Tag Archives: Body

That’s Our Baby In There (A Follow Up Guest Post Surrogacy)

May 19, 2017

Continued from this first interview on infertility and this follow up interview on surrogacy.

1. First of all, CONGRATS on a special delivery coming this fall. What’s the countdown?

THANK you! We are so grateful and excited to be so close to holding our baby girl, Finella Pearl. She is due to arrive on August 23, however Kim, our carrier, usually goes about 2 weeks earlier than her due dates. So maybe early to mid August for us!

2. What was it like finding out the sex?

We found out it was a girl at week 16 at a super cool ultrasound boutique place that let us see her in 3D/4D. It was our first glimpse at her little hands and feet and we totally melted. Kim brought her whole family to the appointment so we all had placed our bets (1 for boy, 5 for girl). I remember sitting there watching the tv where the ultrasound was displayed, waiting to hear the news. My heart was racing! When the ultrasound technician said “girl” we all cheered. I knew it was a girl from the very beginning and I’m 100% wrong at guessing genders. This was the first time I was ever correct! We had picked out her name the week before, so when we got in the car Nate said “so, it’s Finella in there” which all seemed so real and fun. We FaceTimed some friends in the car on the way home who helped us keep it secret and I immediately started dreaming up her nursery that night.

3. How has the surrogacy process been going?

Surprisingly, it has been going really well. And I say surprisingly because I was worried that somehow I would feel left out in this process or ill-attuned to Finella. But the opposite has been true. We see Kim and her family at church on Sunday, so we see her belly grow each week. She sends me videos of Finella kicking or bump pictures, and I send her crazy worst-case-scenario birth videos.

We also recently purchased Belly Buds which allow us to record ourselves reading books to Finella. It even allows for others to record and send their files to us, so we had both our parents read and sing to Finella. I think it’s the best thing for surrogacy pregnancies, especially since she is now remembering voices. Kim just places the little buds on her belly and hits play and Finella gets to meet each of us, one by one.

 

4. What’s been the hardest part?

I think the hardest part is not being around Finella all the time. I’m not sure how much you can tell about a child’s temperament in utero, but part of me feels like I’m always missing out. This feeling is not nearly as constant and pervasive as I imagined it would be, but it still happens enough and it’s hard.

5. What’s been the most surprising part?

Everyone knows someone who knows someone who has used surrogacy or IVF. Every time I walk into a baby store I get “are you expecting?” or “shopping for a new little baby?” Part of me wants to punch them in the face, because I want to shop in peace, but the other part oozes all over and says “yes! it’s my baby, I’m shopping for my baby!” Which then turns into me explaining that I’m not pregnant, we are using a surrogate, yes we did IVF, and yes, it’s our genetics. And so far, 100% of the time the person says, “you know what, my son/daughter/niece/best friend/neighbor went through IVF or used a surrogate.” That’s when the whole conversation changes and they are so excited to help me find the perfect little outfit for this miracle baby. Somehow Finella touches them and their history in a way that allows such a tender part of them to emerge. The best is when Kim is with me, and I can say “that’s our baby in there.” People melt. And if I can soften just one person’s heart towards IVF or surrogacy, my hope is that the others they come into contact with will be offered the same tenderness that I felt from them in that moment.

6. Do you have an idea of what you’d like the birth to look like?

I’ve really let this up to Kim. She will be the superstar that day. We have asked to be in the room and I’ve asked to pull Finella out, but other than that Kim calls the shots. She has free rein to ask for what she needs and birth this baby however it’s comfortable for her. We have a midwife and Kim’s husband in the room too, and hopefully a new room in the hospital that is supposed to be closer to a “home birth feeling.” As long as Kim and Finella are safe during birth, she can do just about whatever. I already know I’ll be in awe of her strength.

7. At this point, would you consider doing surrogacy again down the road?

Wow, big question and one we’ve talked about a lot. If we had another embryo in storage, yes, absolutely. Unfortunately, we do not have any more embryos which means we would be starting IVF all over again to get some and my body is already cringing at the thought. So the short answer is no. But if there were embryos, then most definitely, yes. For now, we are going to enjoy Finella and if we feel another baby would fit well into our family, we will cross that bridge when we get to it.

 

8. What’s the one thing you get asked about the most?

How did you find Kim? and Did you know her before this? This seems to be the most asked question since this process began. And I get it, it’s a unique arrangement though I often think people are also just asking themselves if they could do it. I imagine they are quickly flipping through their mental rolodex of people, wondering who they would trust to carry their child. I give them the story of how we met, which is usually followed up by, “When is she due?” and “Will you be there for the birth?” Or “What’s her name” then “How do you spell it?”

 

9. Do you recommend surrogacy to others when they ask?

Yes. I know it sounds so foreign (or at least it did for me), but it is so beautiful. I just walked with another woman this past month as she prepared for her embryo transfer to her surrogate. It is such a unique experience and I’ve had women contact me from all over the country asking for me to walk them through the process.

