The Childless Aunt

my name in Spanish translates into Aunt. It was God’s will from the day I was named – I was meant to be an Auntie. My little brother (my only sibling) had told me that he never wanted children. A month before my hysterectomy, him and his girlfriend told us they were pregnant. 

I learned after the fact that they were terrified to tell me. They were worried about my emotions, about my reaction, and about my depression. The funny thing is – I felt nothing but complete happiness for them. I kind of had an idea they wanted to tell me they were expecting – my brother had never asked me to dinner so persistently in his whole life. Also, She was drinking sprite and eating a pack of crackers. 

How did I process the fact that my brother was going to have a baby and I wasn’t?

I was having my reproductive system removed from my body and he was preparing for fatherhood. I was grieving a great loss and they were preparing for a miracle. I tried so hard to have a baby and my nephew was a surprise. I didn’t feel jealousy, I didn’t feel anger, and I didn’t feel sadness. I believe I was more in shock that he was having a baby! A baby was coming into our family, and the timing was perfect.

The fact that they included me during the pregnancy was very supportive, loving and helpful. I got to see my nephew’s heartbeat on an ultrasound. I had tears in my eyes when I witnessed his little heart beat. I felt so special that I was included in that moment. I had witnessed a miracle in a time of my own devastation.

Did they pity me?

I don’t believe they felt pity for my loss. I believe that they were surrounded by so much love that they wanted to share that love. There is no greater gift in this life than love. 

My nephew was born perfect, healthy, and on a gorgeous spring Mother’s Day. Ironic, right? That day had been one of the hardest days for me for so many years – it was finally a day to be celebrated. It was the happiest day. 

Trygve Thomas will be two-years-old this coming May. He has brought an enormous amount of joy to our family. He has healed a lot of wounds. My parents officially became biological grandparents, my stepdaughter took one look at her new stepcousin and told him they were going to be best friends, my husband is now Uncle Chappy, and I am his Tìa.

I may be the childless aunt, but I have love for this child that fills up the whole world. I have rocked him to sleep, fed him his bottles, changed his diapers, held his hands as he learned to walk, and have made him laugh countless times. 

The best part is – I get to go home after being with him. This auntie doesn’t have to be up all night, up early, be with a cranky baby, or deal with dirty diapers!

Timing is everything. I have proof of this. 

Auntie loves you Tryg. 

Adoption Stories: The Pfingsten Family

My name is Gina Pfingsten. My husband and I have five children ranging from 4 years old to 12 years old. Our oldest three are biological and our youngest two were adopted from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Tia asked if I would tell our story of adoption – I am happy to share because adoption can be for everyone and is life changing for an entire family!

Why would you adopt when you have kids of your own?

It’s a question we’ve been asked numerous times. For the most part, people aren’t being rude – They are just genuinely curious. Adoption is often thought of as second option if you can’t have children of your own. Most people don’t consider adoption unless they are placed in that situation.

Our family grew from five to seven in roughly two and a half years. In actuality the process had started long ago. In high school, I made the choice that when I was married I wanted to adopt a child. I can’t even tell you why I decided that. Maybe it was the horrifying birth video we watched in junior high health class. I’d like to think that my reasoning even back then was to provide a loving home to a child that needed one. I also didn’t really think that I might need to convince my future husband to get on board with the whole adoption idea!

When Matt and I got married we wrote down individual goals and goals for our marriage. Adoption made the list for both of us! No convincing needed! This time our reasoning for adoption was clear – we wanted to care for others that needed it. There are so many children in foster care and orphanages here in our country and all over the world. Jesus has called us to care for the orphans of the world. We knew we were called to do this. We took a lot of time discussing and praying about our future family and how that would look. In 2004 we took time to travel the world and were exposed to so many different people and cultures. We saw first hand the poverty many other countries and families faced. We knew we were being called to an international adoption.

We prayed, researched, discussed, researched, discussed and prayed about when and where we should adopt. We decided to have our biological children first. We wanted our adoptive children to know we chose them for no other reason than we simply wanted to be their parents. When our three biological children were seven, five and three years old, we sat them down and spoke to them about adoption and why we felt that God was calling us to adopt children needing a home. Our kids were so excited to give children a home that were in need and to gain siblings!

Our family is proof that adoption works!

Adoption is life changing for all involved. Our adoptive children have a loving stable home and a future full of opportunities. Our biological children have siblings that they love and care for – and younger siblings that look up to them. We all have gained a perspective and heart for the marginalized. Adoption is time consuming, expensive and the transition can be draining, but it is also the most rewarding journey. I love how our family fits together. We laugh, cry, annoy and fight together. Most of all we LOVE and support each other. Our adoptive kids are alive and well with a future ahead of them because of adoption. They gained a lot but our biological kids would tell you we gained even more!

We know the future will be challenging for all of our children, and certainly for our adopted kids. At the same time, we also believe that God created all humans to have parents and a family that love and care for them unconditionally .

Many people tell us what a blessing we are giving our children, but the truth is – Matt and I feel like we’re receiving the far greater blessing!

The Dog Mom

Unconditional love is known as affection without any limitations, or love without conditions.

I wish every human had a heart like a dog. They are loyal companions who love unconditionally. Dogs have a way of finding people who need them. I may not have any biological children – but I have five dogs. I have five fur babies.

Brees is our Siberian Husky. She is named after football hero, Drew Brees. She is a bi-eyed husky. Did you know that bi-eyed dogs can see earth with their brown eye, and heaven with their blue eye? Brees is from my first marriage. She has been my companion for almost a decade. She has been by my side through celebration and devastation. She is feisty, fierce, loving, and wild. She is beautiful. Her middle name is after my grandmother.

Copper is our Dachshund. He is a short-legged, long-bodied wiener dog. He is my stepdaughter’s dog. She was promised by my husband when she was ill as a child. My husband never thought he would have a dog, little did he know he would end up with five of them. Copper is a fighter. He was diagnosed with cancer last summer, and we prepared that it would be his last summer. He had surgery to remove the tumor, and with zero chemo or radiation – he survived it. He burrows, runs like a bunny and barks like there is no tomorrow.

Blaze is a rescue dog from a shelter in our town. He is a Bassett – Beagle Mix. He is a what you could call a “mutt.” He is black, brown, white and has spots. He is unique. Me and my husband had been dating only a few months when we found Blaze. He was the runt of the litter and the very last puppy in his cage. Me and my stepdaughter took one look at him, and we knew we had to take him home. We had to convince my husband, but in the end – we took that little puppy to his new home. Blaze has tremendous separation anxiety. He needed us and he was the dog that linked our family together. Blaze was dog number three, and what we thought was our last dog.

Dubnyk is our Great Dane. He is named after NHL Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk. Our family loves the Wild. It was the natural choice for a name. His middle name is Jake, after my dad. Dubnyk wasn’t planned, but either was our infertility. Our infertility treatments had failed, I was desperate and angry. I wanted the biggest puppy I could get. The biggest breed of dog I could find. The Christmas before my hysterectomy, we brought home our little blue-eyed Great Dane puppy. I let my stepdaughter pick him out from his brothers and sisters and I had picked out my dad’s middle name because I knew I wouldn’t have a baby to name after him. Dubnyk was our baby. He was almost twenty pounds when we brought him home. He would sleep on our chests. He will be three years old. He is the most sensitive dog we have – who is also the biggest. He is almost two-hundred pounds.

