Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Dark Side of Silence - #StartAsking

As part of National Infertility Awareness Week, the organization Resolve (check them out here) has decided their awareness campaign theme this year is #StartAsking. The reality is that 1 in 8 couples struggle through facing infertility... 1 in 8!! While that may or may not seem like a lot to you, in actuality infertility is much more prevalent than many people think or even realize. Think about it... I'm sure many of you can think of at least 8 different couples you know - friends, family, co-workers, people at church, or even acquaintances. Statistically speaking, there's a good chance that at least one of those couple has faced the realities of infertility, whether they are going through it now, have in the past, or may even face it in the future once deciding to try and start (or even further grow) their family... and yes, couples who may have already had a child with no difficulty can even face infertility on their second, third, etc. try - it doesn't only affect couples trying for their first child.

So back to the #StartAsking campaign. This year (to me) the campaign really represents a movement to start opening the lines of communication. Unfortunately, although infertility is a pretty prevalent diagnosis, it's often something that's not talked about... sometimes even considered a "taboo" subject. And I get it, trust me of all people I really do. It's considered a "private and personal" matter for many couples, and often starts with a phase of denial that needs to be worked through.

I spoke briefly in an earlier post (that you can check out here) about how at the beginning of this journey I struggled to really even accept the reality that this was what my husband and I were facing - the dreaded word: INFERTILITY. I didn't want to accept that and didn't want to be "that couple" that struggled to have a baby. I wanted to be like every other couple who got to experience the rush of excitement when first deciding to "try." The couple that gets to fantasize about all the cute and fun ways they will tell friends and family that they're pregnant... and then actually get to use one of those ways to tell people. I wanted to be the couple that was just "normal" when it came to baby-making.

But instead, I got to be one of the lucky 1 in 8's - and from there I had to embark down the long and winding road of living through my infertility battle. No matter how much I didn't want it to be true, how much I prolonged even making that first appointment to see my fertility specialist (Dr. M's) or how hard I tried to wish it away, I couldn't. It was here. It was real. It was a battle I was about to embark on that had no definitive end in sight.

Now, as things stand 2 years later, I get to look back and reflect on parts of this journey and hopefully try to help others with my retrospect.

You see with infertility, especially in the beginning phases, there often comes some denial, as I previously mentioned. Denial in a sense that you just keep hoping that this next month will just be "the month" and then you either won't even have to bother telling anyone about the struggle or at least light-heartedly share about the struggle after you can announce your pregnancy.

Even more so, often times with infertility there comes this weird and sometimes even hard to understand feeling of shame. Shame that you can't get pregnant like everyone else. Shame that as a woman your body isn't working the way it was designed to. Shame that your body can't successfully accomplish the one thing as a woman that seems so easy (an even "accidental") for so many others. Shame that you are "the couple who can't have a baby."

For a long time though, I didn't really even understand these feelings. On the outside, I remember feeling like, "I'm not ashamed about what we're going through, I just don't want people to know. I don't want their pity." But really, once I was able to work through many, many, many feelings, I realized that a lot of it was rooted in some sort of shame that my body was letting me down - that it wasn't doing was it was supposed to do and there was nothing that I could really do to make it.

Yet through all of the "working through my feelings" I was adamant about still not telling anyone (and I mean anyone) about our struggle - for various reasons... and this is one of the major downsides to infertility. This shame of silence that you lock yourself into. The feeling of loneliness that you don't mean to, but actually do choose to lock yourself into. By not sharing (even with just one other person close to you) you prevent yourself from being allowed to have a support system around you. You close yourself off to an outlet for love and support and compassion.

And in my situation, that's exactly what I did... I unintentionally locked myself into this dark place of sealing all of my feelings, fears, thoughts, and frustrations inside - with no way to properly process them.

But even more so, the even darker side to all of this was what I had inadvertently put my loving husband through. He on the other hand didn't hold the same thoughts as me about not telling anyone. I mean, he wasn't all about shouting it from the roof-tops, but he also didn't really understand what was so bad about sharing our difficulties with family and close friends. So unfortunately, what I did was lock him into a dark world of silence as well - one that he had no choice to not be in, and one where he had no one he could talk to (without fear of me going crazy for "telling our dirty little secret").

You see, when a couple goes through infertility it doesn't only impact the woman, it also significantly impacts the man in the situation. He was going through his own range of emotions in dealing with this difficulty, many that were the same as mine, some that were different. But sadly, and regrettably, it took me awhile to realize this. I figured since we were going through this together, he had me to talk to and I had him... which we did, but there's still so much power in being able to open up to someone else about all of it. My husband worked so hard to be strong and supportive for me, that I think he sometimes forgot to take care of himself, and allow himself to process through all the feelings he was having... and I clearly didn't make that any easier for him. Sweetheart, I know you know this, but I am truly so so sorry... you didn't deserve to have to be in that place alone, and I know you allowed yourself to be because of how much you love me - for that, I am eternally grateful, and love you more than I could ever express. I'm sorry...