10. What advice do you give them?

After losing so many pregnancies, I often tell them that allowing another woman to carry your child is the most loving thing you can do as a mother. I lived with that reframe for months until I was ready to pursue surrogacy. After so many miscarriages you begin to think that maybe your uterus isn’t the most safe place, and I felt guilty for all the embryos my body couldn’t give life to and the potential future they would have had. And ultimately I came to the conclusion that if I ever wanted to give our frozen embryos a chance, the most gracious and motherly thing I could do is have them carried by someone else. Once I viewed it from that perspective, I warmed up to the idea pretty quickly. If you are dealing with protein in your urine like I was then check out the protein causes and how you can help fix it.

Whether you’re a mother to embryos, a growing fetus, or a baby in your arms, you would go to the ends of the earth to ensure their survival and wellbeing. This is no different.  It’s definitely a long journey and one of many sacrifices, but also one of much beauty and treasure.

Check back this fall for an update on Kristy. We can’t wait to meet Miss Finella Pearl!

***

Beholding You Photography by Nicole Bressler

You can make donations to help fund Kristy and Nate’s miracle here.

Don’t Lose Heart (A Guest Post On Surrogacy)

April 19, 2016

Last July I interviewed my friend Kristy about her and her husband Nate’s journey through seven years of infertility in a guest post titled “You Are Not Forgotten.” At that time they were going through what they believed to be their final round of IVF before exploring other options. You can read that interview here.

Almost one year later, so much has changed. Kristy’s Etsy shop for couple’s trying to conceive is taking off, her time spent trying IVF is over, and her and her husband have found a surrogate to carry their sweet embryos.

Last week I reached out to Kristy (who is now comfortable using her real name) wondering if she’d like to do a follow up post on surrogacy since there’s so much mystery and confusion surrounding the process. She said yes, and I’m so excited to share her story again today.

Ten questions on surrogacy for Kristy and her honest answers below.

From Kristy: Don’t lose heart.

+++

1. The last time we talked, you were on your final attempt at using IVF to get pregnant after seven years of trying. What has happened health wise since then?

Our last attempt was in December of 2015 after three months of prepping my body for that final transfer. Our doctor returned from a medical conference in July 2015 and had a new plan for our next round. It included several months of prep, a mock round using all the medication, and a super painful test to examine my uterine tissue (without anesthesia!). It took three months to get those results and prep for the real thing. Finally in the beginning of December we transferred one beautiful genetically normal embryo into a thick and fluffy uterine lining. The bases were loaded and we were basically “guaranteed” a home run. It felt like a sure thing, even our doctors prepared for success. We waited and waited, then finally went for blood work. Nothing. Completely negative, it didn’t even try to implant or stick around. That was the end of IVF, we felt so strongly that we and our last precious embryos could not survive another round of that madness. It was time to move on.

2. What led you guys to choosing surrogacy over other options? 

Our doctor mentioned surrogacy in June of 2015, which led to a complete breakdown on the way home from his office. He actually called and apologized later for bringing it up that early in the process, but it was too late I was already swimming in the fear that surrogacy was where we were going to end up, and I had chosen my favorite luxury swimwear brands already to swim, so it was disappointed. I tucked it away in the back of my mind as we prepped for our “miracle” round (above) and put all my hope in that. But there were times when I brought the idea of surrogacy out to the forefront and thought about it. I couldn’t keep it there long though because it was tied to so much grief and questions on my end. What would it be like to never carry a child? What will I tell my child if they ask about being in my tummy? How would I get through 9 months of seeing someone else grow my child? 

So many questions and so much grief. Grief was a huge part of this process. I had to shed all my dreams of being pregnant, having cravings, and most of all–giving birth. It still makes me emotional knowing I’ll never know those intimate feelings so many women/mothers get to experience. After our failed round in December, we decided to take some time off to simply pray about our next steps. We were tired, weary, and felt so weak. It was Christmas time so we filled up on family, our precious nephew, cut out cookies, and laughter – which really did help.

We returned home in January and left our hearts open to whatever/whomever walked into our life. We were leaning towards surrogacy ONLY because we had  embryos left in storage. It felt uncomfortable to both of us to leave them permanently in storage, especially since they had an 80% chance of life with the right uterus. I did ask Nate if someone approached me in the grocery store and said, “I know of this baby you should adopt,” — what would we do? We both agreed that while this was obviously unlikely, if something that dramatic came along we would most definitely go in that direction.

For several weeks we sat and waited without expectation or a plan. Just simply waited and listened for what’s to come. It was refreshing and terrifying.

