Dealing with Depression & Infertility

Dealing with Depression & Infertility

A list of helpful resources for depression, anxiety, and PTSD, can be found at the bottom of this post.

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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.

 

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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:

RESOLVE HelpLine: 866-NOT-ALONE (866-668-2566) (United States)

SAMHSA – Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: 1-800-662-HELP or 1-800-662-4357 (United States)

Fertility Network: 0121-323-5025 (United Kingdom)

BICA – British Infertility Counselling Association (United Kingdom)

List of Suicide Crisis Lines (Worldwide by country)

Movie Review: “Making Babies”

Movie Review: “Making Babies”

“Making Babies” (2019)

Writer & Director: Josh F. Huber

Length: 87 minutes

Watch on Amazon

HopingForBaby.com Rating: 4 out of 5

This post may contain affiliate links. You can read the disclosure here

Spoiler Alert! Click here to watch the movie first if don’t want to read some of the spoilers below.

I don’t care about what movie critics say, this was a good movie. I see it as a rom-com with infertility as the main conflict in the storyline. It was funny, surprisingly funny. It was really silly at times, but in a good way. I laughed out loud when Katie (played by Eliza Coupe) used an Irish accent to talk dirty to her husband John (played by Steve Howey) as she “assisted” her husband John (played by Steve Howey) in the specimen room. I haven’t laughed that hard in a while. In fact, I don’t know any other movie out there like this one that has taken the subject of infertility and had a good balance of dealing with real emotions while also having funny moments too.

I feel many of the scenes and dialogue were inspired by personal experiences because the different scenarios were all too familiar for those of us dealing with infertility, including cliched advice. Katie’s sister-in-law Maria (played by Elizabeth Rodriguez) told Katie to “just relax,” “go on vacation,” and “Have you thought about adopting?” Although the intention is to be helpful, most of us who’ve struggled with infertility know those statements are overused and become incredibly annoying to hear over and over again. But Maria makes up for it later by apologizing and telling Katie she didn’t realize how difficult it really was for her until she saw how long Katie had been struggling to conceive. Katie and Maria are on the opposite ends of the fertility spectrum, with Maria having three children right after getting married while Katie was still struggling to conceive after five years. But Maria opened up to Katie and explained how she had panic attacks after having her first child. Maria expressed that she didn’t think she could tell others about her postpartum mental health. And Katie might not have felt comfortable talking about her infertility at times. Although this scene happened at a fairly fast clip in the movie, I felt like there was gold in that moment. The societal expectations of women becoming mothers and what being a “good mother” looks like weighed on both Maria and Katie but in different ways. I think there was a really good message in that moment, we can still support each other even if we haven’t walked the same path as other women. 

I liked how there seemed to be an equal amount of both Katie’s perspective as well as John’s. After trying to conceive for five years and spending so much money on IUI and IVF it started to weigh on them not just financially but also emotionally. There was a very raw scene near the end of the movie where they have an argument. Although it didn’t fit the majority of the movie’s comedic feel, that scene was so important to show. Their fight was about the huge toll infertility treatments were taking on not only their finances but their emotional health as well. John sacrificed starting up his dream brewery business in order to put money towards the cost of treatment. Katie explained how she had to sacrifice so much physically and emotionally.  

After watching that scene it felt like the argument was inspired by a real event. Most couples doing infertility treatment will reach a point where they begin to question when they should stop treatments. Based on my own experience as well as many of my online friends doing treatment have said, at some point you are going to disagree on when and whether to stop treatments. Many times couples are not on the same page or have a hard time figuring out a reasonable compromise. It takes a lot of good communication and listening to each other to figure this out.

For many of us that is our reality, we put all our other hopes and dreams on hold. Our dream of having a child demands a hefty price to pay. The average cost for one round of IVF is between $10,000 – $20,000. The overly simplified “just adopt” solution we get told often is incredibly expensive too, averaging at $40,000 – $50,000. It was no wonder John and Katie reached a breaking point when they had no money left and no patience left with each other either.  