Aspen Storm is our last dog. She was unexpected and I believe she was sent to our family. We were compelled by her and her story. Aspen is deaf. She is a Dogo Argentino/Bulldog Mix. She is pure white. Aspen came to Minnesota from Texas. She is considered special needs – the shelters in Texas are over-flowing and they don’t keep dogs with special needs. We like to visit our local animal shelter. We walked past Aspen’s cage and read her story. I knew I had to have her. I had to save her. In the end, Aspen was saving me. She has been my greatest challenge. She isn’t easy. We have brought her to training, we have learned how to communicate with her, and we have tried to learn her background and her story. We don’t know exactly what Aspen has survived, we just know she was brought to us for a reason. I was grieving and I was suffering. Aspen has kept my mind busy. She has kept my life busy. I don’t have time to think about much else. We have had our struggles with her, but we have kept going. Aspen is a beautiful soul who just needed to be loved. She needed me as much as I needed her. We saved each other. Our family is complete.

I had considered opening a dog kennel – It’s a sideline dream. My home is full of dog hair, slobber, muddy paws, and love. Are we out of our mind? probably. I spend way too much money on dog food, I vacuum more than the average person, I have a dog-sitter come stay at my home, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything else. I view my dogs as my children. I love and cherish them as they were my own kids.

I am a Dog Mom.

Mental Health and Infertility

Has infertility hijacked your life? The emotional stresses women face with infertility are similar to cancer and cardiac patients. Here is the thing – we don’t talk about infertility. What do we typically do when someone we love is struggling with an illness? We bring them flowers, make them dinners, volunteer to help with household chores, cards are written, prayer chains begin, and we devote our time and love to those who are struggling.

Have you ever done this for someone who is infertile?

Typical reactions to infertility can lead to anxiety, depression, shame, failure and psychological problems. Sadness is a normal reaction to unfortunate events. Infertility places tremendous pressure on a couple. The financial stress, besides the emotional and physical stress can damage a relationship. Let’s face it – infertility can have negative affects on your daily life, especially when it’s the only topic on your mind all day.

You Are Not Alone.

My own personal experience with infertility-related depression and anxiety has been difficult. My hysterectomy was two years ago next month. I admit, I have always had an anxious personality. My depression was fueled by my environment and circumstance as a teenager and young adult. When I finally found myself in a good, happy place in life – the depression returned when I couldn’t have biological children. I reached out to all the correct outlets to help myself. I have been medicated, through counseling, and joined a support group with other women who have been traveling the same road of struggle. I fear I will have pain for the rest of my life – but I took a photo after my surgery to remind me of the reality I went through. I can look at the photo and remind myself where I was and how strong I have become. I was easily frustrated and angry for a solid year after my hysterectomy. Please seek counseling if you are feeling any of these emotions – my co-workers and loved ones became my punching bag.

Focus on Self-Care

I believed that I was suffering in silence. When you are depressed, it takes a great amount of energy to complete the smallest tasks. How was I suppose to exercise when I couldn’t even get out of bed? Infertility is a stigma. Besides my therapist and my husband – I felt like nobody knew what the hell I was talking about. We need to learn how to take care of ourselves. Time, therapy and medication have made life easier for me. Therapy isn’t only for “serious” mental health problems, anyone can benefit from talk therapy.

Can I Win My Life Back?

If you are feeling broken or defective, try and believe that infertility won’t define you as a person or a couple. I have shed many tears over my loss. Infertility can leave you feeling isolated and alone. How do we find acceptance? There is no right way to work through your grief. When you start to reclaim your life back – you can start researching other ways to have a family, (if that is an option for you.) Adoption, surrogacy, living without children, or just keeping hope alive, may be what’s best for you. Grieving and growing.

Do you think you will send that card to someone who is dealing with infertility or loss?

Stop the Stigma.

Halloween and Infertility: It’s Haunting

Fall is my favorite time of the year. The trees are full of stunning colors, the air is crisp, and the sun is warm. Saying good-bye to summer is always difficult, but one of my favorite holidays is just around the corner – Halloween! I love the costumes, the tombstones, the candy, the spooky parties and the haunted hay rides.

The hard part about Halloween is a don’t have a small child at home to participate in all the fun. I am fortunate to have spent some childhood years with my stepdaughter. I have a couple of godchildren who keep me involved, and now my nephew, who will be two this year, is a complete joy. I am grateful to all of their parents for allowing me to go trick-or-treating with them over the years.

How do we survive Halloween?

Children imagine what they want to be, the schools have parades to attend, the neighborhood holds gatherings for fall festivals, parents post photos of  their kids in costume on social media and the weekends are spent at corn mazes, farms, and zoos. We certainly have the option of picking and choosing what we want to do. Carving a jack-o-latern is an annual tradition. My husband and I still get a pumpkin every year to carve – even if we do not have any small children at home.

Every year, I would carve pumpkins with my goddaughter and then with my stepdaughter. They are too old now – or that is what they tell me. My best friend and her kids always involve me with their halloween traditions. We have had matching costumes the past few years, and we take the kids out to get their candy. I am very grateful for her. I wish that everyone who is struggling can share those same memories with the people they love, even when they are heartbroken. Believe me, I had always imagined what my little baby would be for Halloween. I would have painted their little baby butt as a pumpkin. I would have carved a pumpkin for their little body to sit in. I would have found the most obnoxious costume to show them off in – I would have been the ultimate Halloween mom.

You don’t have to put yourself in a position where it breaks your heart. You are allowed to keep your porch light off, turn off social media, watch scary movies, buy your own candy – and eat the whole bag. Halloween is also a great opportunity for pregnancy announcements. I have seen pumpkin families, skeleton families and beautiful fall photos celebrating the happy news. If these announcements make you upset, I would recommend staying off social media during halloween week. I remember gathering my own ideas for these special moments. I never got my opportunity, but for others that are holding out hope – keep those ideas in your back pocket. Let’s face it – they are adorable.

You can embrace the moment, or you can protect your heart. If we lived in town, I would love to decorate my yard, hand out candy, and see all the kids in their costumes. It has taken me a few years to get to the this point. One year, we carved a dog paw in our jack-o-latern to represent our fur babies. Whether you are still trying to get pregnant, deciding if you are going to be child free, or going through loss – you are not alone.

Go get the biggest pumpkin in the pumpkin patch and carve it.

Happy Halloween.

A Guide to Fertility Abbreviations and Acronyms

Hope: A feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.

I never expected to be doing homework and research while trying to start my family. While we were having no luck in getting pregnant, I would sit for hours and read blogs, articles, and books. We weren’t getting pregnant, I didn’t know why, and I needed to figure it out. The complex world of infertility has its own language. Why should we feel confused and overwhelmed while you are already struggling? Let this guide help you! Here is some of the most commonly used abbreviations in the trying to conceive (TTC) world:

BFP: Big Fat Positive. This was the word I was praying for my entire journey. I wanted and prayed for two pink lines on my pregnancy tests. The waiting game is horrible. Every cycle you wait for that BFP. You want that big thrill of exciting news. Pregnancy tests are expensive! go get that BFP and begin your baby journey. In our case, we always ended our cycles with a BFN. A big fat negative. BFN is never a good sign, but there is still hope for your BFP.

