As much as I wanted to dive right into fertility treatments after my recent FET did not work, it just isn’t realistic for us. We are physically, emotionally, and financially tapped out. So we are taking this time to heal, recenter, and reevaluate. I want to use this time wisely. I’d like to try treatments again in the future, as well as possibly fostering or adopting. But right now we really need to take a break.
Have you taken a break from trying to have a baby? What advice would you give to someone considering taking a break? What helped you the most during that time? Please comment below.
Sometimes you just hit a wall. You’ve exhausted every option available to you, and you have to rethink how you are doing things. In my last post I talked about how our recent frozen embryo transfer did not work. The embryo did not implant, so technically I did not become pregnant. It was very sad for both of us. Over time I’ve become accustomed to plans not working and loss. I’ve found that it stings less and less over time, but the disappointment is still there. After seeing how this was affecting my husband, I realized the best thing for both of us is to take a break.
Initially he asked for a month-long break from treatments, certainly reasonable and doable. Well it’s been one month since my embryo transfer, and I think we need a longer break. The decision to wait longer is mostly a financial one. We just don’t have the money for treatments or any family building right now. We’ve put all our eggs in one basket with this fertility treatment (pun intended). But I realized I also put us on the back-burner. I wanted to share a list of things we sacrificed in order to pursue treatments.
Things we put on pause for fertility treatment:
Getting a house (living in a neighborhood that isn’t always safe)
Finishing college degree (I have about 1.5 years left on second degree)
Buying a car
Rarely buying clothes (my home attire consists of an obscene amount of holey clothes)
Saying “no” to vacations because “I might be pregnant by then” or “I’m pregnant and don’t want to risk another miscarriage by traveling” and of course “I can’t go on vacation, I don’t have the money.”
Weight loss goals out the window when doing fertility treatments. Fertility treatment = Bloats McGoats
I could go on and on about how planning and saving up for treatment impacts literally every facet of my life. If you’ve been on treatments, you know exactly what I’m talking about. I think that building a family, no matter how you do it (treatments, foster-to-adopt, adopt, etc.) can take so much out of us if we let it.
But what if we flip that idea on its head? What if instead of believing we are losing something or missing out on something, we could instead view it as something we are gaining? I’ve experienced a lot of loss through miscarriages and IVF rounds that did not work. If you were to tell me right after a miscarriage that I am ‘gaining something’ I would not have been very happy with you. But if I pull back and look at the big picture of what I’ve learned over these years, I truly have learned a lot.
The biggest thing I’ve learned is building resilience. I’ve learned and accepted the grieving process after each loss. With my first miscarriage that happened years ago, I laid in bed for two weeks straight. Other than using the restroom and occasionally getting food, I was tethered to that bed. I listened to a lot of music that spoke to my grief. I cried more than I have ever cried in my life. I cried so much that I physically ran out of tears and could not cry anymore, which I did not even know that was possible. It was shocking, devastating, and heartbreaking.
But when I had more miscarriages, the emotional pain lessened over time. You become used to the possibility that it might not work. You learn to become realistic. I still feel sad when it doesn’t work out, but nowhere near what it was like with my first loss. That first loss was debilitating.
I think a realistic approach to treatments is to hope for the best and plan for the worst. I don’t believe in the whole “don’t get your hopes up” idea. If you are feeling hopeful, despite the odds, let yourself fully feel it. You can be simultaneously hopeful and planning ahead if things don’t work out. In fact, that is how I’ve gotten through all these years of trying. I allowed myself to feel happy and hopeful when things were looking good and I also mentally prepared myself for the possibility that things wouldn’t work out.
I had a plan in place to prepare for a loss or round of treatment that didn’t work. I asked myself, “What are some healthy coping skills I can do to build myself back up if I do lose this baby (or if my treatment doesn’t work)?” I thought back to other times in my life when things were difficult and what helped me then. I wrote down my plan so that it was tangible and I could refer back to it. I would talk about my plan for healthy coping with my husband. My plan became my safety net as well as what helped get me back on my feet. Over time and with practice my safety net became stronger and I got back on my feet a little quicker each time. I highly recommend creating a go-to healthy coping skills list for yourself. No matter what loss you experience in life, this can really help you build resilience.
I wanted to share a book I started reading recently called Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg. It’s all about loss, grief, and building resilience. I think it is really well written and the lessons learned can also be applied to the grieving process of failed fertility treatments, miscarriages, stillbirth, infant loss, etc. If you are experiencing a loss related to family building, I highly recommend seeking out books not just on that subject, but on the grieving process in general. There’s a limited number of books that talk about the grieving process during miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant loss. So I’m thankful that I’ve decided to expand out my resources beyond the scope of miscarriage grief, because learning about other types of grief opened up so many resources for me. I’m finding that learning about grief on a broader scale has opened my eyes to many other voices and lessons on how to build resilience. Hearing peoples’ stories about grief from losing a spouse, an older child, or being diagnosed with cancer has helped me to learn what they did to stay strong and become resilient in time.
So, circling back to my original thoughts, this break from my fertility treatment is all about reconnecting to who I am as an individual and who we are as a couple. I plan on doing a post in the future, summarizing my break from fertility treatment. That future post will probably be related to more practical ways to navigate your break from treatment. For now, I will be sharing tid-bits along the way of things I’ve learned.
What have I been up to lately now that I am taking a break from treatment? Recently I went on a camping trip with my husband. It was an amazing trip. We didn’t go anywhere new, we’ve been camping there a handful of times. But this time I was able to take my mind off treatment and focus on us. I really do feel like it helped reconnect us. It was a lot of fun and while I was there it felt as if we rekindled a part of ourselves that was there before trying to have a baby.
Stoked! Kurtis starting the bonfire for our recent camping trip. Camping is one of our favorite hobbies.
I’ve also been focusing on trying to lose weight and get healthier. I’ve been doing intermittent fasting and lost almost 9 pounds this month. I still have a ways to go but it’s a good start. I’ve been cleaning the house more and trying to get more organized. We’ve been doing more hiking and walking. I’ve been trying to move more in general. I created an Instagram account dedicated to weight loss, self-development, and goal setting. You can follow my account @goalsandconfetti on Instagram. If you haven’t already, you can also follow me at @hopingforbabyblog.
I plan on taking this time to review more books, shows, podcasts, ect. about not only fertility treatment but also other family building options. I’ll be posting my reviews soon on this site, so be looking out for those. There are so many great resources on family building out there. I plan on updating my Resources & Products page for you all too.
As you probably remember in my FET Prep Week 15 post I was stressing about how my body decided to start my cycle, rather than adjust to my medication protocol. Well as it turns out I had a cyst that was totally taking hostage my plans for my frozen embryo transfer. Instead of cursing this cyst that very much deserved cursing at, I had a “whatever” attitude, bordering on ambivalent about everything.
So this is the third fertility treatment I’ve done (two egg retrievals before and now this FET), and I can without question say my body never does what is expected of it. It was incredibly frustrating for me, especially when I spent almost one month out of state waiting for my eggs to get to the correct size for my second egg retrieval which ended up a complete bust anyway. But instead of being totally thrown for a loop with this frozen embryo transfer I decided to take a different approach. I told myself ahead of time, “You know your body is a rebel, so plan for things not to go according to plan.” This actually helped, because when things inevitably didn’t work out as planned I was able to keep my s**t together and say to myself, “Well duh, you know your body, and you know it’s not going to be aligned with their schedule. So don’t stress. Just focus on your next immediate step.”
So what exactly happened? Well I had a fat cyst that was hanging on and was way too comfy, not wanting to go anywhere. Last week my fertility clinic said that if the cyst on my ultrasound was over 10mm I would need to do a blood test to check my estrogen levels. Well not only was my cyst almost double the size they would allow (has to be less than 10mm but I was measuring at 18mm) but my estrogen levels also turned out twice as high as what they wanted. My nurse said, “I’m sure you’ll get your period over the weekend. Let’s schedule a follow-up ultrasound on Monday. In the meantime keep taking your 10 units of Lupron and don’t start the Estrace yet.” Essentially I was not moving on to the next step of medication that I needed to to stay on track with my calendar.
Instead of dreading the ultrasound or being overly optimistic I decided to try to remove my emotions from the situation because it’s something I have zero control over. On Monday the ultrasound tech told me my cyst was still measuring too big, at 12mm when it needed to be under 10mm. Not surprising. I drove over to the hospital to get my blood drawn for my estrogen levels. Thankfully not too long later my clinic called with the good news that my estrogen levels had dropped to baseline, which is exactly what they wanted to see. They also said my lining looks nice and thin, also what they wanted to see at this stage. And as it just so happened, not fifteen minutes after that phone call with my nurse, my long awaited period finally started. I think if it had been delayed any later my whole FET cycle might have been cancelled. My body likes to keep me in suspense.