Director and writer Josh Huber did an excellent job showing how many of us put everything on the line in order to try to start a family. I liked that he also had Katie and John reach a pivotal point in their relationship where they either need to stop trying in order to stay together, or choose to go their separate ways. Many couples struggling with infertility have gone through this. I personally know of several friends whose relationships ended due to infertility, it’s sadly common. I think that Josh Huber initially grabs our attention with the humorous aspects of infertility and he drives it home with a really good message knowing when to focus on your partner and when to take a break from trying to conceive. 

Some movie critics wrote some snarky and downright mean things about this movie. I definitely get the sense those people never experienced infertility. Yes, the movie had some cheesy and silly moments, but overall I thought it was a good movie. The only reason I gave it a 4 out of 5 was part of the storyline was confusing. The doctor told Katie that she had nothing wrong with her at all, and that their infertility was due to John’s low sperm count. But then later they talked about how Katie had several infertility issues and this was part of their argument. I don’t recall any mention of Katie learning she had issues in her doctor’s visits. So for John to say in their argument something to the effect of he didn’t want to be with someone who couldn’t have kids, it didn’t make sense to me.

I like that it showed a good amount of the male perspective through John’s character. I feel like we need to hear more of the male perspective relating to infertility. I think that a good amount of men feel they need to “suck it up” and not express their disappointment, anger, and even depression during infertility. But this can really drive a wedge between partners. It’s okay to show emotion during those times because it is a very emotional experience. Holding it all in does no one any good. When John blew up at Katie I felt like it was that kind of situation, where he was holding things in for so long until it finally boiled over. Even though us women may be injecting ourselves with the medicine and dealing with the physical aspect of fertility treatments, this does not mean our partner’s are not going through a lot of stress and emotions around the whole process. This movie did a good job of showing that. I recommend watching this movie yourself, and tell me what you think in the comments below. What parts of the movie did you like?

 

Watch the movie “Making Babies” on Amazon by clicking here.

 

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3 Practical Tips for Adapting to Changing Fertility Plans

3 Practical Tips for Adapting to Changing Fertility Plans

Quick Update: We just received the good news from our suppression check that my cyst has finally reduced in size, and I am good to go for IVF! Our IVF cycle was delayed by 2 weeks due to that issue but it has now been resolved. That recent experience inspired me to write this article today.

 

I am an advocate for not only prayer (happy thoughts, good vibes, or what have you) but also a huge advocate for taking action. This action can include advocating for ourselves at appointments, deciding when to do a certain treatment, or defending our stance to other people about how your treatment plan is your personal choice. But what if your treatment plan is constantly changing because your body is not doing what you thought it should be?

 

You may have never seen a positive on a pregnancy test before. Or a positive pregnancy test may fill you with dread because all the other positive pregnancy tests you’ve had ended in miscarriage. Or you may have a child already but are experiencing Secondary Infertility and the dream of more children seems to be getting harder and harder to achieve.  No matter what your fertility situation is, one of the most important factors for success is the ability to adapt to changing situations.

 

Wouldn’t you like to be able to bounce back from setbacks more quickly? Although the odds seem insurmountable, there is almost always still hope for each of us. Being able to adapt to the constantly changing treatment plan can help to reduce the negative emotions that can drag you down.

 

3 Practical Tips for Adapting to Changing Fertility Plans

 

  1. Get More Flexibility at Work

 

The more flexible your job situation the better, especially if your treatment is as aggressive as IVF. I had no idea how many appointments were actually involved. In my case I am in the doctor’s office at least once a week, then it will be daily the week of IVF. If your appointments begin to conflict with your work schedule, try talking to your supervisor about the options you have. You can still advocate for yourself while keeping your medical issue private. You could say, “I need to go to more appointments for a medical issue and I was wondering if option A, B, C, or D are available to me, or if you had any suggestions on how we can work this out?”

