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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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.

Goodbye 2017, Hello 2018.

It’s officially that time of year. We’ve swapped out our Christmas greetings with, “Happy New Year!” Shelves are being stocked with 2018 calendars, and there’s talk of New Years resolutions everywhere you look.

Last year, as we rang in 2017, we were so hopeful that this year would be one of redemption. We had been praying that we would be blessed with a sibling for Aria for a few months before the new year, and it felt like our time was coming. But month after month went by, winter turned to spring, spring turned to summer, and still no baby. Then one doctor’s appointment turned into ten, and test after test showed nothing conclusive. We were confused, they were confused, so my doctor made a shot in the dark, which led to me holding a positive pregnancy test on an early August morning. And then that turned into me in my doctor’s office hearing things like “I’m sorry.” And “this happens all the time.” As I struggled to cope with the reality that we had miscarried.

But we did as we’ve had to do with every single heartbreak in the last two years, we dried our tears, held onto each others hands, and kept going. We found new doctors, better doctors, who ran even more tests. We talked about options, started saving, and came up with a plan. So as we welcome 2018, we are embarking on another adventure. Hopefully one thousand steps closer to growing our family once again.

And as hopeful as we are, I will admit that the spending the last year fighting infertility has been hard. So unbelievably hard. But we’re pushing back as much as we can.

We also have a project of a different kind that we’ll be unveiling this summer, and are so anxiously excited to share it. I wish I could say more about it, so I could fill this paragraph with more detailed anticipatory statements, but it’s going to be good. So very good. And I can’t wait for you to see it.

Of course, the real big day for us isn’t actually New Years Day. It’s January 2nd. Aria’s birthday. This coming year, she would have been turning two. I’m even less ready for it this year than I was last year. It doesn’t get any easier, or simpler, or less agonizing. I can’t stop thinking about all that we’re missing now. Her hair would be so long, because I know I would have refused to cut a single centimeter of those gorgeous dark locks. She’d be communicating, and bossing us around, and likely giving validity to the term, “the terrible twos.” But we’d love it all, and sweet Aria would be loving us back tenfold. She’d be blossoming, and growing, and thriving more and more each day.

God, I miss her.

All in all, 2017 has been quite a challenge. But there’s been such an undeniable bright spot in it, Lana. Our sweet dog who also turns two in January. She came to us at the start of this year and has made every hardship much more bearable. 2017 also gave Brian a very unexpected work trip to Disneyland, which I was able to tag along for, so with the combination of those things I suppose I can’t say it was the worst year.

But 2018 will be a better year. At least that’s what I’m hoping.

“Do you ever wonder if that’s all we’re ever going to be?”

Brian and I were walking through the mall tonight after an overwhelming visit with our Reproductive Endocrinologist (aka our Infertility Doctor), and I saw an adorable shirt with the words, “Dog Mom” on it. I pointed the shirt out to Brian and he asked, “Do you ever wonder if that’s all we’re ever going to be?”

My heart initially sank, I didn’t want him to ever feel that way, but I had to admit that I knew exactly what he was feeling because I fear that every single day. I fear that all we’ll ever have is our babies in heaven and our dog. I guess in some ways I’m thankful. I am so grateful that I was chosen to be the one to carry my daughter, no matter how brief her life ended up being. I’m even grateful for the baby that we miscarried because for the short few weeks I carried that baby, I got to feel such an overwhelming hope and excitement that I hadn’t felt in such a long time. Then there’s our sweet four legged angel in a fur coat, who brings such a beautiful daily happiness into our home. I’m grateful for all of them, and the color they have added to our world.

But despite all that, there is fear in wondering if this is it for us. Never to hold another baby in our arms, never to know the sweet sound of our newborn’s first cry. So many hopes and dreams never coming to fruition.

Earlier today I was sure we would leave our RE’s office with answers, a solid plan, and lots of hope. Instead we left feeling uneasy and confused about our next steps. The hard thing is that when it comes to fertility treatments, nothing is guaranteed. You can spend thousands and still walk out of there empty handed. It’s beyond frustrating and completely unfair. Yet the thing that keeps pulling us back is the chance that it could work, and then of course it would all be worth it in the end.

But it’s nights like tonight that I am fearing if this is all we’ll ever be, and it is so very hard.

Searching for the end of our rainbow.

There’s a desire that often occurs when a woman loses a baby, no matter if it is an early first trimester loss, a stillbirth, or their baby died after birth. It is the desire to try again, to bring forth another life. To have a child you can birth alive, and raise for a lifetime.