3. Was it hard to find someone? What does that process look like?

This is the first question everyone asks (literally 100% of the time). Finding someone to carry your child is not an easy process, you don’t (shouldn’t) post it on Craigslist or your local Facebook “for sale” site. It’s a whole new kind of matchmaking. During our time of waiting “without expectation,” we called a surrogacy lawyer to find out legally what’s required. It was very helpful to know the requirements for carrying (it varies from state to state). So many friends and family volunteered their wombs. I got texts saying “my womb is your womb” or “I want to give you this gift’ and emails from people feeling so called to help us create a family. It was so beautiful and moving to know we were so so loved. We had to make some hard decisions, there are many complicated layers to gestational carrying and it’s often recommended not to use a close friend or family member because of the complex relational dynamics that could arise over the next 9 months (and the years after). So, we were back at square one, but I was so sure someone would present themselves. I started praying for this women, for her heart, her courage, and her family. I knew she was out there, I knew I was about to meet her. I can’t explain the feeling, but it still gives me chills to know I was so certain her appearance was coming soon.

Long story short, Nate went out for a beer with someone from church and I ended up meeting them later. During our conversations our friend said, “You know K (that’s what I’ll call her) from church did this for someone else years ago.” Nate and I paused and looked at each other. I asked our friend to make sure he had the story right and demanded he call his wife to confirm. Within minutes we had confirmation that K had indeed been a carrier in the past. I asked for our friend to put me in touch with her. We had only been going to this church for a few months and even though I knew what she looked like, I didn’t know her well enough to talk to her.

A week went by and eventually I had her number. I called her, heart pounding, feeling awkward about talking to someone I didn’t know AND still figuring out how to ask her to carry our child. She answered and all my nerves disappeared. We talked about her experience in the past, what it was like to carry a child and hand it over after birth, and about all the prep and requirements to be pregnant with someone else’s child. She was so open and easy to talk to. We laughed a lot, and at times I was talking so fast–not just out of excitement, but because this was someone who was speaking to the dark and hard places of my heart. She was rapidly softening the parts that I had protected, grieved over, and kept hidden.

Then it came time to ask the question. It rolled right off my tongue with no hesitation. I knew she was the one. I asked, “Would you consider doing this again?” She paused for a second and then readily said, “Absolutely.” She went on to tell me she just told her husband a few days before that she would like to get back into surrogacy and then I called. K said she has felt called to be a surrogate since she was in high school and has always wanted to help couples have a family. She agreed to carry twins and to pump us breast milk for 6 months after birth, thank you Jesus! I basically ended the phone call with “You’re hired” to which she said “Do you want to meet me before moving forward?” It was then I realized maybe I need to slow down a bit, but it just felt so good to finally find something that feels so good.

After I hung up, I filled Nate in. He was vacuuming (bless his heart) upstairs and just happened to be in the future baby room. We were so overwhelmed by what just happened that we weren’t sure what to do with all the happiness. We hugged and cried and looked around that room, feeling more hopeful that one day it would look much different. 

4. Now that you’ve found someone, what happens next?

Once we all met and decided to move forward, we contacted our lawyer and started the paperwork process. It’s been over three months and we are still in the contract phase. It takes a while to move through all the little details involved in this. After we get a contact drafted and everyone signs it, we have required counseling to do together, medical preparation for K, and then comes the transfer!

What I didn’t mention is that when K agreed to do this she had a 4 month old! So before moving ahead with anything medical related, she needs to be finished breast feeding. She will be done this Fall which is why our transfer isn’t until then. It’s great timing because we can move through all these steps and stages of the process without feeling rushed. 

5. What are questions you are finding people want to ask but don’t know how?

 1. Will your baby(ies) look like you?  Yes. All the genetic material is ours (it’s our embryo). She is the vessel that will help bring them to life. 

2. What is the difference between surrogacy and gestational carrying? Traditional surrogacy is when the surrogate uses her eggs and they are just fertilized by sperm. So the child will have some of the surrogate’s genetic material. Gestational carrying is just that, carrying. It uses none of the carrier’s material, just a nice cozy womb.

3. Isn’t all of this just weird and uncommon? Yes and no. There are pieces of this process that are weird, sure. But believe me, some of the things I was doing before to get pregnant were even more weird. This actually seems legitimate. Uncommon? No. Surrogacy and gestational carrying is actually very common, you just don’t hear about it that often. Since finding K, I’ve heard of several other women in my area that had children via surrogacy and others that were gestational carriers!

4. Is it hard to know you won’t be pregnant? Yes, of course. Birthing a child is something I think is so beautiful, so I grieve that I’ll never know that feeling. I was always told I would be such a cute pregnant woman (believe it or not, I’ve been told that many times in my life. Who says that?) and when I was young, I used to stuff pillows up my shirt to see what I’d look like pregnant. All things I’ll never see in real life. I’ll also never nurse a child, another hard thing. However, I do know what it feels like to be pregnant. I was pregnant three times, not for long, but long enough to know what it feels like to puke, crave all things fried, and never want to get out of bed. That is the closest I’ll ever get and I’m okay with that. There are also pros to not giving birth, for one, that dreaded post-partum poo. Sounds absolutely horrifying, no thanks. 

