Next Steps: Preparing for the start of our IVF journey.

We’ve gotten a few questions from people wondering whats next on the agenda following the exciting news that we won a free IVF cycle with CNY Fertility.

As with all things related to fertility treatments, there’s a lot of “hurry up and wait.” We need to have an initial consult with the doctors there in order to go over the details of our journey thus far, so that we can create a plan for IVF that suits us. Our consult is set for the end of March, which was actually quite lucky! They had a cancellation, and if it weren’t for that we would have had to wait until the end of May! I’m looking at the next month as an opportunity to fully clean up my diet, get back in shape, and focus on preparing my heart and soul for the road ahead.

If you’re not familiar with IVF, I’ll go ahead and give you a little breakdown. We start our round of IVF with the egg retrieval phase. I will be given daily hormone injections to stimulate my ovaries to mature as many eggs as possible, which is quite different from a natural cycle where a woman would only produce one egg at a time. In order to retrieve the eggs, I will be placed under anesthesia and the doctor will perform a procedure which will extract them from my ovaries. Once they are collected, they will be sent to the lab. Then each of my eggs will be injected with a single sperm cell from my husband in a process called intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). Then we wait a few days as the embryos grow in a warm, nurturing environment.

Right now, we are heavily considering preimplantation genetic screening (PGS). If we go this route, our embryos will be biopsied on their fifth day of development, and frozen while we await the results of that testing. PGS will then tell us the gender of each embryo along with information about our embryo’s chromosomes. We will be able to know which have normal chromosome development and which have an abnormality such as Trisomy 13 or 18, which are both fatal. Most miscarriages and many later term/infant losses are caused by chromosomal defects, and our hope is that PGS could potentially spare us from further heartbreak should we go that route. I want to make it clear that we aren’t doing this just avoid a special needs child, and I’m absolutely not shaming anyone who chooses PGS for this reason. It is a deeply personal decision and one that we do not take lightly. We simply do not wish to bury another child, and having the opportunity to even marginally decrease that chance is obviously very appealing.

However, I will also say that Aria’s CCAM diagnosis was not genetic in any way and while PGS wouldn’t have prevented or detected Aria’s defect, we have been assured many times that this type of defect is random and not caused by any environmental factors. It just happened, and it should not happen to us twice.

If we do end up choosing PGS, we will begin medication to prepare my body to transfer a thawed embryo once those results are received. The rest will remain frozen for future use. If we don’t choose PGS, it is our clinic’s protocol to do what is called a “fresh transfer”, where all but one of the embryos are frozen and we do an embryo transfer in the same cycle as our egg retrieval.

Once the transfer happens, we will hopefully be on our way to a successful, healthy pregnancy! If the first transferred embryo doesn’t take, then we will try again by transferring one of our reserved embryos.

This process will take place over the course of approximately 2-3 months (hopefully) and I’m really praying that we will have completed our IVF cycle by the end of June. But I make no promises! This infertility stuff can be quite complex and unpredictable.

I’ve been so open throughout this journey and quite frankly, I know we wouldn’t have won this cycle if it weren’t for all the wonderful supporters from around the globe who took the time to nominate us. So my heart strongly feels that I should share each step of this process as we go through it. But that would also mean announcing a potential pregnancy right at the start, which brings a lot of fear for me too. So I’m still not sure, and am asking that you understand if updates are sparse or vague as we move forward. One way or another I promise you’ll be included in this next chapter!

Wish us luck!

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A HUGE announcement!

In case you missed it on Instagram or Facebook this week, we have HUGE news on the infertility front.

Yesterday, I came across a giveaway for a FREE IVF cycle. It was from a clinic that someone in my loss support group had mentioned to me months ago. I knew it was such a long shot, but we entered the contest. Then so many wonderful people supported us by posting videos to nominate us!

And I am still in complete shock as I type this, we won!

I was with my best friend when I got the news and I instantly burst into tears and screamed, “Oh my God!! We won!” We hugged each other so tight while ugly crying. Just a few days before we were hugging while sobbing because our last round of IUI failed, and now things have totally changed.

I quickly FaceTimed Brian, and he was completely speechless as I gave him the news. He was totally shocked, and tears filled his eyes as the news sank in. All he could say was, “Wow.”

Fast forward to this morning…

I was grumpy for a moment when I woke up. I actually thought that I had dreamt about this winning this IVF cycle. As the sleep cleared from my eyes and I came to my senses, I remembered that this is REAL LIFE! And then I cried again. I still cannot believe it. I don’t think I’ll ever get over how amazing this is. We are forever indebted to all of you for supporting us, and CNY for making our dreams a reality.

