For Better or for Worse

Whether or not you actually tied the knot, if you are fighting infertility…you are in it for the long haul.

 

For better or for worse.

 

Infertility, without a shadow of a doubt, falls under the category, “worse”.

 

No matter the diagnosis, it quickly becomes all-consuming.  The life you once knew ceases to exist.  The dreams you shared about starting a family when you’re ready are shot.

 

Suddenly, your relationship exists within timeframes and schedules.  Charts, temperature readings, pills, injections, and even suppositories (yup, been there) become the new normal.

 

The problem, of course, is that there is nothing even remotely “normal” about navigating the ups and downs of infertility.

 

Even the strongest relationships can start to come unglued when infertility drags on.  It’s difficult to maintain intimacy when sex becomes a full-time job.  It’s difficult to maintain communication when infertility talk leads every conversation.  It’s difficult to cope when coping styles clash.

 

It’s just plain difficult.

 

But not impossible…

 

Be honest:  Honesty is the key to surviving the ride.  Be honest with your partner…about what you need, what helps, and what makes you feel worse.  Be honest with your friends…about what you’re going through and how they can help.  Be honest with yourself…about your limits.  Try not to push yourself for the sake of others.

 

Be accepting:  It’s no great secret that men and women tend to have very different coping strategies.  In general, women prefer to process while men prefer to problem-solve (although this is not true for everyone).  Try not to resent your partner if he or she doesn’t feel as angry, sad, or overwhelmed as you do.  Everyone processes difficult situations in their own way.  Be accepting of that, even when it’s hard.

 

Set limits:  Once the infertility talk starts, it can be difficult to make it stop.  While it is important to get your feelings out and work through difficult things together, focusing exclusively on an overwhelming topic more often than not can increase feelings of anxiety and depression.  Consider setting a timer for 25 minutes.  When the alarm beeps, move on for the night.

 

Plan on fun:  Even when you set the limit, it can be hard to bounce back from an emotional conversation.  Rent a funny movie, play a good old fashion game of Scrabble (you know, with the actual board and wooden letters?), or head out for some mini-golf.  Have something fun in mind so that you have a plan post conversation.

 

Infertility free day:  Plan at least one day per week that you agree to avoid all infertility talk.  Preferably on a weekend day so that you can actually enjoy a day together.  Come up with little adventures to keep busy and just enjoy being together.

 

Listen:  Infertility is not your fault.  Infertility is not your partner’s fault.  Infertility is a disease that quickly leads to feeling a complete loss of control.  Listen when your partner needs to talk.  When we don’t listen, we end up arguing.  When we listen, I mean really listen; we stand a chance of working through these difficult feelings together.

 

And when in doubt, there’s always Cabernet…

 

 

 

 

 

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Share Your Story: Club MomMe

Allow me to introduce you to Lane, one of the lovely moms behind Club MomMe.  Lane cofounded Club MomMe with her friend and fellow Junior League volunteer, Rachel, during her first pregnancy (they were both pregnant at the same time).  Club MomMe is a supportive an educational site that aims to help ease the transition from me to MomMe…

But it hasn’t always been easy for Lane…Lane is here to share her infertility story.  Please leave her some support here.  Lane is a great support for moms in the blogging world, and also a friend.  

Mother’s Day Reflections

(This post was originally published on Club MomMe on May 16, 2012)

Byline:  Lane Gulotta

Mother’s Day is a celebration. A joyous occasion of bringing life into this world and coming together with family to give thanks to a woman (or women) in our life who have molded us into the person we are today. This is how we celebrated Mother’s Day. As we walked around Chicago together as a family of three I looked the part of the doting parent. What on earth could be wrong on Mother’s Day? What couldn’t be? Thanks to Hallmark, all Moms are supposed to be happy and give thanks on Mother’s Day.

What others couldn’t see this past Sunday was that I was mourning. I mourned the loss of a child just one week before this holiday, the slim prospect of having another and, yet another uphill battle with infertility to conceive again. And, an uphill battle it has been. Although we are only on our third round of treatments for baby number two (the first was eleven rounds) it has been significantly harder emotionally and physically during this second course of treatments. I feel guilty taking time away from a son we worked so hard to conceive to try to have another. Is this fair to him? Is this fair to me? What about my husband? He is an integral part of this and what are these treatments doing to our relationship?

You see, the decision to try to have another child and our failed attempts at it hasaffected us all in different ways. But most importantly it has shown me that mourning the loss of a child and the yearning for a sibling for our son are all natural emotions that women feel. These emotions make us stronger, bolder, more confident and more loving. They make us compassionate and understanding. They make us grandmothers, mothers, wives and sisters. They make us. They make me.