2WW: Two Week Wait. The awful, terrible, anxious 2WW. It takes about two weeks from implantation to hormone detection on a HPT (Home Pregnancy Test.) This is when you buy ten pregnancy tests and take one every single day until you get your BFP or your BFN. This can be a very stressful time as you await to discover if you are pregnant or not.

BD: Baby Dance. If you want to become PG (Pregnant) you must do the baby dance – getting busy between the sheets with your spouse. This is suppose to be the fun part! For those of you who feel like its a forced dance, and failure is the result, don’t give up on your DH (Dear Husband) or SO (Significant Other.)

AF: Aunt Flo. You do not want a visit from Aunt Flo when you are trying to get PG. That is your period. She comes once a month and isn’t welcome when you are TTC. I would be so excited to get into that second week of the 2ww, and I would also start spotting. The second that would appear, I knew my chances weren’t very good. I struggled with low progesterone, which would cause early spotting before Aunt Flow would show her ugly face. If you do become pregnant, your EDD (Estimated Due Date) can be determined by your LMP (Last Menstrual Period.)

DPO: Days Past Ovulation. This is used frequently when women are talking to one another about their cycles. We love to track our DPO because its a countdown to when we can pee on an HPT. I would love to read the earliest times women would get their BFP while tracking their DPO. I would always test the earliest I could, and keep testing daily after. I have seen photos of women keeping their pregnancy tests, writing what CD (Cycle Day) is on each test, keeping track. Even more so with an infertility journey.

hCG: Human chorionic gonadotropin. hCG is a hormone produced during pregnancy. A beta pregnancy test specifically looks for hCG. Levels of hCG increase steadily in the early stages of pregnancy. LH (luteinizing hormone) triggers ovulation, or the release of the eggs. P4 (progesterone hormone) is tested to determine: if ovulation has occurred, when ovulation occurred, if there has been a miscarriage, or if there has been an ectopic pregnancy. FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) is released by the brain to stimulate the ovarian follicles to grow and develop. E2 (estradiol) or your level of estrogen, is used to estimate how many eggs you will have for retrieval during your cycle. AMH (anti-mullerian hormone) is the best predictor of a woman’s ovarian reserve. Be your own advocate and get the AMH test! 

Are you memorizing all of this yet? Are you feeling overwhelmed? Do you have your notebook out? We still have more to go…

IUI: Intrauterine insemination. This is a low-tech fertility treatment that involves placing sperm inside a woman’s uterus to facilitate fertilization. HSG (hysterosalpingogram) determines the condition of the fallopian tubes and uterus by placing dye through the cervix into the uterus and fallopian tubes. IVF (in-vitro fertilization) is a method of assisted reproduction that involves combining an egg with sperm in a lab dish. The embryo is transferred into the woman’s uterus where it will hopefully implant. If all else fails, you can use a GC (gestational carrier.) A GC is used for women who are unable to carry their own child or for same-sex couples. A DE (donor egg) is needed for those who are unable to use their own eggs for conception, but can still carry a child in their uterus.

MF: Male factor infertility. Nearly 40% of infertility is related to male factor. This can occur from structural abnormalities, sperm production disorders, ejaculatory disturbances, and immunologic disorders. SA (semen analysis) is performed to tell the number of sperm that are present, whether they are normal, and how well they move. My husband had this test performed – do this right away to rule out any MF infertility.

SI: Secondary infertility. The inability to become pregnant following the birth of one or more biological children who were born without the aid of fertility treatment or medications.

RPL: Recurrent pregnancy loss. This is defined as two or more consecutive, spontaneous pregnancy losses before the pregnancies reach 20 weeks.

Have you taken it all in? I wish I had this handy guide when we were trying to get pregnant. Create a pocket guide for your purse. You can take it to the doctor’s office, the reproductive endocrinologist’s office, use it when the triage nurse calls you back, or take it out when you are researching your best TTC blog. You are spending a lot of time, a lot of money, and a lot of hope trying to figure out your reproductive system. Make it easier for you and your spouse!

In Vitro Fertilization (IVF): The Virijevics

Daniella and her husband, Djordje have been trying to have a baby for 14 years. What is IVF? In Vitro Fertilization is a medical procedure whereby an egg is fertilized by sperm in a test tube or elsewhere outside the body. The embryo(s) is then transferred to the uterus. This is a story about a couple who can take negatives (literally) and turn the situation into a positive. How can this be a positive? Daniella is a symbol of hope. She has never given up on her dream of having a baby. Take a look at this gallant couple’s journey:

It is 2018. I am now 37 and my husband 40. We have been married for almost 16 years and we still long for our biological dream.

Our Journey (in a nutshell)

  • Married January 15, 2003
  • Started trying to conceive in March of 2004
  • IVF in 2007 – negative
  • 9 IUIs done between 2010 and 2011 – negative
  • 1 miscarriage from a natural pregnancy in 2012
  • IVF in 2014 – negative

WHY US? WHAT DID WE DO?

We feel that we want to try again, and we wish we had the money to afford treatment as many times on the infertility roller coaster – it is finances that hold you back from pursuing treatment. We had even contemplated moving back to Illinois to have insurance that helped cover the costs, but decided to move to the Twin Cities Spring of 2016. After spending around $50,000 it is just so hard to make the decision to do a treatment again. In the past couple of years, we heard about a program that could possibly be the answer for us. The program, some call it a Shared Risk program, would pay for three cycles of IVF/ICSI plus any frozen embryo transfers.  This program gives patients the comfort that they will either have a successful birth or will receive a refund of between 80% and 100% of the program fees to pursue other family building options.  The estimate received from a clinic was approximately $25,000 plus the cost of medication.

(Photo below: The couple’s embryo.)

Our Journey (from the beginning)

I guess I will start off by telling everyone a little bit about us. Djordje and I met through a “modern-day” arrangement (his great Aunt Ana and my Aunt Rose, both no longer with us, felt like we would make a good match). We both went with it, fell in love and were married within five days of meeting one another in January of 2003!

After a year we decided to start trying for a family. Djordje wanted to start right away, but we agreed that it would be nice to enjoy one another’s company for a while longer. Little did we know that it would take a bit more than looking into one another’s eyes and kissing (as I had thought as a kid when watching movies). After about a year of trying I just knew in my heart something wasn’t right. We had moved from Duluth, MN to a suburb of Chicago and, after a few months, decided to both get checked.  The OBGYN I met with did some preliminary tests and found nothing that could be causing me not to become pregnant. We then consulted with a Urologist who, after an analysis, said that we were dealing with Male Factor Infertility.

We were devastated and asked, “why us?” and “what did we do?” All the Urologist said was that it does happen sometimes and consulting with a Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE) would be the best way to move forward with our family building plans.