 

Quick Tips:

  • Try to schedule appointments during your lunch hour.
  • Save up leave time for appointments, medical issues or personal time off.
  • Change the time or day you work to a more flexible schedule if possible.
  • Consider looking for a different job if your current job cannot accommodate your appointments. Ask yourself what’s more important, starting a family or keeping a job that restricts your family planning? Trust me there are more flexible jobs out there.

 

2) Make a Back-up Treatment Plan

 

Try not to ruminate on all the what-if scenarios that could happen. One funny example I have of this is I was certain I had a balanced translocation when I really didn’t. My surgeon had mentioned that sometimes people have deletions or a balanced translocation with their DNA they pass on to their embryos, which could lead to a miscarriage. I heard this right before the weekend and I was also waiting to hear back from my geneticist. So what did I do?

 

I spent practically the entire weekend researching about balanced translocation. I watched so many videos, and did so much reading, I tried to decipher scholarly articles riddled with medical jargon. I fell down the research rabbit hole in an epic way. But that following Monday I heard back from my geneticist and she said I didn’t even have a balanced translocation. The time I wasted researching was unreal. Hey, maybe now I can also write a scholarly article on the subject and make use of all this information packed into my brain. The moral of the story is to focus on your current treatment plan but ask your doctor what the next immediate step would be if your current plan does not work. This helps you to not get too far ahead of yourself like I did with the above story.

 

Quick Tips:

  • Write down your current treatment plan including your diagnosis, medication, actions your doctor is taking, and actions you need to take.
  • Research your current treatment step to gain more knowledge.
  • Ask your doctor what Plan B is if your Plan A does not work after the expected amount of time.
  • Consider a second opinion if you feel you are not getting adequate treatment.

 

3) Consider Adjusting your Vacation Plans

 

There have been several vacations we were hoping to enjoy but could not do for one reason or another due to our treatment plan. For me it’s a no brainer, starting a family is my highest priority. My vacation can wait a year or two, not a big deal. It’s good to be hopeful and plan around the possibility of getting pregnant. Please also remember to look up on the CDC website if Zika has been found in the area you want to travel to. I chose to postpone our natural conception several months because we visited an area with Zika. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Follow your doctor’s orders.

 

Quick Tips:

  • Double check for Zika locations before traveling and follow your doctor’s advice about postponing conception.
  • Calculate if you’ll have enough savings for both treatment and a vacation.
  • Consider a “staycation” or doing something closer to home instead of longer distance travel to save money.
  • Think about whether you can physically go on vacation, given your diagnosis and treatment plan. Do you have a medical issue not related to fertility that could become aggravated by traveling, which in turn could postpone your fertility plans?

Commit yourself to finding solutions as opposed to dwelling on the problem. These are just a handful of practical ways to adapt to changing fertility plans. What would you recommend to others who are struggling to adapt? Please comment below. I’d love to hear back from you. As always, thank you for reading.

Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock

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Top 5 Ways to Scratch the Itch of Wanting to be a Mother

Top 5 Ways to Scratch the Itch of Wanting to be a Mother

 

Many of us who struggle with infertility, especially for a good length of time, may begin to feel we are losing out on time. It can be incredibly devastating to hear the news that your odds of success are low, or that they are good but face a let down every single time you lose another pregnancy. Maybe you just want to take a break from trying to conceive. No matter what your situation, for many women there is one undeniable reality, the biological urge to have children is so powerful it can take over our lives if we let it. The awareness of our Biological Clock can lead us to act a smidge neurotic at times.

I’m smiling to myself as I write this because I’ve found myself having serious conversations with my husband about kids, maybe a bit too early into our relationship. But I just felt compelled to, because I knew what I wanted out of life. Almost all of my friends have shared the same experience. Many of us are not shy at all about speaking up about when we expect to have children in a relationship, and that can kind of freak out our partners if they didn’t think that far ahead yet. I’ve also known friends who broke off their relationship because their partner couldn’t get on board soon enough and they chose to move on. Our desire to settle down and have kids can seem to dictate our lives. Sometimes we just need to take a chill pill. Once you get to the point where you found the love of your life, you are ready to start a family, but things are not going according to plan it is frustrating beyond belief. It is a real test of not only your relationship but also a test on how you adapt to the situation. No matter where you are in this process I think it may help to find an outlet for acting motherly, while we wait to become mothers.

