Still Here

Dear No One,

I’m sure you’ve all desperately been missing my posts! Right??! Let’s just say the first trimester was…rough.

But hello second trimester!! I am now 15 weeks pregnant and feeling so much better. I feel like a real human again. But I’m not here to talk pregnancy.

I struggled for the last couple months to know how to keep advocating for infertility and being a support system to others now that I am pregnant. Honestly, I knew that in my deepest struggle, I got nothing from people telling me about how they got through infertility and all the beautiful children they have now. I know that you don’t want me to tell you that “it will happen for you!!” Because you know what?? I don’t know what your story will be like in the end. Will you do IUI? Seven rounds of IVF? Donated embryo? Surrogate? Private adoption? Foster care? No children? I. Don’t. Know.

I wish my experience of getting pregnant on our first round of IVF could be the hope everyone needs. But I know better. I see women who are on their sixth round of IVF. I know women who were days behind me and miscarried. I know people who can’t afford anymore treatments. Or adoption. Or emotionally afford to put their heart out to hope at all. Somehow, we’ve turned into the “lucky ones.”

Believe me when I say, I don’t take one day of being pregnant for granted. Even in the hardest days, I would do this all over again to be here now.

So I’m here to say, I’m still here. I will still listen to you. But I also understand if talking to me with my growing belly is too difficult. I’m still here. I’m praying for you. I’m constantly thinking of you all. If you can use our story for hope, great! If you feel jealous, I’ve been there. I don’t judge you.

Keep your head up. Find support that is helpful to you. Know that I’m always here to talk. But know that I understand if I am not that person for you (at least for now).

All my love,

Betsy

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5 Years

Dear Marcus,

Happy fifth anniversary! There is nowhere I’d rather be today than spending time with you and Daxon at home. Although five years ago was one of my favorite days ever.

We both know, though, that five years didn’t come without challenges. I find it ironic that our anniversary falls during National Infertility Awareness Week as our infertility has been our biggest challenge the last four years.

While five years doesn’t seem like much to others, the growth we have made is immeasurable. You know when I’m getting hangry before I even do, and you know I am not capable of making decisions (big or small) when I get like that. You understand my (somewhat large) emotions. You know me. You understand me sometimes more than I understand myself. And I am a complicated person, so that is saying a lot.

We are not the people we were five years ago because we have grown. Together. We could have just as easily grown apart. But you have shown me that we are better together. We are stronger together. It may not all be “Instagram perfection,” but I think our growth has come from those not-so-perfect moments.

Thank you for standing by me. Every day. Through everything. I’m not sure there is anyone else in this world that could love and forgive me as easily and beautifully as you do.

I feel like this is really just the beginning of some of the best years of our lives. I can’t wait to watch our family grow and enjoy our crazy, chaotic, amazing life. Together.

All my love,

Betsy

NIAW: Take Back Your Story

Dear No One,

This week is National Infertility Awareness Week. Although 1 in 8 couples experience infertility, it is still isolating. And you soon find it taking over your entire life.

You start planning around ovulation. Trying to be as healthy as possible (just in case!) you get pregnant. You fall into a depression and believe a baby is the only thing that can bring you joy. With IVF, our lives were quickly consumed with doctor appointments, shots, procedures, tests.

Before we even started IVF, Marcus requested a week off over our 5 year anniversary, which happens to be this week. We weren’t sure what we would do or where we would go, but we wanted a vacation away with just the two of us.

Well I had assumed we would do the transfer immediately after our egg retrieval in January, but my body had other plans. Our transfer was pushed back 6-8 weeks into March.

I struggled with being patient and having to wait. One day, I broke down to Marcus. How could we plan the trip in April? What if we were newly pregnant and I didn’t feel good? What if it didn’t work, and we were prepping for another transfer? How would I deal with shots while traveling? What if we were just too broken to enjoy a trip?

We decided, on that day, to stop letting infertility control every moment of our lives. Let’s just plan a trip! Let’s do it. No matter where we are or what we’re doing in the process of IVF, we decided we would need a break anyway.

Now that I’m sitting here next to the pool, in 90 degree weather, next to my stud muffin of a husband, I am so glad we did this. Yes, I don’t feel great. (Marcus is enjoying most of my meals that I order.) Yes, I have to do shots every evening. But I am so grateful to take a step away from our daily routine to simply be together and enjoy ourselves. And take in the beauty around us.