I find it amazing how everything can look so bleak and pointless and then suddenly things take a dramatic turn around just in time. It is quite head spinning. I think had I not made the decision to try to remove my emotions from this situation I would have been a total wreck. I was like, “Nope! Not going there emotions.”
Now that things are back on track, my nurse had me lower my Lupron dose from 10 units down to 5 units and I am taking an Estrace pill three times daily. Not to mention I’m taking lots of vitamins twice a day. They’ve tweaked my schedule slightly to where my original followup ultrasound was switched from June 24th and is now June 26th. So as long as my ultrasound on June 26th looks good I will still be able to travel to Seattle as originally planned. I should still be able to do my FET on July 2nd as long as nothing major happens.
On Different Pages with Spouse
Of course the stakes are incredibly high. I have only one embryo I’m about to implant. As in, I only have one embryo from two rounds of IVF when the average woman could have three to five embryos after two rounds. I want to do another round of IVF to give this baby a sibling (or if this one does not implant to try again) but I’m not sure my husband will be on board with doing another round of IVF. I know what I want, without question. But he and I seem to be on different pages, with him leaning more towards the idea of fostering.
I am the type of person who likes to have a plan, and right now he does not want to plan anything beyond this current frozen embryo transfer. The fact that he does not want to discuss the future, I think is a coping defense to kind of help him focus on one step at a time. It just so happens that’s the opposite of how I normally function.
Through all of my losses, with the exception of my first, I had a plan in place to help me keep it all together when things didn’t work out. I knew how long to wait after a miscarriage before trying again. I knew the medicine and vitamins I would be on. I would follow my doc’s advice for my next best step. I would hit the ground running, ready to move on instead of wallowing. I always had a plan. But my husband doesn’t want me to plan anything beyond this upcoming frozen embryo transfer.
I tried discussing next steps with him, with an affordable clinic I found (we’re talking one-third the cost). Now that I finally have a diagnosis of MTHFR gene mutation this will also improve my chances of getting the right treatment I need. But after years of TTC and miscarriages I think it’s affected him more than I realized. His way of coping is to not make any plans for the future.
Put yourself in my position dear reader. I’ve had six miscarriages, two egg retrievals, and now I’m about to have an embryo transfer with my only embryo. It is beginning to feel as if this is my one and only shot at having a biological child. And if it does not work out…well I have no idea, because he does not want to talk about the future. Sounds scary right? I literally have no clue what is going to come out of his mouth if this embryo transfer fails. He could say any of the following; 1) let’s foster, 2) lets adopt, 3) how about embryo adoption, 4) we could try another round of IVF, 5) we could live child-free, 6) or what every infertile girl does not want to hear “This isn’t working, I want a divorce.” He’s reassured me in the past he wouldn’t leave me over any of this, but some of us who are infertile may still have this concern in the back of our minds.
Fertility treatments are front and center in our lives right now. I plan my work schedule around it. I’m taking a big pay cut and opting for a more flexible on-call schedule in order to do treatments. For my second egg retrieval I was in Seattle for almost an entire month, which was completely unplanned. Most jobs would not allow for that much wiggle room with their schedule. Instead of planning vacations to tropical places, I’ve had to say “no” time and time again because I would either be doing fertility treatments or I might be pregnant and I refuse to fly while I’m pregnant due to being considered ‘high risk.’ We’ve postponed more than just vacations, but also buying a house. Our life has been put on pause for over four years. I think he’s sick of it.
But with my recent MTHFR gene mutation diagnosis, I found a major missing puzzle piece for my treatment plan. I don’t want to throw my hands up now when I feel like I’m finally making some headway. Not to mention I found a much more affordable clinic. I personally think it would be stupid for me to stop treatment at this point. To completely give up when I have more answers and more resources to help me, well that would be such a waste.
Based on our past conversations, I feel he is ready to move on to fostering. But I’m not ready for that, like at all. I don’t feel I can handle the immense trauma that children in the foster care system have been through. Even if I did decide I was done with fertility treatments, which I am not ready to give up, I feel I would need a long time to grieve that loss before I felt able to handle the immense responsibility of being a foster parent. I’m thinking years before I would even begin to consider it.
I’ve talked with some of my friends who’ve also talked about how they were on two completely different pages with their partners. One of my friends was wanting to adopt, but her husband still wanted to try fertility treatments. None of us really had a clear answer for her, because there is no “right” answer. You always hear the advice to married couples that one of the best things you can do in your marriage is to learn how to compromise. But how do you compromise when it comes to your biological clock? What if you do compromise this and you miss your chance forever. And are you “wrong” for not feeling ready to foster?
From what I’ve heard from others and from what I’ve read from some of the best infertility books, sometimes the “right” choice is the one that resonates most strongly with you. For me, when I’m making tough decisions I imagine myself in the future, lying on my deathbed thinking back on my life and I ask myself this question, “Did I do everything I could to make my dream a reality?” I ask myself this as well when it comes to having a baby. I feel very strongly that I am still in the “fertility treatment” season of my life. I am not quite at the adoption or fostering stage of my life. I know there are some women who do everything all at once; fertility treatments, fostering, and the adoption process. That may work fine for them, but I know myself and I know that would stress me out beyond belief. I know without a doubt that is a recipe for disaster for me.
If this embryo transfer does not work out, I will grant myself permission to drink some boxed wine, eat chocolate, and binge watch reality shows. But soon after that I will get back up again, dust myself off, and get to planning my next step. There’s a Japanese proverb you may have heard of that is simple, yet inspirational for those of us who struggle, “Fall down seven times, stand up eight.” I feel this proverb epitomizes my life right now and I bet a lot of you can also relate. We face so many setbacks and disappointments. But we have to keep moving forward in the direction that feels the best for us.
“Guess what? I started my injections!” I said beaming with a smile. My friend laughed and said, “I’ve never seen anyone as excited as you are for shots.” I just laughed too, it really is an odd thing to say about how you are excited for shots. Most people dread shots and here I am saying bring it on! These shots are to help prepare my uterine lining so my frozen embryo has an increased chance of implanting.
I think these injections have brought more excitement than my first two egg retrievals, because this time I know there is an actual embryo waiting for me. The egg retrievals were all about pumping me up with hormones to get some good eggs. Eggs were the outcome. But this time a baby is the outcome. I’d say right now my hopes are really high, and I am trying to stay optimistic.
I finished up my birth control near the end of the week along with doing the Lupron injections. This is the third time I’ve done Lupron injections, so I feel like I’m an old hand at this. It’s only a little painful if you do it right. It’s such a small and thin needle so it’s not a big deal. I’ve been injecting myself, no assistance needed from hubby here. I may need his help with the PIO shots later on since those are at a weird angle and in the upper butt. Maybe I’ll try to learn how to do those ones on my own.
Approved for Lovenox
I got a phone call back from my doctor regarding whether I should be on Lovenox during my pregnancy. I’ve heard of many success cases of women with the MTHFR gene mutation who were finally able to carry a baby to full-term, with the addition of Lovenox during pregnancy. My doctor acknowledged the fact that the use of this medicine is controversial, mostly due to there not being enough studies on its use in pregnancy for those with the MTHFR gene mutation. He also mentioned that if it helps the mother during pregnancy there is no significant increase in birth rates. He said, “I cannot guarantee that this will help. It’s hard to say.” In a nutshell, he let me know that it won’t cause any harm, but it may not improve my situation by much. I told him, “Even if it may only slightly increase my chance of a baby, I’d like to try it.” And with that he agreed to let me try it.
He told me that I would start taking Lovenox with my first positive pregnancy test, and that my OB would take it from there as far as how long I should be on it. I am excited to try this out and see if this makes any difference. Who knows maybe this will finally be the time that I am able to carry to term. But first things first, this little embryo needs to implant.
Visited Mom this week and spotted this butterfly near her house.
New Vitamins to Reduce Anxiety
In my last post I wrote about how I thought my recent high anxiety might be due to my methylfolate supplement, which for some people does increase anxiety. I re-read the section of “It Starts with the Egg” about the MTHFR gene mutation and how one way people deal with the increased anxiety from the supplement is to balance it out with B12 vitamins. I also added in B6 as it suggests in the book. I wouldn’t say I’m completely rid of my anxiety, but I’m definitely feeling a lot better than I was.
All of my vitamins for FET Prep.
I’m still a little jumpy if I hear loud noises, but I’ll take a little jumpiness any day over what I was feeling before. I was feeling such an enormous amount of dread for the majority of the day, it was awful. Any minor fear was amplified ten times over. Thankfully, I am seeing a positive difference with feeling more at ease lately.