6. What are your fears going into this process?

Surprisingly, I don’t have many fears. I feel K was brought into our lives for a reason and no matter what happens, this experience was meant to be. There is always the fear of what if it doesn’t work and what if something happens to the baby(ies), but those fears were there when I was carrying. Knowing K has a healthy cozy uterus that four other babies enjoyed in the past brings me so much more hope than fear. 

7. Will you and Nate attend or be part of the birth? What does that look like? 

Good question. I want to say yes! At least we hope to be. Those details we will work out with K, but I’m hoping we (or at least I) can be in the room and experience the birth process. 

8. What happens after the baby (or babies!) are born? Will K remain a part of your lives?

K will always be a part of our lives. But this is one of those complex issues that goes with surrogacy. It’s one that we had to talk about together and write into a contract. Our lawyer has all kinds of “worst case scenarios” of people who haven’t fully thought this through. However K is so respectful of us and our desire to be parents. She is always saying things like “you’re the parents,” never trying to take ownership over this process. We have no worries about K’s involvement in our child’s life. She goes to our church so I imagine she will see them every Sunday and she mentioned having a “aunt-like” relationship with them. We need a village to raise children and sometimes we need a village to make children and we are so so thankful she is a part of our village.

9. If you’re comfortable sharing, what is the financial strain that goes along with surrogacy?

Surrogacy is not free. It comes with a price, monetarily and emotionally. K and I hate talking about money, however it’s a part of the process. As K says, it’s like day care for nine months. Exactly, it’s just like that. There is also cost for all the required testing, the medications, prenatal appointments, and the birth. But as cliche as it sounds, this process is priceless. 

10. Any advice or words of encouragement for parents who are considering surrogacy? 

Call me. No seriously, talk to someone who has been through it. Find someone to share their story and answer your questions. I was following several blogs which helped me (us) make some important decisions. Be brave. This is not an easy option, or a quick fix. It comes with new and different challenges to push yourself through. But if you’re considering surrogacy then you’ve been through a lot already and you know how to do hard things. You know what it’s like to not have answers, to grieve what will never happen, and to put your trust in someone else.

Surrogacy is not the end or the last resort, which is how I saw it for so long. For us, it’s just the beginning. The beginning of something so much more beautiful than we could have ever imagined. You can have that too. As our embryologist told me in our last phone call, “We [the medical team] are all looking forward to your time in the sun.”

I can feel the warmth already.

***

You can make donations to help fund Kristy and Nate’s miracle here.

10 Sex Tips From Smart Women

July 8, 2015

amy poehlerTry not to fake it: I know you are tired/nervous/eager to please/unsure of how to get there. Just remember to allow yourself real pleasure and not worry about how long it takes…God punished us with the gift of being able to fake it. Show God who the real boss is by getting off and getting yours.
Amy Poehler

MaryYou mustn’t force sex to do the work of love or love to do the work of sex.
Mary McCarthy

LauraThe conversation shouldn’t be in the bedroom. If there is something you’d enjoy or want more of—or less of—the time to talk about it is often when you’re not being sexual. Like: “I really enjoyed last night. You know what I really loved is when you did…It would be great if you did more of that. I really like being touched here. I have this fantasy that I do such and such.” In the bedroom, it gets a little tricky. When you’re actually in a sexual situation, the directives should all be positive: “That felt really good” versus “That felt bad.”
Laura Berman

AmyFor women, we’re taught to eat less until we disappear. And trained to believe that if you don’t look like everyone else, then you’re unlovable. Men are not trained that way. Men can look like whatever and still date a supermodel. I’m proud of what I said. I think it’s good to see somebody saying: I have a belly. And I have cellulite. And I still deserve love. Do what you feel you want to do while also considering how you’ll feel the next day. Don’t not have an orgasm.
Amy Schumer

evaI didn’t begin enjoying sex until I started masturbating. Before that, I really wasn’t sexual. I bought my first vibrator three years ago. It’s a shame I didn’t discover it sooner. Now I give Rabbit vibrators to all my girlfriends. They scream when they unwrap it. The best gift I can give them is an orgasm.
Eva Longoria

isaFor women the best aphrodisiacs are words. The G-spot is in the ears. He who looks for it below there is wasting his time.
Isabel Allende

bettyNo woman gets an orgasm from shining the kitchen floor.
Betty Friedan

Dr LOne of the biggest mistakes women make is to compare themselves with other women, especially with those they see in the media. For instance, on Sex and the City, the women are swinging from the chandeliers every time they have sex. The expectations have to be realistic. You get yourself into trouble when you start asking yourself, “Am I having as much fun as I should be?” The question should be, “Am I having fun? Do I enjoy my sexual relationship with my partner? Are there things I would like to improve upon?” Usually there are. There’s nothing wrong with that. But constantly saying to yourself, “Maybe things can be even better,” is counterproductive. There’s a difference between chronic dissatisfaction and taking positive steps to enhance something that’s already pretty good. Certainly, women shouldn’t be ashamed to use whatever tools are available. If you’re centered and strong, that’s a major aphrodisiac.
Laura Berman