Infertility can consume you. There are reminders everywhere of the pain you carry. Whether you just need to find a support group or take a timeout from trying to conceive or need a whole vacation away from “real life,” do it. Remember the life you had before infertility. Take time to realize there is more to enjoy than just building your family. Take back your story.

With that said, never give up. Your family may not look exactly like what you planned. Every step will be hard. Infertility will change you. Let it. But don’t let it take your life away.

To all my infertility warriors, you are stronger than you think. I hope this week brings light to the darkness of infertility by showing us all that we are not alone.

All my love,

Betsy

IVF Video

Dear No One,

Here’s a little video of our IVF journey. For those of you still struggling, I know what pregnancy announcements can do to you. Just know, I have been there. I am praying every day for you all to grow your families, and that our journey may give you some hope.

All my love,

Betsy

Hope

Dear No One,

Hope. “A feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.”

Despair. “The complete loss or absence of hope.”

Every month while a couple is trying to get pregnant, they are extremely hopeful. They look up when the due date would be. They think about when they can tell their family. They think about when their first appointment/ultrasound will be. They start planning.

I did this. I am a super planner. I was very naive and SO sure we’d get pregnant on one of our rounds of using clomid (3 years ago). I planned how I’d tell Marcus. How we’d tell our families. How our child’s age would compare to his or her cousins’ ages. We had names. We were so ready.

Month after month, you pick yourself up when your period comes. Your hope comes back. With every passing month, though, that hope starts to dwindle. It becomes despair. Fear. Anger. Jealousy. Guilt. Pain.

It is March. Our embryo transfer is March 19. I should be excited, right? As soon as March hit, though, I realized that I haven’t had any hope for getting pregnant in a long time. I am ready and I am excited for the opportunity. But I find myself guarding my heart as I am scared to hope.

I am scared to take a pregnancy test again as it normally triggers a lot of tears and pain. I am scared this won’t work. I am scared my body can’t do this. I am scared to hope. I am scared to feel. I am scared if this doesn’t work, I will only know despair. I am scared.

But I have to have hope. I wouldn’t be able to put my body through all of this if I wasn’t hopeful that it will work. I know beneath it all, I have hope. And no matter what, I am positive we will build our family one way or another.

So for those of you out there who are struggling to hope, keep this in mind:

“We must accept finite disappointment but must never lose infinite hope.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

All my love,

Betsy

Strength Through Infertility

Dear No One,

Infertility can suck you in and try to drown you. Infertility strips you of so many things you maybe didn’t even know could be taken.

Dreams. I grew up dreaming of what my family would look like someday. At one of my bridal showers, we played a game that compared Marcus and my answers to different questions. They asked the question, “How many children will you have?” I answered, “3-6.” While that got a few surprised looks, I knew I wanted a BIG family. I want the full house. I want the chaos. I want loud. I dreamed of this even before I met Marcus. I longed for the day to be a mommy.

Faith. I rarely talk about my faith. This is partially due to the fact that I lost it during some of the worst parts of our infertility. Completely lost it. I struggled. I still struggle. While I am finding my way back, it is still a struggle. Whether you have a faith that can’t be shaken or no faith at all, it is hard to hear, “It’s all in God’s plans” or “in God’s timing.” While I believe He is walking with me in this journey, I believe I also have the power to make decisions and move forward. I don’t sit around and wait for signs. I make decisions. I move forward, and I ask God to walk with me and give me strength through it.

Control. Anyone else a control freak?? I know I can’t be the only one. You learn very quickly with infertility that you have little to no control. Your body does what it does. Medicine can only help so much. Sometimes there is nothing that modern medicine can do to help.

Time. We have been trying for four years now. With not one positive pregnancy test. We went through the adoption process. We are on our first round of IVF. When you are in the middle of trying, babies are on your mind about 99.9% of the time. I started medicine for our first round of IVF in December. It is March tomorrow, and we still haven’t transferred one embryo. Four months for one chance. ONE. I thought waiting to start trying again every month was a long wait. Infertility consumes your time.

Friends. While everyone tries to be supportive, most can just simply not understand. It is hard to watch others around you continue to live their lives, while you feel a daily struggle to put a fake smile on your face and pretend your heart isn’t breaking.

Hope. Every woman who has ever tried to get pregnant knows how devastating it is to get a negative test, but your hope comes right back again the next month. After you pee on a test so many times, your hope is harder to find.

Goodness. That is a lot, and it doesn’t even begin to cover everything you can lose. You may be thinking, “That is all so depressing Betsy!” Try experiencing it. It IS depressing. Infertility consumes you in so many ways. But you know what? It also brought me a few things.