I’ve also temporarily increased my vitamin D dosage, as recommended in the book. I decided to do the two weeks of 10,000 IU. I’ll be wrapping up with the two weeks here shortly then I will drop down to what I was taking before at 5,000 IU of vitamin D.
All of my vitamins lined up. I don’t always take that many L-Arginine though.
I’ve also added in some L-Arginine, but not as much as what is recommended in the book. I’ve learned that L-Arginine can reduce egg quality for a little bit, but help a fair amount with an embryo transfer. Because I am about to do an embryo transfer I decided to take the middle road. A did some digging in the Facebook “It Starts with the Egg” reader group and saw that Rebecca Fett (the author) responded to someone’s question. I can’t remember the question verbatim but it essentially asked, “I have low AMH and am about to do an embryo transfer. If this transfer does not work I want to do another egg retrieval in the future. I am concerned about L-Arginine and how it may make egg quality worse. Should I take less L-Arginine for this embryo transfer or avoid it completely?” Again I don’t remember the exact wording, but I do remember the number that Rebecca Fett suggested to her, “Try 2000mg instead of the full 6g.” For the dosage of pills I have on hand, that equates to only 6 pills per day, as opposed to what she recommends for most others which would be 12 pills. I may take a little more than that, seeing as how this is my only embryo I have. I think as long as I am within the range of 6-12 pills I will be okay with that.
Organized all my vitamins in three different recycled bottles. Makes it easy to grab and go.
For those of us experiencing infertility, pregnancy loss, stillbirth, or infant loss Mother’s Day can bring up so many emotions. Grief can come in waves, and holidays, especially Mother’s Day can be an especially difficult time. Here are six ideas that you might find helpful during Mother’s Day.
1) Take a Break from Social Media and TV
When you are already struggling with infertility, the last thing you need to see is how everyone you know is either pregnant or recently had a baby. It sucks, and can feel isolating. Mother’s Day can be particularly painful for mother’s who have lost a child, had a miscarriage, or have never been able to conceive. But just remember that what you are seeing on social media may not be the true picture of what is actually going on. It’s possible the baby announcement on Mother’s Day that is making your heart hurt was after they had a long period of infertility, and they just never talked about their struggle. On the other side, maybe their happy face is concealing their absolute fear of how they are going to afford their doctors appointments during pregnancy and the high cost of birth. The “shiny happy people” of our social media accounts may be dealing with a lot more than you realize. But what we are seeing are often surface-level snapshots. It’s a normal tendency to want to compare our life to what other people post, but just know that everyone is on their own path.
Taking a break from TV, or cutting back on watching TV is another way to allow space between you and the overabundance of Mother’s Day commercials. It can feel painful and like we are being excluded, especially when we feel like in our hearts we are already mothers. Just remember that these advertisements are meant to motivate people to buy their product, simple as that. Marketing to mothers by saying “you do everything for everyone, today is the day to pamper yourself with the best skin cream out there,” or to husbands, “show her she means the world to you with this beautiful necklace,” or even advertisements directed at adult children, “show Mom you really care with a gift she’ll never forget, spending time with you on her special day.” The advertisers have a target audience for Mother’s Day, and it almost always does not include women who have experienced infertility, pregnancy loss, or infant loss.
If avoiding TV is not practical for you, maybe try pressing the mute button during commercials, or change the channel during the commercial. You can even walk out of the room on the commercial if you need to. Personally, I find diaper advertisements the most painful during Mother’s Day. It’s totally normal to feel a pang of sadness or longing when these commercials come up. It’s okay and healthy to set boundaries around these sorts of things temporarily.
2) Focus on self-care
There are an endless number of ways to take care of yourself. Ask yourself some of these questions to figure out what will help you take care of yourself best:
“What normally helps me feel happier when I am feeling down?”
“What can I do to take care of myself emotionally and physically?”
“How can I focus on something different if I begin to dwell too much?”
It may feel hard to say “I can’t make it” to a Mother’s Day event with our family, but if you’ve recently had a miscarriage or lost your baby in infancy it can be too soon to attend an event like that, it can be the opposite of what you need. Feeling obligated to go, even though you know it will compound your pain, is not really good self-care. You have to really tap into how you are feeling and know when to set limits. On the flip side to that, you need to find a way to let out your emotions somehow, whether it’s on your own or with others you trust. Keeping it all inside will tear you apart over time, get it out somehow. Write it down in a journal, punch a pillow, cry if you want to cry, listen to music, talk to a friend or family member, go for a walk, create a piece of art that shows how you are feeling. Do something, don’t just sit in the pain.
3) Reflect on Your Strength
You are strong, and don’t ever doubt that! You may cry, get frustrated, and impatient, all of that is totally normal. We can’t always be “happy rainbows and sunshine” about the fact that we are not where we are hoping to be in our life. But the fact that you keep putting one foot in front of the other is simply amazing. Our ability to reproduce is not a reflection of our value as a person. You have special gifts and talents only you can share with the world.
You’re reading this post, you are seeking out advice, support, connecting with other women who are just like you. You are sharing your experience, and when you do that we all grow as a community. None of us wanted to be in this “club” but when you hear other women’s stories and the strength they have, you just might realize you are strong just like them.
You may have dealt with heartache after heartache with recurrent miscarriages. Or you feel deep sadness each month when you get your period when you hoped that it would finally be your month to conceive. Or you have experienced the trauma of a stillbirth or losing your baby in infancy. There is an unimaginable amount of grief and longing we all share. I believe that from pain can come tenderness. I felt like no one understood my experience with recurrent miscarriages until I started getting connected with other women just like me in different infertility groups online. It’s amazing how a simple comment or message of support can go a long way to make someone’s day.
5) Speak Up
You never know who you are helping when you share your experience. Sometimes it can be hard to talk about our past. You can choose, when, where, and how to talk about your experience. Who knows, maybe if you talk about your struggles to someone on Mother’s Day, you might be helping expand their understanding. This could in turn help them to be more considerate of those experiencing infertility. You would be helping to break down the stigma of infertility.
If you are more private and not ready to share your story, at least talk to your partner or other women online who know where you are coming from, for example. Find someone to talk to and don’t be afraid to be authentic. For a long time I held back from sharing my story, but when my friend started talking about her pregnancy losses, I felt like it helped to create space to share my story too. Feeling heard and understood on a deep level is one of the best ways to begin the healing process.
6) Celebrate Mom and other Maternal Figures in Your Life
Mother’s Day is traditionally for mothers, but why not expand that out to celebrate other women who have helped you become who you are? Your grandmother, your aunt, your old school teacher. Why not tell them today that they have made a world of difference to you. You don’t have to bring life into the world to help nurture other lives. Some people may think they are not “worthy” of being celebrated if they are not a mother, but I think it’s about time we expand this out to other maternal figures. Their good deeds helped shape you for who you are, just the same way your good deeds have done this for others.
Have your fertility treatments been cancelled due to COVID-19? The uncertainty of infertility treatments is hard enough, and now we face the uncertainty of the COVID-19 situation. Now is the time to focus on what matters most, our health. I recently read that having a higher BMI can increase your risk for having complications from COVID-19. Not too long ago I also read that a higher BMI reduces fertility treatment success. I feel like now, more than ever, I need to get my ass in gear and make some major health changes to lower my high BMI. Due to my fertility treatment cancelling my FET procedure, I am shifting my focus from my FET Prep Series to instead my Weight Loss Series. The weight loss series will be individualized to my own experience, and you are welcome to follow along.
Disclaimer: All content and media on the Hoping For Baby website is created and published online for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on as health advice.
Countdown Until Target Weight Date: 6 months & 1 day (as of 3-31-2020)
Let me be real with you, I did not feel fully prepared for my FET (originally scheduled April 24th, now cancelled) as much as I wanted to be. My weight has been an issue off and on over the years. My last round of IVF left me feeling extra bloated and I struggled to lose the weight from the hormones I was on. My weight crept up with each infertility treatment, each miscarriage, each surgery, and was compounded even more so with the depression I was experiencing. I kept thinking that my body would somehow magically bounce back to my pre-infertility treatment weight, but it never did.
I can’t blame it all on my infertility treatments though, but I can definitely blame my habits. In order to deal with the stress of everything going on, I became more relaxed with how I was eating. “Fast food today isn’t that big a deal” I would tell myself. Instead of cooking at home I was starting to replace more meals with eating takeout often. Unhealthy food and being a couch potato is a surefire way to pack on the pounds.