We met with an RE in Naperville, IL and came to find out my husband’s insurance at the time covered five cycles at 90%!!! Hindsight is 20/20 as if we knew then what we knew now…the last 13 years would have gone differently.

We were all set to start a cycle when the IVF Clinic said our specimen could not be frozen and that we had to consult with a doctor at Northwestern who specializes in the male reproductive system. Once we met with the doctor we found out we were dealing with varicoceles and they would have to be removed surgically .  The surgery in December 2005 went well and we decided to hold off for a while before continuing on our journey.

Fast forward a few months, after a move to Colorado for a great job opportunity, we were still in the same situation we were prior to surgery. We had this hope that it would be better and that we would not need to move forward with IVF. We again looked for an RE and came to the realization that NOTHING WAS COVERED with our insurance. This was what I had referred to before – being new in the infertility world, we had no idea how rare it was for IVF to be covered. So started our search for an affordable clinic.

We searched a few places in the states and found that doing the procedure in Canada would be a lot cheaper. There of course are a lot of details that go into the planning and such, but to keep this as short as I can our OBGYN clinic in Colorado agreed to monitor the cycle and the clinic in Scarborough, Toronto, Canada performed IVF with ICSI in December of 2007. We retrieved 15 eggs, 9 fertilized and we ended up transferring two grade A 8 cell embryos on day three post retrieval. On New Year’s Day, 2008, we got the results that the procedure did not work, we were not pregnant, we were not going to be parents. We had no idea how we would get through such a devastating outcome. We again asked, “why us?” and “what did we do?”

Fast forward to 2009

After moving back to Duluth, MN during the economic crisis aftermath we both had thought maybe we could take a few steps back and try IUI (intrauterine insemination). A doctor in Duluth was supportive and so we went on to do nine cycles and, despite my good responses to the different treatments, we never did have a positive pregnancy test. In 2010 I felt I had to use my energy to give back and decided to become a volunteer with RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association. It was then I started the Duluth Support Group. I have since made so many friends, that I wish I had met for a different reason. You never realize how many women are out there like you until you reach out and advocate.

(Photo below: before IVF in 2007.)

One weekend at the end of January 2012 I noticed I wasn’t feeling too well and was experiencing hot flashes. Right away I was afraid I was going into menopause (yes, I know, my mind went to the extreme end of things,) I had looked in my calendar and saw that I would be expecting my period any day, so I just thought why not take a pregnancy test to see if I was pregnant? I had a test that I had saved from before and thought, why not? I peed on the stick, waited and didn’t see anything. About an hour later I came back and there was a plus sign. WAIT…A PLUS SIGN…HOLY MOLY I AM PREGNANT…NO IT CAN’T BE…WHAT?…NO WAY!!! I went into the living room where my husband and sister-in-law were and shakingly said, “I’m pregnant!” My husband couldn’t believe it, my sister-in-law started tearing up and right away I said that I had to take it again because it must be wrong!  That evening I took another test and it, again, was positive!  It was a Sunday evening so the next morning I called my OBGYN’s office and asked if I could come in for a blood test.  They had worked with me over the course of a couple of years with the IUI’s and knew how important this was.  The results came back and my HCG was 19 and they really want it to be at about 25 at five weeks. A few days later the test was repeated and the number was 12. The tears started to flow and my heart sank. I again asked, “why us?” and “what did we do?”  At about the same time I found out my news, I found out my friend had given birth to triplets at 24 weeks who all became angels shortly thereafter.  It was such a hard time for many. Attending their memorial was so calming and really helped heal my heart at the time as I too grieved for my angel that I had just lost.

A couple of years had passed and I just really wanted to try IVF again. We knew that we couldn’t afford treatment at most clinics in the US and I wanted to find a clinic that specialized in Male Factor Infertility. This led us to a clinic in Mexico City, Mexico. I can tell you that the RE and Embryologist at this clinic were absolutely amazing. I have nothing but great things to say about everyone there.  We met the doctor in August of 2014 and went forward with a cycle in December of 2014.  We enjoyed Christmas with friends in Queretaro, Mexico and got to know the big and beautiful City.  On retrieval day five eggs were retrieved and only one was mature. As soon as they told me I started crying uncontrollably.  It could have been the meds I was still coming off of, but I just could not help it.  They tried to mature a second of the five and actually were able to fertilize it, but it did not continue dividing after the third day. The one mature egg turned into our beautiful embryo and was transferred at six days post fertilization.  We celebrated New Years in our hotel room a few days later and flew home the next day. After only seven days I started bleeding. That was it. The cycle was over. Blood work confirmed that it was a negative outcome and that we were, indeed, not pregnant.

WHY US? WHAT DID WE DO?

Fast Forward to 2018

Time has passed and we are now at a place to start the process again. We have not once given up hope and continue to have faith. We have recently found a clinic that provides services at a reduced rate and, you never know, they may be key to our miracle. We hope to move forward with treatment in early 2019.

We share our story in hopes of others going through this journey are brave enough to reach out. It is a hard journey where at times you feel very lonely and knowing others going through the same thing helps smooth the rocky road. You are not alone.

Over the years we have helped with many different fundraisers, sending gifts for silent auctions and even donating time to multiple organizations. We don’t want to ask anyone for anything outright, besides love and support and understanding in why we want to try again, but if there are those out there that want to help, we humbly bow our heads and thank God as without Faith we honestly don’t know where we would be.

(Photo below: 10th wedding anniversary picture.)

Faith and Fertility: The Ryan Family

When I read Anna and Mitch’s story, it was a testament to my faith. I felt great hope and love in this journey. Even though our journey is over, I know this story will bring a lot of encouragement to those of you still trying, still praying, and still fighting. Rosie is a miracle. Please believe in miracles. This is Anna’s story in her own words:

1 Samuel 1:27 “ For this child I prayed, and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of Him.” (Baby Rosie is featured in the photo below.)

This scripture has such deep meaning to me and has defined my infertility journey. What exactly does it mean to petition? Webster’s dictionary says that to petition is to make a solemn or humble appeal to a figure of authority. That is exactly what we did. We petitioned. And our families petitioned, for six years, until we finally got our miracle.

Let me start at the beginning.

My husband and I were high school sweethearts. We always knew that we wanted to have children. We married young and wanted a big family. I had several nieces and nephews that were such a huge part of my life. I could hardly stand being away from them for a second, and couldn’t wait to give them another little cousin. I rushed through college because I wanted to start our family right away and stay at home with my kids. I even got my degree in a field that would help me to be a better mother. It seemed as though all of our plans revolved around our future children and family.

I think the old saying is, “ We make plans and God laughs”.

After many years of surgeries, appointments, and countless tests we were told our chance of ever conceiving children naturally was “basically zero”. (Yes, those were the exact words used). As you can imagine, our hearts were in pieces. We felt helpless and hopeless.

So we began to petition The Lord. We petitioned hard. Our families petitioned for us. Our friends petitioned for us. We felt the power of the prayers being said on our behalf often. Our little nieces and nephews prayed for us, even though they may not have quite understood exactly what they were praying for. In fact, we had a niece ask her parents, “Why are we praying for Mitch, when Anna is the one who would have the baby?” (Much of our infertility is male factor, which required quite a few surgeries for my husband. The kids may or may not have needed a few anatomy lessons along the way…. Hehe.)