Strength. You don’t know your own strength until it is tested. And boy has my strength been tested.

Patience. Adoption. Infertility. AKA wait…wait…wait…wait…wait. NOTHING happens quickly. I still struggle at times, but I am a lot more patient now than I used to be.

Friends (sisters). Infertility is a sisterhood. Any relationship I have is instantly taken to another level when we both have experienced infertility. There is just an instant understanding. And huge support system you didn’t even know you needed.

Knowledge. Yes, I can tell you ALL about ovulation and hormones and shots. I mean what I learned about myself. I have a friend that experienced a miscarriage that told me, “I feel like I can’t go back to the person I was.” The truth? You can’t. And you shouldn’t. Allow yourself to grow from your experiences. I am not the person I was four years ago, and I wouldn’t want to be.

 

In every hard situation, there is pain. You lose parts of yourself. But you also find another side to yourself that is even stronger. Some days will be dark. Some days will hurt like hell. But some days you will see the light. You will feel that spark of hope again. Every day is a challenge. Let yourself have the bad days. Hold onto the good days to get you through the worst. When infertility tries to strip you of everything, fight to show you are stronger.

And for those days you feel lost and alone, know that I am here. I am thinking of you every day. I will show you your strength when you are in doubt.

All my love,

Betsy

Let Myself Feel

Dear No One,

I am sure you have heard or thought a thousand times, “someone else has it worse.” While I think it is extremely important to remember those less fortunate than us and to provide assistance any way we can, I think it is equally as important to take care of yourself.

I think the saying “someone else has it worse” is meant to be uplifting, but I think it can also be damaging. Have you ever felt like you don’t deserve to feel the way you do? Or that you shouldn’t feel that way? I felt that way for a long time with infertility. Honestly, I still have days that I think I don’t deserve to be sad about infertility.

I think people try to be strong and hold it all together. I think they don’t believe that they deserve to feel sad. You know what? Do it. Feel sad. Take the time to grieve. Allow yourself to just feel. You deserve that time.

I honestly believe it is healthier to allow yourself to feel what you feel. The less you try to push it down, the more you can begin to heal.

I know people dealing with a loss of a family member or friend. I know people dealing with cancer. I know people dealing with postpartum depression. Everyone is fighting a battle.

My nephew was diagnosed with nephrotic syndrome over a year ago, and he has had multiple relapses in just a year. Every time he relapses, he starts a round of steroids to get his kidneys working better. While he is fortunate that he responds well to steroids, it still comes with many side effects that take a toll on not only him, but my sister and her family.

I have been extremely emotional and have constant ups and downs about our infertility right now. I don’t know how much I can blame on the IVF meds and changing hormones, but it has been a struggle recently. My nephew, though, recently had another relapse, and I instantly thought, “How can I be sad about infertility when my nephew (and sister) is dealing with something so much worse?” Then I talked to my sister. She made a similar comment except she felt as though she didn’t deserve to be that sad. She knows others who have been or are going through something worse, in her mind.

But then she said something that opened my eyes. She said, “Tomorrow I will get on all the schedules of meds and organize everything. Today, I am going to let myself be sad.” Let myself.

I realized that we are all made to believe that “someone has it worse,” which leads us to believe our feelings aren’t as important. I’m sure you’ve all also heard, “Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” See? Everyone is fighting a battle. Including you. While I try to live by this saying, I also think we should be kind to ourselves because your battle is just that, a battle. It may not look like everyone’s battles. But who is to say that yours isn’t worthy of all you are feeling?

Honestly, this post is mainly for me. I needed to write this down, so I can come back and read it whenever I forget that I’m allowed to feel sad. Or happy. Or angry. I am allowed to feel, no matter what those feelings are. And so are you. Give yourself a break. You are stronger than you think, but you are also allowed to feel broken sometimes.

All my love,

Betsy

IVF: Round One

Dear No One,

I headed into January with so much hope and excitement. In December, I read a bunch of blogs, researched IVF, and connected with others on Instagram. I got myself in the most positive state of mind I could. I was ready. I was so excited. This was our shot. I was feeling so positive, I even thought we may be that couple that gets a ton of healthy embryos, have everything go perfectly, and get pregnant the first round.

There is a lot (I mean A LOT) that goes into the process of IVF. Let me break some of it down into some of the simpler steps.

-I took birth control for 3 weeks and antibiotics for 2 weeks to prep my body.