But with COVID-19 I had no choice but to make more meals at home. I started eating more veggies and fruits and making healthy dinners. I’m still working, but it’s significantly less hours now. So with my extra time I decided this first week I wanted to really focus on cleaning the house and being active that way. I accomplished quite a bit of reorganizing and cleaning. My measurement of a successful active day was whether I broke a sweat cleaning for at least an hour. As I was cleaning I was either listening to upbeat music, a podcast, or an audio book. Once I get into it, the cleaning process was actually pretty therapeutic for me.
On March 21st, 2020 I weighed myself, the scale flashed 200.6 pounds. It’s not the heaviest I’ve ever been, but it’s damn near it. At my heaviest I was 220 pounds years ago. But I’m facing the facts now, and I’m realizing my situation is serious. I have high blood pressure and I’m pre-diabetic, both of which are reversible. It seemed like it was just a few months ago I was only 180 pounds.
My starting weight of 200.6 (March 21st) to today 195.2 (March 31st).
My last miscarriage was September 2019, which required me to have a total of three surgeries due to complications from the first surgery. My depression increased with each surgery. I had zero control over the situation, there was simply nothing I could do other than follow doctors orders. I had to continuously postpone my FET plans with each surgery. Now with COVID-19 it has been postponed again.
But instead of sinking into a deeper depression and gaining more and more weight I decided enough was enough. Sometimes I tell myself, “I’m going to do the opposite of what I feel like doing today.” Instead of spending an entire day escaping by binge watching Netflix like I wanted to do, I focused on cleaning the house instead. With the consistent daily movement I started to feel better. I didn’t feel quite ready at the time to hop on the treadmill again, and I wanted to ease into exercising by cleaning the house first. I’m feeling much better this week physically and emotionally, and I feel like I am ready to start actively exercising again.
I’m hoping to lose about 50 pounds over six months, give or take. So by October 1st I’d like to have shaved off quite a bit of weight. Even if I don’t reach my exact goal I think any amount of weight loss is better than the weight-gain trajectory I was on. I have no idea how long the COVID-19 fertility clinic closures will last, so I might as well focus my energy into becoming healthier.
Have you decided to focus on improving your health while you are waiting for your fertility clinic to reopen? If so, I’d love to hear the steps you are taking to take care of yourself. Whether you are focusing on your physical health or mental health (or both) please comment below.
This week was a blur. Lots of stuff going on lately. I’m a little behind posting this but better late than never. Last week I mentioned I wanted to stop my prescription medicine and my supplements for a few days to see if it would help with my headaches and migraines. Well, sure enough my daily headache disappeared and I only had one migraine this week. I started back up with my supplements and have not had any issues. This last week I have been drinking non-caffeinated herbal teas. The week prior I was drinking regular black tea which is caffeinated, and the week before that I was still trying to break my coffee addiction. So it was a step-by-step process of finding something to replace the one habit. I’m glad I’m doing this now as opposed to scrambling to break the addiction once I’m pregnant. I imagine my transition off of caffeine probably was a factor with the headaches.
I got in touch with my nurse from my out-of-state clinic to let her know my cycle started. She said I needed to start my BCP (birth control pill) on Day 2. It’s official! This lady is down-regging! And in less than two weeks I’ll be starting all the shots. I’m in the process of putting in my order for all of my medicine including Leuprolide, Endometrin, Progesterone, and Estradiol.
I imagine my headaches will probably return due to starting BCP. In the past I’ve had a low-grade headache with BCPs. I’m taking one that is a progesterone-only pill that does not increase blood pressure. I recommend talking with your doctor about taking a progesterone-only BCP or other alternative if you have blood pressure issues. Years ago I was on a BCP that increased my blood pressure to “stroke levels” my doctor told me. It’s kind of freaky to think that you are feeling completely normal but inside your body is freaking the hell out.
For this upcoming FET I declined taking the BCP when they originally wanted me to start, which was months back. I instead asked them, “What is the least amount of time necessary to be on birth control prior to the FET?” They ended up having me start the pill one month before my FET. If you are about to do your FET or IVF cycle and you don’t like being on birth control, consider asking your doctor what the minimum amount of time is to be on BCP. I’ve also heard some women do IVF without any birth control. I think it all depends on your diagnosis and IVF protocol, which varies from person to person.
Years ago I went to a miscarriage and infant loss support group. I only went to one or two meetings and it was just the group leader and myself. The group leader was dealing with a deep depression after the loss of her infant. I had just experienced an early pregnancy loss. I was trying to be supportive to the group leader because I felt like her loss was so much greater than my own. It was a very sad experience and I tried my best to be supportive of her. I decided to take a break of a month or two from that group because I didn’t feel I was emotionally able to handle it. I found out that group had ended due to low turnout. That experience made me nervous to return to whatever new group would start in the future. But a new group didn’t start for a long time.
Now there is only one infertility support group where I live, and it’s fairly new. I was really nervous to go in. I find it easier to write about it and ask questions in online infertility groups. So it was a big step for me to do an in-person group with people I have never met before.
So this last Thursday as I sat in my car, about to go into an infertility group I had never been to before, I could feel my heart racing. I’ve been able to open up to friends and family about my struggles, but could I do it with strangers? I went in and as soon as I walked into the room with the three other women I immediately felt welcomed. I’d describe the energy in the room as light-hearted, kind, and open. Each of them were interested in my story and how I was doing. I felt like I needed this support to help me before my upcoming FET. I am so happy I went and not only did I feel incredibly supported but I also learned some new things to help me.
Over the years I have opened up with family and friends about my miscarriages and infertility issues. It was a very slow process at first. I had kept my miscarriages mostly to myself in the beginning. I felt like I was the only one dealing with it, while everyone else seemed to have babies so easily. I hadn’t even told some of my friends yet. Years ago my coworker had mentioned the reason she hadn’t had any kids yet was due to a miscarriage. I listened to her and gave her support, and then I told her that I had several miscarriages too. This was the first time I had talked with anyone other than my husband and Mom about my miscarriages. She was so brave to have gone through that and even braver to talk about it. She doesn’t know it, but she was the first person to help me feel more comfortable about sharing my story with others.
That moment, with the two of us sharing our story created a whole domino effect. I started talking about it more easily in time and had no idea how many women in my life had been dealing with exactly what I was going through. It was as if each of us was waiting for someone else to talk about it, and when one person did we all started talking about it. Even the women who hadn’t experienced it themselves always knew someone else who did, and therefore had an idea of what I was going through. Soon enough I had built up a very strong support system of friends, family, coworkers, doctors, nurses, and an online community that was all rooting for me.
There are so many layers to the COVID-19 virus. I admit, I vacillate between being concerned and actively trying to avoid the news in order not to get overly concerned. I think the best thing we can all do is to follow the guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). I’m not going to pretend to be an authority on the subject, so please seek out information from reputable sources.
As far as its impact up here in Alaska. We just had our first case of COVID-19 announced in the news March 12. From what I hear, many people did panic-buying and decided to clean the shelves of toilet paper of all things. Thankfully we did our shopping before it all went down and have a big Costco-sized thing of toilet paper at home. Facebook is flooded with funny toilet paper memes. Other things I’ve heard we are low on are sanitizing wipes and hand sanitizer. The other day at work our maintenance guy came in with sanitizing wipes and I heard our contracted painter ask him with intense interest, “Where did you manage to find that?” I get the impression there is a lot of panic-buying going on, but I haven’t gone shopping in about a week, and it didn’t seem bad at all when I did.
Credit: KTUU News I was watching this news report in January.
I’d say for me personally, my biggest concern is when I have to fly to Seattle for my FET in April. As of March 12, 2020 there have been 270 cases with 27 deaths in Washington state. I’m worried about possibly contracting it and it affecting my chances of conceiving and I’m also worried about passing it on to those in my life with immunity and health issues. I’ve heard that if you plan on traveling to do a self-quarantine period of 14 days. So essentially I’m taking the traditional 2WW to an extreme. I planned on being off work for two weeks after my FET anyway, so it hasn’t changed my plans.
I’ve been checking my email from my Seattle clinic for updates. I’m wondering if they will send out an email cancelling any procedures. If they do it’s not the end of the world. I just hope I don’t get pumped up with all these hormone injectables, costing hundreds of dollars, only to find out it has to be cancelled. They did send out an email saying that they are being vigilant about cleaning and telling patients to follow CDC guidelines. I’m sure some women have opted to postpone their IVF cycles.
In 2016 Kurtis and I had decided to try to conceive right after we got married. But we had to change our plans when we found out our wedding and honeymoon locations had cases of Zika. If you don’t remember, Zika is an “Infection during pregnancy can cause a birth defect called microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects” (CDC, 2020). After we learned about the awful effects of Zika, we decided to wait six months to try to conceive after our trip, as the CDC suggested. In a way I feel like COVID-19 is yet again another issue that may potentially delay our plans.