NaomiThe anthropologist Margaret Mead concluded in 1948, after observing seven different ethnic groups in the Pacific Islands, that different cultures made different forms of female sexual experience seem normal and desirable. The capacity for orgasm in women, she found, is a learned response, which a given culture can help or can fail to help its women to develop.
Naomi Wolf

***

| Click Images For Source |

You Are Not Forgotten (A Guest Post On Infertility)

July 7, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-07-06 at 2.01.18 PM

This post has been updated with real names Kristy and Nate.

Every week or so I get an email from someone who is experiencing the pain of infertility. These messages are heartbreaking and difficult to answer, especially because my journey has been so brief in comparison. Taking Clomid for a few months is nothing next to the rigors of IVF or waiting years for answers and treatment. All I have to offer is light and love. The heartache in waiting to be a mother is a very heavy burden to bear.

A few weeks ago, I got an email from my friend Kristy, and when I heard her story, I asked if she’d be willing to share it with you and she graciously agreed.

Ten questions for Kristy and her raw, honest answers below. As I’ve walked alongside dear friends who have experienced similar infertility journeys, I’ve noticed how hard it is for others to respond. Kristy talks about that today. She also describes the terrible HSG in the way that it should be described (It is not just “minor period cramps,” it is death and you can learn more about death laws here at http://www.wrongfuldeathaccidenthelp.com/guide/).

When Kristy sent her responses, this is how she ended the email: Thanks again for allowing me to do this–lots of emotion here. Maybe it’s the progesterone, maybe it’s the exhaustion of it all, but I know for sure part of it is just getting this shit out.

Out of all the things I continue to learn in this life, most important is that when you’re going through the darkness, the best thing you can hear is, “Me too.”

This is for the ones who are still waiting. You are not forgotten.

+

1) How long have you and Nate been trying to conceive?

We have been actively trying to conceive for about 7 years and have been patients at our fertility clinic for 2.5 of those years.

2) When did you first know there was a problem?

My biggest fear growing up was that I wouldn’t be able to have kids. It was the most irrational and random fear I can remember as a child. But when Nate and I started trying (and failing) seven years ago, we just played it off as “not good timing.” When I finally mentioned some concern to my gynecologist, she just waved her hands around as if it was the silliest thing she ever heard and reminded me that I’m young and “it just takes time.”

So, for a year I tracked my cycles, took my temperature and prayed my heart out. Still nothing. A couples years later I was diagnosed with insulin resistance and found a wonderful endocrinologist who whipped my endocrine system into shape. She would often bring up our inability to conceive, but I stubbornly played it off. I didn’t want to ask for help. I can still remember walking to the car after an appointment, a yellow sticky note in my hand with the name of a leading fertility specialist, Dr. Williams. I sat in the car looking at it for a while before turning the key. It took us six more grueling months to call that number. And from there the rest is history. Here is a quick recap of our treatment from 2.5 years ago to today:

+ 6 rounds of clomid- 2 pregnancies (both early miscarriages)
+ 4 rounds of IUIs – all negative
+ IVF 1 – early miscarriage with twins
+ IVF 2 – PGDed embryos so no fresh transfer (PGD stands for pre-implantation genetic diagnosis–and lots of money)
+ FET 1 – negative (FET stands for frozen embryo transfer)
+ IVF 3 – banked our embryos (no fresh transfer)
+ IVF 4 – banked our embryos (no fresh transfer)–we did banking to that we could PGD
+ FET 2 – negative
+ IVF 5 – happening now!

Currently, we have 2 embryos still frozen and 3 more waiting to be PGDed then frozen if they are healthy.

3) What has been the hardest part of this process besides the waiting?

There are so many hard parts. I’ve watched best friends and family get pregnant and have healthy babies, host or go to baby showers, baby-sit, and listen to the woes of parenting. These are the things that get hard.

Perhaps most difficult is how we have felt so robbed of the typical reproductive process. The chance to feel the fun and excitement when trying to conceive and the joy and surprise when it actually works. These are often not joyous things for us. Instead they are riddled with fear and terror. Will our HCG number double in 48 hours? Will this be a viable pregnancy or is this another loss? Did all this money, time, energy and emotion just disappear again? 

We just won’t be the couple that accidentally gets pregnant, gets to completely surprise our family, or can fully and blindly trust that our embryo/baby will live to the next day or week. What we’ve experienced has taken that naivety and innocence away. We now know how easy it is to lose, not just once but again and again. These are the things I think are hard, it feels like highway robbery.

There are so many other hard things like my faith, the big picture process of it all and the idea of what it means to be a woman through all this. But, that’s for another day.