I have not figured out how to manage and balance the grief and yearning that I feel. But, I have come to understand that life is simple. We live and we die. In the process we all become mothers along the way. Some may be later than others and not through the most conventional ways. Do not give up hope. Until that time, celebrate the women in your life. Teach your nieces and daughters compassion and how to love. A special woman in my life did and I am ever thankful for her grace and patience. Without her I could not have celebrated Mother’s Day.

Thank you Lane:  For your beautiful words and positive spirit despite such a big loss.

The Monday Muse…

By Word of Mouth Blogging

My dear friend Nicole, a fellow infertility warrior and all-around great person, asked me to stop by and share some musings on the silent hell that we call “infertility”.

We’ve discussed our journeys, shared tales (both good and bad), and enjoyed a glass or two from afar while recounting our experiences.  Although my greatest wish would be that none of us would ever have to go through any of this, I also wish that I had found Nicole earlier in my journey.  Sometimes another person at the end of the line can really pull you through even the most difficult days.

I’ll give you a little bit here, but then you’ll have to go over there to finish reading…

“Most days, socializing seemed impossible.

I quickly came to loathe the obvious discomfort around me.
They tip toed around me, watching for signs of distress.  They didn’t dare bring it up, and they ran for cover when I did.
I couldn’t stand the words meant to reassure…that were not very reassuring at all…
Your time will come.
I just know the next one will work out.
If you just relax, it will happen soon.
Enjoy the trying!
But the worst part…was the silence.
The averted gazes when I dared to utter the word “miscarriage”.
The blank stares when I attempted humor in the face of stress.
Force-feeding your husband pumpkin seeds, to increase sperm production, is a little funny, after all…
Yes, I knew about the message boards on various websites.  And, sometimes, I might have even stalked them a little.
But they were full of things like TTC, IF, RE, HCG, BFN, BFP, LTP, MC, and the list goes on.  Decoding the posts was enough to make my head spin.
It was all just a little overwhelming.
And there was the leader of the pack phenomenon.  Because each message board seemed to have a clear leader.  A warrior above all warriors who knew everything about everything and was clearly the most infertile.
I couldn’t handle the stress….”
Please stop by By Word of Mouth Musings to continue reading…Nicole is a great person to have on your side.  Get to know her while you’re there!

Ask Dr. Marc: Success with IUI

Dear Dr. Marc,

It looks like we will be doing our 3rd attempt at an IUI. The first one we tried, I was on 50mg of Clomid for 5 days and then a trigger shot of Orvidrel. I didn’t respond well to the Clomid so the 2nd attempt we did Femera. I am not sure what we will try this time for medication, but my husband and I decided this will be the final attempt at IUI before we try IVF.

So my question is, do you have any advice on what we can do to help increase the success of the IUI? I have been doing acupuncture weekly and I have definitely seen a difference with that. However, do you have any other advice?

Any advice or tips you have would be much appreciated.

Thanks,

C

 

Hi C,

The IUI is an important part of basic fertility treatment.   For a select population of patients, it represents an increased chance for success over timed intercourse.  With that being said, an IUI under the best circumstances is only successful about 20-25% of the time.  For many couples, success is considerably lower than that.  Now, this does not mean that IUIs are a waste of time, but it is important to have proper expectations.

One of the strategies to improve success with IUI is to increase the number of oocytes (eggs) ovulated.  Remember, just because an oocyte is ovulated does not mean it will enter the fallopian tube.  By releasing more than one egg, the chance that at least one egg enters the tube increases.  Additionally, the more eggs present in the tube, the more likely that one will become fertilized.

As I’m sure you can imagine, the downside to this approach is risk for multiple pregnancy.  In fact, IUI with gonadotropin injection is the largest source of triplets and quads.  (John and Kate plus 8 did IUI)

As far as your specific case, it would be reasonable to try one more IUI, but this time with injectable medication.  You will be monitored very closely during this process and if you develop too many follicles, the cycle should be canceled.

Additionally, if you have not yet had an HSG, it would be a good idea.  The HSG will confirm that your tubes are open, plus there is a small but real increased chance for pregnancy in the 2 months following an HSG.