Infertility after loss has been the absolute cruelest thing I have ever had to endure. As much as I hate to admit this, I was beginning to lose hope. In the blink of an eye, our prayers have been answered and hope has flooded every inch of my body. That light at the end of the tunnel that was quickly vanishing from sight has suddenly flooded everything around me, and all I see is light. Life feels full and wonderful.

The thing I love most is that Aria feels so present in this. I can’t thank her enough, I know she’s been guiding us every step of the way.

I cannot wait to begin this next chapter. It’s time to have a sibling for Aria.

Infertility: 2, Us: 0

Here’s the thing about doing rounds of fertility treatments back to back, it gives an instant rebound of hope and purpose after the first round fails. However, when the second one also fails it’s rapid fire disappointment.

And that’s where we are right now. I had so much hope for this round. Stronger meds and better numbers all seemed like things were lining up for a positive result but it just wasn’t meant to be.

Yesterday was spent considering our next steps. Our original plan was that our 3rd round of IUI would be completed with stronger meds, and I was comfortable with that. However, as the reality of two failed rounds and the costs associated with them sank in, I’m now very hesitant to move forward with another IUI. Our insurance provider doesn’t cover fertility treatments so we’ve been paying all of our medical bills 100% out of pocket. A third round of IUI with stronger medication is literally 3x the cost of one of our last treatment cycles, and it only nominally improves the success rate. Naturally my biggest fear is that we would throw all that money toward that IUI and still fail, then be that much more in the hole before moving to IVF.

So we changed gears a bit and started discussing IVF as a potential next step. It made me so hopeful. The success rates are so much more positive when compared to IUI, and my doctor has said several times that we are excellent candidates for IVF. But as I studied the cost sheet, I realized once again that none of this would be back and white. It’s never simple.

I told a friend of mine yesterday that I felt like I was being asked to buy a baby. It’s ridiculous how little fertility coverage most Americans have, and how much the costs associated with fertility treatments are. Then you add in the emotional and physical costs and it’s almost too much.

But then you think, “What if it works?”

I used to think people were crazy to spend so much on fertility treatments, but it’s impossible to put a price tag on your children. I would have paid absolutely anything to save Aria.

When I think about the moment Aria’s sibling is born, and hearing those first cries as I hold a living, breathing baby in my arms, fifteen thousand dollars feels like such a small price to pay.

But it isn’t. And that’s the hard part.

But I refuse to accept that this is it for us. I don’t even know how to process that kind of a reality. My mothering spirit has been so conflicted from the moment I said goodbye to Aria and she needs purpose again.

I’m not sure where we are going from here. But we’re not giving up. I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me.

The comeback kids.

People love a comeback story. They love it when the underdog ends up on top, and gets what they’ve been fighting for all along. It’s the stuff movies like Rudy and Rocky are made of. So after Aria was born, people were extremely quick to ask me when we were going to have another baby. I was asked that question several times before we even said goodbye to Aria’s body at the hospital.

But I didn’t want another baby. I wanted this one. I wanted Aria.

However, as my longing for the experience of raising children on earth began to overwhelm me, I came around and decided we would try again. People loved that decision. Their faces often lit up with excitement. They couldn’t wait for us to get our happy ending.

This is where things get really messy. Infertility, loss after loss, and a failed fertility treatment cycle have made for a really crappy comeback story. Most days it feels like we’re even further from redemption now than we were the day Aria died. Society and all of their expectations of what life after loss should look like makes it hard to not feel like a total failure. I’ve watched almost every mom in my infant loss support network go on to have a healthy baby, and yet I’m still waiting. People have distanced themselves from us, some because they no longer wanted to support the weight of our grief. Some because they assume the space will be helpful to us in some way. Some just grew weary of our lack of a happy ending.

“She’s still so sad.”

Indeed I am. My daughter died.

But if you could see our lives the way we do on the good days, you would see so much more.

So what exactly is our comeback story? What makes our story full of redemption?

A husband and wife that have weathered countless storms together, and grown stronger despite them. Two parents whose love for their daughter has refused to be negated by death. A father who still gets up each day and provides for his family despite wanting nothing more than to lay in bed and cry. A mother who speaks openly and publicly about her daughter, despite social stigmas that constantly whisper that she should stay silent.

We go out and explore new places. We learn new things. We build relationships. We laugh. We play. We live.

And at the heart of it all, there’s a sweet baby girl in heaven whose sick body has been fully healed. She’s safe. She’s free.

There’s still a lot of heartache in our story, but to deny the parts of it that have been redeemed is to ignore so much of the goodness our lives hold. We’re still a comeback story, and it’s only the beginning.