There is something to be said about having a tribe of people on your side. Cheering for you. Doing everything they can for you. Praying for you. Petitioning for you. There were times when I felt discouraged praying for a baby. I knew that God had a plan for us, and if that plan didn’t involve a child, then what was praying going to do about it? But I also knew that prayer was powerful. And prayer can change things. I knew it. I felt it.

There were so many little miracles that took place along our infertility journey. We were told so many times that “ things didn’t look good” or “ your chances are very low”. But somehow, miracles always found a way. We were told we likely would not even qualify for IVF, but a miracle found a way. I developed a potentially life threatening condition during our egg retrieval that jeopardized everything, but a miracle found a way. My body was so sick that the embryo transfer wasn’t looking promising, but a miracle found a way. After finding out we were in fact pregnant, the condition got worse, and our little baby was in danger. But a BIG miracle found a way.

We now have a healthy, beautiful 5-year-old girl who is the light of our lives. She loves to hear the stories of how many people were praying for her for so long to come down to our family. Her sweet little self asks about families who don’t get their miracles. Our hearts ache for them, and we hope that someday we will understand why so many are still waiting.

I am reminded of the amazing miracle that she is every single day. The Lord gave us the petition that we asked of Him, and for that we will be forever grateful.

Anna is a volunteer for Resolve: The National Infertility Association.

5-year-old Rosie just got a new baby of her own, a puppy named Tucker. A big thank you to the Ryan’s for sharing their story.

Thankful, grateful, blessed, and worth the wait. Miss Rosie is a symbol of that. You are never alone in your fight, or your journey!

Fragile Fertility: The Journey to Baby Eve

Lyn and her husband, Frank had a very long road and journey to create their family. Lyn was diagnosed with Fragile X- associated primary ovarian insufficiency. Besides Lyn’s fight to have a baby – her sister, Trish was also diagnosed with the same condition. Two sisters, with the same diagnosis, trying to complete their dreams of motherhood. Here is their story in Lyn’s words:

I look back on it, and I think I cried more for my sister because I thought about how I would feel if the same thing happened to me. Finding out about her first, somehow made it a bit easier when I got my test results. I still went to pieces, but at least I had an answer. I was lucky and grateful for not only having her support but a loving partner when I found out.

I received my Fragile X carrier positive test results when I was at dinner with co-workers. I am not good at hiding my emotions so after calling my sister, I called Frank to come pick me up. My sister told me about her results a few years before I had the courage to find out for myself. I wasn’t ready to know, I was still healing from my divorce, the birth of his kids with his new girlfriend, trying to find myself, and date. I found out because it was time. I had found myself, and Frank, fell in love, and knew it was time to face it.

Fragile X is a genetic condition that causes intellectual disability. 20-25% of women who are carriers of the premutation are diagnosed with premature ovarian failure (FXPOI), also known as premature menopause. (Source: https://fragilex.org)

Once I found out I was a carrier, my next step was to find out if I had any eggs. The test to find this out is the AMH (Anti-Mullerian Hormone) test. I had to push my doctor to get this test, per my sister and my research, so I want others to know about it. Be your own advocate. Don’t go through a year of testing, wasted tries/drugs, and money (which is what the doctor wanted) when you can find out with one test. Men are tested to find out their sperm count and mobility, this should be a standard initial test for women, but it isn’t. My results were less than .03, in other words, none.

I know I fell apart in Frank’s arms, but at this point I had found a support group of other women dealing with some sort of infertility. All of us had our own stories, each of them heartbreaking in their own right. Because of this group, I was grateful that I (we) had a definitive answer. I (We) had a path. Many women can’t get a diagnosis and go through so much more, still don’t conceive, and don’t know why.

Next came research and planning when and how. Frank had not even proposed yet when we got the test results. There was no question in my mind that we would be getting married. I never saw him falter, we were already partners in this and in life. I can’t even begin to explain how grateful I am for him, his support, and his love. Once he proposed, we set a date for the next year. We decided to setup a gofundme account for the wedding, instead of a registry, to help with treatment expenses. It would cost about $25,000 for the first try and about $10,000 for any try after with remaining embryos from the initial donation. I set a goal of $40,000 because that was the cost of a specific refund program at the time if you didn’t have insurance. Most insurance plans do not cover infertility treatment. We received about $3,000. We appreciate every single donation and support that was given.

Then I received amazing news, I really needed it at this point. My company, which was going through its first merger, may possibly have coverage soon. I couldn’t believe it, $15,000 coverage, we used every penny for the first try. We still paid some out of pocket with the gofundme donations, etc. Again, grateful! We went through another merger shortly after that and coverage changed, but in a good way. It went up.

I could write another article about going through the actual treatments. The pain of the shots is not as bad as the waiting, both hurt significantly. The first try was not successful. The second try ended with a beautiful baby girl and a very rare birth story. Eve Eunice was born 10/15/17. My body doesn’t do anything ‘normal’. That is one of the many things I have accepted through all of this.

The photo below is Baby Eve – all the science, love, support, and courage it took to bring her into this world. (Photo credit: Bri Marie Photography)

My sister’s beautiful baby girl was born 3 months and 3 days before mine. (See photo below: photo taken by Lyn’s sister, Trish.)

One of the Embryos in the photo below is Baby Eve.

Cry Pretty: My Infertility Story

I appreciate everyone reading and sharing my blog posts. I am going to be writing and sharing a series of different stories in the near future! Thank you for all your support. Here is my own personal story:

The day a baby is born is considered a miracle. You prepare for nine months to bring this child into the world. It’s a whole process of joy. The nursery gets painted, the crib gets assembled, the baby showers happen, the late night pregnancy cravings are fulfilled and then the labor and delivery starts. After hours of labor, your beautiful bundle of joy arrives into the world and you are now a new family. What happens when infertility happens? The stork forgets your address.

My infertility journey began when I was 12. I woke up in the middle of the night and noticed my period came. (Thank the lord it was the middle of the night.) I went to get my mom to tell her what happened – she gave me some feminine supplies, put me back to bed, and she congratulates me on becoming a woman. A few hours later – I woke up again. This time the bleeding was worse; It was heavier and I had blood clots happening. I figured this was normal. As I went to get my mom to tell her I needed her help, I got out of bed, and I had clots falling out of my body. These clots were large in size – about the size of my fist. I remember trying to clean this mess up off the carpet and trying to get my mom’s attention. She came into the bedroom and she had a concerned look on her face. She helped me get cleaned up and we went down to the hospital. I remember thinking that most girls probably don’t go to the hospital on the first day of their periods.

I was a healthy teenage girl, a competitive swimmer. One of the nurses in the emergency room was one of the mothers from the swim team. She has told me to this day, she still remembers my story and that visit. When we got there, I had a male doctor. The doctor and nurses did everything they needed to do that day, we just didn’t get any good answers. I had my first pelvic exam that day, which can be very traumatic for a young girl who just got her period a couple of hours earlier. By the end of that morning, I was half a day older, a woman and I had a gynecologist. The bleeding didn’t stop for forty days. It took two different types of birth control to get the bleeding to end. One of the birth controls given to me was Depo-Provera. It’s an injectable that contains the hormone progestin. It’s designed to stop your cycle.