 

Top 5 Ways to Scratch the Itch of Wanting to be a Mother

 

  1. Babysit

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We all have friends and family in our life who have children. Start to pay attention to which ones sound like they could use a good break from parenting for a bit. You could offer to watch their kids while they have a much deserved date night. Maybe they are going through an intense time in their life. Say they lost a loved one, or are dealing with a medical issue that limits the quality time and attention they want to give to their children. Or maybe their daycare has inflexible hours and they need someone to pick up and drop off their kids while they are at work. If you are able to help out, why not let them know you are available? Make that time you spend with their children quality time. Teach them something new, read them a book, teach them a few jokes, play a board game or video game with them, try a new hobby out together. If you don’t have children and are wanting more experience this is a great way to do it.

 

2) Become a Mentor

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Look into opportunities in your town to become a mentor for a child who could really benefit from hanging out with you. Look into the Big Brother Big Sister program. This opportunity can be great for the couple who may be thinking about being foster parents but may not have the resources yet that are required to become licenced. By being a mentor you are still making a positive impact on a child’s life, with the flexibility of maintaining your current lifestyle. Depending on the child and their needs, you could bring them out with you to the fun stuff you are already doing. Take them on a hike, go to the movies, take them to the state fair, bring them to the library, or try out something new together. Ask them what they would like to do for fun and what they expect from you as a mentor.

 

3) Work with Kids

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I’d recommend that if you don’t have much experience with kids try babysitting first. Try babysitting kids of different ages and temperaments to get a feel for how to be flexible and meet the needs of different kids. If you are serious about starting a career working with kids consider the possibility of being a teacher, daycare worker, tutor, school librarian, or social service work with at-risk youth (field I’m in now). There are many options to choose from, check your local job listings.

 

4) Become a Foster Parent

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Although I do not have personal experience with this, I am seriously considering it. One thing I learned recently is there are different agencies within my city to help place children into homes. I had assumed the only foster agency in my city was the Office of Children’s Services, run by the state. But I learned about several non-profit agencies who are committed to helping place children into good foster homes. They can provide a wealth of information, training, and resources to get you going in the right direction. Why not look into an orientation or open house? Call them up and ask questions about what it takes to become eligible. If you are intimidated about the potential for behavioral issues, ask yourself if you are emotionally ready to take this on right now. Do whatever you can to help the child, the best way you can. I like the commercial I saw recently with the simple, yet powerful statement, “You don’t have to be perfect to be a perfect parent.”

 

5) Get a pet

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Our puppy. Believe it or not this is his super relaxed face after getting belly rubs from his daddy. Blissed out!

Check out the animal shelter or ask around to see if your friends have any puppies or kittens they want to give away. You can even foster pets these days too. Pets can brighten our day, make us laugh, and become a special part of the family. We help them as much as they help us. I was going through another miscarriage while at the same time our Sheltie (looks like small Collie) passed away. It was heartbreaking to experience two losses at the same time. After some time passed both my husband and I wanted to get another pet. We got a new puppy and boy did he keep us busy! It was a little overwhelming at first, especially since he was the first puppy I ever had (we had always gotten older pets growing up). But with some time and attention I was able to teach him a good amount of tricks and I can happily say he is now potty trained! Thank god for that.

 

Try to think outside the box. This goes for men too, seek out ways you can act like a father figure. If one method doesn’t really seem to be a good fit, try something different. Dip your toes in first before you decide to fully commit. One way to do that is to ask a lot of questions and learn from others first. But also don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone. Even if you feel like you are sucking at it, you are gaining valuable experience and challenging yourself to try something new. Tell me if you’ve tried any of the suggestions above and what has helped you. What would you like to add to the list? As always, thank you for reading.

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