Good luck,

Dr. Marc

Share Your Story: Elizabeth

Today on “Share Your Story”, Elizabeth reveals the pain of fighting secondary infertility.  Again.  Infertility, in all of its forms, is devastating.  While I know the pain of aching for the first, I also know the difficulty of struggling for another.  Please show Elizabeth some support as she shares her story today…

My oldest son turns 5 in just a few days….so hard to believe.
When we decided we were ready to start a family, we both thought it would only take a few months.  Nope, got pregnant with my first baby boy on the 1st try….we were shocked!
I was almost 28 at the time.
I wasn’t quite ready to give my body up again that quickly, so we didn’t start trying again until he was 19 months or so.  It happened so fast the first time, so my husband had some good swimmers, right?  Not so much.  That year was so hard – not only was I dealing with back issues and pain but I also had to take a couple months off from “trying” to have surgery and recover.  I felt like I was throwing those months away.
About 9 months after we started trying for baby #2 with no success, a friend told me about her chiropractor friend who was just starting up her own business.  She specialized in allergy clearings and women’s fertility, helping women conceive through acupuncture.  I thought why not?  I read a little about success rates with conceiving while doing acupuncture.  It was expensive so I decided to go against the recommended weekly visit and go every other week.  Well, after 3 more months of getting acupuncture every other week and I still wasn’t pregnant, and we had reached the 1 year mark, I decided to start going weekly.
Low and behold, the month I started going weekly, I got pregnant and 9 months later, delivered my 2nd baby boy in September, 2010.  I am convinced that weekly acupuncture  treatment is what helped me get pregnant.
Now, it’s been 9 months of trying for baby #3, and still nothing….again.  We started trying 1st chance we could post baby #2, when he was 10 months, because we knew how long it took for him.  My husband and I would like to try for a girl, but i’ve also always wanted 3 kids.  I don’t have an appointment with my OB for another month but at that visit I will be asking her what she thinks.  It’s very frustrating when I do temperature charting, and use a fertility monitor.
What could be so hard when the monitor tells you every month which day to, well, you know!  ;)   Is it my diet?  Not enough exercise?  Has using my laptop on my lap every night done damage to my eggs?  You can’t help but question everything.  I’m always just asking WHY?  And many months I feel alone because I feel like my husband’s opinion is a 3rd would just be a nice to have, so he doesn’t seem as upset each month when it doesn’t happen.
In the meantime, I just keep praying God will answer my prayers!
Thank you, Elizabeth.  I know there are many others out there struggling with secondary infertility.  Hopefully this story will help them feel a little less alone.

Surviving the Day

When you battle infertility…everything changes.

 

You try to hold your head up.

 

You try to appear strong.

 

You try to go on as if everything is the same.

 

Relax…it will happen when it happens.

 

Hollow words echo through your soul as you focus on putting one foot in front of the other.

 

It’s just not your time.

 

You smile, nod, and wait for the conversation to end.

 

I have a good feeling about this.  This time, it will take.

 

Just.  Keep.  Breathing.

 

Most of the time…you do.

 

You breathe, because you have to.

 

You work, because the distraction helps.

 

You exercise, because healthy is good (or so they say).

 

But Mother’s Day?

 

Is impossible.

 

When the one thing that you want more than anything in this world is the one thing that you just can’t have…

 

Mother’s Day can feel impossible.

 

I can sit here and tell you to plant a garden, reorganize your closets, or knit a sweater…but I’ve been there.  I know that pain.  I know better.

 

So this Mother’s Day, take a little advice from someone who should have gone with her instincts during the darkest hours…

 

Be Selfish:  Only you can truly know how this journey affects you.  Do what you know you are capable of doing.  If that means hiding out in bed and watching Lifetime all day…do it.  Stop trying to please others along the way.

 

Be Emotional:  Yes, you love your mother.  Yes, you love the other people in your life who are already enjoying motherhood.  But when it’s bad, it’s bad.  And it’s perfectly acceptable to own those emotions and experience that much-needed meltdown.  A good cry can be a very good thing.

 

Stand Up to Guilt:  This journey, this miserable heart wrenching journey, is not at all your fault.  Maybe you know the cause of your infertility, maybe you’re one of the “unexplained”.  Either way, you didn’t invite this into your life.  Don’t let guilt get the best of you.

 

Talk:  Talk to your spouse.  Talk to the friend who understands.  Head over to the message boards and talk to some fellow warriors.  Whisper, talk, or YELL IT OUT LOUD!  Say that it’s hard.  Say that you feel left out.  Say that you don’t know how to cope with this day.

 

Drink the Good Wine:  Mother’s Day is the kind of day that you just need to indulge a little.  Enjoy that fine Cabernet (but also?  It’s Rose season)…guilt free (of course).

 

The silence of others is not your burden to bear.  Let it out so that you can process it and get through the day…

 

I made it to the other side but, believe me; I will never forget the days when I was right there with you.

 

Just.  Be.  You. 