4) Has your perspective/conversations changed since starting 7 years ago?

Yes. The most notable change has been imagining our life without children. For the first few years of trying it was all about: How many kids? How far apart? What if we had all boys or all girls? As time passed, our conversations became about what is would be like having just one child. Then, years later, we had the hard conversation about the possibility of never having children.

Surprisingly you become ready for each conversation as they emerge. There was a period of time when we agreed we are very happy with our life together and could live a fulfilling life without kids. We would be OKAY. Now that we have some embryos frozen through IVF, we are back to the idea that we will have children one day.

5) How has IVF been going?

This is most likely our last attempt using my uterus. Our embryos should be implanting since they are genetically normal, but after two rounds of those embryos not working, the doctors are concerned it may have something to do with my uterus. Even though it’s in beautiful shape and show no signs of sickness, there can still be trouble that is unseen. Basically I may not be able to medically carry a child. It is heartbreaking.

The next step is surrogacy. 

6) What does that look like?

Again the conversation and perspective of things continues to change. What would it be like to not carry my own children? To not be pregnant? To not know what it’s like to feel a baby kick and grow inside of me? These are the very real questions I’m flooded with every single day–and so far I don’t have the answers. I do know that we’ll be ready if the time comes to face those questions and navigate our way through them just like all the other layers of the process so far. 

7) If you feel comfortable sharing, can you describe some of the physical toll you’ve had to endure over the past 7 years?

From the beginning, I’ve been in awe of my body. It is so strong and resilient even though the end result hasn’t been what we’ve been hoping for. When we first started on Clomid, I was so nervous to take that first pill. I’d heard so many things about what Clomid can do to your body, mind and soul. But now that I’m deep in the throes of IVF, taking one little pill for four days out of cycle feels like a vitamin. I had my bad days on Clomid, but they were only in four day intervals so I could managed the other 24 days of my cycle pretty well. When we moved to IUIs, it was a similar experience. Even though it was my first introduction to injections, it was at max two injections during a cycle, followed by the actual IUI itself.

I was managing all of this pretty well with a high pain tolerance, but I should mention that I also had surgery to check for endometriosis and the recovering excruciating! I also had an hysterosalpingogram (HSG) before we started any treatment at all, and still to this day that is the worst pain I’ve ever experienced in my life. The lady before me was screaming, crying and throwing up. Literally someone’s husband passed out from just watching. By the time they called my name, I was shaking in my hospital gown, ready to ditch the whole thing. But I did it–and my tubes were open (a good thing).

Then came IVF!

IVF is not for the weak and weary, nor is it for the control freaks and anxious (me). There are many different protocols for IVF, but most are similar in their pattern of events. My protocols were about six weeks long from the first day of treatment to the day of transfer. So, for me it started with two weeks of birth control (yes, it was so strange to take this, but it resets your system and allows the doctors to better manipulate your cycle), then requires an ultrasound to confirm everything is clear to go. Next up is daily injections. I had to be on a pretty high dose every single round, so I would take up to three injections a day for about two weeks. During those two weeks it requires daily ultrasounds (always internal, always) and blood work. My clinic is over an hour away, so it would require driving two hours a day, usually very early in the morning, only to go back to work all day and then home for injections (then do it all over again).

As my follicles would grow, I would get very bloated, irritable, and tired since my body was working so hard. Eventually my follicles (which hold an egg) would become big enough to retrieve, which means it’s time for a process called egg retrieval. That’s where I’m put under anesthesia and they go in and take out all of my precious eggs from my ovaries to fertilize with Nate’s “sample.” I had anywhere from 21-34 eggs retrieved per cycle, so my ovaries were so swollen and sore. After retrieval I would wait five days for a fresh transfer (where they transfer back 1-2 embryos in a very specific part of my uterus) or let my body heal and four weeks later start a whole bunch of other medications for a frozen embryo transfer.

After a transfer I sit around for a couple of weeks trying not to pull my hair out and do all the things I’m supposed to like stay calm, positive, and believe. Easier said than done. Honestly the biggest toll on my body was waiting to find out if it worked. It can be such a mind game, and stress, fear, and sadness can really take hold in your body. There were so many rounds I thought it worked only to get a call saying my blood work results were negative.

8) How have you and Nate been able to sustain a healthy relationship while struggling through testing, procedures, and disappointments?

I’ll be honest, there have been some really difficult moments. We’ve been through a lot together; both getting our graduate degrees, him finishing his Ph.D., and opening a business together. Some of our most epic and memorable arguments have originated from this infertility process. We have to make decisions every month that fertile couples do not. Decisions that are not easy and will impact us for the rest of our life. Decisions like, what does the hospital do with our frozen embryos if one of us dies? Both of us die? Who do they go to? How many do we transfer? Do we want twins? Do we want to know the genders and select which ones to transfer? Do we transfer the lower graded ones or higher? Should we keep the better ones for later? Will we ever use all these embryos? If not, what should the hospital do with them? What should the hospital do with our embryos that die?