But so far we are still good to go. My husband and I are both healthy and plan on follow CDC guidelines in order to avoid this. We only planned to be in Seattle for a couple nights anyway and weren’t planning on doing anything while we were there other than be lazy in the hotel, so I feel like we won’t be missing much anyway. I feel for the people and their families who have been affected by COVID-19 and hopefully we will find a way to control this virus soon.
Mini Victories for the Week
Went to a new infertility group and shared my story.
Started my BCP.
Work in Progress
Order my FET meds this week.
Plan to work less hours in April to prep for FET.
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Want to find out how fertile you are?
The Modern Fertility test is an affordable test that shows your hormone levels and gives you an overall picture of where you stand with your fertility. I recommend taking this test at least every 9-12 months to keep track of your hormone levels. What hormones will be tested? Depending on the type of birth control you are on they can test up to eight different hormone levels which may include:
This mini-series documentary follows couples from Northern Ireland as they try to conceive through In Vitro Fertilization. In each of the four episodes several couples are interviewed about the ups and downs they experienced through the IVF process. This documentary stands out from many others because they go in-depth with their interviews with the IVF medical team on what they actually do. They talk about each step of the IVF process as they actually show you what they are doing too. It’s one thing to hear about what the embryologists do, it’s another thing entirely to see it. After you watch this series, check out another similar documentary I highly recommend in my review of Baby Makers: The Fertility Clinic (IVF Documentary) which also goes into great depth about the step-by-step process from a medical perspective, as well as interviewing couples about their experience. They also cover some of the biggest concerns that come up for people during their IVF process including whether to seek out therapy as a couple, the impact of hormonal drugs on emotions, coping with a failed round of IVF and miscarriage, and when to stop fertility treatments.
Spoiler Alert! I talk about some of the outcomes of the people from the documentary. Go watch this documentary series first on Amazon or DVD if you don’t want to read any of my spoilers beforehand.
Adrianne and Adrian
First of all, I have to point out how cute it is that their names are so similar. Adrianne and Adrian were married 11 years at the time of the film. She had been trying to conceive since she was 30 years old. Before the show they had already tried three rounds of IVF and sadly none of them had worked. But they were determined to try it one last time, with a fourth round of IVF at Origin Fertility Care in Ireland.
During her egg retrieval they retrieved seven eggs in total. It was really cool to see the embryologist Richard show viewers what the ICSI procedure actually looks like, with his step-by-step narration of what he was doing. It’s such a delicate procedure where they puncture the egg with a superfine needle and insert the single sperm into the egg, all while a tiny tube suctions the egg ever so slightly from the outside, in order to hold the egg in place so it doesn’t float around. Super cool stuff, science is pretty amazing.
Once the sperm is inserted into the egg they wait 18 hours to see if the egg actually fertilized. Adrianne and Adrian said that this would probably be their last time trying IVF. In the end their fourth attempt at IVF had failed and they did not have a child from that cycle. It’s always hard to hear these stories, but it helps me also realize that I am not alone in this process and many others can relate.
Lynn and Glenn
And following the adorably named couple Adrianne and Adrian, is a couple with rhyming names, Lynn and Glenn. Many of the people in this documentary were seeking treatment at Origin Fertility Care. Lynn is the receptionist at the clinic, and her passion for helping others with infertility comes from a true understanding of the struggle. Their first cycle of IVF had failed. They decided to try for a second round of IVF, but while they were waiting to begin that process they conceived naturally. Lynn gave birth to a happy, healthy baby boy. I’ve heard many of these stories where couples were saving up money or taking a short break before doing IVF again but then they naturally conceived. It’s so nice to hear they had a happy ending to their story.
Alison and Shean
Alison and Shean talk about how they are experiencing secondary infertility and were trying to conceive for five years. Alison knew she had irregular periods, which were probably impacting her ability to conceive. I’ve seen a handful of different documentaries where it seems common for one partner to be more cautious while the other seems really optimistic by comparison. Alison said, “I’m a realist, and I’m like 50-50 chance, and I don’t like to count my chickens till they’ve hatched.” She goes on to say her husband tends to be the more optimistic during the process, to which he replies, “Optimism and pessimism, neither of them will change the outcome. But I suppose with optimism you have a better time getting there, and that’s the way I try to look at it.” That right there, that statement is worth its weight in gold. It’s so true though, you can hold your breath and white-knuckle through the whole IVF process or you can try to relax and be hopeful about it.
Of their six embryos that were frozen, only four survived. Of those four, two embryos were transferred. During the two week wait, Alison said she was trying to keep her mind occupied by staying busy. And although she had a positive pregnancy test, she later had a miscarriage and lost both babies. I really feel for them with their loss. I’d be interested to hear a follow-up from this couple about whether their remaining embryos resulted in a live-birth.
Mel’s story is so incredibly moving. Mel is 24 years old with three children and she decides to become an egg donor. It was heartbreaking to hear of the stillbirth of her son. She talked about how this greatly affected many aspects of her life. Later, after she had children of her own, she was motivated to donate her eggs, so she could help women who struggle with infertility. It’s so amazing to hear how women like Mel literally give a part of themselves to help others make their dream of becoming a parent come true.
Mel talks about how the timing of her egg retrieval and how it fell on the anniversary of her son’s death, “The fact that it’s all fallen in the same week I think is a bit more than a coincidence.” She also talks about the grieving process itself and how although the pain is still there, she found comfort thinking her son’s spirit is still with her and her family. I cried tears of both sadness and joy for her as she was able to take her pain and help others in such a beautiful way.
The egg donation process was completely anonymous for Mel. Any children that result from her egg donation have the option to contact Mel once they turn 18 years old. Mel was able to write an anonymous letter to her potential children. The medical expenses of Mel’s egg retrieval were covered, but other than that Mel was not compensated at all. Another reason I think this woman is amazing, doing it purely to help someone else. In the end, 12 eggs were retrieved from Mel which not only were enough to help one woman but two. Although one recipient wasn’t able to get pregnant initially, Mel got the happy news that the second recipient got pregnant right away. I think if there was a Woman of the Year award, I think it should go to Ms. Mel. So inspiring!
Jude and Brian
After five years of marriage and dealing with infertility, Jude and Brian decide to pursue IVF. They talk about how they are limited to only one round of IVF per year through the NHS. For those of you unfamiliar, the NHS stands for the National Health Service, the UK’s public healthcare system. I’m from the US and my particular private health insurance does not cover a penny of infertility procedures. So to hear that the NHS offers one round of IVF per year I thought that was absolutely amazing.
I wish this documentary had discussed the NHS’ role with infertility procedures more in depth. It just left me with more questions than answers. I need to do more research and maybe write an article on what I find out. Several couples in this series talk about how limiting the one-round-per year rule is for them. I think they have good reasons to feel this way, especially if they have really low AMH levels for example, because if they wait a year it just may be too late.
Jude and Brian are open to different options though if their round of IVF does not work. They were thinking about fostering and adoption later in their future. Although their round of IVF didn’t work out, Jude said they were trying to focus on other things in life, “God we put having a child in front of anything really, but you have to appreciate what you do have.” They plan on trying a second round of IVF and also looking into foster care.
Eilish and Keiran
After trying for a long time to try to have kids Eilish and Keiran decided to try IVF. Although their first round of IVF was initially successful with a positive pregnany test, they unfortunately lost their baby later with a miscarriage. After they took some time to heal from the pain of the loss they decided to try once again with a round of IVF. Not only did they become pregnant with one baby but two. Eilish had twins, one boy and one girl. She talked about how she was feeling thankful for having her family feel complete now.
Ali and Andrew
What I liked about this couple is they not only acknowledge the issues they were having in their relationship due to the IVF but that they also allowed the cameras to follow them into their therapy session. I also think the producers for the show did a good job with paring down the essential conflict between them that so many other couples can relate to. That conflict is that men can not ever know what that experience is like for women, to inject daily shots, to have the chance to feel life inside, and to also have a miscarriage. It’s just not a shared experience. It’s hard for women to understand that their husband simply cannot understand what it’s like. At best we can have them listen and say supportive things.
Ali wished Andrew knew when and how exactly to comfort her, even when she had a hard time putting it to words what she was feeling. The therapist came up with a great idea of having Ali either gesture or use an object to show that she needed extra support, even without verbalizing it. Andrew seemed really receptive to this idea, because it was a clear visual for him to comfort his wife, no mind reading necessary. I’m sure many of this can relate to that, I’ve only recently gotten better about speaking up when I need support and saying exactly what I need.