Every year I was instructed by my pediatrician to see my gynecologist. I was the tween sitting in the OB-GYN lobby with her mother. I’m sure everyone was thinking I was a knocked up teenager. I got my yearly check-ups, took my birth control, ate well, exercised, and controlled all my symptoms and pain the best way I could. I remember asking every year at my appointments if I would ever have problems having a baby in the future, the answer was always no. At 31 years old, I was told I had endometriosis, adenomyosis, uterine fibroids and lower progesterone levels. I lost my uterus, my cervix and my fallopian tubes that same year. I would never have a baby, and I never had one positive pregnancy test.

I believe most women wish to have a baby of their own. It was my dream. Infertility happens to 1 in 8 couples. I believe I was born with a bad uterus. I was never meant to have a baby of my own. I spent years doing fertility treatments that failed. It took almost twenty years to diagnose my reproductive issues. We did so many interventions to get pregnant. We decided not to pursue IVF or adoption because we did not believe in IVF, and with adenomyosis, you have a high risk of miscarriage. (our opinion on IVF is just personal, I support anyone who attempts IVF.) The embryo can have a difficult time implanting, and I did not want to spend $40,000 on a miscarriage. I do have a stepdaughter – she is such a joy. I felt adoption would feel the same as having a stepchild. I made the choice to love and care for a child that isn’t biologically mine.

Infertility crushes the soul. the grief takes over your life. We need to support one another, we need to speak up and re-define infertility. We need to be our own advocate. There is a stigma about infertility that needs to be lifted – You are not alone. There are many different resources that I have used as my support system: Doctors, therapy, support groups, family, friends, blogging, and my dogs. I have never experienced pain like infertility. I have gone through many trials – death and divorce have been a close second to my infertility. I lost everything in my divorce. Infertility was the cherry on the cake.

I am still standing, I am still living, and I am still thriving. I had been suffering since the age of 12 with an illness I didn’t even know I had. I thought, and was told I was normal. I know many others can relate to my story in some way, shape or form. My husband is my greatest support system. I couldn’t have survived a day without his constant support and love. I am a stepmom, godmom, dogmom, and an auntie.

You can pretty lie and say it’s okay
You can pretty smile and just walk away
Pretty much fake your way through anything
But you can’t cry pretty

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Adoption Stories: La Familia Gellona Lyons

Adoption stories can help you get an idea of what you’re in for if you are interested in adoption. No two adoption stories are alike. Whether you are struggling creating a family, or if your family just appears on your doorstep, I hope my best friend’s story brings love and joy to your journey. Sarah, Piero, and Leidy live in Santiago, Chile. This is Sarah’s story about their daughter Leidy:

Adopting was never in my plans. I suppose that having kids was, but even that wasn’t a high priority. So when a 5-year-old Haitian girl was abandoned at my door 3 years ago, I had a lot to think about and even more to learn.

First I had to decide what to do with her; I could turn her over to the Chilean version of CPS, or I could file paperwork to try to keep her. I wasn’t thinking about having a child at this point, and I certainly hadn’t considered adopting, much less a child that could already walk, and talk and had a head full of memories. Nonetheless, after spending a few days with her, there was no doubt that I couldn’t leave her to a life of orphanages and foster care, knowing that 5-year-olds aren’t usually adopted very easily. That is when I decided to fight to keep her.

Then I had to learn how to raise her. What can 5-year-olds do? What do they know? Where should she go to school? What do I do with her afro-braided hair? How do I communicate with her if her Spanish is minimal and my creole is nothing?  I started little by little, with a lot of support from friends and family, and a whole lot of Google for help. She’s still alive today, and even more than that she is happy, healthy, energetic, loving and witty, so I must be doing something right (although I think her personality has a lot to do with it!). She gets good grades in school (we could improve on her chatting in class though!), speaks better Spanish now than I do, is rocking awesome purple hair extensions currently, and has so many friends in her school and our neighborhood.

Through the days, weeks, months and now years, we have gotten to know each other, love each other and form what most would consider a totally normal family. It isn’t usually until someone else points out that she is black and I am white (which is often.. racism is alive and kicking in Chile) that I remember that there are some physical differences between us. It is amazing how often people make comments like this or ask us questions that I don’t know how to answer, but at the same time know that adoption is sometimes a hard thing to understand, especially in a country where it isn’t very common.  “But where are her parents?” We are right here, raising her and loving her every day. She doesn’t think of anyone else as her parents, and neither do we, so we are right here. “Do you think you’ll love your own kids more than you love her?” I think it takes a lot of courage to love a child that you haven’t loved since before their birth, so no, I don’t think that I will love my other children (not “my own”, because she is my own) more than I love her.

It is also awesome to see how naturally she reacts to everything. She often says that we are so alike, that we walk and talk alike, that we have the same mannerisms, so “maybe people will get us confused when I am a little bit older. ” Or when people comment on how tall she is, she always says it is because her mom is tall, as if she had my genes. She has even learned how to avoid all of the typical questioning that we get. A few months ago we went to a water park. As we walked in she could barely contain her excitement, so she walked up to the counter and told the man “Hi. We are a different type of family. I am from Haiti, my dad is from Chile and my mom is from the US. I am adopted. Now we would like 3 tickets please to the water park.” No time for questions, sir.

As a family are currently living a totally new experience as we await another baby at the beginning of next year. She can’t wait to be a big sister– only if it is a girl though. She has taken it so naturally, is very excited and not an ounce of doubt or fear exists in her that this baby will replace her or be loved any more being my biological child.

I know that adoption is a big decision, and can be long and costly. In our case it has all been worth it. It has been so natural, so fun and so rewarding to have Leidy join our family.

“Adopting one child wont change the world. But for that one child the world will change.”

“However motherhood comes to you – it’s a miracle.” Much love to my best friend and her growing family. ♥️

Broken Body: Endometriosis & Adenomyosis

What the hell is Endometriosis and Adenomyosis?

Let’s start off with Endometriosis. Endometriosis occurs when the cells from the uterine lining plants in areas outside of the uterus. They thicken, break down and bleed each month. Here is the problem – the implants have no way to leave the body. Laparoscopy typically allows the doctor to make the most thorough evaluation of the condition, and how extensive it is. Endometriosis can occur at any stage in a women’s reproductive years. I fully believe I had Endometriosis starting in my teenage years. I wasn’t diagnosed until the age of 31.

Adenomyosis occurs when endometrial cells exist and grow into the walls of the uterus. The cells are affected each month with a woman’s period. The result of these periods can be an enlarged uterus, pelvic pain and heavy bleeding. A doctor may suspect Adenomyosis based on an evaluation which could include a pelvic exam, ultrasound, or an MRI. It is said that Adenomyosis can only be truly diagnosed after a hysterectomy. When I went in for my 100th evaluation, I was suspecting Endometriosis. The doctor told me he believed I had Adenomyosis. The Endometriosis was found with a Laparoscopic procedure, and my Adenomyosis was discovered after my total hysterectomy was completed. Adenomyosis commonly affects women in their forties and fifties. It can also occur among teenagers. I believe I was affected as a teenager, and I believe this is the main reason I could not have a baby.