Of course everything is clearer in retrospect, but looking back I wish I would have opened up sooner to close family and friends about our infertility. I wish I would have let my husband speak openly to whomever he felt comfortable sharing with. I wish I didn't lock us both into this dark and lonely place for so long. But - I did.

So now in moving forward and seeing how far we've come and how amazingly powerful and helpful it's been for us to open up about our journey, my advice to others - whether you're just starting to navigate your way through these waters, or knee deep into the world of living with infertility - is as follows:

- First and foremost, your journey is your own, and ultimately you get to choose who and how and when you would like to open up and share. Just because it was something positive and helpful for me (and my husband) doesn't mean it's right for you... or right, right now

- Communicate openly with your partner and be accepting of the fact that you both may have different needs - and be respectful of how to best have those needs met

- It's a personal choice of who to tell, but consider opening up to at least one person you trust about it... I can't tell you how amazing it was for me once that shadowy wall came down and I knew I had a friend whom I could call and chat openingly with about all the nuances (and frustrations) of infertility treatments. Likewise, it was just as amazing once we knew we had the support of both of our parents behind us... praying for us, sending love and encouragement, and providing support

So in light of this week dedicated to bringing awareness to this issue - I challenge you to start opening the lines of communication. Infertility is a medical diagnosis and we all need to band together to break the stigma, misunderstandings, and taboo culture that surrounds it and start breaking the silence...

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Spreading Awareness - NIAW

In honor of National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW) coming up in a couple days, I wanted to share an amazing post written by my friend over at Hoping for a Heard. Take some time to check out the information and stats. that she shares regarding infertility, as well as her fabulous tips on what not to say (and what to say instead) when someone you know is going through infertility. I've been wanting to write a similar post on "Dont's" and "Do's" when it comes to talking to someone dealing with infertility, so stay tuned for that - but in the mean time, check out her great tips in her "Be A Lighthouse" post you can find here.

Thanks Paige :)

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

So Far So Good... and a Mini-Lesson on Fertility, Nutrition & Exercise

So here's an update on my "a bit more natural approach" to infertility over the past few weeks... so far, so good :) I've been enjoying my "green juice" and "green smoothies," which have definitely helped me get a healthy serving of some powerful super food greens, as well as other antioxidants.

Antioxidants greatly help in countering the negative effects of free radicals - which we all have floating around in our bodies and which are responsible for causing damage to your body at a cellular level. Therefore antioxidants help promote healthy cell development and regeneration, for example in egg and sperm development (which is obviously important for both women and men when TTC). Each food obviously has it's own benefits and effects, but in addition to antioxidants, some of the other main vitamins and minerals that are needed to help promote fertility include:
- Follate aka Folic Acid... which is an obvious one
- Zinc... used to create genetic material and help with healthy sperm production in males (preventing chromosomal abnormalities)
- Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids... help promote healthy hormone development and healthy brain development in your growing baby (once pregnant)
- Iron... low iron or iron deficiencies may impact ovulation (or contribute to anovulation - not ovulating)

This by no means is an exhaustive list, as there are definitely other vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that help with healthy fertility, but these are among some of the ones I've been focusing on... in addition to the vitamin regimen my fertility doctor (we'll call him Dr. M's) has me religiously on. This regimen consists of prescription grade prenatal vitamins, calcium, CoQ10, and a twice daily supplement powder (that you mix into water) called Pregnitude. It's definitely a lot, given that you have to take into consideration that certain ones have to be taken at certain times, with certain amounts of water, within certain restrictions regarding food, etc. - but nonetheless, a small price to pay for this miracle baby that will be coming our way soon (I'm speaking positive affirmations here!).

I've also been incorporating a pilates routine into my workouts that helps promote fertility. This series of pilates moves is supposed to help specifically with any types of adhesions, endometriosis, fibroids, scar tissues etc - and while I don't have endometriosis, I did have some issues with scar tissue and some minor adhesions that were blocking one of my tubes, so I'm hoping this can help keep any of that from forming again (especially post-surgery). 

This routine specifically is fairly simple (even if you've never done pilates before) and doesn't take a ton of time... I think the video is about 17-18min, and a couple of those minutes are the intro., so really about 15min. or less.  