Credit: Amazon Prime Video. Ali and Andrew attend a therapy session to talk about how they can better communicate their needs during infertility treatment.
Ali had her AMH level tested and it was found to be normal for her age. Andrew helps prepare Ali’s needles to prepare for her egg retrieval. She had nine eggs retrieved and all nine fertilized, four embryos had properly matured. Of those four mature embryos, two were frozen and two were transferred.
Sharon and Gary
After struggling to conceive, Sharon and Gary were able to do an embryo transfer and had their son. Later they adopted their daughter from Russia. Gary talks about how adopting compared to doing fertility treatment, “In some respects that was more stressful than the IVF.” Sharon used her experience of infertility treatment as well as experience with adoption to help other women. She decided to provide advice to other women who are struggling through the group called the Infertility Network UK. It’s so great to hear stories of women who were able to turn a one painful experience into something that helps so many others. Sharon you rock!
Emma and Ben
Emma and Ben had a miscarriage and later found out that Ben had issues with his sperm in two different ways. Ben had issues with his sperm’s motility and also morphology. Emma is a photographer and decided to use her artistic talent to bring attention to infertility issues. She talks about how through the NHS, they only allow one IVF cycle per year, “For my masters I’ve begun a project about women’s access to reproductive rights in Northern Ireland.”
Ben talks candidly about the issues that had come up between them during their infertility. He had an interview alone with the film crew about the tremendous strain it put on their relationship. Eventually they decided to break up, which was really sad to see. I think the producers showed class with how they talked about their breakup, instead of sensationalizing it they did separate interviews with both Emma and Ben. They asked them individually if both of them thought about having children in the future, not as a couple, but with whomever they start a relationship with. Both said that despite all they went through they would still like to have children in a future relationship.
Jilly and Peter
Jilly and Peter were married five years and had a miscarriage before they turned to trying IVF treatments. Her doctor explained the importance of lowering her BMI in order to improve her odds of implantation success. I’ve heard that some fertility clinics require that the woman’s BMI below a certain number before they will consider treatment, this was the case for Jilly. Jilly seemed to take this news in stride and was able to drop the weight in order to meet the BMI requirements. I’ve heard of this requirement for some fertility clinics in the U.S. and I’m not sure if this is a requirement across the board for all NHS clinics, if you happen to know please comment below.
Maya not only dropped the weight that she needed to but she also looked into alternative methods to improve her infertility including Maya massage. I had never heard of this type of massage before but it specializes in helping improve circulation and hopefully in turn improve implantation. The Maya massage therapist explains that it is most helpful to start Maya massage at least three months prior to doing IVF.
Jilly and Peter opted to do ICSI with their IVF. Although their round of IVF did not work for them, Jilly did learn one new thing that probably explained why she was having a hard time conceiving and keeping her pregnancies. She talks about how her natural killer cell levels were elevated. According to what Jilly was told her levels should be closer to 15% but her levels were at 20%. The episode left off on her maybe leaving the door open for future treatment with this revelation about her natural killer cell levels and how it might be treatable.
Some single women, especially in their 30s consider freezing their eggs in order to preserve their fertility. Whether they find a partner later or not, it at least can provide some comfort knowing they have their eggs to work with in the future. Since fertility rates begin to decline around 35 years old, it’s becoming more commonplace for women to opt for freezing their own eggs. Barbara, who is in her late 30s, was initially unaware that her AMH level was low until she began the blood tests prior to her egg retrieval. When you have a low AMH level you are usually put on a higher dosage of medication for your egg retrieval. I myself have low AMH and was put on a plethora of meds to boost my little eggies growth. Unfortunately, Barbara was only able to have one follicle grow. It was such a low number they decided it wasn’t even worth doing the egg retrieval.
Angela and Mark
Angela had a miscarriage and later learned that she had PCOS, polycystic ovary syndrome.One of the issues with PCOS is that although sometimes a fair amount, and even a large amount, of eggs can be retrieved it does not necessarily mean the eggs are of good quality. Angela had eleven embryos that were frozen, but not all of them survived the thaw or divided properly. It was sad to hear that they had a failed implantation and did not get pregnant. I think it would be hard having PCOS and getting your hopes up with having so many eggs or embryos but then have to face the news that it hadn’t worked at all. I feel like that would be such a rollercoaster of emotions to handle. It seems like it would be so much harder to predict outcomes as well.
Elaine and Andrew
They had tried naturally for 1.5 years with no success before seeking out help from a fertility clinic. Elaine was at risk of developing Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome so they decided to freeze her eggs to avoid this potential complication. With that decision, Elaine made history with being the very first woman in Ireland to conceive by using a frozen egg. It was happy news to hear Elaine doing well with her pregnancy, although I didn’t see a followup in the film about how her birth went.
I think this was an excellent documentary series that looked at different aspects of the IVF process, including the perspectives of both the patients and the medical team. Oftentimes when people are experiencing infertility, the journey to parenthood can take multiple years. For some of the people in this show we don’t get to see whether they eventually became parents or not, due to the fact that we are only seeing them at one point in the journey. Although some were successful in the show, I imagine that many of the others eventually became parents. I’d be very interested in seeing follow-ups from these people on where they are at now.
I found it interesting to learn a little bit about what the experience is like in a different country through a different healthcare system. I really felt for these women and men going through this process, because I know how difficult it can be. The film covered a variety of topics that are common concerns for patients, no matter where they live. After watching this show I feel like it is a good snapshot in time of where we are at with our medical advances and how much further we still need to go in order to reduce miscarriage and stillborn rates as well as the health risks for pregnant women.
Want to find out how fertile you are?
TheModern Fertility test is an affordable option that shows your hormone levels and gives you an overall picture of where you stand with your fertility. What hormones will they test? Depending on the type of birth control you are on they can test up to eight different hormone levels which may include:
As per usual, my original treatment plans get tossed out the window because my body decides to go rogue. I would be more surprised if things actually went according to plan, ever. Sometimes the universe seems to throw every obstacle in my way. It’s hard not to think these challenges are designed to test my limits constantly. I know it’s not the end of the world, but damn, give a girl a break! Before I jump into everything that happened this past week, let me proudly announce that I did not lose my sanity, at least I have that going for me for the time being.
My IVF clinic in Seattle requires I have a SIS test completed prior to my FET. If you don’t know, SIS stands for saline-infusion sonogram. I absolutely hate doing these, I’ve had to do this maybe three or four times and I would take surgery with anesthesia over this any day. I’ve always had pain doing my annual PAP smear. The SIS test uses a speculum, just like with a typical PAP smear, but then they put in a catheter to fill up your uterus with saline, or salt water. At the same time they use a transvaginal ultrasound wand to look inside the uterus. It feels like you have to pee while also feeling similar to moderate menstrual cramp pain. Some women have no pain with their SIS test, but everyone is different.
The SIS test I did on Thursday was just as unpleasant as all the previous ones. What made it worse was knowing ahead of time I would need to pay $1200 for this test. So there I am lying on the table, looking at a white blob on the screen. The doctor had her hand on the catheter wiggling it around the blob, pushing on my stomach rapidly over and over again (not a pretty sight if you have some extra pounds on the belly), and telling the ultrasound tech to move the wand around all over the place inside me. “Maybe if we take the catheter and push on it, it will break it up. It might just be a blood clot, let’s try to push into it to see what happens.” Tap, tap, jab, jab, ouuuuuch! “Okay, that hurts!” I told her. She apologizes then asks me to try moving my knees out, then rolling on my side. But now matter what any of us three women did, this blob remained immovable.
“To me it looks like it might be an adhesion or scar tissue, I don’t think it’s a blood clot because it’s not moving. But I’m not sure exactly what it is. I will send these images to your doctor in Seattle and see what he says,” she tells me. This could very well throw off all of my plans for my FET. She explained I would probably need a follow-up SIS, or surgery. Both are expensive and I don’t have the money for either, I’m still trying to pay off my other medical bill from my recent miscarriage.
The following morning I get a call from my local OBGYN who explained that he spoke with my Seattle doctor and they felt the best option was to go ahead with another surgery. They didn’t think it was a simple blood clot based on how it looked, they thought it could be scar tissue or something else, but they wouldn’t know for sure unless they did a pathology test on it to figure it out. It’s the “something else” part I’m concerned about, because both doctors have explained to me I am at risk of developing uterine cancer. So I’m hoping it’s just scar tissue.