What does Endometriosis and Adenomyosis feel like?

While these two conditions are similar; Endometriosis is on the outside of the uterus, and Adenomyosis grows into the uterine wall. One is on the outside, the other is inside. Both can cause pain, but endometriosis doesn’t always cause the heavy bleeding like Adenomyosis does. The best way to describe my symptoms was severe cramping, heavy and prolonged bleeding and sharp, knifelike pain. While the conditions are not life-threatening, they can diminish quality of life.

What does this have to do with fertility?

If I am questioned about my journey or my infertility, I will usually respond with “I had a broken uterus.” I was diagnosed with Endometriosis, Adenomyosis and Uterine Fibroids. My wonderful uterus had all 3 conditions. How was a baby suppose to implant, grow and thrive in that environment? I have heard of success stories, but I never had a positive pregnancy test in my reproductive life. When I was diagnosed with Endometriosis, and after years of trying to get to that diagnosis, we decided not to pursue IVF. My doctor felt that I had Adenomyosis too, and with that I wouldn’t even attempt IVF. Even if the embryo implanted – there is double the chance of miscarriage. This was a personal choice. There is always hope that a miracle will happen, I am not trying to discourage anyone from giving up just because of a diagnosis.

On average, it takes 10 years for a woman to be diagnosed with Endometriosis. 1 in 10 women are affected by Endometriosis. 30% to 50% of women with Endometriosis may experience infertility. 27 years old is the average age women are diagnosed. 176 million women in the world have Endometriosis.

Adenomyosis – My uterus is trying to kill me. The only surgery that cures Adenomyosis is a hysterectomy. Adenomyosis is poorly understood and is often under-diagnosed. This condition can lead to anemia. Anemia can cause fatigue, dizziness and irritability. More research and knowledge needs to be obtained because There is no known cause for this condition.

Be your own advocate! That is always my number one rule of advice. It took me almost 20 years to get the correct diagnosis. I suffered for years and years, and in the end I couldn’t do the one task my reproductive system was suppose to do – create life!

Ask questions, make the appointment, find the solutions. There is no current cure for these conditions, but there is hope that one day they will find one!

The Childless Stepmom

As you may have read in my previous post, I am a childless stepmom. I have a stepdaughter with no biological children. My husband is about 12 years older than I am, and his daughter was born from his previous marriage. When we met, we had planned on having a child together, not knowing that I was infertile. I saw a fertility doctor about 3 years into trying. We weren’t married yet, so I wasn’t in a rush. I saw a doctor the summer before we got married, and I wanted to have a baby before or by the time my husband turned 40 years old. We also wanted a sibling for my stepdaughter before she became a teenager. We didn’t want too much of a gap between the two kids. As everyone has read, our plans didn’t become a reality, and I am a bonus mom without children.

When I had started to date my husband, I had just gone through a divorce. I obviously didn’t have children from my previous marriage. I hesitated when my husband told me he had a daughter. I was very traditional, and didn’t know if I wanted a blended family. I went into the relationship thinking it would work out because I knew even if my family was blended, I would have biological children of my own. As fate would have it, we have my stepdaughter and 5 dogs.

The role of a stepmother is a difficult one. I never even had an idea of how difficult it would be. My husband and I dated for about four years before we got married, giving us plenty of time to work through our journey before we made the big commitment. I love my stepdaughter very much, she has become a huge part of my life. In a way, she has saved me. After we got married, we did about 2 years of fertility treatments. I honestly can say I was terrified. I was scared that we wouldn’t have children together and I would resent my husband. I was worried I would be jealous of what him and his daughter have and that it would never happen for me. I was having a hard time accepting that he had a child with someone else, and I would never be able to have that with him. We had spent about 6 years trying to have a baby. We waived the white flag in 2016 when I had a hysterectomy. My new normal was my blended family and my dogs.

We had 3 dogs when we came together as a couple. 3 dogs and one kid. Our agreement was if my last medicated round of fertility treatments failed, I could get a puppy. of course they failed and I got the biggest puppy I could find–a Great Dane. If my husband had his daughter, I was going to pick this puppy out and he would be all mine! I found a breeder, I picked the gender, the name, and when he/she was born, I would pick out “the one.” This brought excitement back into my life again. When our puppy was born, I let my stepdaughter pick him out from the litter. When I was trying to create my own moment, it became a family moment instead – just as it always should have been. Dubnyk Jake is almost 3 years old now. Jake is my Dad’s nickname.

When the time came that I knew I was never going to be a mother or a grandmother, I didn’t really know what my purpose was. How and what is my role with my stepdaughter? I didn’t give birth to her, but she is in my life, and I am helping raise her. I don’t know what it feels like to have a child of any kind. I am a stepmother and not a mother? I don’t know how to raise a child – especially one that hasn’t started out in my life as a baby. I met my stepdaughter when she was 8 years old going on 9 years old. I never got to experience the baby/toddler years with her, but I have been able to watch her grow from a child to a tween, a teen and a young woman. She just turned 17 years old this month. We have one more year, and she will be an adult.

I feel fortunate to have been able to watch her grow, learn and thrive. I wasn’t there the day she was born, but I was there for a lot of other moments. I won’t be able to see my own child grow, but I did get to start with my stepdaughter from about the 4th grade. You crave to be a mother, but you have to step back and just be a role model for your stepchildren. you are not their parent, but you are there to help guide and raise them. It can be a very hard position to be in. I love you as I believe I would love my own child, but you are not my child. Watching my husband when she was little gave me a lot of hope, but when I knew my baby journey was over, it wasn’t as easy. I wanted someone to call me Mommy. I wanted that bond and love. I have a very close friendship with my stepdaughter, I want to be the best role model I can for her. I know I am not her mother. She doesn’t call me Mom, I never would want her to call me anything else but my first name. When she was little, I would correct others for thinking I was her mom. Deep down I was wishing I was a mom, but I wasn’t. I have always known my place. When I was in therapy before my hysterectomy, I told my therapist I was worried about being known as the “childless stepmom.” I didn’t want that title, I didn’t want my stepdaughter to feel bad, I didn’t want her to think I didn’t love her. I didn’t want my husband to feel badly or to have a feeling of guilt. It’s been almost 2 years since my hysterectomy and I am not “childless.” I have a 17 year old stepdaughter and we have 5 dogs. I am known as “mama” to my pups, but to my stepdaughter I will always just be Tia.

Please know there are a lot of resources for blended families and especially stepmoms. StepMomMagazine.com was my very first guide. Eventually I needed an infertility support group too, but support and love are the best tools you can find.

This is my life, and I am living it the best way I know how. A big thank you to my stepdaughter for allowing me to have a glimpse of what motherhood is all about.