Here's the video from Jessica at Happy Hour Mama (check out her website or her YouTube Channel for other pilates workouts)...

One thing that's made a big difference for me, and really helped motivate me to get back into doing some pilates (and a bit of yoga too), is the point that she makes in her video about the positive detoxifying effects of pilates. 

I try to stay fit and active and try to workout at least 4-5 days a week, but like she mentioned, my issue has been that a lot of my workout routines have consisted of more static movements (running, strength training, high intensity cardio sometimes); so what I was missing was a lot of the deeper movements, including extending, bending, twisting, etc, that pilates helps provide... and that help more effectively detox your body and organs. So it's really a win - win.. positive effects on your body and exercise to help lengthen and strengthen your muscles (and help promote weight loss as well!)

Alright, I'm going to get down from the pilates soap-box bandwagon, but just end by saying that's it's something to look into if you happen to be interested.

Other than that, I'm just here enjoying the patter of rain that we're getting at the moment :)

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Faith Through The Trials and Rough Roads

My faith truly is the main thing that gives me strength through this entire journey through infertility. Being able to trust in God and turn to Him during the most difficult and trying times, and even during the small celebrations, is the rock upon which I can stand.

At times, however, it can become easy to overlook and forget about this never-failing support from Him. Getting wrapped up in all of the daily tracking, charting, appointments... and hoping, wishing, watching for any sign that this month might be the month can quickly consume all of you. It's easy in those happy celebratory moments to thank God for the victory, but it's during those most difficult, disappointing instances when your true faith is tested.

Now don't get me wrong, having this faith and trust in God doesn't make any of this easy by any means, because it's still not easy. In fact, it's probably one of the most difficult things that I've been through in my life thus far. But what my faith does do is make it possible for me to continue to get through these trials.

There have been plenty of times that I've questioned God and His plan, been frustrated with it since it clearly isn't aligned with my plan, and even been times when I've been flat out angry and livid with what He's allowing me to go through. But ultimately, I'm still somehow always able to come back to a place of peace knowing that no matter what, and no matter how mad I get at Him, He's still always by my side in all of it. No matter what I do, or how angry I get at Him (or how many times I inappropriately yell, scream, and even mildly curse at Him -- yes, I've done this and am not proud), His grace and love still have the ability to ultimately overcome. And that's what's amazing about Him. No matter what we do, no matter how we sin, no matter how many times we turn away from Him and try to take matters into our own hands... through our trusting in Jesus, He is still always there for us, with open arms - when we are ready to come back. He never leaves us (even when we try to push Him away -- again, I know this from personal experience), and His love and unfailing grace are everlasting.

Putting my faith and trust in Jesus has been the best and most amazing decision I've made in my life. Coming to know Him and His love for me has definitely transformed my life in countless ways... including helping me get through this craziness of infertility. In the end, I know God has a plan in all of this, and through it all is working to bring His plan into fruition.

Why is He allowing us to go through? Why have we been chosen to live this struggle? Where will this all go in the end? What will the ultimate outcome be?... To be honest, I can't say for sure. Because at this point, only He knows. But what I can say for sure is that God's hand is in it... and ultimately His plan will prevail.

I hold on strong to my faith that through God, all things are possible. It is possible for me to get pregnant. It is possible for us to have a baby (and hopefully two, or three, or however many God has planned for us). It is possible and I believe it will happen - in due time. In His time, not necessarily mine... so while I wait, what I'm called to do is to continue to have faith. Faith in the child/ children I know God has planned for us. Faith in the pregnancy I know I will experience. Faith in my amazing God.

I know He wants great things for me (and my husband... and all of us that trust in Jesus), so no matter how rough the road gets, I have to continue to fall back on this promise from Him...

"For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not evil, to give you a future and a hope." 
~Jeremiah 29:11~

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Green Juice Monster

I've spent the past couple of days strictly following my "all natural" fertility plan that I've put myself on, and so far so good. I've been making (and actually kind of enjoying) my super green juice (so far consisting of tons of broccoli, spinach, and an apple)... not as bad as you would think. Check out this goodness...

I've also been doing some pilates designed to help promote fertility, as well as started a bit of yoga too. I'm going to give it a couple more days to see if I still like it, as well as do a bit more research, but then I will share the links for anyone who's interested... So far it seems promising.

In addition, I started self-fertility massage last night as well, and plan to continue with it daily until ovulation. Again, I'm going to give this a couple more days and then share the info. if I'm still liking it... wouldn't want to promote anything I'm not feelin' :)

Other than that, most other things have been pretty uneventful. I'm definitely continuing to appreciate my temporary break from appointments, but still am charting this month (and probably will do OPKs) just to continue to track ovulation and timing.

