Faith over fear.

I think I drank too much tea this afternoon, because as my husband is snoozing away beside me, I am wide awake and doing entirely too much thinking.

In 12 days, I begin my leave of absence from work so that we can begin IVF. Many people keep asking me if I’m excited, and I absolutely am, but if I’m being completely honest, I’m terrified.

For over two years, my life has been a cornucopia of loss and infertility. The crushing blows to my heart have come one right after another, leaving me with little to no time to brace myself for impact. When Aria died, it took every last ounce of energy in my body to keep me going.

A year and a half later, after months upon months of praying for a second chance at parenthood, I miscarried my second pregnancy. I laid on the ultrasound table and sobbed as the technician failed to find a heartbeat for a baby that I had already grown to love.

My world went into a deep tailspin that day. My faith in God turned into searing anger. Every ounce of good that I believed my life had left felt like it was slipping out of my grasp.

And yet, I stood once again and we kept praying that another baby would come. As the months went by, and the doctor’s appointments came and went, we put our hope into two rounds of fertility treatments (IUI). Each time I felt this would be it, and each time I was called by a nurse to inform me my labs came back negative for pregnancy.

When we won this round of IVF, my heart immediately sang. I felt redemption and new hope. But as it all has begun to sink in, the fear has returned.

I remember the joy in my pregnancy with Aria. I remember the excitement, and the dreams I had for her future. But I also remember the devastation that came when she died.

I remember the jubilant tears that flowed as I jumped on Brian and excitedly told him I was pregnant with Aria’s sibling. But I also remember the way my chest caved as the doctor told me I was miscarrying.

So as I sit here filled with so much hope for what this round of IVF could bring, I’m absolutely torn apart by the thought of experiencing a negative outcome once again. I guess you could say it’s something like PTSD.

But we are trying so hard to trust in the goodness we can’t yet see.

Earlier I mentioned that we were considering opting into PGS (preimplantation genetic screening) to ensure we knew which embryos were genetically perfect or not. We wanted to do whatever we could to prevent another loss. But after discussing the reality of PGS not being a guarantee, and the financial burden of this testing, we’ve decided not to do it. Those reasons were big factors, but the thing that really cemented our decision is this; Throughout everything we have walked through in the last two years, God has given us the strength to keep moving forward. So even if the worst comes again, we know our hearts will be held. We were not, and will not be abandoned.

Here is where I would like to ask for a favor from all of you. Will you help ease my restless mind and heart by praying for us in the coming weeks? This is a critical time, and will be trying both emotionally and physically for us. Please pray for calm hearts, a lot of patience and of course, healthy embryos.

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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!

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.

Infertility 1, Us 0

It’s official, our first round of fertility treatments has failed.

I tried so hard not to get my hopes up, and remind myself that it can take several tries for it to work, if it’s going to work for you. But I was encouraged by my doctors who looked at all our labs and felt that this protocol would likely lead to a pregnancy for us. Although they did make sure to remind us that it could take more than one round. As our first round progressed, and everything continued to look good, I let hope take root in my heart and grow like a weed. “This could be it!” I thought over and over again.

I instantly began to cry as I listened to the nurse’s message on my phone. “It’s negative. I’m sorry.” All of my hopes and dreams slipping away as quickly as the tears rolled down my cheeks. I thought about the date that I had hoped would become my due date, the day before my next birthday. I thought about the trip we’re taking in the spring, and how I hoped it would become a babymoon. I thought about the empty nursery upstairs that would remain empty even longer. It just wasn’t meant to be. At least not yet.

I despise the rollercoaster that infertility takes you on. The hope and anticipation, then crushing devastation as it all comes crashing down as you hold yet another negative pregnancy test in your hands. Add that to our already difficult journey with bereaved parenthood, and it’s downright miserable.

Of course, there is still hope. We talked to my doctor, who said she would have liked for me to respond a little better to one of my meds, so we’re changing the dosage and hoping that’s the boost I need. If not, there’s other options for the round after that.

Of course, that all sounds promising if that was all there was to worry about, but it feels like flushing money down the drain when a cycle fails. Especially since most American health insurance providers cover 0% of infertility treatments. But I’ll keep my soapbox in the closet, and save that speech for another time.

Here’s to more meds that make me extremely hormonal, shots expertly administered by my husband, and more needle pokes than I can count! Bring it on, round two! We’ll be seeing you soon.