Husbands Are Hurting Too

Women are not the only ones that struggle with the infertility process. Men can have fertility factors themselves. Our husbands are hurting with this journey too. If they are healthy–they still have to take on the support and love for their spouses. My husband is writing his perspective on this week’s blog. He has a biological child of his own from a previous marriage, but we had to live with the pain of not being able to create life together in our marriage due to my infertility. Here is his story:

First a little about my history. I have a child who is now 17 years old. My only child. She was pretty much my whole world. I coached her sports, I went to the park with her, I gave her pony tails and learned how to do all those from the time she was 2 years old. I never even scheduled baby sitters when I had her. I was as much of a full-time Dad as I could be. And believe me, those things are what drives people to be parents, to be the best they can be for another little human being. I was truly blessed. She brought joy to us while we endured the struggle. The fun things we all did. Well mostly the fun things they were able to do while I was working out-of-town a lot. But I felt some comfort in knowing that they were able to share something real and genuine. For my wife it may have just brought up thoughts of never doing that with her own child someday. So while it was wonderful to see I know it also caused her to think all of the “what ifs?”

When we first dated I was open to having another child. I also had moments where I wasn’t sure. I wavered for quite a while. Partly because I didn’t want to have my daughter think she was going to be replaced. Partly because I was getting older and worried about the energy and silly things like that. Things that deep down would have been just fine. I see myself as a really good Dad and I feel I’ve done a good job with my daughter. I thought long and hard about another child. It goes so fast and it’s rewarding, and I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of it so I decided, yes, I could do it again and be able to double up my efforts on being the same good dad I had always been. The beginning of it all was as normal as the next couple, aside from knowing my wife was not able to conceive to that point and knowing her history and monthly pain she’d go through. It really wasn’t until she started having the testing and procedures that we learned things may not happen as we thought.

I had no idea what Secondary Infertility meant or how it would become to define a part of me. I never had to think about it on those terms because I had a child. And that’s where our story kind of begins. The road that we have traveled to this point has had its ups and downs but I wouldn’t have traded it. Secondary Infertility is something that most people probably don’t even know exists or that it is an actual term. What happens when bad things happen that are out of your control? What happens when someone you love is hurting so bad that every aspect of their life seems like one failure after another? It’s moments like those where you learn the depths of your faith. Faith that things will always turn out ok. Sometimes waiting and working for things to be OK is a long journey. Infertility is such a journey. The ups and the downs. I tried to control what little I could. I tried to remain calm and positive thinking it would help my wife. Some days I think it did. Some probably not. And then there were the appointments, medications and monthly disappointment I’d see on her face affected me more than I ever let on. I didn’t show it often at all. But the helpless feeling I would get is not something I was used to. There were no words to make it “ok”. There were no gifts to give that would turn it all around. It’s was month after month of those same feelings. Inside of me was the thought of never being able to help her raise another child. And that is what affected me most. That I had been able to watch my daughter grow and share all those moments and that she may never have that chance.

It’s often said that men hold their feelings in and try not to display too much emotion. Or you can show emotion if it is a happy thing. For me that tends to be true. I consider myself a guy who keeps things as even as possible. I’m laid back, to a fault sometimes. All of that doesn’t mean guys don’t feel emotion or go through periods of pain and hurt. For us we have always been taught to be tough and strong. This was different. On one hand I had a child and on the other there was also a sense of impending loss. It’s hard to really describe what it all felt like. To me it was frustrating to see this process unfold the way it was. Something that shouldn’t that hard was becoming impossible and dealing with that was difficult. And it was increasing as the weeks went by.

The day came when everything had run its course. The hysterectomy day arrived. We had decided together that we had done all we could do both emotionally and financially. We were together on our decisions and we moved forward together knowing the outcome. There was still hope that last pregnancy test would look different. That somehow a miracle would happen. We always had that bit of hope. You have to. But alas it did not happen. We had been through a lot. I hurt for her. I would have taken all that pain and hurt and put it on me. She not only had the emotional pain but also the physical pain of all the procedures and finally the last procedure. I tried to be supportive and present knowing there wasn’t a lot I could do to make it go away or really nothing I could do to fix it. That’s where a lot of the hurt and sadness comes from. I’m supposed to protect and make things better, safe and happy. When you can’t do that it makes you feel helpless and inadequate. Still, I kept things in check and tried to continue to be positive and focused.

The journey is truly never-ending. There are days I know it hurts. It may always be that way. I have been sad and angry. Thinking I won’t have another opportunity to use what I’ve learned again. Am I thankful for what we have? There’s no doubt. We are exceedingly blessed in many ways. Could things have been worse for us? Absolutely. It doesn’t mean there are days where you tend to focus more on the things you could have had. I think every person in this situation does the same. There truly is no ending, only another day and another day and another day. You take a positive and turn it into two. There are days that are really bad and as time goes on there are more and more good days. Does time heal? In a sense it truly does.

How do you turn something sad and hurtful into a positive? By always remaining together. By being present for your wife when she’s at the bottom. By hurting right along with her. By not minimizing her feelings to try to make her feel better. By letting her grieve. By grieving alongside her. To be open about it. I confess I don’t share my feelings very often. Most important you always have hope When the light starts to come in little spurts is when you grasp a hold of that. To see some sort of light at the end of the tunnel. At first there isn’t much light at all. But after time goes by it does get a little bit better. It gets a little less painful. It gets a little brighter. You always hold on to hope. No matter what is going on, no matter what happens in any given day.  I was once told that when you wake up every morning YOU choose whether you are going to have a good day.  Nobody can choose that for you.  Nobody can take that from you.  Nobody can make you have a bad day.  That is all your choice.  While we did not have a child together we were able have my daughter and be able to do many wonderful things along the way.  Perhaps that is why we met?  That I had a young enough daughter to be there through all of this.  To be able to watch her grow.  We had both been blessed.

My point is there will always be other ways, new ways and new technologies as time goes on and as long as you have hope than anything is possible.

How to talk to your partner about infertility

When you think about the future, infertility usually doesn’t come to mind. When you make the choice to commit to someone, and you talk about getting married, buying a house or having children, do you also have the “infertility talk?”

Couples may not even know they are infertile. The topic of infertility may not come up until you have been trying to conceive for 12 months or more. One of the greatest fears facing infertility is disappointing your partner. The key is knowing what steps to take to have a healthy, open, and honest conversation.

The best tips I can offer are: focus on each other, go on infertility free dates, do not keep secrets, make an agreement on how far you will go, and talk!

Infertility stress can kill the romance. There would be weeks where I would only focus on a schedule. There is nothing worse than your husband flying home for the weekend from a work trip and you have to make the ovulation calendar the priority.

I believe the blame game comes into many infertile relationships. Who’s fault is it? You don’t have control over male or female infertility factors. Its good to be honest in your opinions. Talk about the pros, the cons, and the costs. It can be easy to feel bitter and have resentment towards your partner. Depending how long your journey is, feelings may change over time. Make sure you over communicate and stay connected to each other.

Focus on yourselves and be kind to each other. Find an outlet for your emotions. Take a break!! Take a mind off your fertility issues. Find ways to love and support your partner. Infertility is half agony, and half hope. For better or for worse, you can get through it–together.