in the world that need love and a good home and if it comes down to it, we’d rather adopt than use the eggs and sperm of people we don’t know.

So how are we doing?  As well as can be expected, I guess.  Yes, we’re sad and even a little defeated.  How could we not be?  Feeling like your body is broken is one of the most heart-breaking feelings you could ever imagine.  The one thing making it bearable right now is that despite our misfortune, we have a lot to look forward to this week.  Lee’s little sister is getting married and we’re both so very excited to be a part of her special day, surrounded by the friends and family that we love so very much.

We’ve also made some healthy lifestyle changes this past year.  I alone have lost 26 pounds since January 1st.  It would be incredibly foolish to allow this devastating setback to derail all of the hard work I’ve put forth this year.  If anything, it’s challenging me to keep the momentum going.  How will I do that?  Well, with the help of my best friend Erin, I will be focusing my effort on preparing for my first 5k this fall.  It might not sound like much, but I hate running, so this will push me to focus my efforts on something else for a while.

We’ve also got our London trip to look forward to.  We need it now more than ever.

We’ll be down and out for a bit, but we’ll get through it.  Because we have each other.  And as much as this all fucking sucks, there’s still no one I’d rather go through this with than my one and only.

I’m sure some of you might be wondering what you can do to help us heal.  I’m afraid I don’t really have an answer for that.  But I can tell you what we don’t want.  We don’t want pity.  We don’t want to hear about how you had a really hard time making this one thing happen at one point in your life, but how it all worked out in the end.  All we want/need from you is to know that you’re here for us, that you think it’s super shitty that our luck fucking sucks so bad and that if you could punch infertility in the face, you would.

Thank you for following our journey thus far.  It appears that it’s quite far from over.