I've also mostly gotten over my conjured-up fear of judgement for taking a short break from medical treatment. In my last post I talked about how there was still some guilt that stuck with me in regards to making the decision the take this month off. I kind of felt like others would think, "Well, if you really wanted a baby badly enough, you wouldn't be taking these 'breaks' and would just being doing whatever medical intervention was necessary." I'm sure no one actually thinks that (if you do, please keep it to yourself), but I guess maybe part of me actually thinks that myself and is projecting (ok, now here comes the psychologist in me). Regardless, if there's one thing I've learned through this whole infertility quest, it's that everyone's journey is different... and everyone has the right to choose what's best for them, without judgement. No one knows what it's like to walk in another's shoes, therefore no one has the right to judge or even second guess and question your decision making. It's your call... and so I'm probably speaking more to myself here, but it's ok to choose whatever is best for you and your partner at the moment. Bottom line.

Anyone else who doesn't want to support, well, they can just keep their opinions to themselves... To everyone else, cheers to you with my green juice!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Hiatus Ended - Sort Of

Well I'm back from that little hiatus I took. Still not preggers, but so enjoyed that much needed "break" I went on from my crazy infertility ride (see this post for details). It was nice to not have to be so consumed with the daily reminders of my infertility for awhile... doctor's office visits, ultrasounds, medication, blood work, etc. But now it's time to come back to my reality... well sort of.

After 2 failed IUIs (and one non-response to Clomid cycle), I found myself needing to stop for a moment and hit the reset button... before continuing with the next scheduled part of the plan. According to my doctor, after my surgery (see Part 1 and Part 2 for a recap), the plan was 2-3 medicated cycles on Clomid with IUIs... and then if that didn't work, 2-3 more medicated cycles on injectables with IUIs. As of last month, I found myself on the cusp of moving on to that next phase of the plan - injectables, Now I'm not one who's afraid of needles by any means. So the thought of having to give myself (or have my husband give me) daily injections wasn't that hard to swallow. But what did make me hesitate for a moment before jumping into this next phase was the realization of how much more "close monitoring" I would need throughout this process. I guess call me spoiled, but the 1-2 times a week I was already spending at appointments while on Clomid, was stressful enough. So facing the fact that I would now be in the office every 2-3 days seemed more than I was ready for.

Therefore, while taking this past month off, I spent some time reflecting on what would be the next best step for us. Not just medically speaking, but emotionally, psychologically, and logistically. Yes, I want a baby - badly. There's no doubt about that. But my fear of judgement for our decision making was something I had to take a moment to get over. Judgement, you ask? Who's judging me? Well, in reality, honestly probably no one. But in my head, there's still some guilt that if I wanted a baby badly enough, I would be moving forward with whatever the next part of the medical plan would be and not be "needing to take a break"... So the thought that others may think this when they heard we were taking a month off from treatment, was something (albeit silly) that I need to work through.

After much deliberation, thoughtful reflection, and countless conversations with my hubs (he's seriously so awesome and SO supportive), we've decided to take this next month "off" from medical treatment as well. The battle I've struggled with over the past couple of months is wondering if my surgery in late October has in essence "reset my time clock." What I mean is, the fact that it's considered normal for it to take up to a year for healthy (fertile) couples to conceive. Therefore, since my surgery technically corrected the main issue that was causing our infertility, part of me wonders if that's kind of like re-starting my clock... meaning it could be normal for it to now take up to a year for us to conceive naturally - if that's even possible. The jury's still out apparently. However, then the realistic side of me reminds myself that "technically" we probably are no longer classified as that normal, healthy couple (even though I had corrective surgery). And, time is of the essence, at least selfishly. Regardless, I'm still in this teeter-totter of a thought process and not 100% confident of being fully ready to proceed to the next medical phase.

As with last month, we still obviously will "try" this month, but I like to think of it more as "trying the all natural route." This means that I will be embarking even further down the holistic, all natural route. Oh such exciting things I have planned for myself ahead. Fertility pilates and yoga, fertility massage, juicing, fertility smoothies (There's such a thing? Yup!) organic and super-food eating, etc... So I'm about to either 1) get pregnant the all-natural way - come on, fingers crossed... or 2) take a long ride on the crazy-train.

This should be interesting.

Today ---> Day 1 = Juicing with some super-food greens and fertility pilates. Juice was actually pretty good and pilates (plus my 2 mile hike with the hubs and "our boys") definitely helped relieve some stress.

We shall see how this goes and where it takes me... and really, how long it lasts, ha...

Either way, I'll at least be healthier in the end if I'm not pregnant, right?!?