They will be doing hysteroscopy surgery. Essentially that’s where they put a little hysteroscope, or camera, inside to actually see what’s going on in there. “It will either be a diagnostic surgery or an operative surgery, depending on what I see” my doctor explains, “If that tissue is still there I’ll go ahead and remove it, then send it out to be tested. We want your uterus to be absolutely clear of any tissue, polyps, or fibroids before your Frozen Embryo Transfer. Because you only have one embryo right? Yeah. So if the embryo tries to implant on that tissue you could have a failed FET or another miscarriage.” I agreed that it sounded like there was no other option but to remove it, whatever it is.
Thursday and Friday I had to answer about half a dozen different phone calls from my doctors office, the surgery center nurse, the financial department for the surgery center, then the financial department for my doctors office. “We’ll need $3200 the day of your surgery” the receptionist told me from the surgery center. Mind you, this didn’t even include the doctor’s fee or the anesthesiologist fee. Oh yes, let me just fork over thousands of dollars I keep lying around. Yeah, right! The weird part is the surgery center never expected everything up front like this before. I told her there was no way I could do that and asked about a payment plan. Apparently they no longer do payment plans, so I had to apply for Care Credit. I’ve never used medical credit before, so it’s all new to me. I got approved for the amount of the surgery, so I am hoping everything goes without a hitch on the day of the surgery. Then it would only be a matter of monthly payments to the Care Credit company.
Bills, Bills, & More Bills
In a single week I’ve accumulated $5,439 in debt. F**k my life!
Car repair for exhaust leak, needed new catalytic converter and gasket (my car sounded like it was going to blow up): $539
Natera (pathology report from last miscarriage): $400
SIS bill (Pre-FET ultrasound test): $1200
Hysteroscopy surgery estimate: $3300
Plus add in the bill I’ve already been paying on…
2019 ER visit for miscarriage: $2500 remaining (that’s after the $1000+ I already paid down)
Grand Total of Current Debt = $7939
Yes, it’s a lot of debt at once. And I may have downed three glasses of Merlot quite rapidly when I got home the other night when I did all the math, but when I pull back and look at the big picture, it’s not that bad. I’ve been dealing with miscarriages and infertility treatments for going on five years now, and to only have just under $8,000 of debt is actually kind of impressive. I know other women who owe upwards of $40,000 all the way up to $100,000 in debt for infertility treatments. Yes it definitely throws a wrench in my plans for the year and I’m still kind of panicking, but perhaps I’ll use that stressful energy into finding a solution.
My original plan was to pay off my previous ER bill (and my only bill prior to this week) before my FET, then I’d be golden. I could have been pregnant, and off work to reduce stress for my high risk pregnancy. I could have just chilled at home baking a little bun in the oven. I would have had some money in savings to pay smaller bills like my phone and car insurance. But all the bills started rolling in this week. But this week my dream of being a stay-at-home preggers wifey just exploded in my face.
So what the hell am I going to do next? Well if my pathology report from this upcoming surgery shows it was simply scar tissue, I’m hoping I will still be on track with my FET date of mid-April. I talked with Kurtis about how I don’t think it’s a good idea for me to get a second job during this critical three month time before my FET where they emphasize the importance of reducing stress. A new job would definitely add to my stress level. Luckily, my current work schedule is very flexible. I can work as much as 40 hours per week or as little as one shift per month, since I am an on-call staff member.
I talked about with Kurtis about a tentative plan after the FET, I plan to work the minimum amount of one shift per month for the first trimester, that is if I’m lucky enough to actually get pregnant. Then after I pass the first trimester I’ll probably work more. It’s risky to be working, especially considering my history of miscarriages. Even just writing those last few sentences, it just doesn’t sit right with me. It essentially boils down to a question of “Are you willing to risk your pregnancy to pay bills? Or do you need to just accept that you will be in debt for a while?” I’m already looking at the trajectory of this year and it’s looking like our dream of buying a house this year is out the window. It’s sad, and it sucks, because both Kurtis and I made plans for it to happen this year. If infertility was personified it would be that mean schoolyard bully who relentlessly pummels you into the ground. On the flip side, I keep getting back up to fight back. I hope you are at least putting your money on me winning instead of that asshole Infertility.
Speaking of money, if you want to help a sister out, you can donate to us to help pay down our medical bills. It would be much appreciated. Every little bit helps.
Mini-Victories for the Week
Completed SIS procedure this week.
Local OBGYN was able to quickly get me scheduled for surgery first thing next week.
Did 18/6 intermittent fasting a few days this week.
Work in Progress
Surgery scheduled Monday for hysteroscopy.
Need to cut out alcohol completely now that I am in my 3-month window before FET.
No caffeine whatsoever. This past week I transitioned from coffee to tea, now need to cut out caffeinated tea.
Did some stress eating with all the new bills and upcoming surgery, need to be careful not to do this for this next week.
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Want to find out how fertile you are? The Modern Fertility test is an affordable test that shows your hormone levels and gives you an overall picture of where you stand with your fertility. What hormones will the test? Depending on the type of birth control you are on they can test up to eight different hormone levels which may include:
A list of helpful resources for depression, anxiety, and PTSD, can be found at the bottom of this post.
Imagine your circle of friends getting smaller and smaller as they begin to have children, but you are still struggling to have your first. Your Facebook feed is full of baby pictures. One day you decide to unfollow their posts, but still remain friends with them. You do this so you don’t have to see the onslaught of picture after picture of the life you wish you could have. Baby’s first Christmas, baby’s first steps, baby’s first hair cut, followed with posts from their mother saying “You will never know true love until you have a child” followed by #momlife. You realize that you are an outsider and you do not belong, you can easily see how others draw the line in the sand of parents and non-parents.
You go through phases of stopping social media altogether. It works for a while. But then you decide to join some infertility groups on Facebook. Over time you realize most of your feed is now instead filled with other women like yourself. 95% of the posts are filled with anxiety and depression from others with the other small 5% boasting “Possible trigger…BFP!” with a picture of their positive pregnancy test. You feel happy for them but also sad after years trying to have a baby. So you begin to unfollow the infertility groups as well, because it also becomes depressing. Maybe it’s time to take another break from social media altogether you think. You are trying to do what’s best for you but you wonder if you are isolating yourself more.
In real life, you feel you’ve been conditioned not to talk about your infertility or pregnancy losses. When people bring up the subject of “Why don’t you have kids yet? Don’t you want kids?” You attempt to explain why you don’t have kids yet, almost everyone frowns, looks down briefly, and looks back up with a smile and says, “Have you thought of adopting?” They always say it as if they think they are the first person to suggest this idea to you. When you explain the average cost of adoption being $40,000-$50,000 and how you are nowhere near being able to adopt, they then say nervously, “You can do it. You’ll have kids some day” then they change the subject because they didn’t realize their small talk conversation relating to kids was headed in this direction. No one ever seems to consider the possibility that someone can’t have kids. And later interactions they will continuously ask you, “How’s the baby thing going?” Now take that one person who does this, and multiply it by nearly everyone else you know. That’s what I experience on a daily basis. Sometimes I have no energy to respond further than just saying, “same.”
There are three types of people who ask about my infertility; 1) Those who genuinely care about my well being and want to check in with how I am doing, 2) those who bring it up as small talk but quickly become visibly uncomfortable, break eye contact, 3) and rubberneckers. I call them rubberneckers because they seem to get some weird satisfaction knowing my life is sh**ier than theirs. Another definition of a rubbernecking is “a human trait that is associated with morbid curiosity” (Wikipedia, 2020). Sometimes rubberneckers masquerade initially as people who care, but you can always find their true nature with their responses of “Wow, I’m glad I didn’t have to go through all of that! My pregnancies all went so easily. Let me show you pictures of my kids” or “I’m so happy I’m blessed with kids” and these types of statements are usually punctuated with laughs and smiles. The insinuation being, “I’m blessed and your not, so my life is better than yours.” Yeah, those are the most cringe-worthy conversations. They seem to be looking for a moment to boast about their life. Why even ask about my fertility issues if you just want to boast about your kids? I’d rather you just start off a conversation by boasting about your kids and not even ask about my fertility issues. Honestly, even the nicest people are rubberneckers and they are doing so unconsciously. I usually chalk it up to just a clumsy interaction. No one is perfect and people don’t always know how to navigate a conversation as delicate as infertility.
You want to be open about what you are going through because you’ve heard that talking about your infertility can be helpful, but few people know how to talk about the subject without it getting awkward. Finding support from friends and family can actually be quite difficult for many of us for this very reason. You learn ways to navigate conversations away from the subject of infertility by asking them questions instead that are focused on their life, because that seems to be what most people would rather be talking about anyway. Sometimes you are able to successfully change the subject completely and you smile inside knowing that psychology trick worked quite well and you are amazed at how easily people are distracted. They probably didn’t care that much anyway if they were that easily distracted into a different subject. Every once in a blue moon when you read people’s body language after the question, “How’s the baby thing going?” you see that they really do care. They are making eye contact, they aren’t distracted by anything else, their eyes don’t narrow as if you are being interrogated, their facial features actually soften, and everything else about their body language is open and ready to listen. This is a rare and beautiful moment that happens maybe once every few months.