It is such a huge topic of discussion in loss support groups. Mothers discuss when they should try again, and search for hopeful stories of women who conceived again immediately following their losses and had healthy babies.

Although there is some controversy about this term among loss parents, these babies born after a loss are often called “Rainbow Babies.” It is a term used to describe the hope they bring after the storm that follows the loss of a very loved child.

And this topic has always been hard for me.

The moment after I held Aria in my arms for the last time, I instantly felt a void that I needed to fill. What most people don’t understand is that my desire to have another baby wasn’t just because I wanted to get back to being a mom. Every hormone in my postpartum body was raging inside me, frantically trying to make sense of the disaster that had just occurred. Losing a child is not the natural order of things. My mothering instincts were never prepared for this moment. I just grew a child in my womb, and now she has been birthed, so my brain couldn’t understand why a child wasn’t in my arms. My breasts swelled so large I thought they might burst, and they ached as they carried a supply of milk that was no longer needed. As my milk leaked out of me, I wondered if it was the tears of my mothering spirit, for I could feel her grieving too.

But I am unlike the majority of mothers who have lost. You see, the day Aria was born I asked if I could try again right away. I was told, “absolutely not.” I was told my body needed time to heal. I was told that carrying such a sick child had serious complications and I needed to recover from them before I could become pregnant again. It was like daggers through my heart. It felt like I was being punished for choosing to continue Aria’s life despite her diagnosis. Even though I knew termination was never the right choice for us, it stung to know that if I had taken that path, I would have been able to try again almost immediately.

Anyone who has ever lost a baby knows the desire to have another right away, so I know I don’t have to explain it any further for them. And for those who haven’t, I simply hope they never will.

I painstakingly trudged through that next chapter of my life, waiting for the green light that would bring hope sweeping back into my life. I put on a smile and pretended I was perfectly patient when people asked “Are you going to try again soon?” Then I’d run off and cry, thinking how unfair it was that I couldn’t even live up to everyone’s expectations about how motherhood should look after a loss.

And finally, after many months of fear, I was cleared to carry another baby. My exam and blood work all came back perfect! I was healed and healthy. I nearly cried as the nurse told me my labs were normal. I remember going into the bottom of a drawer, where I kept a gift I had purchased nearly a year before, and holding it to my chest as tears of hope rolled down my cheeks. It was a gift that I had hoped to give to Brian when I became pregnant for the second time. And today, it still sits in the bottom of that drawer.

A few weeks ago, I finally went in for a doctors appointment I had been putting off for quite a while. I was afraid of being on the receiving end of more bad news, and I hoped that by assuming everything was fine, it would be. But it was time to be brave. I owed myself answers, even if they weren’t good ones. I have had several tests done, and am now impatiently awaiting the results. Those tests will determine our next steps. I could finally receive a diagnosis, in which case we may decide to begin our first round of fertility treatments. Or they could say nothing – which is almost the result I fear most. Sure it’s great to be told you’re healthy, but none of that explains the many roadblocks we have faced over the last three and a half years on our journey to parenthood. Sometimes no news is good news, and sometimes it’s just really really confusing.

Every day of the last eighteen months, the emotions of this entire process have weighed heavier and heavier on my heart. We’ve had so much time to dream about another child that we already have baby names picked. Both for a boy and a girl, and even back up names on the off chance it’s twins. I’ve got paint colors and nursery designs all dreamed up in my head. I even bought a sweet little onesie that says, “worth the wait”. I am so ready to be a mom again. I’m just waiting for it to finally be my turn.

But there’s fear. So much fear. What if we can’t get pregnant again? What if we do but not for a very long time? How will my heart find the strength to continue this journey? What if we get pregnant again but we lose that baby too? What if? What if? What if…

By now, you may be wondering why I’m sharing all of this so publicly. I certainly am. I have typed and deleted this post more times than I can count. I feel like it may border a bit on oversharing, as a lot of people don’t want to know all the details on how you conceived a baby. But I have held this part of my journey inside of me for eighteen months now. I never even felt brave enough to bring up the topic of trying again during all the months I spent in therapy. But I guess it’s true what they say about bottling things up, they explode at some point. So I guess this is me letting it out before I burst.

And well, a few prayers from those who are reading this would definitely be helpful too. Because one day, I want to think about me when I was six years old, pushing a baby doll in a stroller and telling everyone that all I wanted to be when I grew up is a mom, and know that little girl got her wish.