 

 

Ask Dr. Marc: When to See a RE

Dear Dr. Marc,

I am trying anything right now, any thing to have a child. We have tried for what feels like eternity, and been tested. We have had blood work done, they say that’s normal, my husband has had his sperm count checked, and that came back normal. They say everything is normal……I am 28, my husband is 32…..but we both are losing hope, and I don’t want that!!!

We have tried diets, changes, exercise, and nothing is working. We have cut back on sweets, drinking, and bettered our diets…we have tried this for a year now.  I was on YAZ for 4 years before stopping. Last night we went and got a belly rub done, trying anything out there!

Is there anything else I am missing?

L.

 

Hi L,

First of all, don’t give up hope!  From the information provided, it sounds to me like you stand an excellent chance to conceive!  With that being said, it is probably time for you to take some specific steps towards your goal.

First, you should meet with a fertility specialist, otherwise known as a reproductive endocrinologist (“RE” for short).  To find a good one, you may want to ask your primary OB/GYN for a referral, or consult with friends, or look to Google and review practices in your area.  In addition, the Society of Assisted Reproductive Technologies (www.SART.org) is an excellent resource to compare fertility doctors and review their success rates.

Once you meet with the RE, they will review the tests you have already had, and ask you and your partner about medical, environmental, pubertal and surgical history.  You should be sure to come prepared with all of your old records and a calendar of your past few menstrual cycles (including the day they began and ended). The doctor will likely want to evaluate factors such as your fallopian tubes, your uterus, the environment, ovulation timing and more.  If all of your tests come back as “normal” then you would be classified as having “unexplained infertility.”  This diagnosis is given to approximately 30% of couples with infertility.  While it is highly frustrating to not know the exact reason you are not conceiving, couples with unexplained infertility stand a very good chance of conceiving with fertility treatments.

On another note, it is wonderful that you and your husband are watching your diet and have started exercising.  These steps will certainly help you lead a healthier and longer life.  Unfortunately, things like diet and lifestyle change have less of an impact on fertility than many people would like to believe.  This is especially true when there if there is a physical impediment such as blocked fallopian tubes or uterine fibroids.  So while I encourage you to continue your healthy lifestyle choices, I caution you against waiting very long to see if they impact your fertility.  In general, it is better to be evaluated by a doctor and then make the decision on what your next step will be.

Good Luck,

Dr. Marc

Breaking the Silence

It shouldn’t be a silent epidemic.

 

It shouldn’t be a secret club.

 

It shouldn’t cause feelings of shame, guilt, and hopelessness.

 

It shouldn’t end friendships, strain marriages, and result in family strife.

 

It shouldn’t…but it does.

 

It should be on the front page of every newspaper and in every magazine on a regular basis.

 

It should inspire others to stand up and fight together, even if it doesn’t affect those others directly.  Believe me, it will someday.

 

It should be discussed at cocktail parties, holiday dinners, and while waiting in line at the supermarket.

 

It should be covered by insurance companies nationwide and all across the world.

 

It should…but it isn’t.

 

Infertility is a silent epidemic.

 

Infertility causes couples to retreat, hide out, and become completely isolated.

 

Infertility results in a loneliness that can’t possibly be described.  Words are simply insufficient.

 

Infertility causes people to feel like outcasts.

 

Infertility causes people to shut down and remain silent.

 

I speak for the silent.

 

I know that pain.  I know that loneliness.  I know that unspeakable darkness.

 

I know the horror of finally opening up, only to be met with, “God has a different plan for you.”

 

I know about the fight for more tests, more medications, and more options.

 

I know about the hefty American Express bills and the hormones that can cause feelings of rage in a moment’s notice.

 

I know about loss.  Four times over.

 

I know about the intense need to have just one person who truly understands.  Yes, I know a thing or two about the isolation that is infertility.

 

But I also know the feeling of making it to the other side.  Twice.

 

I know that I am one of the lucky ones.

 

I know that it was medicine that got me there.  And that a plan by someone else’s God had absolutely nothing to do with it.

 

And I know that the support of my husband was the only thing holding me together during most of our journey.

 

I know about the power of support.

 

I know that I made a promise…a promise that I intend to keep.

 

I made a promise to break the cycle of silence and isolation that surrounds infertility.

 

I speak for the silent, so that the silent can continue the fight.

 

Infertility is a disease of the reproductive system.  There can be one cause, multiple causes, or the ever elusive “unexplained infertility” (no known cause).  Whatever the cause, it is a disease.  There is no blame to be placed or reason for shame.

 

You wouldn’t walk away from a friend discussing cancer or heart disease, would you?

 

Please, friends of the infertile, start listening.  7.3 million Americans need your love and support.

 

Listen.  Talk.  Ask questions.  Provide reassurance.  And, by all means, speak up.