It’s easy to get tripped up not just over the answers, but over the fact that we have to deal with this in the first place. Every day we are faced with embryo updates, cell levels, follicle numbers, injection reminders, cycle day updates, and blood work results. This process consumes every part of our life. We learned very early on that we needed to protect our relationship as much as possible through this. It was very difficult at first, all of it seemed so unnatural, manual and contrived.

By the time we reached IVF, Nate made the comment that he is just the “stud horse.” It was funny, but I also realized that’s very much what it feels like to him. So we’ve worked hard to make sure he’s included in the process. He comes to appointments, checks in for updates, is involved in the decision making, is at all of the procedures, and takes care of me after every retrieval and transfer. Most recently he’s also been giving me all my progesterone shots (which are intramuscular and straight in the butt cheek–he enjoys this very much). He has had to work through his own feelings as a man going through the process of infertility. It’s so different for both us. We grieve different things, experience things differently, and if we aren’t careful–can feel unsupported or unheard by the other. As the time went on, we both had to learn a lot about each other and how to comfort and soothe the hurt places that we didn’t know existed. He knows to hold me through bad news, an offensive comment thrown our way, or when I’m doubting myself as a woman who may not give birth. I know to reassure him he is enough for me, he is valued through this process, and that he matters in all decisions and procedures. These are the things that truly matter to us.

Probably the most important element for us has been humor. We’ve learned to laugh through some of the most uncomfortable moments of this. We have many jokes surrounding our doctors and others we’ve encountered at the clinic. The ridiculousness of it all has helped us get through some really hard times. I’ve always appreciated I could laugh with Nate and I’ve never felt more grateful for that than in the last 2.5 years. It’s a daily thing, but I do feel as though we’ve learned to appreciate each other more through this on our good days and our bad.

9) I know that sometimes people trying to help often end up doing more harm than good. What advice can you give to those who know someone struggling with infertility?

Having sensitivity and really listening. So often I might share something that feels scary to me and someone will say, “Well when I was pregnant…” or “Oh, I remember when we were trying….” None of that is not considered listening, it’s considered talking about yourself. I understand a lot of times it comes from a place of not being able to relate and a real desire to comfort, but it comes off as just another person who doesn’t get it and doesn’t want to try to get it.

Recently I was talking with someone who is well aware of what we are going through, and the conversation turned to having children later in life. Comments were made such as, “I’m so glad we didn’t have kids in our 30s and 40s…” or “I can’t imagine having kids that old…” Um, well I can. That’s my reality. I don’t have a choice like most others.

Of course I don’t want people to say pad things or say, “I don’t want this to offend you.” How mortifying. I just need sensitivity. A realization that everyone has a different journey and enough self awareness to step outside of your experience and really hear someone else. I had another person close to me complain about her kids only to turn to me and say, “Are you sure you want to have kids?” It was one of the most hurtful things anyone has ever said to me because of course I’m sure! I have to choose wanting children every single day. Every day when I inject myself, suffer from hot flashes, and deal with mood swings. Every month when I pay the clinic and go through the heartache of loss and grief. Believe me, I’m not just doing this for fun or to see what happens. I have to choose it every day in order to make sense of what I’m doing. 

We’ve also had people who find out we are struggling with infertility and quickly say, “Well, you can always adopt.” This is something we have had to deal with a lot. Adoption is certainly not off of the table for us, but we don’t want to approach adoption as a last option. Instead we want to fully choose it because that’s what we want to do, not because of any other impatience in our heart. Nate was adopted and I thank Jesus for that because I never would have met him otherwise. We have definitely considered it, but at this point we are focused on our 5 embryos that have an 80% chance of life. Until we are sure about their fate, we cannot ethically and mentally consider anything else. Right now we are choosing to give our embryos a fair shot.

Hugs and care packages also go a long way. We’ve had so many friends drop off baskets of goodies on our porch when we’ve got bad news. There’s also been an outpouring of visitors, meals, and lunch dates just to talk about how I’m doing on my medication. It’s been really amazing to see friends and family who knew nothing of infertility now asking me about my estrogen levels and fertilization reports. I’m so impressed by these people. They started from scratch just like us and chose to learn. It goes a long way.

10) What has been the most helpful piece of advice or wisdom you’ve used to stay strong through this process?

Two things. One, I am not in control. Sitting at home pacing, picking my face, or stuffing my mouth with chips won’t change what’s on the end of the lab work, embryo report, or ultrasound. 

I also have to constantly tell myself, “You, Kristy, are not forgotten.” I spend my life and career helping people work through the hardest moments of their life, and I now know what it’s like to ride that wave with no land in sight, only to trust and lean on the others around you. There have been mountains and valleys of emotion–oceans and desert of tears–but we are remaining hopeful that we are not forgotten through all of this and someday, we will look beyond the suffering to something more beautiful than ever expected.