-I went in for a baseline ultrasound and blood work to make sure my body was ready to begin. Basically, they were making sure my ovaries weren’t producing any eggs on their own.

-4 days later I started taking IVF meds. One shot in the morning, one shot in the evening. And lots of other pills to prep my body (prenatal vitamins, steroids, Vitamin D, etc.)

-After 3 days of shots, I went in for another ultrasound and blood work.

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-2 days later, I went in for ultrasound and blood work.

-I went in for ultrasound and blood work the next day. Added another shot in the evenings.

-2 days later, I went in for ultrasound and blood work. Stopped all current shots. Took “trigger” shot that evening to help eggs mature and prepare for egg retrieval.

-The next day I went in for blood work.

-The next day I went in for egg retrieval. You are put under light sedation and aren’t allowed to work that day.

Ok. Was that schedule crazy?? Yep! But would you believe me if I told you that shots were the easiest part of IVF for me? Did I hesitate the first few times before sticking a needle into my body? Yes, but I got use to it.

Symptoms? Almost none for the first week. Didn’t sleep well (thanks to steroids), but I was feeling amazing for the first week. Then Sunday hit, and I was extremely tired and my belly was getting sore and swollen as my ovaries went from the size of walnuts to the size of oranges. Honestly, though, I didn’t feel nearly as bad as I thought I would going into this process.

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How the last couple days before egg retrieval looked. Tired mama! (and a very understanding baby)

What was the hardest part(s)? After my ultrasounds and blood work, a nurse would call me in the afternoon to update me. When I went to my day 5 ultrasounds and blood work, I was told my estrogen levels had jumped really high. Therefore, they adjusted my meds and made a next day appointment to see how my body responded to the changes. On my day 8 ultrasound and blood work, they called me that afternoon and told me a few things.

One, my body was ready for egg retrieval in two days, so I had to take my trigger shot that evening. Yay!

Two, my estrogen had continued to climb too high, and the typical trigger shot was dangerous for me to take at that point. Therefore, they sent a prescription for a different shot to a specialty pharmacy downtown. When I got there, they said they didn’t have it. Then we were sent to another pharmacy 20 minutes away to get the ONE shot they had left. Cue anxiety.

Third, the nurse told me that we had to cancel the embryo transfer due to my high hormone levels. Embryo transfer is typically done 5 days after the egg retrieval. Instead of the possibility of finding out we’re pregnant in a couple weeks, we have to put the embryo transfer off for at least 6-8 weeks. This was very disappointing for me. I medically understood the reason. The nurses were concerned I could get Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS), which can be extremely painful and lead to draining fluid out of your abdomen. Obviously I didn’t want that, and I was thankful that they were staying on top of my health. Does it take away the desire to want to be pregnant? Nope. We have now been trying over three years. The first part of the IVF process already took 6 weeks. My dream of being pregnant just keeps getting pushed back. I have learned patience through infertility and the adoption process, but I’m not perfect. I am a planner. Hearing another delay hurt, but we decided we should just focus our prayers and energy on getting good, healthy embryos.

Egg retrieval day. We got 16 eggs! 16! Yay!! That’s a great number. Then we wait until the next day to hear how many eggs fertilized overnight.

Three. Three out of sixteen eggs fertilized. That number drop was terrifying. We wouldn’t hear another update for five days. Those little embryos needed to make it to day 5, then they would be frozen until my body is ready for the transfer. Come on, little babes. I didn’t know I could feel so connected to embryos that weren’t even in my body. This was THE hardest part of IVF for us. Waiting. Waiting to hear if any of our embabies made it to day 5.

Two. Two embryos made it. They are now frozen. Waiting for their mama to get ready for them. Best news. We are so very thankful that we have two embryos. Two opportunities. Two embabies. There is not a day I don’t think about them.

I have lost track of the amount of hurdles we have had to jump over to get to our children. This round of IVF was a big hurdle. I went in thinking I was going to be the strongest woman who ever went through it. Take it like a champ. I ended it crying myself to sleep the night before we heard how many embryos made it to day 5, as the thought of losing any of them was too much for me to handle.

Was it easier than I thought it would be? At times. Was it harder than I thought it would be? At times.

It’s not over. We have more hurdles to get over before we have any pregnancy announcement, but I thought my supporters deserved an update. We are doing really well (especially now that my hormones have leveled out! Poor Marcus).