It’s hard to find support through infertility and those real heart-to-heart moments are so few and far between. But I know I can always turn to my people in the infertility forums. Although the forums can be quite depressing at times, they are the ones who truly get it. Dealing with pregnancy and infant loss is traumatic, so it’s no surprise that many of the posts in those groups are incredibly sad. I do feel happy when I see they finally post pictures of their first baby, but I quickly ask myself “When is it going to be my time?” Over time I’ve learned to be genuinely happy for them and ask that question less and less. I’ve learned to compartmentalize in a way of, “that’s their life” and “this is mine,” it helps somewhat.
There are some images burned in my memory I cannot erase. I have nightmares all the time. Nightmares of another miscarriage happening to my body. Nightmares of a stillborn baby. Nightmares of the infant in my dreams being the color blue and I’m running around screaming for someone to help but everyone just stares at me, offering no solution. Every single dream that starts off hopeful with a pregnancy or a baby ends badly, because that’s the only thing I’ve known in real life.
I was losing sleep from my nightmares. I was waking up almost every night in the middle of my sleep. I was functioning on 3-5 hours of sleep daily for months, despite trying sleeping pills. On top of all of that I was convinced for months that Kurtis would leave me if my upcoming FET didn’t work. I finally talked with him about it and he said he wouldn’t and he’d be happy with biological or adopted children, and even if we choose to live child-free. But at times when I talk to him I can also tell that it is emotionally just too much to deal with in the moment, so I’ve been trying to handle it myself.
My OBGYN apparently could see I couldn’t even muster pretending to be optimistic. He asked how I am handling everything, if I am seeing a therapist, what I am doing to cope, etc. He went so far as to ask if I wanted a prescription of antidepressants. It’s not everyday that an OBGYN offers antidepressants. I let him know that I’ve been seeing a therapist occasionally to talk about my infertility for a while now, which seemed to give him some relief. Up until my OBGYN asked me if I was depressed I feel like I was in denial of my depression. Deep down I think I knew I was depressed, but I was going about life like I wasn’t. But here I had my OBGYN in front of me, looking very concerned, saying he was ready and willing to give me a prescription. I told him “no thank you” and explained I would rather treat it through natural means since I used to get severe migraines from antidepressants. I had tried literally a dozen antidepressants in the past and each of them made me want to shoot myself more from the physical pain than I had already wanted to from the emotional pain. Needless to say I absolutely needed an alternative to antidepressants. My doctor suggested increasing my activity level and exercising more and to also “get out of the state, go someplace warm.” I most likely have Seasonal Affective Disorder on top of my depression, so the idea of getting the hell out of cold, dark Alaska sounded great to me.
I followed my doctors advice and I booked a trip to Nevada to visit with my husband’s family and to help boost my mood. We’ll be going here pretty soon. I am so happy to be getting out of the state since the temperature has been steady this past week around -10 degrees (that’s Fahrenheight, for my foreign readers). This is the coldest and darkest time of the year. I am so ready to get the f**k out of this state and bake under the Nevada sun.
I’ve also been exercising more and eating better than I normally do. I am slowly starting to lose weight. I feel like exercise helps me feel a little better initially afterward, but I think I need to exercise twice daily to continue to elevate my mood. I do think that movement and nutrition are some of the best ways to help you pull yourself out of depression. I’ve been watching funny movies, listening to music, talking with a therapist, and having open conversations with family about my depression.
I know I’m not the only one dealing with depression combined with infertility and pregnancy loss. Some days are absolutely terrible for me, but I still go about my day and do the things I need to. Sometimes my house is messier than I like because I’m curled up on the couch watching a marathon of comedies to help boost my mood before I start the dishes and anything else I need to do. Sometimes I’d rather rest in bed under the warm blankets and listen to music rather than going out. I know that this depression will pass eventually, because it always does.
For those of you reading this that are also dealing with depression, whether severe or minor, I suggest you at least talk with a professional, such as a therapist. If you are seeking spiritual support in addition to a therapist consider speaking to your pastor or ask if they provide spiritual counseling at your church. Have an objective person to help you figure out the best ways you can cope. Consider temporarily taking medication if you are able to. If you try one way of coping and it doesn’t quite work, try another one. Each day will be different, so you might need to try different coping strategies depending on what is going on. Eventually I plan on writing more about coping strategies. But at this current moment I need to cope with a cup of coffee, cuddling with my dog and cat (I’m pet sitting a kitty now!), and watching the overly bubbly morning newscasters giggle about things that aren’t even that funny, because for some reason that makes me feel good too…mirror neurons I suppose.
Are you currently experiencing depression, anxiety, PTSD or other similar symptoms with your infertility and you would like someone to talk to? Here are some resources for you:
Some say preparing for a Frozen Embryo Transfer is like preparing for the Olympics. The three months prior to the actual transfer are the most important time to make healthy changes to increase the chances of an embryo sticking. Some books tell you to go dairy free, gluten free, processed-food free, and everything-but-fruit-and-veggies free. Limit your toxins, eliminate foods that inflame, don’t paint your nails, don’t eat deli meat, don’t do this or that, or anything really. Just sit in your little safe bubble at home, without any makeup on, without deodorant, and eat rabbit food for three months. If you have any OCD tendencies prepping for a FET is enough to make your head explode because you so want to follow the advice to a T, but if you followed it all you might just lose your marbles. But others with a more laissez-faire approach may tell you, “It was so easy, you basically just show up and bloop they put the embryo in.”
So how can you not lose your mind through this process? And where do I fall on the diverse spectrum of those preparing for a FET? I’d like to aim at the more reasonable approach, using the 80/20 rule. Eighty percent of the time I’d like to follow my plan, and 20 percent of the time I might allow some wiggle room. I know myself. I know that if I go full bore at first I’m probably going to throw in the towel more easily because it’s so vastly different from how I normally live. But by already allowing myself to have some wiggle room with how I eat, exercise, and use beauty products, I am eliminating the excuse of it being “too much.” Because it’s not too much if you have reasonable expectations.
My goal is to follow the Mediterranean diet at least 80% of the time. From what I understand it’s basically Pescatarian with occasional meat other than fish. It includes fruits, veggies, fish, healthy oils, and avoiding processed food to name a few. I was Pescatarian in 2019 for about four months but I was still eating processed food. In the book It Starts with the Egg by Rebecca Fett she writes about studies that have shown a correlation between following the Mediterranean diet and increased fertility. I need to learn more about the specifics, I have a general idea of what to expect.
As far as exercise, I’d like to aim for 30-60 minutes per day, six days per week. I was working overnight shift but I recently stopped to improve my overall health. I think this will make it easier to have a regular workout time now. I’m thinking of working out first thing in the morning before work. I have a treadmill at home I use a couple times a week but I plan on using it more often now. I paid ahead for a punch card to go swimming, which I haven’t done in a long time. I’m looking forward to getting back into swimming. Fall and winter time I tend to slip into hibernation mode and I exercise less, and I need to break out of that cycle.
I woke up on New Year’s Eve with a bad cold. I spent most of the night in bed with my head under the covers grumbling at the sound of popping fireworks and went back to sleep. I didn’t have any exciting plans for the night anyway so I feel like I didn’t miss much. When I reflect back on 2019 it was just okay. It wasn’t terrible, but it could have been better. Honestly, it was a challenging year dealing with two more miscarriages and more surgeries. I realized I’m a lot stronger than I thought, having dealt with this for several years. But this year I want to focus on some healthy coping habits that will help me deal with whatever the outcome is from this upcoming FET.
I saw a post on facebook I liked relating to New Years Resolutions…
I decided I wanted to do a similar New Years Resolution and came up with this instead…
And to be more specific I came up with the following hobbies to pursue for myself:
Mind: Write a novel.
Body: Train for my first “running” 5k.
Creative Spirit: Learn how to make at several pieces of jewelry.
I’ve done 5k’s but I’ve never actually ran in them, I would always walk in them. But this time I want to try my hand at running it. Training for a 5k and maybe a 10k later on will help me get in shape for my FET. I decided to set a weight loss goal I would like to achieve before my FET. My goal is to try to lose 20 pounds before mid-April 2020, which is currently a little over three months away.
So much of my life revolves around trying to have a baby. But if I start to pursue other hobbies I’m passionate about, I think it will help me to have a better year. I’m hoping 2020 will bring more growth and that each of you will also find something this year to lift your spirits. Happy New Year!
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