 

It’s time to break the silence…

 

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Share Your Story: Liz

Today I want to introduce you to Liz, who won her battle with infertility after three rounds of IVF (all of which occurred while she was busy working on the historic final season of The Oprah Winfrey Show…can you even imagine the stress?)  Liz found comfort in a small group of women she found when she dared to reach out for a little support.  She was the last in her group to get pregnant…but her friends never left her side.  I love this story, and I know you will too.  Liz now blogs about her happy ending (among other things) over at Posie Pie Productions, so be sure to find here there.

 

The Benefits of Having Internet Friends

Byline: Liz Kozak

Almost two years ago, I was starting the process of IVF and was feeling totally scared. I didn’t know anyone else that had ever done it, I had a million questions, and I wanted a buddy or two who knew what it was like to walk in these particular shoes. So I did something scary– I reached out.

Online.

I posted a message on a message board at BabyCenter asking if anyone else out there was also about to begin the process. And something awesome happened: I met five other women all across the country, all in the same boat, who my husband named– in no particular order– Upper East Side, Bloomington, Texas, Oklahoma and Portland. Some of his geography was a little off, but I guess it helped him keep them straight.

We communicated daily for the next several weeks about the injections, the side effects, how our egg retrievals went, how our husbands were dealing with things, how WE were dealing with things. And then, something not-so-awesome-happened:

ALL FIVE OF THEM GOT PREGNANT.

Except me.

In real life, that would have been a real friendship test. In the internet-friend world, it would have been easy for me to retreat. But it was too late. We were all in too deep and cared too much, and they knew almost exactly what I was going through. I stayed in the group. And six months later when I finally DID get pregnant after two more tries, these five women were the first people I told. After two years, they are no longer my internet friends– they’re my REAL friends (even though I’ve only met one in person).

This week marks the 1st birthday of the first babies (twins!) that were born out of our merry little band of mothers. Six women; eight babies. I was so lucky to find them, and it turns out they might have actually literally helped me get pregnant. Harvard-led research indicates that women experiencing infertility are more likely to conceive if they participate in a stress-reducing program, such as a support group. So if you found out that having a baby is going to be tough for you, I encourage you to reach out and talk to other women in the same baby-boat.

Epilogue: We’re all still very much in contact and have taken our relationship to the next level… Facebook.

Doesn’t this story just warm your heart?  Introduce yourself to Liz in the comments…you never know…she just might help YOU get there too.  Support matters.

Infertility is a Disease

Infertility is a disease.

 

Infertility doesn’t discriminate.

 

Infertility doesn’t care where you live, how much money you make, what you look like, where you came from, or what kind of car you drive.

 

Infertility might hit you a little harder if you are over 35, but it can still get you when you’re 25…so infertility doesn’t really care about age either.

 

Infertility isn’t political.  It doesn’t care how you vote.  And you can’t vote to make it go away.

 

Infertility is not even a little bit religious.  It will find you if you’re Jewish, it will find you if you’re Catholic, it will find you no matter your religious choice…it will even find you if you choose no religion at all.

 

Infertility is not religious.  When I hear a story about a women who was fired from her teaching position at a Catholic school, a job she held for seven years, because she used IVF to finally start her family with her husband, it makes my blood boil.

 

No one chooses infertility.  No one expects to be infertile.  No one chooses IVF…unless they have no other choice.

 

Infertility is a disease…a disease that is sometimes treatable.  When I hear about a woman who was in the fight of her life to save her twins (18 weeks gestation) but was repeatedly told to terminate (despite the fact that there were no signs of infection but there were signs of life) by the very doctors who were supposed to help her, it makes my blood boil a little more.  Refusing bed rest to a patient in need is just unacceptable.  She lost her babies on May 3, 2012 at 19 weeks and 4 days.  Her heart is broken. 

 

Perhaps her doctors knew what the outcome would be, but she and her husband chose to fight.  They chose to try every little thing to bring their babies into this world.  They didn’t deserve to be bullied by doctors and nurses who wanted to make choices on their behalf.

 

Infertility affects everyone.  When 1 in 8 couples are struggling with infertility, the fact is that most people know someone affected by this silent and emotionally devastating disease.

Infertility affects mothers and fathers, brothers, sisters, children, co-workers, and friends.  Infertility reaches far beyond the couple undergoing treatment.

 

We don’t choose infertility…infertility chooses us.

 

Please stand by us.  Please reach out to us when we are down and listen when we need to talk.  Please remember that we didn’t make this choice, and we are suffering in more ways than one.  Please be kind, but not silent.

 

Enough with the silence.

 

Infertility is a disease.  It’s time to start treating it as such.

 

 

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