If you made it this far in this long post, thank you. And thank you to the wonderful, beautiful souls that took my hand and walked through every step with us. Whether you text, called, gave us care packages, babysat, or prayed for us, we are forever grateful.

All my love,

Betsy

The Most Wonderful And Hardest Time of the Year

Dear No One,

It is my favorite time of year! Yes, I am that annoyingly joyful person listening to Christmas music in October (and July. And March. Ok maybe year round). I love Christmas! The lights. The snow. The time spent with family. The fact that people just seem happier and nicer. The food. The trees. The decor.

Ok, have I made it clear enough how much I love Christmas? Good.

Now let me take you back to December 2014. We decided we were ready to start our family earlier that year. I was watching what I was eating, stopped drinking alcohol, taking prenatals and clomid. I was doing everything right to prepare my body for a baby.

I was so sure we’d get pregnant in the next couple months and by the next Christmas we’d have a little baby! Or at least be pregnant.

If you know me well, you know I’m a planner. I planned everything. How we’d tell our different family members. How I’d tell Marcus (there may have been a banner and shirt involved). Etc. etc. I planned every little thing.

Basically I was so excited for what was to come. My eyes were big and my heart naive.

In March, our world crumbled and my plans were instantly ripped from my hands.

I won’t get into details but the next 9 months were dark. Everything hurt. We got to Christmas 2015. No baby. No sign of a pregnancy in the near future.

That was a hard Christmas. My usual joy was no where to be found. I shut down and really only survived with the help of sarcasm and alcohol.

It was a month later I had a dream about adopting a baby and finally reached out to someone who is also in the infertility world that I allowed myself to start healing and rewrite my plans.

I know I don’t write that often, and I really wish I could just be a funny, witty blogger, but as Marcus would tell you, I’m not that funny. This blog is a therapeutic outlet for me and I write when my heart is pulling me to write. I wish this blog could be bright and bubbly and full of recipes and funny stuff my kid does, but infertility is not bright.

Infertility is dark. It strips you of so many more things than I can begin to explain. It took Christmas away from me that year, and I will cherish every one even more now that Daxon is here. I could not call myself an advocate for infertility if I weren’t honest about it.

So why am I writing this today? I am thinking of every woman who thought they’d have a baby or be pregnant this Christmas, and they aren’t. I pray you have more strength than me to reach out for support and deal with your emotions better than I did.

Whether you read this silently to yourself or reach out to me or someone else, I am here for you. I see you. Your pain is real. Allow yourself to feel it. Then remember you have already made it this far. You are making it through this moment right now. Use this strength and confidence to make it through the next hard moment. You may not be able to control your future, but you can control how you allow yourself to heal and move forward.

You are strong enough.

All my love,

Betsy

Another Battle

Dear No One,

Marcus and I have A LOT going on this month. Most importantly, we are celebrating Daxon’s first birthday. We also had a visit with his birth mom, adoption walk, friends visiting from St. Louis, Thanksgiving, and one of my best friend’s wedding. Why not add a little more to our to do list?

We decided once Marcus started his job that we would go to a fertility specialist. We couldn’t get in until, you guessed it, November! We knew since March of 2015 that we would need some assistance in getting pregnant, but after a surgery and recovery, we decided to not keep doing tests. We needed some time to physically and emotionally recover. After three years of trying on our own with no success, we knew it was time to get some help. Therefore, we started out with this recent visit getting lots of tests done.

After all of those tests, we were told that our only possibility of having biological children would be through IVF (In Vitro Fertilization). This is the last, most desperate and drastic step for couples struggling to get pregnant. Unfortunately for us, it is the only option.

When we found out, I was initially just happy to have answers. We’ve been waiting years to find this out, so there is definitely some relief in knowing.

I would be lying, though, if I didn’t tell you that I’m terrified. I instantly started doing research and reading personal blogs about the IVF journey. There will be a lot of shots, bruises, pain, hope, ultrasounds, emotions, doctor visits, doubt. I am scared. I am excited. I am ready. I know there will be days where I forget why we are doing this. In the end, though, I am fighting yet another battle to keep building our family.

While adoption was not as physically draining as IVF will be, it took so much patience and emotions and is a lifelong experience with ups and downs.

Nothing about creating our family has been easy, and I cannot wait to tell each and every one of our children someday about how hard we worked to get to them.

Why am I telling you about this? I loved sharing our journey through adoption to bringing home Daxon and all the support we received, and I want to share this journey as well.

I am ready to fight another battle as the reward is so very worth it.

ivf

All my love,

Betsy