***

Kristy lives in Virginia with her husband and two cats. She is a lover of people who use their blinker, flash mobs, and real mayo. She is currently working on a book about the woes and challenges of infertility which will hopefully be out next year. She has also just started a new line of greeting cards for couples trying to conceive hoping to provide inspiration and support through the mailbox. A link to her shop here.

The Body Post

May 22, 2015

Body Post

I am 14-years-old, 5’8, and 185 pounds. The only pants that fit over my thighs are outdated and torn. I’ve been an awkward kid my whole life, but now I am a teenager with braces, butterfly clips and obesity. It is hard. I try my best to ignore the fact that I don’t look like everyone else, but still pray every night for a better body so that I might have a boyfriend other than “Chad,” my fictional lover “from the city.”

Then one day my wish comes true. I don’t know if it’s hormones or a bona fide miracle from Jesus, but between my Junior and Senior years of high school, I lose a whole 45 pounds. That’s like one Justin Bieber.

The first thing I do is buy a normal sized jean jacket. It is thrilling and strange. Gone are the days of “Well, at least you have a nice smile!”, and for the first time in my life–boys notice me. All of a sudden I am popular, pretty, and picked first in gym class despite being a truly terrible athlete. All the balls are literally in my court, staring at my miniskirt and making awkward conversation about my “different look.”

The rest is predictable. I get drunk on the power and obsessed with being thin. It’s all I think about day and night, resulting in some really creative diets including the “The Sleep Diet,” “The Saltine Diet,” and perhaps most repelling, “The Refried Beans Diet.”  By the end of college, I have dabbled in all the dark eating arts; bulimia, anorexia, dipping cotton balls in orange juice and calling it “lunch.” I am a jack of all trades.

Most notable is my long relationship with laxatives. For years I pop these pills into my digestive system to “cleanse” all the calories after meals. The problem is that they are A) habit forming and B) will ruin your body and cause you to shit your pants in the school cafeteria. They also do not work. My weight goes up and down like a yo-yo due to false hope over these tiny pills. When I finally quit cold turkey, I have a weakened metabolism and lasting damage to my bowels.

Enter the children. The first thing I do when I get pregnant is promise myself I’ll stop abusing my body. The months before my wedding I had been eating less than 500 calories a day, barely enough to walk up a flight of stairs without passing out. I couldn’t do that while caring for a baby. And so I look down at my stomach, say Honey, it’s just not worth it, and promptly gain 75 pounds.

I’ve been sporting a pear shape ever since.

A few weeks ago I was asked to write about body image and how it’s changed over the years. Despite spending the past three decades being too big or too small, here are some things I know for sure:

1) Eating too little will make you feel like shit.

2) Eating too much will make you feel like shit.

3) It doesn’t matter how much therapy, exercise, or humor you pour into yourself–body issues do not disappear. They are with you for life. Amy Poehler calls it “the demon.”

Hopefully as you get older, you start to learn how to live with your demon. It’s hard at first. Some people give their demon so much room that there is no space in their head or bed for love. They feed their demon and it gets really strong and then it makes them stay in abusive relationships or starve their beautiful bodies. But sometimes, you get a little older and get a little bored of the demon. Through good therapy and friends and self-love you can practice treating the demon like a hacky, annoying cousin. Maybe a day even comes when you are getting dressed for a fancy event and it whispers, “You aren’t pretty,” and you go, “I know, I know, now let me find my earrings.” Sometimes you say, “Demon, I promise you I will let you remind me of my ugliness, but right now I am having hot sex so I will check in later.

The demon is annoying but I’ve learned it doesn’t have to be everything. As it turns out, there’s a lot more to life than thigh gap. Also, spending thirty years in a woman’s body has taught me a few things. For example, how to buy appropriate sized clothing. Pro tip: squeezing into a smaller size out of vanity could result in a situation that requires scissors or your uncle’s butcher knife. Similarly, how to avoid fad diets. Take it from an expert dieter, juice cleanses and 30 day fixes do nothing more than give you temporary weight loss and diarrhea. Doctors, science, and years of research are actually telling the truth. Healthy eating and exercise are the only ways to truly lose weight, sure you can increase your male hormone with a little help but at the end you will need to feed your body right and exercise often. I know it’s the worst.

There is no way to go back in time and tell my 18-year-old self that binge eating colace will cause her 30-year-old self to shit her pants at the grocery store. All I can do now is laugh and maybe become a motivational speaker for teenage youths who think Angelina’s arms are normal. I can think of no better way to dissuade someone from laxative abuse than describing the particulars of throwing out your underwear in the Costco bathroom. The details are truly horrifying.

The image we have of ourselves is always shifting. May we continue to grow into our bodies, forgive our arms, and celebrate our working bones.

We are always a work in progress.

***